First episodes are an important part of an entire series’ run not only because it (essentially) starts the whole thing, but also because it is instrumental in wooing the audience until the finale. Dramas which start out strong in viewership often end up successful while those that kick off poorly could hardly sustain a decent viewership. Here we provide the list of the 10 highest-rated Korean drama premieres in 2017, with results that make sense based on the facts that a popular lead or respected PD would draw in lots of viewers right off the bat. (legend: free to air category | cable category)
10. While You Were Sleeping (8.2 %) & Avengers Social Club (2.9 %)
The much-hyped While You Were Sleeping seems misplaced here as we expected it to pull in double-digit viewership given the popularity of its leads and the impressive track records of the writer-PD team. But of course there are other factors that affect viewership and this drama suffered from one of those. One one hand, it is amazing to see Avengers Social Club on the list given it has a mediocre synopsis and a cast of ahjummas.
9. Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People, My Sassy Girl (8.9 %) & Introverted Boss (2.97 %)
We have a tie for the FTA category—period dramas Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People and the pre-produced My Sassy Girl. The latter sort of achieved this spot partly due to the popularity of the film on which it is based (isn’t it interesting to see the Joseon version of the film?). Meanwhile, it’s amazing to see Rebel obtaining almost 9 % despite that relatively new actors led its cast. The same can be said about Introverted Boss.
8. Man Who Dies To Live (9.1 %) & Secret Forest (3.04 %)
Veteran actors led in both of these shows. Man Who Dies To Live promised in its teaser a hilarious and funny drama which appealed to the viewers. Secret Forest, meanwhile, offered a dark and thrilling experience to the viewers which of course reached those who enjoy crime dramas that blow one’s mind.
7. Ruler: Master of the Mask (10.7 %) & Tomorrow With You (3.18 %)
Yoo Seung-hoo was back to do a melodrama, and when he’s paired with a beloved young actress, what is there to stop viewers from checking out the show? Similarly, Tomorrow With You‘s achievement depended on some degree to its lead actor who starred in the hit mystery thriller Signal. He acted opposite a beautiful actress and played a character in a time travel story that makes you think and ask questions.
6. Mystery Queen (11.2 %) & The Most Beautiful Goodbye In The World (3.25 %)
A veteran actress is the Mystery Queen, so there is no stopping the audience to see why her character—a housewife—sneaks out of her house to do some investigative stuff. That’s a pretty interesting and unique plot. The Most Beautiful Goodbye In The World has a dying mother as the protagonist but it pulled off a successful premiere mainly because it is a remake of an award-winning 1990s drama, written by the original writer.
5. Hospital Ship (11.5 %) & Bride of the Water God (3.7 %)
Hospital Ship made it to the list thanks to Ha Ji-won and a bunch of good-looking young supporting actors while Bride of the Water God owes its achievement to the popularity of the original manhwa on which it is based. The latter became much-hyped when it was announced that rising actor Nam Joo-hyuk would play the Water God.
4. Falsify (12.1 %) & Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (3.8 %)
Falsify has also an amazing cast but it was probably Namgoong Min’s presence that persuaded viewers to watch the drama. He starred in the surprise hit series Chief Kim. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon has a refreshing concept but its achievement could be attributed mainly to the cute main cast and funny teasers.
3. Whisper (13.9 %) & Man to Man (4.1 %)
The leading stars could explain how these two dramas become part of this list, at no 3. Lee Bo-young is a drama goddess well-respected by so many viewers, so there is no reason for her fans not to check the show out where she’s playing a badass cop. Park Hae-jin, whose fame skyrocketed after his role in Cheese In The Trap, couldn’t make his fans wait for Man To Man. And so the shows got what they got.
2. Defendant (14.5 %) & Criminal Minds (4.2 %)
Occupying the second spot are dramas that deal with extremely bad guys. Defendant achieved a whopping 14.5 % in its first episode mainly due to Ji Sung’s caliber as an actor while Criminal Minds surpassed 4 % as many of its viewers were curious to see how the Korean version of a US series of the same name will carry out the essentials of the original.
1. Saimdang, Light’s Diary (16.3 %) & Prison Playbook (4.6 %)
Surely, Saimdang, Light’s Diary ‘s premiere became the highest-rated first episode in 2017 because of Lee Young-ae, the star of the massively successful Jewel in the Palace who didn’t return to TV in 13 years. Meanwhile, Prison Playbook got the same record among cable shows thanks to its PD, the same director who helmed Reply 1988 and the two earlier Reply series.