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Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008


Atelier Bravo, 'What's So Bad About Dictatorships?' and 'Shanghai Typhoon'

Atelier Bravo is an artists collective based in Fukuoka whose eight members are developmentally disabled.

Some years ago, when the city administration became increasingly alarmed at the amount of graffiti in public spaces, the collective was recruited to paint over it with their own art. Now, Atelier Bravo's wall art can be seen in 12 locations.

The group's dream has always been to visit New York City, who the collective acknowledges as the "art mecca" of the world, and recently that dream came true, as documented on the special program "Yume no New York e Iku (The Dream of Going to New York)" (TBS, Monday, 9:55 a.m.).

Accompanied by supermodel Moe Oshikiri, who was instrumental in bringing the collective to the Big Apple, Atelier Bravo went to Harlem to cover a wall with their distinctive art, involving local residents in the process.

Authoritarian governments tend to get a bad rap, but sometimes it's easier to get things done when you don't have to go through all that messy democratic process; or, at least, that's the idea behind the special three-hour variety show "Dokusai Kokka de Nani ga Warui? (What's So Bad About Dictatorships?)" (Nihon TV, Wednesday, 7:58 p.m.).

Hosted by renaissance man Beat Takeshi, the program looks at countries that are basically ruled by one man or one party.

Because Takeshi is involved, a lot of the analysis isn't very serious, but the aim is to encourage "serious thought" about Japan's own system of representative government and whether or not it's effective.

Among the examples of authoritarianism explored is a president who has prohibited all the beautiful women in his country from going abroad; a leader who hosts a nationally broadcast television program where he offers advice of all kinds to the citizens; and a country that instructs people to utilize magic and other nonscientific methods to solve health problems because of a serious shortage of medical supplies.

NHK's new six-part drama series, "Shanghai Typhoon" (NHK-G, Saturday, 9 p.m.), is about a young Japanese woman named Misuzu (Tae Kimura) who dreams of starting her own business in Shanghai. In episode two, which airs this week, she has just moved to the Chinese city but has trouble finding an apartment, so she crashes with another Japanese expatriate, Mari (Megumi), who works for a realtor.

Misuzu applies for a job at a flower shop, and the boss, Kaori (Yuki Matsushita), reluctantly hires her. Later, Misuzu realizes that the Chinese owner of the flower shop (Peter Ho) got her fired from her last job in Japan.

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