There has been life on Earth for roughly 3.8 billion years, and humans have only been around for a small portion of that time. The four-hour special “Ningen wa Nan da?” (“What is a Human Being?”; TBS, Mon., 7 p.m.) attempts to get at the meaning of human existence through close scientific research.

What mostly defines human existence are interrelationships among members of the species, highlighted by man’s capacity for conflict.

The program also questions how men and women see each other and sets up experiments to see if certain prejudices (men are only interested in appearance) are borne out, and which is more influential, nature or nurture? Hosts Takako Matsu and Shinichi Azumi are joined by experts in animal psychology and brain studies.

The bittersweet two-part comedy, “Joyu Ochi” (“Downfall of an Actress”; BS Asahi, Wed., 11 p.m.), is actually about two actresses: an older woman named Teruko (Mitsuko Oka), who makes her living performing in an old-fashioned traveling theatrical company, and her daughter, Mitsuko (Yoko Moriguchi), who runs away from home to become a successful TV and movie actor.

Mitsuko’s stage name is Rui Kiyoshima and her success is due to her hard work and ruthless competitive spirit. She’s like a weed in that she keeps coming back. And while the split with her mother was a bitter one, she’s always on Mitsuko’s mind. In fact, the reason for the split will later become the source of renewed bonds between mother and daughter.

The drama is divided into two stories, one about Teruko and other about Mitsuko. Part two will air the same time next week.

CM of the week

Asahi Group Foods: Actress Aoi Miyazaki plays an office worker who has obviously messed up some assignment, according to the stern look on the face of her supervisor and the defeated expression on Miyazaki’s face. Away from the eyes of the supervisor her colleagues try to reassure her that the world is not coming to an end, but apparently it’s not enough, so she sneaks out of the office for stroll on the city streets as she munches on Asahi Group Foods’ Cream Genmai Bran. Some people turn to drink, others to drugs in order to escape their sadness. Miyazaki gets her fix with health food snack bars made with brown rice.

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