THE INCOMPLETE LIFE OF A TV PRODUCER
Baek Seung Chan (Kim Soo Hyun) is a newly hired PD at KBS’ variety show department. While he doesn’t get off on the right foot with his senior PDs, Music Bank’s Tak Ye Jin (Gong Hyo Jin) and 1Night 2 Days’ Ra Joon Mo (Cha Tae Hyun), he learns about how to produce a successful show while gaining valuable insights about life, love and relationships. He also meets top popstar, Cindy (IU), who is young and talented but an ultimate diva. The drama features various anecdotes about the Korean variety show industry.
There were a lot of things that drew me to this drama. The cast, the writer from You From Another Star and the fact that the show was being produced by the variety show department rather than the drama department. I was quite intrigued by the concept that the show was being run by PD Seo Soo Min of Gag Concert. The shooting style is that of a mockumentary show concept as the camera followed the cast around for that behind-the-scenes look at life as a variety show PD. As many dramas prescribe to the same formulas in style and cinematic look, I found that this drama to be fresh and unique.
Zitten – TV Show (OST ver.)
Having said that, I’m not sure if the drama is suited for everyone. At some level, you have to understand the Korean variety show industry and the players in that industry to get some of the wit and references depicted in the drama. Players such as MBC PD Kim Tae Ho of Infinity Challenge and Formerly KBS PD Na Young Seok of 1 Night 2 Days or understanding the differences in variety show personalities between MBC, SBS and KBS programming. KBS can be quite conservative as their audience is typically older. You can liken the difference to that of the major broadcasting networks in the US as ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS have their own brand personalities.
Personally, I found that there was a lot to love about this drama. As much as Cha Tae Hyun plays the same types of roles over and over again, I never tire of him as he’s so good at playing that guy-next-door type. Joon Mo’s thought-provoking comments to Seung Chan is full heart that it’s able to reach through the screen to even warm the hearts of viewers. It makes you want to see your favorite variety shows in a different way, especially when a show features celebrities who are in the midst of a scandal.
I also loved seeing the daftness in Kim Soo Hyun’s Seung Chan. Kim Soo Hyun has certainly built his own brand over the years but I could see him easily be Cha Tae Hyun years down the line. People like seeing him play these affable heroes.
Gong Hyo Jin and IU both play hardened character at varying levels. It’s not unique to the Korean broadcasting environment for women in the television industry to come as tough and icy. It’s still a very male dominated environment that women often feel like they have to act that way in order to be on the same level as her male counterparts. Even still, the drama gave the chance for Gong Hyo Jin to melt the cold exterior of Ye Jin’s personality to make her relatable to viewers. The thing that made her really endearing, and at the same time had me rolling over the floor, is when we get to see Ye Jin’s aegyo when she’s drunk.
Cindy is the stereotypical K-Drama version of top star. I’ll admit that I didn’t warm up to her character at first because the cold star who is lonely and pitiable is overused. We’ve even seen this type of character in You From Another Star’s Chun Song Yi.
Yet, there was something incredibly heartbreaking about seeing a young girl who gives up everything she knows to pursue stardom. President Byun (Na Young Hee) is a fairy godmother and the cruel stepmother at the same time.
Cindy shows that it is lonely at the top. Her story not only sends a moral message in the third act of the drama I felt that it also makes an important commentary about how stars are treated by media perception. Television shows are all about making warm and impressionable perceptions.
They’re ruled by positive Netizen comments and public perception and because Korean TV is broadcast as quickly as it is being produced, it’s hard for producers to react to scandals. Facing conservative standards, they need to edit out or remove the celebrity from the show. While it’s not realistic to see someone like Ra Joon Mo stepping up in Cindy’s defense, I love his hero moment. There’s a moral message hearing indicating how rumors have killed the career of many talented stars.
Beyond the storyline, I enjoyed watching the cameos of the many stars throughout the drama. Soo many. From the veteran actresses of the failed season of 1 Night 2 Days season to the young idols in the new season of 1 Night 2 Days to all the idols making their appearance on Music Bank, they completed the world of Korean television.
However, I think my favorite appearance has got to be Lee Seung Gi and how he tries to undo his friendly, boy-next-door persona.
Surprisingly, I found that Kim Jong Kook is a decent actor. It made me wonder if hanging around established actors has rubbed off him in a good way. Kim Jong Kook even has a loveline which is hilarious and cringeworthy at the same time. Park Hyuk Kwon is brilliantly hilarious as the Variety Department Director, Kim Tae Ho. Not to be confused with Infinity Challenge’s PD Kim Tae Ho. If Ye Jin and Joon Mo are meant to create that down-to-earth sentimentality of the drama, Kim Hong Soon (Kim Jong Kook) and Kim Tae Ho bring that level of superficiality and brownnosing that can’t be avoided in the entertainment industry.
All in the all, the storyline underlying the story of Producer is Seung Chan’s admiration and crush on Ye Jin. Joon Mo is not unlike Seung Chan in that he lacks the courage to admit his feelings for Ye Jin for fear of losing her as a friend as well if they cross the line. The drama makes many metaphors about relationships and producing television. I especially liked when Ye Jin explains to Seung Chan how one needs to give a preview of a love confession before making the actual confession. It was these types of real-life analogies that made the show honestly refreshing.
I like that Seung Chan steps up to the plate when it comes to his crush for Ye Jin but I wish that Joon Mo and Ye Jin the drama focused more on their feelings for each other. I don’t disagree with how the drama ends up but it lacks a climactic punch because most of the characters end up suppressing their feelings all the way to the end. We assume that something more happens behind the camera but as the viewer, I can’t help feeling a little dismayed that I don’t get to see the relationships I shipped unfold on-screen.
The drama’s only 12 episodes and a part of me wishes that it was longer only because I love the characters. However for the limited storyline, the 12 episodes were smartly paced that I’m satisfied by the length.
This trendy drama provide an inside look at the industry with humor, wit and heart that I’m always going to look back on it fondly. However, I do think that unless viewers have a good knowledge of Korean variety shows, the casual watcher might struggle to find what makes this drama brilliant.