Friendship on death row; Dr. Doolittle revisited; CM of the week: JR East

Prison life is a popular theme this fall, and the latest drama series to utilize it is “Mori no Asagao” (“Morning Glory in the Forest”; TV Tokyo, Mon., 10 p.m.), which centers on the relationship between a rookie prison guard and a man on death row.

Naoki (Atsushi Ito) is the newest employee in a detention center, and his first assignment is death row. The job makes him uneasy, and he constantly dwells on the prisoners he sees there, people who just wait, not knowing when they will be called to the gallows.

Suddenly, there’s a new face in the cell block, a man named Mitsuro (Arata) who is being detained as a suspect in a murder that has shaken society. From what the media is saying, Mitsuro killed to take revenge for his parents. Naoki is even more perplexed now. When he was a child, Naoki and Mitsuro were members of the same baseball team.

In “Jui Doritoru” (“Veterinarian Doolittle”; TBS, Sun., 9 p.m.), Shun Oguri plays the title character, an animal surgeon with a reputation as a money-grubbing misanthrope. His real name is Tottori but he has been given the ironic nickname of Dr. Doolittle.

In the second episode, which will be aired Oct. 24, Dr. Tottori and his assistant Asuka (Mao Inoue) are summoned to an aquarium where a female dolphin has been brought for “protection.” The vet watches the dolphin who is swimming listlessly in an isolation tank. When he demands a huge fee for his services, the caretaker expresses shock. “Vets have to make a living,” he says bluntly before turning to leave, but he’s blocked by Dr. Hanabishi (Hiroki Narimiya), another vet who is the opposite of Tottori: gregarious, concerned, altruistic. He even has his own pet care TV show. The only problem is that he isn’t half the surgeon that Tottori is.

CM of the week

JR East: The new Aomori Shinkansen will start operations later this year and JR East recently started airing commercials featuring a fresh young JR employee called Tokyo. He is not from Tohoku but nevertheless works at a small station in the countryside where he interacts with locals.

In the second “chapter” people keep coming up to Tokyo, whether he’s on the job or off, to ask him when the new Shinkansen service will start, speaking in the thick Aomori dialect. When a pretty young woman asks him the same question on the platform he’s momentarily tongue-tied, but regains his composure and blurts out, “In December!”

This interaction is interrupted by his older, native colleague, played by the popular enka (Japanese ballad) singer Yoshi Ikuzo, who calls from across the tracks, “Hey, Tokyo! Which day in December?” By now you would think he’d know.