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Mothers of modern China; Sakana-kun sempai; CM of the week: Nippon Ham

In April, NHK launched the BS Premium channel, which is mainly dedicated to art and history. This week, Premium presents a special four-part series entitled “Kindai Chugoku ni Kunrin Shita Onnatachi” (“Women Who Dominated Modern China”; Mon.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.).

Each night, the series will profile a woman who had a hand in bringing China into the modern age. On Monday, the subject is the Empress Dowager Cixi, a concubine who produced the Tongzhi Emperor and became the de facto ruler of China in the late 19th century. Wan Rong, the wife of the last Emperor of China, Puyi, is profiled on Tuesday. And on Thursday it’s Jiang Qing, the wife of communist leader Mao Zedong. She was arrested for being a counter-revolutionary after her husband’s death.

One of Japan’s most curious TV personalities is Sakana-kun, the young man with the preternaturally high voice and bubbly personality who knows everything there is to know about fish. Sakana-kun will be the guest on “Kokoro Yusabure Sempai Rock You” (“The Upperclassman Who Rocks My Heart”; Nihon TV, Sat., 11 p.m.).

At first glance it may be hard to believe that Sakana-kun is one of Japan’s most respected ichthyologists, as well as a talented artist whose drawings and paintings of fish have been used in numerous publications. On the show he explains how a fascination with octopi when he was a little boy turned into an obsession with fish in general. He then teaches the regular Rock You crew to draw an octopus.

CM of the week: Nippon Ham

Nippon Ham’s ads for its Schau Essen brand of wiener sausages sell the happiness of meat. People in its commercials seem unusually overjoyed when they bite into the little hot dogs, which reward attention with a satisfyingly loud crunch.

>The latest series of TV spots takes this idea to its logical end: The American stage musical. Waitresses carrying platters of sausages twirl and sing about how “life can make you mad” but that eating “can make you so glad.” In the space of 30 seconds, dozens of ecstatic people dance to the mindlessly happy tune in school choruses, restaurant kitchens, even in a rehearsal room straight out of “Singing in the Rain.” It has attracted admiration in the blogosphere, though one YouTube commentator asked why they’re singing in English and not German.