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Sunday, Nov. 28, 2004

CHANNEL SURF

"Chikyu: Fushigi Daishizen" on NHK and more

It's easy to believe that whenever humans come into contact with nature, nature suffers. However, this week's installment of NHK's nature show, "Chikyu: Fushigi Daishizen" (The Earth: Wondrous Nature; NHK-G, Monday, 8 p.m.), visits an area of Japan where people and nature have been living in harmony for many, many years.

In the northern part of Shiga Prefecture on the shore of Lake Biwa is a village where streams run between -- and even through -- many of the residences. These streams are filled with various species of fish, so when the fish lay eggs and wait for them to hatch, their human neighbors can watch closely. The region is also filled with many bird species, and vegetation is allowed to grow freely, thus giving the village a naturally rustic atmosphere that is timeless.


A popular late-night program, "Ai no Apron (Apron of Love)," was recently rewarded for its success with an upgrade to prime time. The premise of the show is simple: Female talent prepare meals in the "Iron Chef" tradition for a panel of male guests . . . who then pass judgment.

When the show was broadcast in the wee hours, the talent was mostly young pin-up idols who weren't expected to possess culinary skills. The new prime-time version (TV Asahi, Wednesday, 7 p.m.) mostly employs more famous and established female talent, but the end result is the same: Can they perform in the kitchen?

This week's show will feature the former first lady of Indonesia, Dewi Sukarno, trying to make curry with pork cutlets. Madame Dewi, as she's often referred to, has already "performed" on "Ai no Apron," where she admitted that she hadn't touched a fry pan in 40 years.


After midnight is when television producers try out new program ideas, but as "Ai no Apron" demonstrates, these ideas aren't necessarily clever. The idea behind the new variety show "Doshiroto" (Super Amateurs; Nihon TV, Friday, 2:44 a.m.) isn't clever, either. In fact, it isn't even an idea.

Hosted by comedian Yuji Miyake, "Doshiroto" invites "nonprofessionals" with peculiar obsessions to come on the show. Soliciting the guests is half the show. People who think they would be interesting subjects, or people who know of people who might be interesting subjects, call the program and negotiate for those subjects to appear.

Among the "interesting" people who have appeared are a young man who puts Tabasco sauce on all he eats, including ice cream; and a man whose real name is Futsu, which in Japanese means "regular."

This week's guest is a woman whose hobby is to visit foreign countries alone, which doesn't sound unusual. However, she has a habit of falling in love in every country she visits. She also has interesting things to say about pickpockets and local toilet customs.



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