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Actor Masatoshi Nagase became a star in Kaizo Hayashi’s 1993 tribute to Cinemascope noir, “The Most Terrible Time in My Life,” as private detective Mike Hama, a none-too-veiled tribute to Mickey Spillane’s hard-boiled shamus Mike Hammer. The movie was a hit, both domestically and overseas (England’s “Time Out” called it “a rapturous entertainment”), and led to two sequels and a ton of movie jobs for Nagase, thus allowing him to forgo TV dramas for 10 years.

He returns to the small screen Monday night at 10 p.m. on Nippon TV with a 12-week series based on the Hama character. Each episode will be a self-contained mystery directed by a well-known filmmaker, though, interestingly, Hayashi isn’t one of them. Among the directors on board are Shinji Aoyama (“Eureka”), Akira Ogata (“Boys Choir”), popular music video artist Suguru Takeuchi and even the guy responsible for the Boss coffee commercials that have revived Nagase’s career. Adding to the show’s hipness quotient is a theme song by the semi-underground group Ego Wrappin’ and a title sequence shot by the English fashion photographer who’s responsible for the Prada campaign.

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