Left, ``Before and After Plastic Surgery''
Right, Lee Beom-soo in ``On Air''
By Kwon Mee-yoo, Han Sang-hee
The New Year will be another one full of drama, as broadcasters prepare unique stories to grab audiences' attention. Korean dramas have always been at the forefront of domestic entertainment, for if a certain drama gains popularity, the actors ride on its success.
Dramas about Professionals
Last year, many TV soaps tried to portray the life of various jobs such as that of the baristas in ``Coffee Prince,'' or intelligence agents in ``Air City'' and ``The Time Between Dogs and Wolfs'' and auctioneers in ``Auction House.'' These dramas received favorable reviews ― some of them recorded high ratings ― from audiences who'd had enough of cliche scripts and melodramatic scenes. Continuing this trend, more professionals, from doctors to reporters and directors, are brought to the TV screen this year.
MBC's ``Before and After Plastic Surgery'' opened this year's battle. As the title indicates, this is a drama about plastic surgeons. The first episode, which aired at 11:40 p.m. last Sunday, was about an actress who undergoes plastic surgery to revamp her image. It recorded a rating of 8.6 percent according to TNS Media Korea, which is rather high for such a late night program. Some viewers criticized its similarity to the American medical drama ``Nip/Tuck.''
SBS ``On Air'' is second in the race. Currently shooting, it plans to air at the end of February. ``On Air'' is directed by Shin Woo-chul and written by Kim Eun-suk, the creators of hit dramas ``Lovers in Paris'' and ``Lovers.'' Lee Beom-soo plays the agent of an arrogant top actress, played by Kim Ha-neul. Song Yoon-a becomes a mean scriptwriter while Park Yong-ha plays a drama director.
Another drama ``Spotlight'' takes the camera into a broadcasting station and zooms in on the lives of broadcast reporters. The drama is expected to air on MBC in April. The inspiration for the main character is an actual MBC reporter and anchorwoman Kim Eun-hye. Actress Son Ye-jin is the prime candidate to play the lead role.
Last but not least is ``Jejungwon'' of SBS, which is a variation of a conventional medical drama. Instead of shooting in a modern hospital with expensive-looking equipment, ``Jejungwon'' is set in a hanok (traditional Korean house), the first modern hospital building in Korea. Planning to air later this year, ``Jejungwon'' will trace the history of modern medical science, which was first introduced in Korea in late 19th century.
Dramas Based on Cartoons
With original characters and fast-paced story lines, cartoons are filling the relative dearth in content for television drama producers. Previously, Korean fans had the chance to experience unique dramas that were solely, or even partly based on comic books. MBC's ``Princess Hours'' (2006), starring Yoon Eun-hye, and KBS's ``Full House'' (2004), starring Rain and Song Hye-kyo, were successful cartoon-based drama remakes.
Expect five or more of such cartoon-based dramas this year. SBS's ``Sikgaek'' (working title) portrays the story of two chefs who continuously compete in different contests in a bid to become the best chef of all time. Korea's heartthrob Kim Rae-won (``My Little Bride,'' 2004) and actress Nam Sang-mi (TV drama ``Sweet Spy,'' 2005) will star in the drama that will air this April. Based on Huh Young-man's popular namesake cartoon, it was also released as the movie ``Le Grand Chef'' in 2007.
For those who are into fantasy cartoons and stories, ``Bicheonmoo'' will be a treat. Actor Joo Jin-mo (``200 Pound Beauty,'' 2006) and singer turned actress Park Ji-yoon will tell the sad love story between an illegitimate girl and soldier that took place 700 years ago in China. Scaled down from the original 24 episodes to 14, the drama ``Bicheonmoo'' will offer a more dramatic and exciting storyline. Fans will be able to see the ancient love story Feb.1, 9:55 p.m. on SBS. It was also made into a movie in 2000 starring top stars Shin Hyun-jun (``Marrying the Mafia 3,'' 2006) and Kim Hee-seon (``The Myth,'' 2005).
Other dramas based on cartoons are under way such as ``Tazza'' (working title) and ``I Love You'' (working title), both rigorously read by Korean cartoon lovers. The KBS epic drama ``The Kingdom of the Winds,'' which is to be aired later this year, is also based on the cartoon of the same name. This comic strip has already been transformed into a game and musical.