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Sunday, July 15, 2001

CHANNEL SURF

It takes two to tangle

Hong Kong pop idol Faye Wong already has quite a few fans in Japan, but she's sure to add more on a weekly basis thanks to her costarring role in the summer comedy series "Usokoi (False Love)" (Fuji TV, Tuesday, 10 p.m.). Wong plays a young Chinese woman appropriately named Faye, who is studying to be a designer in Japan, but she isn't really the main focus of the levity.

That would be Akira (Kiichi Nakai), a hapless photographer who takes out his koseki tohon (family register) one day and discovers that he has unknowingly married a total stranger. Exactly how is not clear, but Japan's unique family registration system makes both marriage and divorce simply a matter of filing the proper documents; in other words, the people involved don't actually have to be present for their marriage to be registered. Akira tracks down his bride and finds out it is Faye, who needs the spouse status to stay in Japan. She asks Akira to wait another year before filing for divorce while she completes her studies, but Akira, in fact, has just gone through a wedding. Negotiations get him nowhere.

In this week's episode, one of Akira's employees suggests that he pay Faye off, and the conversation is overheard by Akira's father-in-law, who happens to be a very wealthy man. He misunderstands and gives Akira 5 million yen, thinking he needs it for his business. Akira decides to take the money to Faye and persuade her to put her seal on the divorce, but, of course, things don't turn out the way he plans.

Wong isn't the only Asian star being featured in a drama series this summer. Yun So Na, a popular Korean TV actress, is costarring with actress-idol Kyoko Fukada in another Fuji TV series, "Fighting Girl" (Wednesday, 9 p.m.). Yun plays Ami, a Korean who, like Faye, is studying in Japan. Fukada plays Sayoko, who is meant to be one of those rude, smart-mouthed, heavily made-up, garishly dressed young Japanese women that male TV commentators and letters-to-the-editor writers love to complain about.

In fact, the two women meet when Ami goes up to Sayoko on a train and complains to her about putting on makeup in public. "Don't you have any sense of shame?" she says, and after Sayoko gives her a piece of her mind, Ami is thanked by the other Japanese people in the car. "Why didn't you say something yourself?" she scolds them. Point taken.

But eventually, the two very different women become friends. Ami is fairly straightforward and conventional, though somewhat naive with regard to matters such as fashion; while Sayoko is clever and shrewd but very lazy. She works part-time at a gas station, obviously against her will.

In this week's episode, Sayoko brings a sewing machine to Ami's makeshift store and starts making designs to pass the time. The two women hit on a plan to operate the store together as a boutique called An-Yon, but Ami, being Korean, cannot find a wholesaler who will deal with her. What's more, she is picked up by the police for not carrying her passport and Sayoko has to bail her out.

After more than 30 years in show business, singer and actor Tetsuya Takeda does his first stint as a variety-show MC for "Kaiketsu! Kusuri ni Naru TV (Solved! TV That's Medicine)," a special two-hour program that airs Monday night at 7 and which TV Tokyo plans to make into a regular series later this summer.

As the title implies, the purpose of the program is to show how and why people become ill and how and why they become better. Rather than explain these processes with detailed medical information, the producers utilize case studies involving -- what else? -- real celebrities.

The special tackles two of the most common "habitual afflictions" -- in other words, diseases that are caused essentially by poor living habits, or what used to be referred to as "adult diseases": diabetes and cardiac infarction.

Professional wrestler, politician and Tabasco sauce king Antonio Inoki was first diagnosed with diabetes in 1978. He explains what it was that brought on the condition and how he has lived with it successfully for the past 20-odd years.

"Wide show" reporter Tadaaki Maeda discusses how high cholesterol intake led to narrowing of the blood vessels around his heart, which in turn cut off sufficient oxygen, thus damaging his cardiac muscles. He also changed his lifestyle accordingly.

In addition, the show will feature questionnaire surveys in which respondents explain their own "personal nonmedical methods" for fighting disease.

Though he is mainly remembered for his stirring symphonies, Beethoven's genius, according to true aficionados, lies in his 16 string quartets, specifically the "late quartets." It is here that the great composer threw convention to the wind and came up with his most daringly personal work.

These same aficionados claim that Vienna's Alban Berg Quartet, which still contains all the original Vienna Symphony members who founded the ensemble in the '70s, is unmatched in its interpretation of the Beethoven quartets, with the possible exception of the original Julliard Quartet, which was formed in 1946.

Tonight at 10:30 on NHK-E, the Alban Berg Quartet will play Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15, and the latest incarnation of the Julliard Quartet will play No. 12.

For the proper perspective, enthusiasts might want to tune in a bit earlier, at 10 p.m., to catch the modernist Kronos Quartet discuss these compositions as well as the current "nongenre movement" in classical music, which they happen to spearhead.



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