Remakes of popular foreign TV drama series are hitting the local small screen, possibly as they are considered a “safe choice” in the near-saturated current market.
KBS2 recently started to air “Suits,” a remake of the popular US series. The Korean adaptation has marked a favorable start, noting an average viewership rating of 7.4 percent for its two episodes.
OCN’s remake of BBC hit series “Mistresses” captured the public’s attention over the weekend. As the original British production had been remade in the US as well, viewers were eager to see how the local version will interpret the work.
Networks are lately welcoming remakes of popular foreign TV drama series. OCN will soon air another BBC remake “Life on Mars” and MBN’s upcoming series “Rich Man” is an adaptation of Japanese series “Rich Man Poor Woman.”
The first Korean adaptation to receive a favorable response was tvN’s “Good Wife” in 2016. The main actress Jeon Do-yeon was praised as playing the role even better than the original character.
Despite the fact that the original series “The Good Wife” on CBS was an absolute hit, there were initial concerns regarding the adaptation. Back then, remakes were widely thought to be limited in quality and popularity.
But the cable channel took a bold approach, garnering favorable responses from viewers and industry personnel. “Good Wife” was evaluated to have kept the original works’ charm while twisting it with a Korean interpretation.
From then, networks jumped into the competition, competitively buying copyrights of popular foreign TV series. Culture critic Kim Sung-soo described the situation as networks making “safe choices” in an overheated entertainment market.
Various cable channels entered the network market in 2011, approved to air any kinds of production, including news, entertainment and drama. After securing their stances in news coverage, the cable channels are now searching ways to strengthen their drama productions.
“It’s about making safe choices and decreasing the risks. Remakes are safe as original productions have succeeded,” Kim said. “(Local) star producers and scriptwriters are expensive with risks. Buying licenses may be cheaper without the risks.”
From the viewers’ perspective, they can break away from “same old love stories,” Kim explained. Korean drama series have been criticized for relying too much on romantic relationships, neglecting the settings and stories.
“Remakes are interesting as they are the same yet different from the original series. Even though I might know the ending, I still am curious as the actors and the details are different,” Yoon Ji-hye, a 25-year-old employee in Seoul said. “It’s fun to compare the works.”
But the question of how an original production will be interpreted remains. Not all remakes were successful, some failing to appeal to the public as they weren’t able to re-enact the original work’s tone and manner.
Also, as many US series are seasonal productions, the storylines are long and character relationships are complex. Being shortened into Korean versions which usually consist of 16 or 24 episodes, some lose their way.
JTBC’s “Entourage” and tvN’s “Criminal Minds” are good examples. Despite the original series being a hit, the remakes failed to continue to capture the attention of local viewers.
“The right interpretation” is necessary for remakes to meet viewers’ taste, according to Kim. “As details of foreign TV series have culture contexts and backgrounds, they might not work in Korean settings. Contextual localization determines the success and failure,” he said.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)