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Sunday, July 26, 2009

CHANNEL SURF

Return of a baseball pro, Beat Takeshi on the state of TV, a man's feminine side

It's no longer a novelty for Japanese baseball stars to play in the major leagues, but few who return to Japan to play have proved as successful as Tadahito Iguchi, who is profiled on "Sports Tairiku" (Sports Continent; NHK-G, Mon., 10:45 p.m.).

The infielder originally left Japan and the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks after the 2004 season to play with the Chicago White Sox. Over the next four seasons, he also played with the Philadelphia Phillies (twice) and the San Diego Padres.

This year he's covering second base for the Chiba Lotte Marines, and though the team isn't doing that well, Iguchi, who bats last, has had an excellent season at the plate so far. The 34-year-old explains on the show how he has managed to fuse what he learned in the United States with his professional experience in Japan.

Hiroshi Kume, who revolutionized TV news as host of TV Asahi's "News Station" for almost 20 years, hasn't had a good run of fortune since that show went off air in 2004. His interview program "Terebitte Yatsu wa" (What the Hell is TV?) came close to the kind of probing commentary he was once famous for, but rumor has it that politicians were making demands before appearing, wary of Kume's acid tongue. Last spring, the show suddenly morphed into "Kumepipo!" (TBS, Wed., 10 p.m.), which softened his usual biting effect even more by limiting the guests to mainly show business personalities.

Apparently, that didn't work either because this week's installment is the last one. But at least the series is going out with a bang. The sole guest is king of all media Beat Takeshi, who can be as candid as Kume when he wants to be. The two men are scheduled to discuss "seriously" the state of television, which could make for a very interesting hour. Since he no longer has to worry about ratings or offending people upstairs, let's hope Kume is as blunt and brash as he used to be.

The word otome means girl or maiden. When you affix an "n" to the end of it, however, you get a kind of pun that means something entirely different. The hero of the new drama series "Otomen" (Fuji, Sat., 11:10 p.m.) is Asuka (Masaki Okada), a high school student who gets excellent grades and is quite adept at martial arts. But his real interests are elsewhere. He has a particular passion for cute things and in his spare time likes to sew and cook. Understanding that these are pastimes no self-respecting man would be interested in, he hides them from others.

Then one day he encounters Ryo (Kaho), and it's love at first sight. But as he gets to know her, he discovers that she has more in common with Nihon danshi (real Japanese men) than with people like him.



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