Watching SBS's On Air is akin to watching an exposé, or documentary, on the going-ons inside the Korean entertainment industry. The drama encapsulates the constant struggle between the artistic vision of the director/scriptwriter and production houses and the managers of drama artistes. It is one work which gives viewers an intimate look at the complexity of producing the dramas which all of us of have come to enjoy in our everyday life.
On Air's storyline centres around the lives of 4 persons, Kim Ha Neul, who plays a Korean superstar - Oh Seung Ah, Lee Bum Soo, who plays Seung Ah's manager - Jang Ki Joon, Park Yong Ha, who plays the role of a director - Lee Kyung Min and Song Yoon Ha, who plays the affable and sometimes eccentric scriptwriter - Seo Young Eun.
What I liked about this drama is the way how the romance between the 4 main characters were developed. The feelings among the characters were never the in-your-face, "I Love You" expressions. Instead, what viewers get are subtle hints and tender gestures which expresses the feelings of one character for another.
For example, Jang Ki Joon is always there for Seo Young Eun, from the birth of Young Eun's son to the obstacles she faced when writing the script for Ticket to the Moon, which by the way was drama which the 4 characters are working on in On Air. I shall not touch further on the relationships since saying anything more is tentamount to giving out spoilers. Just enjoy how the relationships unfolds.
Apart from the good character development, viewers will find On Air highly educational in that it shows us a great deal of how the Korean drama industry works and what makes it tick. Entertainment magazines or programmes would have given most of us have a vague idea that stars and their managing companies have a great deal of leverage on production decisions, but what astounded me was how complex and 'dirty' the dealings can get.
Whether it's real or not, I am sure Oh Seung Ah's managing company SW Entertainment gave a good characterisation of how many managing companies are dealing with the production houses in real life. So do be prepared for a lot of ugly backstabbing scenes. Frankly, I find it rather scary how the power struggles are being played out behind the scenes of all the dramas that we are watching in the comfort of our homes.
Perhaps she's superstar includes being herself when she's in public, but Kim Ha Neul has won herself a new fan with her cool and collected performance as a snobbish superstar a la Snow Queenish performance, which Sung Yu Ri sadly failed to do in a similar role - Kim Bo Ra in The Snow Queen. I will definitely be looking out for her dramas in future.
Watch the drama even if your only reason is to understand why black/silver tape is always covering the brands of the vehicles used in the filming of Korean dramas. You'd be surprised at the effort, from the cast to the production team, that goes into bringing one drama to our screens.
Overall, I would rate this drama in the league of Alone In Love and Flowers for My Life, which readers of HelloHallyu would know are the dramas which both Mydaemon and I love. It may not have won the ratings contest, On Air still garners a highly respectable 8.5 out of 10 for me. I highly recommend the drama to readers who enjoys Korean drama. One cannot but have a newfound respect for the artistes and production crew behind each drama.