The business of kdrama extensions and cuts
Yep, we as drama-lovers tend to have a love-hate (mostly hate, I think) relationship with drama extensions and, even worse, unexpected cuts. Even a good drama can be ruined in the end by unnecessary extensions — a long-running epic series may suffer less from adding episodes than a short drama whose story was never meant to go beyond 16 or 20 installments. I know that this trend stems from that pernicious habit of broadcast stations’ knee-jerk reactions to ratings, but as much as we hate that, I think we all kind of understand why a station places so much importance on ratings. Here’s an article that discusses the trend.
Queen of Housewives
Ratings-based broadcast changes: Ruining Story vs. Economic Sense
In this landscape, dramas that end according to their original plan are rare. If they do well, they’re extended; if not, they’re cut short. These days, dramas are either drawn out or cut down based on the results delivered every morning in the form of television viewer ratings.
Dramas enjoying lofty ratings of 40% like MBC’s Monday-Tuesday series Queen Seon-deok and KBS 2TV’s weekend series Sons of Sol Pharmacy were given extensions early on. Seon-deok has been given twelve additional episodes and will broadcast more than an extra month. Sol Pharmacy will produce four more episodes.
This year’s “smash hit dramas” have all been extended from their planned broadcasts, beginning with KBS 2TV’s Boys Before Flowers and including SBS’s Wife’s Temptation and Brilliant Legacy, as well as MBC’s Queen of Housewives.
The broadcasters and the viewers who watch these extended series each have their own views. Assertions that “It makes economic sense” mix with those that say, “After ordering the extension, the plot development drags.” One broadcast source said, “In the case of dramas with good ratings, of course there are many viewers with loud voices who want extensions. From the producers’ perspective, there’s no reason to refuse an extension for a successful drama. The frequency of extensions can also have the effect of curbing rival dramas and providing more preparation time for the next project. But one must avoid trite plot turns and excessive drawing out of the story.”
Where there is sun, there is also shade. There are several dramas facing trouble after the announcement of their early endings. SBS’s ambitious Ja Myung Go and MBC’s Strike Love and Tamra the Island all tasted the bitterness of cut broadcasts.
The case was even more disappointing for Strike Love and Tamra the Island, which enjoyed the support of mania fans [i.e., a cult following] and also earned good responses in overseas markets. Another broadcast station source said, “Of course, there are many more dramas that end as planned than those that are extended or cut. However, the situation seems amplified because the interest of the media and the viewers leans toward those cases.”
The basis for these extensions or cut-downs is decidedly the audience ratings. Without an objective basis for judging a drama’s worth, these ratings become an essential yardstick by which a drama’s success or failure is decided.
The same broadcast source said, “The view that the broadcast stations may be focusing excessively on these ratings cannot be avoided, but if you look at it from an economic standpoint, you can’t unequivocally reproach them. It’s because ratings are directly related to the advertising that is bought, as well as being the basis for whether a drama will be sold in additional markets.”
Tamra the Island
I’ll admit openly that I hate this trend on both sides (extending and cutting), but especially series that get cut, which is a grand freakin’ shame. I almost — ALMOST — prefer the American industry’s cruel but swift method of canceling a show and immediately pulling it. True, we don’t get to see the ending that way, but in this era of DVD box sets, at least when we DO get to see the rest of the series, it will be presented as the producers meant them.
This Korean drama trend bothers me more, because it seems like such a jerking around of the production — most of the time they’re already scrambling to film episodes nearly in real time (Boys Before Flowers is a prime example of why that is a Bad Idea), and then they have to suddenly produce more or less at the last minute? When a drama has already wrapped filming 20 episodes (as in the case of Tamra, which began production a year in advance), it seems unnecessarily cruel to then tell producers to hand over 16 episodes instead, when the drama is already mid-broadcast. It’s a lose-lose situation. The drama that gets shown is hurried and edited together at the last minute, and what viewers see is not a true representation of their work.
But I also distrust extensions, even when I’m liking a drama. Goong, for example, killed its momentum when its popularity prompted an extension. By all accounts (I haven’t finished the drama), Queen of Housewives would have been better served without one. I still maintain that Coffee Prince would have been a much better series without its single episode extension, which would have improved the dragged-out pacing of the last two episodes (which were, imo, the weakest). King and I‘s story suffered by the extension, then cutting, then re-extension of its episode order. Even when I don’t feel the extension was too harmful (Dal Ja’s Spring‘s extra episodes didn’t irk me), I still think the quality would have been higher without them.
But I recognize that I’m a mere viewer whose sole concern is entertainment quality, who doesn’t have to worry about the business end of things. Grumble all we want, I don’t think the business model will be changing anytime soon.
Via Hankook Ilbo
- Sports dramas struggle to stay in the game
- Queen Seon-deok has SBS running scared
- Fans are spitting mad at Tamra’s curtailment
- Tamra gets shortened to 16 episodes
- Queen Seon-deok gets twelve more episodes
- KBS orders extension for Sol Pharmacy
- Tamra the Island: Episode 1
- Strike Love’s chopped ending will get more development overseas
- The men of Queen of Housewives
- Strike Love: Episodes 1 & 2
- Queen of Housewives (MBC)