Sitcoms/Variety Shows
Producers talk about High Kick’s controversial ending
by | March 23, 2010 | 119 Comments

(Spoiler alert: Don’t read this post if you don’t want to know how the series High Kick Through The Roof ended.)

There have been complaints about the rather dramatic way the series went out last week, and the producers PD has spoken up to explain, if not defend, their choice. To put it mildly, their ending was a pretty unconventional way to wrap up a family sitcom that has enjoyed pretty high popularity for the entirety of its 126-episode run, and a lot of fans were not happy with it.

To put it plainly, the so-called sitcom ended the series with the deaths of two of its main characters, Shin Se-kyung and Daniel Choi, in a tragic car crash. Fans were shocked, then felt betrayed and cheated of the time they invested only to have two of the biggest stars so suddenly killed. Furthermore, the show was supposed to be about family love and hope for the future — in particular relaying a “message of hope” for Se-kyung’s future happiness — and the ending just negated all of that. What happens to the theme that you can be happy without money or strict conditions? On top of that, the ending focused solely on Se-kyung and Ji-hoon, making it a lopsided event that didn’t show enough of the rest of the cast.

In response to the wave of discontent, director Kim Byung-wook explained that they changed the ending two days before its broadcast. Another production source says, “The writer had written a different ending, but couldn’t change PD Kim Byung-wook’s intent. In the end, things suddenly shifted to a sad ending two days before the last episode aired.”

Throughout this process, there was a lot of criticism and differing opinions between the writer, director, and producers. They argued and tried to change PD Kim’s choice, saying that some viewers who were guessing at a sad ending were fiercely opposed. Ultimately PD Kim decided to end on their deaths, which reflected Shin Se-kyung’s own opinion. The source explained that the actress had already discussed a sad ending with producers months in advance.

High Kick Through the Roof, like its predecessor Unstoppable High Kick, was a ratings success (in the 20% range) that propelled a lot of its stars to greater fame, such as Shin Se-kyung, Daniel Choi, Hwang Jung-eum, and Yoon Shi-yoon. The PD has been known as a hitmaker, but I wonder if that reputation will take on a bit of a tarnish now. Or at least a bitter aftertaste.

Personally, I have to say that reading about this ending makes me glad I didn’t watch High Kick Through the Roof. While I’m all for trying unexpected things and breaking the mold, there are a few conventions that you can’t really betray without also betraying your audience, and killing off your main characters in the last scene of a FAMILY SITCOM is one of them. Often last episodes are tinged with melancholy, and I’m perfectly willing to accept that. Unstoppable High Kick had a similar downturn in mood toward its end, but I think it was more successful in wrapping itself up — there was sadness and goodbyes, but also room for imagining that life continues and these characters move on. Here, life DOESN’T actually go on, and that would piss me off if I’d been a fan.

Sure, you can argue a creator has the right to artistic choice and all that, and perhaps the director is perfectly pleased with his ending. But I’ll argue that when you’re working in television and producing entertainment for a loyal, broad audience (as opposed to working on an independent film, for example), there’s a burden of expectation and trust that you build with them. I don’t think the audience should dictate how a story unfolds — we’ve had enough dramas morphed into monsters through that — but I think to screw around with that trust is a pretty big deal, and I’d be much more wary of trusting that director in the future.

Via Hankook Ilbo, Now News

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119 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Kender

    Oh good lord. I haven’t been watching HKTTR either, but reading that spoiler shocked me. That’s just..so out of place in a family sitcom, especially for the FINAL EPISODE. If you’re going to do something tragic like that, it should happen much earlier, so that the other characters can deal with it and you can create some sort of message to help the viewers deal with it.

    Just..wow.

  2. daisytwenties

    I was in fact shocked with this ending and am one of the said pissed off fans. I really liked this sitcom and thought it was a really light and fun watch but then SUDDENLY they throw this curveball at us at the end and turn the happy, comedic, family sitcom into a melodrama.

    They left all the wrong loose ends and focused the last couple episodes on the whole “boohoo-shes-leaving-korea-and-leaving-behind-an-admirer-and-first-love.” if I knew this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have wasted over 2500 minutes on this.

    BOO. HKTTR. BOO.

    • 2.1 jayz

      I’m with you. I am so pissed after investing so much of my time only to watch this last episode of this sitcom(?!)
      end with two of the stars being killed off. WTF!

      “Director Kim Byung-wook”… I will be sure to remember this name to avoid ANY of his future endeavors. My two granddaughters and other family members all feel the same way.

  3. raemi

    a good sitcom goes down the drain..

  4. soomp

    what the – are you serious???
    i watch this show like 3 times a week on TV (it seems to air about a month behind), and i can’t imagine it ending like this. even as a half-committed fan, i’m really surprised and disappointed with the whole thing… tsk tsk

  5. lovin it

    yeah i HATED the ending. irrational ending!

  6. okdubu

    lol yeah all my friends that watch this were complaining about it. i’m also glad i never started it up xDD

    i still have yet to finish unstoppable highkick through. i have the last 50 episodes downloaded just sitting on my computer heh.

  7. CrimemasterGogo

    Irrational ending? Practically all k drama’s have irrational endings. This way the drama will remain as one of those that pople will remember so I can see why the PD did this.

  8. cocoa

    I have to say, after rushing home almost every day to catch this sitcom for months, I felt like the ending really did leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I’m going to be wary about any production the PD chooses to create in the future. I don’t even know if I can go back and watch previous episodes and enjoy them fully. Why bother calling it a sitcom?

  9. Biscuit

    Stick. To. The. Genre.

    For goodness sakes, this is a family sitcom! Not some melodrama. I want to smack them and say, “If you want your lead couples to die in a tragic car crash, save that idea for another drama!”

    GAHHHH.

    I hate it when I spend so much time invested in something, but when it ends so terribly, I feel like I wasted so much time. I mean, I enjoyed many episodes and had fun. Yet I also continued just to see what would happen in the end…. *sigh*

  10. 10 kimchiRadish

    Yeah..the ending sucked. What sucked major was that I expected a happy ending. I don’t understand why the doctor was crying like an idiot when he had a girlfriend to concentrate on. And although I was hoping that the doctor and sekyung would end up together, they both die in a car accident and that pissed me off. I was expecting some laughs and some tears but the ending just left me dumbfounded and cheated. Whatever.

  11. 11 kaedejun

    why though? what was the PD’s intent with doing all this? and also, shin se kyung agreed to this!? whyy!? that’s what i want to know…

    i haven’t seen this drama, and i can’t say whether this was a good or bad choice, but i wonder what the PD was thinking in doing this. did he feel that if he killed off the characters, no one could create their own ending for these two characters? that their stories would end the way he wanted it to? its a very interesting choice to make, especially so controversial for such a drama

  12. 12 janna

    I don’t know how tv show politics go, but it seems really crazy that this wasn’t what the writer intended. The PD bullied their own creative decision, why even have writers then.

    Suddenly, I thought about American sitcoms being ended by Korean PDs… So did Laura Winslow get with Steve Urkel or Stefan Urquelle? Oh neither, they all died in a horrible three alarm fire!

  13. 13 asianromance

    I feel really bad for those who have kept up with the series. this series is like 120+ episodes long. ouch! that hurts more than a 16-episode rom-com ending with the main characters’ deaths. it’s one thing to have a surprise ending that is different from your run of the mill, but it’s another thing to do it in a way that doesn’t go with the other 100+ episodes of the show. What was the PD thinking?! I suspect he may have a grudge against the writers and was perhaps biting his nose off to spite his face.

  14. 14 E

    It sounds like they didn’t want to be predictable but let’s call it as it was…a family sitcom is not a storyboard for unexpected deaths…that’s why they’re called sitcoms and they always have some big family picture at the end of them all [alive] and smiling…. -__-;; I been wanting to watch this but I guess that’s useless now.

  15. 15 mimi

    Now I know I won’t be watching this. If the genre is family sitcom, why make it a tragedy in the end??
    It’s a warped sense of thinking to think deaths are a good ending. People want stories of hope!

  16. 16 samsooki

    Not that I know what was going through the mind of the PD, or Shin Se-kyung, but death is often associated with hope, since it can be thought of as a chance for re-birth.

    In this case both Shin Se-kyung and Daniel Choi died together, and so you might consider that to be a chance for them to come back together and try again, but hopefully without all of the trials and tribulations that they had in this lifetime.

    I’m not saying its right, or that they should have done it, especially since I still don’t know what the reasoning was.

    I only saw about a dozen episodes of this drama and so I know next to nothing, but the episodes I did see did have a more than one flashback and memory montage sequence and Shin Se-kyung’s life was not easy at all. If the character wanted to have a chance at starting over with a clean slate with a new life, then this is a bittersweet end indeed for the series and the character.

    Death as an absolute ending is sort of a post-modern concept, and perhaps the PD is harkening back to a different point of view.

  17. 17 OTK

    They totally betrayed us (fans) as much as we were expecting a melodramatic finale…there was no thoughts of death! I get why Se Kyung died, but why Ji Hoon? Seriously……it was an overly surreal ending. I’d rather have everyone separated than dead.

    What’s even worse is the MESSY love relationships….ARGHHH…they make Jun Hyuk kiss Se Kyung only for Se Kyung to tell JI hoom that she loves him in the next episode and then die….arghhhh

    Jung Eum was honestly a star in this sitcom. So entertaining and comical!

    Nonetheless, it was a highly enjoyable show which I will recommend (to watch untill 125)

    Shi Se Kyung is pretty and really good at acting! She IS definately be my choice for the Gumiho! She actually has REAL traditional korean looks -which I think is perfect to represent a sexy Gumiho rather than a plastic one.

    EDIT: I Agree with you Samsooki! Its a chance for next life. SE KYUNG’s life was unbearably painful. Could you imagine? having to take care of your sister by running away + working as a made in a stranger’s house.

    • 17.1 emma

      Sometimes that is hiow messy relationships are in real life, and you can’t always have a set clear relationship. That’s how hard love can be, and I think that was the message with the messy relationship.
      However, i really liked this show!

  18. 18 This Is Me Posting

    I’m not even joking, this is seriously the coolest thing I’ve ever read.

    Now I want to watch this series! I’ve only joked about doing something similar when wishfully thinking. The fact that Kim Byung-wook actually had the balls to do it makes me totally respect this guy.

    The only way this could have been even better is if the last shot was the crash itself. Instant best series ever.

  19. 19 Jane

    I’m watching this drama on my TV. (It’s airing a little late….) and I have to say, I was a big fan. I loved it. I supported all the love and stuff happening. But just as Se Kyung reveals that she loved Ji Hoon, THEY DIE????? WHATS WITH THAT?! I can’t imagine how everyone reacted. Especiall Jung Eum and Jun Hyuck…… Jun Hyuck grew to love her, (badly) and Jung Eum and Ji Hoon’s death was just plain old good. I can’t believe I watched this from the start…

  20. 20 Vic

    i think it’s a very nice ending for a sitcom. a very nice one.

  21. 21 Eleven11

    @18 I just wrote a whole big thing about how I totally get what you’re saying. But my internets f***d up and it deleted it all. Grr. Its kind of like how people put all this effort into watching this series, and then got completely shat on at the end.

    I always kind of hope something like this will happen, not to the dramas I really love, but say BBF. Imagine that had ended in a massive explosion. Awesomesauce.

    The gist of what I originally was going to post was that I respect that the PD had the balls/ovaries to pull this kind of thing, but I’m sorry to anyone who was really invested in the drama, because thats a bit harsh.

    Its like saying “HEY HEY LOOK AT THESE CHARACTERS, LOVE THEM!! NOW WATCH THEM GO THROUGH ALL THIS STUFF, LOOK HOW THEY’VE GROWN, RIGHT? Now hah, whoops they’re dead because people die. XD”

  22. 22 haezi

    I, too, was disgusted with the ending. It definitely left a bad aftertaste. For the past two weeks leading up to this episode, they suddenly turned this warm, hilarious family sitcom to an angsty, depressing drama. Sure, there is tragedy in the world, but I agree with you, it is inappropriate as an ending for a family sitcom.

  23. 23 Elena

    Well, my life is too hard to enjoy a ‘their dead’ ending. It may have been great for some, but I won’t be watching this – ever.

    Thanks for the info – it’s much appreciated.

  24. 24 Issa

    *Sigh* If the audiences wanted to watch a sad ending they would have chosen any of the dozens of K dramas that ended with the main characters dying a tragic death. But this is a family sitcom for goodness’ sake. So why? What was the PD’s point? Because if he was trying to go for an unusual ending, this wasn’t it. The twist of the characters dying in the end has been done so many times. Granted, that was in K dramas but to put one in a family sitcom isn’t new or revolutionary, it’s just…stupid.

    Gah I feel sorry for those who watched all 126 episodes…they could just instead have watched a 16 episode K drama that would have had the same ending.

  25. 25 mimi

    The more I think about it, the more it makes sense why there are so many suicides in Korea. Not that this particular ending was one but dramas like this perpetuate the notion that death is good somehow (as Samsooki noted: rebirth).

    Yeah, death is good — like when Darth Maul died in Star Wars or Saruman in Lord of the Rings! But when people end their lives (or writers end characters’ lives) because they are out of hope, it’s morbid and depressing. Just ask the fans of this drama!

  26. 26 elayne

    MBC NEVER GET IT RIGHT IN THEIR DRAMAS.

  27. 27 linz

    wow it’s actually kind of funny how ridiculous that is!! it seems like so many writers assume that killing of characters at the end somehow makes the story profound and meaningful. too bad it only makes the story suck in this case

  28. 28 epyc

    Oh, no. This is why I have never watched Hong Gil Dong……….

  29. 29 dOOsi7

    I followed on and off, but watched 100+ episodes including last eps. And, It’s only HINTED that two main characters were killed in an accident on the way to airport. It’s never confirmed in the episode. Even “3 yrs later” scene, again, only suggests that Se-Skyung and Ji-Hoon are not with them… and do not mention of their deaths!

    In a way, ending made PERFECT sense. Upto that point, every character except Se-Kyung and Ji-Hoon in the show had some sort of closures. Therefore, last episode focused on those two… because 1) it finally gave Se-Kyung a chance to confess her love which has been questioned since she moved into the house (literally displayed thru 100+ episodes) 2) it explained what it really means to be HAPPY at that “moment,” which Se-Kyung wishes time would just stop to preserve that happiness, hence “happy ending.”

    Entire 126 episodes are not confined by one loooooong story line, but rather told by evolution of each characters. So, in that way, this was the perfect ending show could have gone out.

  30. 30 bambinos

    I haven’t watched this but reading it made me feel, “Is this What happened in Bali/Sang Doo Let’s Go to School again!?” It’s like I expect growth/love out of the dramas but they have to twist it into something unnecessary.
    Death isn’t always the best way to conclude a solid story…it can sometimes ruin the overall message. I just feel like, “wth did I just watch? What was the point…”

    They should have stuck to the writer’s ending. The writer was the one who came up with the storyline…the producer should live it out well.

  31. 31 Icarusfalls

    I was thinking of watching this.. now I won’t. I hate dramas that kill off characters and it doesn’t even seem like a necessity in this drama. Even more so as this is a FAMILY drama!!

  32. 32 Jae-min

    I heard about this and I almost started watching this show halfway through but, after hearing about the out-of-place ending, I’m glad I didn’t.

    There’s also a conspiracy theory floating around that Shin Se Kyung’s character was actually dead the whole time and she was a ghost from the start of the show (or something like that), kind of like the movie Sixth Sense. I don’t know that much about the details of the theory but it has something to do with the birthdate of Shin Se Kyung’s character, a painting and a ghost-like shadow. I thought it was interesting that a show that’s supposed to be a light hearted family sitcom spawned such a theory, with the help of its surprisingly imaginative fans of course. If the PD’s of the show hadn’t said anything about a “ghost twist” in the story by now, then it most likely must not be true. I guess the fans of the show are seeing something that’s not really there, literally and figuratively.

    I was hoping that you would touch on this theory in this article. Like I said before, I didn’t watch this show, so I can’t say with full confidence whether or not the theory holds a shred of merit. It does sound kind of interesting, to me, and it would be nice to know exactly how far fetched or close to the truth this theory is. I’m not about to watch an over 100 episode sitcom to find out on my own though.

  33. 33 deeta

    Oh tell me about me. I was majorly pissed when the ending aired.

    Like you said, this kind of ending in a sitcom means you are prepared to ruin all 125 preceding episodes. I’m still on the opinion that PD Kim is just trying to create sensation with this supposedly artistic ending.

  34. 34 retsnom_Adedekutsu

    WARNING. SPOILER ABOUT ANOTHER SITCOMI think the ending of Hello Franceska is better. Du-il died and it’s a sitcom but still, that could have been predicted by the viewers since there were a lot of signs. Wasn’t really disappointed when I watched its last episode. And additionally, I believe all the main characters were shown enough.END SPOILER

    I haven’t watched High Kick Through The Roof even for just a second. And so I’m wasn’t really betrayed. But if I were a fan, I’ll probably hate it so much.

  35. 35 SuperFanGirl

    Wow, reminds me of Hong Gil Dong and (a little bit of) Lee Jun Ki’s Iljimae. Oh well, KDramas are… weird.

    Just my two cents. In the Philippines, killing off a main character is tantamount to saying goodbye to your career as a writer. I remember when Song Hye Kyo’s Autumn in My Heart was aired (it’s the VERY FIRST Korean drama ever aired in my country), people were saying “What the heck is going on here? Brother and sister??? That is SO taboo!” but, they grew fond of the drama, anyway. HOWEVER, when the last episode was aired on TV, ALL of us were COMPLETELY SHOCKED! Did they just kill off the main characters? Oh man, Mr. Writer, whoever you are, NEVER set foot in Manila. Or else.

    (^^)

  36. 36 mie

    I followed the entire series from the first episode, and I actually liked the ending. Highly unconventional for a sitcom, but I think it was a lot more hopeful than people are making it out to be. I guess it’s because I don’t think death is the most tragic thing that could’ve happened. And there was particular meaning to their deaths, if that makes any sense.

  37. 37 jinijini

    Oh!!Nooooooooooooo!!! The ending was why? why? why? whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy? and then im cry T-T and cry, obviously it wasn´t the end i´ve been expected but was diferent T-T

  38. 38 Fatty

    Interesting that the decision was made two days before the finale aired. And that Shin Se Kyung was on board with the sad ending. I just blogged about the HKTTR final episode on Figgy & Fatty. Btw, I’m obsessed with the song played in the final scene – “Duet” by Rachael Yamagata (feat. Ray LaMontagne). If you haven’t already heard it, Javabeans, I think you’ll like it! :)

  39. 39 cookieinhotpink

    thanks for the warning. it would be such a letdown to watch something that ends so tragically wrong for a sitcom. had it been a drama or had the show carried a more serious tone, then the ending would be fitting. yes, please warn us of the future projects of this PD!

  40. 40 chowon

    @JB – what is the PD’s explanation for the ending? I still don’t get it.

  41. 41 pat

    Any drama should have some sort of integrity where there is a story arc and a resolution which derives from the story before . That’s why writing the whole thing ahead makes sense ;the actors know where they are headed emotionally and can act a real person, not a” Who am i today? ,”arbitrary ending piece of junk wrapped in the director’s ego or the fans’ preferences at the last minute. The fan trusts that
    his or her hours of investment in the show will have a meaningful payoff relating to the themes beforehand.

  42. 42 ktwngrl

    so… what happens to Hwang Jung-eum’s character? Does anyone know??

  43. 43 rr

    This show was way too hyped in Korea imo. Yeah there were funny moments, but overall, it was more like a 30min drama lite. Unstoppable High Kick (UHK) is/was much better and in a class of it’s own in terms of sitcoms from Korea. Frankly, I think it will be awhile until we’ll see another sitcom like UHK in Korea tvland.

  44. 44 asdfs

    It was a horrible ending. Horrible. It made me feel like I wasted all my time on watching that drama. Who is Shin Se Kyung to decide what happens at the end? Who does she think she is? BLEH.

  45. 45 Kgrl

    Wow. That IS surprising, though I can not say I was entirely surprised because of the yoyo-ing of the storyline. Skimmed through some eps before dropping the drama – not enough time nor patience for dailies. At least the actors benefited from the popularity boost.

  46. 46 pabo ceo reom

    Screw the PD! :(

  47. 47 chamber

    I do like a lot of K-dramas, but i think 80 percent have week endings. I know its hard to wrap a series up that would please everyone.

    While i don’t really like tragic ending, i see that they have their place in some dramas if used well. That said this show seemed to of used it just for shock purposes, and ended up making a totally irrational ending. Its a cop out to all the loyal fans, and the growth of all the characters was just tossed out the door.

    Yes, PD’s and writers should have creative licences, but when you are asking people to dedicate more than a hundred hours of their time, then I think they also have a responsibility to the viewers to at least try to rap things up rationally. This was never a a tragic love story or melodrama if they wanted to go that rout then they should of started it early on in the story, and not just pull it out from left field.

  48. 48 Susan Lee

    I was shocked when I saw the ending and thought it was soooo grossly inappropriate for a family show when children might be watching. I was so stunned I tried typing in “ending for High Kick” to find out reactions but I couldn’t find anything. I just happened to come across this article while searching about Three Brothers drama.

    I felt disappointed in myself for spending so much time watching it although I was always suspicious of the sometimes strange ways they developed the romances between the four characters. Shin Se Kyung ‘s character DIDN’T EVEN REALLY KNOW the doctor except for CLEANING UP AFTER HIM, hardly the material for a romance and a tragic ending! I nominate this ending the most terrible end for A FAMILY COMEDY SHOW!!!

  49. 49 Karen

    “On top of that, the ending focused solely on Se-kyung and Ji-hoon, making it a lopsided event that didn’t show enough of the rest of the cast.”

    I think this was the biggest problem with the ending: they could have made a sad ending and still have had a good, fitting close to the series.

    No, the main problem was that the PD’s growing obsession with Shin Se-kyung (both the character and the actress) made him lose sight of what the series was really about, so that the final few episodes felt completely disconnected from High Kick. Episode 126 felt like it had been pulled from a completely different miniseries, a silly, melodramatic love story featuring Sekyung and JiHoon with none of the subtlety, humor, and wit of HKTTR that made it such a ratings hit. The main purpose of the last episode seemed to be showcasing Shin Se-kyung and How Awesome And Wonderful And Tragic She Is, rather than trying to wrap up the series in a logical, satisfying way.

  50. 50 iWANTcereal

    Never watched the series, or even heard about it untill i read this post a couple of minutes ago. But, though i understand why everyone’s pissed, the ending does make a good point; that even if you have everything going well for you and your life is awesome, bad shit does happen unexpectedly to good ppl for no reason. I think having such an ending for a happy, comical, show demonstrates that point. Oh, n all d crap that i just spewed was definitely only a thought.

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