“Producer” (프로듀사)

Producers

By Jae-Ha Kim
jaehakim.com
March 7, 2016

3 stars

Baek Seung-Chan (played by Kim Soo-Hyun)
Tak Ye-Jin (played by Gong Hyo-Jin)
 Cindy (played by IU aka Lee Ji-Eun)
 Ra Joon-Mo (played by Cha Tae-Hyun)

A light, romantic comedy set in the world of television, “Producer” stars Kim Soo-Hyun as a graduate of Korea’s most prestigious law school. But instead of concentrating on a legal career, he follows a college crush to KBS’ entertainment division.

Sounds kind of romantic, right? Except the crush has no clue that he even likes her. She doesn’t know his name and barely recognizes him. When a colleague asks him later why he likes her, all he can come up with is, “She’s really pretty.” While Seung-Chan is academically gifted and clearly very handsome, he is socially stunted.

In “My Love From Another Star,” Kim played a debonair character who was confident and forthright. Here, he plays a timid, awkward rookie trying to get through each workday without getting fired.

Sporting a quasi “Dumb & Dumber” haircut, Seung-Chan is absolutely adorable, especially when he receives a compliment. His laugh shows his embarrassment at the overture, but it’s also clear that he’s immensely pleased by any accolade. On the surface, he appears innocent and guileless. But when he is pushed, he shows that he can be petty and manipulative, too.

When he learns that the girl he was infatuated with is in a relationship with his boss, Joon-Mo, Seung-Chan breaks down crying. It’s not long, though, before he focuses his attention on a new crush: Ye-Jin, another KBS producer who’s also Joon-Mo’s childhood friend. She is almost as oblivious about Seung-Chan’s feelings for her as she is to about her own feelings for Joon-Mo.

As for Joon-Mo, he knows in his heart that he loves Ye-Jin, but he refuses to acknowledge it because of all the “what ifs”? What if they date and break up? What if a romantic relationship destroys their 25-year friendship? Joon-Moo could’ve come across as a one dimensional character, but Cha Tae-Hyun does a wonderful job of injecting boyish charm into his role.

When Ye-Jin turns to a younger colleague for advice, she is told, “Let go of the one you most feel sorry for. If you feel sorry for him, you won’t be able to date him.”

Also drawn into this triangle is pop star Cindy (played by Kim’s “Dream High” co-star, IU). Though I enjoy staring at Kim Soo-Hyun as much as the next person, the most compelling character was Cindy. Discovered by Byun Mi-Sook — who was intent on turning her into an idol — Cindy lived apart from her parents as a young teenager. After her parents died in a car crash, Cindy was encouraged to refer to Byun as her new “mother.”

But Byun is a ruthless momager, who has little patience for clients who don’t follow every single one of her orders. Nah Young-Hee does such a great job of playing characters that viewers love to hate. (In “My Love From Another Star,” she played the annoying, money-spending mom of the female lead.)

Kim_Soo_Hyun_IU

__________________Cindy________________________________Seung-Chan

In “Dream High,” IU played a pitch-perfect singer who was shy and humble. Her Cindy is an in-demand diva who does what she wants and doesn’t care if people’s feelings get hurt in the process. An idol who’s the perfect girl in the minds of her fans, she is lonely and begins to have feelings for the clueless Seung-Chan. Though she is at the pinnacle of her career, she knows that there is a time limit on her fame and that she will have to reinvent herself then. Instead of setting her sights on acting or some other “glamorous” field, the neat-as-a-pin star says — half jokingly — that she could launch a home-organizing business.

The ending is revealed in the spoilers below, so I won’t reveal whether or not that happens. But, I will say that if they were to make a season two of this series, I think that a Cindy-centric storyline would be very interesting to watch.

Meta moment:

Joon-Mo is the producer of the reality series “2 Days & 1 Night.” Cha Tae-Hyun — the actor who plays him — was a cast member of that show.

You might recognize:

Park Hee-Bon, who played Gong Hyo-Jin’s older sister in “The Master’s Sun” plays Kim Soo-Hyun’s older sister in this series.

Nah Young-Hee does such a great job of playing characters that viewers love to hate. In “My Love From Another Star,” she played the annoying, money-spending mom of the female lead. Here, she plays Byun, Cindy’s ruthless momager, who has little patience for clients when their fame fade.

Go Ara, who was so good in “Answer Me 1994,” makes a cameo appearance as one of Cindy’s frenemies.

Airdate:

The 12-episode series aired on KBS2 from May 15 through June 20, 2015. There was also a behind-the-scenes special that ran after the series finale. Honestly, though, it’s not much of a bonus. Aside from the last 10 minutes of bloopers, it’s over 90 minutes of filler material.

Spoiler alert:

In the final episode, Byun is depicted as having a bit of humanity. When she releases Cindy from her contract and sees that Cindy is about to sign it without looking it over, she gently reaches out and tells Cindy to never sign a contract without knowing what’s in it. She, of all people, knows exactly how unscrupulous people can be.

There is also a quasi “I see dead people” theme running throughout the series. Seung-Chan’s only ally at work for much of the series is a floor producer, who advises him on how to make him indispensable at work, like anticipating when his bosses will be hungry so that he gets their lunch before their stomachs start growling. We later learn that there is no such floor producer and that he was either a figment of Seung-Chan’s imagination or a ghost. It has already been established that he is deathly afraid of ghosts and even campfire-style ghost stories. If I were to read into this, I would say that his interaction with this entity has helped him overcome his fears, ghosts and all.

Joon-Mo finally tells Ye-Jin how much he loves her. He also reveals that he followed her to college and then to KBS (which is pretty much the same thing Seung-Chan did). Though it doesn’t end with Seung-Chan returning Cindy’s love, the finale implies that the two are friends.

A primary element that leads to Cindy’s downfall is when Byun tricks Cindy into confessing that her parents are deceased and not wealthy expats living in the United States. Though she was the one who had concocted this facade, she lets Cindy take the fall. The netizens are quick to demonize Cindy for lying. This plot element may sound ridiculous to Americans, because no one would care if that came out about a celebrity. In fact, it would probably endear them to the public even more, because there’re are few things we love more than a rise-from-nothing success story.

But in Korea, netizens are serious about celebrities being transparent about their upbringing. Rapper Tablo (aka Daniel Lee) had his life almost destroyed because of a malicious rumor. The rumor wasn’t that he had gotten a woman pregnant or that he had a DUI. Rather, some “fans” were convinced that he had lied about graduating from Stanford University. Though he offered proof — and Stanford issued an official statement — there was such an uproar about him possibly having lied about his education that the police investigated. Tablo’s reputation was sullied and he spent years clearing his name … All this, because of a rumor that he hadn’t graduated from a prestigious university.

I was going to say that something like this would never happen in America. But then, it already did. How are the members of the birther movement any different than the frenzied netizens? No matter how many legal documents President Barack Obama released to the public, there are still people who claim that he’s not a U.S. citizen.

@2016 Jae-Ha Kim | All Rights Reserved

Comments (5)

  1. Tablo’s music is so good. I’m so happy he endured. The man is a lyrical genius.

  2. Judy Lee says:

    Did you hear the Radiolab story on Korean celebrity culture/tabloids? It was quite interesting.

  3. Yvette Slattery says:

    Interesting! I live in K Town Los Angeles and there are many non Korean people that are pure netizens, totally involved in Korean celeb culture. Fascinating!

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