K-ent Declares tvN Sat-Sun Fantasy Drama Bulgasal a Disappointment After Sky High $40 Billion Budget Nets Ratings in the 3%-4% Range

I totally forgot how much tvN Sat-Sun fantasy drama Bulgasal cost to make because it just seemed rather low key since it premiered that I put it with other regular fantasy dramas like Tale of the Nine Tales and the like. But it’s not, it’s a $40 billion won drama that is second in price tag to the ambitious Arthdal Chronicles which used its $54 billion won budget to actually shoot two seasons worth of episodes. Putting it in perspective, last year’s biggest hyped Jirisan had a budget of $32 billion won and was considered a disappointment with ratings between 7%-9% (average 8.385%) on cable network tvN. That puts Bulgasal at a massive epic fail as it’s ratings are between 3%-4% range and other than the first episode bringing in 6.346% it’s just fallen less than half what Jirisan brought in. I still don’t know who would hand a $40 BILLION WON drama to the likes of Lee Jin Wook (B-list and with a scandal-tinged past) and Kwon Nara (precariously perched in recent leading lady land but nothing impressive to speak of in achievement). I’ve watched scenes and the two are alternating between torture stoicism (him) and bland befuddlement (her), with the only decent acting and characters and interesting anything coming from second leads Lee Joon and Gong Seung Yeon. You can even tell from stills alone! If this drama cost $10 billion won that would be fine but at one of the most expensive K-dramas ever produced this is a travesty of wasted money all around.


Comments

K-ent Declares tvN Sat-Sun Fantasy Drama Bulgasal a Disappointment After Sky High $40 Billion Budget Nets Ratings in the 3%-4% Range — 85 Comments

  1. the drama sucks and im sure not even the writing team knows what theyre doing cause the plot is all over the place , its so bad that not even Lee Joon can save it also Lee Jin Wook is such a boring actor ,does he make any other expression? even in sweet home he was the same , BLAND!

  2. I didn’t realize the budget was that big. I was actually surprised that this was aired as the TVN weekend drama offering for December (which in the past have always been huge hits, except maybe for Hwayugi). I thought that this was a better fit for the Wednesday-Thursday slot, and that pure fantasy melodramas have never been wildly successful.

      • Hwayugi, the year-end offering for 2017, only had a peak ratings of 6.9%. Decent, but not a huge hit, compared to Reply 1994, Misaeng, Reply 1988, Goblin, Memories of the Alhambra, Crash Landing on You, and Queen Cheorin.

      • There are multiple dramas with low ratings on that slot. If Hwayugi was a flop in terms of ratings, then It’s Okay Not To Be Okay is also a flop… And there are even a few that are doing worse than that.

      • Hwayugi was good, decent, except for the cgi/special effects part. I still feel awfully ashamed if I remember the fight with the dragon scene..and buja’s death. Ugh really crappy special effects.

  3. Lee Joon has much more expressive eyes than Lee Jin Wook. The later doesn’t left with deep impression. You can’t feel any in his gaze in majority of his drama.

    • Yeah with that budget…2-3 percent would have been really good ratings for a low-budget cable drama before 2017-18 but for 40 million? Nope.

  4. I watched the first 2 episodes and liked it then. The production was film quality, story was interesting, and feedback was positive. Put it on pause bc life got in the way and was gonna pick it back up. Confused as to what happened for it to go bad.

  5. Lee Jin Wook couldn’t be more boring if he tried I think. I’ve quite literally never seen him act in anything remotely interesting. Even if a plot sounds good, he somehow makes it terrible by being in it. I’m being harsh but genuinely dunno why he keeps getting lead roles.

    Kwon Nara is exactly the same honestly. Baffled that she’s been promoted to lead status. The leads are terrible all round and after 3 episodes, I couldn’t see why tvN produced this. Also, I dunno where the money went?! It doesn’t look like anything with such a high budget and these actors aren’t expensive either. Whut?

  6. I do not understand why Lee Jin Wook keeps getting roles. Seriously he is not a good actor, doesn’t have a crazy fan following, and doesn’t have any charisma to make up for his lack of acting chops. What kind of backing does he have to get so many jobs when others don’t or are stuck in second lead land.

  7. This drama is dull and boring and I agree, the acting was not impressive. But tbh, people overhyped Lee Joon’s performance here. To me, he was just ok as he was obviously overacting.

  8. Tbh, I’m quite wary of expensive tvN productions since last year. Even with a big name cast or star writer, things still go sideways. tvN have been in a downhill slide in the fantasy genre since Doom At Your Service followed by Jirisan and now Bulgasal. Their only saving grace last year were Vincenzo, Mr Queen and HCCC. I’m pivoting back to public channels SBS, KBS and MBC.

    • TVN was actuallly having strong year last 2021 thank you. Other than the three big hits you mentioned (HCCC, Vincenzo, Mr Queen) they also have Hosplay 2, Mine, Devil Judge (all in top 50 highest cable television rating). Jirisan, despite initial poor reviews, also actually had strong ratings hovering at 9-10%.

      • Jirisan is a huge flop. After the slew of bad reviews and reports of investors losing money, there was no buzz at all whether it was the drama itself or the actors. The production company’s stock has plunged to almost half its value and still hasn’t recovered.

      • Domestic cable ratings in SK alone is no longer the one and only metric of success nowadays. HP, Mine and DJ all showing in Netflix cannot compete with SG, My Name, HCCC, Vincenzo, King’s Affection, Beloved Summer in top ten most watched non-English shows. Share market value tanking is a major red flag. However, if you say they have a strong year go ahead whatever makes you happy.

    • I can’t comment specifically on Bulgasal since I haven’t watched it, but I think that studios need to pay more attention to a strong, well-planned script than just throwing out money. The director and actors and special effects are all important, but if you don’t have the foundation of a strong script to build on, it will be fundamentally flawed. Most of the projects I see that flop budgetwise end up being ones where they paid more attention to spending money than to the bare bones requirements of a logical storyline. The selling point shouldn’t be the budget, it should be the storyline. Everything else falls into place after that.

  9. I like this drama wish we would stay more in the past. The stars can’t be super A”list because the money had to go to the cinematographer, sets, etc. the quality is actually top notch for all the historical portion of the novel. I feel like I was watching a movie….and should have been one instead of 16ep. I thought the storyline was quite interesting and keeps me on the guessing game every week.

    The romance might be too fast for others but it was hinted way in the beginning and you just knew they both had some kind of history together. This type of story are right off my alley. I’m here for it until the end!!

    • I totally agree to you.. I’m keep watching this series becuz story line is really interesting… It’s keep twist over one and another episode… And also i like the actors even the leads… They all bring their hardwork to this… I dunno why others didn’t like this
      ._.

    • Yup..i dont know why people dislikes this drama..because this the only drama that i watch currently.many korean drama nowadays make me only watch early episode not the end because its getting cliche and easy to read plot.but bulgalsal make me wait for the weekend. the last time drama that make me cant wait is for next ep mrqueen.of cos there are a plot that a bit dragging but its not that bad like the article.yup the female lead may lacking but to say only lee joon and gong seung yoon save the show it totally no I fall for lee jin uk in this drama and start to watch his another past drama.

  10. It’s actually good! I don’t plan to watch it but I don’t have anything to watch at the moment. Surprisingly, it’s more than what I expected (in my opinion better than The King EM – LMH) Give it a chance.

  11. But where did they put that 40 billion won budget?
    Is the set that amazing? Did they use high tech CGI? I know there were historical setting but wasnt that for the few episodes only? were the costumes used, that grand? So did the leads ask for high salary?

    In comparison, other dramas with star studded cast and have high cost for costume and set, they have less the budget.

    Here are 2021 dramas that can bee seen in comparison:
    Squid Game – 20 billion won
    The Silent Sea – 27 billion won
    Sisyphus – 25 billion won
    The viel – 15 billion won
    Hellbound – is said to be 100 Million won, which seems doubtful but okay.

  12. I have no idea how in the world Lee Jin Wook get choosen of become the main lead in Very BIG Budget drama? It’s okay if he has wide of range in difficult genre like this, so even if the drama went downhill in terms of rating, people who watch the show still be bless with good acting their male lead.

  13. Plot, writing , dialogue acting is all over the place its like vad mixup i had huge expectations after seeing its title thought it would be epic.basically the drama only have title noting else.they Don’t have good story even for 1 episode .have watched upto 8th with fast forward and many Skips.At last i think k dramas are becoming somewhat boring and repetitive except a few .its all like everyone one is following the trend.follow the crowd system .hoping for good work from k dramas

  14. 40billion?! Where did that money went to? For the monsters and historical setting? Even i found that wasnt worthed 40 billion. Tbh, i watched it because i had nothing else to watch and i was too deep in it and curious bout the ending. But no this isnt worthed at all 40 billion.

  15. For me I wasn’t interested in plot or story .I haven’t check out the drama,not enough interest. I thought I like Lee Jin Wok , because I looove his drama Nine and I love Lee Joon. However I need some positive reviews to start watching.

  16. The way I choked when I saw that number? Seriously questioning the sanity of the casting directors for their lead actors choices + tvn execs for green lighting this mess because it truly does not make any sense. Considering the fact that lowkey dramas with high quality scripts are all the rage right now – combined with actors who can actually act, regardless of what popularity tier they’re on – the makings of this drama just seems like someone at tvn HQ was really out to sabotage the damn channel. Not only is LJW a likely sexual predator but KNR works best as a supporting character so having them lead a project like this is downright laughable. Anyone with half a braincell rattling around could’ve seen these abysmal ratings coming from a mile away.

    • You do realize lee jin wook was cleared of his charges right? He submitted everything for evidence while the accuser was shady to begin with and eventually the case was ruled in his favour with the accuser getting jail time. Now if you come with the whole “of course he was ruled innocent he’s an actor” we know there are examples of actors in korea receiving sentences as well. Read up on his case before deciding he is guilty

      • I couldn’t care less if he was cleared, considering how antiquated and patriarchal Korean law is. That demon Seungri is still running around free, for God’s sake. And I did read up about the case, btw, and this article sums his scumminess up perfectly: https://www.asianjunkie.com/2016/07/21/details-on-lee-jin-wooks-sexual-assault-case-leaked-and-his-side-comes-off-bad/

        At the end of the day, he’s a dirty piece of shit with no acting talent and who doesn’t deserve any roles, especially a starring one in a 40 billion won drama.

      • Agree. Koala is being biased against LJW here. Juggling up his case and bringing out bad comments for all the casts is not fair for this drama. The worst of the drama are its scripts ,bad settings, filming skills and directing. Even editing is not up to my expectations. Why blame the casts when the real problems are mostly behind the screens? With a slow burn dark genre like Bulgasal, do we expect a full swing light acting from the leads? Bulgasal can do better if we changed the production team. 40 billions is overcharged, where did the money goes, director?

  17. I don’t understand koala’s opinion regarding acting’s of main leads, but as a viewer the problem is about plot which is dragging since ep2 and writing of main leads that are very unlikeble. Even the second female lead Gong Seung Yeon who is praised crazily does nothing since ep 2. She gave excellent performance in ep1 but I don’t see nothing stellar so far. In terms of Kwon Nara, her acting isn’t that bad which people bash so hardly. She is a victim of bad writing. The writer doesn’t express strong female leads. Both of them are weak and useless. Lee Jin Wook, well I agree he can’t act so well in spite of more experience than other co-actors. Lee Joon is doing best, but she is anyway typical villain and sometimes overact but some viewers are fangirling so much. The main problem is writing.And budget isn’t high as it was stated. There are some sources about it

    • Right on. Good storyline. Bad scriptwriters. Bad directing. Bad settings. Bad props. Bad sound effects. Bad editing. Bad productions,overall. If talking about bad reputation or characters, nowadays some big name leading males in high rating dramas are pretty SCUMS in the way of speaking because in Korea, everything is about packaging. Koala, don’t you know that by now? Any big shot dramas, I still find flaws within. Just be fair in your playground, Koala.

  18. The first two episodes were promising. The production during the Goryeo period and the actors then were really good but everything went downhill after the leads came in and it changed to present time. I’m afraid the child actors were leagues better and this would have been worth the money if they casted better leads and stayed within the Goryeo timeline.

  19. On top of that enormous budget, studio dragon was actually hyping up it to be the next CLOY. But it was their fault to have such high expectations. The plot is not that good and the leads aren’t impressive either .

  20. Is Kwan Nara bringing out the worst of Lee Jin Wook?
    Both leads are so lacklustre. Wonder how she is always being casted as female lead. Its actually the side characters that are carrying the drama

  21. I don’t try anymore to understand the casting directors . I have nothing against Lee Jin Wook even if his acting is average , but Kwon Nara as lead ? She’s beautiful but she is not lead material . But the problem is the drama itself . I ‘m watching Trought the darkness Kim Nam Gil is doing a subtle and great performance, and all the cast is top . Tracer is much harder for an I watcher as me but very interesting .Park Yong Woo and So Hyun Joo are very good as always !

  22. I started watching Bulgasal only last week. Maybe the only weakness is that the drama lacks originality because we are constantly bombarded with vampire dramas. I don’t really watch Korean dramas. But this one, I love it. The cinematography & the soundtrack are beautiful and the actors are all pleasant to look at. Acting wise: Not bad -This is also the director’s responsibility. I recommended my hubby this drama & he too is hooked! He doesn’t watch Korean drama shows! This opinion is based on the drama alone and not based on the actors and actresses past history or personal issues. For me it’s a high quality drama. Can’t wait for the next episode ♥️

  23. Well, to me, the drama is captivating. It’s not as good as Deokebbi but I liked the storyline of the past era. Writing would’ve been better. Perhaps they’re avoiding past era so that the plot is still mysterious. I was trying to figure out the plot but the last episode gave another twist. I though the Bulgasal pair was Lee-Jin Wook & Kwan Nara, but it’s not that way. Lee-Jin Wook doesn’t show much expression which I think is how his character is. Because ever since the character is born, he has been ostracized by all except for his father and his son but he was too busy to find the cure to the curse that he didn’t acknowledge the relations he had and now is just torn from inside to die. Kwan Nara is a sweetheart, but the character in this show doesn’t seem to be powerful rather it seems like it has been picked up from Indian daily soap operas (too much of unnecessary crying and trying to be righteous). So, I’d say, storyline is good, writing isn’t that great, characters haven’t been painted well but actors are trying their best to make them lively.

  24. The series is actually good’ both actors are amazing’ I love the concept of past lives and their history .they still have time to changes some episode ‘it was really interesting’ this is good drama series’ I will be watching until the end.good luck to all involved.

  25. Love this drama’ all actors involved is great’
    The concept of it ideas of past lives and history is amazing’ that collides to present time’ crew and cast still have time to spice up the story line and the presence of character has to be more alive’ need a little bit humour in it. writer has to be creative at this point’ I will be watching until the end ‘ good luck to all cast and crew’ congratulations in advanced

  26. Others may not like it. But I noticed Lee Jin-wook in this drama. I have lot of favorite korean actors and he recently added on my list. The role he is portraying greatly suits him. I love the story very much where strangers became a family. Lee Joon is also doing a great job here… They might spend a lot budget here but somehow viewers have different perspective.

  27. I think I have different taste from others. Lol! Because Kwon Nara is revelation for me. She totally nailed 3 different characters here. I always underestimated her even though she somehow overshadow my favourite actress Kim Dami in IC, that’s why I didn’t like her. But here she stole the show for me.

  28. Look criticize the drama all you want, criticism of the acting is fine too. But to bring in something that was has been very clearly resolved in the past (lee jin wook’s accusations) was very low. His case was clear from beginning to end. It wasn’t like park shi hoo’s case or park yoo chun’s case.

  29. first 2 ep was great. i thought i was watching a movie. everything went downhill afterwards that each ep felt so long, so much unnecessary scenes and dialogue. i really thought lee jin wook was a great actor but yeah, he’s kinda bland here. kwon nara is okay but her cutesy act in some scenes is irritating, lol. gong seung yeon’s character feels such a waste, from being his wife to her sis. i was hoping for more.

  30. Team behind Entourage…I think most people saw this coming. Even the actors offered male lead to be honest. With such a huge budget, the best they could get is Lee Jin Wook? That guy just doesn’t have the star power or buzz, especially after the sexual assault scandal.

    • Because the director of Bulgasal is the Co-Director of Sweet Home . So he dont need to do audition like Lee Joon and Kim Wooseok. I don’t understand why the director choose him. I saw his previous drama and he is so boring and bland. After Won Bin reject the drama, can they just cast Hyun Bin or other popular actor. Kwon Nara is not good too. She is pretty yes but her acting is so embarrassing.

  31. Really am I the only one to like the female lead?? Actually, I loved her so much, her innocence reminds me Choi Ji Woo in Winter Sonata. She has that kind of soft girl crush charm. May be it only seems to me… Anyway, I am fed up with badass b*tch roles in kdrama which is very cliche now. Yeah, I agree her role isn’t written well. Even Gong Seung Yeon is underused.

  32. I find Lee Jin wook and Kwon Nara pretty bland and the romance forced. Lee Joon is fun but doesn’t get much screen time. Gong Seung-yeon has also been underutilized. You would think that Kim Woo Seok was one of the leads. It’s his first acting job, and outside of the two main leads, he’s had the most screen time. It’s all honesty kind of baffling. The writers’ have good ideas but the execution is lacking. Looking at their previous works, I understand why the writing for the female characters is such a problem.

  33. I am distracted by the dollar signs in this article. You do not need the dollar sign in front of those numbers. Are we talking about US dollars or in won here? I know we’re talking in some but why the $ sign? Sorry for being repetitive.

  34. I watch this up to 3 ep but it didn’t work for me. The cinematography is great, plot it kinda interesting but still it didn’t grab my full attention. I dont like kwonNara acting here. I watch her in IC and she fine there.

  35. i dont understand where that 40 billion won production cost goes tho… CLOY had hyunbin and son yejin ( two of the biggest top and hallyu stars in sk) and it only has 20 billion won budget.

  36. Bulgasal is really an enticing drama in a thrilling form
    I enjoyed watching each episode.honestly at first I really wasn’t that interested in watching it,it kept airing till around episode 8 finally that particular day there wasn’t much Kdrama to watch so I decided let me just watch this bulgasal drama just for boredom sake I was like let me just watch one episode.that’s how I started watching one episode leading to the second and the other episode after I really recommend ya’ll to watch this amazing fantasy drama and am excited for this week’s episode 13,14?

    • What an irrelevant and groundless article, opinions, and comments! I mean, to give an opinion, you have to have an understanding of the characters (first) and an objective evaluation of acting (second). And it seems that both criteria weren’t present in the article or even in the negative comments. Well, being a fan of LJW and Bulgasal, does not mean I cannot evaluate it objectively. Yes, the story plot started slow, but it was very necessary to establish the base for the coming upgraded events, but it was not boring nor similar to other dramas. It had a different launch from other kdramas and the main essence of it was not to reveal the past straight. In other words, scratch your mind a bit, but yeah.. After all, it’s not for small brains. Now, moving into the acting of leads… It’s obvious that whoever commented negatively still didn’t understood the character of Dan-Hwal! IT CANNOT BE EXPRESSED IN A BETTER WAY! For God’s sake! The restraining personality, coldness, emotionless, it had to be like that! Yet, eyes were so expressive. I think you guys prefer more exaggerated acting and too much crying or excessive laughter! Com’on have a bit of common sense! Lee Joon was acting greatly though it seems a bit exaggerated at some point but it’s fine given his crazy character. So you should always relate the essence of the character to the acting revealed. Now i agree about Kwon Nara’s acting. I can’t feel any of her emotions apart from when she cried so much (but still… Not much). However, to say that LJW is a bad actor? Are you damn serious? He was just not lucky with the script, scenarios and cast, as the productions were not always great but his acting??? I am a TV and Film obsessive since childhood, and to say that Jinwook is not talented means you understand shit about acting!! (sorry but yeah!!). And what the hell is this stupid talk about the 2016 scandal???? First, How is that related to acting??? Second, he was cleared of charges and I personally read every word said by the claimant as released by police and court (so not by media) and any person with one (just one) brain cell would understand that the sexual behaviour that happened according to her description CANNOT be classified as rape or predation! and because no one knows what other details occurred between parties involved it is better to shut up than to raise false claims and accusations! So end of story! And i have to mention one thing about acting again… So if someone did not achieve win much awards or acted in big projects they shouldn’t be considered talented? How about your article then? If I don’t see less than 500 comments and 9000 reads I will consider you as a hopeless journalist or reviewer! How would that sound to you???
      This whole review is literally pointless, stupid, and worse than that it’s groundless! Just throwing much bounded opinions here and there to make themselves heard! Such an irony!

  37. What an irrelevant and groundless article, opinions, and comments! I mean, to give an opinion, you have to have an understanding of the characters (first) and an objective evaluation of acting (second). And it seems that both criteria weren’t present in the article or even in the negative comments. Well, being a fan of LJW and Bulgasal, does not mean I cannot evaluate it objectively. Yes, the story plot started slow, but it was very necessary to establish the base for the coming upgraded events, but it was not boring nor similar to other dramas. It had a different launch from other kdramas and the main essence of it was not to reveal the past straight. In other words, scratch your mind a bit, but yeah.. After all, it’s not for small brains. Now, moving into the acting of leads… It’s obvious that whoever commented negatively still didn’t understood the character of Dan-Hwal! IT CANNOT BE EXPRESSED IN A BETTER WAY! For God’s sake! The restraining personality, coldness, emotionless, it had to be like that! Yet, his eyes were so expressive. I think you guys prefer more exaggerated acting and too much crying or excessive laughter! Com’on have a bit of common sense! Lee Joon was acting greatly though it seems a bit exaggerated at some point but it’s fine given his crazy character. So you should always relate the essence of the character to the acting revealed

  38. I could post the rest of my comments for technical reasons. However, now that I come to think of it, even before Bulgasal was airing you were attacking the lead and the show. Why? Did someone pay you to spread such silly comments all the time? This is your third negative review and I doubt that you even watched it. So please cut the non sense!!

  39. Now I agree about Kwon Nara’s acting as I can’t feel any of her emotions apart from when she cried so much… but still not much to be honest. However to say that LJW is a bad actor!?!?! Are you damn serious?? he was just unlucky in his previous shows with the script, scenarios, or cast and so these productions are not really popular but his acting? He was amazing in every single role!
    I am a Tv and film obsessive person and since childhood and to say that Jinwook is not talented means you understand shit about acting (sorry but yeah)! and what the hell is this stupid talk about the 2016 scandal?? 1st, how is that related to acting?!?! 2nd, he was cleared of charges and I personally read every word said by the claimant as released by the police and courts (so not by media) and any person with one (just one) brain cell would understand that the sexual behaviour that happened according to her description cannot be classified as rape or predation!!!.

  40. I’m just waiting for another big name cast 40 billion won drama to unfold. Ask The Stars with rumoured leads Lee Min Ho and Gong Hyo Jin. Oh Jung Se received an offer to join the mega space station rom-com project. Whether it will eclipse MLFTS or fail spectacularly remains to be seen.

  41. I understand that the show is not your cup of tea, or a lot of people here commented about it negatively. However, I beg to disagree.
    The show is amazing. The cinematography is topnotch. The writing is. Awesome. I have watched it from Episode 1 and will watch it until the end.
    It doesn’t have the usual tropes you see on a Kdrama. It doesn’t have exaggerated acting. The plot is very heavy since it’s about revenge, there’s a mystery surrounding their past lives, why they are all entangled with one another. It’s actually very deep and such a shame that people are still not ready for it. The audience meant for this drama is for Netflix / International audience. Could have been good if it had 2 seasons or something.

    The plot and the mystery unfolding in the drama is what’s keeping me up every week! I love how LJW acted out his role, how his voice sound when he speaks. It’s not easy to be a 600 year old person who have suffered so much.
    I see comments somewhere that this is Goblin 2.0. It is far from that.

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