Dramas are not averse to having self-referential meta material in them. We hear "like in dramas" said by drama characters often and some works might even parody others in direct or indirect ways. Like 2008 series "On Air", 'The King of Dramas' explores the world of the drama industry. Sadly for the latter, a lot of the issues it criticizes rear their ugly head both within its plot and through the drama itself by the end.
Anthony Kim (Kim Myung-min) is the go-to producer for a successful drama. The works he handles get top ratings and satisfy all the industry criteria, while leaving little room for fresh concepts. When a production faces a problem, Anthony clashes with Lee Go-eun (Jung Ryeo-won), an aspiring writer who believes stories are more important than business. After a casualty during filming, Anthony loses his job and fame. When he later opens his own production company and finds himself deep in debt, he and Go-eun reunite and decide to try creating a successful drama. However, their ideals are still on opposing sides.
'The King of Dramas' is an interesting mixture of a romantic comedy and workplace drama. While romance usually takes the spotlight with the workplace as its background, this series goes for a reversal of that, focusing on the romance without losing sight of its goal. For the most part, that is. It is very interesting that the work approaches drama-making through an almost antihero, the one who cares how much a drama makes, not about telling a solid story. On the other hand, Go-eun is someone who believes in her art, but does not understand that even art has to compromise in order to get its chance.
This is a fight we see in entertainment often and the fact that business wins over artistic quality is something we witness every day. The series does well in exploring different problems in the industry, from writing to production and from acting to promotion. The cast is efficient and being led by solid actors like Kim Myung-min and Jung Ryeo-won means there is not a dull moment when they are in charge. The romance is also realistic and so are other character relationships, offering drama without resorting to cliches. Again, for the most part.
Sadly and ironically, the series eventually falls into the same traps it set out to criticize, reminding us that it does in fact belong in an industry which is riddled with these issues. The series loses its way by inserting an unnecessary element for Anthony and even a close call for his life, eventually resorting to the same cheap melodrama it so entertainingly and insightfully presented earlier, through the drama the characters were creating. The ending of the series is by no means sad or horrible, but it is frustrating proof of the points the series makes.
While certain tropes and convenience writing are nothing unusual in this medium, it feels very frustrating to see those in a series which showed awareness of their problematic nature and frequent use. It is even more frustrating to see them used right near the end, a place they do not even serve a purpose by being in. When the message of a show is that these issues are never pleasant when they have to be juggled, seeing it taken down by them is all the more sad.
Despite the disappointing final episodes, 'The King of Dramas' is by no measure a bad series. The disappointment is great precisely because it was an entertaining moment of self-awareness by this industry. This is a good drama let down by a few bad calls. With its likable characters and a good mixture of workplace romance and career versus morality and art, it will probably be a more pleasant watch for those who are already aware of its flaws and interested in the less glamorous side of this industry.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Available on DVD from YESASIA
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King of Dramas""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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