Posted in Drama Series, Review

Appreciation Post for The Producers

The (experimental) variety drama with only 12 episodes but is 80+ minutes long each, while the finale clocks in at an impressive one-hour-and-forty-six minutes. You decide whether or not it was a stretch.

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This may end up being another overdue post from me since the drama aired its final episode two weekends ago, but i even watched through nearly the entire 82 minutes of its special, which is more of a super-long recap honestly, mainly to refresh my mind of its plot and better parts, so i think it’d be a waste not to make at least one post out of it.

While my reaction toward the show was largely lukewarm, Producer wrapped things up in an admittedly nice and pleasant way which left me with fluttery and warm heart. And made me rewatch some of its notable scenes because they surprisingly do things to me. I said ‘surprisingly’ since i watched the last two~four episodes frustrated by the near-crawl merry-go-round progress on the romance department they zeroed in mid-series onward (and dragged the final pair till the last possible minute when it was clearly gonna be Joon-mo/Ye-jin right from the start) and thus apprehensive about the denouement.

I have always been in a love-hate relationship with drama endings because they are generally more rushed than solid, fanservice-y than comprehensive, anticlimactic than satisfying. I either can’t wait for it to end if it’s a show i was pulling through just because i’d gone too far to drop it altogether or ain’t ready for it to end if it’s something i’d been enjoying through and through. But when i do get there, i’d ofttimes be tepid, upset, or at loss with how it ends. Seeing the rarity of finding and watching a show with great ending, you guess how exhilarated i’d be when i do come across one. And i’ll gladly announce that Producer‘s is one of those rare gems.

(For the record, i’ll pick a crappy mediocre show with nice ending over a great show with sucky ending any day. Why? First impression is important, but last impression is the defining quality — it’s what stays in your memory for a very long time. In hindsight, those in the first category earn higher overall ratings too as it’s easier to fondly reminisce a show for its pleasing outro than its better parts while futilely deeming this and that never happened.)

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Before this becomes 1000-word introduction, let’s dive into the standout elements, according to my book:

1. Setting: the showbiz world
Is the field i always find fascinating when explored in drama style, especially if it gets ‘real’ and goes beyond the glitzy life — i.e. those rarely seen/known behind-the-scenes* happenings, hard-work, down to the politics side. Therefore, the mockumentary approach adopted at the outset was interesting to follow — they cited industry names and real programs left and right — despite my limited knowledge of the subject matter. Whenever unsure if certain reference was fact, fiction, or parody, i’d just take it at face value.

Two particular programs in which most of the characters worked in were reality-variety show 1 Night 2 Days and music program Music Bank. I’d love it if Producer was more of a workplace docudrama it set off to be, focusing more on the PD (producer-director) workings/worklife and less on romance. That’s not to say i hate (its) lovelines, which Korean dramas hardly eschew (with few exceptions like Misaeng or OCN’s dark dramas), but as much as i love our Umbrella Couple, i’d prefer to see for instance why being the IT girl, Cindy’s appearance in the show didn’t manage to boost viewership ratings, how bland her footages were, how bad Seung-chan’s preview was, how viewers perceived Cindy’s ‘real’ persona and her slo-mo interactions with this cute maknae PD… that it’s a pity most of ’em were transpiring off-screen and we’re shown only the results.

*) by BTS i don’t mean the hilarious NGs like those selected and occupying the last 10 minutes of the special. I often read about the arduousness of live shoots yet still flabbergasted at the hectic schedule like what shown in Misaeng‘s special part 2 (which i watched only recently): filming till past 2 AM, Im Siwan was already on standby to record voiceovers at 5 AM, harsh filming conditions, the unexpected amount of CGs applied to the scenes, staff sleeping for a mere 4 hours each day, the ever-present sleepless director… wew.

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2. Tie-in PD lessons
Even if the format quickly shifted from mockumentary to straight-up rom-com, the tone and pace of the show remained unchanged. So was the lesson of the day, on which the episode’s plot was based on (or is it the other way around?). In that i could only wonder what the theme was… until the message appeared on scene… and everything made perfect sense.

Clean tie-ins, accurate depictions, easily understood metaphors/double entendres, impactful punchlines… Here’s the recap:

  • Chapter 1: “Beginning is not the half of it—the beginning is just the beginning.”
  • Chapter 2: On conveying cancellation news, “In the end, a person has to do it.”
  • Chapter 3: “Understanding Casting: It’s the beginning of a relationship.”
  • Chapter 4: “Understanding Real Variety: Sometimes the setup becomes poison.”
  • Chapter 5: “Understanding Editing: Leave only what’s most important.”
  • Chapter 6: “Understanding Broadcast Accidents: No matter how much you reflect on it, it’ll happen again.”
  • Chapter 7: “Understanding Media Play: You can’t hide the truth by majority.”
  • Chapter 8: “Understanding Lovelines: We know the beginning, but not the end.”
  • Chapter 9: “Understanding Preemptions: It’s war between what you’re used to and what’s new.”
  • Chapter 10: “Understanding Previews: In any case, a preview is for the benefit of the main event.”
  • Chapter 11: “Understanding Ratings: You can’t earn them with effort, but you still have to try.”
  • Chapter 12: “Understanding Long-running Programs: Don’t forget the beginning.”

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3. Ensemble Cast
Not gonna lie, the reason i checked the drama was due to its A-listers cast. I loved Kim Soo-hyun in all projects i watched him in, Gong Hyo-jin hasn’t disappointed me (even if her acting has stayed pretty much the same across the roles), and i adored IU’s Pil-sook (and found her two-shot with Sam-dong cute in Dream High days). I only ever watched Cha Tae-hyun in My Sassy Girl and Running Man, so i had little to say about him but wow his performance was actually really strong. I might lose patience with his indecisiveness but Ra Joon-mo was in no way not well-acted.

I’d say there’s barely any weak link in the acting department, regardless how minor a character is — CEO Byun we all loved to hate, timid-yet-lovely Manager Oppa, gawky Manager Kim, mentor-turned-ghost-FD Lee Joo-Seung, nitpick-fussy Seung-chan’s Mom, carping-brownnoser Kim Jong-kook… Even the cameos (Yoon Yeo-jung and Go Ara’s are the best!); well, for the most part since some of ’em are really random and somewhat pointless, and that MuBank’s lifeless skimpy-clothed maknae PD was borderline grating.

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4. Cindy’s Arc

“No one loved him. No one was close to him. He was a good person, but he did not try to make anyone like him.”

I started out rooting for Baek Seung-chan — there’s something Jang Geu-rae-ish about his precarious beginning that you’ll instantly sympathize with — but ended up caring for Cindy only. There’s surely more to the icy standoffish prickly selfish starlet than meets the eye, but who would have guessed she’d be that winning at the end? She even joined her antis club, showed up at their meet-up, and eventually won them over! But it is her adorable OCD, wide-eyed crush, and raw vulnerabilities that converted me to be her loyal supporter.

So much so that i was sticking with Producer till the end just for her sake. I felt what she felt, smiled and cried with her that i wanted her to rise above CEO Byun’s cheap tricks to bring her down and be happy with or without Seung-chan. Seeing her character grow, bent, and become stronger doesn’t come at the expense of losing her edge — Cindy at the end wasn’t that far off from Cindy at the beginning… i’m happy with that.

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5. Umbrella Couple aka ChanDy

“And finally, to the person who held up an umbrella when I was standing alone in the rain—thank you. I wanted to say that it was really warm.”

Seung-chan might come off as bumbling loyal cute hoobae in Tak Ye-jin’s eyes but he was all swoony and dashing in Cindy’s that his every gesture moved in glorified slow-motion which effectively made my heart aflutter too in the process. I could totally see why she’s crazy about him but also understand why he didn’t feel the same way. Still, i couldn’t believe he wasn’t at all moved after witnessing her sincerity, receiving her heartfelt confession(s), and being serenaded on national TV — live, no less. How dense could he be??

That said, I have no complaints whatsoever of the open-ending because it’s just so fitting while hinting at the possibilities in favor of this ship. Admittedly, her confession came a bit too fast but she had since built good rapport and developed mutual understanding with him, so from now on they can work on getting to know each other more and go from there.

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6. Joon-mo’s confession: huzzah!
The baton for character-with-least-screentime was soon passed from Cindy to Mr. Status Quo, who was unfairly sidelined to give rooms to Seung-chan/Ye-jin’s relationship to bloom and wither. I for the sake of sanity couldn’t comprehend what took him so long to confirm his feelings to Ye-jin when he knew she’s on the same boat, but i was also as frustrated with Ye-jin’s propensity to read between the lines where she shouldn’t. Had she taken Joon-mo’s words at face value, or if he hadn’t let her misinterpret his words, the misunderstanding wouldn’t have stretched out till the finale. But then, why would she even need his affirmation when he had sealed his permission to let her freeload at his house, which was formerly hers, with a kiss(!) and stayed by her side for 25 damn years?

Well, maybe girls need to be properly confessed to, even if Ye-jin had to fish for one. Thank goodness that long-awaited moment was totally worth it. Joon-mo’s confession is possibly the sweetest and most poignant i’ve ever heard and seen in both dramaland and real-life.

I aww’d at “But even when I spent over half my life following you around, I didn’t know. That me following you wasn’t a habit, but love.” But the continuation got me teary-eyed: “I’m worried we might break up because of my lazy and lacking self, that’s why I hesitated for a long time. But you didn’t go anywhere, and stuck next to me like gum—thank you.” It was so heartwarming that it negated and redeemed his dithering nonaction throughout the series.

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7. OSTs
What is a drama without a set of tuneful soundtracks? Honestly, i didn’t pay much attention to the songs during the episodes themselves — they mostly use instrumentals and even if songs’ snippets are inserted, they aren’t in-your-face kind — until i checked the albums out and realized how pleasing and soothing they are.

My top picks:
1) ALi’s The two of us — ChanDy’s theme song!
2) Kim Bum-soo’s Love begins with a confession — aptly played after Joon-mo’s confession
3) Taru’s You and I — as heard in the closing scene before the last epilogue
4) Zitten’s TV Show — ‘cuz… duh
5) IU’s Heart — which grew on me after used as ze serenade song.

Then there are Ben’s Palpitations, Jung Kyul’s Because of you, Lee Seung-chul’s Darling… among other nice tracks and instrumentals.

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TL;DR?
Haven’t watched the show, curious to know what it/the hype was all about, but unwilling to spend 12x80mins (sometimes more) for that? Then the special may be your perfect starting point, given you don’t mind spoilers. It ain’t a chronicle per se but it compiles the fun stuff and notable scenes although not necessarily in order.

_
Rating: 3.5/5
Director: Seo Soo-min and Pyo Min-soo
Production: KBS2, 2015
Cast: Kim Soo-hyun, Gong Hyo-jin, Cha Tae-hyun, IU, Na Young-hee, Choi Kwon, Jo Han-chul, Kim Jong-kook
Genre: Romantic comedy, Workplace drama, Mockumentary, K-drama (12 Episodes)

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