Office Hours: Re-Kdramatizing “The Producers”, a failed experiment

The Producers Korean Drama Review



Hello. Welcome to my office hours. Call me Prof. AKIA.  I work in the Korean drama critics department in this fine institution. So, what do you want to talk about today?


The Producers (2015)?

Oh that hot mess!

Introduction

What did you think of the show after the first episode?

From the start, it was obvious that “The Producers” (2015) was something very different from the current Korean dramas out there.

And I am not talking about the glamour of the show’s backdrop.

Some shows have tried bringing the audience to the backstage of the Korean Entertainment industry. However, on a storytelling level, those shows still stuck to the traditional Korean drama approach.  “The Producers” is something different.


The Experiment
It tried to move the medium into the cutting edge of 21st century storytelling.

I mean hip American storytelling!


First, it moved beyond the central romance focused paradigm dominating current Korean miniseries dramas. It moved towards a story telling method currently gaining popularity in America. I mean the method in which one tells various snippets of stories in parallel about many people who work in the same location without a strong central narrative focus.

Second, it chose to use a “mockumentary” style as its main storytelling approach.  This is a deliberate decision to break the 4th wall on a consistent basis with “in-show” cameramen stalking the characters and the characters directly talking to the audience consistently via interviews.

Any show comes to mind?
I’ll give you a hint.

Even though there is a lot of shop talk in this show and characters deliver their lines straight, “The Producers” is a comedy. It is a dry witted and sarcastic sitcom. So…?

Anything?


“The Producers” is basically “Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015) starring Amy Poehle.

 Aubrey Plaza 
Aubrey Plaza type character

It even has an Aubrey Plaza type character in the show. Some may say why not “The Office” or “Modern family.” While these shows can all be lumped together, I think that those two shows have more of a central focus than “Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015).

The comedic sensibilities of “The Producers” do veer more over to the “Modern family” a bit I think.

The Failure
The problem with “The Producers” (2015) initially was that it did not really work which is oddly enough what people said about the first season of “Parks and Recreation”.



It did not really work.

“The Producers” (2015) had many problems including a poor choice of a blank audience insert character.

You know who I’m talking about!



Let’s kick his alien butt!

He was too blank to the degree I imagine he was either mentally retarded or had a metal disorder like autism.

Personally, I think the show had no idea how to use the 4th wall breaking technique which is not something to be used willy-nilly as it hurts the audience’s suspension of disbelief. However, this technique does usually works well with brutal self-reflection, biting sarcasm, or burning satire of the characters and situations.  


“The Producers” does not really go all the way with the 4th wall breaking as it basically uses it to deliver the punch lines of tired old jokes about the Entertainment industry.  This is not surprising as self-reflection, biting sarcasm, or burning satire are not a big part of Korean entertainment culture as much as they are in American culture.

Re-Kdramatizing
“Parks and Recreation” retooled the show after the first season. “The Producers” (2015) decided to rip as much of the not-working-yet innovations out of the show as possible after 2 episodes.  Well… considering the ruckus being made behind the scenes, the decision seemed to be made even before the show started to air.


KBS was going to salvage as much of the show as they could for the remaining 10 episodes.

This means retooling or Re-Kdramatizing the show!

Several stuff needed to happen to make “The Producers” (2015) into a standard Korean drama. It goes further than just getting rid of the “Mocumentary” style!

Prior to the retooling, the show had many subplots running for all of the different side characters.  After the retooling, all of them got tossed out in favor of creating two plots to focus on. 


“9 end 2 outs” (2007)

The first plot is a “9 end 2 outs” (2007) style “old friends living together” plot. The second is a “Star's Lover” (2009) style “an actress falling in love with a common man” plot. During this change, most of the industry backdrop and side characters are reduced in presence.
“Star's Lover” (2009)

While there is nothing wrong with these conventional plots, in practice, the plots feel clunky because the characters involved were not built from the ground up on the motivations the plots required.

The solution is…



Lazy writing of course!

The writer decided to force the plot along by basically using the Kim Soo-Hyun’s character as an external storytelling shortcut. The character keeps randomly budding into the narrative without any real character reason.


While I disliked Kim Soo-Hyun’s character from the start, at least he had some characteristics and a subplot of his own at first. After the retool, he is barely a character  and more of a plot device.


So, at the end, even though Cha Tae-Hyun, Kong Hyo-Jin, IU are giving their best, I do not care what happens to their characters. Well, in case of IU, her best is barely above almost adequate.

Conclusion
The question to be asked is whether this was the correct decision.

I think they made the best choice out of a crappy situation.




Considering the format of a Korean drama miniseries and the show’s already shorten 12 episode run, I do not think they had enough time to steer the broken show on its correct course.

This does not mean that they did a good job at retooling the show.

Other than making it more familiar to what mainstream Korean drama audiences have experienced before, the show did not become drastically better. It just lost any kind of uniqueness the show had.

What else can be said?

The Producers” (2015) was a broken show that had some interesting innovations. Now it is just a broken Korean drama.

Which do you prefer?




So, thanks for visiting during office hours. My name again is Prof. AKIA. Do not forget to comment, share! Thanks. Now please get out.
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