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Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007

CHANNEL SURF

History's mysteries, big family melodrama adventure, history's dictatorships

You have your choice of two archaeological specials on Monday. Starting at 7 p.m., Nihon TV will air a 4-hour program, "Konya Rekishi ga Kawaru (Tonight History Changes)," which will look at "three great mysteries" of Ancient Egypt and some recent discoveries that may help clear them up.

Over on TBS starting at 9 p.m. is "Kodai Bunmei Mystery (Mystery of Ancient Civilizations)," which looks into new discoveries in South America, specifically in relation to the Inca civilization of the Andes Mountains. Actor Ryuhei Matsuda reports on how Europe's quest for gold in the region changed the direction of human history. To the Incas, gold was a sacred decoration used for religious rituals, while for the Europeans it was a symbol of wealth. When these two civilizations met, it was inevitable that one would fall.

D ocumentaries about big families are always guaranteed ratings winners, and Tuesday's "Tsukai! Big Daddy (What a Thrill! Big Daddy)" (TV Asahi, 7 p.m.) is bound to be a big draw. The report follows a divorced man who, in the summer of 2006, brought his four sons and four daughters to the island of Amami Oshima in Kagoshima Prefecture. Previously, he lived in Iwate, but it was always his dream to live on a southern island and be self-sufficient. The family is now settled, but, this summer, the man's ex-wife showed up with her three children from a subsequent marriage that recently ended. She tells her ex-husband that she wants to get back together with him and live with all 11 of her children. The man must make a decision.

W ith Japan's storied social order facing huge challenges in terms of a rapidly aging population and a widening gap between rich and poor, a stable future is not assured. What can be done?

Well, there's always totalitarianism, an option that is looked at semiseriously on the variety special "Beat Takeshi no Dokusai Kokka Nani ga Warui!? (Beat Takeshi's What's Wrong with Dictatorships!?)" (Nihon TV, Saturday, 9 p.m.).

Japan's King of All Media, dressed appropriately in a military uniform, looks at dictatorships throughout the world and throughout history. He discusses not only how dictators run their countries, but how their citizens live under authoritarian rule. From these discussions he tries to extract lessons that Japan can use to chart its own future.

Obviously, Takeshi is not advocating a return to fascism, but the program does take a balanced look. On the one hand, he looks at a country where the queen selects a bride for his son by having all eligible females dance topless in front of her. On the other hand, he looks at Cuba, which boasts more physicians per capita than any other country in the world.



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