Did Rain steal Lee Min-ho’s thunder?
It was big news when Lee Min-ho was cast as a womanizing PI in the kdrama adaptation of the famous manga and anime series City Hunter, which was hugely popular in the 1980s. So what has the production team suddenly worried?
Apparently, it’s the similarity of City Hunter’s distinctive Ryo Saeba character to Rain‘s lead character in currently airing drama Runaway Plan B, as well as the storylines of the two projects. When Runaway premiered, a lot of viewers noted the familiarity of Rain’s Ji-woo to the well-known City Hunter hero, with his detective occupation, incorrigible flirting with pretty women, and chic urban style.
The similarity itself isn’t the only issue, though; what makes things stickier is that Runaway, which got off to such a strong ratings start, has nearly halved its audience at the midway point. If it had continued to be a hit, perhaps there’d be less worry — just as one vampire/zombie hit is sure to spawn dozens of imitators — but with the first one faring poorly, there’s concern that the second would meet a similar fate.
There have even been rumors that the production is reconsidering its direction with City Hunter, and is waiting things out before making a final decision. Currently, the series is being planned for an early 2011 broadcast on SBS.
It’s an interesting dilemma. On one hand, there are tons of dramas out there with similar topics that get produced all the time, and sometimes it’s just a matter of certain trends emerging at once. For a while we had a spate of legal and medical dramas, which have since faded. Then you had 2009 as the year of the (failed) sports drama, focusing on everything from boxing to soccer to golf to figure skating. Heck, there were even two versions of Iljimae.
On the other hand, you can see where there is concern that the first drama will steal the thunder from all those that follow — remember Cinderella Man‘s lawsuit with Fashion King, or Style versus Magazine Allo? And even though MBC’s Return of Iljimae was vastly superior to SBS’s Iljimae in writing, directing, and acting, SBS purposely hurried their production in order to scoop MBC, aired first, and brought in the bigger ratings. (They also had the bigger star — Lee Jun-ki — which certainly helped.)
So, you can see the reason for concern. Lee Min-ho was a great “get” for this role despite his youth (at 23, he really is too young to play Ryo, imo), but now there’s a likelihood that everything he does would be compared to Rain’s performance — either he’d be called a copycat, or fall short of the comparison.
Still, Lee is taking an optimistic line, and on October 26 a rep from his management stated, “The character Kang Jin that Lee Min-ho will be playing is different from the original character in a number of aspects, and the script has not yet come out. I think you’ll find that Kang Jin is a fresher and more three-dimensional character than expected. These days, Lee Min-ho is busy preparing to express that character. Please don’t worry and look forward to Lee’s Kang Jin.”
As for me? I’ll be watching both!