“Pitanko Kankan” on TBS and more

One reason Iraq has fallen into chaos following the U.S. invasion is that it was never much of a unified state in the first place. In fact, it has only been a country since 1920. On Wednesday at 9:15 p.m., NHK-G helps explain how Iraq came to be through the story of Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.

“The Truth About the Tragic Hero, Lawrence of Arabia” covers familiar ground, but adds information that has only recently come to light. During World War I, Lawrence, already an Arab expert, helped incite an Arab rebellion against Turkey on behalf of the English government. His admiration for the purity of the Arab cause made him question the intentions of his superiors. His doubts were confirmed by the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, when the European powers reneged on their promise of Arab independence. Europe wanted control over the Middle Eastern oil reserves. The subsequent power struggle led to the Palestinian problem that now consumes much of the region.

There are many quiz shows that feature celebrity panelists, but “Pitanko Kankan” (TBS, Tuesday, 6:55 p.m.) goes one step further. It is a quiz show about celebrities. Each week a regular panel of celebrity contestants, divided into men’s and women’s teams, answer trivia questions about a celebrity guest’s life and personality.

This week’s guest is Kyosen Ohashi. Originally a jazz critic and emcee, Ohashi eventually became one of the most influential and beloved TV personalities of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, especially as the host for the seminal late night variety show “11 PM.” Though he’s been retired for almost two decades, he continues to show up on TV as a guest on other people’s shows; even more so since he resigned his seat in the National Diet a few years ago.

In addition to the usual quiz, the program carries out a survey to see how the average person views Ohashi. Among the adjectives the respondents used to describe him: willful, arrogant, blunt and, most importantly, rich.

On Saturday, “BS Documentary” (BS1, 10:25 p.m.) takes a look at Chinese shugakusei students living in Tokyo. Shugakusei refers to foreign students who are studying at Japanese language schools, often in preparation to take tests to enter university here. At present, there are about 50,000 foreign students studying Japanese in Japan, and the number is increasing at the rate of about 4,000 annually.

Eighty percent of shugakusei are Chinese, and the program focuses on a dormitory in Tokyo where 42 male and female Chinese students live. Shugakusei visas are for two years, during which the holders cannot be employed. It is these students who have been characterized as “potential criminals” by the media, and this special looks into the harsh environment they are forced to live and study in.