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Sunday, Feb. 1, 2004

CHANNEL SURF

Scrapped progams on the late PM Kakuei Tanaka and more

This space is usually reserved for information about programs that will be aired in the coming week, but this time we present a program that isn't going to be aired.

Late last year, comedian Beat Takeshi announced he would be playing the late Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka in a television dramatization of the controversial politician's life for Fuji TV. Shortly thereafter, the project was scrapped. According to the tabloid press, Tanaka's daughter, Makiko, an equally famous and controversial politician, had put pressure on the network to cancel the drama.

But Fuji wasn't the only TV company planning a Tanaka program. Nippon TV was scheduled to air one Dec. 29, but then postponed it to January. In the middle of January, all the TV magazines reported that the special, which focused on the Lockheed bribery scandal of the early '70s that stained the Tanaka legacy, would be broadcast Feb. 3 at 9 p.m. Advance PR said that the special, which would be half-documentary, half-drama, would include a lot of new information about the scandal from the men who prosecuted the case.

However, last week Nippon TV pulled the program again, with no explanation and no date for a future broadcast.

TV's obsession with housing issues makes its way into the prime-time suspense genre on this week's "Monday Mystery Theatre" (TBS, Monday, 9 p.m.), which is called "The Long, Lonesome Kidnapping."

Koichi works for a housing construction company as a salesman. He is very successful and has confidence in what he sells, but one day he learns that one of the houses he sold has some serious structural flaws. He carries out an inspection and discovers that the flaws are not just the result of carelessness; but, in fact, constitute fraud. He reports his findings to his company, but they don't seem particularly interested, and when he becomes more insistent, they transfer him to a subsidiary.

After the transfer, Koichi's young son is kidnapped, but the kidnapper does not ask for ransom. Instead, he demands that Koichi in turn kidnap somebody else. The mystery, of course, is how the kidnappings relate to the housing fraud.

On the following night, TBS gets into housing fraud in a more practical way on the quiz show "Sekai Baribari Value (World's Exciting Values"; Tuesday, 10 p.m.), where celebrity panelists are presented with products, services, or jobs and must guess their "value" in yen.

This week's show is about the new-home market in Japan, specifically what to look for so as not to get stuck with a pile of junk. Inspectors check a house that has begun to tilt. The builders say it is due to normal settling, but the inspectors find that the house is lacking an essential structural component. The show also includes interviews with former housing-company employees who describe how home-buyers are cheated.



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