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Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008

CHANNEL SURF

Chinese gymnasts, the making of Miyazaki's 'Ponyo' and Southern All Stars' 30th birthday

The Olympics are just days away, and if you haven't already gotten sick of it you might want to see how China trains its youngest athletes. On this week's edition of the international television omnibus show, "Sekai Marumie! Terebi Tokusobu (Special Investigation of TV From All Over the World)" (Nihon TV, Monday, 8 p.m.) is a documentary from China about a school for young gymnasts.

These youngsters, who enter the school as young as 4 years old, have only one purpose in mind: to someday win a gold medal. For the first year they are closely observed by the trainers, and at the end of that period only the best continue on to the second year. These children live away from their parents, so it is emotionally difficult for them. The documentary shows parents separating from their weeping children, as well as saving money to pay for the school's tuition, which is often beyond their means.

The latest animated film from Hayao Miyazaki, "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," is already a huge box-office hit, and this week NHK presents a special program, "Professional Shigoto no Ryugi (The School of Professional Work)" (NHK-G, Tuesday, 10 p.m.), that shows the movie's development from conception to completion. NHK cameras were inside Miyazaki's studio filming the production off-and-on for a period of two years. Part of the footage was aired on NHK last March, and this week's program contains scenes shot since then.

The program shows how Miyazaki creates characters and situations. In addition, neuroscientist Kenichiro Mogi conducted a long in-depth interview with the notoriously reclusive director following completion of "Ponyo." Miyazaki talks about his childhood, which is the basis for all his films.

Last month, the Southern All Stars, one of the country's most successful and enduring pop-rock groups, announced that it would be going on indefinite hiatus at the end of this year, which happens to mark the band's 30th anniversary in Japanese show business.

For a kind of capsule history of the group's TV career, check out a special edition of the TV Asahi program "Music Station" that will feature only the Southern All Stars (Friday, 8 p.m.).

The show will include videotape of TV appearances that Southern All Stars made over the past 30 years, covering all their major hits.

The band will also appear live in the studio to perform their latest single, "I Am Your Singer," for the first time on television. The single is scheduled to go on sale Aug. 6.

In addition, viewers will select the best Southern All Stars songs, which will then be ranked in order of popularity.



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