The Asahi TV quiz show “Sekai Tsukai Dense- tsu Unmei no Da-da-da-dan (World’s Exciting Legends) — on Tuesday at 8 p.m. — explores the lives of historical figures whose reputations have a tragic dimension. This week, the subject is a woman who caused tragedy for everyone else: Catherine de Medici.
Catherine, who was born to the Florentine ruler Lorenzo de Medici in 1519, married the duc d’Orleans, who later became King Henry II of France. Following her husband’s death and that of her first-born son, Catherine became the de facto ruler of France until 1574, when her third son, Henry III, ascended to the throne. Catherine’s was not a smooth reign. In order to maintain power, she constantly had to manipulate the competing religious factions under her rule, the Roman Catholics and the Protestant Huguenots. In her most extreme political move, she instigated the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in which 50,000 Huguenots were slaughtered. It was an event predicted by Nostradamus and one that left her with the reputation of a butcher in French history books.
Butchery of a different sort is the subject of a dramatic special that will be broadcast on the same night on Nippon TV. “Kore wa Senso Da (This is War)” (Tuesday, 9:03 p.m.) is a faithful dramatization of the police work that surrounded the Tokyo sarin subway gas attack, which happened nine years ago next month. Over a three-month period that included the attack itself, the police investigated the religious group Aum Shinrikyo who, as everyone now knows, was responsible for the attack.
The drama heats up with the abduction of Kiyoshi Kariya in February 1995. While investigating his disappearance, Police Chief Takaji Kunimatsu found links to Aum and was shot by unknown assailants outside his apartment in Arakawa Ward. The police also find a mysterious attache case in Kasumigaseki subway station. The accumulation of clues eventually leads to a police raid on Aum’s facilities.
Politics is given a more bittersweet treatment on this week’s “ETV Special” entitled “Watashi wa Okubyomono: Roshiajin no Praha no Haru (I am a Coward: A Russian’s Prague Spring)” (NHK-E; Saturday, Feb. 28, 10 p.m.). In 1968, eight Soviet intellectuals went to Red Square in Moscow and stood with placards protesting the Red Army’s suppression of the Prague Spring reforms that had taken place in previous months in Czechoslovakia, then a Soviet satellite country.
The eight were arrested and exiled. A friend of the eight, a poet named Yuri Kim, had planned to participate in the protest but pulled out at the last minute. Ravaged by guilt when his friends were taken in, he declared himself a coward and dedicated his life to reconnecting with all eight in order to apologize for his loss of nerve. NHK covers his journey, which itself became an act of courage, as well as exploring the meaning of socialism in the Soviet Union at the time and its relationship to national identity.