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Sunday, June 8, 2008

CHANNEL SURF

Politician on variety show, pop-culture music special, Chinese medical special

Grouchy, grizzled former Liberal Democratic Party star Koichi Hamada refuses to move gently into retirement. He continues to show up on whatever variety show will have him and bellow about what's wrong in the government and elsewhere. And apparently this attitude still attracts new fans, including "sexy idol" and Yokohama University graduate Kaori Manabe, who, as a guest on the travel show "Pittanko Kan-kan" (TBS, Tuesday, 6:55 p.m.), requested that Hamako show her around his former constituency, the Uchibo region of Chiba Prefecture.

Accompanied by the show's host, popular TBS announcer Shinichiro Azumi, the pair start their journey in the harbor town of Futtsu, where Hamada was born and raised, and partake of its fresh fish. While dining, the salty old pol waxes sentimental about his combative past and reveals what actually drove him to seek elected office in the first place. He also talks candidly about his reputation as the loudest heckler in the history of the Diet.

Triple threat model-actress-singer Anna Tsuchiya beefs up her rock credentials with her new single, "Crazy World," which she showcases on the half-hour concert series "Bokura no Ongaku (Our Music)" (Fuji TV, Friday, 11:30 p.m.). She performs the song live as well as older favorites like her smash "Rose," from the hit movie "Nana."

Tsuchiya is joined by R&B hit-maker AI. The two young stars perform a duet and chat up a storm. AI announces that she will appear at the Tsumagoi Music Festival in July and sings her song "Taisetsu-na Mono (Something Important)" by herself.

With 1.3 billion people, China continues to grow and change at a rate so alarmingly fast that most observers can't take it all in. Much has been made of the widening gap in terms of income, a gap that is most evident in the realm of medical care. The NHK special report "Gekiryu Chugoku (The Raging River of China)" (NHK-G, June 15, 9 p.m.) takes a hard look at one of Beijing's biggest hospitals.

People flock to the hospital from all over China in such unmanageable numbers that many patients have to wait five days just to talk to a doctor. They stand, or more often sit, on line the whole time because leaving the line even for a minute means going back to the end of it.

The program analyzes the medical system and shows how it directly impacts the quality of care. In the past, all medical costs were paid for by the government, but in recent years a new system has been implemented that forces users to pay themselves, at least up front, meaning that only people with disposable income can seek care. In addition, hospitals now must operate as independent financial institutions, and only the biggest ones can stay solvent. The gap just gets wider.



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