Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kmuse's Musings - Kdrama Trends: Yay or Nay?

We all know that in Kdramaland the writers/producers/kdrama gods really love a good trend.  Love it enough that they saturate our tv's with a concept so thoroughly, that if we hear the word Noona Romance one more time, we involuntarily cringe.  So why do they feel the need to jump on a concept bandwagon?  Are they afraid that if they wait 6 mths that everyone will forget that they enjoy multiple personality dramas?  

Are the viewers that fickle that if we don't see 3 dramas about single parent angst at the same time, we will not tune in?  To be perfectly honest, I have no clue as to what the "people that be" in the KIndustry are thinking, so instead of doing random hypothesizing (the government has a secret underground lair where they are hypnotizing the writers to only write twilight style fanfiction, in an effort to make South Koreans finally hop on the "we love vampire romance" train). So in lieu of trying to figure out the producers minds I will instead be sharing what my favorite/least favorite trends of 2014 have been, as well as what trends we can expect in 2015.
Jumping on the Noona Romance Bandwagon
I think we can all agree that the largest trend of 2014 was the reemergence of the Noona Romance.  A noona romance is a drama where the female lead is significantly older than the male, usually resulting in a power shift in one/or all of these social factors: maturity, sexuality, and finances.  With the only set parameters being the older woman, younger man, this leaves a lot of room for tone and writing to play a key role in the drama.  With this in mind we were able to have a wide range of noona romances that did not trip over each other.  We had the PG rated King of High School which focused more on the sweet & funny. We then progress up to the more mature real life problem relationships (mixed with humor) found in I Need Romance 3 and Witch's Romance.  And finally we reach the super mature artistic drama Secret Affair which is about, you guessed it, a significantly older career woman and her young piano protegee. 
I personally enjoyed all four dramas and would highly recommend them.  The only problem comes when one's personal moral code goes to the "Ewww" she is dating a kid zone.  Out of all of these I can see King of High School being the closest to that uncomfortable level.  Seo In Guk is firmly a high school kid throughout the whole drama and while the writers do a good job of making the relationship work, if you have problems with the concept, then nothing is going to fix it for you.

I Love You, I Hate You, I Love You Again.
The other huge trend that hit in 2014 is that of reuniting exes.  This concept gives true love a second chance for those poor couples who got married too young and then divorced when reality hit.  Some of the dramas in this group (in order of my personal rating highest to lowest) were Sly and Single Again, Emergency Couple, Secret Hotel, & Discovery of Romance.
I personally have always been of the opinion that when a relationship ends (especially a marriage), it ends for a reason, and there is nothing healthy in jumping back into that failed relationship.  This personal philosophy made it hard for me to really enjoy any of these dramas.  When you watch the couples treat each other horribly for most of the drama, it is really hard to root for them later on.  But again, that is a personal opinion, and if you want to try one of these I would personally suggest "Sly and Single Again".  Although it had some moments of cranky-ex hijinks, for the most part the characters were likable and not cruel in general.  I could handle the couple reuniting in the end even if it will never be a drama I would watch again.
Looking Forward to 2015!
It is still a couple weeks shy of when we turn the calender to 2015, yet the upcoming trends could not be clearer if they were blazed above in neon lights.  This is obviously going to be the year of the romantic mental disorder.  The success of "Its Okay Its Love" obviously made all of kdramaland a bit, well, crazy.  Thanks to Jo In Sung ability to make schizophrenia sexy, we are in for at least six months of multiple personalities, debilitating phobias, and doctors who are willing to throw ethics out the window to date them.

Jekyll, Hyde, and I (Begins Jan 21st)
The most anticipated upcoming drama is 100% the huge hyped "Jekyll, Hyde, and I".  It is not necessarily anticipated for its plot in which a sexy Chaebol has two personalities, both who fall in love with the same circus performer (thank goodness at least one romance is not with a doctor).  Instead we are all looking towards this drama because the sexy, mentally unstable, leading man is being played by mega star Hyun Bin!  No matter how odd the plot is going to be, Hyun Bin has the star power to draw in the viewers since this is (FINALLY) his big return to kdramas after military service and almost a 2 year drama hiatus.
Heart to Heart (Begins January 9th)
Leading lady (Choi Kang Hee - Protect the Boss) suffers from social phobia and has a problem with severe blushing.  This causes her to live as a hermit in which her only outside contact is the Internet, books, and her beloved grandmother.  Upon her grandmother's death our heroine decides to brave the world, or at least brave the world behind a grandma disguise.  She gets a job as a maid (while in her old lady persona) and meets her psychiatrist soul mate.  I am crossing my fingers that she meets her love interest through her job as a maid and not in his professional capacity.  
Kill Me, Heal Me (Begins Jan 7th)
I have to imagine that the sales pitch for this drama must have gone along these lines:

Writer - I want to do a drama about a hot guy with multiple personalities.

Kdrama Powers that Be - The other stations are already doing dramas based on that premise.

Writer - Mine will be different.  Bigger & better than the other dramas.  I will do a show where the hero has 3 multiple personalities!

KPTB - "Meh"

Writer - How about 5 personalities?

KPTB - Doesn't that still seem too similar to Jeckyl, Hyde, and Me?  They have Hyun Bin in that drama.

Writer - How about 7 personalities then?

KPTB - SOLD!!!  Can we make one of the personalities a vampire?  If we combine vampires and multiple personalities then all our trend bases will be covered.

That is right, "Kill Me, Heal Me" will have a leading man with seven different personalities (one of which might, or might not, be a vampire.  HEHEHE).  The only problem when going for quantity over quality, is that the role has been a horror to cast.  After being declined by both Hyun Bin (guessing that two personalities seems like a safer bet) and Lee Seung Gi (this is just not the role for him to expand his acting skills), it was pushed upon grabbed up by veteran actor Ji Sung.  Reuniting with Ji Sung is his "Secret Love" costar Hwang Jung Eum.  It is this pairing that has changed my interest level from "eh" to "ooooh, this might actually be good" and I now plan on giving this little piece of insanity a shot.
Dr Frankenstein (??)
Last and possibly least, is the upcoming drama Dr Frankenstein.  Like those before it, this drama also deals with a character who has multiple personalities (ummm does anyone feel that there are way to many personalities floating about?)  This time the Doctor is also the inflicted, as he/and his personalities learn to heal through the power of love.  This drama has yet to be cast, but we do know that Kim Soo Hyun will NOT be the leading man.  The actor just recently turned down the role so now we viewers are impatiently awaiting to find out which khottie will dare take on a third drama tackling the multiple personality trend.
Eternally a Khottie
The 2nd popular trend starting to develop for 2015 is the aforementioned vampire concept.  Kaddicts from the western hemisphere are used to slew of good various vampire TV show.  The US has had a love affair with vampires on TV since "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and continues to this day with shows such as "The Vampire Diaries", "True Blood" and "The Originals".  And we won't even touch the Twilight Crazy of the turn of the century.  Surprisingly enough, the worlds love of a romantic sexy vampire has pretty much skipped Korean entertainment.  With the exception of "Vampire Prosecutor" you would be hard pressed to even find mention of the well known supernatural/romance staple.  So consider me a happy lark, when I found out that we will have not one, but two, kdramas where the leading man is a genuine khottie vampire.
Blood (February)
Vampire drama "Blood" has secured rookie leading man Ahn Jae Hyun (My Love From Another Star).  This casting was announced after several more experienced actors turned down the project which always raises a few eyebrows.  Is the script lacking?  Why can't it seem to lock down a cast?  Will a rookie actor really be able to portray a complicated character?  While Ahn Jae Hyun can definitely pull off the ethereal sexy blood sucker visually, there is still some doubt as to whether his acting skills are up to the task.  He will be playing a vampire who gives back to the world by working as a doctor with terminally ill patients (at least it is not with the mentally ill).  This drama has been written by the team behind last years critically acclaimed "Good Doctor", so hopefully the script will be good enough to overcome any lack in the acting department.  Either way, I am in for the long hall.  If I can watch seven seasons of "The Vampire Diaries" with its truckload of crazy doppelganger plot lines, I can make it through 16 episodes of sub par kdrama vamp.
Scholar Who Walks The Night (TBA)
The next drama is just in the "rumored" stages, but since it has been popping up in kdrama gossip for a while now there is a good chance that this drama will actually happen.  "Scholar Who Walks The Night" is a drama adapted from a Manwha which is set in Josean times (Yay! I love Sageuks)  We find the leading lady forced to dress as a boy while working as a bookseller after her family falls on hard times.  A young not so young scholar (who also happens to be a vampire) falls in love with the girl/boy and together they must fight a evil vampire who is residing in the royal court.  Pretty much if you make one of the boys from Sungkyunkwan Scandal into a vampire you have the plot down for this drama.  But again, it is vampire focused so I will be watching.  On a very positive note, Khottie Park Hae Jin is rumored to be in talks to play the scholarly vamp.  Excuse me for a second while I pause and contemplate Park Hae Jin in hanbok while sporting super sexy fangs.
I suspect that if either of these dramas does well in the ratings we will continue to see a vampire/supernatural trend pushing into summer and fall.  And maybe if we are really really lucky, it could also result in giving Vampire Prosecutor season 3 the swift kick it needs to get green lighted.  We might as well dream big and hope the kdrama gods are listening to our casting prayers.
 Sageuks:The Decline?
The idea of a fusion vampire historical drama brings us to our last possible trend for 2015.  The possible trend that I hope stays a figment of my overactive analytical mind since I would be so sad if this comes to pass. This last year has provided us a with a plethora of Sageuk (historical) dramas.  Ranging from fantasy fusion to dramatic historical reenactment, the Sageuk's from 2014 have been, for the most part, solid shows.  Unfortunately viewers have not agreed as we watched almost every Sageuk drama rank low in the ratings (Empress Ki being the exception).  This has even resulted in the likely cancellation of the two follow up seasons for the historical version of "The Three Musketeers" that had been slated throughout 2015.
I remember hearing the phrase "The Saguek is king in South Korea" when referencing the genre and its guaranteed ratings.  So what has happened to curb this genre's viewers?  Is it the move from the traditional straight telling of history?  More and more Sageuks are looking for a new gimmick for their plots. Whether it is looking at history from a different viewpoint, such as Jang Ok Jung.  Or in some instances just being very very lose with historical facts like in Empress Ki.  Maybe it is the strong emergence of the Fusion Sageuk that viewers are not connecting with.  Older viewers just can't get behind dramas that play around with history.  My personal opinion is that a lot of the Sageuk's have been so involved in looking really pretty, that they have forgotten to solidify the script.  I can't count how many historicals I watched this year that had a script which petered out halfway through.  Whatever the reason, Sageuk's are not the huge guaranteed money makers they used to be.  I am concerned that if this continues, we will start to see less and less in our kdrama lineup.  Let's all just cross our fingers that the upcoming Sageuk's "Scholar Who Walks The Night" and "Shine or Go Crazy" (starring Jang Hyuk) can end this ratings slump so we don't have to wonder what a world without hanbok wearing khotties is like.
This concludes my observations so far for the upcoming year.  What do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Did I miss any important trends?  Feel free to leave your ideas in the comment section below.  Or come follow The Crazy Ahjummas on Facebook or Twitter for info on all our newest recaps, posts, and to join in our kdrama discussions. 
We always love to chat with fellow kaddicts.  Also be sure to check back over the following weeks as we begin our, always fun, end of year reviews.  

Til then,


  1. Love me the noona trend as well although there was one I didn't watch because it was a remake. Am also hoping folks start liking sajeuks again...or that sageuks get better scripts. My heart kinda sank when you said they got low ratings. Re: the reunited exes. According to statistics, 4 out of every 10 couple who divorce remarry each other again. So anything's possible.

    1. it would be interesting to see the percentage that get divorced a second time though.


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