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Sunday, March 8, 2009


Father-son poverty showdown, phone-promo office drama, remembering Koki Hirota

The recession has prompted a resurgence in reality shows where people attempt to survive on very little for a fixed length of time. TV personality and mixed martial arts fighter Bobby Ologun once lived a full month on ¥10,000 in front of TV cameras. Bobby will repeat this challenge under different circumstances on "Ikinari! Ogon Densetsu" ("Suddenly! The Legend of Money") (TV Asahi, Thurs., 7 p.m.). He and his young son will compete against former NHK exercise instructor Hiromishi Sato and his young son in a test to see who can better survive on next to nothing for two nights and three days. Bobby, who was once a short-order cook, is pretty confident he can win, though his son says he's anxious about living without normal creature comforts.

TV production companies will do anything to secure sponsors. Take the new Fuji TV drama series, "Chance: Kanojo ga Seiko Shita Riyu" ("Chance: The Reason She Succeeded") (Sat., 11:10 p.m.). It stars Maki Horikita, one of the main personalities in the current DoCoMo advertising campaign, and the main characters in the drama use cell phones that can be purchased at DoCoMo retail outlets. Each phone is named after the character who uses it on the show. Tamaki (Horikita), a young girl who lives with her motorcycle cop brother, has got a job at a travel agency after months of searching. The most important person in her department is the popular tour conductor Mikio (Hitori Gekidan), but her supervisor is the ex-flight attendant Sayori (Meisa Kuroki), whose last name happens to be Tamaki. Tamaki's first job is to hand out pocket tissues on the street, and she strikes up an acquaintance with Yajima (Gaku Hamada), another tissue peddler who works for DoCoMo. Drama develops when the two Tamakis fall victim to a mixup in cell phones.

Koki Hirota was the only civilian hanged as a Class A war criminal by the Tokyo Tribunal after World War II. His life is the subject of "Rakujitsu Moyu" ("The Setting Sun Burns") (TV Asahi, March 15, 9 p.m.), a drama based on the novel by Saburo Shiroyama. Hirota was the Japanese ambassador to the Soviet Union during the infamous Mukden Incident of 1931, which led to the establishment of a Japanese puppet regime in Manchuria. He convinced the Soviets to remain neutral in the dispute. Hirota retired and returned to his family in Japan, but was eventually drafted as foreign minister and in 1936 became prime minister for less than a year. Hirota's execution remains controversial and the drama makes the case that he always worked for peace. He did not defend himself against the capital charge because he failed to stop the aggression of the Imperial Army.

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