The new year kicked off with a viewer ratings scrabble between the three major broadcast networks last week.
KBS came out on top with their Monday and Tuesday night series "The Masters of the Art of Study" and their Wednesday and Thursday night blockbuster "The Slave Hunters."
The first episode of KBS` "The Masters of the Art of Study" posted nationwide ratings of 15.1 percent (TNS Media Korea) last Monday. Rival dramas SBS` "Jejungwon The Hospital" and MBC`s "Pasta" racked up 14.9 percent and 12.2 percent (TNS Media Korea) respectively.
Based on AGB Nielsen Media Research`s numbers, however, KBS` "The Masters of the Art of Study" came in second to SBS` "Jejungwon The Hospital" said news reports.
The second episode scored an even higher 18.5 percent (TNS Media Korea) the following night, clenching a first week win for the academic series. "Jejungwon The Hospital" and "Pasta" followed close behind at 15.8 percent and 11.9 percent (TNS Media Korea) respectively. AGB Nielsen`s numbers, according to news reports, also put "The Masters of the Art of Study" in first place.
According to a press release, one viewer posted the following comment on the drama`s official bulletin board: "My grades were rock bottom and I dared not dream of going to a prestigious university but this drama gave me hope."
KBS` winning streak continued with "The Slave Hunters" on Wednesday. The new series beat out SBS` melodramatic "Will it snow for Christmas?", bringing in high nationwide ratings of 22.9 percent and 24.8 percent (TNS Media Korea) with its first two episodes.
News reports pointed to the collaboration between KBS and entertainment company Chorokbaem Media as one of the reasons behind the series` success. According to reports, KBS and Chorokbaem established a "drama fund"-style company for "The Slave Hunters," splitting investment costs halfway.
While solid financing is crucial to the success of any major project, it cannot ensure high ratings.
Spot-on scripting, tight acting, intelligent martial arts choreography and lush cinematography endowed the small screen series with big screen proportions. An adequate display of muscular brawn, intricate yet gritty fight scenes, bawdy humor and eloquent moments of humanity made it both visually and intellectually appealing.
The use of a Red One camera, a much-coveted gadget reportedly owned and used by prominent directors like Steven Soderbergh and "The Lord of the Rings" Peter Jackson, gave each shot its theater-worthy luster, a quality highlighted in the last scene of the second episode, when lead characters Lee Dae-gil (Jang Hyuk) and Song Tae-ha (Oh Ji-ho) rushed towards each other through a field of reeds in slow motion, swords drawn, glinting as they sliced through each reed.
According to a KBS press release, the series was sold to both Japan and Thailand before it started airing on KBS. Other Asian broadcasters and distributors, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, have also been making purchasing inquires, the press release added.
Meanwhile, rival drama "Will it snow for Christmas?" announced four winners for an online event held on the drama`s official website. According to an SBS press release, from Nov. 23 to Dec. 23 as many as 1,000 participants posted their Christmas-related memories on the drama`s website in the hopes that they would be chosen to go on a date with lead actor and actress Ko Soo and Han Ye-seul.
The conditions were that if it snowed on Christmas, two participants would be selected to go on a date with the drama`s leads. Snow fell during Christmas and a total of four winners were selected.
Between Jan. 11 and Jan. 17, the winners will visit the set of "Will it snow for Christmas?" and share a meal with lead actors and actresses like Ko Soo, Han Ye-seul, Song Jong-ho and Sun Woo-sun. Those who wish to, will also be able to take a simple acting test and star as an extra in the series, stated the press release.
By Jean Oh