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Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009


China tries English, cuddly but deadly animals, and best of bad-boy comedian Tamori

English-language teaching professionals know that the place to be right now is China. NHK's documentary program, "Chikyu Dramatic" ("Dramatic Earth") (NHK-E, Wednesday, 7 p.m.), looks at English-learning in the world's most populous country, particularly during its orgy of internationalization leading up to last summer's Beijing Olympics.

The show zeroes in on a few colorful examples, including an 11-year-old girl who joins a retreat full of adults taking a course in "Crazy English" that's run as if it were a military boot camp. The regimen is punishing for everyone, and it's not clear if this little girl will be able to make it to the end.

There's also a profile of a taxi driver who studied to take an English test. The Beijing authorities proclaimed that city cab drivers who hadn't mastered basic English conversation would not be able to operate during the Olympics. This one cabbie, who spoke no English before, studies with the help of a radio program.

Cute animals are the norm on TV, but the special nature program, "Zettai ni Sogu Shitakunai Kiken Seibutsu" ("Creatures You Definitely Don't Want to Encounter") (Nihon TV, Thursday, 7 p.m.), presents some that you would do well to avoid cuddling.

The show presents 50 animals from around the world in countdown form, with No. 1 representing the most dangerous animal on earth. Experts are on hand to explain how the giant panda may look adorable, but that when it is provoked it can get pretty nasty. Polar bears are also a rich resource of lovability, but as global warming changes their habitat, they become fiercer than ever. The program also describes a wide variety of poisonous life forms, which are not only lethal to eat, but lethal to touch.

"Tamori Club" (Asahi, Friday, 11:15 p.m.) is one of Japanese TV's longest-running shows, having premiered back in 1982. Hosted by the pseudosuave, sunglasses-sporting comedian Tamori, the series has always been infamous for its sexy — some might say sexist — subject matter and salacious boys-only attitude.

More central to the show's appeal is its makeshift air. It has never had a studio to call home and most weeks opens with Tamori meeting his guests on some street in Tokyo. Over the years, recurring themes have revealed its host's peculiar interests: strange drinking establishments, public railways, offbeat hobbyists.

This week, Tamori will present a digest of some of the show's best moments, including a segment from the first episode, which followed the comedian around after he finished taping his famous All Night Nippon radio program. There are also highlights from its one regular feature, "Sora Mimi Hour," which is the funniest five minutes on Japanese TV.

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