From comics to TV: a success story

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From comics to TV: a success story

The marriage of different genres has become a huge trend on the Korean pop-culture scene. “Full House,” a drama on KBS-2, is one such success story. Based on the comic book series of the same title, the drama is now the KBS network’s big draw.
Since it got going last month, all episodes of “Full House” have posted audience ratings above 30 percent, quite high considering the standard for calling a drama “popular” is 20 percent. Last Thursday’s episode hit 38 percent, helping KBS save some face as it sweats it out with SBS and MBC for drama viewers without any recognizable hit in months.
Thus, KBS producers hit a gold mine with “Full House,” well aware that almost any young lady who was a teenager in the 1990s could relate to the hit comic-book series. While a star cast and crew can be the secret to a drama’s success, in this case it was the source material ― the comic books by Won Su-yeon ― that played a key role.
Turning to comic books as fodder for drama episode material is nothing new in the world of cinema, but it’s still fairly original for the local TV networks compared to Japanese television, which churns out many drama productions that are based on comics.
In any type of marriage, the two partners will clash over their differences. The unity of drama and comics is no exception. The drama features myriad changes ― so many, in fact, that save for the basic story line, the two bear little resemblance. And that’s rubbing some fans of the comics the wrong way. Many viewers have voiced their criticism on this point on the drama Web site’s bulletin board.
The comics feature a Korean woman named Ellie who is struggling to save a mansion named Full House that was bequeathed to her by her father, who is now deceased. The house is being taken over by Britain’s most desirable thespian, a nobleman named Ryder. To hold onto the house, Ellie, an aspiring writer with her wits about her, decides on a contract marriage with Ryder, who has charted out his own designs. As the story goes in so many comics series, the couple ― no surprise ― fall in love in the process. The series, published in 1993, took comics lovers by storm not only in Korea; it was also a bestseller abroad, after being translated into Japanese and Chinese.
The drama version, catering to teenage girls with a “Cinderella” fantasy, takes a different course. It’s set in Korea, with the lead role of Ji-eun played by Song Hye-gyo and the dancing singer-turned-actor Be as Yeong-jae.
Thanks to his role in “Full House,” Yeong-jae has achieved star status across Asia as an actor who talks in a straightforward manner and acts like he’s king of the world. That’s a bit different from Ryder’s chivalrous character in the comic books. The most drastic change, however, is evident when comparing Ji-eun to Ellie in the comic.
On paper, Ellie is brainy and decisive (not to mention lanky), but Ms. Song’s Ji-eun is represented as a rather stupid and glamorous figure. In short, there’s not a shade of similarity between them. For fans of the comic version, this offers little solace, though the producers and Ms. Won, the comic artist, are trying to assuage comic fans by saying the two genres could never be the same.
Despite the prospect of criticism, more marriages between comics and TV dramas are waiting in the wings, including “Gung” (Palace) by Park So-hee later this year. KBS is also considering a movie version of “Full House.”


by Chun Su-jin, Kim Won-kyung
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