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Reporters get the spotlight

2008/05/12 Source

MBC's upcoming drama "Spotlight", which airs this Wednesday night, promises to bring back a bit of excitement to the small screen.

Following on the heels of its more-than-lackluster predecessor "Who Are You - Drama", "Spotlight" focuses on the gritty and enterprising lives of city desk broadcast news reporters. The drama tracks one woman's rise to fame, from her struggles at the city desk to her eventual success as an anchorwoman.

With a plot like that, the success of "Spotlight" rides on the strength of its heroine and on its scripting.

And the script promises to be solid. The drama's writer Lee Ki-won possesses a finesse for drawing out the dark political power struggles that go on in the workplace. And his intense and cutthroat writing will play out well in the newsroom. Lee also wrote last year's hit medical drama "White Tower".

"I focused on the inner struggles that reporters face as humans", Lee said at a press conference held last week. "While there is romance, more importantly, this is about trust".

But judging from the preview and from what big-time celebrity Son Ye-jin, 26, had to say at the press conference, "Spotlight"'s heroine might have trouble getting her feet off the ground.

Set to play the title role, Son, who deftly played a calculating yet endearing seductress in the hit flick "The Art of Seduction" (2005), more than disappointed with her lack of comical timing and poor delivery in the preview.

Rather than playing up the stereotype of the merciless and bold news reporter, Son's reporter was clueless and clumsy. Hardly convincing as a newswoman with three years of experience under her belt, Son will need to beef up her role in the episodes to come.

"The director and scriptwriter met with anchors, announcers and reporters", said Son at the press conference. "I did not meet them directly".

But if Son does not want to get pushed into the shadows by her costars - actors Ji Jin-hee and Jin Goo - she might want to consider stepping it up and meeting up with some reporters to get a feel for what the job is really like.

On the flipside, actor Jin Goo, 27, who proved his acting mettle in the gangster flick "A Dirty Carnival" (2006), showed that he had done the research and training needed to play the minor but interesting role of a cub reporter.

"To prepare for my role, I followed a real cub reporter around", Jin said. "The first thing I realized is that this is a dirty job".

By dirty, he meant literally dirty, and made sure to keep his hair looking messy and unkempt for the role.

Jin might just outshine his more prominent costars, giving Ji Jin-hee a run for his money. Ji Jin-hee, 36, who hit it big when he starred opposite Lee Young-ae in "Jewel in the Palace" ("Dae Jang Geum", 2003), is returning to the small screen after a three-year hiatus.

Playing the stern and supremely talented lead reporter for the city news desk, Ji prepped for his role by hanging out with reporters over dinner.

"I met with city desk reporters over dinner", Ji said. "They were very hierarchical, even more top-down than an army".

With a little insight into the social life of a reporter, it looks like Ji might have a respectable handle on his role as the heroine's mentor. Add that to the strong subject matter, and MBC may just have a winning formula.

But this formula isn't new.

Japan focused on broadcast news in the miniseries "Top Caster", which aired on Fuji TV in 2006. And Hollywood won audiences over with the hit newsroom flick "Up Close and Personal" (1996). MBC even did it before with their drama "All About Eve" in 2000.

To be successful, the show will have to distinguish itself from what has been done before. And "Spotlight" producer Kim Do-hoon is well aware of that.

"'Spotlight' focuses on the important but often unnoticed city desk broadcast news reporters", producer Kim said at the press conference.

And turning the Spotlight on the rough-and-tough city desk might be what it takes to breathe new life into an old plotline.

Viewers will have to tune in Wednesday night to see if "Spotlight" breaks the mold.

"Spotlight" airs Wednesdays and Thursdays on MBC at 9:55 p.m.

By Jean Oh

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