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Serialized stories and the viewer voice

The Korean drama industry, despite being very much a modern entertainment behemoth, has a lot in common with an old way telling and delivering stories: through installments. Back in Victorian England, authors were publishing now-classic novels like Great Expectations through monthly or weekly segments in periodicals.

While Victorian novels and K-dramas are worlds apart and completely different mediums, there are some very interesting parallels between the two. The first parallel is how they work by telling stories in pieces, and the second is how they excite interaction with their audiences.

Stories that were published in monthly or weekly installments were known as serials. This method of publishing novels became quite popular in 19th century England, where rather than publish a novel as a final and finished product, authors found a lot of success publishing their stories in installments. There are a whole host of reasons why this worked, from the technical to the economical, but how does it relate to K-dramas?

While serialized novels have fallen out of vogue, in a sense, television has taken the place of this sort of storytelling and K-dramas are one of the best incarnations. While much television programming works on stand-alone episodes, K-dramas are built on the idea of the continuing story. Characters are introduced, plots are set in motion, and hold onto your hat! The next eight to ten weeks of your life will be very much like the avid readers of Victorian England, anxiously awaiting the latest copy of their magazine to hit the presses (literally).

Having a story delivered to you as it’s being created offers a certain kind of thrill. Rather than have an entire novel in your lap, the plot unfolds over weeks at a time; it sets up such an interesting relationship between the story and the viewer/reader. As much as I avoid live K-drama watches and prefer marathoning through stories that have been fully aired and vouched for, there’s something about being involved with a drama “live” as it airs in Korea that adds an extra dimension to the experience.

When you’re engaged with a story that’s being created on the go, it makes you feel like an active participant. It also makes the story come to life even more than if you were experiencing a story on your own timeframe. Think of that week-long stretch that lays in front of you after you’ve caught up on episodes and have to wait for next week’s installment: the story is alive all that time, suspended in your thoughts. In other words, you might give up the ability to control the pace at which you will digest the story, but what you get in return is the pleasure of experiencing a living and breathing story.

Being part of the audience of a live story changes how you relate to it, and it also changes how you relate to other readers/viewers. I would argue it builds even greater camaraderie and community. And the proof is in the pudding: all week long Beanies comment and interact, sharing thoughts, insights, questions, and more, as they wait for the story to continue.

Surely a similar dynamic was going on during the popularity of serialized novels in 19th century England, since, as we’ll see, public chatter and reactions to each installment wound up having a huge effect on how the stories concluded.

But first, there’s a third relationship created by a story that’s being told on the go, and that’s the relationship between the audience and the creator. This is where it gets really interesting. In dramaland, whether you see the creator of the story as the screenwriter, the actors, the production team, the network, or a collection of all of these — each player is, to some extent, affected by the reaction of the audience.

In Victorian England, the authors of serialized novels were equally reactive. Whether they liked it or not, the reaction of the audience (and sometimes critical reception) shaped the story that was to come. A perfect example of this is with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about Sherlock Holmes. This collection of popular mystery stories famously ended with Sherlock’s defeat by his arch nemesis. Sherlock falls from a cliff, plummets to his death, and that was supposed to conclude Conan Doyle’s stories of Sherlock Holmes.

However, public outcry after the death of this beloved hero was deafening — to the tune of 20,000 magazine subscription cancellations. Eventually, Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock back to life, deciding that his clifftop death had been faked by Sherlock to befuddle his enemy.

The debacle of Sherlock Holmes’ death and his subsequent return is a perfect analogy for the situation often created by the K-drama live-shoot system. Whether we’re talking about magazine subscription cancellations, or severe drops in ratings, the audience of a serialized story has a lot of impact on how it plays out.

This builds an interesting relationship between the creator seeking to tell a story according to their vision, and the audience seeking to be entertained by a story according to theirs. There’s a bit of push and pull in this relationship that makes it a fascinating dynamic.

On the other hand, it could be seen as a limitation for the creator, since they are influenced by the audience’s reaction to the point of losing some creative say in what happens. For instance, Conan Doyle actively wanted to kill off Sherlock Holmes and move on to a new chapter in his literary career. The voice of his readers, though (and maybe his editors), influenced — you might say even dictated — what he had planned for his own creation.

How are K-dramas similar in the way they listen to, and respond to, the voice of the viewer? The live-shoot system is infamous at this point — it often pushes cast and crew to the brink, and sometimes, the quality of the drama is sacrificed for the speed at which it’s produced and rushed on air.

I’m not here to defend this method of creating a drama, and I definitely think it needs a fair bit of regulation to ensure the health and safety of the cast and crew. That being said, the live-shoot system creates an interesting storytelling scenario that’s awfully similar to what it was like for authors of serialized novels over a century ago.

Whether you call it responsive, reactive, or just plain dangerous, the live-shoot system undoubtedly pays attention to the voice of its viewership. The commercial success of a drama depends a whole lot on ratings and K-drama productions go through hell and high water in order to build viewer interest, and then sustain it (or even better, grow it). The structure of a live-shoot drama is valuable to the production in that while creating, they can keep their finger on the pulse of the audience.

Live-shoot K-dramas are also often forced to be responsive to mid-drama controversy and scandals — much more so than if the drama was already produced. One major issue for live-shoot dramas has long been issues around the drama’s cast.

Han Ye-seul famously shook up the production and airing schedule of Myung-wol the Spy in 2011 when she refused to show up for filming. The recent melodrama Time lost its star Kim Jung-hyun mid-drama due to illness and exhaustion, and 2016 drama Fantastic faced a setback when second lead Ji-soo had a sudden health crisis. Both of these dramas were forced to alter their storylines on the fly to accommodate these real-life issues.

Similarly, 2018 drama Return booted its lead actress Go Hyun-jung mid-show due to some behind-the-scenes quarrels, and the upcoming drama Reach of Sincerity recently had to do a last-minute casting switch when their second lead Shin Dong-wook found himself in the midst of a personal scandal.

These are just a few examples of how the live-shoot system necessitates a production team to be reactive to scandals and any behind-the-scenes drama. But beyond that, it also causes the production to be responsive to criticisms around the story too.

A drama like 2018’s My Ajusshi is a prime example. It faced immediate criticism even before airing due to the 20-year age gap between stars IU and Lee Sun-kyun.

The production went to great lengths to convince the public that the story was not a romance, and The Korea Herald reported that in order to assuage viewer criticism, the production team chose to self-censor some of its content. It was reported that though producer Kim Won-suk was “not fully content with the moves,” they self-censored and kept with the original message of the drama as best as they could.

Another example of a drama that changed directions due to viewer reaction was 2017’s Introverted Boss. Coming from the team that created hit dramas like Marriage, Not Dating and Oh Hae-young Again, expectations were high — but the drama did not deliver according to viewer expectations. The drama premiered with ratings at just over 3% and the numbers nearly halved the following week.

Response to the first four episodes was so underwhelming (and criticism so loud) that the production team actually pressed pause on the drama, listened to the audience’s reaction, and re-tooled the script — and the direction and tone of the drama moving forward. While Introverted Boss never made sizable gains in ratings, it could be said that the story become stronger and more enjoyable because of their open reassessment.

These dramas are prime examples of the high-risk/high-reward production environment created by the live-shoot system. They also exemplify the idea of a creator adapting the story to the audience’s pleasure. Whether it’s a tweak to the script, a total rewrite, or — as with Sherlock Holmes, bringing a beloved character back to life, there’s no question the voice of the viewer has a lot of power over how a serialized story plays out.

Is the power of the viewer voice a good or bad thing for a serialized story? Depending on how you look at it, it could be either, or maybe even a little of both. In one sense it can make the drama look weak and reactive, prioritizing commercial success over storytelling integrity. But if you look at it another way, it could be seen as creating a meaningful relationship between the story and its audience.

As we’ve seen, whether it’s in Victorian England or present-day South Korea, a story told in serial installments creates lots of interesting storytelling dynamics. While it has its downsides, a serialized story also has the power to take a static creation and turn it into something that is living and breathing. A serialized story creates an ongoing dialogue between the writer, the audience — and the story itself.

 
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Thank you @missvictrix for an informative article! They are apt comparisons!

I do have reservations, though, about ceding any creative control over to the audience. I have this vision of Jane Austen's publisher coming back to her with "but 60% of your target readers hate Darcy, we're ditching him and moving Wickham into the lead."

In an ideal world the artist's vision would be respected, as its not a collaboration!

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I have this vision of Jane Austen's publisher coming back to her with "but 60% of your target readers hate Darcy, we're ditching him and moving Wickham into the lead."

Oh! The HORROR!!!

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@mayhemf I know, right??!

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"Wickham is just so much more interesting. They say that Darcy is boring and that she has much more chemistry with the second male lead. Sure he's slept with her sister but love is forgiveness!"

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LMAO!!!!! "but love is forgiveness!" HILARIOUS

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Shades of "Love means never having to say you're sorry" from that literary classic wannabe, Love Story 🤦🏻‍♀️

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I've been having fun visualizing Park Bo gum delivering that line...... I'd believe him any day

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Don't ever watch Lost in Austen then...(really don't. It's so bad).

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@crysta I love all renditions of P&P including Clueless, Austenland, Bride and Prejudice, etc!...you may be horrified to know my xmas gift this year was an I ❤Darcy bag.

Riffs (and fanfiction) on the original work are fantastic. I'm a purist when it comes to allowing an artist to convey his vision.

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Oh, fantastic! I love all the versions as well.

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I love that that's the example you picked 🤣🤣🤣

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That would of been horrible. One romance I think it worked for is My Best Friend's Wedding. If I remember correctly test audiences kind of determined who she ended up with.

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@bcampbell1662 I totally get this. We are still massively salty over Jo not ending up with Laurie (Little Women). However, you can't argue with RL.

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I'm even more salty over the fact that Laurie ended up with Amy..😔
* Sorry, couldn't help it over here, hehe. You brought up an old wound!*

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I'm with you on this! Even more salt in the wound!

Going back to the article, crowd-pleasing choices don't guarantee artistic works "with legs". The romantic choices in Little Women are not popular, but memorable😎

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However, I feel like this works both ways. Unlike the relationship between a novel and the novelist, MANY things depend on the fact whether a drama is crap or good. Actors and crew need to be paid despite the drama is a success or not. Plus, if it's a crap, actors', PDs', company's, Broadcasting station's....names will get stained. It's not like the writer can experiment with her script to great lengths and "try to be better" with the next script, because unlike the novel which would just stay as a paperback, the script would get made to a highly money consuming drama. So you might as well try to make it a good drama that's worth everybody's effort and the viewer's time. If you need help, even if its from the audience, you might as well lend an ear.
BUT OF COURSE, the writer should have the sense to know where to draw the line in order to not let the story get out of her control to viewers'. I didn't see Introverted Boss, but it's explained that the drama benefited from listening to other voices and barely escaped from being an utter waste of everything. LORD knows how much Moon lovers and Alhambra could have benefited if they were live-produced with viewer interference instead just being a waste of their MASSIVE resources.
And I wish if the Queen Seondeok writer DIDN'T listen to the audience and continued with how she originally planned the story. It looks like good Korean scriptwriters don't have enough confidence and listen too much to the others, while the ones who obviously could use some outside help are overconfident(or something. If that last word is too strong, choose your pick😛).
It's a pity, actually. Don't you think the same?

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@peony

Kim Young-hyun is known for changing her scripts to please the viewers ever since her first sageuk DAE JANG GEUM.
Having Lee Young Ae in the drama probably kept the fan service to a minimum. There was a kiss written in but she thought that it wouldn't be appropriate so they didn't do it.
The ending was changed because fans demanded a happy ending.
IIRC Ji Jin-hee's character was supposed to die.

I enjoyed BALLAD OF SEODONG the most but disappointed with QSD.
I enjoyed the last half of SFD. I thought it was much better than QSD.

Kim knows how to cast her male leads and supporting actors well. I haven't been disappointed with any of them and I do thank her for bringing Han Suk-kyu to dramaland in TREE WITH DEEP ROOT.

I think ASADAL will suit her style more and I'm looking forward to it.

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@kiara
*Sputters in shock*
You dropped QUITE a few bombs on me there.
1. MIn Jun-ho was supposed to die? OH MY GOD. Seriously? Now there, I'm glad that she listened to the viewers. If Jun-ho too died on Jang-geum, that might be a stretch on the already unbelievable; "Literally everything happens to Jang-geum! How's that even possible?!?" thing.
2. I knew about the kiss, tho. Seems like despite being a good writer she caves too much into pleasing viewers. It's a good thing that Lee Young-ae reined her in. Sometimes, no-kiss lovestories turn out to be the best and most deep ones in the dramaland.
3. I haven't watched it, but I was under the impression BoS was the most unimpressive work of that PD? Is it not? Was it good?
On the other hand, I LUURVED QSD ending and thought it was so very fitting for the underdog but silently epic Queen to sacrifice her everything and anything for greater good. It hit me hard. It made me think Empress Ki's characters' choices look really lame and irresponsible in comparison. Plus it added her character some gravitas against the already unbeatable character of Mishil.
What I didn't like was the too much focus on Bidam, and wanted to know whether there was a possibility for the ending to be EVEN more satisfying and NOT in a tearjerking way, if the writer worked according to the original script.
I WANTED to, after having heard all the ravings about it, but failed to love SFD while reading the recaps. It was too...ugh, "dry"(?) for my taste? Too much politics and conspiracies and...yeah I know it's about abolishing an old system and making a new one so it's to be expected, but still.. I didn't find the fighting to be too much tho, LOL. Those were some beautiful sequences. But some horizontal "flying" scenes were unbelievable, even though they tried to explain it as a very special martial arts technique. Yeah, right. The theory about being so fast to the point there will be no blood on the blade was more believable and cool, at least to me.
4. Han Suk-kyu returned to the dramaland through DWRT? Woah. He really should've done more dramas. He's such a treat to watch!
5. I'm trying to trample my expectations down for ASADAL until Crowned Clown ends. It looks like all the recent dramas I've been wanting to live-watch with high hopes let me down. Recent examples are Mama fairy and Alhambra. I'm hoping against hopes for CROWNED CLOWN to be able to break the cycle.

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@peony (btw, my favorite flower!) I rabidly loved BTiMFL. One of the most genuine scenes was where poor Ji-ho watched her script get butchered in the name of making it more interesting. I am sure that happens more than we realize.

Of course there are degrees of correction (editors, etc.) and minor tweaking is on a different level than plot change. There's a well known quote, "A camel is a horse designed by committee"

We end up watching too many camels.....

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Happy that you love peonies! I, on the other hand, haven't even seen a peony in RL. Hehe.
That camel quote is great! Thank you. I'm gonna write it down.
Yes you're right. I didn't think about that. If the well-known and independent writers too cave into viewer demands, there's no telling how much the novice writers are forced to do it against their will, against logic and merely for the sake of fanservice and not for a better plot.
Something's need to be changed. One has to draw a line somewhere or otherwise everything go down the drain with time.
I get your point.

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Test audiences also changed Pretty in Pink. Still bitter about that one. Team Ducky here.

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It (team ducky) makes sense, too. Just like the choice of Min ho would have been in APAD.

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I was a Ye-Liner, but I did not like how Min-ho's character and development was thrown under the bus (or the scooter of doom if you will). What I am glad about though is that Bo-young maintained her autonomy and agency. Unlike the female leads in WWSK and Pasta, she did not sacrifice her goals and/or independence for the sake of a relationship with her boyfriend/boss/mentor.

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I didnt know that. Poor Ducky.

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*This Gen-Xer pops head out of snow*

Did someone say Ducky? 😉

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#Duckyfansunite #dumpBlane

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Oh please No! 😂

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*sad flashbacks of Cheese In The Trap* D:

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I still think that Dostoyevsky's Idiot was one of the first Korean makjangs 😁😁😁

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The best source material! ;)

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Even seeing pictures of our Ji-an makes me smile.

I remember the out cry before it had started and wondering why people couldn't wait and just see what the story was going to be and then discuss. I'm so curious as to what they sponsored.

I'm not sure how much is owed to the fans but I think in some cases the trust has to go both ways. I didnt keep up with How I Met Your Mother, but I know a lot of fans felt betrayed by the ending, especially after being loyal viewers for so long.
Not sure if it happens often in kdramas but with American shows I'm sure many of us have been burned by an unexpected cancellation or change in creative team in the last season. Just give the loyal viewers a good send off, please.

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Sponsored = censored 🤷‍♀️

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I didn't realise they re-tooled some of My Ahjussi. I thought it worked specifically because it wasn't a romance. And people who want romance will read it into the script anyway, as the show demonstrated.

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I love it and think it's perfect, but I want to see the other version.

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God I don't. I wouldn't have lasted through the first half of that version.

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Agree. I'm just curious. And it looks the above reads like even in that version they were not thinking they were filming a romance. This is when I wish k dramas provided episode commentary, lol.

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I completely agree. My Ajusshi was perfect to me because it WASN'T a romance, at least, not in the traditional sense. I think If I'd seen IU and Lee Sun-Hyun making out, it would've bothered me. So I'm glad it was all about the love and less about the LOOOOVE. :)

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I honestly saw his feelings towards her as being entirely paternal. He was a father without his child and a family man in a bad marriage. He was desperate for a child to nurture and care for. It bothers me that men in kdramas aren't allowed to be paternal unless they're literally fathers and then that is translated to paternalism, which is not the same thing.

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While I would not mind a romance I was completely satisfied with the ending. Except for that he was still left without his family. The whole gone but still married. This is solely based on Dong Hoon and Yoon Hee and nothing to do with Ji-an.

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Oh and agree. I like opposite gender friendships, made families, or mentors with no hint of romance. It is one of the things I liked about JBL and the women surrounding him.

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We were just discussing the similarities of serialized novels with Kdrama while watching North & South. The intersection of fans of Korean dramas and Victorian novels is not a coincidence both for the stories they tell and how they are told.

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It's so true! And AHHH -- North & South was my favorite TV adaptation for years. It's so wonderful!

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If there was a way to have the live-shoot system work better for actors/crew/writers then I'd be all for that, but I'm hard-pressed to come up with an idea for that. Maybe move to one episode per week? I do like most of the aspects of the audience influencing the drama (especially when you have a surprise breakout character that needs to have more scenes), but I don't know if it's worth it for all the pain live shooting causes.

Plus, the worst part of live shooting -- when you get caught up to the part where they're shooting, there are no more previews! *cough*LastEmpress*cough*

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The best way is for them to start airing when they have four episodes out so they're two weeks behind. It's still a live shoot but they're not trying to fix things within a few days. It's not like they have time to put real thought into their changes anyway -their reaction times are so short that often what they come up with is hackneyed.

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SKY Castle always has preview every week and I’m so surprised by it. You would think it is prerecorded and we don’t see need about cast being overly tired from filming. Whatever SKY did to make this possible needs to share it with its industry.

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I think it helps when you assembly cast, and you are not mostly shooting two-three people.

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*you HAVE
where is my edit button?!

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Reply 1988 was an ensemble cast too, but struggled with filming. 🙁 They had to take a week off too to catch up.

And lol yepppp! I have been looking for that magic feature since day 1! 😭😭😭😭 we need an edit button

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Oh this is a subject I have been thinking a lot about lately and am happy to see this, more broad based article. I had been thinking about the endings of dramas and how fans sometimes completely change their opinions about the drama based on that last hour of the 16 hour long adventure. If the writers/directors/producers of the drama (the background art team) have a vision for their art, does that art become a failure because the viewers wanted the ending of the drama to be something different from what it was? Does the value of the art (that was seen all through the drama) disappear because it doesn't please the audience at the very end? And, if the art team works to please the audience rather than the art, are they sell outs? Does that make them less artists and more businessmen/women?

So many times I read criticism about the dramas from viewers and I sometimes wonder "why" and "what's the purpose of the put down" to second guess the artist. It feels a bit like a group of museum goers looking at Van Gogh's Starry Night and bitching about the colors used and how much better it would have been if oranges and reds had been used.

One kdrama I remember from years back was Fashion King, which got more than it's share of negative criticism. People hated the ending. To me, I thought it worked perfectly with the drama, a work of art. I trusted the art team who put that together that this was the story they wanted to tell, and I accepted that and evaluated it on those terms. If the ending had been changed to some sappy happily ever after ride off into the sunset, I'm not even sure I would still remember the drama. The power of it would have diminished.

Yes, we want the dramas to be works of art and we also know that they have to make money to even be made in the first place. But if changing the dramas to please the audience is the main goal, artistic integrity will be challenged and the power of the drama will be diminished. There has to be an acceptable compromise or the kdrama won't be worth the time.

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I’ve always found live shooting preferable to preproduction. I know this puts a lot of pressure on the actors and crew. But it’s not like preproduction has a more laid back work schedule. They’re still pressing for hard set deadlines. Also, the majority of unexpected circumstances of preproduction do not result in refilming as most would expect, because the money to refilm is not grown on trees. Writers and directors shift the story only enough to get by with meeting deadlines and budgets, or completely abort the production. So many preproduction Kdramas when met with dilemma end up being canned and filmed footage never see the light of day. While a live shoot drama has no choice but to keep the show airing.

Live shoot also results in the inclusion of the hottest news topics. When you see pivotal things going on in society, it’s nice to see it reflected on screen as well. Sometimes just for being trendy, other times for making a statement or sharing an opinion to the viewers before the viewers move on to the next interesting topic.

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In terms of viewers’ choice, unfortunately there are always some writers and producers who cave to audience interest or sponsorships. A preproduced drama is not more immune to changes because it all come down to editing. Like Chinese dramas (always preproduced) will film alternate endings to give it more flexibility. Happy ending or sad ending is just a few snip snips apart.

I personally don’t like to watch dramas that give me exactly what I want or expect it to end. I have a list of favorite writers who don’t change their endings just because fans want it a certain way. I’m fine watching just their work.

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I know this puts a lot of pressure on the actors and crew. But it’s not like preproduction has a more laid back work schedule. They’re still pressing for hard set deadlines.

Kingdom had a crew member die of overwork. So, yeah, it's not just live shoots that kill people.

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I really wish that they had gone ahead with the My Ajusshi storyline the way the writer had intended. It was a masterpiece to be sure, but I can't help but think it could have been even better if they were allowed to bring their full vision to fruition. I was not in the least bit grossed out by a possible romantic pairing with PDH and JiAn. The chemistry was electric. The open ending left me feeling a bit empty. It was really the only complaint I had about that drama.

I really love Live watching dramas. It gives me a treat to look forward to at the end of a long day. I wish that the pre produced dramas would end up being better than live shot ones, but I have been sorely burned by almost all of the pre produced dramas I have watched.

One of the most recent Live shoot bummers was Let's Eat 3, where the lead had to go into the army immediately before being able to finish the drama, and it hosed the flow of the entire trilogy, with a sucky open ending. That was such a bummer.

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Poor Doo-Joon! I mentioned LE3 too. Yeah, that was terrible.

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I prefer this type of storytelling and long before I was introduced to Kdramas, some of my favorite shows were miniseries: North and South, the Thornbirds, Downton Abbey, Poldark, and sitcoms that have an overarching story: Brooklyn99, HIMYM, The Good Place. I find that they are like chapters to novels, and I like seeing how the story unfolds week to week.

I do wish that kdrama writers would just write the story they want to write and not listen to viewers so much though. There was always going to be a ship war on A Poem a Day, and although I was happy Bo-young ended up with who she did, I was also upset to know that the original story the writer had planned was for her to be with the opposite lead. I would have liked to see how that story played out as well.

And how many shows have had the rug pulled out from under them because of live shooting? What was that one where the lead actress was switched early in the show a couple years ago? And the government/military apparently waits for no one, not even a Hallyu boy band actor to finish the last 2 weeks of his kdrama. We’ll never know how LE3 was meant to end. But that’s what made it more meaningful to me, as life imitating fiction is always more interesting than life just imitating life. Thank you, again, for another intelligent read!

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What A POEM A DAY's Director-nim and Writers-nim did to Min-ho (Jang Dong-yoon) was disgraceful.

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I had 0 faith in the writer (Another Miss Oh was a mess) so good job public.

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Whoa that's pretty cool. I heard about that history with Arthur Conan Doyle and never expected in to be told here in DB.
No wonder some people like pre-produced dramas. They keep true to their intent in storytelling without the criticism of the audience.

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Hwayugi is a perfect example of a live shoot ruining a good idea. It started out with so much potential and became a steaming bowl of turgid romance. The female leads character was eroded and she ends up as a weak support for the male lead.

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Arthur Conan Doyle did not think very highly of his Sherlock Holmes stories- he felt that his historical novels like 'The White Company' were far more worthy. That is why he tried to kill him off. In fact they were his most influential works of literature. Maybe it was just something about those times: Gilbert and Sullivan did not think much of their comic operettas either, but now they are properly valued as the masterpieces that they are.

I was hugely disappointed in 'Introverted Boss'. I love Marriage , Not Dating and 'Oh Hae Young Again' - both are masterpieces, some of the best of K-drama. But no amount of re-tooling could save 'Introverted Boss' from the original gigantic mistake they made with the story. Here is a hint to future writers: If you are writing a rom-com you do not start it with a scene of someone committing suicide. That awful backstory destroyed the story. And it was so unnecessary- a different backstory (say one centered around the male lead's repulsive father) would have served the story far better. 'Shy boss' actually had a wonderful premise which should have worked. In fact, in some ways 'What's Wrong with Secretary Kim' could be seen as a variation of 'Shy Boss' but done right.

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Great analysis! I've thought a lot about the parallels between Kdramas and Dickens, and not just because Kdramas are serialized. There are other similar elements: rich v poor, plot twists, and sudden reversals of fortune. This would make a great dissertation. :)

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Stephen King also did a Dickensian series, The Green Mile. It was considered a risky venture at the time; they were afraid people would lose interest. (with Stephen King, lol?!)

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One problem with dramas actively responding to criticism is 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease', those least able to tell a story are the ones most loudly arguing for changes. Take for example Goblin, those viewers 'outraged' that the female lead was a teenager. They seemed unaware that they were watching a broad absurdist comedy that was heavily dependent on that situation between the pair being absurd. Where would the comedy have been if Goblin's bride had been a 40 year old?

The so-called 'outrage' over 'My Ajusshi' age difference pre-dated the first episode being airing. Those preemptive complainers were expecting a boilerplate generic rom-com, couldn't imagine any other story line, and were demanding the story exactly follow rom-com tropes.

Watching 'Pretty Noon who Buys Me Food', I got the impression they made the male lead much older than he was originally meant to be (by perhaps 6 years), anticipating viewer complaints. But in the process they lost the story of 'doomed forbidden romance' that they had been going for.

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Yeah have to agree. If it weren't for certain complainers (that complain without knowing much at all about the certain show they complain about) it maybe would have looked different.

In case of "My Ajusshi" I woud have liked to see the story/vision they intended, without the influence of (see above). Yeah, the show was great, but still. And even if there were a slight romance between them, I would have trusted the team behind the show because they clearly could have handled it.

Felt the same with Pretty Noona. For me it isn't a noona romance anymore if the main characters are nearly the same age. The whole premise of what I expect with a noona romance goes away. I don't know, wish they just would be daring or brave enough.

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I'm skeptical that considering viewer input generally leads to better writing. My Ajusshi, for instance, was a lovely and beautifully paced story, and I would have much preferred to see what the writers really wanted instead of what they felt cowed into.

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In regard to audience participation in their serialized show, the first American show to explode audience interaction was LOST. Because of its ensemble cast, complex story lines, and mysteries led to many fans creating on-line communities to share easter eggs, theories and explanations of the plot. It became a week long fan-driven event between episodes. The show runners did acknowledge the fan fever and fan theories to the point of rebutting some during the run of the series. In the end, many fans thought the writers were "making it up" on the fly because many plot inconsistencies and continuity errors during the last season.

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They were DEFINITELY making it up on the fly, no doubt on that. Lost was the last American show I watched. I VOWED never to watch one again. It was the most profound insult to audience's intelligence I have ever witnessed.

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Still bitter, ha? LOL.
I'm glad I dropped around season 4, Lost is a great example of a show that should've been 4 seasons, at most.

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It should have been 1 season, at most. I dropped it a few episodes into the 5th season.

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Completely agree. What an insulting mess. Still can't forgive myself that I watched it. Should have stopped after season one because the writing after it was really bad. But the ratings were good so of course they renewed it again and again.

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