By Lee Hyo-won
Historical accounts are usually associated with heavyweight textbooks and a big yawn. But fresh interpretations by hot young actors are sending viewers on a delightful blast to the past through television. Monarchs are far from middle-aged, bald and pot-bellied _ young, sexy and love struck kings and court ladies dazzle in period pieces like "Yi San
", "King and I
" and "The Tudors", all sizzling with melodramatic court scandals and clandestine romances.
King in Love: "Yi San
" recounts the high-flying life and times of Yi San
or King Jeongjo (1752-1800), the 22nd king of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). Lee Byung-hoon
, director of international hit "Jewel in the Palace" ("Dae Jang Geum
"), and Lee Seo-jin
, the hero of the phenomenally popular "Damo
" and "Phoenix
" have joined their star power in this SBS TV series. The cast and crew garnered much public attention even before it started airing Monday.
Korean heartthrob Lee plays the role of the fair and charismatic ruler, who is remembered for reforming the state examination and reviving the Office Land Law (1466), which helped diminish the abusive power of court officials.
But the biggest reason to love this good-looking king is his unwavering affection for one woman. The drama develops upon the romance between Jeongjo and his childhood friend-turned concubine Seong, played by the rising starlet Han Ji-min
In addition to the court romance, the drama showcases the grandeur of late 18th century Korean architecture and the lavish culture of royal Joseon. "Yi San
" will also keep you on the edge of your seat as it recounts the series of assassinations that plagued the royal household. The drama is also expected to realistically depict the changing economic policy of the "hermit kingdom" at the turn of the century.
Airs 9:55 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays on SBS.
"King and I
": Korean Eunuch Story
How far does one go for love? One man has cast off his manhood for the woman he loves. SBS offers a unique story about a eunuch who would do anything for love.
The SBS drama "King and I
" tells the star-crossed love between a eunuch and a royal concubine during the time of King Seongjong of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). /Courtesy of SBS
Once childhood friends, Cheoseon, So-hwa and Jaeulsangun reunite in the palace as a eunuch, concubine and king Seongjong (1469-1494). and a shaky love triangle forms.
Seong-jong is remembered as an intellectual who loved the arts and literature, as well as a hedonist who loved women, parties and hunting.
Unable to have So-hwa as his queen for political reasons, he takes in the love of his life as his favorite concubine.
But alas, her heart is not his to take, for it belongs to Cheo-seon who has gladly undergone castration to remain close to the woman he loves.
Jealousy grasps a hold of the king, who sentences the woman he could never possess to death, and Cheo-seon, bound by court rules, is doomed to carry out the deed.
Young actors smoke and sizzle onscreen, with theater star Oh Man-seok
in the role of the self sacrificing eunuch and rising actors Ku Hye-sun
as the beautiful So-hwa and Ko Joo-won
as the green-eyed king.
Airs 9:55 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays on SBS. Henry VIII (1491-1547), the second monarch of England's House of Tudor, is notorious for marrying six times and beheading several of his wives.
But it will become impossible to detest this infamous man when you see him personified by Hollywood favorite Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("Velvet Goldmine", 1998).
"The Tudors", now playing on cable, traces one of the most scandalous love stories in history between Henry VIII and "Anne of the Thousand Days" (1969).
Sexy Henry VIII in "Tudors"
Henry VIII grows impatient with what he believes to be his wife Katherine's inability to produce an heir when Anne Boleyn, a charismatic young courtier in the queen's entourage, catches his attention.
Captivated, Henry showed the world how far a man will go to marry the woman he fancies. When the Pope refuses to annul his marriage with Katherine, Henry kisses the Vatican goodbye and sets up his own Church of England.
Nominated for four Primetime Emmys, the TV series was a phenomenal hit here, and is now re-running on Channel CGV 9 a.m., Monday through Friday.