선암여고 탐정단 (Seonam Girls High Detectives)

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jTBC – 14 Episodes
A Yedang Entertainment Production
Timeslot: Tuesday (Wednesday from February) Nights, 11:00 PM
Genre: Youth/Procedural/Comedy
Format: 1080i Dolby Digital 2.0 – 60 Minutes
Ran from: 2014/Dec/16~2015/Mar/18

WITH 진지희 (Jin Ji-Hee) as Ahn Chae-Yool; 강민아 (Kang Min-Ah) as Yoon Mi-Do; 혜리 (Hye-Ri) as Lee Ye-Hee; 이민지 (Lee Min-Ji) as Kim Ha-Jae; Stephanie Lee as Choi Seong-Yoon; 이승연 (Lee Seung-Yeon) as Oh Yoo-Jin; 김민준 (Kim Min-Joon) as Ha Yeon-Joon; 황석정 (Hwang Seok-Jung) as Lee Yeo-Joo; 김성윤 (Kim Sung-Yoon) as Jung Dong-Soo; 김혜나 (Kim Hye-Na) as Shin Jang-Mi; 장기용 (Jang Gi-Yong) as Ahn Chae-Joon; 한예준 (Han Ye-Joon) as Ha Ra-On; 최덕문 (Choi Deok-Moon) as Ahn Hong-Min; 조시윤 (Jo Si-Yoon) as Oh Hae-Ni; 혜이니 (Heyne) as Hong-Dan; 한지안 (Han Ji-An) as Nam Hyo-Jo;

CREW Production Director 여운혁 (Yeo Woon-Hyeok) B-Team Director 유정환 (Yoo Jung-Hwan) Main Writer 신광호 (Shin Gwang-Ho) Chief Producer 여운혁 (Yeo Woon-Hyeok) Producer 우상희 (Woo Sang-Hee) 백지현 (Baek Ji-Hyun) Director of Photography 김준겸 (Kim Joon-Gyeom) 박성진 (Park Sung-Jin) Lighting 이평수 (Lee Pyung-Soo) 박재준 (Park Jae-Joon) Art Director 배정수 (Bae Jung-Soo) 장정호 (Jang Jung-Ho) Editor 김옥선 (Kim Ok-Seon) Music 서우영 (Seo Woo-Young) Assistant Producer 김보경 (Kim Bo-Gyeong) 김호중 (Kim Ho-Joong)
Based upon Park Ha-Ik’s 선암여고 탐정단: 방과 후의 미스터리 (Seonam Girl’s High Detectives: After School Mystery)

RATINGS
AGB Nielsen Nationwide
HIGHEST: 1.43% (12/16 - E01)
LOWEST: 0.53% (12/30 - E03)
AVERAGE: 0.85%

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Photo © Yedang Entertainment, jTBC

FIRST LOOK

jTBC tries its hand at a staple of J-drama, the quirky procedural – or you could equally say “tries to follow CJ E&M’s footsteps in unabashedly catering to Japanese buyers.” Although the manga-style introduction is rather à propos considering the material, it quickly overstays its welcome by turning the proceedings into a variety-like world where every peculiarity is highlighted by quirky CG, sound effects or over-the-top reactions by the cast. Of course you could argue that it’s exactly this kind of over-production that appeals to Japan, but with a decent script like this you could just let the narrative stand on its feet without the need to punctuate every single amusing situation. What this show does have which might be hard to find in the neighbouring Japan, though, is talented youngsters who can take advantage of decent characterization: although Hye-Ri is not surprisingly below par and Stephanie Lee essentially sleepwalks through her role, the rest of the girls do quite a fine job of highlighting what on the text is already a perky quintet of detectives – Kang Min-Ah’s endearing pizzazz being the highlight. It has a few decent ideas in terms of visual storytelling as well, but moderation is advised. After all, this is not Japan (at least not yet), and we don’t need gimmicks 24/7 to sustain a drama. Definitely shows potential.

HALFTIME REPORT

It's what I feared: this show is increasingly underwritten and blatantly overproduced, and I'm not sure there is anything that can be done to fix it. It's fine to pick a controversial issue every few episodes (such as school bullying) and let the narrative revolve around it. But as the episodes go by it's becoming clear that PD Yeo and his crew are just content compensating for any lack of depth with zany shenanigans, variety-like sound effects and one-dimensional posturing by the actors. What looked like a coy yet intriguing introduction for many characters (Kang Min-Ah and Kim Min-Joon in particular) hasn't progressed in the slightest, to the point that our motley crew of detectives often feels like an accessory to the proceedings and not the protagonists. There are moments where the acting shines in spite of the disappointing writing (Jin Ji-Hee and Kang are too talented to be held down by lazy scripting), but the feeling is always that of witnessing a potentially much better show being sacrificed for the sake of keeping the proceedings very light, breezy and accessible. “Controversy” in a vacuum is not storytelling, and neither is desperately attempting to be cute for no apparent reason. It can be an interesting salad dressing for solid plotting, but if there is very little other than stereotypes sustaining the narrative, it's hard to be compelling. Let's leave that kind of puerile antics to tvN, and stick to what made the premise interesting.

FINALE

As someone who witnessed the media shitstorm which ensued after Noh Hee-Kyung's 슬픈유혹 (Sad Temptation) I can safely say that this media brouhaha over this show's now infamous “lesbian kiss” is relatively tame in comparison. But what I will say is that it's 2015 and not 1999, and to witness a broadcasting commission dedicate an entire motion over an innocent kiss between teenagers – and going all the way to discuss the ethics behind it – is a bit of a wake-up call of just how disgustingly conservative this medium still is, and that while the corporations that dominate this industry try to pretend to be hip and in tune with youth sensibilities, they're still ruled by the same 1960s patriarchal and sexist values that brought us the Miracle on the Han River. I guess you could argue that the entire storyline wasn't even that well integrated and that the producers were merely trying to bank on last-minute shock value (sure enough, that fell flat considering the sub-1% ratings). But to see homosexuality still treated as a prurient taboo subject that could possibly be cause for admonition (one of the five members of the broadcasting commission advocated for a warning) is downright insulting, if not dangerously outrageous. It's sad that this little drama is all it will be remembered for, though. While eschewing the serious genre trappings of the original for the sake of zany, overproduced comedy (here's another sign of its makers trying too hard to appeal to an audience they don't understand), the ragtag team of detectives did have its share of charms, and at least two major talents in Jin Ji-Hee and Kang Min-Ah – the less said about the rest of the “roster,” the better. Turning relatively more serious in the final episodes shows how much untapped potential this concept had, but alas it was a case of too little, too late. With all that being said, still a much better effort than the masturbatory “brand profiling” of your average tvN show, and even most trendies on network TV. A failed experiment, but definitely a worthwhile one.

ACTING GRADES

72 강민아 (Kang Min-Ah)
71 진지희 (Jin Ji-Hee)
64 김혜나 (Kim Hye-Na)
61 김민준 (Kim Min-Joon)
60 김하재 (Kim Ha-Jae)
60 황석정 (Hwang Seok-Jung)
60 조시윤 (Jo Si-Yoon)
60 김성윤 (Kim Sung-Yoon)
60 이승연 (Lee Seung-Yeon)
60 장기용 (Jang Gi-Yong)
60 최덕문 (Choi Deok-Moon)
56 한지안 (Han Ji-An)
55 한예준 (Han Ye-Joon)
50 헤이니 (Heyne)
44 혜리 (Hye-Ri)
38 Stephanie Lee

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