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Sunday, Jan. 7, 2007

Channel surf

On the talk show "Cambrian Palace" (TV Tokyo, Monday, 10 p.m.), novelist Ryu Murakami usually discusses economic issues, but in this week's special edition he concentrates on sports figures, though he has said he will try to make the discussions relevant to "business-oriented people."

Murakami's guests are New York Yankees' slugger Hideki Matsui and Yokohama FC player Kazuyoshi Miura. It is the first time the two sports superstars have ever met.

Matsui will mainly discuss the injury that almost ended his career last season and how it has affected his outlook on the game and life in general. He will also talk about his "future in Japan." Miura, who is a decade older than Matsui and is coming to the end of his professional soccer career, will talk about his role in helping Yokohama get promoted to the J. League and how he can keep on playing even while younger superstars like Hideo Nakata retire at the peak of their abilities.

Idol singer Kazuya Ninomiya's acting skills, best seen in Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima," have attracted the attention of veteran scriptwriter So Kuramoto, who suggested Ninomiya play the lead in his latest drama series, "Dear Father" (Fuji, Thursday, 10 p.m.), which reprises the warm, community-based drama format that was so popular in the '60s and '70s.

Ninomiya plays Ippei, the apprentice to the imperious master chef (Tatsuo Umemiya) of an old, respected restaurant in the Kagurazaka area of Tokyo. Most of the stories are framed as letters he writes to his father back in the countryside.

In Episode One, Ippei is excited because the restaurant is hiring a new apprentice, which means some of the burden of putting up with the master's demands will be lifted. However, the new boy gets lost when he arrives in Tokyo and Ippei has to go look for him. He turns out to be a surly young man who has just been released from a juvenile reformitory.

Takuya Kimura, another idol whose acting talents have received positive notice lately owing to his star turn in the movie "Bushi no Ichibun," takes on another challenging role in "Karei Naru Ichizoku" (A Splendid Family; TBS, Jan. 14, 9 p.m.), which is based on the best-selling novel by Toyoko Yamazaki.

Kimura plays Teppei, the scion of one of Japan's biggest family-run conglomerates and an executive for a Kobe-based steel manufacturer in the late '60s. His father is the owner and president of Hanshin Bank, the most powerful financial institution in the Kansai region. During a New Year's family get-together, Teppei approaches his father about a loan to build a new blast furnace for his factory, a request that has unexpected results.

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