Getting even is never having to say sorryTony Bennett sings how sweet revenge is in his great oldie “I Wanna Be Around.” When it comes to a Korean TV drama, “Ineo Agassi” (Ms. Mermaid) revenge is something eerie.
The drama airs each weekday evening at 8:20 on MBC-TV, just in time for after-dinner get-togethers in many Korean households.
“Ms. Mermaid” is a standard, if not stereotypical, story of a vendetta, this one hatched by Ariyoung, a promising young writer of TV dramas. Ariyoung appears to be lacking little; she has talent and is very pretty. But she’s got only one thing in mind: revenge toward her father. A newspaper editor, he deserted Ariyoung’s mother for another woman, Sim Su-jeong, a TV actress and once her mother’s friend.
The only reason Ariyoung writes TV dramas is to obtain vengeance on her father’s other woman. Disguising her identity, Ariyoung badgers her TV producers to cast Su-jeong in a leading role and starts plotting. She asks Su-jeong, who has no idea who Ariyoung is, to wear funny costumes and strange hairdos. The two fight over this. Su-jeong, with Ariyoung’s father, has a daughter, Yeyoung, who works as a newspaper reporter for her father. Yeyoung attacks Ariyoung and the TV drama in her articles. Meanwhile, Ari-young’s next target is Ju-wang, Yeyoung’s fiance. Ariyoung’s allure works perfectly on Ju-wang, who takes off his engagement ring to tie the knot with Ariyoung. By now, Ariyoung lets the world know who she really is, which creates a living hell for all.
Lee Ju-hwan, the producer of “Ms. Mermaid,” and Im Seong-han, the chief writer, have failed to gain critical acclaim for the series, but have achieved an audience rating of more than 40 percent.
Indeed, MBC, which used to be a breeding ground for TV dramas, has gone barren for some time -- save for “Ms. Mermaid.” Originally, the drama was to end last fall, but the numbers were too good. The producers decided to stretch the plot and the drama remains alive and kicking, though it’s far from its original intention. It’s now simply a tired show. In the beginning, the production staff aimed to make a “groundbreaking, provocative and revolutionary drama of vengeance.” They did that, then moved on to other things.
The drama these days features Ariyoung, once a TV drama scriptwriter brimming with confidence, as a housewife. Ms. Im, the author of the drama, had Ariyoung fall in love with Ju-wang, while at first trying to seduce him from her half-sister. Now the main topic of the drama is a conflict between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, which has been dealt with far too often on local TV dramas. On top of this, “Ms. Mermaid” has sold out. The series regularly features commercial products in the story line.
Viewers who initially enjoyed the drama, are now being repulsed by episodes that are stretched longer and longer. More than 2,500 viewers have formed an anti- “Mermaid” club online. The club’s bulletin board has asked the production staff to end the TV drama immediately.
Throughout this whole flap, one thing is clear. “Ms. Mermaid” has stayed beyond its expiration date.
by Chun Su-jin
“What’s on Korean TV” appears Wednesdays in the JoongAng Daily.