Soaring lineup to peak your curiosity as well as appetite

On Monday at 8 p.m., TV Asahi presents the fourth special in its ongoing documentary series about the history of human endeavor with “The Legend of Human Flight.”

The program explores flight from both the imaginative and creative aspects. In the realm of the imagination, flight has always had a central place in ancient myths the world over, but it wasn’t until Leonardo da Vinci devised a theory of flight for humans that the idea entered the scientific realm.

The program’s host, Yosuke Eguchi, works with a number of international technicians to re-create the gliders sketched out in Leonardo’s notebooks and then tests them out. The program also explores attempts at human flight throughout history, which was first achieved with hot-air balloons.

The program concludes with Eguchi in a balloon flying over the famous “drawings” on the Nazca plain in Peru. Because of the incredible detail of these huge drawings and the fact that they can only be viewed from high in the sky, many people believe they were made by extraterrestrials. Eguchi and his team of experts discuss how they could have been made by earthlings hundreds of years ago.

The one standard that applies to all drama series is young stars in lead roles. There are exceptions, but we will have to leave it to future historians to explain why the diminutive, nearly 60-year-old Masakazu Tamura is among them.

The other middle-aged favorite is Matsumoto Koshiro, whose appeal is more understandable. As one of Japan’s leading kabuki actors, he is at least capable of assuming a wide variety of roles (Tamura’s repertoire, on the other hand, is limited). This season, Koshiro has made a splash as the title character in Fuji TV’s “Tensai Yanagisawa Kyoju no Seikatsu (The Life of the Brilliant Professor Yanagisawa)” (Wednesday, 9 p.m.), in which he plays the scholar, Yoshinori Yanagisawa, from the popular comic series of the same name.

The good professor is defined by a personality pecadillo. When he is confronted with an unknown phenomenon, he cannot rest until he has found out everything he can about it. These academic obsessions invariably involve everyone around him, including his family. Though comical chaos often ensues, the professor himself remains as calm as the proverbial eye of the hurricane, oblivious to the fuss he has caused.

He and his wife have three daughters, two of whom are married. The oldest has a salaryman husband who is inordinately fond of gossip, while the second daughter’s husband is an eccentric ceramics artist who can’t sell his “avant-garde” works. The remaining daughter is going out with a boy who’s in a punk-rock band.

This week’s episode — the last, by the way — sees the professor attending a friend’s wedding and then delving into the meaning of the institution of marriage. His academic inquiries mainly focus on daughter No. 3, whose musician boyfriend has asked her to marry him.

TV Tokyo’s popular contest program, “TV Champion,” usually celebrates skills and knowledge that most people would find impractical (Hello Kitty trivia; expert jewelry design). This week (Thursday, 7:30 p.m.), however, they concentrate on something everybody can at least learn from: whipping up meals in three minutes.

Six professional cooks will compete for the title of Best 3-minute Chef. As the title implies, the object is to create dishes quickly. And since these dishes will be judged for taste, appearance and imagination, we’re not talking about Cup Noodle with an egg in it.

For the first round, in which the six will be reduced to three finalists, they will be limited to three main ingredients: daikon radish, konnyaku or chicken. They must create a simple dish, which will then be judged by a panel of 15 housewives.

The three losers will then compete for a wild-card slot in the final round by creating beer snacks at home; except that they won’t be doing it at their homes. Each one will go to the apartment of a randomly chosen family and make the snacks with whatever the family happens to have in the refrigerator at the time. The cook must wait until the family breadwinner calls from the station after work. He or she then has three minutes to make the snacks.

In the last round, all the finalists will visit and order one dish at five different restaurants — Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian and “general” Western — and a dessert-only eatery. Without a recipe, each one will then have to return to the studio and re-create one of the dishes in three minutes.