Wowsers, what a difference a week and a drama can make. This development definitely deserves a post of its own. With Secret ending last week and the arrival of Pretty Boy (Bel Ami), the ratings was up for grabs today and Heirs/The Inheritors made out like a bandit. The drama started off around 10% in ratings and was increasingly little by little each week. Last week’s episode 12 hit 15.9% in AGB ratings which was a drama high, but today’s episode 13 wasn’t just the best episode of the drama to-date, it was also the runaway ratings winner netting 20.6% AGB ratings. Heirs not only broke 20% today, it also increased 5% in ratings from its last episode. That is a wild jump and if things hold true, this drama ought to stay in the 20s for the remainder of its run, with even the possibility of breaking 30 by the end. Not a bad upward trajectory for a drama that started off weak in story and ratings but has slowly gathered steam and seems to be finally off the races. If I had to pick between a fast start or a stronger second half, I’d pick the latter since the endings usually make a drama more memorable.
Medical Top Team is basically a lost cause and today garnered barely over 5% ratings so this one isn’t going to factor into the ratings game. Pretty Boy premiered with a 6.3% AGB ratings which isn’t dreadful considering its manhwa roots but is abysmal compared to predecessor Secret which went out with 18.9% ratings. This is the fourth Jang Geun Seok drama to premiere in the single digits of AGB ratings, and I honestly think the lackluster reception of his headlining dramas has nothing to do with his popularity in Korea. He just picks projects that don’t naturally appeal to the domestic viewers who control the remotes and will require a great story to hook the audience. It took me awhile to get off the high of watching episode 13 of Heirs but I finally got around to checking out episode 1 of Pretty Boy. The drama is not a hot mess by any means and is actually quite watchable. The “prettiest man in the world” conceit is played for laughs and not taken seriously which is good, but I couldn’t find any hook in the narrative and felt rather detached watching it. There were fleeting moments of chuckles but mostly I stared at the screen looking perplexed because I couldn’t figure out what was the point.
An addicting drama adapted from a manga or manhwa source needs to capture the spirit of the colorful and unique world created by the original work. Group 8 has always done that with all its drama adaptations such as Goong, Boys Before Flowers, Tamra the Island, and To the Beautiful You. I loved Playful Kiss but the adaptation did not quite capture the mood of the manga. Without properly creating an unique world, the various disparate elements that make up out-there manga stories don’t translate well onscreen as stand-alone elements. It’s an all or nothing proposition when tackling this transition. I’ve not read the original Pretty Boy manhwa but the drama doesn’t coalesce into a world that captures the imagination from the outset. Bits and pieces of manhwa excess does not a drama make, especially when tossed together with makjang.
Episode 1 starts off with Dokko Ma Te (Jang Geun Seok) seducing a rich older woman who fawns over how beautiful he is. On the other hand, there is ordinary weirdo girl Kim Bo Tong (IU) who can’t hold down a job and has nursed a total obsession over Mat Te oppa for the last 10 years. Turns out their mothers are friends and Ma Te moved upstairs from her when they were 16 and they’ve been classmates and neighbors ever since. The world of PB takes as gospel that Ma Te is so handsome he literally makes people stop in their tracks to stare at him. Grown up Ma Te seduces rich women for a living though he loves his single mother and also harbors a birth secret. Mom dies in episode 1 of cancer she had been hiding from everyone, and with it goes the secret password that will reunite him with his birth father. In steps beautiful and sophisticated Hong Yura (Han Chae Young) who claims to have gotten the secret password before Mom died and with it wants Ma Te to do as she says. End of episode 1.
Pretty Boy really picked a bad time to premiere going up against the teen drama with tacked on rich parental angst since most of Heir’s viewers would naturally be PB viewers as well. Not to mention Heirs ended with the first sincere episode ender moment at the end of episode 12, which led to the best episode yet in episode 13, and in that very moment PB premieres to try and woo viewers to check it out. I don’t think PB is bad at all, either as a standalone drama or even as a manhwa adaptation. It’s too soon to tell but the acting is solid from IU and Han Chae Young, but I can’t quite pinpoint it why Jang Geun Seok feels very hit-and-miss in episode 1. At times he’s spot on and others he seems stiff and self-conscious. His PB character has shades of Hwang Tae Kyung (self-absorbed yet can be unintentionally funny) but so far Jang Geun Seok isn’t as comfortable in Ma Te’s skin as he was right off the bat as Tae Kyung. I’ll take a wait and see attitude as to whether I want to keep watching, but realistically the ratings distance between PB and Heirs is vast and this one might be a battle to settle for a comfortable second place.