Films of the Future? 16 Episodes!

Part ONE

WARNING Musea Reader! There is a lot of this post that you just are going to have to trust me on, and you won’t know if I am correct for many years.

Right now there is a golden age of TV going on – and 99.9% of Americans are in the dark.

I was until I was changing channels and I came across a TV show that caught my eye. There was a Miss Go (played by Pyeon Jung-Su) who was a real rascal character and a sneaky social-climbing snob. I watched the rest of the show – it had English subtitles – trying to see and read at the same time, and I have to admit, I really got into the drama. The 30 minute show ended with a cliffhanger…. “What’s next? Don’t stop! What will Miss Go do next to get her way?” said I.

I noted the time of day and the channel (in Dallas it is MBC channel 55.2) and decided to watch the next episode. I did and I never stopped watching that program, “The Dearest Lady”, or the one that replaced it, or many others that followed this first introduction to this whole new world of filmmaking.

So where are the shows coming from?

If you had said to me when I was a man in his twenties, that I would be hooked on South Korean TV Dramas when I was in my 60’s, I would have smacked you and said, “Snap out of it!”. But I am.

There is good reason for it. The best of them are much better to me than most TV and films here, and even the average ones seem more entertaining.

Let me count some of the ways: more touching romantic stories, more shocking suspense, more intricate plots, better acting (the actors have to have a wide range to cover a days’ episode of emotional highs and lows), more main characters of all age groups, and great comedy that comes from situations not jokes.

There is also better writing, and better tech presentation, ( that includes cinematography, sound, and note the wonderful fashions of the rich!). Overall these South Korean dramas are very entertaining, extremely engaging, and in their best moments, they have heart and are very inspiring.

Part TWO

But today I want to talk about just one aspect of Korean TV Dramas. They do their TV differently. Instead of a single season that may or may not be renewed, they have a set number of episodes, and then the series is over. They know from the beginning how many episodes the series will have. Some have as few as 16 (those are the ones I want to talk about here) and others have as many as 50, or 100+. Usually the shows are one hour long, twice a week. That is 2 hours of TV each week, or one 2 hour film a week! Can you imagine that shooting schedule for the cast and crew?

That means that the show has to introduce all characters, go through all the incidents of each show, have a plot build throughout, and then bring it all to a conclusion in the final episodes.

For many months I could not figure out WHY all these shows were so entertaining, and WHY I could not wait to see the next episode.

Finally I reached a film awakening!!! Here it is.

Two hour films are not long enough. You can’t build enough character through only a few experiences. You can’t have more than a few characters. And you really don’t have enough time to develop a great plot either.

100 episodes, or many seasons of a TV show over many years is too much. The characters get frozen and stop developing. The episodes become episodic and predictable. There is no plot that can sustain itself that long, and the show wears out it’s welcome in later episodes.

But 16 episodes, or 8 two hour films, is JUST RIGHT! This may be the best format for film – the Goldilocks zone for filmmaking and a new direction for all films in this century!

Filmmakers may have to rethink the format. Which is better, 2 hour films, or 16 hour film – series.

Below are three, 16 episode, South Korean TV series that I have seen in full (actually I watched each episode at least twice, to get all the fun and plot and excitement). I believe they are some of the finest TV/film/drama/comedy/love stories, I have ever seen anywhere. (All three are on MBC which is just one of three main South Korean TV networks!)

Though some of the longer Korean TV series I’ve seen are equally as entertaining, and some of them are favorites too, (perhaps I’ll list some favorites in later articles); the 3 listed here, are just about as good as TV or Film gets. I can easily recommend them.

Scenes from all of them can be seen on Youtube, though none of those videos have English subtitles. Perhaps full episodes with subtitles, are available on some video service – they should be.

These three, 16 episode, TV, Dramas, are all alike in having great romance, drama, suspense, comedy, charm, and plot surprises. They all end each episode, in a cliffhanger so be prepared! Also by the end of the series, each is ultimately inspirational too. Each has heart, and a lot of it. Note too the quality of the actors and actresses – I think you will be as amazed as I was, and be saying to yourself, “My they have a lot of fine actors and actresses!”

1. Woman With a Suitcase. Case Manager, played by Choi Ji-Woo finally becomes a full lawyer after many ‘trials’. She also finds herself in a love triangle with two men that couldn’t be more opposite!

2. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Ju. An olympic hopeful female weightlifter and an olympic hopeful male swimmer just may be falling in love as they both train, and deal with their families, and teams. Fun Fact the actress playing the lead, Lee Sung-Kyung, is also a slim tall fashion model. She had to gain weight for the part.

3. Radiant Office. After trying 99 times to get a job, the young woman, Eun Ho-won, played by Ko Ah-Sung, later known as the ‘firecracker’, finally gets hired as a temp to a large established firm. But this is far from a radiant office, or is it. Lots of office politics, romance, and suspense.

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Fun fact, when the characters want to lift up the spirits of others, they often shout the english word, FIGHTING! with their right hand in a fist and raised high.

Tom Hendricks
editor of Musea
tomhendricks.us

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3 Responses to “Films of the Future? 16 Episodes!”

  1. musea Says:

    Just dawned on me that all the leads are women. That is another point that makes these very special. Glad to see that.

  2. listen2uraunt Says:

    Thanks for sharing this post. I have to say I concur with some of your stronger points. First, I think the likes of QBVII, Rich Man, Poor Man, Roots, and The Thorn Birds, showed us in the 70s and 80s that American TV was capable of more than the usual menu of episodic television; likewise, each of the above titles was indeed better served by TV than if any had been optioned by the movies, a point proven by the success of Hulu’s recent adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale as opposed to the movie version of the 1990 (which I actually liked, but I digress). I know the limited series format, wherein series are contracted for a minimal number of episodes, and then over and out, is similar to British television as it was once explained to me by a classmate who hailed from there. The exception being that cast and crew can be called back later for multiple runs if the powers that be so desire, per AbFab and a few others, but it’s not the norm. I also agree that most TV shows in this country seem to run way to long in my estimation. Let me just say that I usually begin tuning out of scripted series during the third or fourth season. By that time, the writers often run out of fresh ideas, and the tendency is toward exaggeration. Not always, okay, but often. At least that’s the way it seems to me. There have been few series over the past 30+ years that I have remained faithful to during the course of lenghty runs. Still, between American Horror Story, American Crime, Feud, and The Handmaid’s Tale, there might be hope for the limited series format, especially with streaming services where this kind of predetermined length makes good business sense. That noted, I’m hearing wonderful things about the new version of The Last Tycoon, especially its care with production values. Thanks! Mp

    • listen2uraunt Says:

      Of course, the lure of the big screen still fills me with awe. Seeing some long beloved classics on a big screen in a crowded auditorium, as I have now been able to do for the past 3-4 years, has revealed just how much detail is lost on a TV screen, not only in production design but also nuances in performance.

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