Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

TV dramas need creative touch

By Xiao Lixin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-21 07:06

Many netizens even said at the time that South Korean TV dramas had become pass because of their stereotyped themes: traffic accidents, and cancer and other incurable diseases. But all that has changed with the success of You Who Came From The Star and The Heirs, which Chinese directors can use as examples, as well as inspiration, to improve their productions.

The resurgence of South Korean TV dramas can be attributed to the joint efforts of the country's government and TV series makers. The South Korean government implemented a policy to help TV productions back in the late 1990s, when the first wave of popular dramas emerged from the country to capture the imagination of the people in the rest of Asia. Just before the turn of the millennium, the South Korean government issued regulations saying at least 80 percent of the TV programs had to be domestically produced. It also fixed the minimum number of homemade TV series to be broadcast in the country. That not only helped South Korean TV productions gain a firm foothold in the domestic market, but also laid the foundation for their successful foray into overseas markets.

Recent years have seen great innovations in South Korean TV productions in terms of themes and narrative patterns. Take You Who Came From The Star as an example. Although aliens visiting Earth is an oft-used theme, You Who Came From The Star's script remains logical and fast-paced. It mixes the plot with romance and murder and keeps the audience guessing about how the story will unfold. When it comes to love stories, the new South Korean teleplays no longer use the distress card; instead, they intersperse them with whimsy and romantic punch lines.

The three TV stations, SBS, KBS and MBC, control the majority of South Korean TV market, each specializing in a different area and catering to people of different ages. The productions are sleek and use advanced technologies such as high-speed photography and computer-generated effects, creating a real-life visual impact.

Moreover, the shooting for South Korean productions generally starts when the scripts are just one-third ready. Many popular productions have their own websites, where scriptwriters post part of the finished scripts, inviting viewers to leave messages, discuss the plot and come up with suggestions for future episodes. This not only keeps viewers' interest in the TV dramas alive, but also helps scriptwriters and directors make changes to the storylines to suit the audience's demand.

Hopefully, the innovation-induced success of South Korean TV programs will prompt Chinese TV drama makers to think up new ideas and abandon their bad practice of copying foreign productions in order to attract more viewers at home, and possibly abroad.

The author is a writer with China Daily. xiaolixin@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 02/21/2014 page9)

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