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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Channel surf

The 89-year-old actress Mitsuko Mori will be the subject of NHK's documentary series "Human Document" this week (NHK-G, Mon., 10 p.m.). On July 1, Mori received a National Honor Award, the first woman to ever receive it while still alive. The award came on the heels of her record-breaking 2,000th performance of the play "Hourouki," which she has been starring in since 1961. She shows no signs of slowing down. It is Mori's stamina and enthusiasm that takes up the bulk of the documentary, which shows how she prepares for the stage. Rare footage chronicles Mori's life and everyday existence there are interviews with famous friends and acquaintances, including photographer Kishin Shinoyama, whose pictures show Mori preparing in her dressing room, acting on stage, and relaxing afterward.

Now that Takuya Kimura's "Mr. Brain" has finished, another of Johnny's acts, Tomoya Nagase of TOKIO, takes over Saturday night with his own "genius" crime-fighting character. However, the hero of the new comedy suspense series, "Karei Naru Spy" ("The Magnificent Spy"; Nihon TV, Sat., 9 p.m.), doesn't start out as a crime-fighter — quite the opposite. When first we meet Kyosuke (Nagase), he is in prison for brilliant schemes.

Obviously, they weren't brilliant enough to prevent him from being caught, but the authorities see some value in his abilities and he is offered his freedom if he comes to work for the prime minister's intelligence division as a spy fighting international terrorism. Kyosuke jumps right into action. There is a rumor that Mr. Takumi (Akira Emoto), the infamous "don" of a notorious terrorist organization, is plotting to assassinate the prime minister (Tetsuya Watari).

The government is quite strict about welfare cheats, but what about organizations that prey on people who receive welfare? Next Sunday, Nihon TV's late night news documentary series, "NNN Document 09" (July 19, 12:50 a.m.) looks at the "dark side of the welfare business."

The program goes undercover to investigate residences that provide room and board to homeless people who sign over their welfare payments to the residence. Homeless people cannot collect benefits without an address, and while these businesses provide addresses they also take advantage of their "tenants," forcing them to abide by curfews, prohibiting drinking on the premises, and serving them the minimum in terms of meals. In exchange tenants give the residences their welfare payments.

There is no government oversight of these non-profit organizations, but there are citizens groups that are trying to help.

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