I started watching three new dramas aired by the new general programming broadcasting stations which have generated a lot of criticism and concern from the public. I have yet to learn the ins and outs of the new media landscape forced by the entry of TV Chosun, jTBC, Channel A, and MBN but have come to realize that whatever mess is being created, some of the dramas that are being distributed by the new channels are solid and deserve better viewership.
I have been enjoying Gombaeryeong, Heaven’s Garden (천상의 화원-곰배령) on Channel A. A woman with her two daughters, one of whom is from her husband’s previous relationship moves to Gombaeryong (in Kangwon province) when the husband’s business fails, to live with her reticent father in the countryside. The struggles surrounding each character have set up for an engrossing tale that brings us to ponder what it means to live in harmony with others in a world that is never easy. The series has aired four episodes so far, and because not all of the characters have been revealed, it is still early to guess how every piece will fall into its place. But the simple beauty of Gombaeryong and the sound narrative delivered by talented actors and staff have already glued me into the show. Although everyone in the tale has a unique, hurtful history, the precious older daughter, for me, has been most memorable for her honesty and resilience. This show may come away as too bland for some, but it will keep a lot of people warm this winter.
What’s Up on MBN surrounds a group of theatre arts students in an arts college who have gathered with different stories and dreams. News about the cast audition and airing had been available since some time last year or the year before, keeping me excited, but it was finally adopted by MBN. The main reason for being interested in this show is that it is written by Song Ji-na who authored classics like Hourglass and KAIST. Although KAIST may not be as well-known as Hourglass or The Legend (Taewangsashingi), it has been my favorite television drama for showing me what it means to be a good friend and for offering a sense of friendship through the different characters. It also taught me that college is more than college and that engineering is the coolest. More than a decade has passed since KAIST , and things have changed dramatically, sometimes making us wish for the good ol’ days to return, but a story about campus life is always refreshing. I hope it does not simply turn into a Korean version of Glee but comes through just as strong as KAIST.
Kimchi Family (Fermentation Family/발효가족) on jTBC is similar to Gombaeryeong for spanning the theme of family. It also involves the theme of food that has power to summon up memories and bring people together. I have watched the first four episodes which have introduced a family who owns a Korean restaurant known for its savory dishes and generous service and a man who grew up as an orphan but arrives at the family’s restaurant to realize that the place is strangely familiar. The restaurant is in danger of being sold away due to a megacorporation’s ambition to engineer a commercial district for Korean food at the restaurant’s place. The scenery, the vibrant hues of the Korean kimchis and the music that envelop the drama are just so beautiful.
In addition to these three dramas, I have caught an episode of I Live in Cheongdam-dong and Vampire Idols which are new sitcoms also being aired by the new systems and found them hilarious. Padam Padam His and Her Heartbeats is another show scripted by a veteran writer and has generated positive reviews. There are more dramas slated to be aired by TV Chosun in the next week. Although OCN’s is a cable channel which is different from the general programming stations, its newest dramas Ten and Vampire Persecutor have received great reviews. Without even including shows like Tree with Deep Roots, we have an abundance of dramas to munch on. The programs from the newly created channels have so far received only mediocre ratings. It is difficult to guess whether that will shift in the near future, but I do wish that some of these new shows get to watched and be appreciated.