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(Yonhap Interview) Director experiments with new type of TV series in Korea

All News 15:09 June 08, 2020

By Kim Boram

SEOUL, June 8 (Yonhap) -- A typical Korean TV series, or K-drama, has a total of 16 episodes, with two aired per week, and closed endings that do not allow a second season.

The tvN medical drama "Hospital Playlist," which aired every Thursday from March 12, however, broke away from the pattern and took a different approach. Right after wrapping up its last episode on May 28, it promised to come back with a second season next year.

The drama's director, Shin Won-ho, said Monday he wanted to create a new type of TV drama, whose story can expand further in the next season, from the beginning.

"I want to show that the story still goes on, as if we come back next week, even though the last episode of the first season finishes," he said in an email interview with Yonhap News Agency. "I thought this mindset would help us make an unprecedented TV series."

Director Shin Won-ho speaks at a conference on March 12, 2020, in this photo provided by tvN. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The 12-episode series was written by star screenwriter Lee Woo-jung, whose works range from variety shows, such as "Three Meals A Day" and "Youn's Kitchen," to TV dramas, such as "Replay 1988." It revolves around five doctors reunited in the same hospital 20 years after graduating from college. They form a band and play their favorite songs of the 1980-90s.

Starring Jo Jung-suk, Yoo Yeon-seok, Jung Kyung-ho, Kim Dae-myung and Jeon Mi-do, "Playlist" has been well received at home and abroad for its attractive characters and well-rounded storytelling of hospital lives and patient scenes. The romantic stories also played a role in keeping people from changing channels.

But in the final 12th episode, the story remained open.

A teaser image of "Hospital Playlist" by tvN (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

"As we have the next season, I can tell everything, nothing to keep back," said the director, who has created the hit romance comedy "Reply" trilogy and the black comedy "Prison Playbook" (2017). "As I bore the second season in mind, I could try something new in storytelling."

Moreover, his once-a-week strategy was also a challenge for the veteran director, as South Korean soap opera fans are so accustomed with two 60-minute episodes a week. Recent hit dramas like JTBC's "The World of the Married" and tvN's "Crash Landing On You" did not get out of the routines.

Instead, Shin expanded the running time of each episode to around 90-120 minutes, with each episode having its own main theme connected to old Korean pop songs. Each episode also takes place in a month of the year, helping viewers understand the timeline easily.

As a result, the show finished with flying colors in South Korea, hitting as high as 14.1 percent in viewership, while some of its soundtrack songs, including "Aloha," topped local music charts.

"As our drama aired once a week, it helped our cast and staff members have relatively more time to rest and study their characters more," he said. "And Korean people are getting familiar with this format, as more and more people watch American TV series these days."

With the announcement of a second season, there is a babble of voices on the internet about the possible romance between the two main characters, Ik-joon (Jo Jung-suk) and Song-hwa (Jeon Mi-do).

But the director remained silent about what will happen in the second season, which will start filming at the end of this year.

"Well, I started this drama after making the conclusion of the story," he said, without elaborating. "We will come back next year, and please enjoy the continuing story."


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