Starting tonight, a tale of sibling rivalry pits itself against soap opera-worthy adultery. Up against KBS` melodramatic "Again My Love," SBS` new Wednesday and Thursday night series, "Cain and Abel," takes a cue from the biblical brothers to create a mammoth epic of fratricide, minus the religious connotations.
"A lot of people have been posting questions, asking if this is a religious drama," said scriptwriter Park Kye-ok at the press conference held last week. "This is a drama about brothers. It is not religious."
Using fratricide as the impetus for the story, "Cain and Abel" centers on the plight of Lee Cho-in, a modern-day Abel, and his wicked foster brother Lee Seon-woo.
Hallyu star So Ji-sub tackles the lead, returning after a four year hiatus from the small screen to play the wronged Lee Cho-in.
"Though unintended, after three years, this drama is finally hitting the small screen," said the 31-year old actor at the press conference. "There have been a lot of rumors about this, but that has enabled us to prep for it that much more and make it good."
The celebrity stood up on a chair to greet fans during the press conference, attesting to his continuing popularity.
The question remains: Will it last?
For those who are familiar with actor So`s hit drama, "I`m Sorry, I Love You" (2004), "Cain and Abel" may lead to a moment of deja vu.
In the preview to "Cain and Abel," So runs in the desert, hands tied behind his back. Segue to a scene where someone holds a gun to So`s head. Cut back to So running. He screams: "Brother! Save Me!" Someone pulls a trigger. Blood splatters. So collapses.
Though it is unlikely that Cho-in will suffer from a fatal bullet to the head -- the preview hints at amnesia instead -- one has to wonder if viewers want to see the star shot twice.
A massive production budget, news reports tally the costs at 7.5 billion won ($5.2 million), overseas filming in China, and a strong director and co-star promise to steer the drama away from redundancy.
"Stairway to Heaven" actor Shin Hyun-jun plays a revamped Cain, while hit SBS series "Doctor Bong" director Kim Hyung-sik takes the helm.
"Working on this project, I experienced, even more keenly this time, the difficulties of trying to do one`s best," said director Kim. "We worked hard on this."
Will effort translate into high ratings?
Wednesday and Thursday night newcomer KBS` "Again My Love" overturned MBC`s "Moon River" when it aired its first episode on Feb. 4, proving that melodramas have more mass appeal than the historical romance.
But KBS` victory may be short-lived. In terms of star power, SBS wins out with "Coffee Prince" actress Chae Jeong-an and "Isan" co-star Han Ji-min rounding out the high profile cast. And if drama is what audiences want, then "Cain and Abel" has it in spades.
"Cain and Abel" airs tonight on SBS at 9:55 p.m.
By Jean Oh