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.
The nerdy, clueless, petty-but-earnest Seung Chan is such a huge departure from Kim Soo Hyun‘s last drama role as You From Another Star‘s grumpy cool alien, and Kim Soo Hyun totally nails it.
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+
I admit I only gave this show a shot due to my new found love for Kim Soo Huyn. I am glad to say that not only did I love it, but I also fell in love with that angel on earth, IU. It was the first thing I watched her in and she can definitely act. I guess I have to go back to your favourite idol in dramas post and give her a shout out.
That being said, the whole cast was great. I just loved the elder couple too (well, elder compared to Kim Soo Hyun and IU…). And the coworkers, and the obnoxious parents, and that goddess in charge of supplies. Oh, and the guy I know is a big star but can’t remember his name, the one doing a cameo as himself and explaining to Cindy that he’s trapped in a nice guy persona and has to be.nice.like.all.the.time.
Plus, this is a show that really had me sitting on the edge of my seat: I so hated that Cindy was treated so unjustly by both her manager and the public. I so wanted Seung Chan to fall for her. And I so wished that Joon Mo’s show miraculously became a hit. This was definitely a show in which I would have wanted a little more of a silly happy end, but as you said, it was too close to reality on many occasions!
And I agree: Go Ara’s cameo was more than sweet, it was heartwarming. And heartbreaking at the same time, if you consider that an idol’s life must be really really lonely. I read this article the other day about BTS’s Jin and the fact he stayed up until late at night waiting for people to wish him happy birthday and his disappointment in receiving only a few messages. And the fact that he complained to his band mates and he was grateful to V for actually asking his own friends to send him birthday wishes. So sad.
i watched the fmv and just thought of something interesting. when seung chan gave cindy the umbrella at first, he did it out of duty as a pd for the celeb, but at the end of the show he carried her luggage for her and i felt that this time he was doing it out of friendship.
Ah, yes, that’s a good point! It’s very true that by the end, Seung Chan was doing things for Cindy voluntarily, and not out of duty. I liked the way the show portrayed their relationship as a friendship with vague future possibilities for more. That felt real and hopeful at once, which I thought was a perfect place to say goodbye to them 🙂
hello , your review is way better than actually watching it , I’m in episode 5 and getting really bored with this drama , i don’t know if i will still continue watching it , since I already saw my Jang Hyuk . 😉
Hmm.. I really liked this one quite well, actually. Maybe it’s a mood thing? I think you’d need to be in a very particular mood for laidback, slice-of-life drama; nothing extremely exciting, but overall, relatable, heartwarming and feel-good. Almost like a family drama type of flavor. If you’re not feeling it, I’d recommend shelving it for a while, and then come back another time. That would probably work better than pressing on when you’re not feeling it, which would likely feel like a waste of time. 🙂
But I have to say , IU is a vision , she’s so pretty <3 , I have decided to just continue watching this till the end , I so wanted Kim Soo Hyun to like IU and not the other girl Gong Hyo Jin lol , ohhhh, for me even the other male lead is still too good for Gong whahahahaha.
I’m so bad , right ? lol
Haha! Your dislike for Gong Hyo Jin is showing, my dear! XD Since you like IU, though, you’ll be happy to know that she does really well as Cindy. It was quite a pleasure watching Cindy’s character grow, and IU portrayed it very nicely. 🙂
Ha! You’re not alone. I’m not a fan of Gong nor her character in the show. I’m a huge KSH fan and absolutely hated Seung Chan in the show for his character’s stupidity in chasing her around like a puppy. It would’ve have been more acceptable if there was more story to support the loveline, but it seemed that the infatuation just came out of nowhere.
I honestly loved this show from start to finish. There was something so different and captivating about it right from the simplistic and realistic portrayal of work life right to the development of most of the leads.
I admit I absolutely disliked CTH’s Joon-mo who was not only a cowardly and extremely unlikable character (IMO) but also infuriating with the way he treats others around him. Thankfully, he wasn’t much of a ‘lead’ in this drama as the other two ladies and Seung-chan were. I loved Ye-jin and her defence mechanism of being aggressive when she really isn’t. She was the most relatable character in the drama and I though Gong Hyo-jin was so endearingly brilliant in how she portrayed her character.
Cindy definitely grew on me and eventually because quite complex which was great to see. IU also improved throughout and while I feel many capable actresses could have done a much better job than her, she really impressed me in the end. Seung-chan, though, was my favourite character overall bringing in a dash of naivety, earnestness, sincerity and honesty into a workplace that lacked of it all. I loved how much he managed to change those around him, make them stronger, braver and more matured. Mostly, I loved Kim Soo-hyun’s nuanced and perfected portrayal of a character that was quite tough to nail. And nail he did. I love the subtle and distinct characters he brought onto Seung-chan like the shifting of eyes, the way he plays with his hands when nervous or the way he blinks more than necessary when he’s confused. It’s the little things that shows how much effort he puts in to match his unprecedented talent.
Overall, I loved Producers for being different and unique. I’ve been reading your blog entries for a while now but haven’t really been commenting. But I love your review enough to decide it’s time to write back. Your blog is great so kuddos!
Aw, thanks for coming out and leaving a comment, Freaa! 🙂 It’s always nice to get to know the folks reading this space!
Yay for more love for Producers – this show deserves more love and attention that it gets, so it always makes me happy to see appreciation for it 🙂 I really enjoyed its slice-of-life appeal as well, and quickly adapted to its laidback rhythm. I didn’t dislike Joon Mo, but I do admit that I had more affection for Seung Chan, Ye Jin and Cindy. I found them more interesting and relatable. IU did very well, I thought. There were moments when she had to portray Cindy acting badly – like the first wake-up call by the 1N2D crew, and her general cold diva cover – and she did that convincingly, while injecting depth and nuance into Cindy’s less self-conscious moments. That ability to act that spectrum impressed me, especially since she’s primarily a singer.
I definitely have to agree that Kim Soo Hyun steals the show with his perfectly nerdy interpretation of Seung Chan as a character. So detailed and so spot-on! I do love Kim Soo Hyun when he’s being swoony, but this role – despite its lack of swoon – definitely shows off his impressive acting ability. He completely inhabits the character, which is something that blows me away more and more, the more I watch him in different roles. I wonder what role he’ll pick next, to surprise us.
When it was launched, at first i don’t wanna try its since I didn’t like the pace and everything’s going on its first episode. But then I just finished re-watching my love from the star, and suddenly i just felt that I want to try Producers, for me to get over with soo hyun-oppa, haha! So before i’ll start to watch it again from the start, i wanna see if you liked it or not, since I find your reviews very understandable and I can relate to the feelings~ hehe. I’m glad that you liked it! because if you didn’t, i will not continue my plan to start this one hehe. BTW, i found your blog when i was trying to overcome my post-addicting moments to Reply 1997 and i really really really liked it! nways, looking forward to see more reviews from you and from this blog <3
Aw, that’s so nice to know, that you enjoy this blog! It’s always very encouraging to know 🙂 Yay that you’ll be giving Producers a try – I think it deserves more love that it got. And Kim Soo Hyun is perfectly nuanced in his delivery – he’s a very good actor indeed! I also found him very melty in MoonSun, despite Show’s flaws. If you’re looking for some Kim Soo Hyun melty and haven’t seen MoonSun, you might want to consider that one too, for later 😉
Producers (2015) #Kdrama Review Collection Page
Cindy was my favorite character. And I shipped her with SC so much and was happy how they ended them as friends but with hope of something more.
Unlike you, I felt that the show was trying to play otp game a lot. That resulted in less time for YJ and JM’s relationship (I was rooting for them)…especially CTH got less screen time compared to others. But that never prevented me from enjoying the show. It was truly entertaining. I also loved the mockumentary style and was sad to let it go as it was so funny.
Aw, really? I suppose Show probably was playing the OTP game to some extent, but I didn’t actually feel manipulated, which helped to keep me in the story instead of jolting me out of it.. I think I didn’t mind CTH getting less screen time because I feel that the writers didn’t really give his character a lot of growth. So every time we actually did see him, he wasn’t actually doing or saying anything groundbreakingly different. I sighed and rolled my eyes when he remained, to the very end, evasive about his real feelings for Ye Jin. If I’d seen a lot more of his evasiveness, I think I would’ve been annoyed. If we were to have more screentime with Joon Mo, I would’ve liked to see him grow more, and be a lot more ballsy about expressing and acting on his feelings. Credit to CTH that in spite of Joon Mo’s aggravating tendencies, that Joon Mo was still likable as a character. And yes, this show was really very enjoyable – I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I liked this 🙂
Did you watch it live or did a marathon? Because that affects it somehow…I was live watching it and each week I felt that the writer was trying to make fans of all the ships happy or sad 😀
But I’m glad that it ended the way I wanted it too!
Ah, that’s an excellent point, snow! I watched this as a slow-ish marathon, after the show had wrapped. So I’d do maybe an episode a day, on average. Which means I didn’t have long to wait between episodes, for my next fix. That probably did make a difference to how I experienced the show.. Although I’m unable to pinpoint the difference exactly, since I didn’t watch it live! XD
Another steller review. I could not agree with you more. I cried when they woke Cindy up the second time – it was just that sweet.
Aw, thanks Amy! I’m so glad you enjoyed this review – and I love that we agree on so many dramas! 😀 YES, that scene when they woke Cindy up was SO heartwarming. I loved it and replayed it just so that I could see it again. This was such a surprisingly warm watch, I’m so glad you liked it too! <3