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Why Prague can't beat Paris in romance

2005/11/11 Source

Perhaps Prague should never try to compete with Paris when it comes to love - at least, in the case of TV dramas here.

With just four episodes away from the finale, SBS weekend primetime drama "Lovers in Prague" has met a "major" setback; especially in comparison with its successful predecessor "Lovers in Paris".

With top actress Jeon Do-yeon and actor Kim Joo-hyuk joining in the powerful production team of "Lovers in Paris" - including the writer and the producer - it seemed to be a matter of course that the next "lover series" would enjoy the same popularity.

But despite the pleasant start with a 20 percent viewer rating, which rose to 31 percent in the ninth episode, the ratings have collapsed back to 25 percent, and aren't showing signs of recovery.

"Lovers in Paris", on the other hand, had reached above 30 percent in viewer ratings in just the third episode, and ended with an overwhelming rating of 58 percent.

Of course, a success of a TV drama should never be judged solely upon viewer ratings, and "Lovers in Prague" is still enjoying relatively high popularity considering other dramas suffer from much poorer ratings.

But as the drama draws closer to the end, some obvious defects have begun to appear, holding viewers back from fixing the channel on number six every weekend.

As a sweet romance between the president's lovable daughter and a rude-but-softhearted novice detective, "Lovers in Prague", at first, appeared to have viewers hooked.

But as the story unfolded, the narrative began to lose its track, confusing even the most faithful audiences.

Every week, the drama landed upon a new crisis - an expose of the heroine's status, a complicated political power struggle between the president and the head of the nation's largest conglomerate, and a suicide attempt of the heroine's old lover - without so much of a connection to relate each episode. Thus, many frustrated viewers began to criticize the "shabby" storyline.

"I felt like I was watching a mystery, not a romance. What is happening to the drama?" said one viewer on the drama's website after last week's episode.

Considering that the two lover series are written by the same writer, the narrative of "Lovers of Prague" does seem to lack empathic and persuasive power.

While being based upon an unrealistic Cinderella story, "Lovers in Paris" had still managed to arouse sympathy - especially among female viewers - due to the drama's solid structure. Unrealistic as it is, the story of a poor girl and her millionaire prince was based upon convincing situations made not just by the two main characters, but also by all other supporting roles.

Although "Lovers in Prague" follows a similar narrative of a romance between two people from opposite classes, the feeble structure of the drama disrupts viewers' concentration.

In fact, the only thread that manages to hold the story together seems to be the lifelike acting of actress Jeon and actor Kim. But despite the good acting, their love is not convincing enough because other characters fail to back up the central narrative.

For example, although two old lovers of the hero and the heroine should play a major part in tangling up the new romance, they seem so unrealistic and tedious that viewers wonder, "What's the point of having them in the story at all?"

Ironically, another major defect of the drama is the writer's "excessive" playing with words.

Viewers are of course mesmerized by the beautiful and witty dialogues which are so romantic that seem to be out of the world. But because they are so "out of the world", they soon become a bore.

Lines such as, "Love is like a camera flash; 'Pop!' and that's it", "What made your figure so selfish?" and "Go and try to take her with all your might, I will guard her with all my might", sounds so "cool" that people will immediately open up their notepads to jot them down, but are at the same time so unrealistic that doesn't reach anyone's heart.

True, it is dialogues that make people remember a drama long after it ends.

For example, "Damo", the major hit of 2003, had grasped many people's hearts with the famous line "Are you hurting? I am hurting too". The reason that this simple line aroused so much empathy was because it was spoken in a drama with an excellent storyline.

But no matter how witty and touching they are, the dialogues in "Lovers in Prague" no longer draw viewers to the TV screens as they fail to make a connection with the storyline. Dialogues can become excellent spices, but it is the storyline that becomes the main ingredient. And thus, pretty lines that do not make connection with the narrative only break up the viewers' concentration.

There are also criticisms about the excessive femininity and unreality of the heroine who has enough time to follow her lover around everywhere, while supposedly being a hotshot diplomat.

But even if these "little" criticisms are set aside, "Lovers in Prague" appears to be in need of some major patch-ups - especially if it hopes to catch up its predecessor's success.

By Shin Hae-in

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