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Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009


Battle of the worst chefs, all in the 14-kid family and running for the money

The infamous cooking show, "Ai no Apron" (Love's Apron), may be off the air but its spirit lives on in the two-hour special "Haneru no Tobira" (The Closing Door; Fuji, Wed., 7 p.m.).

A group of female comedians, including Ai Haruna, Edo Harumi and Asako Ito, compete with one another by whipping up meals for a panel of ikemen (handsome) actors and singers, including Jun Oguri, Hideaki Takizawa and Kenichi Matsuyama.

The main question, according to the show's publicity materials, isn't which cook's food the panel will like best, but which they will find totally inedible. Apparently, some contestants' concoctions are repeatedly rejected. In order to preclude any prejudices the panel may hold about the comedians themselves entering into their judgment of the food, they will not see just who prepared the meal they are consuming. If you think you've got it tough in this recession, think about what it would be like if you had 14 kids. The two-hour reality TV special, "Binbo ni Makeru na! Ni-dan Juni-jo Wakeari Daikazoku Funtoki 3" (Don't Be Defeated by Poverty! Record of Struggles of a Big Family with Two Boys and Twelve Girls 3; TV Tokyo, Thurs., 7:57 p.m.) visits the Watatsu family of Shimane Prefecture for a third time, covering their lives from last March to the end of this summer.

Always finding it difficult to make ends meet, the family is very grateful for the government's stimulus payout, which nets them a little more than ¥300,000 in cash. They use about half the money to pay for school tuition for the eldest boy, who is entering junior high school. About half of the remainder is used to pay delinquent utility bills.

As for the rest, mom and dad disagree sharply on what it should be used for. Their differing opinions lead to a big argument. Speaking of reality shows, one that started here and was picked up and adapted by American producers is "Toshochu" (Run for Money; Fuji, Sat., 7 p.m.), which has an English-language version called "Cha$e" aired on cable TV in the U.S.

The premise is pretty simple. The contestants are charged with locating hidden money drops within a given locality while men in black suits called "hunters" attempt to stop them. When a hunter "tags" a contestant, the contestant is eliminated from the game. If a contestant reaches the "exit point," he or she can keep all the money found.

Past games were held in large urban areas, like Asakusa or Ueno in Tokyo, or Yokohama's Chinatown. This week, however, the game takes places in a "closed environment" that is more like the American version, with added "surprises" and rules that change as the game progresses.

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