The latest fall line-up adds fuel to this season`s ratings race.
KBS` "IRIS" - an espionage thriller of cinematic proportions - stands out from the crowd. Backed by an all-star cast, three scriptwriters and two directors, the much-talked-about series promises to live up to its hype and nab top notch ratings when it starts its 20-episode run on Wednesday.
Starting tonight, SBS` much-hyped "Angel`s Temptation" may relive the success of its scriptwriter`s previous blockbuster "Cruel Temptation" a.k.a. "Temptation of Wife." A new timeslot - it airs at 8:50 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. - enables it to sidestep the formidable MBC Monday and Tuesday night series, "The Great Queen Seondeok."
This Saturday, both KBS and MBC revamped their weekend line-up with two new series. KBS` "Yeolhyeol Jangsaggun" charts the highly ambitious escapades of a car salesman. MBC`s "Seeking Love" orchestrates an unlikely romance between a lawyer and a doctor.
A press conference last week - "IRIS" actor Lee Byung-hun says it`s their third - unveiled a near 50-minute preview of a complex and multi-layered take on the world of espionage that incorporated three overseas filming locations (China, Hungary, Japan) and high stakes action.
Set up against the classic frame of tense relations between North and South Korea, two groups of agents - one represents the South and the other the North - get entangled into the warped politics of a secret organization called IRIS.
A talented South Korean agent, played by Lee Byung-hun, becomes a pawn in a greater game for power that involves his frenemy-and-fellow agent, the love of his life, a North Korean spy who defects for him and a ruthless assassin who is hot on his trail.
"Love Story in Harvard" sweetheart Kim Tae-hee plays his love interest. "Marrying the Mafia" star Jung Joon-ho plays the frenemy agent. "Sikgaek" actress Kim So-yeon channels "Swiri" as a North Korean spy who falls for someone from the other side. And K-pop icon Choi Seung-hyun a.k.a. T.O.P of boy band BIGBANG showcases his sniper skills as a skilled assassin.
At the press conference, "G.I. Joe" actor Lee revealed his take on his role as NSS agent Kim Hyun-jun: "In the drama, there are set circumstances. There are around two extreme situations. So, what kind of changes does my character undergo because of these situations?"
"There is a lot of practical action," Lee fielded a question about the type of action to expect from "IRIS." "I think you will be able to see a lot of action that is similar to that of a Bond series."
Espionage, drastic events and gritty action, however, does mean that "IRIS" should be pigeonholed as a dark and heavy piece. According to co-star Jung Joon-ho, the series is not entirely devoid of humor.
"We deliberately tried to go a bit light and fun," said Jung, who added that in the scenes where he and Lee are in training, they did a bit of comedic ad-libbing.
The bantering between co-stars Lee and Kim Tae-hee also merited a few laughs during the preview screening last week. A scene where Kim`s character, NSS profiler Choi Seung-hee, outdrinks Lee`s Kim Hyun-jun, in particular, elicited a positive reaction from the audience.
"I think the charm of my character is that even though she is an agent, she still pouts and gets into childish love fights," Kim Tae-hee said after revealing that during a close-up shot of Lee in the drinking scene, real soju was accidently imbibed.
While the blossoming romance between Kim`s and Lee`s characters promises to add some spice to the series, it is the interplay between agents and the covert operation orchestrated by IRIS that promises to be the centerpiece of the upcoming series.
Meanwhile, SBS` new Monday and Tuesday night series is bringing back some good old-fashioned revenge with "Angel`s Temptation."
Oft-referred to as a male version of scriptwriter Kim Soon-ok`s "Cruel Temptation," Kim`s latest work incorporates a near fatal car accident as the impetus behind the hero`s transformation from sweet loving husband (initially played by "My Too Perfect Sons" actor Han Sang-jin) into a vindictive Monte Cristo type (played by "Brilliant Legacy" heartthrob Bae Soo-bin).
The use of two actors to portray one hero - "Cruel Temptation" had one actress play the pre- and post-accident heroine - and a timeslot that enables it to avoid direct competition with "The Great Queen Seondeok" may be enough to ensure the series a steady run.
With the highly successful KBS series "My Too Perfect Sons" now over, MBC`s latest weekend series "Seeking Love" can compete for the top weekend ratings spot. Headed by former girl group S.E.S member-turned-actress Eugene, "Seeking Love," which is based on a romance novel, aired its first episode on Saturday.
Eugene plays a Korean immigrant living in Australia who announces that she wants to marry her Caucasian boyfriend, and is consequently shuttled off to Korea, the star revealed at a press conference last week.
"Then she meets a Korean guy and tries to avoid having to marry him," Eugene added.
"Terroir" actor Ki Tae-young will be playing the doctor who is set up with Eugene`s lawyer.
In a less romantic vein, KBS` new weekend series "Yeolhyeol Jangsaggun" charts a car dealership employee`s struggle for success. "East of Eden" actor Park Hae-jin heads a cast that includes "Cain and Abel" actress Chae Jung-an and "My Wife is a Superwoman" actor Choi Cheol-ho.
"IRIS" airs on Wednesday night on KBS 2 TV at 9:55 p.m.
"Angel`s Temptation" airs tonight on SBS at 8:50 p.m.
"Seeking Love" airs on Saturdays and Sundays on MBC at 7:55 p.m.
"Yeolhyeol Jangsaggun" airs on Saturdays at 10:15 p.m. and Sundays at 10:25 p.m. on KBS 2 TV.
By Jean Oh