Drama Casting & News
KBS tries to recreate Answer Me’s success in new variety drama
by | December 10, 2012 | 40 Comments

I know what y’all are thinking: What the heck is a “variety drama”?

To be honest I’m not sure I understand it either, but that could be because it’s one of those terms people started using ’cause it sounded good, not because it made sense. And dramaland sure understands that concept, doesn’t it?

Thanks to the unexpected success of tvN’s Answer Me, 1997 earlier this year, PDs elsewhere are looking to replicate that with projects of their own. No surprise there, since people will be chasing success with imitators for the rest of time. What does stand out as being unusual is that it’s not drama PDs who’re planning the next such show, but variety PDs.

One of Answer Me, 1997′s notable achievements (aside from the whole pop-culture phenom thing, and the breaking ratings records thing) is that it crossed that line keeping variety producers on one side of the biz and drama writers on the other. It was directed (well, I might add) by a former PD of weekend mainstay 1N2D and another with Gag Concert credits. It was written (very well) by a team of writers formerly with 1N2D. Prior to Answer Me, it seemed odd — even unheard of — for variety producers to cross over into scripted programming, much less do it with such aplomb. Even now I’m surprised at just how their experience didn’t seem to play a factor in the show.

Currently KBS is in early planning stages to slot a “variety drama” as a replacement for Love and War 2, the Couples Clinic show on Friday nights. They’d once discussed putting in the Drama Special anthology series there, but those talks faded after Love and War 2 recently got extended for another 20 episodes, and now the variety-drama is the likely successor.

So the variety-drama term really seems to just mean drama, made by people who formerly worked in variety. O…kay. Guess that doesn’t quite have the same ring, though. But I’m all for crossing over and breaking down boundaries, so kudos for that. And while this new program won’t be competing directly against the Answer Me sequel, that’ll be the show to catch for all the imitators who I’m sure will be cropping up on the horizon. The sequel will try to recapture the same lightning in a bottle with 1994 as its backdrop, and I’ll be crossing my fingers for it to do just that.

Via TV Report

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40 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Dewo

    well, I don’t think that I get the idea about what is a variety drama

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  2. Orion

    I love breaking boundaries and all, but I hope this doesn’t mean they’re only making a new category up just to let idols crawl into TV stronger. I haven’t seen the show and don’t know how good it was or how the acting was, but the last thing I want is to see badly acted and idol-ridden works being the norm. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a lot of idols have starring roles in ‘Answer Me 1997′, right?

    We have enough of those already and I’m sure idols can sing well and “act” well in MVs, but that does not make them actors and it’s not something I care to see devour money, time and works which could give real actors jobs and quality entertainment to us.

    As long as it’s just the form of production on which the name is based and not the actual format, we’re good. As with anything new, let’s see how it goes and we can fear or rejoice when we know more.

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    • 2.1 Ai

      I think the problem most people have with idols in dramas is that they’re cast in major projects with sub-par acting skills and little to no onscreen experience. As a result professional actors with solid skills and experience are losing out on major roles that normally would have gone to them.

      In the case of “Reply 1997″ the music stars chosen did an amazing job. The characters were memorable and received a lot of love from the viewers. A-Pink’s Eunji in particular received a lot praise from the industry for her work in the drama which was her very first role. IMO she’s a natural born actress; actor-dol is not a term she should be slapped with.

      I honestly don’t have a problem with idols in a drama if they’re solid actors, I’ll take an idol that knows what they’re doing over a professional actor who can’t act. But I’ll admit it would be a bit of a distraction to see a show overrun with idols even if they’re skilled actors unless it’s a teen drama like “Boys Over Flowers” or “You’re Beautiful”. I really like Lee Joon as an actor and couldn’t wait to see him act again after “Ninja Assassin”, but the thought of IRIS 2 being cast with a total of 3 idols (no matter how skilled they are) had me cringing. This is IRIS for goodness sakes. Unless the show is taking place in the KPop world it not going to be easy suspending reality.

      I think the industry is using the term “variety-drama” because it’s used to certain segments of the industry staying in their own lane. It’s unfortunate that the drama has to be given the term “variety drama”. “Reply 1997″ honestly is one of the best K-Dramas I’ve seen so far. It was nice to see realistic characters for a change. If the variety show writers and producers know what they’re doing, I welcome more of them entering into the drama world if it leads to more original well written dramas. I often find that comedians taking on dramatic roles do a much better job than dramatic actors taking on comedic roles. So maybe there’s something to the variety world taking on dramaland.

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      • 2.1.1 Orion

        Yep, as long as idols cast are good and this isn’t an excuse to bring talentless idols in, I’m good. As for ‘IRIS’, the first one had TOP wearing guyliner and tight-fitting clothes in missions, for crying out loud. Where agility and fighting ability come first. But no, they had the poor guy in idol-gear. So, I am not surprised to see more of them now. At least they’re not wearing flamboyant clothes though, so that’s an improvement. :P

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        • 2.1.1.1 Ai

          The first IRIS had T.O.P but it he was the only well know idol in the drama with a small role. I can deal with one idol in a minor role. 3 is overkill.

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          • 2.1.1.1.1 Gabby

            And even then, he wasn’t as impressive as I expected him to be, tbh.

            The role seemed practically made for him, so he should of carried it off with panache, but he was very one-note and kinda dull to me. Just my opinion, lol.

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      • 2.1.2 pogo

        that is so true, and even then, the only time shows actually work when there are idols in the cast is when said idols are actually decent (which Lee Hong-ki was, in You’re Beautiful, even if I can’t quite say the same for Jung Yong-hwa all the way through.Or L in Shut Up Flower Boy Band). Otherwise, it’s just better to get actors who can sing to play your leads.

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        • 2.1.2.1 Orion

          Oh man. Agreed. Lee Hong Ki did very well there. There are quite a few idols/singers who are good enough or even very good. But many many many who are plain bad too. Jung Yong Hwa… I get shivers from the fail… Lovely voice, talented in music, nice band, he looks like a cute guy, but he can’t act.

          Or Kim Hyun Joong. I like what the guy shows as his public persona, for some reason, but he can’t act. He simply can’t, bless him. XD

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        • 2.1.2.2 Ai

          LOL, Hong-ki doesn’t really count because he debuted as a child actor with years of experience before debuting in FT Island and getting his role in “You’re Beautiful”. He’s not an actor-dol; he’s an actor. Big fan of Yonghwa and really hoping that FNC is working overtime developing his acting skills because they need a lot of work. He got lead roles in eye candy dramas without any acting experience so I think FNC really needs to make sure his skills are solid before he takes on another drama even if it’s an eye candy drama. He has a lot of presence as a singer who has sex appeal and is charming and fun. If he could couple all that with really solid acting skills, I think he could be a really good and versatile lead male actor. But the skills really need to come first.

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    • 2.2 Lilly

      crawling idols and all idol-ridden
      ewww
      sounds like needs spray can of idol away or something

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    • 2.3 ladida

      I wonder how idols feel about actors singing on soundtracks.

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      • 2.3.1 Orion

        If an actor has a nice voice which helps fans stay immersed and goes well with their character or if it’s their character’s song, I don’t see a problem with it. It’s a soundtrack, it’s not done by any specific group neither should anyone feel obligated to have idols sing in it, if the work will not profit in quality from it. The point for an ost is for it to accompany the show well and give more character to the moments. An ost does not take music-making away from idols (who make music in their own groups). Already famous idols taking roles of people who are good, but struggling to get ahead, that is the problem.

        The point of talentless (in acting) idols cast as non-singing characters is only to get fangirls screaming by their sheer presence, not performance. If an actor who can barely sing was forced onto an idol group and asked to sing a song for the group’s next album just to get the fangirls of actors going and even though other singers could do that, yes, I’d complain as well. That is when we’d have a similar situation, not with osts.

        Idols who can act? Love em and they do exist. Idols cast in characters like Hyun Min, in ‘The King of Dramas’, where their very nature is important for the role and they can act ok enough to be watchable? I love that too. Do I want to see someone like Jung Yong Hwa who can barely emote his face cast in a second lead (and later lead) role just because the character sings? No. It’s not a musical or a parody and the character needs someone who can act when there’s actual character development and emotions at play.

        As for our topic, I don’t know the series and I do hope this means talented writers and producers will get to make awesome shows, but given the greediness of the Korean drama industry, I think anyone would worry it’s the “moneymaker” of such shows A.K.A the idols they might be trying to make a standard. I hope I’m wrong, I’m worried I’m not. We’ll know soon enough.

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      • 2.3.2 Ai

        Actors trying to sing with no singing skills is just as bad. But unfortunately there are goo gobs of idols who can’t sing, so what can they really say.

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      • 2.3.3 Rachel

        Interesting question. Maybe the same way actors feel about idols acting?

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      • 2.3.4 Jumbalaya

        actually a lot of kpop stars/idols act. so I guess in a lot of cases they’re not affected…

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  3. Daisy

    I don’t get how they can get create a variety show on that…

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    • 3.1 monch

      They are not creatting a variety show, the term variety attached to the word drama is just beacause the team of the drama production will be people with experiencie in the variety world rather than the drama world. But it’s gonna be a drama :) or that’s what i understood.

      I’m sorry for my bad english jejejeje

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  4. ck1Oz

    I still don’t understand.But am impressed to read about the fact that Reply Me 1997 had such writers and directors.I absolutely love the show.Is that why the one liners there had such oomph?You know?Their scenes and other longer ones all ended with such great punchlines .

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    • 4.1 rynea

      It’s my first time reading about it, too, coz I didn’t really read Answer Me 1997′s pre-production news. I love that drama so much that I think I’ll start watching 1n2d just to worship those writers and PDs.

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      • 4.1.1 Julia

        Your time will not be wasted on 1N2Ds I promise! It’s my favorite variety show. It always makes me smile even if I’m feeling down. The first season is better than the second, but the second is still fun.

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        • 4.1.1.1 rynea

          I’m watching Running Man so I always feel like I’m betraying the show or something if I watch 1n2d. But Running Man seems to be evolving into a guest-oriented show. I still love it, anyway, but I think I’ll watch 1n2d just to see how well they do. I think I’ll watch it from the beginning, coz you and many other fans seem to love the first season.

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  5. rynea

    Those PDs and writers are geniuses, even if the last episodes took forever. From what variety show/s will the producers and writers arise? Happy Together and Invincible Youth are broadcasted in KBS2, right, which is part of KBS. Well, regardless, Answer Me 1997 is a pretty tough show to follow, and there will be gazillions of comparisons everywhere.

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  6. love1403

    The only reason Answer Me 1997 pulled it off was thanks to good writing and directing, it´s because of 1n2d season 1 writers and PDs. They´re the ace of the entertainment industry, and I was sad to see them go from MBC but I guess it´s for the better. They´re more free to experience and do projects as they like in cable.

    But the point is without good writers, PDs and creative ideas. There will be no 2nd Answer Me 1997. That´s what set the drama apart form the others.

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    • 6.1 love1403

      I meant KBS, not MBC. Type *

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  7. Sabah

    I remember a stand up comedian said that the best improvisationalists are home shopping channel hosts. They can ad-lib and create skits within the blink of your eye AND make it believable, relatively so.

    In the same vein, I don’t think it is unreasonable to understand how variety PDs can create innovative and engaging dramas. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that variety is scripted (:P) but that to take a days worth of shooting people playing games, earning punishments and banter between personae and turn it into comedic gold takes skills of an alchemist. You need precision, wit and an ability to see things inside out.

    I think it’s actually good that a sub-genre of ‘production’ is being created to see if any more gold can be gleaned. Of course that isn’t to say that I would pay money to see Home shopping hosts do stand-up BUT I am all for opening up opportunities and even maybe inspiring people to think beyond their expectations and experience.

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  8. Sajen

    aren’t all variety shows “variety dramas” already?

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  9. Julia

    I had no idea that people from 1N2D season 1 worked on Reply 1997. It allllll makes sense now though. I am a huge 1N2D fan, and I loved Reply 1997. I’m looking forward to the sequel and this new variety-drama. I hope they can pull off something great again!

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  10. 10 Tenshii

    Is it like Banjun Drama?

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  11. 11 cg

    Are variety shows different from variety dramas ??? I’m confused………

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  12. 12 Mika~

    Isn’t it kind of sad when variety show scriptwriters create a better drama than half of the dramas created by drama-focused scriptwriters? It also makes me seriously reconsider how much variety shows are scripted… I mean, if the variety show scriptwriters are so good at creating a heartfelt drama, isn’t it possible that they’re also the ones who created the heartfelt, sentimental feelings between variety show cast members?

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    • 12.1 Ai

      Isn’t it though. But the writing on some of these variety shows are pure genius. There’s an episode of “Idol Army” with 2PM and SHINee that is just classic (especially the Minho-Nichkhun cut). I think the use of the 1N2D writers is exactly why the characters in “Reply 1997″ are such a breath of fresh air. Regular K-Dramas have become very stale and formulaic with cliched story lines and characters. It was nice to finally see realistic characters in a drama. New blood is probably exactly what the industry needs right now. But keep in mind “Reply 1997″ is a tvN drama. The regular networks might not let these variety writers be as bold and as a result those networks may never be able to duplicate the level of success “Reply 1997″ had.

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  13. 13 mary

    I wonder what Anthony thinks about variety dramas…

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  14. 14 Jinsight

    Ah – a variety PD? So that explains all the sheep noises.

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  15. 15 flour

    i really am not excited about both similar drama/sequel for answer me. i think it’s a unique unexpected drama close to heart, the people exploited the fame enough when they made ep 15 and 16, making a sequel, im afraid, will just take advantage of the fame from first season and is not as honest and pure as the first 12 episodes of answer me.

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  16. 16 Fab

    Reality show is the first thing that came to my mind. I don’t follow any variety shows, but this might be the one to start with.

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  17. 17 Lilian

    Oh…I didn’t know that answer 1997 had such different writers. I just thought that they were awesome in fleshing out the main characters and making it so easy to empathise with them.

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  18. 18 goldeng

    Well i was kinda expectingthis to happen.. Just like it happene with time traveldramas.. Well ithey do it right it has potential!

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    • 18.1 Jumbalaya

      ohmygoodness… the time travel rage. How many time travel dramas did we have this year anyways? It’s funny to watch fads go in and out in dramaland. (I suppose it’s a fad. I think the popularity of time travel dramas will go down.)

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  19. 19 Jumbalaya

    My first thought: What

    Second thought: Still don’t get what a variety drama is

    Final thoughts: I’m uneasy at the prospect of a sequel to this drama. 1994? I don’t think a sequel would meet the same success as 1997 did, only because 1997 is a time we can relate to and it’s funny with all the emerging technology. Along with that, I still don’t understand how this new genre, or supposedly combined genre, could stem off from 1997. I agree that Answer Me is a very unique drama, but I don’t understand the concept of a variety drama. Other than the fact it’s a drama written by variety people…

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    • 19.1 Ai

      I don’t think it’s a concept it’s more like a label. Just like idols who are actors are labeled “actor-dols”, when variety show writers do a drama their dramas are labelled “variety-dramas”. It’s like they’re being put in a different category than writers who specialize in writing dramas.

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