‘Drinking Solo’ K-Drama Finale: Spin-Off Ends With Higher Ratings Than ‘Let’s Eat’ And ‘Let’s Eat 2’ — Should tvN Be Happy It Did Almost As Well As ‘The K2’?

On Tuesday, October 25, the Total Variety Network (tvN) aired the finale for its “drinking buddy” K-drama Drinking Solo (also known as Let’s Drink). Starring Ha Suk Jin and Park Ha Sun, the spin-off of Let’s Eat and Let’s Eat 2 was made to be a “feel good” K-drama as proven by the overall concept. One such detail is Min Jin Woong playing a character who impersonates famous Korean actors, such as Song Joong Ki in Descendants of the Sun and Park Bo Gum in Moonlight Drawn by Clouds. Another detail is the fact Drinking Solo made fun of K-drama tropes such as the overuse of love triangles. It went above and beyond the common concept with a love pentagram.

Apparently, K-drama fans loved the concept of Drinking Solo. Domestic viewership ratings locally in South Korea recorded a high percentage for a series on a Korean pay channel, especially the episode featuring Ha Suk Jin and Park Ha Sun’s kiss. The best viewership numbers for Drinking Solo were recorded for its finale in which the series averaged higher than the K-dramas it is spun off of, Let’s Eat and Let’s Eat 2. Despite this accomplishment, should tvN be happy Drinking Solo did so well that it was almost as popular as The K2?

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Jin Jung Suk and Park Ha Na finally share their first kiss near the end of the 12th episode of "Drinking Solo." [Image by Total Variety Network (tvN)]

Before analyzing this argument, it should be reported that the series finale for Drinking Solo recorded the highest ratings for AGB Nielsen Korea, while being short by 0.1 percent for TNmS Media Korea. For the former, it recorded 5.020 percent for the nation and 6.348 percent for the Seoul National Capital Area. As for the latter, it only recorded viewership for the nation at 5.0 percent. The 10th episode’s ratings were higher at 5.1 percent.

Drinking Solo‘s viewership ratings are actually a major accomplishment given the fact it is a spin-off of Let’s Eat and Let’s Eat 2. The original K-drama never earned past 2 percent in viewership for the nation while its sequel never earned past 3 percent for the nation. To be fair, such numbers were the norm for Korean pay channels at the time, so Drinking Solo could be a testament on how successful tvN has become.

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"The K2" is the latest K-drama to air on tvN. It stars Ji Chang Wook, Song Yoon Ah, Yoona, and Jo Sung Ha. [Image by Total Variety Network (tvN)]

It is great that Drinking Solo did so well. However, should tvN actually be happy that it did so well in comparison to its other K-drama currently airing, The K2? The question may sound peculiar, but if K-drama fans were to think about it, the production costs and value for Drinking Solo were surely much lower than The K2. Drinking Solo was shot locally in Seoul with basic direction and production. The K2 had some filming done internationally in Spain, had a very high production and direction costs, in which special camera tricks such as bullet time were used, and advanced choreographed fight and driving scenes. Also, the male lead, Ji Chang Wook, was trained in systema, taekwondo, akido, and jujutsu, and had no stunt double. This detail alone made Chang Wook the highest-paid actor for a tvN drama.

The disparaging comparison in overall cost and value between both K-dramas and the viewership ratings they brought in or are currently bringing in could be a grievance for tvN. On a positive note, Drinking Solo did earn back more than what it cost. As for The K2, it is technically doing better than most tvN K-dramas in general. The only difference that The K2 has, compared to other tvN K-dramas, is its cost, as it is the most-expensive K-drama tvN has ever produced. Also, The K2 might actually be a calculated risk, as is it tvN’s attempt to appeal to international investors. Many of them usually invest to the Korean free-to-watch television companies, but if they see potential in Korean pay channel television company like tvN, it could provide huge opportunities for them.

Drinking Solo, also known as Let’s Drink, can be viewed for free, with ads, exclusively on DramaFever. As for The K2, it airs on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. KST on tvN. For those who do not have access to Korean television channels, the series can be viewed for free, with ads, exclusively on DramaFever too. New episodes are exclusive to premium members for one week.

[Featured Image by Total Variety Network]