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Sunday, May 21, 2006

CHANNEL SURF

See how Japan's TV entertainment evolved in Fuji TV's drama "The Hit Parade" and more

The model for the modern Japanese talent agency or "production company," which dominates all aspects of show business in Japan, was created by the late Shin Watanabe and his wife, Misa, in 1955. This Friday and Saturday Fuji TV will present a special two-part drama, "The Hit Parade" (9 p.m. each night), about the rise of Watanabe Productions and its influence, especially on television.

In 1948, Watanabe (Toshiro Yanagiba) was attending university and dreaming of becoming a musician. He and his friend Takashi Shimizu (Eisaku Yoshida) formed a jazz sextet and hired Misa (Takako Tokiwa), the daughter of a powerful talent agent, as their manager. However, after the Korean War, the popularity of jazz was eclipsed by rockabilly, and Shin and Misa decided to go with the flow, not as performers but as promoters.

The couple ended up representing some of the biggest music stars of the 1960s. However, it wasn't until Watanabe made a deal with Fuji TV to produce a weekly music show called "The Hit Parade" that his fortunes skyrocketed.

With the FIFA World Cup only weeks away, everyone's attention is on the players, but what about the referees? Only 30 professionals from around the world are hired as refs and their assistants, which means the chances of the average pro referee getting picked is one in 13,000.

This week's "Human Document" (NHK-G, Friday, 10 p.m.) follows the fortunes of 42-year-old Toru Kawakami, a professional soccer referee who is trying for a job at the finals in Germany. Physical requirements are very important -- a referee runs an average of 12 km during a match -- but most of the testing is done through observations of candidates during real games. The program travels with Kawakami to the final tests in Germany.

More insider soccer news is provided on the sports variety show "Junk Sports" (Fuji, May 28, 7:58 p.m.), where famous athletes from various disciplines relate behind-the-scenes anecdotes and experiences.

This week's special guest is Philippe Troussier, who coached the Japan team at the 2002 World Cup. At last, the outspoken Frenchman can talk about all the things he couldn't talk about when he was working with the Japanese national team. Among the anecdotes is a ganguro (suntanned-face) Hello Kitty doll he received as a gift from a high-school girl fan, and which became his most treasured good luck charm.



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