Bursting illusions and facing a sometimes ugly reality

Ever since Takuya Kimura got married and became a father, his popularity among women has cooled. Fellow SMAP member Masahiro Nakai has apparently taken up the slack, though Nakai’s female fans don’t seem to want to sleep with him the way they wanted to with Kimutaku. The reason for Nakai’s popularity is a little deeper. Women don’t imagine him as a boyfriend but rather as an ideal confidant due to his solicitude and honesty.

These two character traits are exploited to somewhat weird effect on “Nakai Masahiro no Kinyobi no Sumatachi (Masahiro Nakai’s Friday Smappers)” (TBS, Friday, 9 p.m.), a variety show where Nakai acts as a kind of cool social director for 100 women from all walks of life.

These women gather in the studio and tell Nakai their hopes and desires, their faults and charming points, their successes and failures. Nakai listens, sometimes he offers advice, and often he makes jokes at their expense.

This week’s show will downplay the talk portion to feature several ongoing segments, the purpose of which seems to be to bring these women out of their self-absorbed cocoons. One very popular segment is a contest in which guests perform their favorite karaoke songs and have to cry as they sing. In another, women who have received “gifts of devotion” that they don’t really need pass them on as gifts to others.

The program’s token gesture toward social consciousness is an occasional charity event in which the women in the studio auction off their favorite brand-name possessions and then donate the money to a specific cause. Once, a group of women sold their designer shoes in order to buy shoes for impoverished villagers in Cambodia. On this week’s show, there’s a twist. Instead of young women, the donors are young men employed by host clubs.

Getting past surface illusions is also the subject of “Seikei Bijin (A Cosmetically Enhanced Beauty)” (Fuji TV, Tuesday, 9 p.m.), a trendy drama series that winds up this week. As the title suggests, the heroine, Honami (Yoko Yonekura), has gone under the knife for the sake of looking like every gorgeous woman you see in green tea commercials. But as the serial has shown us these past 12 weeks, cosmetically enhanced beauty isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Honami was an “average girl” before her operation, and once she became stunning her looks collided with her less-than-confident self-image. She has a fling with Ryusui (Kippei Shiina), the heir to a prominent flower-arranging school. Ryusui’s whole life is dedicated to finding the beauty that already exists in nature, and Honami, who falls in love with the vain, willful young man, believes herself to be beneath him because her beauty is artificial.

Ryusui was never really serious about Honami because he was already destined to marry a woman of a more suitable station, but later he begins to question his tendency to judge things immediately by their surface.

In the final episode, as Ryusui is about to get married, Honami flies overseas to “get her old face back” (is that possible?) and Ryusui follows, presumably to stop her.

Illusions of a less romantic kind are explored in Sunday’s installment of the economic newsmagazine “Dawn of Gaia” (TV Tokyo, 10 p.m.), the subject of which is the “Myth of the Valueless House.”

It is a sad truth in Japan that residential property values are based solely on land, not structures. Consequently, as land prices continue to drop, homeowners are panicking because they see their most important life investments shrinking. With the exception of museum-grade traditional residences, single-family houses in Japan rapidly become worthless with age. In the United States, the opposite is true. Houses that are kept in good condition and renovated every so often increase in value.

Tonight’s program profiles an American venture company that is attempting to spread the idea of “fair value” for existing homes to Japan. One of the most important changes that needs to be made is the standardization of quality, which means the creation of home-builders’ networks that can share knowhow and offer high-quality work at reasonable prices. One can only say, good luck.

Monday night, TV Asahi presents “The Sea of Sinbad” (8 p.m.), another in its series of natural-history specials. Actor Kaoru Kobayashi will trace the voyages of Sinbad as related in “Arabian Nights.”

Most of the program will center on Madagascar, which, though considered part of Africa, is populated mainly by people of Malay descent. Kobayashi will explore how people from Southeast Asia made their way to the island of Madagascar. The main instrument of their migration was the twice-yearly monsoons, which blew sailors west across the Indian Ocean thousands of kilometers in relatively short periods of time.

The trail of Sinbad leads Kobayashi through Dubai and Yemen, where sailors still use ships made completely out of wood and tell stories about Sinbad. He follows the trail all the way to Indonesia and the Toraja tribe, whose rituals are very similar to those practiced on Madagascar.