NHK’s variety show, “Top Runner On Campus” and more

Comedian Takeshi Fujii is best known as the effeminate, fake-blonde TV host Matthew Minami on the popular late-night variety show “Matthew’s Best Hit TV,” which is featured in Sophia Coppola’s movie “Lost in Translation.” Fujii is doing his first serious leading dramatic role in the new series “Rampo R” (Nippon TV, Monday, 10 p.m.), in which he plays mystery master Edogawa Rampo’s detective Kogoro Akechi. Each episode will feature a different Akechi mystery updated to 2004. Many actors have played Akechi, who is often described as being “intelligent and nihilistic,” but Fujii, who is playing the grandson of the original Akechi, will try to do something different with the role that doesn’t involve changing his hair color. This week, Akechi is visited by a young actress, Fumiko (Miho Kanno), who has received a blackmail letter. In an upcoming production, Fumiko will take the role of a vampire, a part she played two years earlier. At that time, another actress auditioned for the same part, and after she lost out she burned herself to death. Ever since then, whenever the play is produced, someone dies.

Though he looks barely strong enough to lift a garden hose, much less a fire hose, idol Takayuki Yamada stars as Daigo in the new action series, “Fireboys,” about a group of firefighting recruits. The producers promise lots of exciting action scenes that use real fire, not special effects. In the series’ second episode (Fuji, Tuesday, 9 p.m.), Daigo is asked by his friend Jun to help her in the ambulance section for a day. During his training period, Daigo did exceptionally well in the emergency medical activities, but the real thing tests his abilities almost to breaking point. It is the most difficult and exhausting job he has ever performed. He is especially impressed with Jun, who does this type of work every day as an ambulance attendant. She wants to be a paramedic, though, which is even more grueling.

Three young comedy duos who are expected to break out big this year are featured on NHK’s variety show, “Top Runner On Campus” (NHK-E, Thursday, midnight). Hokuyo, Harigane Rock and Itsu mo Koko Kara will perform live in front of students at Kokushikan University in Shibuya, Tokyo. In addition to performing, the three pairs will talk about themselves and about the process of becoming successful comedy groups. Hokuyo, for example, will discuss the problems unique to female comedians. Harigane Rock will tell of how they met when they both answered an ad for rock musicians, as well as the difficulties of keeping a successful comedy duo going when one member is married and the other isn’t.