SBS adjusts episode counts for Saimdang and Whisper
Well, you can’t exactly say that SBS isn’t receptive to its audience. The broadcaster announced today that they will be making adjustments to both of its primetime weekday dramas, Saimdang, Light’s Diary and Whisper. The former, which was much hyped as Lee Young-ae’s dramaland comeback, will end its run with a 28-episode count instead of its original 30. Meanwhile, SBS has reportedly requested a 1-episode extension for Lee Bo-young’s Whisper, which writer Park Kyung-soo is currently considering.
I’m having mixed feelings to both announcements, because I do think there are good and bad aspects to the cut and the extension. Let’s take Saimdang, Light’s Diary: While the drama isn’t a complete flop, it’s certainly not the ratings success SBS (and all of Korea, really) expected it to be. It started out really strong in the numbers game with 15%-16% ratings for its first two episodes but has since steadily dropped, and yesterday’s episode 23 pulled in its lowest at around 8.5%.
Now, I realize that ratings don’t always mean quality, and I’ve loved many a drama that wasn’t a commercial success. I admit that I only tuned in for the first couple of episodes, and based on what I’ve seen, sadly, I feel that the ratings are somewhat justified in this case. Personally, I thought the drama felt and looked dated, and not in that old-is-new nostalgia way.
SBS has explained that the cut is due to the fact that early on, producers made quite substantive editorial decisions in response to viewers’ complaints that that plot was too slow. They decided to quicken the pace, which is good, but also meant that they had to throw out a lot of footage. Which amounts to about two episodes’ worth, I guess. I’m sad that Lee Young-ae’s drama comeback was somewhat of a letdown, and wary for what this means for pre-produced sageuks, especially off the heels of last year’s Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo underperforming expectations. But if the cut lends itself to better storytelling, I’m all for it.
On the other side of this story, we have Whisper, which is already having a really good run for SBS in its Monday-Tuesday slot. It already passed the 15% benchmark in its first few weeks, and from what I hear, the story is intense and paced well, with some good acting mixed in. SBS is citing an upcoming pre-emption on May 9 (due to coverage of the presidential campaign) as their reason for the extension, so that Whisper will end on a Tuesday. I’m always skeptical of extensions, though, so we’ll have to wait and see whether this is a good thing for the show.
Saimdang, Light’s Diary will end its run on May 4 (which, yikes, means one less week of preparation for Suspicious Partner), and Whisper will air its final episode on May 23 with My Sassy Girl premiering the following Monday.