On Air: First impressions
Hm. Perhaps SBS and I are not meant to be on friendly terms.
It’s not that there’s anything about the broadcast station in particular that I don’t like; it’s just that it’s been ages since I’ve seen an SBS drama I really enjoyed. And the dramas I’ve actively disliked recently have all been SBS series.
I did not like On Air. There’s no one specific reason for my reaction, merely a general spirit of distaste.
It’s not that it’s badly made — it’s got an obviously high production budget and a glossy look to it. It’s slick, it’s quick, it’s star-studded, it’s… kind of heartless.
First off, the characters are all detestable: pretty on the outside, ugly on the inside. It’s been a long time since I’ve so thoroughly disliked all the characters in a drama. Usually I can pick out something to connect to, in someone, but nope. Empty shells all.
In her plots, writer Kim Eun Sook has always relied on a confluence of contrivances, which I noticed previously and am again reminded of in On Air. Rather than creating believable ways for people to be connected — and in an incestuous industry like entertainment, that’s not hard — she instead creates an entanglement of coincidences. Bah.
SONG OF THE DAY
On Air OST – “고마운 사람” (Thankful person) by Park Yong Ha [ Download ]
What didn’t occur to me till now, however, was that her works (the Lovers trio, for instance) also tend to be a little empty on the emotional scale — they’re all about romantic love and little else. And while I’m a huge sap for romance in dramas, I hate when that’s ALL a drama is. What’s driving these characters? Everyone’s goals seem terribly shallow — Lee Beom Soo‘s manager character is the only one with a hint of more behind it, but perhaps that’s the actor at work — that I can’t care about any of them even IF their characters weren’t disgustingly self-obsessed to begin with.
A vain, egomaniacal actress (Kim Haneul channeling her best diva) rejects an award onstage at the award ceremony — because she’s insulted that the award is shared. She refuses her manager’s attempts to salvage her negative image, spews cynical diatribe out one side of her mouth while smiling sweetly to her “loving fans” with the other, and alienates anyone inclined to help her. The rising drama PD (Park Yong Ha) sees her for what she is but can’t control her — no one can control her. So by extension, that automatically sets me/you up to like her nemesis, the A-list drama writer (Song Yoon Ah). Only the drama writer is petty and bilious and harbors ages-old grudges. Oh no! She refuses to do the drama! Oh no, he’s insulted! Oh no, now the other one refuses to do the drama too! How dire.
All the antipathy flying around thereby confuses you — does this drama have no hero? Are they all antiheroes? Is it some kind of metaphysical statement on the status of entertainment as an industry? Is it satire? Is it… just shallow?
What the drama DOES have is a high profile, and lots of real-life celebrity cameos (mostly pointless, except to lend a superficial stamp of credibility on the drama, so okay, perhaps a teensy bit pointful). It looks smooth and glossy, and the writer showcases her trademark quick banter (is it still banter when the free-flying words are loaded with spite?). And you can always argue that the characters are MEANT to be hateful. I’ll disagree — what’s the point in using showbiz as your backdrop if you play upon its cliches and bypass the chance to humanize any part of it?
I don’t buy that On Air is really that much of a realistic “inside look” at the entertainment industry, either — no more than 30 Rock is, at least. So what could be an interesting vantage point into one’s own world becomes, then, a platform for self-aggrandizement. It’s so self-congratulatory.
You’re free to disagree (and I’m pretty sure the series is probably going to be a big hit), but for me: PASS.
Next up: Who Are You?