*I’m summarizing an interesting news report article written by Taiwanese media discussing about this new slew of “career-drama” wave and also adding on my input to it. I will put my own input into a (bracket) with “TN – translation note”.
Lately, there have been a significant change in Taiwanese dramaland which is mostly known for their rom-coms, there’s a wave of “career-focused” dramas such as Ihero (鑑識英雄), Wake Up (麻醉風暴), Long Day’s Journey Into Light （出境事務所） and upcoming Hakka-investigation drama Sunset (落日). It shows that TV producers are trying to make a change to the current drama scene as gradually, Taiwanese dramas have been losing its viewers to Korean, Japanese and US dramas because most Taiwanese dramas tend to limit themselves to romance genre (TN: *coughSETTVcough*).
Alternate genres are fresh and require high-budget. Lacking interest from TV stations.
However, TV stations are not confident about these new genres as they think that local viewers are more comfortable watching romance genres, which will get a stable rating despite drama rating have been gradually dropping over the years as many youngsters watch dramas on the web. For example, Ihero had a hard time finding a broadcasting slot in TV stations despite having the filming completed for over a year, higher-ups of TV stations expressed their doubts about this new genre even though it’s a high-budget production.
The producer of Long Day’s Journey Into Light also faced the same problem, getting rejected by TV stations when she first submitted the script 8 years ago, the higher-ups were worried about the death topic being too somber and sensitive for local viewers. Long Day’s Journey Into Light drama producer believes that TV stations shouldn’t “limit themselves” and “do not stop producing to create new forces (open new opportunities)”.
Not enough professional talents. Elevating the difficulty of filming process.
Producer of Ihero stated that they often faces lots of barriers in drama production such as not able to find a suitable screenwriter, part of them are unwilling to spend so much time on writing difficult and tedious criminal cases for the drama, it’s also difficult to find director who are able to direct crime procedural dramas as most TV directors are not experienced with such genres. Upcoming drama, Sunset also faces such issues as Taiwanese TV screenwriters are not experienced enough to convert the true cases handled by the famed Taiwanese forensic investigator, Yang Ri-Song into drama scripts. In the end, they had to recruit movie screenwriters to write their drama script.
Viewers tired of rom-coms. Changing Viewing habits.
Producer of Sunset have observed that Taiwanese idol rom-com dramas are slowing heading its end as ratings have been gradually dropping and it’s difficult to make a breakthrough through their rom-com genre. Many local viewers are getting disappointed with Taiwanese drama scene as they’ve been showing similar types of dramas over the last few years so it’s difficult to regain their trust on local dramas. Producer of Long Day’s Journey Into Light thinks that TV stations will be killing themselves if they continue to purchase overseas dramas.
(TN: TV stations will be slowly dying if they do not produce their own dramas as many viewers have already watched overseas contents through the web, not many people rely on TV anymore. Creative contents are what makes TV stations alive but sadly, Taiwanese investors are not confident enough in “breakthrough” genres, which is proven true to a certain extent as rom-coms have their own stable audience even though ratings are a lot lower as compared to the past. Dramas like Ihero and Wake Up are not getting the ratings they deserve.
I feel that TV stations are too quick to give up based on ratings alone, they should slowly cultivate viewers habit of watching alternative genres besides rom-com. It will be a slow but painful process, it even may take years for local viewers to trust Taiwanese dramas quality in terms of career-themed dramas but I feel it will open up new opportunities for the local drama scene.).
Viewers habits are changing, they are more reliant on web sources, many of them start to watch dramas over the web rather than on TV. Taiwanese dramas not only have to face the competition of other local dramas but also overseas dramas as career-theme dramas are already a “symbol” and hit-guarantee in their own countries, such as American TV series, CSI, Japanese series, Hanzawa Naoki and Korean’s Pinnochio. (TN: They’re already ahead of Taiwanese dramas in terms of years of experience in filming career-themed dramas.)
Producer of Wake Up believes that producers should “think globally with localized contents” for their dramas. For example, Long Day’s Journey Into Light are available on Youtube official channel and also on Line TV, which is a rare feat for Taiwanese dramas to be available online. (TN: I think it’s becoming a trend as even Ihero uploads HD episodes on their official Youtube channel, Even SETTV’s Murphy’s Law of Love have made themselves available on Line TV. They should really do that for SETTV dramas too…)
How far can alternate genres go? Producers need more courage.
It’s stated that Ihero will be filming their second season by the end of this year and it’s slated to be released somewhere next year. The producer have revealed that they’ll be investing more money for the second season and expressed that, “It needs a lot of courage to do that”. Producer of Sunset feels that Taiwanese dramas are just taking their first step in alternate genres, they need about 10 more such dramas to observe the possibility of going far with such genres. This year’s Golden Bell Awards may be the key to increase public awareness of alternate genres if their dramas can grab a few nominations or awards, it will help such genres to develop further with increased public interests.
In conclusion, Taiwanese dramas have to find ways to regain their lost viewers – drama producers have to put in more effort, foster professional talents and TV stations to have more courage to try new things – all are equally important.
(TN: Many dramas are aiming for 50th Golden Bell awards this year, which includes the currently airing TVBS political-themed drama, Youth Power (哇！陳怡君). I have a gut feeling that alternate genres will be grabbing many nominations this year. Especially Long Day’s Journey Into Light and Wake Up, these are really good dramas. Ihero is a good try for Taiwanese drama but it also shows their lack of experience in terms of writing criminal cases as the cases are a little bit too simplistic, I hope that they’ll improve through 2nd season.)