Among the six new Korean dramas that will premiere this June, Arthdal Chronicles (aka Asadal Chronicles) is undoubtedly the most anticipated one, largely because of its lead actor Song Joong-ki who is returning to the small screen for the first time in three years after starring in the most successful terrestrial Korean drama in 2016, Descendants Of The Sun.
Arthdal Chronicles will premiere tonight on tvN. And instead of writing a what-to-expect kind of article about the drama to welcome its broadcast, I went on to check Kdramapal’ news archives (and other sites’) just so I could list some notable/interesting events surrounding the series BEFORE and DURING its filming.
In the latter part of this piece, I’ll point out that Arthdal Chronicles may not necessarily live up to the hype but chances are it will pull in above-average television ratings that will still make its overall run a commercial success.
March 12, 2018: Song Joong-ki’s agency (Blossom Entertainment) confirmed that he was courted to headline the drama. This is the first-ever news about the series, which was then called as Asadal. No details about the story were disclosed, but Kim Young-hyun and Park Sang-yeon, who worked together on the historical drama Tree With Deep Roots, were revealed to be the screenwriters. Meanwhile, PD Kim Jin-won of Innocent Man was said to be the director and that tvN would broadcast the drama in the first half of 2019. The series would be completely pre-produced.
Note: Casting offers and confirmations are not announced on the actual day an actor receives an official notice of him/her being courted/cast for a role. In the former case, the production team of the drama (and sometimes the broadcaster) usually only announces that actor X was offered a role in Drama Y when an industry insider spreads a rumor about it and the media asks the team for comments. As for the latter (confirmations), the production team usually make an official announcement via press release. In both cases, however, the announcements are made a few weeks (or even months) after the actual “offer received” and “casting confirmed” events. There are instances when a production team confirms the casting of actor X on a particular day, but the entire cast (including X) already gathered for a table read long before that day. And this one could also be true: actor X is already confirmed but the production company gives a response that says otherwise.
April 29, 2018: Kim Ji-won’s agency (King Kong by Starship Entertainment) confirmed that she received an offer to star opposite Song Joong-ki. And many fans went gaga over their potential reunion! Kim Ji-won also starred in Descendants Of The Sun as the second female lead.
May 24, 2018: Jang Dong-gun’s representative confirmed that he was also offered a leading role in the drama. It was also announced for the first time that Asadal is a fantasy period drama about the power, love, and growth of people that live in the City of Asadal, the capital of the ancient Korean Kingdom of Gojoseon. In addition, it was revealed that PD Kim Won-suk of My Ajusshi, (not PD Kim Jin-won of Innocent Man anymore), would direct the series.
July 26, 2018: Song Joong-ki, Kim Ji-won, and Jang Dong-gun were confirmed as the leads.
August 26, 2018. The cast of the drama gathered for a script reading session. We only learned about this fact when the casting confirmation for some supporting actors was announced on August 27 (see below). And you know what? A video of the table read was not released until May 3, 2019.
August 27, 2018. The following major supporting actors were announced: Jo Sung-ha, Choi Moo-sung, Choo Ja-hyun, Park Byung-eun, Yoo Tae-oh, Son Sook, Park Hye-joon, Jung Jae-won, Kim Ye-joon, and Heo Jung. Kim Ok-bin was mentioned for the first time as the second female lead.
September 6, 2018. tvN announced that it was considering a multi-season run for Asadal. So, K-dramaland just got a potentially pre-produced drama with multiple seasons.
December 5, 2018. Filming for the drama officially began with an “opening ceremony.” The production team marked its first day of shooting by having a special ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of a drama set which took eight (8) months to be constructed. That means the construction started in May 2018. It was also during this month (December) that the series was first called Arthdal Chronicles.
December 19, 2018. Arthdal Chronicles was recognized as the Most Anticipated Drama In 2019. And just like that, the series already won an award two weeks into its production period, or five months before its premiere. The ceremony, called “Korea First Brand Awards,” surveyed 313,807 consumers to determine its winners.
February 24, 2019. Song Joong-ki went to Brunei to film overseas. I didn’t know this until I read the article. So Arthdal‘s been filmed overseas, too! A team from the drama traveled this month to Brunei to shoot some scenes and Song Joong-ki went there first on the 24th.
April 9, 2019. A labor rights group called the drama’s production company out on the poor working conditions of some staff members, saying that many of them have suffered from long hours of labor and “in the case of filming abroad [Brunei], [they] would work even 20 hours a day.” Studio Dragon, the production company, issued a response on April 10.
April 12, 2019. Release of the first teaser.
April 17, 2019. Release of the first stills featuring Song Joong-ki.
April 22, 2019. Release of the first stills featuring Jang Dong-gun.
April 24, 2019. Release of the first stills featuring Kim Ji-won.
April 26, 2019. Release of the first stills featuring Kim Ok-bin.
April 29, 2019. Netflix picked up the series for global streaming. The entertainment giant issued an official press release saying that it obtained the rights to make the drama available on its service in June. Although it did not disclose the exact launch dates, the series will likely air almost simultaneously on the service and tvN.
April 30, 2019. Release of the first poster and announcement of premiere date and a three-season broadcast. But each season or part consists of only six episodes, with the first two parts to be broadcast consecutively from June 1, making Arthdal Chronicles a Saturday-Sunday drama (like Mr. Sunshine) that airs at 9 p.m. Korean Standard Time.
May 20, 2019. Release of the main poster.
May 25, 2019. Release of the character posters.
May 28, 2019. Press conference for the series.
Why Will Arthdal Chronicles Succeed?
Simply because of Song Joong-ki’s immense popularity, coupled with the collaboration of renowned director and writers who have led people to believe that Arthdal is a drama of epic proportion.
But before I go on and say more, what does “success” mean in this context? To succeed is to attract many viewers and have them discuss the drama over lunch or dinner. In other words, Arthdal Chronicles should obtain decent or at least satisfying TV ratings during its entire run and become popular beyond the walls of its home nation. From the broadcaster’s point of view, it doesn’t really matter if the drama’s direction and screenplay fall flat as long as people watch and talk about it until the final episode. So, since the business success—which is largely influenced by a show’s popularity—of a TV network for a certain drama seems to always take precedence over the drama’s artistic value, the network (tvN) will always consider Arthdal Chronicles a success story if it will get high audience shares throughout its broadcast.
Arthdal Chronicles might fail to meet or exceed expectations in terms of direction, writing, or overall cinematography, but it will premiere tonight with millions of viewers tuning in to tvN just to watch it, all thanks to the popularity of Song Joong-ki and his co-stars. Below is a table showing the 10 cable dramas in 2018 with the highest first episode nationwide ratings. You can notice that each of them are headlined by at least one famous or A-list actor, and that it seems you only need that actor to guarantee a drama’s success in viewership terms. In case of Arthdal, with Song Joong-ki as the lead actor, I could count on it getting around 8 percent for its very first episode although I will not be surprised if it hits the 10% mark right off the bat.
What about the director and writers? PD Kim Won-suk was the genius behind award-winning shows like My Ajusshi , Signal, and Misaeng, the first two of which won Best Drama at the prestigious Baeksang Arts Awards in 2019 and 2016, respectively. Writers Kim Young-hyun and Park Sang-yeon, meanwhile, wrote equally critically acclaimed shows such as Six Flying Dragons, Tree With Deep Roots, and Queen Seondeok. In addition, Kim also penned the massive hit sageuk Jewel In The Palace. With these director and writers’ proven track record of producing superb dramas, I can expect Arthdal to be at least as good as their most recent works.
However, the trio’s influence is not confined to the quality of the show. In terms of viewership, they can also be the primary motivation for some viewers to watch the drama, especially for those who are not fans of any of the main actors.
In a nutshell, Arthdal Chronicles will score a victory in the TV ratings game mainly because of the sky-high popularity of its leads regardless of whether or not PD Kim has actually just produced another gem that will boost its already stellar credentials.