I’m very pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed Producer:
- Despite not being so keen on its initial mockumentary style;
- Despite its notoriously long episodes that run for at least 80 minutes each; and
- Despite not being all that interested in Show’s premise to begin with.
I suppose I could call that a triple-whammy happy bonus?
MY THEORY ON THE DIVIDE
So basically, this show experimented with a variety-esque sort of format, and then after two episodes, in response to very underwhelming response from local viewers, shifted gears to be more drama-heavy and variety-light in terms of its format.
My theory is, people who welcomed the mockumentary approach were probably disappointed to see the format go, while viewers who weren’t so keen on the mockumentary style were relieved when the show adopted a more conventional drama approach.
Personally, I thought the mockumentary format was quite refreshing and even rather fun at first. But by the 25-minute mark, I found myself getting bored coz everything felt rather aimless and random, and there didn’t seem to be much of an actual plotline. I was definitely relieved when Show evolved into something that was stronger on story.
In terms of why the mockumentary style didn’t sit so well with many viewers, there are 2 main reasons in my mind.
1. The Variety Disconnect
In the first two episodes of the show, there were lots – like, LOTS – of references to variety shows and celebs, including kpop idols.
Viewers in the know would’ve been quite tickled by all the references and cameos. The thing is, because there were so many references, it’s very likely only an elite handful of viewers who are deeply well-versed in k-variety, kpop, and k-ent in general, were actually able to appreciate it.
The references were probably mostly lost on a large sector of viewers. Without an appreciation of the references, and without much of a story to engage with otherwise, it’s understandable that this sector of viewers felt a big disconnect with the show.
When Show adjusted its balance to accommodate more story and less mockumentary, this basically made the show more accessible to drama fans at large.
2. Too Real for Comfort
This could’ve been just me, but in the thick of its mockumentary style, I actually felt Show was too real for comfort.
I found the episode 2 spotlight on the types of conditions trainees that live under quite troubling, rather than entertaining. And I also found the way production life was portrayed in the same episode rather bemusing.
Yes, I know that that’s pretty much how k-ent works. And yes, I know that other shows have touched on similar issues, like King of Dramas, for example. The thing is, I think it worked better in King of Dramas because it had at least felt dramatized. Here, because Show takes on a mockumentary style, everything feels more real. Which honestly just makes it a lot less fun to watch, coz these realities are harsh, and when I watch a drama, I like to momentarily forget what those harsh realities are.
Show’s eventual balance of more drama, less variety worked for me, because as much as it’s interesting to see into the workings of the k-ent industry, sometimes, preserving the fiction is what makes watching dramas entertaining and fun.
PACE AND TONE
I honestly really liked the pace and rhythm that Show eventually settles into.
The slowish pace at which we follow people around at work, coupled with the long episodes, sometimes made Show feel sort of like a Misaeng, just with a showbiz context. I kind of felt like Seung Chan (Kim Soo Hyun) was our Geu Rae, all naive and new, and trying to survive in a harsh world.
The beats are meandering and everyday, and watching this show really does feel like living life with these characters, as we experience their daily ups and downs with them. The slice-of-life flavor feels accessibly engaging, in an easy, laidback, just-hanging-out-with-my-friends sort of way.
After a while, I didn’t even feel the long episodes anymore, I just enjoyed hanging out with these characters so much.
Our main characters are a big part of what made the show, for me, and I thought all four of them were quite perfectly cast.
I always enjoy Gong Hyo Jin, and thought she did an effortless job of bringing Ye Jin to life, all abrasive bluster on the outside, but warm and caring on the inside.
Cha Tae Hyun also did a good job as Joon Mo, who’s all big talk but is actually sheepish and unsure of what to do most of the time. Notably, he manages to keep Joon Mo essentially likable, even when Joon Mo is at his most aggravating.
Seung Chan really grew on me as a character, and I very much enjoyed watching him come into his own as a rookie PD, but with nervous nerdy tendencies very much intact. Kim Soo Hyun embodies Seung Chan in an admirably intricate manner, and makes Seung Chan come alive in all the little details, from the nervous blink of his eyes, to the slight stiffness in his body posture. Really good.
Besides Seung Chan, another character that I really enjoyed was IU‘s Cindy. When we first meet Cindy, she comes across as rather one-note with her bored arrogant attitude to everyone and everything. As we progress through the episodes, though, Cindy shows increasing degrees of softness and vulnerability, making her progressively more and more relatable and likable. Her arc of growth and self-discovery was hands-down one of my favorite storylines in the show.
With Show moving away from its initial mockumentary focus, the criss-crossed lovelines among our main characters come to the fore, and add interest to Show’s daily, go-to-work-with-the-PDs sort of vibe.
Sure, Show kept me on my toes by keeping the outcome of the lovelines murky for almost its entire run. But, unlike the Who’s The Hubs game that the Answer Me franchise seems so fond of, Producer being slow to resolve its lovelines didn’t make me feel manipulated. It just felt like I was watching real people trying to deal with real emotions, while inhabiting their real personalities which often got in their way. I didn’t mind them taking the time they needed to figure things out, because after all, Real Life takes time and often doesn’t resolve itself in a neat bow by a designated o’clock.
Plus, our characters were all generally getting along in such sweetly heartwarming ways, that I felt like I could root for various loveline outcomes. I thought Seung Chan would be cute with Ye Jin, but I also felt he would be sweet with Cindy. I could totally imagine Ye Jin enjoying a great bickering relationship with Joon Mo, but I could also potentially see her in a really cute noona romance with Seung Chan as well. Which is why, even though this show kept me guessing in terms of who would end up dating whom, I didn’t mind it at all.
Another reason that I didn’t mind Show’s slow treatment of the lovelines, is that beyond the romance, I found the burgeoning friendships among our characters really heartwarming.
The growing closeness between our characters, as they became more comfortable and open with one another, was something that I really enjoyed watching.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
One of my favorite friendship beats in the show, is when Cindy runs away from her celeb life in episode 7, and hides out in Joon Mo’s apartment.
I loved watching her hang out with Ye Jin, Seung Chan and Joon Mo, and how we got to see more of her real, down-to-earth, and surprisingly super-organized personality. Playing random drinking games; getting tipsy and acting out with Ye Jin while the boys scrambled to keep things under control; having Seung Chan race her around in her wheelchair; this was the kind of stuff – friendship sort of stuff – that Cindy really needed in her life. Love.
Aside from our main characters, Show served up a bunch of cameos and side arcs that also helped to bring the fun.
Most notably, I found Kim Jong Kook fantastically funny in his role as Hong Soon, the brown-nosing, petty, somewhat paranoid PD who finds himself unconsciously yet unquenchably fascinated by the controlling-yet-breathily-sexy Office Manager (Ye Ji Won). I found their unexpected hot ‘n heavy office romance extremely hilarious, and perked up whenever their little arc showed up on my screen.
Cameo-wise, my favorite is quite possibly Go Ara’s appearance in episode 8 as Cindy’s frenemy. I found their arc very cute, and unexpectedly heartwarming. I think I loved any beat that had to do with Cindy discovering friendship, really.
Special shout-out to Jang Hyuk‘s and Lee Chun Hee’s cameos at the end of episode 4, with both actors appearing as Ye Jin’s ex-boyfriends complaining about her unreasonable closeness to Joon Mo. Hee. Both are such great choices, and I enjoy both actors very much. <3
As this show drew to its close, I actually felt quite wistful; I didn’t feel ready to say goodbye to these characters just yet, that’s how much I was enjoying the show.
The hardest thing to watch in Show’s final stretch, was President Byun (Na Young Hee) sabotaging Cindy to her face, and with a smile too. How disturbingly premeditated, cold and calculated. I honestly had trouble understanding why President Byun wanted to retire Cindy, when Cindy was portrayed as her company’s biggest cash cow.
The most poignant moment, for me, was Seung Chan struggling through tears, to come to terms with the realization that Ye Jin wasn’t anywhere close to accepting his feelings. Aw. Poor baby.
At the same time, there were many gratifying moments among the bitter and the bittersweet.
I loved that Joon Mo made a stand and kept Cindy on the show. I loved the moment Cindy was woken up by the 1N2D crew. I love that they chose her and rallied around her, even in the face of the cut-throat world of k-ent where ratings rule and the weight of netizens’ opinions bear down like an elephant in stilettos.
I loved that Ye Jin saved the day by digging up the evidence that would clear Cindy’s name. I felt that for Ye Jin, it wasn’t just about doing the right thing, but that it was also about doing right by a friend. And I do love that Cindy’s now a friend.
And I loved Seung Chan’s drunken aegyo, which is even more hilarious than Ye Jin’s drunken aegyo.
Also on the upside, we finally see Ye Jin and Joon Mo start a romance proper. Sure, Joon Mo is still quite the moron about expressing his feelings, but at least Ye Jin and Joon Mo get their happy ending.
Again on the upside, I like that we see Seung Chan and Cindy making baby steps of progress, definitely towards becoming better friends, and maybe even towards romance.
In the end, it’s nothing terribly groundbreaking or even very dramatic, really. But it’s a warm and uplifting note on which to end, with each of our characters making inroads on their individual journeys, while maintaining their relationships with one another.
At its heart, Producers is a story about people, growth and relationships, and even after the final credits have rolled, I feel like these characters will continue to grow as they live life together, for a long time to come – a thought which I find satisfying indeed.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Warm slice-of-life goodness, despite its early-episode identity crisis.
FINAL GRADE: B+