SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Korea Bizwire) – Shin Won-ho, the producer of mega-hit television drama “Reply” series, didn’t aim too high.
Just before the airing of “Reply 1988″ in November, he said in a press briefing, “Hoping the third series to succeed too would be asking too much. If it falls flat, the series will be finally put to an end.”
It soon turned out that his prediction couldn’t be more off the mark.
The series became a huge sensation among Korean drama fans when it first aired in July 2012. Arousing nostalgia for the late 80s and 90s, the coming-of-age drama is centered around a group of close friends and follows their life journey. Its storyline, coupled with detailed, well-researched depiction of the period, help viewers look back on their own life and relate to the main characters.’
“I think being flexible contributed a lot to (viewer rating) results,” said Shin in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Monday.
By “flexible,” he meant trusting in the casts’ potential and betting on new faces with almost no acting track record.
“Most popular stars we had tried to cast rejected our offer outright even before we had a chance to explain what the drama was about,” Shin said. “They just said no because it is a cable channel show.”
So far, three dramas of the series set in 1997, 1994 and 1988 have aired on tvN, a popular cable channel operated by CJ E&M, the entertainment and movie subsidiary of South Korean conglomerate CJ Group.
For “Reply 1997,” the first in the series, Shin cast Seo In-guk, a winner of the reality singing competition show Superstar K, and Jung Eun-ji, a member of K-Pop girl group A Pink, amid concerns about their lack of acting chops.
But Shin saw potential in the two rising stars as well as in other unfamiliar cast members.
“They were full of confidence. Most of the cast members remained very confident in spite of concerned opinions,” he said.
His bold experiments helped him break the jinx in the Korean drama industry that a sequel is hard to pull off.
“I studied some cases of failed sequels to find out that in most cases, a sequel is made by a new producer,” Shin said. “I decided to bring in new things while leaving some core settings intact.”
The last episode of “Reply 1988″ received a 19.6 percent viewer rating — a record for a Korean cable TV drama.