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Sunday, April 8, 2007

CHANNEL SURF

Coming-of-age comedy drama, family business sitcom, high school sitcom

Spring is in the air, and a batch of new drama series is being launched this week. Family themes seem to be dominant, but, of course, romance is never far away.

The title of Fuji TV's "Ha-nayome to Papa" (The Bride and Papa; Tuesday, 9 p.m.) sums up its simple idea very neatly. The distinction seems to be the young age of the prospective bride. Aiko (Satomi Ishihara) is 20 years old and has just landed the job of her dreams in the public relations department of a famous apparel maker. She makes friends with Seiji (Junnosuke Taguchi), another freshman employee, and he invites her to dinner one day.

The invitation is a problem because Aiko's father (Saburo Tokito) runs his household by a strict set of rules, one of which is that Aiko must be home from work by 7 p.m. Aiko has always hated these rules, and now that she's entered adulthood, she doesn't understand why she still has to follow them.

The longest-running drama series on TV, "Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari," is taking a year off starting this week, and in its place TBS is broadcasting another family-oriented series, but one that's a bit lighter in tone.

"Fufudo" (The Way of the Married Couple; Thursday, 9 p.m.) stars veteran actor-singer Tetsuya Takeda as Keisuke, who runs a tea shop that has been in his family for generations. However, it's his more immediate family that takes all his attention.

He and his wife Satoko (Junko Takahata) have three daughters and one son. The oldest daughter, Natsume (Shizuyo Yamazaki, of the comedy duo Nankai Candies), is still not married at the age of 30. In the opening episode she trots off to her 30th omiai (arranged marriage) meeting, after which she truly believes that this time she might have a chance.

Unlike "Wataru," "Fufudo" is not a serial drama. Each episode is a self-contained story that has more in common with character-based situation comedies than soap operas. The one constant is Keisuke's fruitless attempts to maintain calm.

The source of "Elite Yanki Saburo" (TV Tokyo, Friday, 12:12 a.m.) is a popular manga from Shukan Young Magazine that some fans have said could never be dramatized in any way.

Saburo (Hideo Ishiguro) enters a high school that is famous because all of its students are delinquents and troublemakers.

In fact, Saburo's older brothers are the "top yankis" in the school, "yankis" being a slang term for anti-social youth.

But Saburo isn't like that. He actually wants to study and lead a "normal" high school life, but because of his brothers' exalted reputation, everyone assumes he will follow in their footsteps.

The series' comic premise is the paradox of a nice guy who everyone thinks will bash your head as soon as look at you.



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