A star-studded cast and state-of-the-art stunts might not be enough to save SBS' latest drama "Bichunmoo - Drama" from a bad time slot, awkward dubbing and a poorly written script.
"I felt like I was watching a pathetic Chinese movie", a viewer wrote on the drama's official bulletin board, after the first two episodes aired last Friday.
Jointly produced by Chinese and Korean companies, "Bichunmoo - Drama" features a combination of both Korean and Chinese actors. The first two episodes solved the language issue by dubbing all the Chinese actors into Korean.
But Korean audiences aren't responding well.
"Are they trying to ruin the drama?" wrote one viewer.
Yet another viewer recommended switching to subtitles, writing, "If it weren't for the dubbing, it would be an acceptable drama. It's not too late to change to subtitles now".
Viewers will have to wait till next Friday's installment to find out if SBS takes the hint and starts subtitling. But the dubbing isn't the only problem this drama faces.
The epic martial arts drama originally aired as a 24-episode series in Hong Kong and Taiwan before coming over to Korea. To better suit Korean tastes, the drama has been revamped into a much shorter 14-episode series.
But by re-editing this classic love story, the whole plot becomes choppy. And the romance between the hero and heroine, played by Korean actor Joo Jin-mo
and Korean pop star Park Ji-yoon
, moves along too quickly. By the end of episode two, the ill-fated couple has already declared their undying love for one another.
Add to it the sappy lines and awkward delivery, and viewers definitely won't be watching this series for the script.
Viewers, however, may tune in for the spectacular Hong Kong-style action scenes, gorgeous costumes and the sweeping landscape of China, where the entire series was filmed.
Ninjas and skilled sword fighters battle it out in swaying bamboo forests. Maidens draped in airy silks and linens dance and stroll against a verdant backdrop. Joo Jin-mo
, who starred in the blockbuster "200 Pound Beauty", makes for an excellent martial arts hero, while Park Ji-yoon
, looks lovely in her billowing gowns.
The eye-catching stunts and seamless computer graphics match the over-the-top production costs. According to news reports, "Bichunmoo - Drama" production costs totaled a whopping 8 billion won ($8.4 million).
But with a Friday night time slot, all those great special effects might go to waste. Playing at a time when most people are out enjoying the upcoming weekend, the drama faces the daunting challenge of reeling Koreans into their living rooms.
It seems that "Bichunmoo - Drama" is up to the task. The first and second episodes, which played back to back, brought in viewer ratings of 12.8 percent and 14.3 percent (AGB Nielsen Media Research), respectively. The ratings are similar to those of SBS' previous Friday night drama "In Search of Son", which, according to news reports, recorded viewer ratings of 12.5 percent and 14.7 percent for episodes one and two.
Featuring a strong cast, including Korean actor Kim Kang-woo
, who won the best actor award for his role in "The Railroad"
(Gyeongiseon) at the 25th Torino Film Festival in Italy in December, "Bichunmoo - Drama" just might be able to up its ratings this coming Friday.
Based on Kim Hye-rin's popular comic book series, "Bichunmoo - Drama" is a love story about a sword fighter of Koryo descent, and a Mongol-Chinese woman.
"Bichunmoo - Drama" plays on Friday nights at 9:55 p.m. on SBS.
By Jean Oh