As the saying goes, a television is a window to new worlds. And the first half of 2013 was filled with television programs that reflected on new aspects of our reality. Competition to win viewers also became more fierce with the opening of several general programming cable channels, leading to the emergence of more diverse stories and fresh content.
The following are the television programs that not only successfully entertained us during the first half of the year, but also helped viewers think on the meaning of life and the world we live in.
1. Queen of Ambition
SBS drama “Queen of Ambition,” starring Kwone Sang-woo and Soo Ae, premiered in mid-January and closed its curtains with an average viewership rating of 25 percent during the week of April 1 and 2, according to TNmS (Total National Multimedia Statistics). The show was locked in the top spot of Monday and Tuesday prime time rating charts for three consecutive weeks.
The drama centers on a woman named Da-hae, who has the great ambition of becoming Korea’s first lady. The only problem is that she has no moral boundaries, deceiving and betraying people who are in her way. The plot is intriguing as the father of Da-hae’s daughter seeks revenge because Da-hae is responsible for their child’s death and she has severely betrayed his devotion.
Also, actors Soo Ae and Kwone Sang-woo who played the show’s main characters, proved they are worthy of being considered the top actors in the country with their skilled acting.
Besides Da-hae, other characters had no significant role to the plot. They were simply passively used by Da-hae or they merely provide information about her. During his interview with TenAsia, actor Kwone even implied that the drama would have been fine without him in the middle.
2. Kang Chi, the Beginning
MBC’s fantasy drama “Kang Chi, the Beginning,” which premiered in early April, made a triumphant exit as the most-watched drama in its Monday and Tuesday prime time lineup with an average viewership rating of 18.65 percent on June 24 and 25, AGB Nielsen Media Research showed. The series has stayed on the top spot of charts for 11 consecutive weeks.
The series, starring Lee Seung-gi and Suzy, tells a fantasy story of a half-human and half-beast named Kang Chi. The adventure begins with the search of the Gu family book that has the solution to how he can become wholly human.
Although Kang-chi is hurt and betrayed by the people he trusted in, he remained warm-hearted, keeping faith in humanity. Therefore, Kang-chi defined that being human is more about what is inside.
The series also melts in the topics of a long-lost love, the meaning of family, a new love between two youngsters and a withdrawal of evil into one pot.
However, critics argue that there was no milestone to the drama that grasped viewer’s attention. The drama started off strong by pulling in the historical admiral Yi Sun-shin and a mythical storyline that resembles the myth of “Oedipus.” However, towards the end, the drama was not able to effectively use those motifs in Kang-chi’s aim to become wholly human.
3. That Winter, the Wind Blows
SBS’s Wednesday and Thursday romance series “That Winter, the Wind Blows,” which started its run in mid-February, closed its curtains with a happy ending at the top of the rating charts of April 3 and 4, TNmS (Total national Multimedia Statistic) showed. The series, which was at the top of the charts for eight weeks running, even won the silver award for foreign TV series at the annual Shanghai TV festival held last month.
A gambler named Oh Soo lives a meaningless life but he struggles to stay alive when a mafia boss threatens to kill him for stealing his money. Oh Soo ends up deceiving the wealthy Oh Young who believes Oh Soo is her long-lost brother of the same name and lets him into her wealthy home. Oh Young is blind and she spends her days waiting for her life to end.
Oh Young and Oh Soo, played by actress Song Hye-kyo and actor Zo In-sung, respectively, were commended for their portrayal of their characters, some going as far as to say they were ‘rediscovered’ through the series. Also, famed writer Noh Hee-kyung provided viewers with a drama that played up to expectations with its strong plot and lines often called ‘literary gems.’ These elements, combined with producer Kim Kyu-tae’s sense of imagery gave the show a fairytale-like vibe.
Writer Noh, whose previous work include KBS’s “Worlds Within,” has been critically acclaimed for depicting the world realistically. Noh’s works are much-anticipated to reflect the world as they are. However, “The Winter” was a disappointment to some hardcore fans of Noh because the drama was more focused on the fantasy of love and for them, the imagery in the series meant nothing more than a ‘pretty scene.’
4. Nine: 9 Times Time Travel
Cable channel tvN’s popular series “Nine: 9 Times Time Travel,” which premiered in March, closed with an average viewership rating of two percent, which is a high mark for a cable television program to mark, on the week of May 13 and 14, according to the broadcaster. The show, starring Cho Youn-hee and Lee Jin-wook, was gained reputation as one of the best series in 2013 and it earned considerable public attention, which is also rare for a cable channel show.
What would you change if you were able to travel to the past? This is a question people ask themselves quite often. In “Nine: 9 Times Time Travel,” Park Sun-woo (Lee Jin-wook) finds nine magical aroma sticks that allow him to travel back in time. He attempts to keep his family safe in order to change the world he lives today.
In a life we live in, we are bound to make decisions every moment in our lives because we walk along a linear timeline. We then think to ourselves- what would have happened if I picked A instead of B? This series explores the unlimited possibilities of the different choices we make. In the end, the series delivers the significant message that changing the past does not promise happiness. Because time is limited and linear, we are able to focus on the present to find what matters and what makes us happy.
However, critics have pointed out that the drama had no distinctive genre. At one point it was a thriller action while at another it was a fantasy romance. Also, as Park time travels time nine times, the story was rather complicated for a 20-part series.
5. The Queen of Office
KBS’s comedy drama “The Queen of Office,” featuring Lee Hee-jun, Kim Hye-soo and Oh Ji-ho, premiered in early April and ended with an average viewership rating of 14.3 percent on May 20 and 21, according to Nielsen Korea.
Everyone at company Y Jang were asking “Who is Miss Kim?” throughout the comedy drama. This woman who has no name but solely wishes to be called ‘Miss Kim’ has no background and there isn’t a thing in the world she cannot do.
Some say that she was robotic while others still believed she has a good heart deep inside. However, the mystery was left as it was until the end of the show. Her guilt that she could not save her colleague in a fire had turned her into a robotic person.
In a world where everyone is thirsty to find a stable job, she chose to be a contract worker. While everyone expects her to be submissive, she shows no intention of being repressed. Because the character was unique, both the show and actress Kim Hye-soo, who played Miss Kim, did a good job reflecting on daily life in a new perspective.
Moreover, some may say she functioned as a satire to our current world but the world seems too capitalistic for people to laugh with it. Who wouldn’t want to be like Miss Kim? Miss Kim is too far away from reality and for some, she may be making the world seem much more beautiful than it actually is.
Reporter. Lee Eun Ah firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor. Jessica Kim
Courtesy of MBC, SBS, KBS, tvN