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Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hollywood celebrities interviewed in Japan, women's talk show, drama of starting a new life

Foreign celebrities don't mind coming to Japan to do PR because they know reporters won't ask them embarrassing questions about their DUI arrests or religious beliefs.

The long-running school-oriented variety show "Gakko e Iko (Let's Go to School)" (TBS, Tuesday, 7:56 p.m.) takes advantage of this situation. In the past, the show has used elementary and junior high school students as showbiz journalists. Several years ago, one bespectacled kid charmed Tom Cruise so thoroughly during a red carpet event that he chatted with the boy for a full 20 minutes.

On this week's show, Johnny Depp, here to plug the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel, is interviewed by a girl who also happens to be some kind of "genius" on the electric organ. She performs for Depp, who is quite impressed.

'Gutannubo (Gout temps nouveau)" (Fuji, Wednesday, 11:25 p.m.) is one of the less silly talk shows on commercial TV. Based on the premise of women discussing their lives, the program transcends the usual frivolity because of the mature candor of actress Makiko Esumi, one of its regular hosts.

Esumi was one of the most popular and successful model-actresses in the 1990s, but since getting married and having a child earlier this decade she has mostly been out of the limelight. Recently, she published a much-discussed essay in the Asahi Shimbun in which she described caring for her terminally ill brother and the effect it has had on her life.

This week, her guests are the Japanese-French model Minami and former idol Yuki Saito, who, like Esumi, has just turned 40. Saito and Esumi discuss frankly the difficulties of child-rearing and what they would do if they ever caught their husbands cheating. Minami extols the charms of French men over those of Japanese men.

This week's "Saturday Premium" (Fuji, 9 p.m.) will feature the recent hit theatrical movie "Kencho no Hoshi (Star of the Prefectural Office)," starring Yuji Oda, who became famous as the hard-bitten detective in the immensely popular "Odoru Daisosasen" TV and film series.

Oda plays Nomura, a career-track civil servant working for the Kagawa prefectural government. Ambitious and confident, and engaged to marry the daughter of a powerful construction company president, Nomura's bubble is burst when he is removed from a high-level project and banished to a local supermarket in an "exchange training program."

The supermarket is facing bankruptcy and the only employee who seems to care is a young part-time female worker named Nonomiya (Ko Shibasaki), who also happens to be in charge of training Nomura. With his career in ruins and his wedding canceled, Nomura throws himself into saving the supermarket.

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