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Sunday, Nov. 2, 2008

Channel surf

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) may be the most enigmatic painter in history. The Dutch master's use of light and shadow is now considered revolutionary, and yet for 200 years following his death no one talked about him. Today, his genius is universally recognized, but it is based on only about three dozen paintings scattered among museums and private collections all over the world. Six of those paintings are currently in Tokyo as part of an exhibition.

What little is known about the artist is discussed on "Sekai Geijutsu Mystery: Vermeer no Ango" ("World Art Mystery: Vermeer's Secret Code") (TBS, Monday,9 p.m.). Since Vermeer didn't leave behind any journals or sketches, scholars have had to analyze his work and life based on indirect sources and speculation. Actor Masaya Kato travels all over Europe, seeking out his paintings to find out the truth behind the enigma.

Less mysterious, but just as enigmatic, is comedian Edo Harumi, who appeared out of nowhere about a year ago fully formed as a comic and then proceeded to conquer television. She claims her age is "a state secret," but most people would probably place her in her late 30s or early 40s.

A little more light is shed on her background in "Edo Harumi Monogatari" ("The Edo Harumi Story") ( Fuji, Friday, 7:57 p.m.), where she plays herself in a dramatization of her life so far. Edo always dreamed of becoming an actress, and she studied theater while working various temporary jobs, one of which was teaching etiquette to company employees. That experience figures centrally in her comedy act, which basically makes fun of her proper, ladylike attributes. For years, she auditioned for parts and was always turned down, but she never quit.

Everybody's favorite animated adolescent ghost, GeGeGe no Kitaro, teaches an ecological lesson on his next Sunday morning show (Fuji, Nov. 9, 9 a.m.). In "Inochi Karakara! Akashita Onsen" ("Parched Life! Red Tongue Hot Spring"), Kitaro and his father, Medama Oyaji, travel to Aomori to enjoy a hot spring famous for its abundance of water. When they arrive they find dry land. The water is gone, and Kitaro's nemesis, Nezumi Otoko (Rat Man), is making a killing selling water to the locals at exorbitant prices.

Nezumi Otoko takes Kitaro and his father to a secret, unknown hot spring, but it turns out to be part of the body of a monster called Akashita (Red Tongue), who is angry at the people because they don't cherish water. He sucks all the fluid out of Kitaro's body and turns him to stone.

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