Exploring Korean Drama: The King of Dramas

the king of dramas featured image

The performances are really what make The King of Dramas stand out.  Hyun Min is a ridiculous delight every time he’s on screen; the petty fights he gets into with costars and actual small children alike, using things like boogers and garlic as props, are series highlights.  As the series goes on he becomes more than that, too.  He has one of the best character developments on the show; he starts off as a typical too-big-for-his-britches rising young star, but we see he truly cares about the people around him.  He apologizes when he’s in the wrong.  When he hears his acting criticized he first throws a typical hissy fit, but then makes genuine effort to improve.

This might be a posed picture, but Hyun Min made this face for real all of the time in the show.

This might be a posed picture, but Hyun Min made this face for real all of the time in the show.

The true standout performance of the series, however, is that of Kim Myung Min as Anthony Kim.  The actor’s a famous method chameleon in Korea, totally immersing himself in every role.  His Anthony Kim is a polished immoral workaholic executive jerk, but he’s so much more.  I wanted to hit him almost every minute in the first episode, and he nearly had me in tears by the second.  These two facets of his character do not negate one another.  Anthony Kim is a man who deserved to be brought low, but such is Kim Myung Min’s performance that we can’t help but feel for him when he is.

That’s why, by the end of the series, I was rooting for him to get his ideal happy ending.  The show kept throwing every typical late hour trick in the book at us, and even though I should have known better, given the show I was watching, I wanted a fairy tale ending with all the bows neatly tied.  I didn’t get it, and although it felt like a letdown at first, The King of Dramas is so much better for it.

The writers knew what they were doing, employing so many tropes at the end.  They were making a show about kdramas, but they chose to end the story on a note much truer to real life.  The characters are happy, yes, but they haven’t achieved their every wildest dream.  In a story about how over-the-top the world of kdramas is, it makes sense that the characters’ story ends on a quieter, more realistic note.

the king of dramas production meeting

Working ’round the clock.

The King of Dramas gives addictive insight into kdrama production.  Any American fan might be stunned to know just how insane shoots on kdramas are: the turnaround between shooting an episode and its airing can sometimes only be a week or a few days, so while viewers watch the first episode, production isn’t that far ahead.  In some cases, most commonly with late-hour extensions by the network, final episodes are only wrapped up hours before broadcast.  Many times the story for a series isn’t finished when production starts, which partially explains the popularity of late-hour melodramatic twists.

Of course The King of Dramas’ portrayal of kdrama production might not be totally accurate.  I can only vouch for the general close shooting schedule, though of course shows about dramas might exaggerate just how down to the wire production can get, for tension’s sake.  Thus I can’t even testify to how accurate the meta is, though it’s certainly intriguing and fun.  Do the actors really engage that much with the show’s writers?  What is the push and pull like between the production companies that make dramas, and the networks that distribute them?  Are so many decisions really made at the last minute?

the king of dramas kyungsung morning

Promotional photos for the drama within the drama, Kyungsung Morning.

The King of Dramas has entertaining answers to these questions, whether or not we choose to believe they portray real life.  It is a kdrama at the end of the day, with a romance to boot (one I eventually started rooting for, though Anthony’s initial behavior and the age difference made me take a while to come around), but it’s something different.  It’s a welcome, enticing difference, especially for kdrama addicts.

Kdrama tropes to watch out for: Second female lead cattiness, touch of noble idiocy.  Most of the late hour twist tricks revolved around medical drama.


You can stream The King of Dramas from Viki or Hulu.

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