A hit drama series. A not-quite-hit spinoff drama series. An upcoming sequel drama series. A movie version for the original. A movie version to the spinoff. A sequel drama series for the spinoff series. Overseas broadcasts and OST concerts. Where’s the end for the spy-action IRIS franchise?
I find it pretty amazing (astounding, really) that all this has been set in motion based on the success of ONE drama series. And sure, while its ratings were strong (39.9% at its peak), there have been many a higher-rated drama that didn’t attempt one-tenth the amount of milking-for-all-it’s-worth that Taewon Entertainment is doing with IRIS. Especially considering that the second series was a noticeable disappointment, despite loads of hype and a bevy of A-list stars (ratings have settled in the lower teens).
Yet IRIS 2 is still going forward, with plans to broadcast in the fall. As there’s some question of which of its stars it’ll be able to bring back (i.e., Kim Tae-hee, Kim Seung-woo, and Kim So-yeon; leading man Lee Byung-heon has already declined to return — [SPOILER?] plus, you know, HE DIED.), producers are preparing one version with the returning cast, and another one without them, and plan to work out the schedule with the stars as plans become concrete.
Currently, Athena is scheduled for a Japanese broadcast on satellite television beginning in April. An Athena OST concert is also on the books, featuring its Hallyu-star singers, to take place in the summer. On top of that, Athena: The Movie is also in production, with plans in the works for an Athena 2.
Taewon Entertainment CEO Jung Tae-won admitted, “Because the first drama IRIS performed so well, it’s true that Athena’s [low] viewership ratings were confounding. It was painful for the cast and producers when the ratings kept dropping, but in any case we had to keep going through the end. Although it was difficult, we held on to hope and hung in there without altering our original plans, and I think viewers got that.”
He added, “I learned a lot through Athena. It’ll be a great help to me through IRIS 2 and Athena 2.”
IRIS 2 is an understandable move, since the sequel was planned back while the original was still going strong. But…an Athena 2? I can’t see justifying another series when you weigh its enormous pricetag against its middling ratings performance.
Personally, I don’t even think an IRIS 2 will do nearly as well as the original, since it was the novelty and effects that drew audiences more than the convoluted storyline. By the time a third — and fourth — series airs, one wonders if the shiny will have worn off. Then again, hot guys + guns + explosions…are not without a certain appeal.