If, a year ago, you’d have told me I’d have spent the equivalent of a day and a half watching sub-titled so-called ‘K-Drama’, I’d have laughed in your face. But I have, and here’s why.
I was introduced to the delights of South Korean television drama when I bemoaned the end of the US drama Designated Survivor, a series starring Kiefer Sutherland who becomes President in somewhat unusual circumstances. Someone on Twitter got in touch to say there was a South Korean remake, called Designated Survivor 60 Days. Kiefer Sutherland turns into Ji Jin-hee, a university academic who, as Park Mu-Jin, is thrust from university academic turned Minister for the Environment into the position of South Korean President. After half an hour I was hooked. I’m fairly used to watching foreign TV programmes with subtitles and can usually pick up a few words of the native language, but not here. From watching more than 40 hours I don’t think I’ve picked up a single word.
The next K-Drama I embarked on was Crash Landing On You, which gets off to a somewhat implausible start when Yoon Se-ri, a young glamorous South Korean businesswoman, involved in a Dallas style family row over who should succeed her father in running the family business empire, decides to go paragliding. As you do. She jumps off a cliff, but she sails into a powerful tornado which sweeps her into crash-landing miles away. In North Korea.
Yup, as I said, implausible, but the storyline develops from there and she is discovered by a handsome North Korean army captain, Ri Jeung-hyeok. He protects her, their relationship develops, and you can guess the rest. I’m not selling this very well, am I ? But it has the addictive qualities – yes, qualities – of a soap and has some interesting angles on what life in North Korea is really like, even if you have to discount it a little given that it’s seen through a South Korean prism. One thing that slightly grates is the product placement. I doubt for instance that a top of the range Jaguar is the car of choice of top North Korean army officers, or whether Range Rovers are very common on the streets of Pyong Yang.
Given the rise of K-Drama and the worldwide popularity of the South Korean boyband BTS, the country is rapidly developing into a real cultural hub.
I’ve already bookmarked two more series of K-Drama – Chief of Staff and Sky Castle. You know it makes sense.
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Feedback, Radio 4
If ever I start throwing my head back and thinking ‘why, oh why, oh why?’ for some reason my brain starts thinking about listening to any random episode of Feedback. Virtually every part of it could be preceded with this question. In some ways it represents what the BBC is best at – navel gazing and self-analysis, but there’s something rather endearing about it. Its remit is to give its audience the chance to send in their views about BBC radio shows, but inevitably it’s almost always about Radio 4.
Radio listeners are very conservative beasts. They hate change.
Woe betide any Radio 4 controller who tries to tinker with a Radio 4 schedule that has barely changed in 50 years. I exaggerate to make a point. Roger Bolton, the long time host of Feedback – he’s been doing the job since 1834 – has a favourite phrase: “We asked the BBC to provide someone to talk about why Woman’s Hour featured an interview with a man but no one was available.” Edgy stuff. A recent innovation on the programme has been to introduce a section where two Radio 4 listeners are “taken out of their comfort zone” and forced to listen to three programmes they might not normally listen to. It’s the latest example of the BBC trying to introduce “real people” into its programming. It’s not exactly ‘down wiv da kidz’, particularly when they keep using the same people – all inevitably very middle class. Perish the thought that Wayne in Dagenham should ever get a look in.
Bolton is at his best when he’s interviewing BBC editors or paper pushers. And he does actually get some answers. Long may he reign, because as we all know, once day he’ll be replaced by someone to attract a ‘yoof’ audience. And that will signal the end of Feedback as we know it. And no one wants that.
Given that we live in an era where most of the media thinks its audience has the attention span of a gnat, and that if Facebook videos are longer than ninety seconds no one will watch them, it is ironic that long form interviews are making a comeback. I’ve tried to do it on my radio show, based on the premise that after ten minutes people have run out of soundbites and are therefore likely to say something more interesting, the longer the interview is.
Comedians Konstantin Kisin and Francis Foster cottoned on to this a long time ago and have embarked on a podcast – also available in vision on Youtube – that seeks to delve into issues in much more depth with a single interviewer. The mix it up with a celebrity guest one week and somebody you’ve never heard of the next (e.g me). They ask provocative questions like ‘Is Rape Culture a Dangerous Myth’ or ‘Will Coronavirus end the Culture War’. They’re a good tag team and whatever the subject they manage to introduce a good dose of humour. They also ask some challenging questions and get the best out of their victims. In my view this is one of the best, most informative and thought-provoking current affairs podcasts out there.
Iain Dale presents the Evening Show on LBC Radio 7-10pm Monday-Thursday