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The 5 Charms of Secret Garden

[Here's a translation of an article by Reporter Seo Bo Hyun at Sports Seoul]

Scriptwriter Kim Eun Sook and PD Shin Woo Chul’s confidence has passed the test. The first airing of their drama, SBS-TV’s Secret Garden on Nov 13, received rave reviews. With its veil removed, this episode heralds the birth of a formidable drama in the weekend timeslots.

How successful was it? Secret Garden’s Episode 1 garnered a record 17.2% in nationwide ratings. (AGB Nielsen Media Research), top among other programs broadcast at the same time. It was also well-received by viewers, judging from the numerous comments appearing on the viewers’ message board after the episode ended.

This result wasn’t unexpected though. The well-known seamless combination of scriptwriter Kim Eun Sook and PD Shin Woo Chul could be seen in the episode. The performance of the actors and actresses also left a deep impression. Hyun Bin, Ha Ji Won, Yoon Sang Hyun and the rest of the cast have interpreted their roles perfectly. Because of them, interest in the drama was doubled by the end of the first episode.

Will Secret Garden continue to become the unconventional top weekend drama? Let’s take a peek at the 5 charms from Episode 1 that proves it probably can.

1. The revival of romantic comedies

Secret Garden is the firewood that will rekindle the interest in romantic comedies. With period dramas currently regarded as the guaranteed ‘living room blockbuster’, the romance drama of young 20-somethings provides a fresh breath of air. This safe genre is also easily accepted by the entire generation, and may even attract those in the 10-20 years age group, who have been absent through most weekend living-room dramas.

It’s strength lies in not following the typical formulas of romantic comedies. Secret Garden is a drama where melodramatic romance is injected with a dose of fantasy. This romantic comedy is slated to be level higher than similar counterparts like  “Lovers in Paris’, ‘Lovers in Prague’, ‘On Air’.

“We added new elements into the standard melodrama, such as the fantasy setting where souls can be interchanged. This drama is about infusing new elements into melodramas,” said PD Shin Woo Chul, heightening our anticipation.

2. Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won – acting in perfect harmony

Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won’s acting shone in the episode. From emotions to action, Ha Ji Won interpreted her role perfectly, anchoring her presence in the drama. On the other hand, Hyun Bin’s comedic acting exceeded expectations. He seems to have improved his acting a notch higher after his previous drama.

The way they acted with each other were also above expectations. Their acting delivery was smooth, right from their first meeting in the drama to the point where they become sworn enemies. Despite this being the first time they worked together, there were no hints of awkwardness. In fact they were so convincing they actually doubled the intended comedic effect. The pair’s acting will become more intense in episode 2.

Hyun Bin says, “This is the first time I’m acting with Ha Ji Won. However, whether it’s script reading or filming together, surprisingly there were few reservations between us. ” He added, “Because we will be interchanging souls, there’s nothing we can’t say to each other. I think we will become closer, and less awkward with each other.”

3. A strong script

(Scriptwriter) Kim Eun Sook has not lost her touch. The episode was lighthearted while the dialogue was full of wit. It reflected reality. When Yoon Sang Hyun appeared as a top singer in the drama, there were references to current music shows like ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Inkigayo’. These unexpected scenes of these shows made the show more interesting.

Excitement also came from the fast pace of the show. The description of all main leads was complete by the end of episode 1. In episode 2, the relationships and love lines of the 4 male and female leads are expected to be clearly depicted. The main theme of the story, which is the exchange of souls between the male and female leads, is also expected to happen soon. This fast pace of plot development is aimed at keeping viewers glued to the drama.

Scriptwriter Kim Eun Sook says, “I planned to write this drama as interesting as can be from the start. I think it will be really interesting to watch,” and added confidently “I hope that this drama will enable the entire family to enjoy the drama together in weekends, so the episodes are written with a light-hearted tone. I also made a lot of effort in the dialogues, which is my forte. I hope the drama does well.”

4. Characters with strong, unique personalities

The various characters were interesting to watch. First and foremost, the 4 main leads have strong personalities — Ha Ji Won whose character exudes both ruggedness and femininity at the same time; Hyun Bin’s comedic portrayal of his difficult, nitpicking character; Yoon Sang Hyun as a gentleman playboy; Kim Sa Rang with her unexpected random twists. 4 people with 4 totally different personalities.

The supporting cast are not weak either. In episode 1, Lee Byung Joon captures your attention as Director Park. He was entertaining with his constant bickering with Hyun Bin’s character, who’s fooling around not caring about the department store he owns. The acting of Kim Sung Oh, Yoo In Na and many other familiar faces also attracted attention. Time will tell, whether a star will rise from this supporting cast.

“During the planning of this drama, I spent 3 months discussing with PD Shin Woo Chul. The characters each of us have in mind, we will narrow down their ‘margin error’ by omitting their commonplace or uninteresting traits,” says scriptwriter Kim Eun Sook, “After that is done, we wrote the drama proposal and decided on the casting. Till now, I feel we have a success.”

5. Exciting subject matter

Honestly, this is a subject that we are familiar with. The exchange of souls between a man and a woman was seen in many movies such as “Change” (1997, starring Jung Joon). But that doesn’t mean that this subject cannot be presented with a fresh twist.

Through a title like “Secret Garden”, the drama aims to differentiate itself from other productions, by telling the story from a different angle, accompanied by exciting pacing, characters and dialogue, all presented through sensitive acting. These are reasons why this drama is worth anticipating for.

Scriptwriter Kim Eun Sook also says “Although this is a familiar subject, how it is presented will produce different results. Although we may think like the common man on the street, there are extra elements added that brings the imagination to a more interesting level. I feel that this drama will make viewers realise that this subject can actually develop in a way they never expected.”

Above images thanks to SBS, Sportsseoul Reporter Song Ji Won,  HJ님, 샤랄라님.

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