For a good long while in my Ichikawa abode, Thursday nights were basically Tunnels' nights on TV. I knew about Fuji-TV's "Tunnels no Minasan no Okage-san desu" (or "...deshita" as it is called now) starring the crazy comic duo Tunnels（とんねるず）since my JET days in Gunma Prefecture. But then as I was channel-surfing by turning the dial on my little television set (yep, it was THAT old...no remote control) one night, I encountered another show with the even crazier half of Tunnels, Takaaki Ishibashi（石橋貴明）, bantering on a day-glo set with SMAP leader, Masahiro Nakai（中居正広）.
The show was "Utaban", short for "uta bangumi"（歌番組）meaning music show, and it was on the rival TBS network an hour before (although for the first few years since its debut in 1996, it had been showing on Tuesday nights) the 9 p.m. "Tunnels no Minasan no Okage-san deshita"（とんねるずのみなさんのおかげでした）. As the title says, it wasn't the usual anarchic one hour of Tunnels variety but a music show with singing artists for a bit of talk between performances.
Not that Taka-chan nor Nakai-kun played it straight. It was more performances between hysteria and hilarity often involving the guests whether it be Miki Imai（今井美樹）or Seiko Matsuda（松田聖子）. Although Nakai-kun could play it up, it was the unpredictable Taka-chan who could tense up the guests since he was pretty much capable of anything including suddenly bear-hugging a Morning Musume member or going on some nutso dancing bent.
Looking at the highest-rated episodes of "Utaban" which ran from 1996 to 2010 (according to J-Wiki), it looks like the most popular shows featured Hikaru Utada（宇多田ヒカル）which came in 1st, 2nd and 4th places.
However, it seemed that the frequent appearances of Morning Musume（モーニング娘。）on "Utaban" were the ones that Ishibashi probably drooled over since he enjoyed teasing the heck out of the ladies, especially Kaori "Johnson" Iida（飯田圭織）.
To finish off, "Utaban" didn't have its own studio-made theme song, instead going with an old 60s classic, "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'" by Nancy Sinatra. Sometimes, after a session with Taka-chan, I wonder whether some of the guests were willing to walk all over him.