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Sunday, Oct. 24, 2004

CHANNEL SURF

Nihon TV's "Tatta Hitotsu no Takaramono" and more

Former idol superstar Seiko Matsuda makes her 2-hour TV drama debut this week in "Tatta Hitotsu no Takaramono (Just One Treasure)" (Nihon TV, Tues., 9 p.m.), which is about the short life of a special boy.

Matsuda plays Yumi, who works for a foreign-owned bank in Tokyo. Through her job she meets Kotaro (Eiichiro Funakoshi) and after a brief courtship they marry. But their dreams of starting a family are constantly foiled by circumstances beyond their control. After many attempts, Yumi finally becomes pregnant and gives birth to a boy.

The boy, however, has Downs Syndrome. The doctor tells Yumi and Kotaro that the baby has many physical problems, including a bad heart, and will probably not live more than a year. The couple raise the boy carefully, and he seems to thrive under their love. They eventually enroll him in a pre-school for disabled children and when he reaches the age of 4, Yumi believes that the miracle will last.

"Tatta Hitotsu" marks the first time that children with Downs Syndrome have appeared on Japanese television as actors.

On Wednesday, veteran singer-actor Akira Terao stars as an idealistic high-school teacher in the drama special "Yomawari Sensei (Teacher on a Night Beat)" (TBS, 9 p.m.). Based on a real person, Mr. Mizutani (Terao) walks around the Tenderloin area of Yokohama every night, talking to teenage runaways, prostitutes and drug addicts about their problems and trying to persuade them to get help. He has been doing this for more than 12 years.

One night, he encounters a young girl stripped down to her underwear and shivering in a dark alley next to a sex emporium. Her name is Moe. She is a sex worker and drug addict, but she has nowhere to go. Mizutani takes her back to his home. His own family, who is used to this kind of thing by now, isn't particularly surprised by the girl's appearance.

Fuji TV's popular legal variety show "The Judge" starts the fall season with a new title, "The Judge EX" (Fri., 7 p.m.), which seems to be an indication that it is moving further away from its standard-advice format toward a more conventional celebrity-oriented variety show that just happens to touch on legal matters.

The premiere features a newly slimmed-down Takanohana, whose famously stubborn attitude in the sumo ring has not changed since he became an oyakata (stable master). The attitude serves him well as a mentor, but as he explains to host Monta Mino, it gets him in trouble with his wife.

Also featured is veteran entertainer Karuseru Maki, who back in the 1970s was one of the first Japanese men to undergo a sex-change operation. After many years, she was recently allowed to change her gender designation from male to female on her family register.



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