Nature documentary, candid camera reality, history documentary

With every passing day, scientists learn more about the Earth’s past, but the future always remains a mystery. Is the extinction of species being accelerated by mankind, or is it part of nature’s plan?

For more than century, the Galapagos Islands have provided a crucible for studying how certain species evolved and how they are affected by changes in the environment. On “Chikyu Sosei Mystery” (The Mystery of Earth’s Creation; TBS, Mon., 9 p.m.), actor Yutaka Takenouchi travels to the isolated group of islands in the Pacific Ocean to see what’s going on there.

He discovers that certain species have exhibited clear signs of evolution within the last decade. One theory for these startling changes is the enormous effect the climate phenomenon known as El Nino has had on the environment of the Pacific Ocean — much greater in the last century than scientists first thought. The turtle population around the Galapagos is believed to have dropped from about a million at the turn of the 20th century to about 15,000 now.

O ne of the most enduring TV programming ideas is the one Americans usually associate with the program “Candid Camera”: people reacting to unusual situations that are caught on film. Japan once had its own version of this show called “Dokkiri” (Surprise!), but according to Fuji TV, 44 other countries in the world have their own versions of this idea.

These various shows are sampled on the special “Sekai no Dokkiri” (World Surprises; Fuji, Tues., 7 p.m.), which airs selections from 26 “Candid Camera”-like programs from around the globe.

An Italian show has fun with Dustin Hoffman by sending the diminutive American actor to a party where everyone is at least 2 meters tall and the utensils and tableware are designed for hands much larger than his. On the same program, a Japanese tour group visiting the U.K. is made uncomfortable on a British TV show. They are put on a tour bus with a driver who seems to be drinking alcohol on the job.

I n the early 11th century, Japan was basically ruled by Fujiwara no Michinaga, a de facto regent of the Heian Period (794-1185) who took advantage of political disputes among noble families within the court to rise to power.

This Wednesday, NHK’s history documentary series “Sono Toki Rekishi ga Ugoita” (History Changed at That Time; NHK-G, 10 p.m.) analyzes how Michinaga gained and held onto power despite the fact that he never formally took the title of kanpaku (regent). Perhaps his most potent weapon was his daughters. He had three of them, and all were eventually married off to emperors. The first daughter, Shoshi, became empress when Emperor Teishi died, and the other two daughters married her sons, thus making them at the one time both sisters and daughters-in-law to the empress.