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Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008

Channel surf

Every year, Fuji TV solicits TV scenarios from amateur writers, and the best script is then produced and broadcast. This year's winner is "Senshi no Shikaku" ("The Qualifications of a Warrior") (Mon., 11:42 p.m.) by Mikiko Takahashi, a company employee.

The protagonist, Takagi (Hidetoshi Nishijima), is also a company employee. He works for a small firm and is desperate for a promotion. He'll do anything to get ahead, even kick a colleague when she's down.

Takagi gets his comeuppance when his supervisor and mentor, Fujido, resigns. Takagi's new boss always held a grudge against Fujido, and he banishes Takagi to the stock room, in effect demoting him. At first Takagi is bitter, but he comes to understand something about himself and the way he treats others as he gets used to his new position.

As always on New Year's Day, NHK will present a special program that looks at Japan's prospects in the coming year. With the world beset by economic turmoil, the issues addressed in "Sekai wa Doko e Mukau no ka" ("Where is the World Heading?") (NHK-G, Thurs., 9 p.m.) seem especially pressing.

Using discussions, interviews and documentary footage, the program looks at Japan's place in the world, in particular its relationship with the United States, whose global hegemony is being threatened by the worldwide recession and America's inconclusive "war on terror." Japan derives much of its strength from this relationship. Is it now time to move from out of America's shadow?

More significantly, does the recession signal the end of capitalism as we know it, and has the structural realignment that former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi inaugurated already failed? These questions are not easy to answer, but one thing is certain: 2009 will be a watershed year.

Television during New Year's week is mostly sports and quiz shows at night and reruns of old dramas during the day. This year there's also a lot of Beat Takeshi, who between Dec. 28 and Jan. 4 will host a special every night except New Year's Eve and Jan. 2.

On Saturday, Takeshi and some friends will discuss religious customs on "Kyokasho ni Noranai Nihonjin Nazo" ("Mysteries of the Japanese People Not Covered in Textbooks") (Nihon TV, 8:54 p.m.). For instance, what is the difference between worshipping at a Buddhist temple and worshipping at a Shinto shrine? Why are there so many inari (fox) shrines in Japan? What is the historical significance of talismans that promise to protect against bad luck? Why were the mummified remains of the Tokugawa Shogunate divided into two separate graves? And, on a more prosaic level, what role did the railroads play in promoting visits to shrines and temples on New Year's Day?

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