Geum Yi

Can a re-edit save ‘Saimdang’ from its downward spiral?

February 14, 2017

SEOUL, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) — Unless you’ve managed expectations, by now its safe to say that “Saimdang, Memoir of Colors,” SBS TV’s ambitious fantasy period drama starring Lee Young-ae, has yielded underwhelming results.

The 30-episode show centers on Shin Saimdang (1504-1551), Korea’s maternal icon associated with raising the Korean Confucian scholar Yulgok of the Joseon Dynasty. The series made headlines for bringing Lee of the famed show “Daejanggeum” back to TV for the first time in 14 years.

A promotional image for "Saimdang, Memoir of Colors" provided by SBS TV

A promotional image for “Saimdang, Memoir of Colors” provided by SBS TV

“Saimdang” actually kicked off strong, with first two episodes scoring 15.6 percent and 16.3 percent nationwide viewerships, respectively.

But its ratings dropped for three-straight broadcasts until rebounding slightly in last week’s episode six. And as the show bled viewers, many have gravitated towards rival office comedy series “Good Manager” on KBS 2TV.

Thus “Saimdang” clearly has a serious issue at hand, a “too big to fail” problem for the network, especially with 24 episodes remaining for the show being broadcast simultaneously in many parts around the world.

So what do the showrunners do? They decided to re-edit the entirety of the series for a much more engaging and impactful viewing experience.

According to SBS TV, the show has been re-edited up to episode 14.

“We are editing the show so that it has more impact. We are revising and complementing the plot to lift its tempo and also rearranging episodes,” an official at SBS TV said.

This composite image captured from SBS TV's "Saimdang, Memoir of Colors" shows the series' main cast.

This composite image captured from SBS TV’s “Saimdang, Memoir of Colors” shows the series’ main cast.

Reworking “Saimdang” won’t be an easy task, to say the least. The series’ plot moves along two different time lines — one in modern day and one in Joseon era when the actual Shin Saimdang lived — and is supposedly intricately interwoven.

Aesthetically, “Saimdang” is shot beautifully, showcasing some of the most picturesque cinematography in recent TV shows. And watching Lee glow back on TV in a hanbok is a rare treat in itself.

But at the same time, many have complained that the plot was slow and disconnected, even raising issues with the performance of actress Park Hye-soo, who played the young Shin Saimdang.

The show’s team is betting big that an edit rework will rejuvenate the show.

“The plot will pick up the pace with the appearance of Song Seung-heon (Lee’s counterpart) and a discord structure set in place,” a person involved in the production said.

This promotional image provided by SBS TV shows actor Song Seung-heon as Lee Gyeom in "Saimdang, Memoir of Colors."

This promotional image provided by SBS TV shows actor Song Seung-heon as Lee Gyeom in “Saimdang, Memoir of Colors.”

Song plays Saimdang’s Joseon Dynasty admirer Lee Gyeom, a fictional character created for the show. Song has been credited for the boosting the show’s rating in episode six.

In order to add momentum, SBS TV last week made the series’ first four episodes available free online until Monday, while airing a special daytime episode last week recapping the plot to-date for latecomers to the series.

SBS TV said the free shows and the special episode were to help viewers better understand the plot and assure them that the “Saimdang” story will begin in earnest from this week.