Fantasy was the name of the game in television drama series last year. Tennis sweaters and study hall sessions were glamorized in "Love Story in Harvard
" while the heavily rose-colored romance between stone-faced Ki-ju and happy-go-lucky Tae-young in "Lovers in Paris
" became the talk of the town.
But this season, television producers are getting real. Instead of Ivy League libraries or Parisian getaways, it's work and marriage, the cause of unending woe to Koreans, that are the subject of two new network dramas.
MBC's "Super Rookie
" (Wednesday and Thursday at 9:55 p.m.) and SBS's "Bad Wife
" (Monday and Tuesday at 9:55 p.m.) have been competing for viewer ratings since they first aired last week. The two shows are aimed at younger audiences and have been drawing the media's attention for their attempts to help audiences combat real life problems with humor.
" features Son Chang-min
and Shin Ae-ra as a couple dealing with tough times.
Dealing with such a serious issue as youth unemployment requires the backup of a star cast. And MBC's "Super Rookie
" is lucky to have heartthrob Eric, or Moon Jung-hyuk, and reigning beauty queen Han Ga-in
playing the lead roles. Difficulties finding a job, inner office politics and relationship commitment issues form the major themes of "Super Rookie
". Kang Ho (played by Moon) is a 29-year-old unemployed jock who "studied" phys-ed at a second-rate university and is constantly hounded by his parents to find a job. Lee is the insecure, 25-year-old girl hiding behind her glasses trying to hold down her first job at a large company, despite having been dumped by a handsome, ambitious higher-up. Kang and Lee serendipitously meet on a blustery evening at the Han River, where Kang finds a tear-stained Lee with her toes teetering on the edge of the handrails.
" shows that unemployment and relationship issues are not just limited to fresh-faced grads. Married couples in their 30s must deal with job cuts as well divvying up tasks like cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry.
Gu Su-hwan, played by Son Chang-min
, is a 34-year-old "macho dad" who, no matter how hard he flexes his guns, is having a rough time finding employment after he loses his job at a pizza company. As a desperate measure, he decides to become a dancing waiter at a "cola-theque", or teetotalers' night club. The job is cut short when he runs into his wife, Choi Mi-na (played by Shin Ae-ra) who happens to be out at the club with her girlfriends. The two switch household roles to make ends meet, and complications arise when Su-hwan becomes friends with a mysterious Japanese housewife (played by pearly-faced Yu Min) over cooking lessons.
The two television shows are banking on the hopes that with just the right dose of humor and a little bit of television magic, economic hardship and marital problems can make for palatable entertainment. Viewers seem to have warmed to the idea so far.
"The material is good and this show is extremely sympathetic to the current economic slump", posted viewer fly8866, on the "Bad Wife
" Web site opinion board.
"I think 'Super Rookie
' is a lot of fun and the acting is really good. Youth unemployment is a big issue in our country these days and the show's material is up-to-date", posted jounghh21 on the "Super Rookie
" opinion board.
Of course, the wisdom of moderation applies to televised realism. Viewers can only take so much on-screen hardship and depression before they have to turn the channel. This is something that the makers of the SBS drama series "Three Leafed Clover
" failed to heed when they cast sex kitten Lee Hyo-lee
as a downtrodden steel mill worker. "Three Leafed Clover
", which ended a day before the Ides of March because of scanty viewer ratings, attempted to work with the baroque class contrast between a dirt-speckled Lee and Ryoo Jin
, the 30-something CEO of a large company. It was a "Flashdance" without the dance. The show's realism was too severe and the fantasy too thin. While viewers may want programs that bear some resemblance to real life issues, they still cling to the hope that there's a four-leaf clover hiding somewhere in a luckless patch of weeds.
By Iris Moon