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Sunday, April 1, 2001


Let us now praise famous men's mothers

It's spring and time for the networks to start rolling out their latest batch of series.

One of the new variety programs premiering this week is TV Asahi's half-hour "Tales of Great Mothers," which starts tonight at 6:30. Hosted by former NHK anchorman Takero Morimoto, the show utilizes dramatic recreations, existing interviews and archival footage to explore "the love of great mothers of heroes who changed history."

As a great man once said, history begins when memory ends, so it's not clear exactly how the "heroes" who will be covered in coming weeks have changed the world since most of them are still alive and active: judo star Ryoko Tamura, comedian/director "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, golfer Tiger Woods and the brothers Ishihara: actor-singer Yujiro (dead, but hardly forgotten) and Tokyo Gov. Shintaro.

The mothers of these individuals have been profiled before, especially Takeshi's, who died just last year and who was once the subject of an NHK drama series. Still, the point of the show is less biography than "finding a philosophy for raising children," which makes it a timely subject for exploration as child-raising becomes ever more hair-raising.

For those who prefer a more subjective look at motherhood, Nihon TV will broadcast the eighth in its series of ongoing real-time family documentaries, "Nippon no Oka-chan (Moms of Japan)," which will air Wednesday from 9 p.m. The popular program will revisit families that have been covered in past seasonal specials, including the Ishidas, who have nine kids. The camera gets up close and personal with Mrs. Ishida as she celebrates and suffers through New Year's and a "big secret" is revealed. (Not another baby!)

The show also reports on a woman who tries to prevent her daughter-in-law from taking her children with her when she goes overseas to study; the touching story of a mother whose dream is to take her severely handicapped third-grade son to Disneyland; and presents the semiregular feature, "Declaration of a High School Girl." This time, cameras are there when a teenager informs her mother that her boyfriend is going to spend the night.

The Japanese media's most ubiquitous opinion leader and fashion fatality, Terry Ito, will host another new half-hour program, "Tamesuta!" which premieres on TV Asahi on Wednesday at 12:59 a.m. Like the very popular "Koko ga Hen da yo! Nihonjin," which also features Ito and his sardonic lip, "Tamesuta!" is a self-styled "talk battle" variety show, but instead of flush-faced foreigners setting their Japanese hosts straight on the ways of the world, here we have salarymen and OLs venting their spleen on the indignities they face in the workplace.

Alternating candid discussions with dramatic recreations, the show will cover everything from pay and promotions to superiors and sexual harassment. Ito will also pit holders of various viewpoints against each other for some hot exchanges: headhunted employees vs. "workers who will die with the company," "parasite single women" vs. OLs living alone. And that perennial favorite, career women vs. housewives (working part-time, of course -- wouldn't want to violate the spirit of the show).

The program will also include "breaks," in which tired workers find peace of mind through various kinds of encouraging and relaxing activities. The show's late starting time was chosen in consideration of the target audience, who are probably still out drinking with colleagues during prime time. "Tamesuta" may be the first TV program in history designed for viewers who are presumed to be drunk.

'Mito Komon," the venerable historical action series that has been a TV tradition for more than 30 years, starts a new season on TBS with a two-hour special Monday at 7 p.m. to break in its new lead actor. Koji Ishizaka is the fourth man to play the itinerant nobleman, based on a real 18th-century lord of Mito (now the capital of Ibaraki Prefecture) who supposedly roamed the country incognito, confounding the wicked and helping the oppressed.

Besides its star, the show has other changes in store. Ishizaka will not sport the spiffy little white mustache and goatee that his predecessors made famous, and every episode will no longer climax with Mito whipping out the inro (pillbox) with the family crest of the Tokugawa Shogunate in front of the startled faces of the baddies, thus informing them just who it is they're messing with. (Though, apparently, he will do it at the end of some episodes, since people kind of expect it.)

The special season-opener finds Mito Komon and his trusty retainers embroiled in internecine fighting among various factions of the shogunate. Superstar comedian-impersonator Croquette guests as a master of disguise who is a member of a band of assassins.

Musician Haruomi Hosono celebrates 30 years in show business with a two-hour special starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday on NHK's BS2.

Hosono led two influential pop groups in the '70s -- Happy End and Tin Pan Alley -- before forming the widely influential Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1978 with Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Hosono will chronicle his history as a musician, songwriter and producer by means of live in-studio performances, skits, and conversations with guests. Those include Shigeru Suzuki, one of the most successful producers of "idol" acts, the veteran rock band Sheena and the Rokkets, and singer-songwriter Akiko Yano.

He will also preside over a reunion of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, who will perform for the first time in seven years. What's more, their set will be unaided by supporting musicians or digital electronics of any kind, including computers.

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