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Sunday, March 29, 2009

CHANNEL SURF

A prime-time news contender, Japanese aesthetics and tales of a reformed assassin

The new television season kicks into high gear this week with TBS's bold experiment "Soryoku Hodo The News" ("Combined Power Information The News") (Mon.-Fri., 5:50 p.m.). Though live news shows are as old as television itself, "The News" marks the first attempt by a Japanese commercial broadcaster to schedule such a program during early prime time. In effect, TBS's two-hour news show will go up against NHK's 7 p.m. news bulletin, which has never been challenged during that time slot.

Hosted by veteran journalist Kenji Goto, who succeeded the late Tetsuya Chikushi as the anchor for TBS's "News 23" (which will continue at 11 p.m., but only as a half-hour program), and popular freelance announcer Maya Kobayashi, "The News" will emphasize live reports that convey a sense of what is actually happening at the moment with regard to the stories it covers.

The government's scheme of spreading Japanese culture worldwide gets some traction with the new series "Trad Japan" (NHK-E, Tues., 11:20 p.m.), which aims to provide viewers with the means to explain in English "profound cultural experiences" that are unique to Japan.

Many English language programs in the past have presented Japanese culture in a more or less elementary fashion. "Trad Japan," on the other hand, takes a more intellectual approach to the subjects it covers, providing viewers with words and expressions that they can utilize when discussing culture with English-speaking people. The discussions delve deeper into topics such as sushi and yuzen (silk dyeing) by going beyond explanations of form and methodology toward an understanding of the values that make Japanese culture different. Hiroyuki Eguchi, a veteran interpreter and instructor of tour guides, is the host.

TV Tokyo's "Drama 24" (Fri., 12:12 a.m.) starts a new series this week called "Yukemuri Sniper" ("The Sniper in the Vapor") starring Kenichi Endo as an assassin who has decided to leave the business and try to go straight.

Gen figures the best way to escape his violent past is to retire somewhere that is remote and quiet, so he takes a job as a lowly attendant at a mountain hot-springs resort called Tsubaki-ya. He strikes up a friendship with one of his colleagues, a housekeeper named Suzuyo (Shoko Ikezu).

One day, Suzuyo's ex-husband, Tagawa (Kohei Mashiba), comes to the inn and roughs her up. Gen learns that Tagawa is a gangster and that he shows up at the inn every so often to take the money that Suzuyo has earned. Gen feels sorry for Suzuyo and calls Tagawa to try and reason with him.



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