Sony and Panasonic to team-up on next generation TV’s

Japan’s cash-bleeding electronics giants Sony and Panasonic are looking to join forces to produce next generation televisions in a bid to claw back market from South Korean rivals, a report said Tuesday.

The firms want to speed up the development of large-screen organic electroluminescence (OEL) televisions, which consume less power and offer a sharper picture than conventional flat panels, the Nikkei daily said.

OEL is widely expected to be the dominant technology in the next generation of televisions.

Read the rest of the story: Sony, Panasonic eye next generation TV tie-up.

NTV regains top spot in ratings

Broadcaster NTV has finally unseated Fuji TV in the ratings race (Kanto region). For seven years in a row, Fuji TV ranked #1 in the golden time (7pm-10pm), prime time (7pm-11pm), and entire day (6am-midnight) categories, but NTV took the top spot in all three for 2011.

For golden time and prime time, NTV had an average rating of 12.6%, 0.1% ahead of Fuji TV in both categories. For the entire day, both NTV and Fuji TV shared the #1 spot at 8.0%.

NTV ranked #1 in all three categories over a 10-year stretch between 1994 and 2003, but Fuji TV overtook it between 2004 and 2010. In 2011, NTV regained the lead with the help of several hit shows, particularly the drama series “Kaseifu no Mita” that reached ratings as high as 40.0% with its final episode.

AKB48’s Watanabe Mayu to play teacher in “Saba Doru”

Some plot details have finally been released regarding the drama series “Saba Doru,” starring AKB48 member Watanabe Mayu. The series was announced last month but was initially surrounded by secrecy. It turns out that Watanabe will be playing a dual role, one as herself and one as a 38-year-old teacher.

The story revolves around the 38-year-old Usa Shijimi (Watanabe), who is a high school classical literature teacher. Her students are mean to her, but they don’t realize that she has another identity. Outside school, she lies about her age to be active as the super popular 17-year-old idol Watanabe Mayu, whom the students adore.

The title is a combination of the phrase “nenrei no saba wo yomu” (to lie about one’s age) and the word “aidoru” (idol).

Watanabe commented on the role, “How to act as the 38-year-old Shijimi is especially difficult, but I want to give it my best.” She continued, “The show is a heartful comedy, so I hope I can provide energy to those who watch it.”

Ando Tamae, Sakata Tadashi, Kaminaga Keisuke, and Takahashi Hitomi are among the supporting cast. The planning and original work are being handled by AKB48 producer Akimoto Yasushi.

It was already announced that Watanabe’s solo debut single “Synchro Tokimeki” (being released February 29) will be the drama’s theme song, and that the drama will have a manga version debuting in Kodansha’s Young Magazine on January 16.

“Saba Doru” will air on Friday nights at 12:53am on TV Tokyo, beginning January 13. A total of 12 episodes are planned.

Ryuhei Matsuda takes lead of “Douki”

Ryuhei Matsuda (27) has finally been given a lead role in a television drama, after having starred in more than a dozen films during his 12-year careeer. He will play a policeman in WOWOW’s drama special "Douki," adapted from a novel by popular writer Bin Konno (55).

Matsuda plays a cop searching for a former colleague (Hirofumi Arai), who joined the police force at the same time but was suddenly given a disciplinary dismissal and is now suspected of being a serial killer.

The screenplay is being written by Yuichi Fukuda ("Tokyo DOGS," "33-pun Tantei") and directed by Yu Irie ("SR: Saitama Rappers"). The supporting cast includes Naoto Takenaka and Chiaki Kuriyama.

"Douki" is scheduled for broadcast on February 20, 2011.

Riisa Naka is the heroine of mobile drama “Party wa Owatta”

Riisa Naka (21) will play the heroine in a new mobile drama series on BeeTV, titled "Party wa Owatta." Her male co-stars will be Hiroki Narimiya (28), Kento Nagayama (21), Sousuke Takaoka (28), Kento Hayashi (20), and Keisuke Koide (26).

Naka plays Toake, a successful manga artist who, despite her beauty, has no boyfriend due to her busy career. A friend invites her to a party full of good-looking men, and she begins to imagine romances with each of them.

The drama is being directed by filmmaker Isao Yukisada ("Parade," "Sekai no Chuushin de, Ai wo Sakebu"). This is Yukisada’s second mobile drama, having worked on the "Onnatachi wa Nido Asobu" series that was distributed through BeeTV earlier this year. That show got a total of 13 million downloads, and it was later screened in theaters as a single movie.

Monkey Majik will sing the drama’s theme song, titled "Yume no Sekai." 25 five-minute episodes are planned, starting on February 1.

TOKIO, Arashi to host New Year’s special

TOKIO and Arashi will be hosting back-to-back special programs on NTV on New Year’s Day, totaling five and a half hours in length. TOKIO will kick things off with the tentatively-titled "THE Ultraman DASH: Kiseki no 3-punkan wo Mokugekiseyo" (6:00pm-8:54pm), then pass the spotlight to Arashi for their "Arashi ni Shiyagare Ganjitsu 2-jikanhan SP" (9:00pm-11:24pm).

"THE Ultraman DASH" is a separate project from TOKIO’s current show "The! Tetsuwan! Dash!!" (Sundays 7:00pm). In "The Ultraman DASH," TOKIO will meet with experts of activities such as skydiving, tightrope walking, and bungee jumping, who will attempt incredible feats. For example, one will change outfits while skydiving, while another will neatly slice a raw egg in half while bungee jumping.

Arashi’s special will be an extended version of their show "Arashi ni Shiyagare," which has been on the air since April. It is reported that they will bring on two big-name guests, though their identities are currently being kept secret even from Arashi.

Although the two shows are separate, the ten members from both groups will assemble before each show for a short talk session together.

Umika Kawashima plays killer in futuristic “Heaven’s Flower”

Actress and 9nine member Umika Kawashima (16) has landed the lead role in a television drama series for the first time. She is set to star in TBS’s "Heaven’s Flower," which will also feature D-BOYS member Hirofumi Araki (27) and actor Go Ayano (28).

Set in the near-futuristic 2060, "Heaven’s Flower" combines mystery with a pure love story. Due to a botched experiment, Japan has become a barren land where flowers can’t even bloom, resulting in a severe rationing crisis. While the country works towards rebuilding, "District 7" is one of the areas left behind in the process.

The story unfolds in the neglected District 7. Despite Kawashima’s typical innocent image from her previous works, here she takes on her first "villain" role as a cruel and emotionless assassin named Ai, part of a group known as "Last Garden." While faithfully carrying out her missions every day, she encounters the police detective Yuichiro Manaka (Araki), and she suddenly must deal with her newfound emotion of love. The ensuing story is a romantic mystery involving betrayal and the secret behind her birth.

Ayano plays the police organization’s commanding officer Shion. His counterpart, the leader of "Last Garden," will be played by actress Yoshiko Mita (69), who has not had a recurring role in a drama series since "Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu" in 2006. Hirotaro Honda (59) has been cast as Ai’s greatest enemy, the boss of a Chinese mafia.

Kawashima got her acting start in 2006 and has appeared in dramas such as "Bloody Monday" and "Kaibutsu-kun." Although she has starred in a mobile phone drama as well as two movies, she admitted that she feels pressure since this is her first starring TV role. She will also be training for some action scenes, which include the use of a pistol and fighting with a knife at close range.

"Heaven’s Flower" premieres on January 14, airing every week in the "Friday Break" time slot (12:20am-12:50am).

Smoking Hot Erika Toda and Haruma Miura to co-star in “Getsu 9” drama

Erika Toda (22) and Haruma Miura (20) will co-star in Fuji TV’s next "Getsu 9" drama series. The show, called "Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kimi ga Oshiete Kureta," will be the first time either of them has starred in that time slot, and the first time that either has played the part of a teacher.

Toda plays a cheerful high school English teacher, while Miura plays a sincere and earnest biology teacher at the same school. The two characters were classmates during their high school and university days, and now they are engaged to be married in half a year. However, their happiness is put to the test when various circumstances lead to Miura unwittingly engaging in an improper relationship with one of his new female students. While he suffers from the anguish of his betrayal, he is resolved to save the young girl from her problems.

The series will premiere this January.