Tonight viewers face two choices: tune into the escapades of a strikingly handsome knight or go for a brand new melodrama.
For the past two weeks, ancient Korean hero Iljimae of MBC's "Iljimae Returns - Moon River
" has been winning the Wednesday and Thursday night miniseries ratings race. Now, the competition is heating up with a new series joining tonight's line-up.
Titled "Again, My Love
", KBS' latest installment takes Korean dramas back to their roots, with a twist. Instead of the usual tortured love triangle, "Again, My Love
" centers on an unconventional quintet of stars.
Rising celebrities Park Ye-jin
and Jung Gyu-woon
and veterans Choi Myung-gil
, Park Sang-won
and Jeon In-hwa
weave a web of deceit, betrayal, and yes, adultery in the 24-episode series.
"I have done a lot of conventional family melodramas", said director Kim Jong-chang
of the hit series "My Rosy Life
" (2005) at a press conference Thursday.
Having mastered the art of the tear-jerker - remember the late Choi Jin-sil
's heartrending portrayal of a wife struggling through the last stages of cancer? - director Kim promised to "expand the stage a little".
"I feel that (dramas) have undergone a drastic transformation", said actress Choi Myung-gil
, 46. "In the past, if I played a mother, I would have probably added a little white to my hair. But now, we do not have to".
Choi - a pro when it comes to historical romances - stepped out of her comfort zone to tackle the role of Han Myung-in, the formidable CEO of a large corporation.
Scarred by the death of her first love, Han realizes she is pregnant with his child. Determined to turn their son into a successful business executive, she enters into an arranged marriage with Lee Jeong-hoon, played by Park Sang-won
of the hit series "Sandglass
Twenty years later, Han realizes she has grown to love her husband, only to discover that he has been cheating on her.
With a trio of thespians whose ages range from 43 to 49 heading the cast, "Again, My Love
" may alienate younger audiences. On the flipside, the drama market and viewers benefit from the risk. The combination of 20-something co-stars Park Ye-jin
and Jung Gyu-woon
with their 40-something counterparts caters to those who want to explore the complexities of both married life and budding love.
Though "Again, My Love
" promises to attract a broad audience, rising above rival MBC drama "Iljimae Returns - Moon River
" will prove to be a challenge. Touting a strong cast and director, the hit MBC action romance successfully combines the humorous nature of the comic book original with high flying stunts.
"Iljimae is a very sad character", said director Hwang In-roi
at the "Iljimae Returns - Moon River
" press conference. "But Ko Woo-young did not make (his original work) sad. It is even a little bit upbeat".
The first drama to be based on artist Ko Woo-young's 1970s comic series - SBS aired a different take on the hero last year with "Iljimae"
- "Iljimae Returns - Moon River
" layers anime-style elements over cinematography reminiscent of Oriental ink paintings.
The lead, Jung Il-woo
, bears an uncanny resemblance to the comic book version, a lean and melancholy Korean Hamlet with martial arts moves and a beautiful face.
Actor Jeong, who wooed female fans as a bad boy in "High Kick!
" (2006), struggled to do Ko's Iljimae justice.
"I was playing Jung Il-woo
's Iljimae", he explained. "The director wanted the original Iljimae. But my personality kept emerging. The director said, 'Don't laugh. Jung Il-woo
cannot be present. Don't laugh'".
A pensive and serious Iljimae graces the screen; the fruit of one laugh-free take after another. And Park Chul-min
of the hit series "Beethoven Virus
" serves as the yang to Jung's yin. With a Chinese straw hat, a curlicue mustache and an incredibly strange walk - the result of extensive consultation with a ballet company friend says the actor - Park's villainous Wang Hyeong-bo is cute but dangerous. Clearly, he is the comic relief.
The combination is hard to beat. Yet the melodrama is making a comeback; SBS' highly popular "Temptation of Wife
" serves as a case in point.
Both the comic book adaptation and the melodrama are beloved genres, adding an element of unpredictability to this particular ratings race.
Tune into "Iljimae Returns - Moon River
" on MBC on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9:55 p.m.
"Again, My Love
" starts tonight on KBS 2 TV at 10 p.m.
By Jean Oh