Dear kfangurl: Can you talk about single season vs. multi-season dramas?

Entropyenator writes:

Hi KFangurl,

Absolutely LOVE your blog and best of luck in your journey to keep writing!

Two questions for you I hope you can help with, though they are sort of related:

1) Why is it so rare for kdramas to get more than 1 season?

2) What qualifies a kdrama to get a second season?

To explain a bit, I just finished Vincenzo (so amazing, SJK, JYB and the rest of the cast were brilliant, even if the logic got…stretched in some bits) but SJK’s interview right after the finale seems to indicate it won’t get a second season despite very very good ratings.

This seems to be the norm for kdramas–save very rare exceptions like Hospital Playlist and Age of Youth/Hello My Twenties. So what gives? Is it a different industry/culture thing? I do admit that I am based in the US, where, as long as a show doesn’t completely flop, getting at least 2-3 seasons is incredibly common.

Looking forward to your answer!

Wait. How many seasons did you say there were, again?

Dear Entropyenator,

Thanks for your question! It does feel timely, actually, given that, 1, more kdramas these days are trying out the multi-season format, and 2, some of us don’t know how to feel about that.

The short answer to your question is: yes, it’s an industry / culture thing, and also, yes, this appears to be evolving.

Everyone, feel free to help me out by sharing your thoughts, opinions and experiences in the comments below; I certainly haven’t seen all of the dramas I’m going to be talking about today, plus, there are mostly likely more dramas out there that are relevant to this discussion, that I’ve missed out.

POTENTIALLY UNPOPULAR OPINION: The single season format is preferable to the multi-season format

Wait. WHAT did you say..?

The thing is, one of the big reasons that many of us came to love kdramas (and Asian dramas in general), is the single season format that they tend to favor. Sure, there are some dramas that get additional seasons, but those have traditionally been few and far between. Most of the time, with a single commitment, we get a full story, which comes with closure.

I don’t know about everyone else, but after investing 16 (or insert other episode number) hours of my life into following a story, I really want to know how it ends. I, and other drama fans, have been burned before, by Western dramas that operate on the multi-season format, because these dramas sometimes (oftentimes?) get canceled due to poor ratings. When this happens, it leaves fans hanging without much (or any) closure to the story they’ve been following, and that’s never any fun.

I personally have mixed feelings about Netflix getting much more involved in the streaming of Asian dramas, because while it’s great (really fantastic!) that Asian dramas are now so much more accessible to fans around the world, it also seems that more original Netflix series are being written in the spirit of encouraging a second season.

What this means is that when I got to the end of Sweet Home, I was more than a little disgruntled to find that (a) it ends on a cliffhanger, and (b) there is no second season confirmed. Like, where does that leave me, and other fans who really want to know what happened? 😭

I’m told that the very popular Extracurricular also ends on a cliffhanger, and as far as I know,  there has not been any confirmation yet, on whether Extracurricular will get a second season. That’s not super promising, amiright? 

It’s because of situations like this, that many drama fans actually prefer the single season format. It’s finite, and it promises closure.

On another note, it also seems to me, that the actors themselves are not keen to play the same character over and over. Rather, the impression I get from various interviews, is that many of the actors are always looking for ways to stretch themselves. Getting locked into a multi-season sort of thing might be good for die-hard fans of the show, but not so great for actor growth.

CHALLENGES TO THE MULTI-SEASON FORMAT

I haven’t seen all the multi-season dramas out there, but anecdotally, many drama fans tend to agree that the first season tends to be the best one.

Here’s a quick look at the various challenges of the multi-season format.

1. Is there still story to tell?

Sometimes, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot more story left to tell, in Season 2. Because Season 1 has sufficiently dealt with the main narrative conflicts, Season 2 can feel like an extension for the sake of itself, not adding anything that meaningful to the established story.

2. Loss of momentum

It can be easy to lose momentum, both in making and in watching a drama. Sometimes production factors get in the way of Season 2 being as well-written or as well-made as Season 1. For example, what happens if you lose your PD from Season 1? Will you manage to recreate Season 1’s magic without that PD’s particular touch? Also, sometimes, audiences just lose interest and.. move on.

3. Will it be worth it?

Ratings are everything, and sometimes, even when a show is planned for several seasons, if Season 1 doesn’t do well ratings-wise, the other seasons are unlikely to happen, because it just wouldn’t make business sense.

For example, although 2014’s The Three Musketeers had actually been planned for 3 seasons, Seasons 2 and 3 were canceled due to Season 1’s lackluster ratings.

4. Changes in cast

Sometimes, it’s just not possible to retain the same cast in Season 2, and this can result in Season 2 having a different vibe because the cast has a different chemistry. This will naturally give Show a different kind of appeal, and therefore, fans of Season 1 might not take to Season 2 as well.

Even though Age Of Youth 2 was a reasonably successful sequel, there were some casting challenges. For one thing, Age Of Youth 2 had to change actress for one of its key characters due to scheduling conflicts, and that did weird out a fair number of viewers, because it was supposed to be the same character, but she was played by a completely different actress.

On top of this, one of the key cast members, Ryu Hwa Young, did not return. Although the production stated that it was because the story arc for her character had been completed, it was speculated that her departure was actually due to a personal scandal.

The resulting changes in cast gave the Age Of Youth core character group a different dynamic, and many fans (myself included) missed the vibe of the previous core group.

SO WHAT ABOUT VINCENZO?

Personally, I think it makes sense that Vincenzo doesn’t get a Season 2.

For one thing, Vincenzo wasn’t planned as a multi-season sort of deal, so it would be extremely challenging to get all the actors back on board for a second season of filming. And, it wouldn’t be quite the same, if Show only kept Song Joong Ki and Jeon Yeo Bin, and left out the Geumga crew, right?

The other thing is, I also think that there may not be enough story to tell, to fill up a second season, that would be interesting enough to draw audiences the way Season 1 drew audiences.

Of course, that’s debatable, and a writer could creatively find a reason for the entire crew to come back together for a different sort of mission. My gut protests, though, that a Season 2 probably wouldn’t be as good as Season 1. Maybe a special episode would work, though, [SPOILER] with the Geumga crew making a trip to visit Vinny on his island. [END SPOILER] I wouldn’t mind tuning in to that!

APPROACHES TO THE MULTI-SEASON FORMAT

Let’s see.. What have we got here..?

Based on my observations, there are various ways that multi-season dramas approach things. Here’s a quick breakdown.

1. The story factor

In my head, there are 4 main ways that Dramaland deals with the multi-season format, in terms of story.

(a) A procedural with different cases

This is where many of our existing multi-format dramas sit, because it’s relatively straightforward, and it works, as long as, 1, you retain your core team that’s solving the cases, and 2, you manage to write interesting enough cases, to keep your franchise going.

Examples: God’s Quiz, Special Affairs Team TEN

(b) One story, just broken up to air in chunks

This is something that’s relatively new in Dramaland, and I think this has a lot to do with Netflix being such a strong streaming presence. Sometimes, whole stories appear to be broken up, for the sole purpose of creating 2 or 3 seasons out of a single story. I personally don’t understand the appeal of this, because, by breaking up the story into chunks, don’t you risk losing fans between seasons?

Examples: Love Alarm, Kingdom

(c) A continuation in the same drama world, but Season 1 is a full story on its own

Typically, this means that a show does well enough in the ratings, to warrant a second season, and that second season is written after the completion of Season 1. I personally like this approach, because it means that you’re not being “tricked” into committing to watching a second season, just because you clicked “Play” on Season 1.

Examples: Vampire Prosecutor, Age Of Youth

(d) A similar drama world, but with a whole new cast

This means that the various follow-up seasons aren’t strictly sequels, but they do tend to retain the flavor of the franchise, through writing and production touches. I like this approach too, because you’re never locked into watching multiple seasons, just because you tuned into one.

Examples: I Need Romance, the Reply series, High Kick, Goong

2. The cast factor

In my head, there are 3 main ways that Dramaland tends to approach the casting side of things, with multi-season shows.

(a) Aim to retain the original cast in full

This is the hardest to achieve, because every actor has their own scheduling commitments, so unless a show plans to be multi-season from the outset, and gets actors to commit to it upfront in the contracts that they sign, it’s not easy to get back the same cast for a sequel.

Examples: Hospital Playlist, Arthdal Chronicles

(b) Only aim to retain part of the original cast

This has been done with a fair amount of success, because by retaining a core sampling of characters, shows manage to recreate at least part of the magic that made Season 1 popular.

Examples: Voice, Dr. Romantic

(c) Change the cast, but retain the flavor of the franchise

This means that the various follow-up seasons aren’t strictly sequels, but they do tend to retain the flavor of the franchise, through writing and production touches.

Examples: I Need Romance, the Reply series, High Kick, Goong

A SAMPLING OF KDRAMAS WITH MORE THAN ONE SEASON

Arthdal Chronicles

Seasons: 2

Season 1 aired to a pretty lackluster response, but in February this year, Show was renewed for a second season. Subsequently, filming and production got delayed due to the pandemic. As of 8 June 2021, filming is rumored to have started for Season 2.

Age Of Youth 

Seasons: 2

Like I mentioned earlier, this is an excellent example of a show being popular, and therefore earning a second season. It’s a bit disappointing that Season 2 was unable to gather the original cast members in full, but I was still glad to have the chance to revisit this drama world.

Season 1 review is here. Season 2 review is here.

Chief Of Staff

Seasons: 2

From what I understand, Chief Of Staff was greenlighted for 2 seasons from the outset, so fans always had the assurance of a sequel.

Dr. Romantic

Seasons: 2

This is a great example of a franchise where some key characters are retained, while others are swopped out. Han Seok Kyu headlines both seasons as the titular Dr. Romantic, and a good number of the cast who play the staff of the hospital are in both seasons as well.

At the same time, other key characters, including the OTP in each show’s loveline, are different between Season 1 and Season 2. I haven’t seen Season 2 myself, but I’m told that both seasons manage to serve up very similar warm, soapy, heartfelt feels.

A Season 3 is rumored to be in the works, but there is no confirmation of this, to date.

Open Threads (including episode notes) for Season 1 are listed here.

God’s Quiz 

Seasons: 4+Reboot

This one got renewed season after season due to its popularity. I haven’t seen the show myself, but I believe Show’s procedural structure makes it easier to create multiple seasons. What Show does, is retain its core group of characters, while switching up the cases that the episodes focus on.

Goong

Seasons: 2

Goong (aka Princess Hours) was so hugely popular when it aired, that Dramaland (though, for the record, not the same people who brought us Goong) decided to serve up a similar sort of drama world with a modern monarchy, titled Goong S (aka Prince Hours). Unfortunately, Goong S was not quite able to capture the magic that Goong did, and suffered poor ratings.

Goong review is here, Goong S review is here.

High Kick series

Seasons: 3

This daily drama might not be a well-known franchise among international fans, but it was hugely popular in Korea, which is why it spawned 3 different seasons. This is a case where the cast is changed with each season, along with its story, but the flavor of the franchise is retained through writing and production touches.

Hospital Playlist

Seasons: 2 (so far)

Hospital Playlist is a little different from most other dramas, because it was always planned to be a multi-season sort of thing. I tried to find out exactly how many seasons have been planned, but I couldn’t find any confirmation when I Googled.

What I do know is that Season 1 was wonderful, and I wouldn’t mind watching multiple seasons of this, because the main attraction is the chemistry among our 5 friends, with patient-related stories to spice things up along the way. In a way, it kinda-sorta reminds me of American series Friends, because the main draw in that was also the chemistry among a core group of friends.

As I write this, Season 2 has premiered to fantastic ratings.

Season 1 review is here.

I Need Romance

Seasons: 3

This is a case where the cast and story gets changed with each season, but all 3 seasons are written and executed to have a similar “modern city love” sort of vibe. I personally didn’t love any of this show’s seasons, though I will say that I found Season 3 the most to my liking.

Season 2 review is here, and Season 3 review is here.

Kingdom 

Seasons: 2 (so far)

I haven’t seen this myself, so all I can say is that this series is extremely popular, and appeals even to non-fans of Korean drama. From what I understand, Season 2 is a direct continuation from Season 1 (if I’m wrong about this, you guys, please correct me in the comments!). I haven’t heard any confirmation of a Season 3, but it sounds like fans are eager to see Season 3 materialize.

A one-episode spin-off, Kingdom: Ashin of the North, is due to air on 23 July 2021.

Edited to add:

Let’s Eat

Seasons: 3

I can’t believe I forgot about Let’s Eat, since I watched all 3 seasons of this! 😅

Basically, Season 1 was popular enough with audiences, for the network to greenlight a Season 2, and this eventually gave rise to a Season 3; meaning, this was never a multi-season thing to begin with. However, probably because Show was never conceptualized as a multi-season thing, the overall flow of the story from season to season is a little odd.

Show retains male lead Yoon Doo Joon across seasons, but swops out everyone else, including the female lead – and therefore his character’s love interest. This is unconventional by kdrama standards, and this caused a good number of fans of Season 1 being unable to root for the OTP in Season 2, because of their loyalty to Season 1’s OTP. I personally really enjoyed Seasons 1 & 2 (Season 1 had the best food scenes, while Season 2 was better written), but I didn’t really care for Season 3 (which got cut short, because of Doo Joon’s sudden enlistment).

Season 1 review is here, Season 2 review is here, and Season 3 review is here.

Love Alarm

Seasons: 2

I haven’t seen this show myself, but from what I’ve heard, it seems that this was a whole story that got sliced in two, in order to make 2 separate seasons out of it. I remember hearing that fans were quite disgruntled at the end of Season 1. Now that Season 2 has aired, I’ve also heard that Season 2 is quite underwhelming, which just doubles this show’s disappointments.

My First First Love

Seasons: 2

This was a reboot of 2015’s Because It’s The First Time, which I liked quite well. However, I haven’t seen either season of this iteration of the story.

Similar to Love Alarm, I also heard that this was also a whole story that got sliced in two, in order to make 2 separate seasons. I remember hearing that fans were quite upset at the stealth approach to the multi-season format, since most had tuned in expecting a full story, only to reach (what they’d thought was) the end and realize that they’d only watched half a story and had to wait for the second half to come out.

Penthouse

Seasons: 3

Penthouse is a blithe makjang that is extremely popular in Korea, while international audiences don’t appear to be quite as excited about Show. Originally planned for 2 seasons, Season 2 was split into two, to make a total of 3 seasons. Clearly, SBS wants to milk Show’s popularity as much as possible; I can’t blame them though, it’s been a while since any of the Big Three networks have seen ratings like these.

Reply series

Seasons: 3

This is a case of switching out entire casts and storylines (and timelines!), while retaining the warm retro vibes that are this franchise’s signature. I enjoyed all 3 seasons, but the third and final season, Reply 1988, is my favorite.

Reply 1997 review is here, Reply 1994 review is here, and Reply 1988 review is here.

Special Affairs Team TEN 

Seasons: 2

Show is a crime procedural, which makes it one of the easier shows to take into a multi-season format. From what I understand, Show retains its core team across both seasons, while switching up the supporting cast.

Stranger / Secret Forest 

Seasons: 2

Season 1 of this show was so well-received, that a second season was then planned; ie, Show wasn’t a multi-season deal to begin with. It’s pretty impressive, that Show manages to retain its core characters across both seasons, while introducing new supporting characters in Season 2. From what I understand, Season 2 is a worthy follow-up to Season 1, even though it is a little bit of a slow burn.

Vampire Prosecutor 

Seasons: 2

This was also a case of Season 1 being popular enough, that a Season 2 was greenlighted. Show retains its core group of characters across seasons, while switching up the supporting cast, along with its episodic cases. Show does switch PDs between seasons, though, and it shows. I much prefer the restraint and elegance of Season 1, vs. the violence and excess of Season 2. Just goes to show that it’s not quite enough, to retain your cast, if you can’t retain your signature touch, eh?

For the record, fans very much wanted a Season 3 of this show, but Yeon Jeong Hun was not keen to reprise his role as our titular Vampire Prosecutor yet again.

Season 1 review is here, and Season 2 review is here.

Voice 

Seasons: 4 (so far)

Voice is a crime procedural, which, again, makes it one of the easier shows to take into the multi-season format. What’s interesting to me about Voice, is that it’s our female lead Lee Ha Na that is the constant, while Show switches out its male lead with each new season. Jang Hyuk starred in Season 1, Lee Jin Wook starred in Seasons 2 and 3, and Season 4 stars Song Seung Heon.

Welcome To Waikiki

Seasons: 2

From what I understand, both seasons take place in the same Waikiki guesthouse, but in terms of cast, Lee Yi Kyung is the only constant. In my head, this kinda-sorta places it in the same category as Dr. Romantic, for me, although Dr. Romantic managed to retain more members of its original cast. Season 2 did ok, though it wasn’t quite as popular as Season 1.

IN CLOSING

I hope this post helps to shed at least some light on the industry context around single season vs. multi-season shows!

How do you guys feel about single season shows vs. multi-season shows? Let us know in the comments below! (Hey! That rhymes! ..says my inner poet. 😆)

Smooches. ❤️

~kfangurl

Ok, but who still loves kdramas, either way?? 😁

POST-SCRIPT:

1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!

2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!

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Merriwyn
Merriwyn
18 days ago

Re multiple series- I feel like it only makes sense where there is more to say or another story to tell. My perfect example here would be Korean Odyssey, which finishes with the leading lady dead and in some sort of underworld or similar. I’d love to see a season two where Son O-Gong goes to mess things up and rescue her 😁 I feel like that’s a pretty natural season two possibility. I don’t think it makes sense if it is forced though.

beez
21 days ago

@Trent – I did read the synopsis and added it to my own “monster” (watch list). Now I remember seeing trailers for this show because I thought it was interesting that Yeo Jin goo starred in a movie with that same name – Monster. The plots are unrelated though.

beez
21 days ago

@Ele Nash – I just got a response from KOCOWA. I had complained about them not having certain shows that are produced by them. I asked them why am I paying for them and Viki if neither service will be carrying (especially Kocowa’s own shows)? They responded that the show I was asking about (Oh My LadyLord) had been licensed out so they wouldn’t carry it themselves. 😒

beez
21 days ago

@BE – that’s not what I meant. I consider Hulu as low man on the totem pole so I was surprised that one of the bigger streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime did not outbid (or whatever determines how they obtain shows).

beez
21 days ago

@Trent – thanks. I’ll check out the synopsis. I think I saw the word “evil” and just assumed it was another spooky show (which I avoid unless one of my biases is featured) 😉

Trent
21 days ago
Reply to  beez

@beez. Yeah, the actual Korean title is just “Monster” (guimool), although I do think the English “Beyond Evil” sounds cooler, more evocative than that. But there’s no actual occult or supernatural involved, just a serial killer mystery. And unlike some serial killer shows, there’s not really any gratuitous dwelling on gore or violence. It’s a character study of the people involved, as much as anything.

Fortunately, Kfangurl’s review is supposed to be up later today, so you can check out the non-spoilery parts. As far as I’m concerned, I thought it was really good…

Kay
Kay
25 days ago

I’m personally a fan of the one season format. It was definitely one of the things I originally liked about kdramas early on. I like the closure. Like you, I hate that western shows end on cliffhangers and then get cancelled. Plus, I just don’t think most shows in general are good in multiple seasons. Even in western shows, the first season is where the main hook is and subsequent seasons struggle to live up most of the time. Of course as you mentioned, procedural shows like medical and crime can do well in multi-seasons. Heavy comedy shows that go for a similar flavor like Waikiki and High Kick also do well.

And I really dislike Netflix breaking up one story into 2 seasons. I’m thrilled that they are making dramas and introducing them to more people, I just don’t want to lose all of those things that make kdramas special. But hey, lots of people like multiple seasons of everything. So plenty of people should be happy with the recent trend toward more seasons 😊

beez
29 days ago

@BE – I was very surprised to see that HULU has Parasite.

BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  beez

Parasite won the effing Academy Award for Best Picture; Bong Joon Ho has made several other films also available on streaming services, including two films that have a mix of American and Korean actors (Snowpiercer and Okja), so I am not surprised that at least one streaming service would pick it up.

beez
29 days ago

@BE – I agree. You would think that with the success Netflix has achieved with Kdrama (especially after their scramble to stay relevant with the expiration of their contracts for Marvel (Disney)/Paramount, etc.) you would think they would add more Korean movies.

BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  beez

@beez: Especially with the one two Oscars for Parasite and Yoon Yuh Jung. There have been so many intriguing K movies put out in the last three years, and especially given the change wrought to movie viewing by the pandemic, you would think so, but not just Netflix on that account but Prime and HBO as well. And one does wonder why Viki is also so limited. There have been so many films that have made it to festival screenings and so on.
Now I do have a friend who was in on the production of a documentary film on Congolese dance music that was originally shown in Canada and will be on the festival circuit, and he basically told me that the main director felt that Netflix when contracting takes so much off the top of the proceeds that it was not worth his while despite the audience to do it. So that may be a factor: Netflix et al just do not make it worth the original production companies time and effort to relinquish so much of the rights to the film.

Last edited 29 days ago by BE
beez
29 days ago

@Ele Nash – I stand corrected. Unless… do you guys have KOCOWA in the UK?

Ele Nash
28 days ago
Reply to  beez

@beez No! It’s funny how Netflix tweak content by country. I’m still miffed that they removed Money Flower from ours 😭

merij1
merij1
29 days ago

On the topic of Netflix expanding K-drama’s availability to the rest of the world — for better or worse — does anyone know what its role actually is for the shows it claims as its own?

I can’t remember the term it uses, but sometimes Netflix associates itself more closely with the show. Not necessarily as bold as its “Netflix Original” branding label, but along those lines.

Yet when I look up those shows, I see they either had originally broadcast or are currently broadcasting on Korean TV.

So what is the enhanced role played by Netflix in those cases? Do they cover a chunk of the production costs, in partnership with the Korean broadcast or cable network? Or is it simply that they agree to broadcast the show prior to production, making it more of a sure thing?

Last edited 29 days ago by merij1
Sean
29 days ago
Reply to  merij1

The term is Licensed Content as opposed to Original Content, Merji. I sort of explained what they are up to in my earlier comment to Ele.

beez
1 month ago

@BE – In your wish for more streaming channels to pick up Kdramas/Kmovies _ have you considered that means paying more subscriptions? This is my absolute dread!

BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  beez

I am generally happy enough with the K Dramas I have access to with the exception of old ones. I have checked out channels beyond Netflix and Viki, and perhaps getting Kocowa would be okay, but have not seen any that offer classic tv or anywhere near the kinds of movies I want to see. Given the popularity of the Korean film industry, I find that shocking.

beez
1 month ago

@BE – Keep in mind that shows like Dr. Romantic belong to the big 3 and as such, they’re on their own streaming channel – KOCOWA. Those shows will never be on Netflix (unless over time, Netflix offers KOCOWA so much money that they decide its more profitable to dissolve and send their content to Netflix).

Ele Nash
29 days ago
Reply to  beez

@BE and @beez
In the UK, Dr Romantic is on Netflix!!

BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  beez

What about My Mister or Beyond Evil? Both of these have arrived on Netflix.

beez
29 days ago
Reply to  BE

My Mister is a TvN show which I think is a Korean cable network. I’m not familiar with Beyond Evil.

Trent
29 days ago
Reply to  beez

Yeah, tvN is a cable network.

Beyond Evil was originally on JTBC, also a cable network. It was on Viki (still is, for that matter), and just showed up on Netflix (US) a couple weeks ago. Probably they picked it up after it won best drama, best actor, and best screenplay at this year’s Baeksang Arts.

(I’ve been watching it along with KFG on her patreon watch, and we’re on the last two episodes. It’s very good, if you’re at all into twisty crime thrillers).

Last edited 29 days ago by Trent
BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Both were picked up after the fact by Netflix, I suppose in response to their popularity. More than just awards but popular response I would imagine was a driver in the case of each, albeit they missed the My Mister train by over a year.

Last edited 29 days ago by BE
Vaish j
Vaish j
1 month ago

This was an interesting question and loved all the inputs by kfangurl as well as the other commenters.
In my opinion, though I love the characters so much, I prefer closure. This is why I guess, lovestruck in the city didn’t vibe well for me. Would love to see more interesting dear kfangurl debates 🙂

Ele Nash
1 month ago

Hmm, reading your points, kfangurl – eloquent as always – and everyone’s comments here, I feel like I hardly ever like multi-season dramas from any country. I think I get so caught up in characters and so invested in them that I’m burnt out by the end of one season. For example, I’m working my way through the gloriously bleak My Mister (gosh, it’s excellent) and adoring every moment with Dong-hoon and Ji-an (gosh, they are fantastic characters and so very well played) but, with one episode left, I wouldn’t want to see them again, however much I have adored being with them. I wonder if because kdrama is often so character-led (which I heart) it doesn’t lend itself easily to plot devices that extend it beyond the story-arc?

In my kdrama viewing, I have seen very few multiple series. Stranger 2 really upset me for half of the season (although much of the cast were intact) because they weren’t together on the screen the same way. It took an age for me to adjust.

Having said that, often in Western shows, seasons 3 or 5 might be the best ones (I’m thinking of ‘my’ Buffyverse that the spin-off series Angel was so-so until , woah, final season 5 😍 and of course long-runner Doctor Who coming back with an excellent series helmed by Russell T Davis). Am I digressing? Oh, right, so I guess my point would be that when a series goes on a few, it often brings out the best in them.

Maybe no right or wrong, other than multiple-series with ‘popularity’ and revenue as its motivator can never lead to great artistry, as so many Western shows prove. And perhaps that’s why kdrama has been so refreshing. Eek if Netflix are trampling on that creativity and honesty in its rush for profit and popularity.

j3ffc
j3ffc
1 month ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Ele, I think we can comment a little on Buffy as there a few of us aficionados lurking around in here (it was the show that led me to K-drama in the first place, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere).

If THAT show had only one season, no one would remember it at all because it was was still finding its voice. BtVS only took off in seasons 2/3 (both great, and probably the apex), a fairly lackluster season 4, a pretty darned good season 5 (which also had a perfectly good series ending, if they’d chosen to end it there), and the (IMO) dreadful season 6 – but without which we’d have never gotten the wonderful musical episode. It recovered its breath for a serviceable season 7 and a definite ending, which one either liked or not, but was at least a planned denouement.

So, in American TV, at least, some shows take a while to solidify themselves. What strikes me as that, among the K-dramas that even get a second season, hardly any were thought to improve in the second go around (I can only think of “Let’s Eat 2” in this regard, which a lot of people think was better than part 1).

BTW, I watched every last second of Angel, too, but it never spoke to me the same way the BtVS did.

Ele Nash
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

@j3ffc I’m curious how Buffy led you to kdrama? Yes, I loved every second of Buffy, even the bad bits, which is why I didn’t comment on the best season (oh, without season six no Once More With Feeling and the world would be such a poorer world without it! It’s my favourite episode and possibly my favourite episode of anything 😍) which is why I went to Angel which I never loved like I loved Buffy but I have to say, that last season 5, with Fred, it got me every which way. Five seasons to get there but it really did get there – um, and then ended! Maybe it was only good because they knew they had to end it. Maybe kdramas are similarly so good because they (mostly thus far) know one season is the only season.

j3ffc
j3ffc
1 month ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Being a Buffy fan, which I also loved every good/bad second of (and I agree with you – OMWF may be my favorite hour of anything on TV), I happened on a video clip of Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, which I thought, hmm, this could be interesting to folks who like Tiny Female Superheroes. It’s Korean…really? I had an opening in my viewing schedule and, following a little research (including an article in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/07/watching/k-drama-streaming-guide.html) decided to just go ahead and watch it. Liked it enough to start working my way through other shows in the NYT article (still working on it) and, as they say, the rest is (my browser’s) history.

Ele Nash
29 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

@j3ffc I wonder if there’s a random (or not so random) correlation that people who like Buffy the Vampire Slayer are highly likely to enjoy kdrama?! Do we just have incredibly good taste?! 😅

j3ffc
j3ffc
29 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Good q! I certainly don’t claim to have particularly good taste (and many others in this forum would agree with that assessment). But I do think that Buffy and well-done K-dramas do have elements in common:

  1. Taking on the trappings of a specific genre – and then turning it on its head and/or mashing it up with other genres.
  2. Appealing leads. Buffy even had an OTP of sorts (and – SPOILER ALERT – when that changed, the show did start to struggle).
  3. Great integration of compelling ensemble casts. And along with item 2 above, the characters are well-drawn and inspire viewers to care about their fates.
  4. A well-developed alternative universe that resembles ours just enough to be relatable but differs enough to be interesting.
  5. Great story telling that sweeps the viewer up in its scope.

Anything you would add or disagree with?

Ele Nash
28 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

@j3ffc Excellent summation! For me, if I love the characters and they behave in a way that feels real, and also that I like the world they inhabit (however strange / far-fetched / gloomy) then I’m in for one season, wholehearted. In subsequent series, if any of those factors wobble and characters start behaving out of character / they replace an important actor / the world behaves out of character then I can get very upset (Eg. Stranger) – but even then, I have a loyalty to the first season that makes me persist. With Buffy, after Angel left, I took half a series to adjust (series 4 took half a series to adjust too) but then, as the world and Buffy remained in check, I still loved it and I’m ‘one of those’ who loved (love) Spike so I was invested in seasons 5, 6, 7, comics, ad infinitum. It’s funny because I feel the same way about Buffy as I do kdrama in that I don’t like recommending it to people to watch because I feel like it’s an acquired taste or that people won’t ‘get’ it. That’s why I love kfangurl and the people on here like you – yay, you feel a similar way! 😊

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

I really do not see Netflix being interested in multiseason series from Korea, except, as with Kingdom, to reduce a single story into multiple seasons. Sisyphus scares me; and as a result, I am a bit afraid of a Vincenzo franchise. My Country scares me; that is high production sageuks that fail to tell a coherent story and reduce to the equivalent of bad spaghetti westerns in which even a thousand cuts cannot bleed them out. That is, multi season or single season popularity and revenue can lead to misteps.
But that is the case universally. I think the idea of because of Netflix we will enter a period of multiseason shows when Hospital Playlist seems a complete anomaly (Dr. Romantic did not even make it to Netflix, for goodness sakes), is really a straw man consideration. Netflix seems to adopt big hits like My Mister or Beyond Evil, but it also adopts a plethora of other dramas that are in line with typical fare. I can only think of one or two of those old K Drama shows (mostly family dramas) that went on for years and years and years ever reaching Netflix.
I think the more fundamental issue with regard to K Drama productions will have to do with shortening individual series length, a phenomenon that has been trending in the US and Europe for a few years, and I believe on the basis of the quality of a few recent productions from Korea will also begin to trend there as well whether we are seeing shows from Netflix or other venues.
And in fact I would actually like to see other streaming services available here to recognize the K drama phenomenon more widely. I came to K Drama via two shows–Mr. Sunshine via Studio Dragon/Netflix and Secret Love Affair, an older award winning drama Netflix adopted (after that I read KFG and searched out Chuno on other streaming services).
And I do wish some streaming service available in the US would pick up the multiple season 1990s show, Sandglass, and perhaps with KBS going international they will offer it as a library piece, just as I wish 6 Flying Dragons and other great classics would become available again.
Similarly I really wish given the recent international awards K film has garnered a much more complete availability of Korean movies available via streaming services. For example, K reviewed the film Keys to the Heart, featuring Lee Byung Hun and Youn Yuh Jung–I would love to see it. I would love to see more of Youn Yuh Jung’s films. One hopes the wave K filmmaking is riding encourages all the big streaming sites to get a hold of such films.
As far as quality goes, this: all popular arts genres tend to have their hey days, and then tend to lose steam. The way it is insofar as I can see. But I do not see much future for multi season stories, network staples and streaming oldie nostalgic remnants, as wherever they have appeared they have tended to lose steam themselves in current production.

merij1
merij1
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

Speaking of wanting more Korean shows/movies to stream here in the US, I just signed up for a paid VPN (I went with ExpressVPN, but there are many good ones).

Previously I had tried but failed to use Opera’s internal VPN to watch shows not approved for my region. With my new full-featured VPN, I tried once with VIKI and once with Netflix, using Singapore as my location, but it was still a no-go.

Does anyone know of a good URL on this subject? In general, I always pay for artistic stuff, figuring that’s the key to there being more of it in the future, and to reward the artist. For example, if I love a song, I pay to DL the MP3, from the artist if I can or Amazon if I can’t.

But there is literally no option to watch some of these shows in the US. For example, King of Dramas or Still 17 [AKA Thirty But Seventeen.]

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

Hey, merij1, Still 17 is actually available on viki.com in the US (under the title Thirty But Seventeen). It’s even on their standard tier (rather than plus).

I watched it there a couple months ago (very cute, super heart-warming show, well worth watching).

merij1
merij1
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

I see it now! Thanks. That will be next, I suspect. The last one we saw was Search:WWW, which I highly recommend.

merij1
merij1
29 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Btw, has anyone seen So I Married The Anti-Fan (the Korean version)? And if so, would you recommend it?

BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  merij1

I am holding out for the All My Ex’s Have Been Almost Evil Mellow Yellow Undead Goblin Gumiho Time Travelling Cross Dressers of Youth.

Last edited 29 days ago by BE
merij1
merij1
29 days ago
Reply to  BE

Hmm. You had me up until “Youth.” We’re having a harder and harder time watching shows with early twenties actors. Otherwise, that show would be awesome!

Last edited 29 days ago by merij1
BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  merij1

Ah well, show is also reported to feature cute eighth grader shamans who against all odds bring it to satisfactory conclusion with their mentalist derring do.

Sean
29 days ago
Reply to  merij1

No, I wouldn’t recommend it. I dropped it after 11 episodes, and I should have dropped before then, but I was hoping for some sort of miracle. Sadly, I felt the ML was quite miscast, the level of abuse by both MLs against both MLs was excruciatingly painful to watch and the first FL (whose performance was good) being set up all the time by the reality tv production company, wasn’t pleasant viewing either.

I was watching this and Imitation at the same time, which had potential because of its insights into being a Korean idol, but I dropped that as well.

j3ffc
j3ffc
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

As Trent notes, Thirty But Seventeen is available on normal Viki in the US. I have ExpressVPN as well and usually point it at Singapore (in honor of our host here) where I use it to watch Viu (like right now, I’m watching bit by bit House on Wheels 2; right now the guest is Bae Doo Na). It does also work for Viki but I’ve never found a US-unavailable show there (although I did see differences in music on Dr. Romantic there vs. US Viki). I think Netflix blocks VPNs so I don’t even bother with them.

I too recommend Thirty But Seventeen for a fairly breezy watch.

merij1
merij1
1 month ago
Reply to  kfangurl

When I tried Netflix with the VPN set to Singapore, a Singapore version of Netflix came up. As in, it called itself “Netflix Singapore. ” And I have no subscription there.

But I can access my US Netflix with the VPN set to a different state than where I actually live in. So it’s not blocking any computer using a VPN.

j3ffc
j3ffc
29 days ago
Reply to  merij1

Thanks, kfangurl and merij1, for the corrections. You are right that you can access other countries’ versions of Netflix on VPN. So far, though, I’ve not needed to do that as I haven’t found a show on an international Netflix feed that I can’t get on another streamer.

I realized last night that the issue I have with Netflix internationally or on VPN is different. One of the things I like about NF is that one can download shows and watch them offline. BUT, if you download a US show and try to watch it in another country or with the VPN enabled, you get an error message and it won’t play unless you go offline. It happened just last night with Navillera.

And speaking of Navillera, although it’s early going, I slotted it into my main non-group watch position based on kfangurl’s review and I’m glad I did. It has a unique feel and the characters are already growing on me. While I understand the suspicion that many of you have about Netflix taking over the drama world, I am cautiously optimistic since there have been enough good shows to come through Netflix to keep an open mind. Anytime there is a lot of content, most of it is not going to be amazing and there are plenty of examples of highly hyped shows that don’t deliver on any platform. So, for the time being, with there being enough examples of quality content on Netflix (Kingdom, Camellia, It’s Okay, Crash Landing) to date, I’m keeping an open mind.

BE
BE
26 days ago
Reply to  merij1

: I recommend House of the Hummingbird, a recently 2019 released streaming coming of age film taking place in 1994 Seoul. Downbeat, steadypaced, but a really beautiful and moving character study of a middle school aged girl addressing both the kinds of challenges universal to girls of that age and specific not only to her time and place, but her own familial situation, beautifully enacted by young lead Park Ji Hu.
I also recommend if you see it, also catching the Korea Times interview with its director and script writer Kim Bora, which can be found on youtube and on the Korea Times website. Ms. Kim grew in Seoul at the same time as her film’s lead and later graduated from university there, going on to a post graduate degree in film making at Columbia University. She is an exceedingly interesting and intelligent young woman with an interesting take on Seoul in the 90’s, contemporary South Korean society, and in the interview, her interviewer consistently asking great questions, Korean film making.
There is also in passing a brief comment during the interview on the department store collapse in 1995 (that likely served as the catalytic event for Chocolate). Kim’s discussion really sheds light on not only the whole cultural reaction to the 1994 bridge collapse featured in the film, but the department store collapse, as symptoms of Korea’s rapid growth in the 90’s and how the student protestors of the eighties are so deeply embedded in the national psyche there that she could introduce a character in her film and simply with a few contextual hints and objects reveal that about the character, something Koreans would immediately pick up on in ways those not from Korea would not. Very interesting for me as I continue to watch films and shows that cover the recent history of South Korea between 1980 and 2000.

Last edited 26 days ago by BE
merij1
merij1
1 month ago
Reply to  BE
beez
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

@BE – I do think Netflix might try to change Kdramas by having multiple seasons because as we all know, when companies see something making money they try to milk it for all it’s worth. My only hope is that Netflix has someone on staff who fully understands the K-drama watching experience. At first they didn’t. If y’all recall, when they first began having original K programming they would air 8 episodes of a 16-episode drama and hold the remaining 8. I called them so many times (I think others did too) to explain that if they hold episodes it totally ruins the Kdrama experience for westerners who turn to Korean-American recapping sites with our questions concerning what happened in the episode that we can’t understand culturally. Those sites would have moved on as they watched the entire show as it aired and we’re left asking question on dead blog threads, never to be answered.

I’m just thankful somebody at Netflix was listening or we’d still be watching half shows and waiting for the other half.

Last edited 1 month ago by beez
BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  beez

Yes I can see them doing that as they have with Kingdom although Arthdal did not work out. But I cannot see them investing in a multiple season long series unless like Vincenzo it has franchise kinds of potential along with a surprisingly popular first season.

Last edited 29 days ago by BE
Sean
29 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

I think, Ele, there is no better writer or TV show creator than Russell T Davies, of which he certainly did an awesome job re the Doctor Who revival. He also knows when to call it a day with a show.

Kdrama is refreshing. For my mind, there is no better show than My Mister. It’s in my top three of my all time favourites from any country. As for Angel, we really liked it from beginning to end. Buffy was just awesome and at a time when tv was very bland.

I have a special spot for Stranger 1 and 2, it’s own category, as it were, because it is fabulous viewing and the change up between both series was very clever and I can understand needing to adjust, but I really appreciated why they did it this way.

I have a much more optimistic view re Netflix. As a company, its stock is worth $165b (probably a tad more at the minute). It spends a whopping $17b a year on content, of which $2b will be spent this year on Asian content alone. It’s focus in the region is content that suits mobile devices. Netflix has 3.3 million paid subscribers in SK. Since 2015, it has invested in over 70 SK live action and anime titles and has also invested more than $700 million in financing partnerships and co-productions. It had lost its way, now it is turning the corner, because it has had to. Shows like Kingdom (1 and 2 and hopefully 3) Shadow and Bone are heralding a new era in terms of quality content. And, no, I am not a paid supporter of Netflix, I just find this company’s journey very intriguing 🧐

Ele Nash
28 days ago
Reply to  Sean

@Sean Ah, we have extremely similar taste! Is there a Stranger 3 in the offing? I felt like Stranger 2 finished so much stronger than Stranger 1, but it took yonks to get there – I am a bit resistant to change so appreciate my reticence may just be me. I like the programming Netflix is putting out – I was very excited when they started showing Studio Ghibli – and will forever be thankful to it for introducing me to Asian drama via The Rise of Phoenixes and Mr Sunshine. I couldn’t get over the slow story-telling (which I love) and the beautiful film-like attention to setting and costume and direction. So I guess, yes, Netflix may be a force for good programming and nurturing talent. I really hope so.

Sean
28 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

@Ele, we do seem to have similar taste! Yes, the expectation is there will be a Stranger 3. Stranger 2 was a ratings success on the home front, sitting at 46 overall in the historical cable tv list per household, just behind Something In The Rain 🤔. On IMDB it has a rating of 8.6, which is mind blowing, in that only Mr Sunshine, Sky Castle, CLOY and Flower of Evil rate slightly higher. Kdramas tend to rate very highly on IMDB as anything normally around 6 or 7 is usually a very good score. I would think Stranger3 will take several years to pull together between the Korean producers and Netflix.

I can understand being a bit resistant to change. I am like that with the Marvel movies etc as I feel that they really don’t do most of the superheroes justice re the Avengers franchise. My family just roll their eyes whenever I get on my soapbox about how the stories and characters were better when I was a kid.

The Rise of Phoenixes is on my plan to watch list. With Mr Sunshine though, I loved the characters and absorbed every second during my watch. I found it mesmerising. Is there a better character than Kudo Hina? It was marvellous story telling all round.

Ele Nash
27 days ago
Reply to  Sean

I was obsessed with Kudo Hina and Goo Dong-mae – brilliant characters, brilliantly played. I worry about being too effusive on TROP because the end ten episodes or so are… But I loved it! Chen Kun and Ni Ni are epic, the supporting cast are fantastic, the costumes to die for, the setting stunning… Ah, I’m being effusive 😊 Yes, I totally understand the annoyance when characters are changed (and, in fact, I’m reading the translation of TROP from the original novel and it’s SO different, I don’t know why they just didn’t make an original screenplay instead). However, I hope this doesn’t upset you, but I am very fond of the Spider-Man films – I feel like Tom Holland really is Peter Parker – and I most especially loved Into the Spider-verse 😍

Sean
26 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Effuse away, I say 😂 I understand totally where you are coming from re TROP. I have had that same thought re the odd show here and there. No, need to be so polite re Spiderman. Just ignore my ranting and raving 😎 Yes, my family would agree with you re Tom Holland. Now, brace yourself for some irony. As I walked into the lounge room today the boys said to me “We have put on Into the Spider-verse,” so I had to watch it (well, most of it – I survived 🤣). My daughter quite likes it too, which is interesting.

I see next month, Kim Min Jung (Hina) plays the bitter, power hungry rival, to The Devil Judge. It’s a dystopian drama where society has collapsed and courtroom trials are shown on live tv. I think I will take a look 😊

J3ffc
J3ffc
28 days ago
Reply to  Sean

Sean, as a Dr. Who aficionado, have you seen “The Ballad of Russell and Julie”? I’m sure you would enjoy all of the in-jokes that I missed but it’s fun for anyone, not just Dr. Who fans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFZn5HKpO18

Similarly, I recommend the “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” Dr. Who version for everyone on this blog just to get a sense of the size of the village it takes to create a show reach our screens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c6qENWh2jQ

Sean
27 days ago
Reply to  J3ffc

@J3ffc – It is really fantastic of you to share these Dr Who snippets! Yes, I have seen both. The Ballard of RTD and Julie was performed by David Tennant (The Doctor at the time), Katherine Tate (The Doctor’s companion. KT is an awesome comedian in real life) and John Barrowman (Captain Jack. JB is an awesome entertainer in his own right) at the end of Russell and Julie’s tenure with Doctor Who. It is a wonderful parody regarding how Julie convinced Russell to undertake the DW reboot and then the subsequent challenges along the way.

I thought at the time the tribute: “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) was an awesome way to recognise all of those involved in pulling Dr Who together. As an aside I often play the Proclaimers songs on my guitar. I remember the first time I worked out how to play “I’m Gonna Be” not long after it was released, it was awesome and Linda was happy as she is huge fan. They are wonderful musicians that have an uplifting style and have been very influential on a range of fronts.

My favourite Dr Who episodes of the current era:

  • The Girl in The Fire Place. This is a romantic story that sees the Doctor on Arthur (a horse) crashing though a time window to rescue Reinette that leaves a certain Eternal Monarch’s efforts re his horse for dead 😂;
  • Vincent and the Doctor re Vincent Van Gogh – a beautiful story that brings tears to one’s eyes; and
  • The Husbands of River Song. River Song is the Doctor’s wife. At the end of the episode it transpires that this is their last night together. River asks him how long a night lasts on Darillium and he replies 24 years).
Ele Nash
27 days ago
Reply to  Sean

Nice choices! Ah, there are so many exceptional episodes to choose from. I just adored any with Rose Tyler. When the ninth Doctor is struggling at the end of the comeback series and he tricks her and sends her spinning to Earth in the Tardis with no way back, and she rants in the chippy that while the Doctor is saving the universe, they’re “just sitting around, eating chips!” 😍 It doesn’t sound much but for me it just doesn’t get much better than that… Anyho, I pretty much loved all of David Tennant’s episodes but I also really liked Asylum of the Daleks with Matt Smith’s Doctor and also the episode where Peter Capaldi’s Doctor gets trapped in his own private Hell. Any episode written by Russell T Davies are officially the greatest, though 😉 Shall I shut up about Doctor Who on a kdrama website now? Oops… Sorry, kfangurl 😘

Sean
26 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Thanks, Ele. Rose was fabulous. And, it was awesome she got to meet Sarah Jane. Yes, DT is pretty hard to beat as the Doctor. I loved those moments where he was literally declaring he was saving the universe. As for Capaldi’s doctor in his own private Hell (Heaven Sent), he had too few episodes as good as this one. My all time favourite doctor is Jon Pertwee, so classic Who. The UKs best writers and actors grew up on Doctor Who. Yes, we probably should talk about something else like On The Verge Of Insanity – two episodes in and it is awesome. Yet again, the older Kdrama actors are so adept at showing how it all should be done 😊

Ele Nash
26 days ago
Reply to  Sean

Aw, “my” Doctor growing up was Peter Davidson 😉
Hmm, I haven’t heard of On the Verge of Destiny. How old are we talking?! I don’t want to watch the last episode of My Mister because then it’ll be over and I don’t want it to be over 😭 I may have to hold a period of mourning. At least Nirvana In Fire is bubbling away nicely.

Sean
26 days ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

PD is just the loveliest person. He autographed one of my Doctor Who books during a promotional tour over here in his first year as the Doctor.

I was sabotaged by auto correct. The show is On The Verge of Insanity and it has just started.

I remember saying to KFG at the time re My Mister I was literally holding my breath through the final episodes as I didn’t want the writers stuffing up the story (which they didn’t) including the ending (which was truly special). Mourn away when the time comes – because it does leave a hole. I think having NIF bubbling away will certainly help with that 😊

j3ffc
j3ffc
27 days ago
Reply to  Sean

Thought that you might have seen the videos…thanks for proving the community here with background.

So cool that you play “IGB (5M)” on the guitar. Such a great tune!

Sean
26 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Yes, well sometimes I ramble on a bit, j3ffc. But thank you for the opportunity and the compliment 😊

Antonio
1 month ago

I hope Netflix doesn’t influence Korean series too much by making them clones of Western ones that have been unwatchable for years.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  Antonio

Well certainly Signal and moreso The Life of the Married were lifted from American and English drama. I do wonder how much Succession and Billions have been lifted from Korean cheobol melodramas, the machinations, cynicism, and dark humor emerging from both seem quite similar, albeit even more pronounced and ubiquitous in K Drama land.
There is going to be cross pollination, and Korean admiration for American and European film making is no secret, but I do think the life in both countries are on different cultural timelines and so shows that are compelling to Koreans may not be so compelling to us here. And vice versa–it strikes me as interesting that a show like Be Melodramatic can have such an avid following outside of S. Korea but apparently had consistently horrible ratings there. And my goodness, when it comes to the undead, the Koreans have a far greater undying zombie jones than we do here–where we get one show with spinoffs, the Koreans stick a zombie in any production wherever possible, not to mention their better appreciation of hyperbolic absurdity as a comic device.

merij1
merij1
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

Supposedly, young people in Korea didn’t “get” Be Melodramatic.

Whereas I’m with you in placing it in my very top tier of all the K-dramas we’ve watched thus far.

BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  merij1

Ahn Jae Hong, who for my money was a far better rom com leading man than more than 3/4 of the pretty faced ab slab boys that get leads, was not one of your box office K Drama stars, and none of the women leads at the time were all that well known either. I am sure a ho hum BOH-RING rom com like Run On because of its leads did much better, even if its female lead, a very good actor, was largely wasted.

Last edited 29 days ago by BE
Shree
Shree
1 month ago

Awesome post! I’m just hoping to see a Reply 2021 someday 🙂

j3ffc
j3ffc
1 month ago
Reply to  Shree

Well, I do hope to live long enough to see people being nostalgic for 2021….

BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Even if I live long enough, not likely, I expect my days would be spent in a rocker occasionally running into a thought now and then.

Lady G.
Editor
1 month ago

Great Post. I agree that the more procedural a show is, the more it lends itself to multiple seasons. Of course, I have seen a fair number of dramas I wished had 2nd seasons even if they were rom-coms. But I would need to go over my list because my brain’s foggy.

For me, the Kdrama “Signal” was a masterpiece that dropped the ball so hard at the end when the cliffhanger ending teased a sequel that never materialized. I am so grateful that Japan picked up that slack with not only making their own (mostly faithful) version, but creating a tv special, and a recent movie that concludes the story and was a huge hit at Japan’s box office. I can’t wait to see that.

Ele Nash
1 month ago
Reply to  Lady G.

@LadyG I didn’t know Japan did a version of Signal – but with a better ending. I LOVED Signal but the finale was very unsatisfying. I wonder if the cast is as good in the Japanese version? Most of the appeal of the Korean one for me was the excellent cast.

merij1
merij1
1 month ago

For me it comes down to trust. Someone has to decide whether the writers really have a story to tell that reaches the the quality level of the first season.

Too often, it’s the corporate ‘suits who make this call. And let’s be honest: they make it based on how much money they earned on the first season. Period.

So count me as one who does not trust that call. Sticking with a single season as the default choice solves the problem and gives the writers a known timeframe in which to tell their story.

As we’ve all noted, this doesn’t really apply to procedurals (detective shows, legal or medical dramas, etc.) or sitcoms. Shows like that do have longer arcs that slowly advance over the season or across seasons, but are not driven primarily by them. Mostly, each episode — or every 2-4 episodes — are contained stories. Or “contained amusing situations” in the case of the sitcom. The issue there is whether the writers, production staff and actors continue to find inspiration for a series of one-offs.

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

@ merij1: Thanks for chatting up Chocolate in other posts.

merij1
merij1
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

I can’t remember — have you seen it?

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

Just binged it. Liked it very much.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago

This is an interesting topic Fangurl. I, for one, prefer single season closed KDramas. That being said I did enjoy Stanger 1 and 2 and Partners for Justice 1 and 2 (Jung Jae Young!), but I consider them exceptions to the rule. Queen of Mystery was very good in the its first season but lost it in the second season which was greatly disappointing. Is there any KDrama I would like to see a second season of? Hmm, I cannot think of one.

As for CDramas I have been so disappointed with major cast changes that I usually do not even begin the second installment if a lead has been changed to another actor. I totally enjoyed the Darker series 1 and 2 with Guo Jing Fei as the main lead but in series 3 they changed David Liang’s role as Xue Tian and I stopped watching. I barely got through Evernight 2. Is there any CDrama I would like to see a second season of? Absolutely – Ancient Detective!

I do not watch western TV. I do however, love BBC crime and detective series. There is no more clever a series than Endeavour or Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Last edited 1 month ago by phl1rxd
Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Yay, another fan of Endeavour!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Hooray! And we are getting another season. I hear S8 just finished filming.

Sean
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Yes, that’s right. Can’t wait for S8!!!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean

🎈🧨🎉🎁⭐💥

Sean
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I do have Ancient Detective on My Plan to Watch! Well, I loved Morse growing up (and the books too). Then, when Endeavour came along, as the prequel (which Colin Dexter had input into, what a fabulous show it has been. Linda has even watched episodes without me! It’s great that John Thaw’s daughter has a role in the show too. As for Sherlock, well what a marvellous adaptation (Steven Moffit has done a great job here – pity he lost the plot with Doctor Who, but that’s me being grumpy and probably unfair). It would seem BC (and Martin Freeman) can do no wrong in our household.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean

Ditto on the ‘No Wrong’ in our household as well. BC is so very good in Sherlock. I have watched every single episode of Morse and Endeavour and enjoyed every second. You know it is good when you must pay attention from minute 1.

I think you might enjoy Ancient Detective. It took me by surprise. Like The Imperial Coroner the leads are relatively fresh faced and not super stars and they did excellent jobs with their roles. If you get a chance to watch it you will understand why I want a second one. But again Sean, I would want them to retain the original cast. The ML (Tim Yu) was so good in this. Doubt we will see it due to issues with the writer and I believe, the director. 😥😯😪

Last edited 1 month ago by phl1rxd
Sean
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Okay, Ancient Detective will get cranked up this week!

BE
BE
1 month ago

2 cents more: my gripe with sticking the landing–
Signal dropped the ball at the end because it was unnecessarily set up to be a two season drama.
As I have said elsewhere, Vincenzo locking down four episodes earlier with our hero taking down the villains in one fell swoop as a reprisal for his mother would have saved viewers a whole bunch of extraneous plot complications that added nothing and lost the show’s joy.
The World of the Married in its unrelenting piling on of plot complications rendering anything other than abject tragedy implausible, meaning the attempt to evade such to tie the show’s obvious loose ends off compromised Kim Hee Ae’s bravura performance.
I was surprised to enjoy the second season of Dr. Romantic, but one thing about it is that season one did have some closure, even if season two took up an extension of the same exact melodrama, villain and all. But I would argue its success was largely on the shoulders of how Ahn Hyo Seop took on a similar role to that of Yoo Yeon Seok’s OTP male lead and actually improved upon it, and the addition of So Ju Yeon to the ensemble who added a youthful freshness to them.\
Finally, I loved the three season HBO series, Treme, I am glad they did not stop at the end of season 1. The key for me is not one or the other, but the appropriateness of show and consistency throughout. In repeating my wish for Queen Seon Deok to have been presented in three seasons, this: it is one of the great, classic sageuks, with a sensational cast, sensational villain and sensational anti hero characters, a pair of virtuous support heroes to rival any such in any such kind of story, but who looking at that humongus number of episodes is really willing to take the whole thing on if they have not seen it before?

wonhwa
wonhwa
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

I remember reading that the Queen Seon Deok team had originally planned to release the show as two seasons but were unable to do so due to actor conflicts. That actually would have made a great deal of sense structurally in this case, as the story is clearly two different story arcs mushed together (Deokman becoming Queen and Deokman being Queen), and the second one feels oddly truncated in the show’s current form.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  wonhwa

Even Deokman as queen has two arcs, the first with regard to Mishil, who really deserves an arc of her own, and the second Bidam, ditto him.

wonhwa
wonhwa
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

I think that was the original plan (to have a Deokman vs. Mishil arc, and then a Deokman vs. Bidam arc), Scheduling issues aside though, I think the writers never anticipated just how popular both Mishil and Bidam would turn out to be (obviously casting awesome actors had a lot to do with that). This led them to keep Mishil around a lot longer than planned, and to make Bidam much less of a straight-up antagonist – I totally understand why they made both decisions but this did cause some structural issues.

BE
BE
29 days ago
Reply to  wonhwa

Yes, both Go Hyun Jung and Kim Nam Gil took their roles and really ran with them, Go Hyun Jung especially. I thought Lee yo Won was quite good, and Nam Ji Hyun as well as the older and younger Deokman, but one would be hard pressed to deny that Go Hyun Jung and Kim Nam Gil took over the screen while one is watching.
As an aside, as we are currently group watching Nirvana in Fire, Queen Seon Deok is a drama that historically takes place just a few decades before NIF, and it is quite a contrast to see how powerful the women in QSD by contrast with those in NIF.

wonhwa
wonhwa
26 days ago
Reply to  BE

I enjoyed NIF but it was definitely dominated by the guys. One of my favorite things about QSD was how it really focused on the specific challenges of women in power, and how it made both Mishil and Deokman such complicated, nuanced characters. It’s so rare to see a show with both an awesome female protagonist and awesome female antagonist.

Entropyenator
Entropyenator
1 month ago

Thanks so much for answering my question, KFangurl, and great builds here from the community! I agree with the benefits of a single season format forcing the plot to closure and generally better pacing–I certainly do notice a great deal less annoying “filler” content in Kdrama single season shows than in many of the western multi-seasons. But also agree that it whether a show can stretch to multiple seasons (or even makes it through one!) comes down to the behind the scenes quality. For example, Sherlock, Westworld, Game of Thrones (though let’s pretend the last season of GoT didn’t happen, hmm?) and the Mandalorian all are amazing shows that successfully stretched to multiple seasons, though interestingly enough they all also tend to have shorter seasons which I guess forced the writers to keep the plot tight…

I’m thinking that maybe also a reason why multi-seasons are more common in the US could be that actors here are more willing to sign up for them? Besides the fact that maybe actors here don’t mind playing the same character for a while, I think TV actor salaries have the potential to grow bigger if the show is a hit. I believe @Sean mentioned that kdrama actors get $80k an episode…is that true even for the big stars? If so, that seems low compared to the US, where the biggest stars can get $1MM USD or even more per episode. HERE is an interesting thread on it. So there could also be a monetary component to it…

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Man, it really chaps my hide that the female stars get paid so much less than their male co-stars. I’m much more likely to be interested in a drama based on the female lead than the male lead (setting aside plot and genre and so forth). But I guess that’s in line with what the article claims–the bulk of the kdrama audience is women, and hence the male stars have much more drawing power? Still sad, though.

(Just to address the most obvious example: Kim Soo-hyun is supposedly the highest paid actor currently. And he’s perfectly fine; a (very) good looking guy and a decent actor. But I’ll be honest, of the three main stars in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, well, he would definitely rank in third place in terms of what they brought to that particular production, at least in my estimation…)

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

Beyond “like,” so agree. I can think of many of my favorites in which women either pulled the same weight as their male leads, or in fact, carried the show. I also think that on an acting equivalence level, I have seen many, many shows where the female lead is simply a better actor (albeit it does go vice versa) than who she is cast next to, and indeed a female actor with equivalent chops would ordinarily be given a supporting role. Then there is the growing phenomenon of all female lead shows with enormous fanbases of both women and men.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Very interesting (and kind of sad article) Fangurl. Thanks for that link.

Natalia
1 month ago

“The single season format is preferable to the multi-season format”

Absolutely agree!

Carulhein
Carulhein
1 month ago

Hi Kfangurl, my introduction into k dramas was through Arthdal Chronicles. I absolutely loved it and when it ended without ending, I didn’t mind much because I’ve been used to the western format for a long time. Luckily they renewed it. But now, after having fallen down the K drama rabbit hole, I’ve come to like the one season format. It’s like a long movie where nothing needs to be rushed and things are resolved. I love it. So, no, I won’t want the one season format to change. I’ve been plenty annoyed by dramas that might have wanted a second season and then didn’t do it. Like Vagabond. I felt really really annoyed after watching it. Even though I loved the show, the ending left me extremely frustrated. So much so that I now sometimes read up on the ending before I start the show. 😁Unfortunately can’t do that if I watch something as the show is airing so I’ll just have to roll with the punches 😁

Sean
1 month ago

Woo H00 – this question is one of my favourite subjects (I write my response as I take a quick break from legal matters and constitutional issues, but that’s a story for another time, maybe 😂).

I am a fan of either single seasons or multi seasons. For me it comes back to the quality of the show, although I admit I watch and enjoy stuff that many others do not like. In the days when we just had mainstream tv ruling the airwaves, I loved all those shows they used to put on late at night during summer, to either fill in the hours or test the market. Yes, some of them were delightfully dreadful.

Perhaps the best show I have seen in kdramaland regarding how the single season format is written or developed is Fantastic where the female lead is a drama writer and she takes us through her process of setting out a 16 episode story. Of course, in terms of how a story is executed in a drama and what happens behind the scenes, we need to watch The King of Dramas (recommended to me by kfangurl, and which I thoroughly enjoyed).

The interesting thing for me in the single season universe is that we see each of the key drama producers now trying different formats i.e. generally shorter, although cdramas can tend to go the other way. With jdoramas, although they are generally around 10 episodes, they are pushing out much shorter series and occasionally, something a bit longer. The Japanese also, like SK also push out one season daily shows and weekend shows that can run up to six months. Of course with kdramas we are also getting to see the full range of episodic experimentation, which is wonderful from my point of view: episodes that last 10 mins, 30 mins or sometimes 90 mins. I am going to talk about Thai dramas for a moment, although they have their single season lakorn format, they too mix it up. Taiwanese dramas, in the main seem to be consistent with their single season dramas.

In terms of the longevity of single seasons in kdramaland, as an aside, kdrama actors get about $80,000 per episode. I just thought I would throw that one in. However, it is a serious consideration regarding the squeeze being put on the industry and future income.

I also watch a range of other shows from around the world and they tend to be single season when we talk about Turkey (although they have some excellent long running shows), Egypt and other middle eastern countries. Then there is Spain, the South Americas and, yes some excellent Russian shows.

With multiple seasons, perhaps the Japanese are most varied here as they do have many long running shows. Apart form this, I find multi seasons in kdramaland interesting. I have watched God’s Quiz but not the reboot as yet. With Voice, I bailed out during Voice 2 – it just didn’t cut the mustard, so I am reluctant to take up V3 and V4. Kingdoms 1 and 2 – simply awesome and K2 (note: not The K2 which everyone didn’t really like, but I though was awesome) is even better than K1. With Stranger 1 and 2 – they are in a class of their own. As for Chief of Staff 1 and 2, well I used to rattle around in that world, so it was quite well done and I loved the more mature performances. Then there is Partners for Justice 1 and 2 – fabulous. if you want to see a grumpy mans version of CSI, then take a peak. I am still meandering my way through Hospital Playlist. I will find the exit one day 🤣

The Thais take a different slant on multi seasons. They tend to role out many of their shows like multi series romance novels. In other words, one series is around one character. The next series is around one of the supporting characters in the previous series and so on. Some of them are quite good, and others well, let’s just say, hmmm.

With western shows, often, I feel cheated if there is just the one season. However, the issue always comes back to quality. If we look at a BBC production it will either be single season or multi season to maintain a quality outcome. Both forms will be either 4 or 6 episodes. I am not talking about Coronation Street here, as a colleague of mine when he rang me the other night to see if I was up for a range of projects rudely commented: “I hope I didn’t interrupt your Coronation Street watching.” I blithely replied, no but I did watch some of it when I was a kid. My good friend replied “I actually watched the first episode!”

Despite the long running daily soaps and Doctor Who, until MASH came along, no one really dared dream that shows could run so long, be popular, and perhaps even go beyond ten years. A great family show in this regard is Heartland. Then if people are still unhappy with that they now make followup TV movies and every now and then, even a cinematic movie production.

As for American sitcoms, well I guess most know of the classic multi seasons shows. The interesting issue here is that at least 500 sitcoms alone were made a year in the US before the advent of Netflix and others. The impact of Netflix is a thing. During the last quarter its number of new subscribers was about 60% of expectations, but still not a bad result, as the numbers were well and truly in the black. However, it has quickly changed its approach re new content. As many have complained, Netflix was churning out stuff. Of late, other visitors to this blog have certainly commented on what they get to see Netflix wise. I guess with VPN, you can get to see the whole catalogue. Otherwise, for countries outside of the US, it is between 40 – 60% of the catalogue. Disney and Prime in the last 12 months has had far greater success with new content. Prime has some big big shows coming re the Foundation series and LOTR at a projected cost of $500M per season. So, Netflix has made the decision to get back to quality content. I guess we will see what happens.

There are those western shows that stay good all the way through, there are those I have walked away from and then there are those that have gone good, bad, then good again. Aren’t you lucky I haven’t gone on about the History Channel.

When its all said and done, I watch what I find interesting or appealing and as I said to Beez the other day, much of it is probably to do with the “feels.” So, I am happy to watch something that is just one episode, one season or 20. I mean I am a great Doctor Who fan (despite grievances every decade or so), and it has been going since November 1963.

Now on with watching the last episode of Mad for Each Other…

j3ffc
j3ffc
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean

Hey, Sean:

Great post and interesting thoughts. A couple of quick comments/questions:

Have you ever seen the “Portlandia” sketch about binge watching (“just one more”)…it’s a hoot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYjLrJRuMnY (I am recommending it to you for a reason 😉.)

You are making a good point about a lot of the Brit series, some of which are also in limited series format and have the same benefits of the 1-season SK shows. My wife is a big fan of detective and mystery shows and we gravitate to those.

Just curious: I assume that $80,000/episode salaries are reserved for series leads and top stars. I am always interested in the lives of ordinary workers in any industry. A high school friend of my wife has many, many credits in TV and film but always in supporting roles.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

I think we can all relate to that Portlandia sketch. That was funny j3ffc!

Sean
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Hello j3ffc, no I haven’t watched this Portlandia sketch before. Thank you for the recommendation, it is – 😂🤣😂 By the way, we did binge Battlestar Galactica at the time. One of the best shows ever made despite the kdramaesque final episode, bar the final 30 seconds which were awesome!

Yes, it’s very hard to beat the format that the UK has rolled out. One of my all time favourites was Blood in the Wire – gruesome but intriguing character wise at the same time.

Re the salaries, yes kfangurl has pinned an article above which sets out for the top actors $80 – $100k. That’s wonderful about the high school friend of your wife and her many supporting roles. I have some insight into all of this as my daughter is involved in the making of films and shows where we are.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean

Hi Sean – I believe I read they are wrapping up the movie soon. Any idea when it will be released?

J3ffc
J3ffc
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean

Thought you might like it!

Tough business! Hope your daughter is enjoying it.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean

Wowsers Sean – what a great comment. I enjoyed reading this. I am still in awe that you have over 10,000 episodes under your belt. In the words of Darth Vader, “Most impressive!”

Sean
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Cheers, phl! Just as well I have cut back a bit 😂 Darth Vader is still the greatest villain ever on the big screen 😎

merij1
merij1
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean

I second Sean’s recommendation of Fantastic, both as a great show but especially for the insider info on how K-dramas are made and the pressures they face, financially and otherwise.

I keep wanting to watch the King of Dramas, but can’t seem to get over the hurdle of figuring out how to use VPNs, since it doesn’t stream in the US.

Sally
Sally
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

Do you have a subscription for an antvirus service? Mine happens to include vpn service, so you may want to see if you already have access to one already.

And King of Dramas was so good! I recommended it to my friend because we both loved Law School (Kim Myung Min 😍 ), but I was not able to find it available to stream. But while I do prefer one season shows, I would love a sequel to Law School because I loved the cast and characters so much.

Natalia
Natalia
1 month ago

I also very much appreciate the 1 season format – after all, a k drama with 16 eps, 80 minutes each (as we often get) is, truly, the equivalent of a 2 seasons US show (or a 3 seasons UK show).
I personally find multiple seasons shows tedious; I’ve rarely watched more than one season of one show, unless of course I was tricked into it, as I was tricked spending almost 26 hours of my life watching Arthdal Chronicles and now, of course, I am waiting! I haven’t watched any of the other shows you mention as multi-seasons precisely because they have multiple seasons, and,imo, neither Vincenzo nor Sweet Home need a second season. Vincenzo’s highly successful balance between the fun and the nonsensical (cf: an army of pigeons!) could not be maintained for a second season and Sweet Home ended as it should, in a perfectly bleak way (seriously, was there realistically a possibility for a happy ending there?).

j3ffc
j3ffc
1 month ago

One of the things that originally appealed to me about k-dramas was the single-season format of most shows. In American TV, there is the phrase “jumping the shark” to identify the moment when a TV series lost what made it originally appealing. (The phrase comes from a beloved comedy, “Happy Days”, which actually had a scene were a key character literally jumped over a shark when water skiing. It was incongruous, unrealistic, completely contrary to the character’s personality to be water skiing in the first place, and everything went downhill from there.) The key point is: most American shows eventually do jump the shark, because the number of seasons, with few exceptions, are driven by ratings/economics and not artistry.  BE mentioned good examples, and I’ll bring up another: the still ongoing “Succession” (third season coming soon), which is of very high quality throughout and should appeal to anyone who liked “Money Flower”. 

So I have found the idea of a single season appealing, not so much due to there being a wonderful sense of closure (we have elsewhere discussed how k-dramas so very often do not stick the landing) but because there just isn’t enough time for what makes a good show good to peter out. I’ve enjoyed a couple of multi-season shows but by and large I don’t miss them when they don’t appear (hey, there’s always the possibility to rewatch!).

To comment on some of the specifics brought up by kfangurl:

Age of Youth: I thought that the second season of this one was terrific because there were enough of the characters and elements intact, but I the plot moved forward and into different directions. For my money, AoY 2 was one that did stick the landing beautifully. And I never got the uproar over replacing actors for the Eun-jae character between seasons: I thought Park Hye-Su was fine but not special in Season 1 and that Ji Woo was just about as good and I forgot that the faces were different after S2E2. And Park Eun-bin was in both seasons, which is never a bad thing.

Let’s Eat: THREE seasons PLUS a more-or-less continuation in “Drinking Solo”, which some have called “Let’s Drink” and has some charms of its own. I was one of the ones who was bugged by the change of FL from S1 to S2 but I was won over (and then some) by Seo Hyun-jun. And I may be the only person who actually liked S3, which had an interesting new twist (prequel side-by-side the present-day story continuation) and ended about as well as it could given the last-minute unavailability of its star.

And Netflix: I don’t view these as multiple seasons proper if they are short 6episode blocks spread out a la “Kingdom”. 

Sorry, too long. G’night all.

merij1
merij1
1 month ago

CSI Seoul would be a candidate, I suppose. (Mostly joking!) However the dramas that attract this American to Korean TV tend to work the way they do because they are written for a single season. It’s a different rhythm, with, as others have mentioned, a more likely final resolution by the end.

My gal and I are especially drawn to how the romance stories pace themselves in single-season K-dramas. So much more time spent on the pre-relationship obstacles/tensions to be overcome, plus emotional foreplay.

I think of them as limited mini-series or very long movies.

When you consider that a movie only lasts about two hours, sixteen is a reasonably large canvas on which to paint a story. And I like that — except for the times the writers only have 1o-12 hours of great material and delay closure with contrived misunderstandings, characters failing to share intel with each and various forms of “noble idiocy” in order to make it to 16!

But that’s what multiple season shows do regularly. I know it’s time to move on when I can too easily imagine a show’s writers debating “think, think, think, how can we drag this sucker out?”

Last edited 1 month ago by merij1
BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

I agree that one facet of K Drama that is very well done is the pacing of romantic hooking up, with all its neurotic nuances. Sometimes this is taken to an unbelievable extreme, but in doing so they explore with some honesty the normal person’s anxieties vis a vis romantic experience. I can think of no American show that would take as much time spelling something like this out with regard to a beautiful, seemingly successful, already married woman fraught with infatuation for a younger man the way Secret Love Affair does.
I also like how shows are so gosh darn literate, those book cases in K drama are full of books that actually look like they have been read, and artistically centric many shows are. In the US a show like Treme about artists is an oddity, in Korea, even a show like Money Flower has its corrupt protagonist hand the even more corrupt old cheobol elder a book of South Korea’s most famous peasant poet in a moment of extreme dramatic irony, or in Bad Papa, the boxer’s wife falls in love with him thinking about Doestoevsky.
I like novelistic shows too, but I find the longer ones in K drama land also get them selves into fixes about how they can drag shows out and then even bigger fixes about now that they have done that, how to bring them to a close. That is why, for me, no one size fits all.

Last edited 1 month ago by BE
BE
BE
1 month ago

I think it is a case by case situation. Contrary to Snow Flower, I think both American and European television handle multiple seasons well especially with regard to police or political melodramas. As much as I love K Drama, imo The Wire, that went for five seasons, was probably the greatest filmed work for television ever.
Part of it has to do with the nature of the shows. While The Wire resembled K Drama in that it was a novelistic kind of story telling rather than a collection of short stories, one reason these kinds of dramas usually work better in consecutive seasons is that they often tend to be such collections. Southland, a first rate five season show was much like that. It is my take that while show came to a reasonable closure, Move to Heaven, both in its abbreviated season of ten episodes and its episodic nature in which the novel gets a back seat to the individual short story, is built for a second season. American tv has gone from 13 episode seasons to 10 and 7 episodes these days, so of course they are easier to swallow in more than one season.
But besides everything else, Vincenzo, which has the earmarks of franchise (PLEASE NO!) clocking in at twenty episodes with four full episodes too many already of unnecessary plot complications putting a kibosh on its early fizzy magic, unless they can figure a way to be as inventive and fresh a second season looks like it well turn out to be a left out, flat five day old quarter bottle of uncorked sparkling wine.
Dr. Romantic had a cast with enormous chemistry and a lead actor who is also a long time leading man in film, who also insofar as I have read had attracted members of the cast to stick with it, but beyond that, it also contained many short stories that continued to keep show alive.
Personally, I thought the flaws in Stranger 1 were exacerbated in Stranger 2 in the sense that I just did not care about the mystery at the show’s center. It’s main feature was the actors, particularly Bae Doo Na.
Kingdom’s two seasons was really just two parts of one season, and Ashin of the North as a singleton will live or die on its own merits.
Unlike folks here I never got into Hospital Playlist, but in the states hospital dramas have proven to be exceedingly durable as long as the lead actors, and show has really solid lead actors, stay committed. Even though it so far has not caught me, I can certainly see how it could easily clock a huge fan base this season, and we can see from there.
Of course, American (and European) drama has been also trending toward one season stories. I really have enjoyed the twelve episode single season goes in K Drama of Navillera and Youth of May. I love the single season story, but the one flaw I see often in K Drama is that they are so long, and thus require so many plot complications to keep viewers tuning in week after week, that they have an extreme amount of difficulty sticking the landing.
For me the biggest problem of Netflix is that they will push for more high concept, high production value, high trendy, somewhat cliched dramas that seem commercial and begin to eschew so many of the virtues I find, great ensembles, nuanced performances, quirky shows, and a willingness to bring shows to an unflinching and emotionally satisfying finish.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

Police and medical shows are my least favorite genres, mainly because of their episodic format. The few US shows I can actually watch are all serialized. Plus, US shows do not have satisfying romantic storylines.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

They do not have good slice of life or multigenerational shows in the US. And they do not do historical dramas anywhere in the same category. Both of these are mutual favorites for us, right?
The US and European crime drama serialization like the US hospital drama serialization, somewhat like K rom-com, have been done to death, but also like K rom com, the good ones are great.
I generally have never liked American comedy, mostly cause I do not laugh much watching them, but there is something wonderful and shameless about comedy in both K drama and comedy, and that appeals to me. But here again, the recent short comedic series on HBO, Hacks. while episodic is also a wonderfully human odd couple show of the elderly, world and street savvy if a bit anachronistic comic and the young, naive, self absorbed, but contemporary, much younger comic writer. Half hour shows, ten episodes, bound to return. Good women actors with sensational chemistry and a willingness to have dramatic elements in a comedic show.
I thought Queen’s Gambit on Netflix was just terrific. Similarly, there is nothing outside of South Korea like Mr. Queen.
On the other hand, stories about the ultra rich and cheobol or corporate corruption tend to bore me wherever they exist. Even a satire like Sky Castle, for me, is rather ho hum.
I watch K Drama because the actors, characterizations, and stories interest me, and they often understand that drama should contain comedic elements and vice versa, a much rarer phenomenonfrom other locales. Now with epic length sageuks, I will say it again, I think Queen Seon Deok should have been a three series show–Deokman, The Fall of Mishil, and Bidam, and similarly, Mr. Sunshine could have been broken into two seasons or even three.

Last edited 1 month ago by BE
Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

@BE, The Queen’s Gambit was great because it told a single story in a serialized format. I agree about the lack of slice of life, multigenerational, or historical dramas on American TV. As for comedy, I think it works better in movies rather than TV shows. A little bit goes a long way, and it gets tiresome and unfunny when stretched out too much. I also don’t like Kdramas about the super rich, but will happily watch any well made sageuk, whether it’s about royalty or not. I watch Hospital Playlist for the cast, but I hope it wraps after Season 2. I want to see these actors in other projects, rather than doing the same roles for multiple seasons.

BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snow Flower: in re Netflix and HBO, both purveyors seem as interested in limited one season productions as they do with multiseason series, as cost for them contracting prolonged series is also prohibitive. Where they seem to have promoted multiple seasons–I am thinking Kingdom and Arthdal, they have actually foreshortened seasons down to what is currently trending on non network shows in the states as well, shorter and shorter seasons.
Depending on the success of Ashin, I suspect Kingdom will have a better chance to go into another story telling cycle, in part because Arthdal accrued a somewhat underwhelming audience response, in part because zombies are a more popular fantasy motif these days than prehistory.
Now, I do not know if Sisyphus or My Country would have been produced without Netflix backing or not, but those kinds of blockbuster, high production value, b-level show writing shows frighten me more, because I love the less shiny, more humane shows.
In re sageuks, for myself I am looking for new stories or stories told working in variation from stock plotting. Also I would like them to hold onto their epic and tragically heroic sensibilities, which seem rooted in the Korean zeitgeist, as well as the understanding of how to use comedic motifs in serious drama so they register as fresh.
I grew up watching American Westerns, which have certainly influenced Asian history and period piece film making, and great westerns still pop up once every so many years, but by and large the genre became uninteresting and cliched–all the American West it seems is in Monument Valley–after a while, a victim of their own success.

Last edited 1 month ago by BE
j3ffc
j3ffc
1 month ago
Reply to  BE

BE: have you tried “Better Things”? I think you’d count it as slice-of-life and I have enjoyed all of the 3-4 seasons I’ve watched.

Last edited 1 month ago by j3ffc
BE
BE
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

I have heard the same about the Canadian Schitt’s Creek.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago

Please, Netflix, do not push for multiple season dramas! I can’t stand episodic multi-season shows! They can’t tell a story right. I don’t watch any Western shows precisely for that reason.