Celebrity cooking game, manga coming-of-age story and obscure hobbies variety show

No one is waiting for yet another TV variety show about food, but TV Asahi’s new program “Oishinsuke” (Monday, 7 p.m.) at least has the advantage of being hosted by comedian Shinsuke Shimada, whose lightning-fast, cynical wit might give the subject matter a funnier spin.

As usual with this sort of show, the appeal is the interaction between Shinsuke and the various celebrity guests who show up each week. In one segment, some celebrity couples whip up their own “lunch-time entrees” for the other guests, who have to decide which one would “make the biggest daily profit” if they owned restaurants.

In a different segment, average people from all walks of life and ranging in age from junior high school students to grandmothers offer their ideas for “three-minute meals,” meaning dishes that can be fully prepared from scratch in three minutes.

‘Mezon Ikkoku (Maison Ikkoku),” written by Rumiko Takahashi and originally published in 1980 in Big Comic Spirits, is one of the most popular manga of all time. It has been made into movies and television drama series over the years in both animated and live-action formats. On Saturday from 9:00 p.m. to 11:06 p.m., TV Asahi presents a two-hour special drama version that will be the first in an occasional series based on the comic. New actor Taiki Nakabayashi was chosen from out of 3,000 hopefuls to star as the lead character, Yusaku Godai.

Though the stories take place in the 1980s, the drama series is framed as a reminiscence: the forty-something Godai telling his young daughter about his youth, when he was unsuccessfully trying to pass the college entrance exams and living in a small apartment building called Maison Ikkoku. Godai is sick of the place because the other tenants are selfish busybodies, and he’s about to move out when a new superintendent moves in.

The new super is Kyoko (Misaki Ito), a widow who has decided to never fall in love again. For Godai, it’s love at first sight, and one evening he gets drunk and confesses his love to Kyoko. The next morning he can’t remember what happened and apologizes, but the apology makes Kyoko angry.

NHK’s “Netchu Jikan (Enthusiasm Time)” (BS-2, May 13, 9 p.m.) is one of the more original variety shows on TV right now. Each week, a person comes on to describe his or her hobby, which tends toward the bizarre. Past shows have focused on people who makes rubbings of manhole covers, a young man whose ambition is to donate blood in every prefecture in Japan, and photographers who only take pictures of trains entering or leaving tunnels.

This week’s guest is a woman who is totally obsessed with the Aichi Expo of 2005. She spends all her free time finding out what happened to the Expo’s exhibits and buildings and then she tracks them down.