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Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004

CHANNEL SURF

"Bakusho Osupi Mondai" on Fuji TV and more

Princess Tenko, the beribboned, gothic-wardrobed Japanese magician who made her name in the United States, has recently been doing a lot of Japanese talk shows, mainly as a result of her reputation as Kim Jong Il's favorite magician.

On this week's "SMAP × SMAP" (Monday, Fuji TV, 10 p.m.), Tenko will be the guest in the SMAP Bistro, where the boy-band members whip up delectable dishes. Tenko is discriminating about the food she eats and reportedly has a personal chef in every major city of the world. In the Bistro, she requests a rich soup, and two pairs of SMAP members compete with each other to come up with a suitable concoction.

Later in the week, Tenko shows up again, but this time plying her normal trade as a magician. On the variety show "Bakusho Osupi Mondai" (Wednesday, Fuji TV, 7 p.m.), the hosts, comedy duo Bakusho Mondai and gay media pundits -- and twins -- Osugi & Piko, will welcome several famous Japanese magicians. In addition to Tenko, Maggie Shiro and the comedy-magic team Napoleons will appear. The highlight will be Tenko sawing Osugi in half.

Osugi & Piko probably don't need to tune into this week's installment of the Tokyo neighborhood information show "Admatic" (TV Tokyo, Saturday, 9 p.m.), since it's about Shinjuku 2-chome, the world-famous gay-bar mecca of Tokyo. But while most straight people in Japan know of the neighborhood, which was once a notorious red-light district, few have ever wandered its narrow streets, which are crammed with 400 bars and eateries.

Shinjuku 2-chome has been called the "most famous gay theme park in the world," but as the program points out, you don't have to be gay to be welcomed there and enjoy its lively atmosphere. Thirty businesses are featured, including a bar that is so world famous that international celebrities always made a point of dropping in (Freddie Mercury once arrived unannounced by limousine). Historically, the neighborhood is significant since many of the buildings date back to the immediate postwar period. The special guest is choreographer Kaba.chan.

Dr. Carlo Urbani, the Italian physician who died of SARS in Vietnam last year right at the start of the epidemic, is the focus of "NHK Special" (NHK-G, 9 p.m.) on Feb. 15. Urbani, who worked for Doctors Without Borders, was in charge of the Vietnam office of the World Health Organization when the SARS crisis hit. When native doctors and nurses became infected, Urbani almost single-handedly ran the main hospital. It was he who alerted the world to the dangers of SARS. There is no doubt that if it wasn't for Urbani, the epidemic would have been much worse. The NHK special interviews more than 40 people about the late physician and his work.



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