Viewers will have a slew of weekend fare to pick from over the next couple of weeks.
The weekend ratings war kicked off last week with the action blockbuster "A Man Called God" and the historical epic "The Great Merchant." In a matter of weeks SBS will be adding two more to a line-up already bulging at the seams with formidable rivals.
If MBC is bringing in the testosterone-driven action and KBS a tale of a strong and admirable heroine, then SBS is bringing on the family matters.
Starting Saturday, SBS` soap-operatic "Love You Thousand Times" will be replaced by the significantly more upbeat "Neighboring Exes." The week after brings in a family saga from the writing-directing duo behind the hit KBS series "Mom`s Dead Upset." Titled "Beautiful Life," the new series travels a full three generations down the family tree in its exploration of the emotional entanglements, drama and joy that comes from day-to-day family life.
There will be a full week after this coming Saturday, however, before SBS starts airing "Beautiful Life," affording both MBC and KBS an opportunity to change ratings history, meaning that "A Man Called God" and "The Great Merchant" could overturn the track record of the hitherto popular family drama genre.
For the past year or two, weekends have been dominated by family-friendly series. Any attempt to challenge that - take MBC`s "Friends, Our Story," for example - has usually ended in a failed effort to nab top ratings.
That may change.
On Saturday, the first episode of the comic book-based "A Man Called God" reeled in 15.8 percent (AGB Nielsen Media Research) nationwide ratings, according to news reports. Though SBS` current weekend rival series "Smile, Dear" nabbed higher ratings at a reported 17.7 percent (AGB Nielsen Media Research), it is hard to tell if its successor will perform as well.
While the new KBS epic "The Great Merchant," according to news reports, only brought in nationwide ratings of 11.9 percent (AGB Nielsen Media Research), this historical adventure could very well be the dark horse of the herd.
Never mind that it is based on the real life of a "gisaeng" (the Korean equivalent of a geisha) and her transformation into a highly successful merchant-and-philanthropist, it is the actresses who play the heroine, the famed Kim Man-deok (1739-1812), that make this particular series a charmer.
Fifteen-year old actress Shim Eun-kyung was enchanting as the young Kim Man-deok in the first episode of "The Great Merchant." Spunky, brave, vivacious and rebellious, she pulled off the role with the kind of verve that rivals "The Great Queen Seondeok" actress Nam Ji-hyun`s performance as the young Deok-man.
In fact, she is so good that it will be interesting to see if veteran actress Lee Mi-yeon can top her take on Man-deok.
Judging from her award-winning performance as the tragic Empress Myeong-seong in the KBS series of the same name, however, the 38-year old actress looks more than equipped to take on the role of a business-savvy innkeeper with a heart of gold.
But will her portrayal of the successful merchant be enough to keep viewers tuned into KBS and not SBS?
With the scriptwriter and director of the overwhelmingly popular "Mom`s Dead Upset" on board, rival SBS series "Beautiful Life" promises to be a force to be reckoned with.
Slated to start airing March 20, the series delves into the lives of a husband (played by "IRIS" actor Kim Young-cheol) and wife (played by "Thirst" actress Kim Hae-sook), one widowed, the other divorced, who have been married for more than 20 years, and their extended and immediate family. The series also features "Sikgaek" actress Nam Sang-mi as an assistant food researcher.
Though not in direct competition with KBS` "The Great Merchant" or MBC`s "A Man Called God," SBS` new weekend series "Neighboring Exes" promises to reprise the success that lead actor and actress Son Hyun-joo and Yoo Ho-jung garnered when they played husband and wife in MBC`s "Lady Next Door." This time the two will play each other`s exes in this tale of what happens when a divorced couple become next-door neighbors.
"The Great Merchant" airs on KBS 1 TV on Saturdays and Sundays at 9:40 p.m.
"Neighboring Exes" airs on SBS starting Saturday at 8:50 p.m.
"Beautiful Life" airs on SBS starting March 20 at 10 p.m.
By Jean Oh