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Are K-dramas creative?

Creativity is one of those magical things that evades description. We can sense when something is creative, but it’s not as easy to quantify or explain. Is it a skill, an act, a mythical unicorn or a mindset? Creativity might be one of my favorite things to ponder, but it wasn’t until recently that I started thinking about it in relation to K-dramas. What does creativity mean for that special place called dramaland, anyway? Are K-dramas creative?

If I had to answer from a purely superficial position, and without a lot of knowledge of the medium, I would say that K-dramas don’t appear to be very creative. Sometimes, I can even understand the popular outside perception that dismisses them as soaps — which, let’s face it, are definitely not considered creative.

Poet and playwright T.S. Eliot once famously said you have to first know the rules before you can break them. He was talking about the rules around writing, but I think the same argument works for any creative act. The idea of using rules — rather than the absence of them — to be creative got stuck in my head, and I started to think about how this might apply to K-dramas. What if creating within a set of rules is even more powerful than creating where there are none?

The idea of an artistic or storytelling medium having rules around it has existed for a long time and dramaland is no exception. Just think of all the intrinsic and extrinsic rules that exist around how they tell their stories.

K-dramas are subject to a whole host of politics and industry inner workings — from the director, production team, and writers who are busy collaborating, clashing, and creating, to the pressure from networks and agencies around casting, advertising, ratings, broadcasting schedules, and budgets.

There are also rules around the actual filmmaking process, which K-dramas usually follow by the book. These commonly used filmmaking methods have been proven to work — so proven in fact, that we don’t even think about the sequence of shots unless something feels different.

For instance, you’ll always have an establishing shot before you have an interior shot, so you know exactly where the action is taking place. Flashbacks are another commonly used feature, and you’ll have just as many (if not more!) than you need to remind you of turning point moments or important past dialogue. Similarly, crucial reaction shots from characters will always be shown, so you know exactly what everyone is thinking.

One might even say there’s a recipe around how a “quintessential” K-drama works as a story too: rising action, climax, and conclusion. While there’s long been a classical structure for a dramatic narrative (like Freytag’s pyramid, which I just butchered in the previous sentence), and though there’s nothing bad about structure, K-dramas can often take this a bit too literally.

The first few episodes set the scene and tone, and introduce the characters and their obstacles. By the time we are a few episodes in, we have a pretty good idea of who our leads are, what their goals are, and what might get in the way. The first kiss between the OTP is generally at the end of a show’s eighth episode (unless they’re being daring and/or unconventional). But that’s only the halfway point in the drama, so if the OTP union is the goal, there will be another hitch or two — and a painful parting — before they are reunited in time for the denouement.

As if all these external factors controlling the story and the structure of the storytelling weren’t enough, K-dramas are also subject to more intrinsic rules as well. These rules, so to speak, are the methods and devices that are used to push the plot forward. K-dramas don’t have to use the same elements in their stories (i.e., amnesia, trucks of doom, returning first loves, corrupt chaebols, and so many more) but they often choose to. Why? Because these are story elements and dynamics that are proven to work and get the job done.

From the commercial aspect, to the set structure and pacing of the plot, to the mechanisms and themes used to tell the story — phew, K-dramas sure have a lot of things constricting them creatively. Whether these rules or structures are mandated or just defaulted to, it’s amazing that new drama creations are birthed as frequently as they are. Because if it’s just a recipe where you fill in the blanks and pop out a new drama, why does the industry continue to prosper, and why are there so many beautiful stories and so many fans?

The answer is in the recipe itself, I think. Why do we create recipes in the first place — for dinner or dessert or even Korean dramas? We create recipes because they are repeatable, dependable, and delicious. And they work, no matter how many times we make them.

But does working from a recipe or pattern necessarily have to mean that something is uncreative? Being imaginative within bounds might just be the greatest creative act of all. After all, taking a recipe and swapping an ingredient, substituting something you’re in the mood for, removing a flavor you don’t like, changing the side dish or the garnish — these are the creative acts of chefs and cooks…and maybe even the perfect analogy for the creators behind K-dramas.

In a way, it’s the difference between invention, and innovation. K-dramas are not inventing anything most of the time. But they are definitely innovating on a form, and continuously creating within a set of constraints that could either be seen as limiting, or as a creative challenge.

Granted, some dramas seem to just slap their elements together and not care about doing something new. Some make a valiant attempt, but fall flat by the end of their run (still, they deserve points for trying!). Others have told unique stories using familiar devices — or have reinvented old devices for a refreshing take on a familiar story.

It’s no easy task to play and reinvent within a set of established rules, boundaries, and expectations. The recipe is proven to work, and some might think that’s enough to create a commercially and critically successful story. But those dramas that have tried, and have woven stories that were heartfelt and authentic in spite of the boundaries that surrounded them? To them I tip my hat. Such a venture takes courage — and creativity.

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Some kdramas are creative and others are not. Like most things saying kdramas lack creativity generally be as wrong as saying generally they are creative. As with most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle and that's cool too.

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Did... Did I ghost write this in a past life?
So well written and I love it thanks missvictrix!!

Also, did someone say recipe... http://www.dramabeans.com/members/sicarius/activity/678874/

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As a rom-com fan, this post is particularly relevant. These dramas do tend to follow a format and rely on tropes a bit too often. But what keeps me coming back and what makes each one unique and creative is the characterization, relationships present, and witty dialogue. I think this is really where dramas excel - I care about the characters and what happens to them. However, I do hope dramas don’t stagnate and we get some truly innovative ones now and then.

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I think in K-dramas, particularly romances and sageuks, the creativity comes down to character. We may get the same rehashes of plotlines and story beats but a unique character can always overcome the monotony of repetition. Some of the best dramas sound the most bland on paper but are written and performed with so much character and heart that it doesn't matter; you'd watch these guys go grocery shopping for eight episodes and be content. Or you get someone who doesn't react to the typical choice the way you're used to and it gets exciting to see what happens.

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"Creativity comes down to character"

And I immediately think of Chief Kim.

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You're right! But I also found dramas with interesting character that couldn't save the day too. To add to your point, a character that have a solid relationship (whether positive or negative) with other characters usually helps me overcome the weariness of the story. And at least a decent ending wouldn't hurt too.

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We're just talking about creativity at this point, but OH MAN can I go on and on about the importance of good writing.

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This is a very good point, however, as @lordcobol said, that character can't exist in a vacuum. He/she needs to have other stable/solid aspects of the drama to work with. If they don't then the drama still fails and I can't keep watching, most times.

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Great timing of this piece. As remakes take over the drama world, I feel Kdrama being more uncreative than ever before.

Kdrama is engaging. I’ll give it that. All else is a spin-off of old ideas — borrowed or stolen.

Since I see a screenshot of W, thought I’d drop this video to show how creative that turned out to be.
https://youtu.be/djV11Xbc914

PS: For SIG/Mo-Kang fans, here’s his tribute to the song and MV: https://youtu.be/rmwJYTDeV2E

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Oh, wow. I thought W was absolutely creative until 1minute ago.

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Haha. I was shocked too. To think that Take On Me was a popular song so i guess we know where the writer get the idea from.

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oh.my.god.

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You made my day with this second link!

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I was around when that MV came out and remember thinking how awesome it was, heh heh. Yes, I'm that old. Thanks, for the memories, @geliguolu

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Oh those were fun, sph_7. Thanks for sending them. I loved both of the links.

As for taking anything away from W's creativity, they don't really, at least not for me. Back in the old days when I was an art student, I think all of us came up with at least one art work that turned reality into animation in the same piece (or animation into reality as the ideas would flow). I know I created 2 myself, and that was decades before W. But none of us created a 16 hour long drama that switched from reality to animation and everything we did create was certainly not a model for the work of any of the other students. What I am trying to say is that W was creative in it's own way. No, it's not the first time in the world that anything remotely similar (to W) has been thought about and maybe even come to reality of some sort. But still, each has it's own boundaries and stretches of the imagination. To me, (as a high school art and animation teacher), I appreciate them all and love the ideas as well as the skills used in their creation. Ideas alone are one thing, but they don't really become creative until they are brought together into something new and unique. But nothing is completely unique. We all borrow from our experiences and our memories and add that to research for new ideas to be able to come up with something that works.

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To be fair, the "artist's creation comes to life" dates back as far as Greek mythology's Pygmalion and his statue-come-to-life, Galatea.

There have also been American films on the subject of cartoons coming to life. For example, in 1992's Cool World, a comic strip femme fatale tries to seduce her cartoonist creator in order to cross over into the real world (got terrible reviews, apparently). There is a more current film or TV series about the same thing -something in the last 10 years - but I can't think of it right now.

Interestingly, in googling to try to find the more recent film I was thinking about, I found this, from 1935! Amazing!

"A Cartoonist's Nightmare is a 1935 Warner Bros. theatrical cartoon short in the Looney Tunes series, starring Beans the Cat in his first solo film. The film was directed by Jack King and was released on September 21, 1935.

Plot: It is closing time at an animation studio and all the staff members are calling it a day. Meanwhile, an animator chooses to carry on with his work while a custodian keeps on watch. In his drawing, he sketches a dungeon scene where Beans the Cat encounters a goblin. Weary for working several hours continuously, the animator decides to take a little snooze. Before ending the session, he draws a steel barricade between the two characters to prevent the goblin from reaching Beans. Suddenly, the goblin comes to life and pulls him into the drawing. The goblin carries the animator away, heading somewhere beyond the scene.

Shocked and terrified, the animator tries in vain to break out of the goblin's grasp. He is then brought into a mystic chamber where painted portraits of various villains are displayed on the walls. The villains happened to be the animator's creations as well as those of his colleagues. They too come to life and emerge from their illustrations. As revenge for how he and other cartoonists made them get subdued in the end of each film, the villains give the animator a pencil and force him to draw a deep pit in the floor where they toss him inside. Upon falling in, the animator holds onto a branch, trying to avoid being devoured by the crocodile at the bottom.

Back at the scene still being worked on, Beans still stands behind the barricade, boredly waiting for his artist to come back. Just then, Little Kitty comes to him, offering a lunchbox. Beans is expecting food but is a little surprised to find a saw in the bread. He uses it to cut his way out of the metal fence. Finally freeing himself, he goes around to find his animator.

In no time, Beans finds the chamber where his animator is being tormented. To intervene, he hurls a boot at the goblin, luring the villains away as they try to capture him. Beans manages to lose them somehow when he returns to the place to rescue the troubled man. The animator then receives a pencil from Beans and draws a ladder to climb out the pit. When the villains return, Beans squirts grease from a grease gun...

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After watching over 100 Kdramas, I'm beginning to think they are all too predictable. The ones I remember are the ones with unpredictable endings: "Something Happened in Bali," "Fashion King," and "Princess' Man," to name a few. They left me satisfied with an, 'I didn't see that coming.' I feel really entertained when I can't figure out what will happen next--so I guess to me that's creative.

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This is, unfortunately the case with most fiction. The more books you read, the more films you watch, the more basic story telling becomes predictable.
But if one doesn't keep reading or watching one doesn't find the odd unpredictable gem or the predictable gem that is a gem for other reasons besides.

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Yes, you're right. But it is the gems that make my 'watch again list.' Some of them I've seen up to five time, like "Road No. 1," and "Sungkyunkwan Scandal." I usually find a place the I can buy the DVDs of the ones I like the most so I can watch them over and over without burning up my GB allotment. I also like the movie, "Beauty Inside," and bought it--I've watched it over four times. As far as I'm concerned my favorite dramas have a unique story line that is logical, and evokes my emotions. When a drama can do that for me they've hit my creative spot.

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True. I read exclusively fiction, and over 90% of it is either fantasy or historical fiction (NOT to be confused with historical romance. I don't do romance novels). As there are so few really good historical writers, it ends up mostly fantasy, and although I read some good urban fantasy (Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus series, Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series), it's mostly epic fantasy.

The fantasy novels are very formulaic, with Tolkien's LoTRs being the high standard. However, what makes a series stand out is the world-building, the characters, and/or the magic,. The best series give the reader all three, plus good writing. I have read some fantastic stories that introduced me to characters I love, and plots that are so intriguing that I just can't put them down.

Even some of the YA books are page-turners. I remember waiting for the mailman on Saturday morning, to deliver my latest Harry Potter novel - he'd sing out, "It's here!" as he came up the stairs to my front porch), and then retreating to my "lair" to read the entire book on Saturday and Sunday, so I could finish before having to head back to work Monday morning.

For me, the most boring books/TV series/films in the world are mysteries. I just don't read them, and I've never been able to get into any of the Mystery Theater series on PBS. A friend who owns an independent bookstore, and is great at recommending books he knows I will like, told me many, many years ago that he never recommended mysteries for me - not because I'd ever told him I didn't like them, but because he knew what I loved was character development, and mysteries were mostly plot development. The only ones I ever read and loved were Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane mysteries. IIRC they were for sale in the bookstore at the Episcopal Cathedral I attended as a child and young adult.

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That would be Coffee Prince for me... now that it is on Netflix, I am watching it for the third time, pale comparison probably to other beanies.

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I think once in a blue moon a drama steps out of the box, but, depending on the genre, most follow a fairly similar formula-it's just the aesthetics that change. I read a lot of books and watch a lot of TV/movies and generally I think most things have a specific structure and are fairly predictable. However, as long as I enjoy the journey, then the unoriginality tends to not bother me. There's only so many ways to tell a story. I think there is a way to tell a story we've seen before, but in a way that makes it interesting. It's just not successful all of the time.

One hindrance in k-dramas is even if a drama starts out with a unique concept it, sometimes, gets cast aside for formulaic tropes or an uninspired/typical look. Some of that can be attributed to the live-shoot system, low ratings, viewer feedback etc. In that instance, I wish the creatives would stay authentic to their vision regardless of ratings.

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I think when it comes to creativity in kdrama, that can probably be divided up into many sections, such as creative writing, directing, acting, music, costumes, cinematography and so forth. We can have a flop of a kdrama but still have seen some creative writing and acting (or any combination really) When they all work together, it's so amazing. But sometimes just one creative strength can still carry the drama. For instance, I really did not like "She Was Pretty" and even disliked the main actress to the point of cringing from time to time. But Choi Siwon was amazing in the creative approach he had to the character he was playing. For me, he stood out as the savior to that kdrama, made me laugh and want to see more. Most of the other parts of the the kdrama were typical and to be expected.
Another Kdrama I felt had lots of creativity through most of the production, still seemed to fall a little bit short of being as dynamic as it could have been. (The kdrama W Two Worlds) Even if this kdrama was pulled from a webtoon, the creativity was still there as no kdrama I had ever seen before or since had quite the same approach. And truth be told, creative does not spring up from a vacuum. Creativity comes from pulling together information and ideas into something brand new.

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I care a lot more about execution than plot or originality, and character-driven dramas are my preference. As long as characters are well-developed and multi-faceted, I really don’t care about the originality of the plot or premise of a drama. I feel like any character type can feel fresh and new if the writer gives them enough depth and personality.

Oh, but no dumb, doormat female leads and chaebol asshole male leads, please, especially in my rom-coms. Stay away! Stay away!

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Sometimes I like having that recipe on repeat --it really depends on my mood and the time in my life-- with a little plot twist here and there sprinkled on the side. Having a basic structure sometimes gives you a sense of stability and security, and i find it comforting.

Not to say a completely new plot isn't refreshing, too. I'm listing Misaeng, My Ahjussi and life on mars to name a few. (I am aware life on mars is a remake but i hadnt watched the original(s) and to me it was all quite new and revolutionary.)

Thanks again for such a wonderful thought-out piece @missvictrix! I love these so much.

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@justme Same! Life on Mars was definitely revoluntionary. Even though it was a remake it cast aside the regular mould and put a Korean spin on it by sprinkling authenticity in the form of vivid back stories, props and genuitiy.

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I really love Life on Mars. I watched the original version but they made some changes that didn't much the original plot. The show was really dynamic. Looking forward for creative time-travel kdrama. I also watched Signal. It was superb!

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Unless it's an indie movie, drama which doesn't care about commercial success we could find a new recipe, new creative approach, something unseen. But even when there are some with this intention, they tend to change to people's satisfaction halfway through - changing a writer, retaking the traditional route of success. There can be creativity, but it has to be within the usual drama scheme.

There are few Korean TV series which tried something unconventional, but were heavily denied or criticized by public. It's like to try to eat something new, unknown, but happily craving for homemade food. So there must be someone who's hungry enough to try other cuisines and have a way of expressing him/herself in some delicious manner.

It's like a watermark and trademark like Hollywood movies, Bollywood movies, South American soaps, Turkish drama, etc. k-drama has it's own audience which is happily eating popcorn while watching. Is it bad? No, just for a change to stay sane we should try something other, more creative, more crazy or more realistic.

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I recall how Dramabeans was caught flat-footed by 'Sky Castle', not only not recapping it but hardly noting it's existence at all until the ratings went through the roof. The previous year they had to quickly play catch-up with 'Misty' as well. Sometimes K-dramas are creative but often the creative ones are not where our attention is being directed. The series 'Matrimonial Chaos' hardly got noticed and has apparently been buried on Viki in the 'You won't know it exists unless you do a word search' bin next to 'My Wife Is Having An Affair Next Week' and 'The Producers'.

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god i ended up hating misty but i will say i could see its strength. i def think that's a good ex of a creative drama for sure

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Yes. I remember the Misty one! Before, i tend to "consult" here when i want to check which currently-airing kdrama is good. But i noticed that they tend to recap unpopular ones. Maybe they luck out or maybe they just chose those unique dramas.

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I was watching SKY Castle and talking about it in WWW before it became popular with beanies. I hyped Misty too and Matrimonial Chaos and Bad Papa. But not everyone has time to recap things. It's a huge commitment to pledge 2 months+ of your future on something you're not sure will turn out good, or if it starts good, will it stay good, etc. Just think about how unpredictable dramaland can be.

I still don't know how our recappers manage to stay sane (are they? LOL). They get blamed when they put hard work into a show that "no one watches". They get blamed when they drop a show. They get blamed when they don't recap a show. They get blamed when they love a bad show. They get blamed when they express their un-love for a certain show. They love this actor too much. They don't love this actor enough, etc...

I thought I had recapping experience before DB, but when I tried with Come Here and Hug Me, I realized it's very very very hard to do proper recaps and stick to a schedule and commit to it. It's probably why I never tried again haha. But if I love a show, I try to get people to watch it by chatting on WWW about its good points, updating them on the feels and the funnies, etc. Isn't that what we're supposed to be doing anyway? Spreading love for the kdramas we think are good?

Yes, I get days when I feel lonely when I'm watching a show that people are ignoring. But that's not really anyone's fault.

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Maybe new feature of dramabeans could be an open space with a title of a drama and like it was with JBL they could discuss and even post little recaps with photos like fan wall is doing. Maybe it's hard to manage and it could be hard for stocking so much information, don't know.🤔

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It's hard to think of something that doesn't seem like just a patch thrown in as a knee-jerk reaction. And of course, any new feature would require technical maintenance. T____T I know it doesn't seem like it, but we do want to cover all the awesome things, and not just because it suddenly got high ratings (hello, Matrimonial Chaos and Bad Papa!) We try our best. Unfortunately, dramaland's unpredictability and the lack of real-life time-turners make it hard...

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@mary I appreciated SO MUCH the CAHM recaps!!! <3 and you did very well (also your screenshots were on point).
And to all recappers: Thank you SO MUCH! I always look forward to your little interjections, interpretations of parts and most importantly your comments in the end. Thank you again

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yes and no of course. but they can be. creative doesn't mean not formulaic bc nothing in the world is truly original anymore (which is good for a reason.) it means can they do this well and differently. but it's rare sorta. i think 'different' or 'unique' is a good way to put what goes out of the box.

i think most of the like incredibly well acted and written dramas are creative in their execution. it's like all tv and movies. but there are just so many flaws.

um anyway rly what does creative mean cos now im going in circles in my brain and reading the post haha

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A couple of thoughts come to mind as I read this. The first is a (butchering) of an old quote that someone important once said. I'm not even going to put it in quotation marks, thats how uncertain I am about the actual wording, but the gist is: there are 26 letters in the English alphabet. All people use those same 26 letters to create and write different words and sentences that become books and isnt that amazing?

I think what you said about kdramas being a recipe is just exactly right. You dont follow a recipe for bread and then wind up surprised and disappointed when you have a delicious lasagne instead. But there are so many different kinds and types of breads out there to try that even though you may follow a basic recipe for making bread, a basic formula--there are still a million different kinds of bread out there to make depending on how you put those same ingredients together.

I watch kdramas for the warmth and the affection that the characters have for each other. I watch them because they tend to be one season and for a predetermined number of eps. I watch because theres an end (even if there are some dramas that I wish would last forever). Even though I love a sexy drama I watch them because they are never as explict and gratitious as what gets shown on American tv. I watch for romance.
Here's another cliched quote for you, "all of the best stories have already been written. All thats left is the journey". I watch kdramas for the journey. Are they creative? I came for bread. Sometimes that bread is a tortilla. Sometimes its an artisnal oatmeal loaf with sundried tomoatos and spinach. Sometimes its honey wheat. Its all bread. But there's a lot of room for creativity in the recipe.

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You've got my mouth watering with this fantastic bread metaphor.

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Would somebody tell me who is the guy from the first pic? Thank you!

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Lee Je Hoon

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Do you know which drama it is from?

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Tomorrow With You with Shin Min Ah.

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Thank you!!

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He looks just as hot in Signal and Fox Bride Star. Hehe in case you want to know...

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Are you watching the travel show in Cuba with him? He will appear this weekend on it.

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@kerouregan is that the one with Ryu Jun-yeol? I saw posters on twitter but I thought it was a movie! The pretty!

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Yes, that one. No, it's a tv show and it looks it will be fun because when somebody is used to high-tech world it's kind of messy to rely on himself and others especially when you don't speak their language. That's how I was backpacking in Argentina and Chile almost 10 years ago. Cuba is so beautiful!

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@Lee Je-hoon is seriously handsome.

@kerouregan, thanks for posting about this. I didn't know about it. I'm not a huge fan of these types of shows especially given that I've learned about Exciting India recently, but I really like Lee Je-hoon.

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I couldn't get into Fox Bride Star so I was hoping it was a different drama. But yeah, you read my mind 😅😅

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When I watch US TV shows, I don't think they are more creative. A lot of them are inspired by comics : Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Cloak and Dagger, Lucifer, Deadly Class, The Umbrella Academy, The Gifted, etc. There are remakes or spin off like Charmed, Roswel, MacGyver, Legacies, Magnum, Hawaii 5-0,etc. Even GoT is inspired by a book (I mean a lot of books in this case...).

In this sense, I think Kdramas tell original stories even if they use the same tropes.

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In all fairness, there are more than a few K-Dramas that are inspired by real historical events, manhwas, previous dramas (remakes), and foreign shows.

Also, you seem to like the fantasy/superhero genre when you watch US TV shows, but there are more than a few that are quite creative outside of that drama. Like @sicarius pointed out in an earlier post here, the more you watch, the more everything seems to be the same. In my teens, we pretty much only had Superman, Batman, X-Men, and Justice League stuff. Then you had initially less well know stuff like Hellboy and Sin City which blew up after the movies came out. And, the older you get, the more inevitable remakes/reboots will be. IMO, I'm like, this show came out like a year ago (not at all, it just feels like it), why do we need a remake/reboot?

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It was more the Kdramas are not less creative than US that is a big market in TV shows. There are remakes but it was not a big part until recently. Now, there are more remakes from US shows like Suits, The Good Wife, Mistress.

Web stories/manhwa seem to have so success and are adapted in drama.

Inspired by history is kind of different because they have to imagine a big part of the characters even if the events are known.

But yeah more you watch, more you already know how it works and it become more difficult to be suprised. Like cop shows, I can often guess the killer before the end of the episode...

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I'd almost bet the US series 'Russian Doll' came about because someone had caught the first couple episodes of the K-drama 'Fell Good To Die' and decided they could do something similar in the US. 4 months later a US 'time loop' series pops up.

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Fantasy K dramas... I always have an issue with them. It's hard to explain but what I find is they tend to bring interesting and creative concepts and we all go like "wow" that blew our minds but then all of a sudden they don't know how to execute it properly.
Like the beginnings and all are just superb and everyone is on their nerve wondering whats gonna happen and then few episodes later it all just goes downhill... I hate when that happens and 99% it was the case with Fantasy themed K dramas.

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Some are and some are not. But I think nowadays with all the pressure from traditional tv and streaming services they need to be more creative than in the past in order to be successful.
But there is also the fact that some are based on amazing literary works and some are created by the kdrama writer with little or no help from literature.
I recently watched Kingdom on Netflix and I did find it very good and creative but it is based on a famous novel so I always wonder how much credit should be given to the kdrama writers if the base material is already great to begin with. They are talented and able to adapt something for the small screen but I assume that coming up with something from scratch should be looked at with a tiny bit of more respect.

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In the case of Kingdom, scriptwriter Kim Eun Hee is also the author of the webtoon series "Land of the Gods" that the Netflix series is based, so it IS her work, which she is now translating into a different medium. She is very much respected in the industry, having written many excellent works, among which is the widely acclaimed Signal.

Some more details of how the series came about here:
https://www.soompi.com/article/958829wpp/screenwriter-kim-eun-hees-upcoming-zombie-thriller-kingdom-sparks-interest-original-webtoon

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I did not know this. Thank you

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One of the reasons I started watching K-Dramas was because I thought they were creative, at least compared to the Western Dramas I often watched at the time. While they're somewhat different from their Western counterparts, you quickly realize just how formulaic they are--the episode 8 rule pointed out in this article is a good example of that. What's sad is that when a drama subverts some of the hackneyed tropes you tend to get annoyed seeing over and over again, you either love it more than it's merited--1% of Something (2016)--or it often comes at a cost later--Temperature of Love.

At the end of the day, from my perspective, dramas will be limited by culture. When there is a major shift in the cultural norms etc. then we can expect to see some changes in the dramas. A good example of this that comes to mind is Something in the Rain. It's starts off so different and engaging, but then the monster-in-law completely ruined it--for me. Ironically though, it was the difference in culture than also drew me into dramas in the first place.

There are some dramas that I think should be commended for being as unique/progressive as a drama were: Coffee Prince, Because This Is My First Life, Dal-ja's Spring, and Tomorrow With You.

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Thanks for this article!
This is exactly why I love so many of the dramas I love.

There are so many underrated dramas that have a great plot line.
(see: Dance Sport Girls, which was the perfect slice of life I wanted to see at the time it aired. I started it 2 weeks in its airing and was hooked and loved it)

Also as much as I looooove the elaborate world building in certain dramas (I'm looking at Queen In Hyun's Man, W, Memories of Alhambra, Circle etc) sometimes even adding one small aspect can create a wonderful story line (like the lie hiccups in Pinocchio)

Some dramas start off with a wonderful premise (Reply 1997) but when other dramas try to bank on it, we don't always get similarly awesome results (Reply 1994, yes it was still a lot of fun to watch but each episode was twice as long so things dragged a bit)

And then there are dramas like Age of Youth (this time, both seasons were amazing) that just hit you right in the feels. The have the right level of slice of life, mystery , comedy to keep you yearning for more.

Actually one of the reasons I like Korean Dramas so much is the lack of multiple season story lines. (yes I know I mentioned one above but that is an outlier). This way I know I am getting a self-contained story that has an 'end' (well most of them do haha) and I don't have to wait years to get to know what happens next. This I think allows the writers to have a goal for where the story goes, its pace and its 'on screen' conclusion instead of waiting for a season to be picked up and then extending the story. (just a personal opinion. I still watch a couple western shows. I would just rather have a 16-20 episode show and then closure about the story)

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lol I don't know if this analogy works but maybe the multi season dramas are like a broth. Sometimes the more you simmer it, the better it gets. Sometimes, it turns to mush by the end.

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Creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work. All entertainment is a creative process. I think the tone of the article is whether k-dramas "break the normal expectations." Whatever genre of the show, there is a standard blueprint of characterization, plot and the routine "happy" ending fan service (especially in rom-coms). After a while, the use of the same tropes makes a viewer begin to compare with other similar shows to create an overall "meh" effect. What we want are unexpected plot twists, a story that exceeds our expectations, and performances that go beyond reading a script, i.e. a creative show.

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I want to give a shout-out to Matrimonial Chaos, one of the 2018 dramas that is given little love as seen in mydramalist. I wish more people would watch this show.
It's a giant slice-of-life and very character driven story, but the dialogues will keep you awake, I promise.
I'm not sure if it counts as creative, because it's a remake from its J-dorama counterpart, but it has quite a distinct taste as compared to other k-dramas.
This drama is very harsh in depicting the nature of human, our deepest desires to actually be loved and understood. With all our characters longing for that are surely inviting the clashes that we often witness when they interact.
The interactions themselves in turn create some poignant, some bittersweet, and some endearing scenes, all with a refined and sensitive approach to them. And always, with glass shards-clear of reality sprinkled in here and there.
Last but not least, this drama, like others, is not everyone.

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🙌🙌 Yes to more love for Matrimonial Chaos. Utter perfection.

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plus one. Another MC lover!

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It's funny because I didn't like it. I didn't watch the Japanese version so I can't compare. But even if I understood since the first episode how it will end (even if I would have liked a drama that assumed the divorce until the end), I didn't like the main characters or the others, they always changed their mind, they were not consisting. Even if I don't agree with the decision of a character, I need to understand it at least, in this drama it was not possible.

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I love how you write about the recipes and formulas that make kdramas work, then use screenshots from shows that stepped WAY outside of those formulas and turned out fantastic :)

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A general rule of thumb is '80% of EVERYTHING is mediocre'. That includes movies, books, politicians, relationships, jobs and K-dramas. The best food is very good indeed, the best music is very good indeed, and the best K-drama is very good indeed. If you can achieve a 20% excellence rate, rising above the base standard of mediocrity, that's an achievement.

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Kurt Vonnegut on the shape of stories ... worth a watch.

https://youtu.be/oP3c1h8v2ZQ

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Thanks for the interesting article!

It reminded me of Jane Austen's novels retellings (I know... I thought it was an horrible idea, too, but some are good).
There are hundreds of them, and a lot of people that love reading them.
For example, I am happy when I find a retelling of Persuasion, that is my favorite novel, and happier if it is good.

I haven't watched so many dramas, but as the recipe of the article, the bread @isthatacorner wrote about and JA's novels retellings, sometimes I enjoy watching a story even if it is not completely original - or not at all. It is fun to notice little differences here and there, the different use of the tropes and in general to follow the characters' journey even if I can guess what the destination will be.

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I think your analysis is based on an experience that is completely different from mine. How long have you been watching dramas? Do you watch tv in general? I think those questions should have been answered as a part of your disclaimer. While k-dramas follow a particular formula, the quantity of them in the space of one year, compared to the amount of original programming in English or Spanish language programs answers your question first.

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I'm one of those people (though only a few) who thinks that K-dramas are not that creative. I always think about this whenever I'm watching rom-com. The heroine ALMOST always drunk, doing something silly in front of the hero while drunk, and drunk again (I last saw this in Touch Your Heart). The hero is also ALMOST always have a sad past, whether they're abused as a child, or have unloving parents, or others. It's just that K-dramas hero tend to have the same sad past, and I'm beginning to get tired of it. Oh, and they're ALMOST always geniuses (they're never an ordinary man)

I sometimes tend to think, is it the plot that's not creative, or is it the characters? Or is it the production team? Is there someone out there who can help me answer this?

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Watching The Crowned Clown and Haechi, and considering some of the other Kdramas that have captured my attention, I tend to love historical and fantasy dramas, as well as a really well done "slice of life" drama.

I think the historical Korean and Chinese dramas have a license to be creative that is missing in American historical films and series (which I also love - I was riveted by AMC's original series, "Turn: Washington's Spies," which was a historical drama about American spies during the Revolutionary World, based on historical people and events. Loved it). However, as American history is only hundreds of years old, and very well documented, there is a limit to how creative writers can be. We have some wonderful historical dramas/theater, like Lin Manuel Miranda's fabulous musical, Hamilton, but even trying to do something creative like he did has exposed him to tsk-tsking and even anger by snotty historian "purists," who frown upon artistic license. (Which is ridiculous IMO. I mean, prior to Hamilton, my favorite musical was 1776, and it's not as if I or anyone else actually believed my forefathers were singing, dancing and cavorting around while writing the Declaration of Independence in a few days back in July 1776). Just google "Hamilton musical criticism," and check all the outraged historians and others who can't wait to tell you how horrible it is to be "creative" with American History!

OTOH, with the thousands of years of Korean - or Chinese - history, and the incomplete and missing records that give a lot of the details, writers of novels and dramas have unlimited stories to tease out, or just flat out make up. I love that aspect of the sageuks. Plus the costumes and sets are spectacular. Ditto for the dramas based on folklore and myths. Both are great inspirations for creative storytelling.

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I usually wonder if Korean dramas are really original as most of them are full or cliches and common places you find in Japanese dramas and anime.

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Just a tip, not a criticism. It would be more enjoyable if there were examples.

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