TBS’s “Nyokei Kazoku,” NHK’s “Year Zero Africa” and more

Novelist Toyoko Yamazaki has been called the Arthur Haley of Japan for her sprawling melodramas, which usually contain large casts of characters. With “Nyokei Kazoku” (The Female Line) she tackled the sprawling Japanese family saga. Focusing as it does on a well-to-do Osaka merchant family whose lineage is passed on exclusively through daughters, the novel is similar in tone to Junichiro Tanizaki’s classic “Sasameyuki (The Makioka Sisters).”

TBS will launch an 11-part TV dramatization of the book (Thursday., 9 p.m.) that updates it to the present and moves the family kimono business from Osaka to Tokyo. Because the Yajima clan has no sons, the husbands of the eldest daughter, Fujiyo (Reiko Takashima), and second daughter, Chizu ( Asaka Seto), have taken the family name in order to take over the business. There is also a third daughter who is unmarried. The sisters’ mother died years ago and they were mostly raised by an aunt

In the opening episode, the sisters’ father dies and leaves behind a will that mentions a mistress whom no one knew about, thus setting into motion a complicated and vicious fight over the Yajima fortunes.

Comedian Beat Takeshi’s “art variety” series, “Anybody Can Be Picasso” (TV Tokyo, Fri., 10 p.m.) tends to treat the term “art” casually, but this week the show features a real giant on the international art scene, Yayoi Kusama.

A certified star of the 1960s New York avant-garde, Kusama is famous for her polka dots and “net” patterns, which she uses to cover everything, from furniture to animals. Her theme is said to be self-obliteration and her visual effect is purposely hallucinatory. Kusama has said that her art is therapeutic and helps her fight her neuroses. She, in fact, has spent a good part of her life in psychiatric institutions.

On “Picasso” Kusama will discuss her career and her “life of poverty” in New York. She will also perform a comedy routine with some of the show’s regulars.

On Saturday, July 9, NHK will start a four-part documentary series called “Year Zero Africa” (NHK-G, 9 p.m.), which will look closely at specific crises that are gripping the troubled continent right now.

This week’s subject is the genocidal war that has devastated the Darfur region of the Sudan. On July 17, the series will go to Nigeria, a country that is oil-rich but nevertheless plagued by extreme poverty and hunger. The program will attempt to find out where the oil money is going.

The July 23 documentary is about Mozambique and the problem of children who are forced into becoming soldiers for rebel armies. The series concludes on July 24 with a report from South Africa on the AIDS epidemic entitled “AIDS, Drugs and the Value of Human Life.”