KBS’ new Monday and Tuesday night drama series, “Dream High,” boasts all the trappings of a JYP Entertainment vehicle, despite Hallyu star Bae Yong-joon’s sizeable role in the enterprise.
Four JYPE singers will be starring in the series, with their company head, Park Jin-young, making his acting debut alongside them.
Music mogul Park will also be serving as music and dance director for the TV drama and his company, JYP Entertainment, is co-producing the series in conjunction with CJ Media under a joint venture formed by his company and Bae Yong-joon’s agency, Keyeast.
While the age-old adage warns, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” the unveiling of the long-awaited series at the drama’s press conference Monday did little to dispel notions that “Dream High” is more-or-less a platform for its overwhelming cast of JYPE idols and their leader.
Actor Bae Yong-joon (left) and producer Park Jin-young pose at a press conference for their new, co-producing KBS drama series, “Dream High,” at KINTEX in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
“‘Dream High’ is very close to reality,” JYPE’s 2PM member Taec-yeon compared the tale of a group of aspiring art school students to the actual experience of training to become a K-pop idol.
“There are a lot of similarities between the drama and a real entertainment management agency,” the 22-year old drew from his JYPE background. “Rivalry between students is featured in the drama, just like in real life.”
“Dream High” scriptwriter Park Hye-ryeon also referenced the major entertainment goliath, revealing that she researched entertainment companies for the upcoming series.
“There were no specific schools that the drama’s art school was modeled after, though they did serve as models in general,” she said. “I think that the school featured in the drama was more modeled after entertainment companies like JYPE.”
“Dream High” actress Ham Eun-jung, a member of the popular girl group T-ara, pinpointed “song and dance” as the defining difference between the drama and other series, which in turn, means that music and dance director Park will play a crucial role as the series’ tastemaker.
“I invested a lot of time in the drama’s soundtrack,” Park said. “Six of my own songs will be in the series.”
According to Park, a total of 10 new songs complete with choreography will be featured in the drama.
In contrast, Bae, a major shareholder of Keyeast, is focusing on his role as creative producer and will only be guest starring in “Dream High,” with fellow agency actor Kim Soo-hyun taking a lead role in the upcoming series.
Despite Bae’s vast involvement in the series, the highlight reel gave the press a sneak peek of a project that ― at least, externally ― was chock full of JYPE stars.
2PM members Taec-yeon and Woo-young showcased a jazzed-up b-boy battle characteristic of their boy band’s hip image.
Heartthrob Taec-yeon also got his moment of onscreen glory when his lead character, Jin-gook, effortlessly jumped over a car in super slow motion, a scene that elicited deafening screams from the hoards of fans who attended the press event at Ilsan’s KINTEX.
Suzy, a member of JYPE’s and sub label AQ Entertainment’s newly-minted girl group Miss A, got one glossy close-up after another as the heroine of the series.
In between the JYPE idol-heavy scenes, however, flashes of a plot with substance emerged, hinting at a tale of a motley crew of teenagers grappling for their chance at fame.
Running under a premise that recalls the classic musical film, “Fame,” a diverse group of kids vie to enter the famed Kirin Art School through open auditions.
A kid from overseas who lives and breathes dance (Woo-young), an aspiring opera singer whose hopes have been dashed by financial troubles (Suzy), a rebel punk who finds escape through dance (Taec-yeon), and a lovestruck kid from the countryside (Kim Soo-hyun) find themselves battling it out and coming together in their mutual dreams for stardom.
Female Idol IU and T-ara’s Ham Eun-jung will also be playing students in the series, giving rise to doubts about the quality of a work fronted by so many acting newbies and singers.
K-pop princess IU aptly nabbed what advantage K-pop stars may have over thespians in such a series when she said: “I wanted to do ‘Dream High’ because it is about stars-in-training and I think singers can best express how stars-in-training feel.”
Not only will singers, in essence, be playing themselves, but the drama is taking on the kind of on-edge tension of reality shows like “SuperstarK’ by staying mum about which of the characters will be the one who goes on to become an Grammy Award-winning international star.
“Who K is has been decided, but none of the cast knows who that is,” scriptwriter Park said of the mystery star lead.
“Dream High” starts airing Jan. 3 on Mondays and Tuesdays on KBS 2 TV at 9:55 p.m.
By Jean Oh (email@example.com)