Monday, 27 October 2014

Currently Watching: Liar Game

With all the debate about the Korean remake of Nodame Cantabile, I didn’t notice that there’s another J-drama remake airing on Korean TV this season: Liar Game. I was baffled by this, not because I thought there was anything wrong with Korean TV remaking another Japanese series, but because Korean TV has, effectively, already remade this Japanese series. I’m talking about The Genius, of course.

The three bad guys. Top, the Japanese TV original. 
Middle, The Genius version. Bottom, the Korean drama version.

So I watched the first two episodes, and it was interesting to see what had changed. Clearly, since The Genius took the faceless leader, emotionless dealers, and techno soundtrack from the Japanese Liar Game, the Korean version had to rethink things a bit.

This time, the battle of wits does not happen in a strange industrial wasteland but is played out as part of a reality TV show. Also, the bad guy is not hidden behind a mask behind a TV screen, but is a real person who interacts with the other players.

In that sense, at least, I think it’s an improvement. And with each episode of the Korean version being almost half as long as the Japanese one, there’s more time to explain the games and explore the consequences. It also explains more about the lives of the people involved, which is nice.

In another sense, though, this is much like a lot of other Korean TV dramas. A ditzy but good-natured woman falls in love with a cold, distant man. Strings play in the background, people throw things when they argue, and there are hardly any crash zooms like there were in the Japanese original (every five minutes, as I recall).

It’s too soon how things will progress, and it’ll be interesting to see how they fill up 20 or so hour-long episodes. I assume they’ll be using games from the manga which weren’t in the Japanese drama, or maybe they’ll remake series one and two together. Otherwise, it's going to be awfully slow. [EDIT: Actually, it looks like there'll be only half that. That's a bit of a relief.]

The Japanese version was one of the first J-dramas I watched and it was an early favourite. But, on balance, I think the Korean version might actually be slightly better. At least for the first two episodes.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Currently Watching: The Genius: Black Garnet

Perhaps my most anticipated TV event recently has not been the new series of Doctor Who, nor the World Cup. Instead it was the new series of a game show on Korean TV which has bewitched me ever since I luckily found out about it while surfing various TV forums.

The Genius pits thirteen contestants against each other in a variety of games that require a mix of game theory, probabilities and social skills in order to understand the game and then build an alliance that might help you win the game.

The new element to the game this season is The Black Garnet – a gem that, if you have three of them, allows you to take part in a one-off solo game instead of being nominated for the Death Match and therefore possible elimination. The benefit being that you can chose what kind of solo match you take part in.

This new rule – a bit like the Hyperspace option in old arcade games, which would get you out of a tricky situation, but with a 20% chance of dying on re-entry – is the main difference in this new series. The rest is much as before.

The production team have been more careful in their selection of contestants. Apparently in season two there was a tendancy for the showbiz types to form an alliance against the non-showbiz competitors. This time, the contestants have been drawn from a wider range of lifestyles.

It’s very early days for season three, but the first episode seems to be a smooth transition, with the same amount of tension and sabotage as in previous seasons. This looks like another winner for The Genius brand, and I’m going to be clicking on the link to Bumbdidlyumptious' tumblr far more than is necessary in the vain hope that something new has been posted. Perhaps an advert or a little extra scene. Anything to satisfy my hunger for this show.

It’s going to be a rollercoaster made out of emotions, friendships, betrayal and mathematics. Surely, with those ingredients, nothing can go wrong.