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Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008

CHANNEL SURF

'Tarento' on parade, featuring Sanma-san, Akiko Wada and Beat Takeshi

These days the ideal TV personality is someone who can talk nonstop about any subject for a long period of time. The person doesn't necessarily need to be knowledgeable about the subject, but he or she should certainly be funny. In this regard, comedian Sanma Akashiya is the gold standard. Several weeks ago, he hosted a 24-hour marathon variety show single-handedly, just to show that he could.

As part of Nihon TV's 55th anniversary celebration, Sanma will again hold forth on anything anybody can throw at him. On the two-and-a-half hour special "Akashiya Sanma ni Kikitakatta no wa So Iu Koto Datta no Ne" ("This is What I've Wanted to Ask Sanma Akashiya"; Friday, 9 p.m.), several dozen people bring the Osaka funnyman their questions, some personal, some general, many bizarre.

Among the questioners are Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, actress Hitomi Kuroki, celebrity Saki Aibu, the chief of an African tribe, and James Lipton, the head of the Actors Studio in New York who is famous for interviewing top stars.

They ask questions such as, "Will men ever be able to get pregnant?" "What food do you want to eat before you die?" and "Will you ever retire?"

On Sept. 29, veteran singer and TV personality Akiko Wada fulfilled a lifelong dream by performing a solo show at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater in New York. NHK recorded the concert and will present excerpts from it, along with documentary footage showing Wada relaxing backstage, on the special "Debyu 40 Shunen in Apollo Shiata" ("40th Anniversary of Debut in the Apollo Theater"; BS2, Saturday, 9 p.m.).

Wada, who is 58 years old, made her debut 40 years ago as a bold and brassy soul singer. She has often said that she was inspired to sing after hearing Ray Charles. In fact, she and the late music legend performed together at her 30th-anniversary concert.

The Apollo was once considered the most important venue for African-American musicians. Wada performed 14 songs during her concert, including Charles' "Georgia On My Mind." Coincidentally, Fuji TV channel 721 on Sky Perfect will also be airing a program about the concert on the same night at 11 p.m.

Of course, if Sanma gets to help Nihon TV celebrate its 55th anniversary, it's only right to give Beat Takeshi a chance to do it, too. On Nov. 30, the king of all Japanese media presents "Beat Takeshi no Ima Made Mita Koto Nai Terebi" ("Beat Takeshi's TV You've Never Seen Before"; 9 p.m.), which is basically a series of sketches lampooning common TV program formats. One sketch presents an audition for corpses for a two-hour suspense drama.

Takeshi will even make fun of his own programs.



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