The link may seem tenuous, but this is exactly why a girl from the United States, with no ties whatsoever to the country or culture, has fallen so hard for S. Korean television dramas:
As Kevin Spacey explains [3.44 minute mark] — I want stories! I’m dying for them! And yes, I’ll go wherever I can to find them. And then I’ll talk about them all over the damn place. Because good stories are awesome! And the kind of stories I enjoy — filled with romance and intrigue and comedy and danger and complex characters that change over the course of the tale — are readily supplied by S. Korean television.
This was not the point of Kevin Spacey’s speech, of course. He’s talking about television as a medium in general, and American television in specifics. He’s talking about how the system is kind of broken but there’s potential there because there’s an audience there (people want stories!). And that resonates with me because it’s the broken aspect that pushed me away. I still dip a toe in — I watched and enjoyed House of Cards and am looking forward to the second season — but…
I want stories! And the S. Korean television system — as broken as it is, with its live-shoots and reliance on hoary old cliches of yesteryear (issues I’m just beginning to cotton on to, being such a newbie and all) — delivers stories by the bucketful. I can watch it how I want: binge on one story, from beginning to end — assured by other viewers it’s worth my time — or throw caution to the wind and watch it as it’s told over the course of a couple of months.
American television, on the other hand, not only fails to provide me such an abundance, it can and will take away. Kevin Spacey broke down how many pilots are made, how many get aired, how many get renewed [1.29 minute mark] and it’s a depressingly steep slide down to a really low number. Which makes for a hellish viewing experience. God forbid you get interested in something that doesn’t hit its expected viewer numbers. The story will just disappear — mid-tale.
K-drama, Two Weeks, is on a major network and it’s had bad ratings. If it were a US show, those of us who were watching would be getting antsy right about now. The time and day it aired would have been changed. Probably a couple of different times. The chances of it getting axed immediately would be bandied about. It’d be terrifyingly possible that we’d never see Tae-san reach journey’s end, never learn if Su-jin lived, never learn if Congresswoman Jo got her just desserts. After you experience that kind of thing several different times, you get tired.
I was tired. New shows were premiering and I… just didn’t have the strength to care. And then I stumbled across my first K-drama on Hulu. And a whole new world of story opened up to me. Easily accessible, legal, sometimes free (if you’re willing to put up with ads — which I am), and shared on a handful of different platforms (DramaFever, Viki, Netflix, and Hulu are my go-to legal sites) — there’s a wealth of stories to choose from with more being added every day. It’s a story-lovers heaven.
I would love it if the US system took a few pages out of the S. Korean playbook. But the cool thing is? I don’t need it to happen. Because S. Korea is already doing it their way and making their product readily available to me. I love stories and so, now I love k-dramas. And, of course, I adore the internet.
[Kevin Spacey’s entire speech can be seen here. It’s fascinating if you’re interested in this sort of thing. It’s also a little over 45 minutes long.]