What's going on with the Siamdang drama? I decided to skip since I've been burned by SSH dramas before, so I have no idea what's been going on.
Hoo boy, So, pretty much:
1. SBS thought they had a guaranteed hit on their hands with Lee Young Ae’s big comeback drama. Up until shortly before it aired, it was always meant to be a weekend drama, and while it got pushed back once or twice, the earlier possible slots were for the weekend. Then someone went “hey, we have a guaranteed, no chance of failure drama, why are we making it a weekend drama instead of primetime?” So they moved it to the Wednesday/Thursday slot without taking into account that, well, it was meant to be a WEEKEND drama, and not only do weekend dramas have a different vibe from primetime dramas, but viewers also have different expectations. If it had been a weekend show, there would have still been some problems, but I do believe that it would had had the ratings-or close to-that it was expected to have.
2. Even though Lee Young Ae apparently didn’t want to rely on nostalgia too much, SBS really really did, and played up the nostalgia in marketting, and in the show itself. On paper, it makes PERFECT sense why she’d go with it. It’s set in the same time period as Dae Jang Geum and the characters are familiar but not identical, it featured a character who rarely (never?) appears in sageuks, a romance between a couple in their late 30s, and a rather unusual and somewhat original spin on things. It isn’t the first series to combine modern and historical parts (and it should be noted that filming finished long before Goblin or Chicago Typewriter, which also feature reincarnation and historical and modern timelines, were ever announced) but it’s still an uncommon approach. Unfortunately, SBS opted too much for the nostalgia. Nods and homages to LYA’s previous iconic works are natural and expected, but SBS decided that people who liked LYA in an early 2000s drama wanted to watch her in an early 2000s drama in 2017. Personally speaking, while there were some not-great sageuk parts early on, it worked for me. It didn’t work for a lot of people because…well, even if you liked something 14 years ago you don’t WANT something that hasn’t progressed in those 14 years.
3. The series was hyped as a sageuk with bits of modern plot, and marketing really built up the nostalgia. In reality, the series was always meant to be roughly evenly split between the modern and historical plotlines. Unsurprisingly, when fans got something VERY different from what they’d been promised (the first episode was mostly modern parts, the second was half modern, half snippets from different points in the sageuk plotline) they reacted pretty loudly. SBS reacted by being SBS and making drastic edits. It should be noted that the ratings didn’t fall below what’s normally considered decent until AFTER the major edits took place. Most of the editing was removing large chunks of the modern parts. Unfortunately, it was constructed for the two plotlines to feed into and support each other. The sageuk plotline was perfectly decent on its own, but was obviously lacking something, and that something was the bulk of the complementary plotline in the present. As a result, while we’ll likely get resolution for the sageuk plotline, they cut so much from the modern plotline that I don’t see how they can fully resolve and explain everything in the final episode.
4. I’m not completely up to speed on this part, but it was apparently also expected to do well internationally, like Moon Lovers did, but the China ban pretty much killed that.
5. It’s SBS doing a sageuk? I mean, don’t get me wrong, more often than not, sageuk that doesn’t get stellar ratings sails through SBS unscathed. But then…well, they pretty much did the same thing to Moon Lovers with the heavy edits that made things a mess and did more harm than good, but at least they didn’t do so many edits that they dumped 2 entire episodes worth of plot. Then there’s poor Ja Myung Go, which had the misfortune of competing with Queen Seon Deok (and another really popular drama that QSD replaced early in its run, tough I forget that drama’s name) to which it bore some similarities. The ratings Ja Myung Go pulled in were low, but not actually terrible, but it was meant to be 50 episodes and they cut it to 39. IMO, having to condense the last 20 episodes into 9 episodes (and I can’t recall if they even had that much forewarning) pretty much ruined it. I loved that show despite not caring for the male lead at all, or being very invested in the romance, until the final handful of episodes, which I thought went downhill fast, and the ending pretty much ruined it for me. (Tragic is one thing, but I thought that went OTT with the tragedy, and actively ignored Ja Myung’s agency to have the tragedy, but that’s another rant.) SBS seems a little more trigger happy and panicky if their really hyped dramas don’t immediately perform as expected, and both Saimdang and Moon Lovers probably would have fared better in ratings if someone hadn’t hit the panic button and sent the editing department into a frenzy.
I mean, I’ve spent half the run of the show going “MBC wouldn’t have done this to us.” (I mean, in general, MBC seems more willing to stick with sageuks and let them do their thing even when they only have average ratings.) Sure, we would have had even more Dae Jang Geum shoutouts, but at least they would have given the show a proper chance.
6. I honestly have no idea if this is a factor, and I touched on it in a post last week, but Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People has been…not a sleeper hit, but it’s a show pulling in good ratings and a lot of acclaim despite relatively little promotion. MBC kinda threw it out there and it took off was better than the overlapping and way more hyped sageuks from SBS and KBS. But Rebel is, IMO, a truly revolutionary and progressive show in a lot of ways. Even if you don’t see it as revolutionary or progressive, there’s no denying that it deals with and addresses things other sageuks usually don’t, and is very different from what we’re used to in a lot of ways. At the same time, you have Saimdang relying on tried and true tropes for the sageuk, and steadily losing a lot of what set it apart thanks to SBS edits. A lot of people I know (as in, all of them that I can think of) who initially watched Saimdang but couldn’t get into it DO watch and love Rebel. Whether or not this holds true for Korean viewers, I don’t know.
I mean, I’m biased. People who follow me who don’t watch kdramas, or even those who do but don’t watched Rebel, are probably sick and tired of me talking about it. Someone out there probably isn’t reading this post purely because I post so many walls of text about the show that they have every possible version of the title plugged into tumblrsavior. Unless it goes south in the last few episodes, I’m going to say that Rebel is probably one of the best shows I’ve watched in the last few years, while Saimdang is pretty much my most anticipated drama of the last two years. Aside from the first few episodes, Saimdang did not live up to my expectations, though I do still like it for the show it is.
End rant. Sorry, you probably didn’t expect a reply anywhere near this long, but ti’s one of the things that gets me going these days. My friends in Line have put up with a lot of this from me lately.