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The king of impersonation; year-end roundup special; CM of the week: Softbank

The holiday season is upon us, and among the extended quiz specials and talk marathons there are monomane (impersonation) contests on every station. The king of impersonators is Croquette, whose repertoire of famous singers and actors numbers about 300.

Croquette’s life and particular brand of performance art will be explored in a more personal fashion on “Katte ni Yatte Sumimasen” (“Pardon Me for Doing it My Way”; NHK-G, Mon., 7:30 p.m.), which celebrates his 30th year in show business. Having hit his stride at the tender age of 20 with hilariously spot-on impressions of Naomi Chiaki, Hiromi Iwasaki and his specialty, Kenichi Mikawa, Croquette turned monomane from a supplementary comedy skill into a specialized theatrical endeavor, complete with props and elaborate routines. Here he talks about his career in detail. There are also interviews with his family and some of the stars he impersonates, including some whose own careers were revived when Croquette added them to his act.

It’s always interesting to see what the commercial networks throw up against NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” song contest on New Year’s Eve. TBS is presenting mixed martial arts, while Fuji TV is expanding its miracle-story variety show “Unbelievable” into a five-hour special. The boldest move is probably TV Asahi’s six-and-a-half hour “Ichiman-nin ni Dai-anketto! Kyo Shitte Okanai to Toshi ga Kosanai” (“10,000-Person Questionnaire: Things You Must Understand Before Entering the New Year”; Fri., 7 p.m.).

Former NHK reporter Akira Ikegami will review the year’s major news stories and explain them thoroughly. In addition, viewers will ask questions by means of a survey and Ikegami will attempt to answer them live on air. The show will also feature video of Ikegami’s recent trip to Jerusalem and his investigation into the conflicts that continue to wrack that holy city.

CM of the week

SoftBank: In their latest spot for the mobile communications provider SoftBank, which will be all over the airwaves this New Year break, all five members of SMAP, dressed in black outfits, are seen emerging from a well-appointed room in a cargo container to the strains of Grand Funk’s hard-rock version of Goffin-King’s “The Loco- Motion.” On the beat, they stride onto a loading dock and step on strategically positioned pedals, thus launching the container high into the air. As they proceed down the dock, running, dancing, clowning, they hit more pedals and more containers fly overhead, until the five members themselves are catapulted through the air and into one container that lands at the top of a pyramid of containers on a freighter. They emerge unscathed, talking on their cell phones.