Red carpet time! The year-end station awards are upon us, and MBC is up first with their Drama Awards for 2014. MBC isn’t historically known for making a whole lot of sense when it comes to how they hand out trophies at the end of the year, though to be fair, they’re not the only ones — the general rule at all three major broadcasters is to reward good ratings. And yet, this year MBC has managed to find a way to make their awards even more meaningless, by awarding the Daesang (the Grand Prize) based only on text-in votes. No, really.
The big winner of the night was Lee Yuri, who played the villain in MBC’s hit weekend makjang Jang Bori Is Here. I don’t actually have an argument against Lee Yuri winning (I didn’t see Jang Bori, but it’s interesting that her villainous character was more popular than Oh Yeon-seo’s heroine, who was also a contender for the Daesang along with Mama’s Song Yoon-ah) — I just feel like deciding your Daesang by popular vote is a way to wash your hands of all responsibility, like you couldn’t be bothered to make a decision yourself, so you didn’t even try. Way to pass the buck, MBC.
SBS has a new variety show in the works for Sunday nights, and they’re wrangling up a large cast of ten stars to headline. Among them are Lee Dong-wook (Mandate of Heaven) and Hong Soo-hyun (Would You Give Love Away), though reports are mixed about Lee Dong-wook’s availability given his drama commitments with the upcoming Hotel King, better known around these parts as My Girl 2. It’d be nice to have him back in variety on a regular basis, but for now he’s shot the first two episodes and is considering a long-term spot on the cast.
Year-end awards are here! At least the first of the bunch is, with MBC putting on its ceremony the night before SBS and KBS follow suit with theirs.
These awards ceremonies are historically more like thank-you gifts to actors than actual acting awards based on strength of performances, and it’s a fact I’ve long accepted as part of the business. It is a business, after all, and often ratings are as important (or, ha, more important) than artistic vision or production quality. So keep that in mind as you read through the list, because there are bound to be one or two or maybe twenty decisions that you don’t agree with. Some are certainly odd enough that despite knowing that the stations do this every year, I’m still perplexed (or indignant on behalf of the nominees who didn’t win—or worse, those who weren’t even nominated) at the winners list.
This year, Empress Ki was the big winner, which is a bit of a surprise in that the drama isn’t even half through its run; it seems like it would be more of a 2014 award pick than a 2013 one. But on the other hand I’m not that surprised since MBC often doesn’t have many big hits, so they’re keen to give the nods to whichever shows drew the ratings. It’s certainly more understandable than awarding Drama of the Year to… wait for it… Hundred Year Inheritance? What the what?
It’s also why I’m sad that some dramas I really enjoyed didn’t get anything (ahem, Two Weeks), though I’m not surprised by it.
Hong Soo-hyun’s new weekend family drama Will You Love And Give It Away has cast her love interests. She’ll be reuniting with Jang Ok-jung co-star Lee Sang-yeob, who scored himself a leading role this time. Seo Ji-seok (High Kick 3) will be the other leg of the love triangle, but this is one second lead who might have a fair shot at getting the girl. Why, you ask? Because the leading man might end up being her new stepbrother. Yeah, they’re doing that. Groan.
Glass half full: the lovely and talented Hong Soo-hyun (Jang Ok-jung, Live By Love) is headlining a new drama. Glass half empty: it’s a long weekend family drama. Glass three-quarters-full (and I’ll throw in a cherry on top if we get a good male lead for her): it’s sounds like the heartwarming kind, full of sibling hijinks and makeshift family acceptance. At least that’s the hope anyway.
Jang Ok-Jung, Live By Love is well into its second week (and approaching its third), but nonetheless we’re taking a late peek into SBS’ newest history-rewriting sageuk, which promises to give a fresh take on the old story of one of history’s favorite scheming concubines and turn it into a rollicking tale of fashion and love. Maybe. Even if I’m not sure of the endgame, this first episode does prove intriguing, *if* you can swallow the alternaversion of history the show is presenting.
More than anything, I’m not really sure which side of the show I want to see more of and which side we’ll actually get more of, because when the pendulum swings from a runway walk-off to a harrowing suicide, my guess is that anything goes and everything’s game. Which could be really fun OR really terrible, depending on how you look at it.
This is just a one-time recap, and though premiere week has come and gone it’s worth noting that Jang Ok-jung was neck and neck with fellow competitor Gu Family Book for its first episode. It dropped in the second, and Episodes 3 and 4 have since dropped into single digits.
We’ve got our first promo shots from the new fusion reinterpretation sageuk Jang Ok-jung, Live By Love, starring Kim Tae-hee as the titular Jang Ok-jung, better known as the royal concubine Jang heebin, one of the most infamous femme fatales in Joseon history. Here she’s the heroine though, in a drama that takes a different (and far more factually-liberal) approach to telling her side of the story.
(Hong Soo-hyun, Lee Mi-sook, Lee Yeon-hee)
First off, the casting announcements and confirmations:
Casting continues on SBS’s upcoming Jang Ok-jung, Live For Love, the drama reimagining the life of notorious royal concubine Jang heebin that has cast Kim Tae-hee in the title role. With the traditional villain role being made the protagonist of the story, perhaps there’ll be a twist on the usual heroine in the tale, the good-natured Queen In-hyun who fell victim to Jang heebin’s ambition. That’s the role being offered to Hong Soo-hyun (History of the Salaryman), which would be her second time playing real-life royalty after her turn as Princess Kyung-hye in The Princess’s Man revitalized her career.
According to Hong’s representation, she is currently considering the role favorably. I have no idea whether this drama will give Queen In-hyun a different dimension, though I don’t doubt Hong is up for it. The show will depict Jang as a Joseon-era fashion designer, a descriptor I find pretty inadequate: Will she be a sweet fashion designer or a murderous, power-hungry one? The scant descriptions about this drama are driving me a little crazy, because they promise a lot yet tell you nothing. The well-known story is plenty dramatic as it is and has been explored in lots of dramas and films already, so I expect this Jang Ok-jung to do something different. The producers just aren’t telling us how. Not yet, at least.
In any case, Hong Soo-hyun should be pretty fantastic as Queen In-hyun; she’s proven she can play commanding, vulnerable, haughty, sweet, and scheming. Any or all of those qualities should make for an interesting queen who gets tossed to the side by her king (Yoo Ah-in’s still considering that role) and is eventually reinstated. I’d say the only problem would be that she’d totally blow Kim Tae-hee out of the water. And while I find Kim Tae-hee totally endearing as a celebrity, she doesn’t really need any help from dynamic co-stars to make her own acting look dispassionate.
Jang Ok-jung will air on Mondays and Tuesdays after Yawang ends in March.
Here’s an update on the upcoming cable drama Goodbye Wife, which stars Ryu Shi-won (Style) as the lead caught between two women, Hong Soo-hyun (History of the Salaryman) and Park Ji-yoon (Lie To Me). One of them’s the titular wife, and the other’s the Other Woman.
I confess to not having a lot of excitement for this show, despite generally liking both actresses. First off, Ryu Shi-won will forever be Nineties It Boy in my mind, and he hasn’t done anything in the last decade that I’ve found interesting. Second, the copy in the promo poster above reads, “Leave her or not? Love… disappears with marriage.”