It’s not an underestimate to say that “Arthdal Chronicles” was THE most anticipated 2019 kdrama. Ever since the news was confirmed back in late 2018, fans have been anxiously waiting to see the final product including me.
The drama was seriously hyped as one of the biggest Korean productions ever having cost approx. $50 million to make, expectations were high but the drama failed to capture the Korean public attention and failed to score good ratings as anticipated.
In a rough comparison to another high budget tvN drama, we have “Mr. Sunshine” Which cost about $36 million to make. “Mr. Sunshine” started off with high ratings and continued to get better ratings as time went by. It is now one of the highest rated cable channel dramas of ALL TIME.
Another high budget drama “Memories of the Alhambra” which cost about $17 million to make also scored better. The drama wavered around 8-10% which is also still great considering the amount of backlash it had gotten for having a sloppy script.
This is why I and many others thought tvN knew this would be a hit, hence investing so much money into a drama about a period in time that no other kdrama had ever attempted to explore.
“Arthdal Chronicles” wavered between 5%-7% in ratings for season one and two. For a drama with a budget of $50 million, that’s bad. Not to say its downright awful but bad nonetheless.
How come this happened? And why did the drama fail to capture the public’s attention?
Today I shall talk about the reasons why I believe “Arthdal Chronicles” failed to become the hit everyone had thought it would.
Note: this article is about my own thoughts on why it got these ratings. I am not stating facts but speculating on the reasons that led to these numbers. also, this is not to say the drama is awful, bad or to discredit everyone who worked hard on it. Its an analysis of why I believe it didn’t get the amount of attention it deserved. I am a fan of this drama.
Note: beware of slight spoilers of part 1 and 2.
“Arthdal Chronicles” was overhyped the moment the casting news came out. Fans miss both Kim Ji Won and Song Joong Ki, the two have been away from the spotlight for a while and everyone was looking forward to seeing them on the small screen again and together.
The drama was then named one of the most expensive kdrama productions ever which set the bar way too high already. A lot of people expected the drama to be out of this world because it cost almost $50 million to make.
When the drama started rolling out teasers they looked super cool. The theme was unfamiliar but fans were super excited, everything looked cool and fresh. This was the first kdrama that talked about this period of time.
The drama premiered to such high expectations, the first couples of episodes were hard to understand according to netizens. Naturally, the higher your expectations are the more you’ll be disappointed if things don’t turn out the way you expect them to be, and that was certainly the case with many people.
Everybody talks about uniqueness and how little there is of that in recent kdramas but there is comfort in familiarity. Human beings naturally gravitate toward familiar things.
This is why often kdramas with cliché plots that are beyond overused still do well with both the international and national community. The more weird and unfamiliar a concept is, the harder it becomes to comprehend.
I have read many Korean netizens comments and one of the main complaints of viewers in the first episodes was just how confusing and unfamiliar everything was.
There were dialects, many people of different breeds and nations, and the show had an hour and 20 minutes to try and impress you and at the same time help you understand what was happening.
Personally speaking, I had the asianwiki tab right next to the drama tab whilst watching the first couple of episodes on my computer because there were too much information and so many characters. I struggled to keep up.
What made it worse was that many of these characters were unbeknownst to us and we had to figure out who was who (mainly rapper ONE whom I struggled to understand what character he was playing at first). There is only so much attention you can give a drama that’s almost one hour and a half.
People watch to be entertained and generally speaking don’t like investing too much time trying to figure out what they’re watching in order to start enjoying it. Such a behavior is something you expect from a drama that has already familiarized itself with its audience.
The issue with “Arthdal Chronicles” is that it was difficult to understand in the first episodes and became so much of a chore; you need patience to continue watching to get to the meat of the story. Not everybody has time and energy to waste so much time to start enjoying something they’re supposed to enjoy in the first episodes.
A Boring Introduction
I talked about familiarity before but I wanted to take this section to address an issue I found with part 1 plot, it’s boring!
That’s not to say that EVERY part of the drama is boring but the first couple of episodes are very difficult to get through. Add to that the length of each episode; it’s almost one hour and a half consistently.
It feels like it’s not going anywhere from episode two to episode four. All the meat for part one happens in the first episode and episode 2, 3, and 4 are just characters marveling at the civilization of another, crying, talking stuff no one understands and people getting killed.
There are events in each episode that are important throughout part 1 but a lot of scene fillers that if extracted wouldn’t have affected the drama much.
I believe that since the first part was rather boring and difficult to understand many had given up already.
In any series or drama anywhere around the world if interest subsides within the first couple of episodes it takes a miracle to garner people’s attention again. Interest for many kdramas is at its peak at first, and if it’s interesting and captivating in the first episodes then interest only increases with time.
A good example is the biggest cable kdrama of all time, “SKY Castle.” In case you’re unaware, this drama started out with less than %2 in ratings and through word of mouth got more attention. It finished at 20% in ratings with its final episode and became the highest rated cable kdrama of all time.
Generally speaking, many kdrama fans will watch anything if it has their fav actor or actress and we’re generally more forgiving and patient unlike Koreans who can pick and choose and are rather more forward with their thoughts on certain kdramas.
Comparison To “Game Of Thrones”
Getting compared to one of the BIGGEST series of all time is rather burdensome and can take a toll on any good production.
Prior to “Arthdal Chronicles” premiere, tvN released various teasers and fans noticed just how similar the setting and outfits of the main characters are to the famous series “Game Of Thrones.”
Here are the photos that circulated online:
As you can see it’s far too similar to just call it bluffing. While the actual story has nothing to do with “Game Of Thrones”, “Arthdal Chronicles” was up to a bad start being compared to “Game Of Thrones.”
I saw a handful of online comments by netizens who were embarrassed to see a drama that had 50$ million budget had so many similarities to one of the biggest series of all time. Many called that ‘embarrassing.’
I admit, at first, I was embarrassed. I laughed when I saw the photos but was also sad to see that they couldn’t come up with their own ideas. However, having watched “Arthdal Chronicles” I can tell you that they’re nothing alike.
There is also a very good explanation for why they chose these outfits. They might’ve been inspired by “Game Of Thrones” a bit but there is nothing more to that.
Since ratings for part 1 and 2 were rather lackluster I wonder how tvN plans on handling part 3. From my own experience, if no one is paying attention to a series enough to garner profit, the studios usually end it. I highly doubt tvN would do that, but at the same time I am curious to see how they plan on
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This is the end of this article. Thank you so much for reading.
Now its your turn, tell me why you think “Arthdal Chronicles” failed to live up to expectations and why it failed to get good ratings. I would like to hear more about what you guys think.