(The lovebirds of Bad Couple and Bad Family)
I find the following article (indented stuff in dark blue font is the translated article; the rest are my comments) particularly interesting because I’ve thought this topic over a lot in the past, and pretty much completely disagree — not with the article’s logic, but the conclusion. The piece draws upon comparisons between kdramas and their American drama counterparts, which have multiple-season structures that differ from the kdrama format (of single-season, finite series). I have long believed — strongly, at that — that in this respect, the kdrama format far outstrips the U.S. model.
But I’ll get more into that after the article. First, here’s what it’s got to say:
“Demanding More Seasons of Television Dramas”
When popular dramas end, you’ll find these sorts of comments on the audience message boards: “Produce a season 2!” That was the case not long ago with MBC’s Coffee Prince Store #1, as well as Time of Dog and Wolf.
(Random) SONG OF THE DAY
The Hi-Lights – “Mister Tambourine” [ zShare download ]
Shows like MBC’s Goong [Princess Hours] and Hello Franceska did produce sequels, but strictly speaking, they weren’t new seasons but entirely new series. A true continued season would not merely have the same title and broadcast some months after a drama’s end, but each season would have its own organic purpose and construction. The same characters would have to appear and the story would last the duration of the entire season.
The following series are all examples where the season was not extended but rather new series were created: dramas Bad Housewife–Bad Family–Bad Couple; Beautiful Days–Stairway to Heaven–Heaven’s Tree; Lovers in Paris–Lovers in Prague–Lovers; Spring Waltz–Summer Scent–Autumn Fairy Tale–Winter Sonata.
(Not-quite sequels: Lovers and Lovers in Paris, both starring Kim Jung Eun…)
(…and Autumn Fairy Tale and Winter Sonata)
On one hand, American dramas are produced in advance by production companies. The season that is to be aired over the year is completed, and broadcast over six or seven months, with one episode being shown per week. The first six months are allotted as the series’ broadcasting period, and reruns show for the remaining six months, which is set as production time for the next season’s material. Before a drama begins, the story and everything is planned and decided.
The process differs greatly with the Korean production environment, in which four to eight installments are shot in advance at the drama’s outset; production then becomes incredibly busy as the rest is filmed and edited throughout the middle and end of the series run. Of course, in the case of American dramas, there’s the uncertain question of whether a series will last, depending on the performance of the show, but there is still some measure of safety in the backing of its production environment.
[javabeans’ note: The above paragraph(s) bother me because so much of the information is wrong. I don’t know if the writer didn’t do his/her research completely, but this is NOT how American dramas are produced. They are written and shot as the series progresses. There’s just too much money at stake to film an entire season (22 episodes, usually) before the first episode airs. Because American television is so market-driven, it’s extremely dependent on the knee-jerk reactions of the viewing public (and advertisers) to determine what stays on the air.
The year is also not divided into six months of airing and six months of reruns — rather, they’re mixed in the most aggravating combination possible. Let’s not forget “year-round programming” with midseason shows and summer shows — and the schizophrenic scheduling when new shows are bumped up to fill in timeslots for prematurely cancelled ones. The following season is not produced in advance during rerun season. And while some ideas may be generated before a season begins, let me tell ya, sometimes the writers have no idea where they’re going with a series more than one or two episodes in advance — even on terribly complicated shows where you think they’d need to plan everything intricately over months and months. (Of course, some dramas do know where they’re heading; many, however, do not.) And cable shows are a different story altogether. Bad paragraph(s)! Bad! Go sit in the corner for your time-out.]
Popular shows like Lost, Desperate Housewives, 24, Prison Break and the like, which get ratings [in Korea] as high as Korean dramas, suggest that domestic dramas may also need to switch to the multi-season model. [javabeans’ note: Please god, no.]
Fortunately, in keeping with the times, recently more dramas have been introduced following the multi-season format. One example is cable channel tvN’s docudrama Vulgar Young Ae. Telling the story of an ordinary woman in her thirties, the series produced a second season which was just as popular as its first.
In the case of Vulgar Young Ae, the producers kept up a close relationship with the cable channel and their lead actors starting in its planning stages, which made it easy to produce a second season afterward.
(Vulgar Young Ae)
Broadcast networks are also planning more multi-season dramas. Case in point: MBC’s upcoming drama Auction House, premiering on the 30th.
Auction House delves into the world of art auctions, the people who work there, and their loves, with a twelve-episode season 1. With four PDs and four writers, it will air one episode every week, with each director producing his own segment in his own style — the drama plans to take on the challenge of using different genres, such as thriller, “human drama,” detective story, etc.
In an interview with Park Sung Soo, who is in charge of coordinating the project, he explained: “I’m in the middle of preparing the second season of the drama, which is set in the world of plastic surgery. While the other season is being shown I’ll be planning and prepping Auction House 2 for broadcast for next year, maybe May or September.”
This is a laudable effort to distance itself as much as possible in form and content from the current system of drama production.
Another example, a drama whose broadcast station has not yet been decided, is the series Agent Zero, starring Son Ye Jin and Cha In Pyo. With 24 episodes in one season, Agent Zero, filmed in advance, deals with a special organization that fights against the dangerous forces that threaten the human race. It will likely face postponement.
It will be a challenge for new dramas like the aforementioned to develop and change the current Korean production system. However, when a drama is planned and produced completely in advance, that may influence its success. Using the flood of incoming American and Japanese dramas to spur on a competitive spirit, domestic dramas may be able to hold their own: This is just the start.
I find this argument interesting because I have for years been saying that the Korean drama format is superior to the American one, and I say this as a great enthusiast of both types.
(I also think the reporter didn’t quite know how American television works, and guessed on some of the finer points — and in praising the American system, he gave American producers a helluva lot more credit than necessary for being perfect planners and masterminds. His point is valid — that there’s a different way to looking at drama production — but I just wish he drew on the two systems in a little more detail, with more accuracy.)
In the kdrama model, you get a full season’s worth of character development and plot turns — the opportunity to really delve into their relationships with depth. It’s definitely more development than you’d get in a two-hour movie, but at the same time, you’re not stuck keeping the series dragging for five years, or indefinitely. You get to explore real conflict but can lay off creating manufactured conflict purely to keep the series running. It’s a welcome format, especially in romances — I get so sick of the will-they-or-won’t-they aspect of romantic pairings in American dramas. In Korean dramas, you’re given the satisfaction of paying off those relationships at the end of sixteen (or twenty) episodes. Even in a tragic drama, an ending may be sad, but it’s satisfying and complete.
Although there have been U.S. series with fantastic multiple seasons, inevitably they linger far beyond their freshness date, and it’s unfortunate to see a show that was brilliant in its heyday puttering along in mediocrity, a shadow of its former quality. It’s worse when the amount of time a show is on the decline outstrips the amount of time a show is good: Buffy (3 seasons awesome, 4 seasons in gradual, steady decline); Alias (2 seasons great, 3 seasons crap); Friends (3 (or 4) seasons good, 7 (or 6) seasons bad); Lost (1 season good, the rest WTF?); Gilmore Girls (3 seasons charming, 4 seasons shrill and aggravating); Dawson’s Creek — never mind, that one was always crap.
(Lost, Prison Break)
Sure, long-running “procedural” shows that keep each episode “stand-alone” (and not dependent on soap-opera-y character entanglements) can go on for years and years — i.e., CSI, NYPD Blue, the unkillable Law & Order franchise. But relationship dramas and soapy series (Melrose Place, Ally McBeal, Grey’s Anatomy) are just bound to run out of material — you can only play romantic musical chairs for so long before you (1) run out of romantic couplings, (2) run out of story, and/or (3) wear your audience’s patience thin. It becomes a case of “We know Meredith and McDreamy are going to end up together, so just how long are they going to keep them apart? Ah, let’s just have them sleep with everyone else! Even when it makes no sense! Besides, Patrick Dempsey’s magnificent head of hair will distract them so much they won’t even notice that our story sucks!”
In fact, some American producers have started thinking the indefinite-season structure is problematic, and are looking at moving toward the single-season (or “limited-run”) series model. (They won’t change the system completely, but they might allow for more alternatives to the norm.) So far, there haven’t been any success stories (and the money is just too tempting in the longer-running series), but they’re experimenting. It’s ironic, since this happens just as Koreans are making the move toward multi-season dramas. Hm. Maybe they’ll meet in the middle somewhere. Which is good, because not all series are meant for all formats — as long as we have all options on the table, the product has the best chance to put its best foot forward.
(Grey’s Anatomy, Gilmore Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation)