Who’s watching Ja Myung Go?
And I ask that as a real question, not in sarcasm, because it seems the large-scale extravaganza is meeting with all sorts of “disheartening” setbacks and “embarrassments,” as several articles point out.
SBS’s current Monday-Tuesday drama Ja Myung Go [자명고] was hyped up as a big action historical series starring Jung Ryeo-won and was expected to do much better than the single-digit ratings it’s pulling in.
On top of that, the drama recently had an on-set accident: On April 21, a torch apparatus exploded at the filming location in Goyang, Kyeonggi province, and set off a fire. The accident injured one staff member and sent that person to the hospital with burns.
There were no further injuries, but the production dodged a bullet, as the explosion occurred near a stack of lumber and other props. Kim Ga-yeon wasn’t hurt, but was close enough that her clothes were damaged with soot.
On top of that, on April 20, actor Na Han-il (in the role of Wang Gweng) was arrested and is being investigated by the Seoul district public prosecutor’s office on suspicion of obtaining an illegal loan (in the 10 billion won range, or $7 million). Worse yet, Na is suspected of offering bribes to a Financial Supervisory Service executive and a bank executive to get the loan.
Ja Myung Go had an inauspicious premiere against the finales of East of Eden and Boys Before Flowers, but that was expected, if unfortunate. However, it failed to recover its ground and now, after 13 episodes of its planned 50, stands in the 9%-10% range. It was expected to recover when the characters grew out of the childhood scenes and the adult actors took over — in particular, when Jung Ryeo-won made her first appearance in Episode 12 — but the numbers only rose about 1% to 10.8% for yesterday’s broadcast.
(Again, I’ll say: Ratings aren’t important, except when they are. They are less significant in deciding a drama’s quality, but one can’t deny their importance in other aspects. For a project as big as this one, hovering in the single-digit range is a letdown, to say the least.)
As if that weren’t enough, there are also disgruntled rumblings from one faction of the older cast, drawing lines in the sand between the “fusion” sageuk aspect of the drama and what they see as a “true” sageuk. Some complaints have been heard expressing doubt that there is enough plot to sustain 50 episodes.
One source close to an actor said, “With one group saying this is fusion and one group saying this is a traditional sageuk, how can viewers become immersed in the drama? One well-regarded veteran actor says, ‘This isn’t the right way,’ but is trying his/her best to follow along no matter what. Of course viewers would be able to sense that awkwardness.”