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'Hwarang': Idol-studded show offers bland taste

All Headlines 15:49 February 22, 2017

SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- Stud after stud after stud. If you like being soaked in a world filled with beautiful men flashing their fine-toned abs and running loose fighting bad guys, then KBS 2TV's "Hwarang" may have been for you.

"Hwarang" is admittedly unapologetic eye candy, especially to K-pop fans at home and abroad given its cast filled with idol singers. But the big budget series came up short in resonating with the general audience.

The fusion period series' final episode aired Tuesday and recorded a 7.9 percent viewership, which was overshadowed by SBS TV's crime thriller "Defendant" and MBC TV's "Rebel: A Thief Who Stole The People."

A promotional image for KBS 2TV's "Hwarang" (Yonhap)

Hwarang was an elite group of men, mostly young and reportedly good-looking, who roamed the land to train themselves in the arts, culture and self defense during the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.- A.D. 935).

Centered around the friendship, romance and the coming-of-age of the young men of Hwarang, the series was on many people's radar, largely due to its star-studded cast. It included Choi Min-ho of boy band SHINee and Kim Tae-hyung, or V, of the K-pop group BTS, among other heartthrobs, and had a high production value.

In truth, "Hwarang" faced a huge uphill battle from its beginning in December, pitted against SBS TV's medical show "Dr. Romantic," which slaughtered the Monday-Tuesday late night competition.

Following the end of "Dr. Romantic," it seemed as though Hwarang would fare better. But then in strolled two unexpected heavyweights -- "Defendant" and "Rebel" -- which quickly surpassed "Hwarang."

Depictions of Hwarang in past shows and movies were mostly epic and brooding, in the vein of war dramas and movies. But "Hwarang" went in an opposite direction, and showed the men in a bright and flowery tone, focusing on the coming-of-age, friendship and romance aspect. The term Hwarang does literally mean "flowering knights."

But the show was seen as marred from an overly clunky plot, with an ending that felt rushed.

This composite photo captured from the KBS 2TV series "Hwarang" shows the drama's main cast. (Yonhap)

Stories of each Hwarang member also weren't developed or fleshed out properly, while the love triangle of the characters played by Park Seo-joon, Park Hyung-sik and Go Ara throughout the series was uninteresting, to say the least.

Perhaps it was due to the overflow of top-billed stars, a weak script or unlucky matchups with strong competitors. "Hwarang" had the potential to reimagine the Hwarang legacy but ultimately ended up bland and offered a stinging lesson that star power matters but isn't everything.


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