It’s really hard for me to make a judgment on Producers. I have a lot of mixed feelings about the first two episodes of the show, though it could sail a little smoother as I’ve heard of the PD-change on this show. Kind of sad to see the issues in the show be reflected in real life, but at the same time it’s a really challenging type of show to tackle.
I had kind of wished this show was going to be a drama within a reality show, that the actors were actually getting punked into thinking that they were starring in a drama but it was really a variety show. While I didn’t really get that wish fulfilled, it sort of did happen in that this drama became a mockumentary.
A colleague described it as Producers trying to be The Office. I think it’s an apt description, but The Office it is not.
We follow Baek Seung Chan (Kim Soo Hyun), who’s a bit of a hapless aspiring PD as he only entered the field because his crush was a PD. His first days are really rough: while shadowing Tak Ye Jin (Gong Hyo Jin), he ends up finding ways to piss her off and it only gets worse when she discovers that after verbally abusing him, he’s the one whose car she scratched in the parking lot. He also doesn’t help Ye Jin convince Cindy (IU) to change her Music Bank outfit into something less risqué. And then he gets assigned to the 2 Days 1 Night crew headed up by PD Ra Joon Mo (Cha Tae Hyun), which is on its way out and needs to replace its cast of all older females to revive the show and its ratings. When Seung Chan messes up informing Yoon Yeo Jung (playing herself) that the show will be replacing her, he gets into so much trouble with PD Ra. And then when he tells Ye Jin that his father wants her to pay over 800,000 Won for car damages, she’s ready to get him fired.
During this entire time we get snippets of interviews with the main cast – except Cindy, really – as they speak directly to the camera, because their lives are being filmed for a documentary-reality show as well for KBS.
What I Liked
There was little that I liked, but I really appreciated how different this drama was from our other usual behind-the-scenes dramas. While I think The King of Dramas did behind-the-scenes really well, it was also clearly a drama. This one tries to infuse some type of reality to the situation by giving you interviews with the characters and also lots of handheld shots to make these characters feel real.
I do think Kim Soo Hyun’s character was a bit of a surprise. He is a bit more dorky than I expected, with less of a spine and so pitiful that I really really felt bad for him. At the same time, I’m really hoping that he regains his footing and stands for himself better. His interactions with his sunbaes are more enjoyable than his interaction with Cindy, even though they’re abusing him so much. IU is very bland in this role, but at the same time I think she’s doing quite well playing a very detached character. If Cindy is someone who currently hates her life, then IU is selling that very very well. She also really needs to gain some weight (sticks for her arms!).
The best part of the first two episodes was really Yoon Yeo Jung. That woman is amazing. From watching her in “The Actresses,” to dramas, to now this show, I really appreciate how natural and good she is. At the end of the day this show is a drama, and Yoon Yeo Jung is so good at making you feel for her character and getting to your emotions. At the same time, it’s supposed to be a mockumentary, and she has this grounded-ness that makes you feel like you know her as a person, not as the character or as an actress. It’s really impressive.
What I Didn’t Like
While we’re on the topic of actors, I will say that I’m not terribly fond of the pairing of Cha Tae Hyun and Gong Hyo Jin. Based on their interactions it seems like they’ll be one of our main couples in the show, but I can’t say I really like the chemistry that’s going on between them. Nothing is very engaging there on that front, and I see them more as friends than as possible lovers. At the same time, this could all totally change in coming episodes and they could develop better chemistry as we go along.
The show tries far too much to be something like The Office but it’s too hard to differentiate between the one-on-one interviews and the actual show happening itself. There are too many clean cuts and different angles that it feels more like a drama than a mockumentary. The Office had several cameras running around, but at the same it felt spur of the moment with their swiveling and the shaky zooms; if they were spying on a moment, they were far away and relied on zooms. The only time it felt staged was during the interviews, when the camera was either on a tripod or on a steadicam and didn’t move around so much. In a way, The Office kept their style consistent, but Producers can’t. It switches between jagged, indie-like shooting to really polished camera work.
There were too many drama elements infused in this show to make it feel like a mockumentary. We would see a lot of these characters’ personal lives that you wouldn’t expect to see. Again, it makes it harder to differentiate between when we’re in “variety show mode” and when we’re in “K-drama mode.” Moments like these could be explained with a throwaway line like, “What’s that camera doing here?” but none of that happens. On top of that, no one on this show explains why this documentary project exists. Ra Joon Mo, Baek Seung Chan, and Tak Ye Jin all seem to acknowledge the cameras and the show they’re working on, but no one explains why this project is even happening. It’s like we have a plot device happening to help drive a stylistic choice, but no real reason for this plot device to occur.
Good, witty dry humor were few and far in between in this show. Some were pretty good, and some fell a little too flat. There were a lot of call outs to existing shows (Three Meals a Day, 2 Days 1 Night, The Return of Superman, etc.) and to real PD’s, but at the end of the day the dry humor didn’t make it particularly funny. It felt like after each punchline I heard a ‘ba-dum-tss’ to an unamused crowd.
On top of all this, why is this show up to 80 minutes long?! There is NO reason for it to be so long, and honestly it made the show that much more boring. It felt slow and draggy, and it’d be better if it were zippy to match the pace of the PD’s harried lives.
I really wanted to like the first couple of episodes, and I wanted to dispel those rumors of how boring and terrible the premiere was. But I can understand why the first two episodes were unsatisfying. I think if I lowered my expectations a bit more, I would have semi-enjoyed this show a little more. It’s definitely new, and I want to see how far they take it – even though I think it will go more on the drama route and kind of forget the whole mockumentary aspect until the end. There were some golden moments that resulted from it, but if it were more aligned production wise in what kind of show it wanted to be, it could have been a whole lot better.