By Chang Dong-woo
SEOUL, May 21 (Yonhap) — When it comes to fresh and bold TV shows in South Korea, tvN has inarguably had an impressive track record.
The CJ E&M-owned network has produced a series of critical and commercial hits — including “Misaeng,” the “Reply” series and “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” — that proved cable shows in Korea can stand shoulder to shoulder with rivals on terrestrial stations, which, theoretically, have much larger outreach in terms of viewers.
But since the end of “Guardian” in late January, tvN’s drama lineup hasn’t quite been able to meet its gold standard, prompting viewers and observers to ask, “Has tvN lost its touch?”
The network’s flagship bracket has been the 8-9 p.m. time slots on Fridays and Saturdays, allotted to its biggest shows such as the aforementioned works “Misaeng” and “Guardian.”
It later locked down viewers with its popular reality TV shows produced by star director Na Yeong-seok such as the most recent “Youn’s Restaurant.” This has been tvN’s modus operandi for its Friday-Saturday prime time lineup.
But “Tomorrow With You,” the immediate follow-up to “Guardian” starring actress Shin Min-ah, was dead on arrival in terms of viewership, finishing as a commercial flop. tvN was banking on its follow-up, “Chicago Typewriter,” starring Yoo Ah-in and Lim Soo-jung, to undo damages. But it too has so far yielded miserable results, with ratings remaining in the 2-percent bracket.
The losing streak has raised red flags within the network, prompting executives to conjure up bold ways to revive its ratings. So what is tvN doing?
The network has decided to realign its current 8-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday flagship dramas to 9-10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. This will take effect from June 10, starting with “Secret Forest” starring Cho Seung-woo and Bae Doo-na, which will air after “Chicago Typewriter.” A new variety-comedy show will be aired in the current Friday-Saturday drama time slot.
“We are changing our programming so viewers can fully enjoy tvN’s well-made TV shows solely on weekend evenings,” a tvN representative said.
The channel will also reinforce its weekday TV series lineup as well. tvN also has had a number of hit weekday series, such as “Again Oh Hae-young,” “Cheese in the Trap” and “Drinking Solo.” But later ones like “Introvert Boss,” for example, ended up as flops.
tvN will add a one hour drama time slot from 11 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, in addition to the already existing ones on Mondays and Tuesdays.
In terms of content, the channel is trying out genres that it hasn’t tried out before. “Circle,” a new Monday-Tuesday series that premieres on Monday, is a sci-fi crime drama starring Yeo Jin-gu and Kim Kang-woo.
The drama — about a series of mysterious suicides in 2017 and an Orwellian surveillance society in the near future where people’s emotions are controlled by the government — adopts a new format, dubbed “double track,” where the first half deals with events in 2017 and the rest is dedicated to the plot in 2037, as opposed to the constant back-and-forth plot progression between times in other works.
“I thought about adopting an unprecedented format and came up with the idea of making a series which is divided into two 30-minute shows where time, space and characters aren’t directly connected,” Min Jin-ki said.
“With two independent 30-minute plots, the pace would be much speedier and viewers would also have fun finding the dots that connect the two worlds by themselves,” he added.