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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Channel surf

Commercial television is growing more and more desperate for inexpensive content, as proven by the 90-minute variety show special "Hamaru! Doga Neta Tengoku" ("I'm into it! Video Report Paradise" (Nihon TV, Wed., 10 p.m.). Basically, the producers surfed the Internet in search of interesting and humorous homemade videos. These are rebroadcast on the show for comedians who then make funny comments about them.

Artlessness and an off-beat imagination are what they're looking for, and among the selections broadcast is one called "Air Yakiniku," which shows people eating imaginary barbecued beef, and another called "Star Wars Alpaca," a montage video of alpacas set to the Darth Vader theme from "Star Wars." Among the commentators are Sandwichman, Total Tenbosu, and Kanako Yanagihara.

Comedians are exploited once again on "Tsuite Ittara Ko Natta 5" ("This Is What Happened When I Went Along With Them 5") (Fuji, Thurs., 7 p.m.), in which funny people act as investigative reporters in order to expose commercial scams.

Using hidden cameras and microphones, the comedians pretend they are potential "customers" for various money-making schemes that are barely legal and highly suspicious. In one of these schemes, customers are supposedly hypnotized into paying ¥300,000 for merchandise that may or may not be worth that much. In another, a "spiritual purifier" claims that he can make your soul clean and thus your life better by snapping his fingers.

Since some of these comedians, including Masuda Okada, Cunning Takeyama and Yoshio Kojima, are quite famous, it will be interesting to see how they go about "exposing" these schemes.

This weekend, NHK will broadcast an original two-part drama entitled "Kofuku no Soup Ikaga?" ("How About Some Happy Soup?") (NHK-G, Fri.-Sat., 10:00 p.m.). Hiroki Nariyama stars as Tetsuya, a day worker who grows tired of hustling for low-paying, short-term jobs with no future. On a whim, he takes off for Hong Kong, where he meets Mei Lang (Annie Liu), a local woman who is worried about her ill grandfather. For years, the old man owned and operated a restaurant, but had to give it up when the area was targeted for redevelopment.

Tetsuya develops a crush on Mei Lang, who is pure-hearted and enthusiastic. He tells her he will help her try to revive the restaurant. She believes the secret to its resurrection is a specialty seafood soup called gyotanfu, but she isn't sure how to make it. Tetsuya has a brainstorm, and talks Mei Lang into returning to his hometown in Kagawa Prefecture, where his mother (Jun Fubuki) runs a noodle restaurant. Maybe she can help them with the soup.

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