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Sunday, July 11, 2004

CHANNEL SURF

TV Asahi series "Matthew's Best Hit TV" and more

For many people, Matthew Minami has come to represent the wacky, incomprehensible nature of Japanese TV with his brief, colorful appearance in "Lost in Translation." Some probably believe he was simply invented for the movie, but his TV Asahi series, "Matthew's Best Hit TV," is in fact one of the most popular late night programs on Japanese TV.

This week, the blonde, effeminate entertainer (who is actually comedian Takeshi Fujii, though we're not supposed to tell you that) will make the leap to prime time on "Matthew's Golden TV," a two-hour variety special.

In addition to the usual mindless chatter, the special will feature one of the most popular segments from "Best Hit TV": a "psychological gourmet battle," in which four guests stand behind a scrim and sample expensive culinary delicacies like shark fin soup and high-quality steak. However, one person is actually just eating a tasteless piece of konnyaku (arum root gelatine), but claims to be eating what the others are eating. Contestants must determine which gourmet is eating the konnyaku by asking questions about the taste, texture, etc.


Stoneheads who dismiss female monarchs as being unworthy of a great nation obviously never read the story of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796. Forced into an unhappy marriage with the heir to the throne, Catherine eventually sparked a coup against her husband and assumed his position. After that she presided over Russia's cultural renaissance, making friends with the great European intellectuals and building the enormous Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg.

A sizable cache of Catherine's letters, many of a romantic nature, were recently discovered and are the basis for this week's installment of TBS's long-running historical quiz show "World Mysteries" (Sat., 9 p.m.). Appropriately titled "From Russia With Love," the program looks at Catherine's private life, especially her relationship with Grigory Potemkin, who was both her lover and her main foreign affairs adviser.


On July 18, TV Tokyo celebrates its 40th anniversary with "Japan Taxi: Great Adventure II" (7:54 p.m.). In 2000, the network sponsored the journey of a Japanese taxi driver from Tokyo to London over the Asian continent and sent a video crew along to record his adventures.

This time, a different Japanese driver, who was chosen by audition, will drive from the southernmost tip of South America to New York City. He will be accompanied by his daughter (also a taxi driver) and actor Gitan Otsuru. The trip takes in 11 different countries, a glacier, some amazing natural obstacles, and innumerable local people who help out when the going gets tough.



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