Tuesday, April 16, 2013

'End of the World' - The Power of Ratings in Korean Drama

The news just came out, kindly translated by javabeans over at Dramabeans, that series 'End of the World' of jTBC has been cut to half due to bad ratings. It will air 12 episodes instead of the planned 20.

As you can imagine, something like this puts a dagger through many a heart. Mine personally as well. You see, in business, a deal is valued. A contract is the law. When you sign up for something, you make an oath to see it through. That is what makes the difference between a professional and a clown.

So explain to me this. If the production team sign a contract by which they are obligated to produce material for a certain number of episodes, if the actors sign up to perform for that number of episodes and if this is the plan most approve and are on board for, why is it that the channel is not also bound by that contract? If the writers or actors or crew or director don't have the right to just walk when they feel like it, which they shouldn't have, why does the channel?

Filming a series is grueling work. We're talking long hours, less time to prepare than with movies, more demanding a format for storytelling. Especially in Korea and its obsession with nearly-live shooting, the whole process is even harder. People work very hard, very fast so they can tell a story. Everyone should be required, by law and contract, to commit to that story from beginning to end.

I realize that is not possible with some shows in the West. They are designed to be multi-season ones. If one season is doing poor, it's the channel's right to have it cancelled, since it would be insane to support more seasons of something which is bringing no profit. But they should at least be required to let the running season end and inform the makers of it early enough so that the story can be changed. Story is God in a work of fiction. It should be protected and respected, as should the people who work on a show and their hard work.

Korea mostly makes 1-season shows. Cutting one in half and letting them know so late (9 episodes have already aired), especially when it's being filmed just before it is aired, is simply disrespectful, unprofessional and disgusting a move.

We know ratings mean the world to them. Pleasing and hooking overly-demanding viewers is their only goal, when we are talking about the business people involved. But audiences do not watch entertainment as a business. They get drawn to the stories, the characters, the emotions, the settings. Dramas are business, yes, but they are also entertainment and sometimes even art. Unless a fine balance exists between those things, you lose the dedication to them from either side. Without that dedication, everything collapses.

If channels keep this behavior up, pretty soon people will get tired of it. They will tire of the same stories, same settings, same dialogues, same everything which exists within the ever-shrinking sphere of what sells and what is allowed in Korean drama. This is the end for 'End of the World'. It does not have to be the end of Korean dramas or the end of hope and effort for better quality works, filming methods and working environments in them. So speak up, viewers. Tell them when they're wrong.

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