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The business of kdrama extensions and cuts


Queen Seon-deok

Yep, we as drama-lovers tend to have a love-hate (mostly hate, I think) relationship with drama extensions and, even worse, unexpected cuts. Even a good drama can be ruined in the end by unnecessary extensions — a long-running epic series may suffer less from adding episodes than a short drama whose story was never meant to go beyond 16 or 20 installments. I know that this trend stems from that pernicious habit of broadcast stations’ knee-jerk reactions to ratings, but as much as we hate that, I think we all kind of understand why a station places so much importance on ratings. Here’s an article that discusses the trend.

 


Queen of Housewives

Ratings-based broadcast changes: Ruining Story vs. Economic Sense

In this landscape, dramas that end according to their original plan are rare. If they do well, they’re extended; if not, they’re cut short. These days, dramas are either drawn out or cut down based on the results delivered every morning in the form of television viewer ratings.

Dramas enjoying lofty ratings of 40% like MBC’s Monday-Tuesday series Queen Seon-deok and KBS 2TV’s weekend series Sons of Sol Pharmacy were given extensions early on. Seon-deok has been given twelve additional episodes and will broadcast more than an extra month. Sol Pharmacy will produce four more episodes.

This year’s “smash hit dramas” have all been extended from their planned broadcasts, beginning with KBS 2TV’s Boys Before Flowers and including SBS’s Wife’s Temptation and Brilliant Legacy, as well as MBC’s Queen of Housewives.

The broadcasters and the viewers who watch these extended series each have their own views. Assertions that “It makes economic sense” mix with those that say, “After ordering the extension, the plot development drags.” One broadcast source said, “In the case of dramas with good ratings, of course there are many viewers with loud voices who want extensions. From the producers’ perspective, there’s no reason to refuse an extension for a successful drama. The frequency of extensions can also have the effect of curbing rival dramas and providing more preparation time for the next project. But one must avoid trite plot turns and excessive drawing out of the story.”


Strike Love

Where there is sun, there is also shade. There are several dramas facing trouble after the announcement of their early endings. SBS’s ambitious Ja Myung Go and MBC’s Strike Love and Tamra the Island all tasted the bitterness of cut broadcasts.

The case was even more disappointing for Strike Love and Tamra the Island, which enjoyed the support of mania fans [i.e., a cult following] and also earned good responses in overseas markets. Another broadcast station source said, “Of course, there are many more dramas that end as planned than those that are extended or cut. However, the situation seems amplified because the interest of the media and the viewers leans toward those cases.”

The basis for these extensions or cut-downs is decidedly the audience ratings. Without an objective basis for judging a drama’s worth, these ratings become an essential yardstick by which a drama’s success or failure is decided.

The same broadcast source said, “The view that the broadcast stations may be focusing excessively on these ratings cannot be avoided, but if you look at it from an economic standpoint, you can’t unequivocally reproach them. It’s because ratings are directly related to the advertising that is bought, as well as being the basis for whether a drama will be sold in additional markets.”


Tamra the Island

I’ll admit openly that I hate this trend on both sides (extending and cutting), but especially series that get cut, which is a grand freakin’ shame. I almost — ALMOST — prefer the American industry’s cruel but swift method of canceling a show and immediately pulling it. True, we don’t get to see the ending that way, but in this era of DVD box sets, at least when we DO get to see the rest of the series, it will be presented as the producers meant them.

This Korean drama trend bothers me more, because it seems like such a jerking around of the production — most of the time they’re already scrambling to film episodes nearly in real time (Boys Before Flowers is a prime example of why that is a Bad Idea), and then they have to suddenly produce more or less at the last minute? When a drama has already wrapped filming 20 episodes (as in the case of Tamra, which began production a year in advance), it seems unnecessarily cruel to then tell producers to hand over 16 episodes instead, when the drama is already mid-broadcast. It’s a lose-lose situation. The drama that gets shown is hurried and edited together at the last minute, and what viewers see is not a true representation of their work.

But I also distrust extensions, even when I’m liking a drama. Goong, for example, killed its momentum when its popularity prompted an extension. By all accounts (I haven’t finished the drama), Queen of Housewives would have been better served without one. I still maintain that Coffee Prince would have been a much better series without its single episode extension, which would have improved the dragged-out pacing of the last two episodes (which were, imo, the weakest). King and I‘s story suffered by the extension, then cutting, then re-extension of its episode order. Even when I don’t feel the extension was too harmful (Dal Ja’s Spring‘s extra episodes didn’t irk me), I still think the quality would have been higher without them.

But I recognize that I’m a mere viewer whose sole concern is entertainment quality, who doesn’t have to worry about the business end of things. Grumble all we want, I don’t think the business model will be changing anytime soon.

Via Hankook Ilbo

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Utterly and completely agrees with every single word you said. Is the drama really what it was suppose to be when extented and/or cut short!?!?!?!?!? Question for you...what drama came out with the pre-ordered episodes, did well in rating, stayed on coursed to the end and satified your tastes buds?

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Thanks, javabeans. This is very informative.

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Ooh, great question. And a tough one, I realize, since I'm thinking back to all the dramas I've seen and I realize that it's pretty difficult to meet ALL those criteria. (Dramas I liked that ended on time may not have had high ratings, while I may not have liked those that ended on time with high ratings.)

Last Scandal is one. (They planned a sequel rather than an extension, which was unfortunately scrapped due to Choi Jin-shil's death.) And... I can't think of anything else right now.

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Regarding Brilliant Legacy, although the series was extended it didn't feel like it. It wasn't dragged and the suspense got held up to the very last minute. In that case, you could hardly know it had been extended if you hadn't read it somewhere. But I agree with you on the rest, either cut or extended, I don't like these adjustments. Personally, Sageuks which get extended bother me... They're already long enough, it's annoying to know I'll have to follow 10 to 20 additional episodes to get to the end...that's just me though. For comedies however, extensions are always deadly ( apart for BL)... For Coffee Prince, passed the 14th episode It got reaaaaaalllllllllly slow.
I rewatched the drama twice and always stopped at episode 15. A Korean friend of mine told me the series was originally [Read more]

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what about "story of a man"? didn't that do well?? or were the ratings not good? i loved the show and it wasn't extended, right?

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hey, what about kim sam soon? that was crazy popular but only ended at its original run of 16 episodes

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Story of a Man didn't have high ratings (7%-10%). Yes, Samsoon fits! (If it aired today i'd bet they'd be pushed to extend though.) There are a bunch of dramas that were modestly popular, but I wouldn't count them as doing well unless they were in the upper teens or higher.

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I agree with you LaPlume. Until this article mentioned it, I had completely forgotten Brilliant Legacy had an extension. I almost shudder to think how they would have gotten the series wrapped up without it. Even going into the last 3 or 4 episodes I didn't think they would pull it off.

On the other hand, Coffee Prince was killed by the extra episode. There was a wonderful pace to the series, but the last two episodes draaaaaaged and were, if I'm honest, boring.

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I have to give a round of applause to the Tamna the island crew for doing the best they can to give us an ending that's as true to their original intent as they can get. I expected a complete mess that wasn't the least coherent but have been pleasantly surprised by their editing.

It's a shame for anyone to have dismissed this show based on the first couple of episodes. The acting by the complete cast (Well..not so much William) is top notch. The writers are experts at giving us these beautiful emotional scenes that touch me with their power and simplicity.

It's a shame what's been done to this drama but i'm glad they seem to be going out with their heads held high!

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^ completely agree with javabeans' article AND with Jenn above.
I'm loving Tamna, even though the first couple episodes were dodgy...
Hwang Chan Bin's acting even more so, but I'll let him off because its his first" drama, and the rest of the actors are good.

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I think My Girl was one that was popular but not extended too? And Full House?

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I think this article is talking about recent dramas. My Girl, Samsoon and Full House are all like 4 - 5 years old. I've noticed most of these situations with constant extensions are in the past 2 years.

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I didn't even realize that Queen of Housewives had an extension. I always thought that the last few episodes were the downturn of the drama and even the end was so weak that it affected all the fun I had while watching the first 2/3 of the drama.

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hey all,
im sometimes not a fan the extension of the series because sometimes, it just feels wierd, i recently watched queen of housewives, great story until i reached ep 16 when all hell breaks loose, i still haven't watched the end cos it got slow, boring and no real action, yes it is popular but if it slow to watch that you are playing online poker while watching tv, then it is a problem

i also had the chance to watch that fool/accidental couple, great and quirky story, something to watch without being to fussed about the story and simple enough ending, but maybe an extension by 2 eps for this one would have been better, the last 30 mins of the series were to choppy, with this and that finally revealing itself.

now im on to watch the slingshot, aka the story of a man, im only up [Read more]

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I enjoyed every moment of Coffee Prince and Goong. I'm glad for the extension especially since Goong 2 is never going to happen. I have to disagree with you, Javabeans, in regards to Last Scandal. I though it was very boring and slow near the end. I actually would have prefer it if they cut it by 2 episodes.

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I think many korean dramas tend to drag a bit towards the end, so an extension would usually accentuate this flaw.

love that pic from Queen Seon-deok though! I don't think I'm going to watch the drama, but I love seeing the pictures and screencaps!

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The only time I supported cuttng a show was Princess Ja Myung Go. Just no way SBS could realistically support a 50-episode sageuk that was doing 5s.

Tamra should have been allowed to do a full 20-episode run, but really MBC should have been ordered the show for only 16 episodes. I don't really understand how MBC could have possibly believe the show would have done better ratings than it did.

I didn't mind the extension to Coffee Prince, because I think it was kinda understood the story effectively ended in episode 12/13 or so. Everything else did feel like gravy. Having said that, there was still story space for CP to explore Han Kyul's relationship with his father.

I almsot never mind extensions for daehas and sageuks. It was pretty clear about halfway that East of Ede [Read more]

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If it's on the business side of things, extending or cutting episodes would be understandable but like us, viewers, usually extensions are a bad idea since it really drags the story, and I've seen some of them. For example, Jumong was supposed to end at 60, but got an additional 21 episodes and ended at Episode 81, I really thought at first that when it almost reached 60 episodes, I still felt something was missing so adding 5 episodes I guess was enough but adding 21 more is like uh oh, but generally I loved the drama but they got to kill off some characters during their extension...about Last Scandal, I was glad that they didn't add more episodes but the almost sequel made me think twice if it will hold the momentum it had at first, but due to unfortunate turn of events the sequel didn't [Read more]

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Reading the article, as a viewer, I'm much more understanding... of cuts that is. I get that right now economically no station can handle even one week of a bad(low rating/ low viewership) show. With that I will try not to be as put off by what "the man" has to do to stay afloat.

Till now, I've seen several shows that have been extended but not one that has been cut (haven't started Tamra yet) and I have to say that usually extensions are a horrible idea. Good shows should stay exactly that. I think that when working within a frame you have a plan and this works until that gets switched up and usually too late to make it work for the overall story progression.

As for cuts, sadly, I think that JB is right. When a show is just bad or isn't doing well initially, cut it! I mean by ep 3! If [Read more]

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I hate drama extensions, most of the times it just makes the story move slow.

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Personally, I don't think QSD should be extended, they have dragged out each and EVERY episode with ridiculous tangents and unnecessary scenes. Mishil is the only person worth watching but even that gets old. Seriously, how long does MBC think they can milk the brow raising and "lip-thing." K-Drama interest hasn't been the same since Story of a Man!!!

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The three main reasons I drop dramas are:

1. Changing the story in the middle of the series to compensate for low ratings.
2. Extending/cutting the number of episodes to make/avoid loosing more money.
3. Casting popular faces with no talent in hope to attract more viewers.

I’ve never really liked trendy dramas. All the big hits everyone raves about usually don’t manage to capture my attention. As a result, the very few dramas I end up watching are the mania dramas that very often get mutilated because of the reasons I mentioned above. As if it is not enough that I rarely find an interesting story, but it usually ends up as one huge illogical mess because of someone’s futile attempts to get higher ratings.

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I'm extremely disappointed that MBC had decided to cut off 4 episodes of Tamra. I just caught on the wave and I think it's an extremely enjoyable drama to be afforded a full run of its episodes. I haven't watched till the edited parts yet, but from the comments in the Soompi thread, I don't feel good about it at all. Extensions are okay for me, but reduction of broadcasts just spoil everything. >.<

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A recent drama I loved, that had great ratings and didn't get extended or cut was Bae Yong Joon's Legend. It's possibly my favorite drama ever and I was glad there was no extension - that kept the pace even throughout.

I don't mind extensions too much, even if I agree they kill the flow of the story all too often (agree on Goong and Coffee Prince. The latter especially basically became dead for the last 3 eps). That's what a fast-forward button is for and I ultimately get all the story I want, even if at a slower pace. And sometimes extensions work out fine, usually for longer or historical dramas - Jumong, East of Eden, and Fashion 70s all did fine with their extensions, IMO.

The cuts really bug me though - I have no interest in Tamra but I can see how infuritating it would be to [Read more]

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What an interesting thread!

I think one of the reasons I like MNIKSS so much is due to the fact that it ended when it should have ended. With the kind of monster ratings MNIKSS received, if it got extended, maybe it would have ended like Goong, perhaps, and how much worse for wear would have been the result?

I think Goong is the prime number one example of killing a story. They had it, right in their hands, they had something really special, with the plot lines coming together, with a lot of inertia heading in the right direction, they had the viewers sucked in, pulling hard for Chae-Kyung, they had it.... and it all petered out I think.

For those who have seen Goong, don't you remember how you felt, as you watched the early and middle episodes, with the fantastic opening credit [Read more]

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Love the opening screencap of Queen Seon-Deok, that's an eyecatcher right there. The colours are so vibrant.

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@ Samsooki

"They gotta make money in order to stay in business, and so inasmuchas I complain and grumble, I defer to the economics of the business."

Yes, the magic of tv/movie making is a business, but it's also an art form, entertainment for the masses. The cuts/extensions business for me is where business and art butt heads in the worse possible way.

I'm a relative newb to the k-drama scene, and definitely have never read articles or knew about the cuts, extensions, BTS drama that avid drama watchers would know about.

However, I have watched Goong, Fashion 70s, Jumong, Coffee Prince, etc. (pretty much all the dramas being discussed in this cut/extend article). And each of those dramas, when I watched it, the first half or 2/3s were just awesome, sucking me in and taking me [Read more]

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I have to agree with the other comments regarding Coffee Prince. The story really ended after her real gender was revealed which was around episode 12 or 13. I totally lost interest after that and skipped to the last chapter. So the extension(s) on this show was unnecessary.

For Shining Inheritance (Brilliant Legacy), if there were any extensions, I wouldn't have known since the story was just told brilliantly (no pun intended). Great acting and story execution.

I'm watching My Fair Lady (Take Care of Young Lady) now. Pretty good so far. I don't have any problems with her acting contrary to comments on a previous thread. Anyhow, I put some videos together for the show. Enjoy the soundtrack!

[Read more]

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I didn't really have an issue with Coffee Prince because, again, the original story ended right about where it should have. Usually an extension would have had Eun Chan and Han Kyul drag out their issues before reconciliation, but that didn't happen.

I thought Jumong getting expanded to 80 episodes worked pretty well. Sure, probably the "mountain prophecy" bit was . . . interesting, but the show was never really short on plot. And frankly the show kinda glossed over the political problems with Prince Yuri's return. Could have spent more time on that, but then again the show didn't want to depict Jumong as anything less than heroic.

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@27,

What can you do? Actors need to be paid, the PD and staff needs to get paid, sets cost money, costumes and clothing, makeup, lighting, electronics, liability insurance, medical staff, drivers, advertisements. Investors need to get their loans back with interest.

Last night, I was subbing for Style, and it was so weird, seeing the product placement. Reminded me a little of The Truman Show. Of course, I remember the dramabeans post on the subject of product placement: (http://www.dramabeans.com/2009/09/style-criticized-for-excessive-product-placement/)... but I didn't really notice until it happened multiple times in an episode I was spot-subbing.

I was wat [Read more]

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for anyone who's still bitter out there about tamra's cut, i got a very reassuring email from the dramafever crew. a few weeks ago i emailed them to suggest they should add tamra the island on their drama list. and i just got an email back from them that said "we'll try to air it once the networks release it to the states. and we'll try to get the whole 20 eps!" : D

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@22 nell: oh, I used to be the exact same way, my friends would be watching "Scream 2" and I would be hung up with "Schindler's List" - took me awhile to get off that high horse to watch things more fitting of my age and social network. But still, it is hard to let go of quality standards when you've seen so much better.

But I think the problem isn't necessarily the content/story, but how it's being presented. You can give me a cliche storyline, but present it in a new, unused , and charismatic light and I'm good - afterall isn't that what "originality" is? Unfortunately, presentation, is being dictated, or at least heavily influenced, by the money-making of the business. They need to do product-placements, need song/singer-placements, need fashion/clothing brand-placements etc. Which a [Read more]

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@ 31 Alison - Are you for real with dramafever's response ?!?!??! They'll air Tamra's full 20 episodes? *crying frantically

I can't help but be drawn to these last edited episodes b/c I am Team BeoJin&ParkKyu. The episodes are satisfying but not quenching. To actually see the true writer's intentions for the storyline and watch the characters truly develop is what I call quenching. Did any other Tamra fan feel that Yan was eventually going to warm up to BeoJin?

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@Kgrl,

"I used to be the exact same way, my friends would be watching “Scream 2″ and I would be hung up with “Schindler’s List” – took me awhile to get off that high horse to watch things more fitting of my age and social network."

And that's the thing. This is the reality everywhere, whether it's Korean, Russian, American, or Martian. Korea also has much edgier, more progressive cable-based TV, which also better fits the demographic used to watching Western television. Something like "Fight" worked because it was shown on cable and allowed the freedom to be the story it needed to be.

The other thing is, 90% of Korean drama content are soaps, whether it's historical soaps, comedic soaps, or daily drama soaps. And most soaps and telenovelas rely on the live-shoot [Read more]

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@belleza,

Actually, I think live-shoots have been more utilized in the last decade because of it's economic potential, not as a historical practice. Why would a production want to rush and film days before a broadcast? It's not ideal. Unless of course, the practice allows for incentives, such as higher ratings by adapting to audiences' reactions, more sponsorships due to these ratings, etc. which in the end usually all comes down to numbers.

Many other Asian countries are also adapting to this practice because the results are pretty clear - if you've got a winning recipe, this strategy will reap you the maximum benefits. Whereas before, profits for the production (not stars) could have maxed out at 50% because the sponsors are mostly set; now, sponsors can increase 200%+ at every new [Read more]

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"Actually, I think live-shoots have been more utilized in the last decade because of it’s economic potential, not as a historical practice"

I think live shoots have been the norm since I can recall. More or less grew out of daily dramas and the like. Most countries do it.

"Why would a production want to rush and film days before a broadcast? "

Part of it is ratings. Part of it has to do with Korean TV lacking true seasons. (For example, even though J-drama also executes live-shoot, the shooting schedules are calibrated against the seasons.) Most of it has to do with poor planning. Korean dramas have been pushing production limitations for 10 years, and in doing so, it's also caused greater risk.

Really, the only time where I see live shoot really kill a show is when the show ha [Read more]

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You know what I want to see done in Korea is a move to a drama with 1 episode per week format. This 2 episode a week format is buggers - Korean staffs/actors work brutally to make these dramas, especially dramas that aren't pre-filmed/not live-shoot. I personally wouldn't mind seeing season format in Korea too. Helps dramas lines to evolve more, not that Korean dramas haven't come a far way, and gives staff/cast more breaks. Though to be honest, I don't know the in-and-outs of the K-entertainment industry to see if it's financially feasible to do the 1 episode per week/season format - or if it's just the a case of figuring out how to finance/profit from a 1 episode per week format drama series. I would also think by going by a season format, the extension of stories will be more con [Read more]

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@ kgrl:

It depends on your definition of "things more fitting of my age and social network". I got interested in dramas in my early twenties. And at that age trendy dramas like "Full House" of "Goong" were a little bit too cute for my taste. Not that I don't like silly and funny stuff on TV ;p. I do, the problem, as you said, is the presentation. I have the feeling that almost any sort of TV show in Korea has to fit the melodrama format-long episodes, lots and lots of talking, tons of close up shots to show the pretty faces of the leads, repetitive stories. It's just the filling that is different. If it's a comedy, the actors get funny lines. If it is not, than the lines are not funny and they cry much more that usual. And that's a big problem because I get bored quickly. Unless the story [Read more]

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@ 33 Dramaniac

I had a teeny weeny gut feeling that Yan would warm up to Beo Jin too. Something like them being buddies or something? But definitely not anything romantic..

Have a feeling that if not for the 4 episodes cut, we would have more scenes of Beo Jin being responsive toward Park Kyu's feelings and all. At least, maybe some scenes of her thinking about Park Kyu? Or with her reminiscing their moments together? On how he always always came to her rescue (and William's too) whenever she pleaded for his help? Cos all we've seen right up till now, everything's about the 2 men vying for Beo Jin. Not the other way.. Now, if they would show something from Beo Jin for once, in the last 2 episodes.. pretty please....

Really don't want the drama to end up like the how My Love Patj [Read more]

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@nell123: When you feel like that, it means you need to move to another region's entertainment. lols...If you want quality acting and detailed character development to the point where it gets really slow, you can try Chinese dramas. Gosh, are they the King in character analysis and relationship development - sometimes it's absolutely awe-inspiring, but sometimes you just feel like shutting it all off and watching something silly. Hahaha...I would start off with the martial arts epics - it's sorta like best of both worlds? lols.

@ belleza: Hmm...I'm not sure if the acceptance of the show now is because of the adaptability of the audience, the actors, the crew, or everything combined. But I think even if there was no live shoot/reaction from audiences, and everything was pre-filmed, the d [Read more]

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@ samsooki

You are such fun!

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@ 31 ripgal

Oooo...that would be a great turn of events. I'd like to see Beojin remind herself of the numerous times ParkKyu saved her. It would be especially great if she'd reminisce of their first date. I know we have to wait for the full episodes and some of us fans have that patience, I'm not one of them. I have to see these last 2 episodes even if it may spoil my opportunity to watch the full version later.

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@Dramaniac

Same here, I can't wait to see the last 2 episodes even if it ruins the 20 episodes that are going to air out of korea. After this drama ends, I'm still planning to watch the 20 aired episode later in October...
It's disappointing that they had to cut 4 episodes of Tamna Island...
Supporting TAMNA ISLAND ALL THE WAY...

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@Dramamaniac, yes i really did get an email from the dramafever crew saying those exact words. so excited!

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Love Korean dramas, but they have the lamest of endings, with or without extensions. Their endings leave you hanging, needing a (hopefully) happy conclusion. Aissh!

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i agree that the whole business reasons for extending or cutting make sense, but i think it depends on a story whether or not it should get an extension. also, while they are debating whether or not to extend, the writers often go a little crazy and either slow it down too much, ony to be told no extension, and then they hvae to wrap up to quickly. take personal taste, for example. it was agreat story, but the last 4 episodes feel weak. i was disappointed with the ending (i still like the drama, but i felt it it had left untapped potential), because i felt like plots had been wrapped up too quickly and without proper explanation. this was probably due to the maybe or maybe not extension debate that went on, but in the end no extension was given, so the writers/editors were left to sort ou [Read more]

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