Kim Soo Hyun goes from alien to geeky stalker in new drama The Producers

Kim Soo Hyun plays a View it new producer at South Korean network KBS while Cha Tae Hyun and Kong Hyo Jin (above) are the veterans in The Producers. -- PHOTOS: STARHUB
Kim Soo Hyun plays a View it new producer at South Korean network KBS while Cha Tae Hyun and Kong Hyo Jin (above) are the veterans in The Producers. -- PHOTOS: STARHUB
Kim Soo Hyun plays a View it new producer at South Korean network KBS while Cha Tae Hyun (above) and Kong Hyo Jin are the veterans in The Producers. -- PHOTOS: STARHUB
Kim Soo Hyun plays a View it new producer at South Korean network KBS while Cha Tae Hyun (above) and Kong Hyo Jin are the veterans in The Producers. -- PHOTOS: STARHUB
Kim Soo Hyun (above) plays a View it new producer at South Korean network KBS while Cha Tae Hyun and Kong Hyo Jin are the veterans in The Producers. -- PHOTOS: STARHUB
Kim Soo Hyun (above) plays a View it new producer at South Korean network KBS while Cha Tae Hyun and Kong Hyo Jin are the veterans in The Producers. -- PHOTOS: STARHUB

The Producers takes a peek at the work of South Korean variety show producers

The Producers, a KBS drama set around the South Korean network's own variety show department, starts as a gawky KBS newbie (Kim Soo Hyun) who is hurrying to an orientation and is accosted by a cameraman.

The show switches to a mockumentary fitfully and sometimes surprisingly, as Kim familiarises himself with the world of variety: chiefly, meeting rooms where exhausted, formerly intelligent adults have to rustle up something fun week after week, year after year, or just something that has okay ratings and won't be axed.

Followed around KBS, Kim confesses on camera that he joined the variety show department to be near a girl he likes. He is stalked and interviewed after hours in his neighbourhood, where he bumps into his crush as she is dropping in on her producer boyfriend (Cha Tae Hyun) nearby.

By episode four, Kim is a natural, snooping around the apartment Cha shares with a female producer (Kong Hyo Jin), stealing their milk from their doorstep, then turning to the camera to talk through what he has just done.

During one such interview in the neighbourhood, as he is taking out the trash, he admits he is disappointed his crush is seeing someone else: "I am human, after all."

Did you laugh at that? It is cute how Kim, the scholarly extra-terrestrial from the 2013 mega drama My Love From The Star, is now a geeky earthling - the kind of guy who memorises the history of variety shows - isn't it?

And this is how the show plays. It is a cosy festival of winks and giggles, but owing to the ubiquity of the Korean Wave (people, it is all around you - all the standees and posters of K-drama and K-pop stars fronting the K-beauty brands you walk by on your way to the nearest food court), the in-jokes are broad enough to be appreciated by millions.

Although it doesn't have enough bite to be a genuine satire - it is miles from the American comedy 30 Rock - The Producers does provide a fascinating peek at the ecosystem of Korean entertainment.

In episode two, Kim is sent to Cha's team for Two Days And One Night (an actual KBS road trip show starring Cha, which is produced by him in the fictional parallel universe of The Producers) just in time for a new crisis. Cha and his colleagues are holding another brainstorm, not for new ideas to keep their programme on the air but for a strategy to tell the divas in their cast the current season has been cancelled and they have been fired.

Then there is a whole other minefield of having to turn an anniversary party for the show into a farewell and arrange a delicate seating plan that won't further upset the oldest, crabbiest members of the cast.

Bright and light, My Love From The Star was writer Park Ji Eun's K-drama for people who don't like K-dramas (the best of which have way more emotional depth and weight, as far as I am concerned).

Park's new show, The Producers, benefits from the same levity, though. It even plays a similar narrative trick, dropping videos at the end of every episode that reveal the characters' romantic secrets and reframe the episode you have just watched.

And an entertainment as high-end and many- sided as The Producers is much harder to pull off than it looks, as the title characters might well know.

For the other show of the week, I'm staying with the KBS variety department. In particular, I have been watching the parenting show The Return Of Superman and appreciating all the work that has made the programme possible.

Actors Lee Hui Jae and Song Il Guk are among the titular supermen taking regular stretches of two days off to be with their young sons - Lee has twins and Song has triplets, who are giving boybands a run for their money - and giving their wives, the superwomen, a break.

And the charm of the show has to do with the access to the families, as well as the authenticity on display.

The programme doesn't hide its seams, such as the instant a child notices a cameraman in a nondescript tent or box in the living room and tries to play with the stranger or grab the camera.

Other moments are so private and precious - an announcer's wife gives birth to a bloodied boy and the new dad leans over the new mum, their teary faces touching - that I feel privileged to be sharing them.

But now I'm also putting myself in the shoes of the producers, and wondering how much begging they did to get into that delivery room.

woeiwan@sph.com.sg