As we head into the dog days of Summer, the K-networks are busy trying to lock down their drama schedule through the end of the year with hopes of snatching up any drama able to reverse the trend of middling ratings all around. Very few dramas break 20% ratings these days, forget 30% and above, when just a few years ago it was the 30% and above that felt like a stretch and 20% easily doable as long as the drama didn’t suck and wasn’t a niche product. SBS appears to have it all locked down with Heirs being its most high profile upcoming drama, so whether MBC wants to go young I don’t know but the network is reportedly in talks with production company Group 8 to pick up its upcoming manhwa-adapted K-drama Beautiful Man starring Jang Geun Seok. So this project wasn’t some sort of in-joke and really is happening? Drama gods help us all. If it’s good I’ll gladly consider myself pleasantly surprised, if it’s a hot mess of epic proportions I can already foresee the flame wars. MBC is a logical home for Beautiful Man since most of Group 8’s manga or manhwa adapted dramas have ended up on that network, from Goong to Tamra the Island to Playful Kiss. The network lost out on Boys Before Flowers which went to KBS. I actually quite like Group 8 products that aired on MBC, Tamra is one of my all-time favorite dramas with so much heart and soul, Goong was adorable before the second half extension killed it, and PK is like a little snail that could in my mind. But I confess that the synopsis for Beautiful Man turns my stomach in all the wrong ways – the leading man is a narcissist and bona fide “most beautiful man in the world” who uses his looks to woo women so he can climb to the top, while the leading lady is a “beyond ordinary” girl who has been crushing on him since high school. News reports keep calling this a funny and romantic drama but I’m genuinely flummoxed how this set up could possibly come across as either of those sentiments. If picked up, Beautiful Man will follow Top Medical Team on the Wed-Thurs slot, premiering sometime in December. It will be up against Man From Another Star with Kim Soo Hyun on SBS and Inspiring Generation with Kim Hyun Joong on KBS. Okay – this three way match-up makes me die laughing already. Bring it on!
Group 8 productions based on comic books are known to deviate from the source material in varying degrees. Goong the drama conceptually was like the manhwa and followed about 50% of the story, but then the second half was a completely different story. Tamra the Island was also very very different than its manhwa after the first few episodes, while PK more or less stayed with the manga narrative with some deviations that actually made it more palatable for me. Adapting Beautiful Man is screenwriter Yoo Young Ah, who was part of the team that wrote the script for the hit movie Miracle in Cell #7. The Beautiful Man manhwa is actually not set in high school but when the leads are in their late 20s, having graduated from high school 10 years prior. So the high school scenes will be flashbacks, but it will show the leading lady being completed infatuated with the leading man. His name is Dokko Ma Te, and her name is the punny Kim Bo Dong, with Bo Dong meaning “ordinary” so she has the most common Korean last name with a first name that literally means ordinary. In the manhwa, they meet up ten years later after he’s been on a quest to woo women for his own gain and she somehow gets swept up in it. I think the first thing this drama production needs to do is hire on a genuinely bright and warm actress who can act, so that the leading lady character doesn’t become the doormat all future drama doormats are measured against and has a chance of being likeable.