Every year, the dramaland embraces at least one stand out theme that governs most of the shows. It may be due to blind following of a subject based on the success of any similar-themed drama or the producers feel that the particular topic is hot among the viewers. Whatever the case, we can all feel the unmistakable dominance of certain colors in the canvas of dramas. For instance, 2012 was all about time travelling (which is still being used till now) while 2013 had a deluge of sageuks adorning the small screens. Speaking of 2014, I’m observing three main characteristics — thrillers, noona romances and OTP reunions. At least the first quarter of the year says so. Let’s have a look at the first trend in this post aka thrillers & mysteries.
The usual dearth of thrillers in Dramaland has a variety of reasons. FIrstly, people think that they might be hard to comprehend with their convoluted plots and requesting to use our grey cells. Most of the viewers watch TV to relieve their tiredness and getting entertained, so they go for something that is easy and pleasing to watch. Also, emotional angle is another factor that plays its part here—rom-coms and melodramas have it in spades while thrillers usually pay less attention to it. Speaking of international audience, they love K-dramas mostly because of their romance and fun element and so this genre of mystery-suspense and thrills remains relatively less explored. As for me, I’m an avid mystery lover and action-thrillers form part of one of my favorite genres in films and TV shows. I’m all for my heroes and heroines being all badass, using brains and solving clues with nail-biting tension and keeping-on-the-edge-of-the-seat moments.
Most of the viewers know K-dramas as the best way to full fill the appetite for well made romantic comedies and melodramas. And it is true. But we can also see dramaland dropping thrillers from time to time (IRIS, Ghost, Fugitive Plan B, City Hunter, Devil, etc.), albeit their number can be counted on fingers. Last year, we got Two Weeks, I Hear Your Voice, Heartless City, Mandate Of Heaven, Incarnation Of Money, Nine, The End of the World and The Virus. Even the rating juggernaut You From Another Star had shades of a killer-on-the-lose though it was never the prime subject.
What I have seen generally is that these thrillers are a mix of many genres and don’t really focus solely on the action or thrills or the dark quality of this category of film art. They encapsulate romance (it’s K-drama after all), humour at times, even birth secrets and lots of flimsy and over-the-top treatment—in basic terms, a perfect popcorn entertainment. They have more style than substance. They can also sometimes veer into silliness. Of course there are exceptions here and there. Particularly, the cable networks go for a serious and no-nonsense quality treatment of what we call a thriller drama.
This year is special as suddenly more and more shows of the thriller-mystery genre are being produced. They are different from last year because they are zooming in the thriller part more than anything and even have no love-lines at all.
God’s Gift – 14 Days combines time travel with mystery and takes the game of connecting-the-dots literally in its narrative. I would have recommended it instantly if only the ending didn’t prove to be the fly in the ointment. Three Days is a political-conspiracy thriller while Gap Dong revolves around a 20 years old serial murder case. Cheo Young was about a ghost seeing detective, mixing occult and suspense. The upcoming shows are also not behind in milking this new trend — Ten Days Ago and God’s Quiz season 4 will be airing on OCN, a channel known for its dark and serious thrillers. Doctor Stranger is also about medicine and spies (sounds a bit weird, right?) while Big Man and recently premiered Golden Cross are revenge thrillers. You’re All Surrounded takes a humorous approach in the cop drama territory.
One of the complaints or apprehension I have with thriller dramas is that the writers of these shows love to slap the audience in the last scene of the drama. They either make the ending nonsensical or unsatisfying just to give the show an artistic touch, which only says about their laziness to give a coherent story from start to finish. I can totally digest the plot holes, suspend my disbelief over the coincidences and actions, endure the diversion from the strictly-thriller treatment (a romance angle is always welcome in my book!) but a crappy ending is something that is simply unacceptable and that prevents me from trying a lot of shows falling under this genre.
The sudden rise in thrillers in 2014 might be due to the changing taste of viewers who want to watch something fresh and new besides the usual dish of dramas we get. Whatever the reason, but it is a welcome trend as it gives variety to Dramaverse.