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Shogun

By Donald Liebenson

What better way to escape from the onslaught of so-called reality television than to sail away with Richard Chamberlain to "the Japans" for a little samurai action and some discreet "pillowing"? From the golden age of the miniseries comes this television benchmark, the 10-hour, Golden Globe-winning saga based on James Clavell's bestselling epic.

In his award-winning performance, Chamberlain stars as John Blackthorne, the 17th-century English navigator on a Dutch trading ship. A storm runs the ship aground off the coast of Japan, a "torn and cruelly divided country" locked in a power struggle between Toranaga (the venerable Toshiro Mifune) and Ishido, two warlords who would be Shogun. Blackthorne gets over his initial culture shock ("I piss on you and your country," he defiantly proclaims to his samurai captors, which to his humiliation turns out to be an unfortunate choice of words) to become a trusted ally of Toranaga and the lover of the beautiful interpreter Lady Mariko (Yoko Shimada).

Their forbidden, ill-fated romance--and Blackthorne's total assimilation into Japanese culture--is set against political intrigue as Toranaga prepares for the inevitable showdown with Ishido, and Blackthorne's growing influence threatens the local Jesuits who had built up a lucrative trade monopoly. Shogun was a production blessed with good karma, and it remains an awesome achievement from a bygone era when the miniseries was king.

 

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TV TIDBITS

Aired: September 1980

Cast: Richard Chamberlain, Yoko Shimada, Toshiro Mifune

Network: ABC

Genre: Mini-series (Drama)

Theme song

Image courtesy of ABC


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