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Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005

CHANNEL SURF

Nihon TV's documentary series "Antenna 22," variety "Odoru! Sanma Goten!" and more

Nihon TV's long-running documentary series, "Super TV," changes its name this week. The first installment of "Antenna 22" (Monday, 10 p.m.) is about the "crisis" that the host-club business is facing as its most popular stars grow past their prime.

The bulk of the program focuses on the fortunes of Shinjuku's most popular and famous place for women-of-means to meet and patronize handsome young men: Club A151, whose most popular employee quits without warning despite the fact that he makes at least 10 million yen a month. The documentary attempts to get to the bottom of the host's reasons for leaving the trade and looks at the stable of young studs who hope to fill his Italian shoes.

The program also looks at New Ai, one of Tokyo's oldest host clubs, whose most popular host inexplicably angers his main patron during a party held to celebrate the host's 29th birthday.


Though effeminate men have long been a tarento staple on variety shows, lately the demand for their services has been especially great. The one show that has been most instrumental in introducing this sort of tarento to the public is "Odoru! Sanma Goten!" (Dance! Sanma Palace!; Nihon TV, Tuesday, 7:58 p.m.), a free-form talk show hosted by motor-mouthed comedian Sanma Akashiya. Among the dozen guests who appear on each program, there seems to be one certain seat reserved for an effeminate man so that Sanma can make suggestive jokes about his sexual orientation and fashion sense.

This week, the seat is filled by Ikko, a hair stylist and makeup artist who works for some of Japan's most famous actresses and female talent. Ikko's sense of humor and outrageous clothing is legendary, and so Ikko's "debut" as a new tarento was only going to be a matter of time. However, he will be sitting next to Ichikawa Shunen, a kabuki "oyama" (actor of female roles) who has also seen a lot of work on talk shows because of his effeminate demeanor.


Of course, any celebrity who agrees to appear on a variety show is fair game for suggestive comments. On this week's episode of the "Downtown DX" (Nihon TV, Thursday, 10 p.m.), which is hosted by the caustic Osaka comedy duo Downtown, the dirt is dug up on two unsuspecting guests.

Everyone knows that Sumo Grand Champion Asashoryu is from Mongolia, and a crew visits his hometown to see if they can find some juicy information about his past. The sumo wrestler's parents reveal that when he was a child Asashoryu had a habit of eating rocks and even chunks of wall plaster. Lack of calcium in his diet? Also, an old would-be girlfriend makes an admission that has Asashoryu squirming with embarrassment.

The show also goes to Okinawa to find out about pop singer Issa, who, it turns out, was once stopped by the police and was so nervous he actually forgot his name.



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