Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dramatic License

A fun look at the year ahead in Korean historical dramas here.

Historical dramas have done quite well on Korean television over the years. Sure, there has been a little ebb and flow, but overall historical dramas have been among the highest-rated shows for around a decade now. Starting with TEARS OF THE DRAGON (1996-8 on KBS) set in the transition period between the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties, the first big historical drama to catch people's attention. TEARS went from the story of the general Yi Sung-gye, who rose up against the Goryeo Dynasty to become king himself, to Yi's fifth son Bang-won, to Bang-won's eldest son, the womanizing Yang-nyeong. Finally Yang-nyeong renounces his crown to become a commoner, leaving the throne to his younger brother Hyo-reong. Hyo-reong then becomes a monk, leaving the throne to his nebbish younger brother Chung-nyeong.

You might have heard of Chung-nyeong by his royal name. Sejong. 'Tis a little famous in Korea.

Since then there have been too many big historical dramas to count, such as LADIES IN THE PALACE (Yeonin Cheonan, on SBS, 2001-2... which I could swear was once known as WOMEN WHO RULED THE WORLD), EMPEROR OF THE SEA, JEWEL IN THE PALACE, ... and of course JUMONG and HWANGJINI airing at the moment.

For a look at 2006's historical dramas, there is this short Korea Herald story. (Actually, there are better stories, but I so enjoy looking at the Herald's "premium" content for free...) Anyhow, a bigger story, about JUMONG and future series is here at the Korea Times.

I watch a fair amount of Korean movies and TV each year, and listen to a lot of music... but I would be lying if I said that many TV dramas are very interesting to me. I do hope that this will change, though. I am very happy to see OCN and Home CGV starting to broadcast original dramas. Hopefully this might shake things up, like HBO did to the mainstream networks in the United States in the 1990s. And some of the new generation of production companies are certainly ambitious.

The new Bae Yong-joon series, LEGEND, is going to cost around $40 million for 24 episodes (it was supposed to be $30 million, but has experiences a lot of cost overruns, especially for the sets). For that kind of money, we are getting close to the cost of an American TV series. Hopefully the production values will reflect that, and get more cinematic, less soap-opera-ish.

Oh, the company making LEGEND is also slated to make a 4-volume, 80-part version of CITY HUNTER. There will be four 20-part series, each set in a different city (Seoul, Tokyo, New York and France). The company, SSD, has a lot of good folks working there who are trying to learn from the best TV guys around the world.

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