[Rhee Myung Hwan’s TV Big League] After ‘Character’ Comes ‘Chemistry’
‘Chemistry’ is a word I’m very into these days. I’m especially interested in studying the chemistry in content. For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, ‘chemistry’ is used to mean the balance between the cast in video contents such as dramas, films or variety, referring to the balance as if it was an actual chemical reaction. ‘Good chemistry’ would thus mean that the cast is greatly balanced and go well with each other in harmony.
I always think as a variety producer about what would be the most important factor in designing a program, and so these days I’ve come to contemplate the importance of chemistry. Dramas, films and variety shows that have been received well recently all share the common characteristic that they boast ‘great chemistry’.
For example, tvN’s miniseries Queen In Hyun’s Man was praised for its entertaining elements and quality thanks to the perfect chemistry between the Ji Hyun Woo and Yoo In Na couple. Their chemistry even led them to become a real-life couple, so no one can deny they go well together. KBS2’s Unexpected You, which has been breaking records with its high viewership ratings every episode, was led to become the nation’s drama by the chemistry between the Yu Jun Sang and Kim Nam Ju couple, as well as the couple’s chemistry with the in-laws.
The household favorites KBS2’s 1 Night, 2 Days and MBC’s Infinity Challenge also became such favorites thanks to the strong centers Kang Ho Dong and Yoo Jae Suk, and the chemistry between the members that surrounded them. As shown, it’s pretty hard to find such content with great chemistry that didn’t make a huge success.
Many content creators build content under the premise that ‘good characters make good pieces’. Drama producers and film directors concentrate on casting A-level stars to help their main characters shine, and variety producers also pack their panels full of well-known TV personalities and try to get other A-level stars to appear as guests.
If you approach the matter from a ‘chemistry’ point of view, however, you can see that good characters and big shot casting decisions don’t always make for great content. It is, of course, important to get the best stars out there, but it’s also important to cast figures that go well with each other and build an environment in which great chemistry just simply erupts between them. So in an age like this, producers and officials need to start making more solid decisions in the earlier stages of casting.
TvN’s Reply 1997 is one of the most recent examples of the successes ‘hot chemistry’ has to offer. Reply 1997 didn’t start off with a great, jaw-dropping cast. The main leads Seo In Guk and Jung Eun Ji, as well as most of the other cast members, weren’t very well-known among the public. Sung Dong Il and Eun Ji Won were probably the most well-known out of them all. Even I, who had been a member of the production team, never imagined that the individual actors would be able to make their characters shine from the start.
Seo In Guk and Jung Eun Ji, however, blew up with some great chemistry, and managed to give even more life to their characters than was thought possible. They related to so many different age groups, from those in their teens to those in their 40s, and grabbed the spotlight to soar high on their new fame. Some even say that they’re the best couple to ever appear in a recent drama. Though they’re not a couple in the drama now, some viewers have been pushing to make them one with movements that openly ship the Seo In Guk and Jung Eun Ji couple.
One other thing. The chemistry between Seo In Guk and Jung Eun Ji didn’t only come into being from the two characters’ relations alone. The many designs this drama was built on, such as fan culture, the friendly Busan dialect and the 90s retro features, melted into the relationship between these actors who happened to be from Gyeongsang and helped their chemistry bubble over.
The important thing about ‘chemistry’ is that it involves ‘chemical reactions’. It’s something more than simply tying things together physically; it’s a form of chemical fusion. Chemistry can make more than ‘1+1=2’; it can even make ‘1+1=Infinity’. Failed chemistry could, of course, make ‘1+1=0’, which is a cause of concern for many. This is what I’ve realized I have to keep in mind as the most important issue, as I start to prepare for new variety programs for this fall.
Rhee Myung Hwan, tvN producer
- Infinity Challenge 20120901 Seo In Guk 20120901 1 Night, 2 Days 20120901 A Pink 20120901 Jung Eun Ji (A Pink) 20120901 Queen In Hyun’s Man 20120901 Reply 1997 20120901