Tbh, I started off Producers‘ ep1, then shelved it for many weeks before picking up again — and shelving it again within the next 2 eps. In my case, I think the off-putting part is in those meta-references. Since I watch in Mandarin-subs, it is very, very difficult to gel names and titles (which I am more familiar with in English) with their Chinese counterparts. And so, for the first 3 eps, the ha-ha(s) are totally lost on me.
Maybe Producers envisages the problem too, by changing director midway, and tweaking the plot to shift Producers onto familiar rom-com territory. The stylistic change is rather obvious: there’s virtually no more (ok, MUCH fewer) of the fake-documentary/ interview going on, we go back to being omnipresent without being obvious about it, and the scope reduces to the main 4 characters and their interactions.
That said, even though much of the insiders’ jokes on real-life PDs, actors, etc are dropped, Producers still manages to provide us glimpses into the dirty, gritty background work of entertainment production. Unlike drama productions, which we know can be a nightmare with all the set/wardrobe procurements, and long scripts to memorise (sageuks’ scripts prob are worse), variety productions are thought to be “simpler”. Not so, really. Producers reveals the behind the scenes co-ordination, the pre-shoot game testings, people management, etc that all have to work within the “approved guidelines” set by the govt.
Ironically, even though Producers is about variety production, other than a few choice scenes, most of what has happened in the 8eps happened in the office/ home settings. Thankfully, Producers has a stellar cast that prevents it from getting boring. And the main reason why I chose to put aside other shows to marathon Producers is its strength in characterisations.
Baek Seung-chan (Kim Soo-hyun), aka the geeky maknae. We identify with him from ep1, as he arrives at KBS for his first day at work. We see through his eyes and receives his point of view on the colourful characters that people the Variety Department, how the Variety engines work, the pecking order of the company. A little awed, a bit scared and very out of our comfort zone — exactly like how I felt when I first started work.
Of cos, as the plot progresses, he learns and catches on the quirks of his bosses, his peers and what are expected of him. And more importantly, what he can get away with. I find those little petty actions like glaring at Joon-mo (in a side eye), “poisoning” his coffee with sugar syrup overdose, and keeping the mints from PD Hong-soon hilarious. But then again, these may be what he can do to make himself a leetle bit happier without getting in trouble. (haven’t we all done that at some time at work? maybe juz not as childish as Seung-chan’s actions)
Seung-chan’s puppy love towards PD Ye-jin besides being overdosed-sugary-syrupy-sweet, reveals Ye-jin’s onion-like personality. We are introduced to her in ep1 as someone who is no-nonsense, a little scary and overall competent. Only to find out later that she has this really, soft centre. Yes, she can be calculative and penny pinching, plus she tends to shoot her mouth off, but she also has this sensitive side which doesn’t take negative criticisms very well. She tries not to show that she is affected by the online gossips after Cindy’s accident, and plays it cool with Joon-mo’s “rejection”, but she is those who wear their hearts on their sleeves. It’s so obvious that she is upset, and who should always see her at her worst, but resident puppy, Seung-chan.
In contrast, Joon-mo is much better at putting a lid on his feelings. On the surface, he juz appears to be too lazy to care, and takes Ye-jin and her presence for granted. But he is also the person who knows Ye-jin’s weaknesses (and strengths) best. His interactions with her are akin to an old married couple. He completes her sentences, and knows when to cover and fib for her. A perfect example is when he knocks Manager Kim on the head with a traffic cone in ep8 — on the pretext that he thought Manager Kim is a stalker or bad person after Ye-jin. However, I believe he has heard the conversation between Manager Kim and Ye-jin, and knows that Ye-jin has been backed into a corner. Thus he comes to her rescue (of another form).
Last character in our quadruple relationship: Cindy. Admittedly, I didn’t like her initially. She was set out to represent those young idols who unfortunately let Fame get into their heads and become totally horrid people. However, we gradually sympathise with her as her icy façade cracks. Years of being marketed as a commodity have made Cindy very jaded, and her lifestyle (and line of job) makes sustaining any interpersonal relationships difficult. Thus, not surprising that she doesn’t have friends, despite having a large fan base. I’m not too sure whether Seung-chan will end up with her, but what is apparent at this stage is he has become a reason for her to re-examine her life. After a very long time, Cindy finally wants to feel happy again, and to do that, she has to become more human and less of a porcelain doll.
Besides the main 4 characters, other really delightful characters that pepper Producers are bootlicker, PD Hong-soon and his loveline (?) with le Stationery Witch, Ko Yang-mi. The Evil Stepmother, CEO Byun and her hapless minions. Hwaiting, Producers! And meanwhile, I will also catch Na PD’s Three Meals — which is aired in the same time slot. 😛