When viewers put on producers’ hats

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When viewers put on producers’ hats

Imagine “Romeo and Juliet” appearing as a soap opera in Korea. If it happened, it’s likely viewers would put a stop to things before Shakespeare’s famous sweethearts took their lives. Juliet would awaken just before Romeo took his poison and the two might go on to sing a lover’s concerto.
On the Korean TV scene, viewers frequently come to the rescue of star-crossed lovers. Viewers here regularly stir up public opinion, insisting that a Romeo and a Juliet should experience a happy ending. They feel for the characters so much that they have to see things turn out well. It’s love and attachment, if not obsession.
“All In,” one of the hottest TV dramas around, with an audience rating higher than 40 percent, is no exception to these surges in public opinion.
Airing Wednesday and Thursday nights at 10 on SBS, the drama is a colorful tale of gamblers. It’s originally based on a true story, but the producers made it clear that they dramatized the plot. What the producers didn’t expect was an ambush ― by the viewers. Recent episodes focused more on the heartrending love story of the main character, In-ha, once a cool bettor who fled to the United States after being charged with murder by the police. In-ha, whose life hits rock bottom, thinks the best thing he can do for his lover, Su-yeon, is to be out of her life, though they love each other dearly. In upcoming episodes, it’s In-ha’s close friend, Jung-won, who ties the knot with Su-yeon, according to the script. Su-yeon, left alone in Korea, receives great comfort from Jung-won and cannot reject his proposal. It’s this turn of events that has made viewers go crazy.
Dedicated watchers from online fan clubs have overwhelmed Internet bulletin boards, urging, even threatening, for a happy ending. As one viewer wrote, “Could you please let them love each other? P.S. ‘All In’ is the light of my life.”
Another viewer offers different reasoning. “If Su-yeon gets with Jung-won, what would the story be like? It will be a story of little value, which mars the reputation of the drama. In this sense, Su-yeon and In-ha should remain together.”
Lee Myung-woo, an assistant director of “All In,” admits that viewers are playing a role. “At the moment, we don’t have plans to change the script,” he says, “but we have to say that we are seriously considering the viewers’ opinions. Audience ratings are a critical factor.”
This is not the first time audiences have figured in the future of a program. In the SBS soap opera “Love Without Fear,” which appeared a few years ago, a main character, dying from a disease, survived when viewers badgered the producers to let the character live -- for the sake of love.
In other cases, it’s common for TV producers, sensitive to what the viewers say, to change details of a show to meet high expectations. Even Shakespeare might not have been able to resist the demands of such devoted audiences.

by Chun Su-jin

“What’s on Korean TV?” appears Wednesdays in the JoongAng Daily.
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