Director keeps sitcoms all in the family
The Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom once said, “I was watching a sitcom last night, and it was just so broad, not real at all.” But if he ever watched the Korean weekday sitcom, “Have No Fear and Kick High,” would he still feel that way?
The comedy also known as “High Kick,” and bursting with unconventional characters, ended its eight-month run last week.
Behind the success is Kim Byeong-wook, 46, the show’s producer and director.
Kim has produced about 2,000 sitcom episodes in his career, including “Sunpung Hospital” (1998-2000), “No Interception” (2000-2002) and “Live Straightforward” (2002-2003). All three were also widely popular and known for their unique characters and stories.
Kim’s normal pattern is to depict a huge family. In “High Kick,” three generations live together under one roof, and in each episode, relationships between husband and wife, father and son or the in-laws spell trouble.
“The family is the perfect theme to use to produce comedy,” Kim said. “Normally in a family relationship there are no equals, someone is always placed higher than the other.”
The comedy starts when the hierarchy falls apart. “When the roles are reversed, people find it hilarious,” Kim said. “For example, when old parents aren’t able to scold their children because they get their allowance from their sons and daughters, the hierarchy breaks down.”
Laughter isn’t the only thing to Kim’s episodes though. Skepticism about society creeps in to some of his works. “I am a great fan of the Oscar-winning director Woody Allen,” said Kim.
“Korean comedies tend to concentrate too much on bringing out the humor,” said Kim. He said he tries to pull emotion out of every 30-minute sitcom.
Kim shot the last episode of “High Kick” at a countryside school in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi. He mingled humor and drama into the story, as is his trademark.
The episode involved the ending to a mysterious relationship between Min-jung (played by Seo Min-jung) and Yoon-ho (played by Jeong Il-woo). He was once one of Min-jung’s students, who had a crush on her. In the scene, the two characters accidentally meet after not seeing each other for a year.
“Don’t act too sad, be calm,” the director told Seo Min-jung.
The director might have followed his own advice about staying cool. The crew started to shoot the last episode of “High Kick” just one day before it was scheduled to air. The tape was sent to the MBC department at 4 p.m. and the show was on at 8:20 p.m. that same day.
“For the past few days, I only got two hours of sleep each day,” Kim said.
“High Kick’s” success was a complete reversal of fortune for Kim.
His previous sitcom on SBS, “Cute or Crazy” (2005), failed to attract viewers and ended up being canceled early.
“It was my first failed work,” Kim said.
He added, “People I worked closely with started to leave me.” He said he experienced the inhumanity that is part of the media culture.
When MBC asked him to direct “High Kick,” Kim had been planning to produce a movie.
“High Kick” was a big success, and the people who had left me started to come back,” said Kim. At first, 7 percent of the viewers watched “High Kick” but the number increased to 19.5 percent for the last episode, No. 167, according to the TNS Media Korea.
With the success of “High Kick,” Kim recently got a proposal to remake the sitcom into a film.
“I want to get some rest first,” Kim said. “Then we’ll see what happens next.”
By Kang Hye-ran JoongAng Ilbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]