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Comedy, tragedy go head to head

2008/08/25 Source

With the Beijing Olympics over, broadcasting networks face the challenge of filling the void. Both KBS and MBC have already stepped up to the plate with two brand-new dramas: "Love and Marriage" and "East of Eden".

Despite the recent dismissal of the network's former head, Jung Yun-joo, KBS is determined to prove that it will continue to air quality shows. The channel's latest Monday and Tuesday night installment, "Love and Marriage", seeks to boost viewer ratings.

KBS faces some stiff competition. MBC, which failed to score high viewer ratings with their last Monday and Tuesday night series "When It's at Night, is aiming high with its epic drama, "East of Eden".

Featuring a star-studded cast, including heartthrob Song Seung-heon, this 50-episode series reportedly racked up 25 billion won ($23 million) in production costs. Like the novel by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, this drama charts the tumultuous struggles between two households. The similarities, however, end there.

Set in Korea, the drama opens up in a coal mining town in the 1960s and ends in the 21st century. The plot revolves around Song Seung-heon's character, Lee Dong-chul. Having witnessed his father's murder, Song's character is set on revenge. He faces the dark allure of crime as he enters the dirty world of casinos to get back at his father's murderer.

Yeon Jung-hoon plays Lee Dong-chul's younger brother, Lee Dong-wook. Like Song's character, Yeon's character wants to punish his father's murderer, the coal mining mogul Shin Tae-hwan. Yeon's character, however, turns to the law for justice and becomes a prosecutor.

In a dark twist of fate, it turns out that Yeon's character is the son of Shin Tae-hwan. Switched at birth with Lee Dong-chul's true brother, both Song's and Yeon's characters head toward the tragic truth that awaits them.

Judging from the melodramatic plotline, this drama's success will depend on how well Song plays the complex role of Lee Dong-chul. Song, who is returning to the small screen after a five-year hiatus, reportedly trained with a language teacher and a card-dealing expert to prepare for his role as a multilingual casino dealer. But it remains to be seen whether he will be able to convincingly portray his character's internal struggles.

"While my character endures a great deal of hardship and dark moments in his quest for revenge against his father's killer, Shin Tae-hwan, there is a warmth within him for his family and others he loves", said Song, 31, on the set of "East of Eden".

Song, whose good looks have helped propel him to fame, will need to work hard to bring out both the soft and hard sides of his character. If he fails to do so, the rival drama "Love and Marriage" may get the top ratings in that time slot.

In contrast to Song, Kim Min-hee, who will be starring in "Love and Marriage", has recently proven her talent in the film "Hellcats" (2008), landing her a best actress award at the 44th Baeksang Awards.

Set to play a cheeky and headstrong matchmaker in the upcoming KBS drama, Kim promises to win audiences over with her quirky character, Lee Kang-hyun, artfully scripted by In Eun-ah, the mastermind behind the hit romantic comedy "A Perfect Match" ("Romantic Comedy", 2002). The scriptwriter will be bringing her knack for comedic banter and wickedly accurate portrayals of office life to the upcoming drama.

Add to that co-star Park Sang-myun's razor-sharp humor, and "Love and Marriage" is sure to nab viewers hungry for some comedy.

Park, who played the male lead in the popular movie "My Wife Is A Gangster" (2002), will be playing the boss of Kim Min-hee's character in the drama.

"My character runs a company that hooks up clients looking to remarry with each other", said Park, 40, at a press conference held last week. "I don't usually improvise, but I do it a little here".

While Park's ad-libs will give the drama the comic flavor it needs, it is Kim Min-hee who promises to be the star of the show.

In the preview screening of "Love and Marriage", Kim Min-hee pretends to be drunk at a company party to please her new boss.

"I laughed when I saw Kim Min-hee act tipsy", commented Park.

Kim felt differently about the scene: "Seeing it now, honestly, I am a little embarrassed".

Kim's ballsy acting will give the drama the extra punch it needs, while co-star Kim Ji-hoon will add a bit of deadpan humor to the mix.

Kim Ji-hoon-I, who starred in the MBC series "How Much Love" (2006), will be playing a reserved divorce lawyer who ends up falling for Kim Min-hee's character. His attractiveness and serious acting style will serve as the ideal counterpart to Kim Min-hee's flamboyant character.

In terms of quality and verve, "Love and Marriage" wins out over the epic "East of Eden", while the MBC drama can draw people in with its sheer scale and Song Seung-heon's star power.

"Love and Marriage" airs its first episode tonight at 9:55 p.m. on KBS 2 TV. After playing a special on the making of "East of Eden" tonight, the MBC epic will air two back-to-back episodes tomorrow night at 9:55 p.m.

By Jean Oh

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