Earlier this year during the 2016 summer season for K-dramas, it was overly hyped that the upcoming series at the time, Uncontrollably Fond, would be the next big K-drama right after Descendants of the Sun. Seasoned K-drama fans were able to look past the lustrous propaganda, knowing that the viewers are the ones who make series the next big K-drama, not hype and reports. All anyone has to do is look at The Time We Were Not In Love to see that. Still, many K-drama fans, especially the news ones made after watching Descendants of the Sun, knew no better diving head first into the hype.
Eventually, Uncontrollably Fond could not live up to its hype as it became one of the most disappointing K-dramas to air in 2016, though it did finish with a double-digit rating on average for the Seoul National Capital Area according to AGB Nielsen Korea.
What makes the failure of Uncontrollably Fond heartbreaking for K-drama fans was the fact that it was made to succeed. It had a stellar main male lead in Kim Woo Bin. Bae Suzy may not be the best actress out there, but she isn’t the worst. Also, she has a huge fan backing as “The Nation’s First Love,” a title she earned in Architecture 101. It also had the financial backing and production of the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), the same company responsible for Descendants of the Sun.
Besides the cast and production, the biggest hook Uncontrollably Fond had was its concept. According to its synopsis, Shin Joon Young (Kim Woo Bin) and No Eul (Bae Suzy) were a couple in their teenage years, separated by an ill-fated relationship. Later in life, they meet again when No Eul, who is a documentary producer, is tasked to film the documentary of Joon Young, who is a famous actor-singer. Shin Joon Young agrees to the documentary and even plans to win back No Eul’s heart within three months as he was diagnosed with cancer and only has that amount of time to live.
As shown above, the synopsis for Uncontrollably Fond was unique enough to make it a classic, but its direction was poorly executed. Now there is a new K-drama that is currently airing titled Fantastic and it is somewhat using the same concept Uncontrollably Fond used. The question is if the JTBC series is succeeding with said concept Uncontrollably Fond failed to deliver on. Believe it or not, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
According to the synopsis of Fantastic, starring Kim Hyun Joo and Joo Sang Wook, Lee So Hye (Hyun Joo) is a popular drama series writer and Ryoo Hae Sung (Joo Sang Wook) is a very popular actor who technically is not very good at acting. In the past, the two were working on a drama together. Not only that, they had developed feelings for each other. Because of certain situations, they grew apart. More than 10 years later, they reunite to work on a new drama. Eventually, they fall in love with each other again and want to get their relationship right compared to last time. Sadly, So Hye finds out she has cancer and has only six months to live. As a result, Lee So Hye and Ryoo Hae Sung are doing everything they want to do as a couple with the limited time they have.
As any K-drama fan can see, there are a lot of similarities between the synopses for Fantastic and Uncontrollably Fond. Kim Woo Bin and Joo Sang Wook’s characters are popular actors while Bae Suzy and Kim Hyun Joo’s characters work in television. One half of each relationship is affected with cancer being Hyun Joo’s character in Fantastic and Woo Bin’s character in Uncontrollably Fond. Finally, they are at its core love stories.
The difference is the direction and execution. In many instances when a person faces their morality in such a short time like six months and they want to live out the rest of their life to the fullest, the progression is often fast. Uncontrollably Fond kind of slogged in this area in that the story may have moved forward for 12 episodes but never progressed. Fantastic is already up to six episodes and has progressed in its story in such a way that K-drama fans are anticipating what happens next.
Apparently, the proof is in the viewership. According to the nationwide viewership ratings provided by both AGB Nielsen Korea and TNS Media Korea, they are ranging from 1.5 to 2.6 percent depending on the episode. Given that Fantastic airs on JTBC, an expensive premium channel in South Korea, said viewership numbers are really good. In comparison, half a percent of viewership on such a channel is probably equal to about 5 percent viewership on a free-to-watch channel.
To be fair, it is possible one of the reasons why Fantastic is executing its direction quickly is because it is only 12 episodes long. On the other hand, JTBC might have made Fantastic short in the first place to keep that urgency intact given that one of the characters does have cancer with six months to live.
Fantastic airs on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. KST on JTBC. For those who do not have access to Korean premium channels, it is available to watch for free, with ads, on both DramaFever and Viki.
[Featured Image by JTBC]