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Post-Olympian line-up ushers in spring


With the Winter Olympics over, a new set of spring shows are on the way.
KBS kicks off tonight with its Monday and Tuesday night series "The Birth of the Rich." MBC follows it up with the weekend action blockbuster, "The Man They Called God." Mnet`s hit reality show "SuperstarK" is returning for a second season by opening up the phone lines and internet UCC tomorrow for the first round of hopefuls.
Here`s a sneak peek at the new line-up.

"The Man They Called God"

The small screen has had its fair share of comic book rehashes, but perhaps none can match the scale of "The Man They Called God." For those unfamiliar with artist Park Bong-sung`s five-part series (which totals to 350 books), think Batman-meets-Bond.
Revenge plays a huge role in the series, like Batman, the protagonist -Michael King a.k.a. Choi Kang-ta - witnessed his father`s death. Unlike Batman, the culprit was not one man but four. After 25 years, King is out for vengeance and he doesn`t need a black rubber suit to exact it.
"Prince of the Legend" star Song Il-gook tackles the role of King, a hero who, says "The Man They Called God" director Lee Hyeong-seon, makes the switch from "incarnation of revenge" to a more benevolent "patron saint of justice."
"It is not easy to turn a comic series into a drama," said Lee at a press conference on Thursday.
Lee hinted that the drama version will be more toned down than the original, which targeted an adult audience aged 18 (Korean age) or over: "The original has a hard-boiled feel and is strongly suggestive but we cannot do that on air."
Small and big screen hotties Han Chae-young (SBS` 2005 "Only You), Han Go-eun (KBS` "The Reputable Family") and Yoo In-young (KBS` "My Precious You") join King on his crusade, some as his pawns, most as his lovers - or at least as candidates for his love.
And a star-studded cast is just the beginning.
Production costs total a reported 10 billion won ($8.6 million).
Unfortunately, the preview highlight reel that aired at the press conference tasted a decade behind in terms of costume and feel. Whether or not that was intentional - the original comic series started running in 1995 - remains to be seen; meaning, the director and production could be going for a retro vibe.
The success of the series - which is launching in an unconventional time slot for an action blockbuster, weekends are usually reserved for family-oriented series - rides, more or less, on Song.
An MBC press release stated that Song prepared for the role for two years, living in Busan and working out.
"It would not be an understatement to say that last year I lived in the gym, in my efforts to really become Kang-ta," said Song.
Carrying two scrapbooks full of clippings of accessories and looks that King might sport, Song had the air of a method actor deep into his craft. He made no mention of the much-publicized double lawsuit that ended last summer.
For those who need a recap, according to news reports, from 2008 to 2009 Song was sued and then cleared of all charges for the alleged assault of a reporter. In turn Song sued said reporter for libel and won.
No questions about the lawsuits came up at the press conference. The spotlight stayed on Song and his role.
"I am really deep into this project," said the 38-year old actor. "I focus on every little thing on set so it is stressful."
"He special-ordered a bow from someone via an internet club," co-star Han said, fleshing out the details. "When each script comes out he prepares the props... He is very thorough."
According to an MBC press release, while they were filming a horseback riding scene in Hawaii, despite a near scrape with danger, Song insisted on doing the scene himself.
Song also revealed that he has gone off a 15-year near vegetarian diet in order to prep for his role, subsisting primarily on sweet potatoes, chicken breast and eggs.
"It is a very cool role," Song said. "Of course this is a character who could never exist in real life, so I get a thrill from playing him."
Catch Song in "The Man They Called God" on MBC at 9:45 p.m. on Saturday.

"The Birth of the Rich"

Following on the heels of KBS` successful "The Masters of the Art of Study," KBS` new Monday and Tuesday night series "The Birth of the Rich" charts the adventures of a hero who believes that he is a chaebol heir and who eventually becomes wealthy on his own.
"Taming of the Heir" star Ji Hyun-woo goes straight into his next project as the rags-to-riches lead. "Once Upon A Time" Lee Bo-young returns to the small screen after a three year hiatus as a penny-pinching heiress, but it is "Boys Over Flowers" actress Lee Si-young who promises to steal the spotlight as a Paris Hilton-esque rich girl.
"She is bright and audacious and a bit comical," said Lee Si-young at a press conference last Monday.
Just coming off a melodramatic stint as the other woman in the popular SBS series "Love you thousand times," Lee voiced her desire for a more upbeat role: "I liked that she was a comical character the most. I wanted to do something fun."
"I did some things differently from what was scripted," Lee said. "For example the way she speaks. I changed it to a bit of a high tone and speak fast."
When asked if she modeled her character after someone, she answered: "Not in particular... I watched a lot of Hae-ri on `High Kick Through the Roof.`"
To catch Lee tune into "The Birth of the Rich" on KBS 2 TV tonight at 9:55 p.m.

"SuperstarK 2"

The reality show that nabbed viewer shares of up to 8.47 percent is back. Starting tomorrow, hopefuls can sign up for the first round of auditions for "SuperstarK 2" by dialing into 1600-0199 or going`s UCC.
The second and third round of auditions will be held in Daejeon, Incheon, Daegu, Gwangju, Chuncheon, Jeju Island, Busan and Seoul starting April.
This time around the winner will get 200 million won ($172,548) in prize money, an album, a special stage appearance at the 2010 MAMA (Mnet Asian Music Awards) and connections with top entertainment agencies.
Dubbed the Korean version of "American Idol," the first season of music channel Mnet`s "SuperstarK" aired from July to October.

By Jean Oh

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Korea Herald daum