Ready, steady, March to your TV and try some tVN

Highlights 01 March 2021

South Korea’s hottest entertainment channel, tVN (DStv channel 134), is now in South Africa with addictive K-drama and K-Pop series

Ready, steady, March to your TV and try some tVN

A whole new world of entertainment is waiting for you on DStv’s latest pop-up channel, tVN (DStv channel 134), which launches today, Monday, 1 March. It’s a pop-up with the best in K-Pop, South Korean drama series, and more. tVN will be on air until Saturday, 12 June 2021, and all series that launch on the channel will play out in their entirety during the channel run. tVN will automatically be available to all DStv Premium, DStv Compact Plus and DStv Compact subscribers.

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The K takeover

The next big K in entertainment isn’t another Kardashian, it’s Korea. In a way, we’re already familiar with a couple of South Korea’s hottest shows like The Good Doctor, which aired on M-Net (DStv channel 101), and The Masked Singer, which has recently aired on both M-Net and Vuzu (DStv channel 116).

The Good Doctor is based on the 2013 South Korean medical drama series of the same name, created by Jae-Beom Park.

Daniel Dae Kim (best known to us as Chin-Ho Kelly in Hawaii Five-0 and as The Good Doctor’s Dr Jackson Han), the executive producer of the US version of the series, spent 3 years developing it for the US market. "It's all about the timing and confluence of different events: K-pop is bigger than ever, there is awareness in the US of an international market, there is interest in intellectual property such as basing TV and film on books and foreign content. There is also this emergence of Korean directors breaking into the US, and there are people like me with an interest in both Korean and American TV," says Daniel. “There's something that Korean TV does that no other country does – the way it portrays heartbreak and melodrama. I believe good content can transcend cultural barriers."

The Masked Singer is based on the multi-award-winning 2015 South Korean series, King of Mask Singer, which features mystery singers performing in elaborate masks to hide their identity, designed by Hwang Jae-geun.

The executive producer of the US series, Craig Plestis, first noticed the show while out at a Thai restaurant. He saw that everyone in there was glued to the TV. "It was flypaper TV right from the get-go. I just knew right away this was a special show. It was unbelievable in its appeal – and the gameplay, spectacle, family viewing…” And when even his production crew was playing along on set, he became more certain that he had a winner. “Between takes on a typical show, the crew was calling loved ones. And I noticed during takes and down times, I would walk around the set. They would all huddle and everyone was trying to guess, ‘So who do you think is the peacock?’ They're all playing the game,” Craig reveals.

PS: The travel reality series, Better Late Than Never, which aired on M-Net (DStv channel 101) and starred William Shatner and Henry Winkler, might also look familiar to South Korean TV fans.

So…

Dramas with emotional impact? Reality series with talent, spectacle and family appeal? If that’s what you like, you’re going to love tVN.

Watch The Masked Singer Watch The Good Doctor

tVN’s K-Drama

Here’s a sneak peek at just three of the new drama series coming up on tVN, and what makes them special.

Encounter Still 6

South Korean superstars Song Hye-kyo (Descendents of the Sun, 2016) and Park Bo-gum (Love in the Moonlight, 2016) are the leads of the new 16-episode romantic drama series, Encounter, which focuses on those first giddy, dangerous steps in a relationship. "You need courage, big or small, when you start seeing someone and grow the encounter into something special. The drama is about the beautiful process," says director Park Sin-woo.

In the story, Cha Soo-hyun (Song), the straight-laced, good-girl hotel manager and recently divorced daughter of a politician, meets and falls for free-spirited Kim Jin-hyuk (Park) during a business trip to Cuba. Can an exotic fling still mean anything when the two run into each other again in Korea, and can you make a lasting fire out of that spark between opposites?

Special touches: 

This romantic drama has been dubbed into English for local audiences. 

It’s the first-ever K-drama filmed on location in Cuba. "Many people describe the country as a place where time has stopped. With distinctive fresh and exotic images of Cuba, drama fans will be able to appreciate the cinematography," says Park. Song adds, "It was beautiful, romantic and filled with freedom."

Characters we’ll love as much as they love each other. Park says of Kim jin-hyuk: "He is a positive-thinking and warm-hearted man. He is always grateful for who he is and what he's got, regardless of material wealth." And as Song describes Cha Soo-hyun’s journey, “My character change will be depicted as gloomy in the beginning of the drama but gets brighter as she returns to her old self."

The chemistry between these two beautiful performers? Subtly sexy.

But get the tissues because there are touches of tragedy too.

Watch Encounter S1 from Monday, 1 March, on tVN (DStv channel 134) at 21:15

Tale Of The Nine Tailed Still 04

In this romantic fantasy series, a gumiho (nine-tailed fox) named Lee Yeon (Lee Dong-wook) abandons his mountain kingdom to search for the reincarnation of his lost true love, Ah-eum. With the mountain unprotected, humans move in and destroy and exploit it sending Lee Yeon’s half-brother, Lee Rang (Kim Bum), on a quest for revenge. Meanwhile, a fearless and feisty producer-director named Nam Ji-ah (Jo Bo-ah) catches wind of Lee Yeon’s presence and hunts him down for his story. But what if his old love is back in this new woman?

“Lee Yeon was a Guardian of the Mountain, Baektudaegan, in the past but is now settled in the modern city as a prosecutor to punish ghosts who mess with today’s world,” says Lee Dong-wook “The setting for a male nine-tailed fox was special and interesting.” Jo Bo-ah adds, “Nam Ji-ah believes in the existence of things that people were unaware of after her parents went missing 21 years ago and she became a producer of supernatural programmes. She has great courage.”

Special touches: 

This romantic fantasy has been dubbed into English for local audiences. 

The episode 9 kiss between Nam Ji-ah and Lee Yeon trended massively on Twitter and fans really responded to the lead couple’s chemistry. “Our chemistry becomes better and more into life as the episodes proceed. It is our pleasure that the audience like it,” promises Jo Bo-ah.

The fantasy tale (or should we say tails) spotlights the East Asian folklore of the mischievous and seductive nine-tailed fox, and the cast committed! “The nine-tailed fox is a role from traditional Korean tales that appears as a superhuman character in legends where foxes transform beyond animals. Hence I have studied a lot about foxes’ moves and habits. I have watched many documentaries and blogs on traditional Korean foxes. I have also tried to put in parts similar to the foxes when I use my facial expressions,” reveals actor Kim Bum, who plays Lee Rang and Lee Rang’s gumiho alter ego, Miho Gumi.

A shapeshifting nine-tailed fox lives for around 1 000 years and in Korean folklore their presence is ambiguous – they could be ill-intentioned and feast on human flesh or be knowledgeable guides. The gumiho is said to carry a bead with it, in which it stores great knowledge, power and intelligence. They can use the bead to absorb people’s energy during a deep kiss. But if the person they’re kissing swallows it, they’ll be given supernatural knowledge. If the gumiho is determined, it can leave its evil nature behind and become fully human.

There are plenty of contradictions to explore within the mythology and with a character like Nam Ji-ah hunting for knowledge, we’ll get a fascinating introduction. 

Watch Tale Of The Nine-Tailed S1 Mondays-Fridays from Tuesday, 16 March, on tVN (DStv channel 134) at 21:15

Flower Of Evil Layered Poster

Flower of Evil

Looking ahead, Flower of Evil is one of those chilling “do you really know the man you married?” series. Passionately curious homicide detective Cha Ji Won (Moon Chae Won) has no idea how much her husband, Baek Hee Sung (Lee Joon Gi), is keeping from her about his past and his identity. But their picture-perfect family is set to shatter when Cha Ji Won starts investigating a series of unexplained murders and starts making unwelcome connections. It’s about a man who acts like he’s in love and a woman who loves danger.

“Due to some unpleasant childhood memories and past incidents that he had been hiding for 13 years, he only managed to live like how he is today thanks to his family and loved ones. If the peace and happiness are going to be snatched away by someone now, it will definitely be torture for him,” says Lee Joon Gi. Can a supposed psychopath really ever leave their old ways behind them? It’s an intriguing question to explore.

Special touches: 

This romantic thriller has been dubbed into English for local audiences. 

This is a reunion for Lee Joon Gi and Moon Chae Won, who performed together before in the South Korean adaptation of Criminal Minds. Lee Joon Gi had the Derek Morgan-type (Shemar Moore) role while Moon Chae Won was the Emily Prentiss-style (Paget Brewster) character.

The cast’s performances really sell this and both main characters are deeply layered beyond “cop and secret serial killer husband”. In fact, the tragedy of Baek Hee Sung’s past and the fact that he clearly loves his wife and can’t understand when she starts becoming wary of him make this a real heartbreaker.

Flower of Evil S1 is coming soon on tVN (DStv channel 134)

And Look out for ...

tVN (DStv channel 134) is available automatically to all DStv Premium, DStv Compact Plus, and DStv Compact subscribers.

The K-Pop phenomenon

The ’60s had The Beatles and Beatlemania, the ’70s had its ABBA obsession, in the ’80s the world was obsessed with Duran Duran and BoyzIIMen. The ’90s had The Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls. The noughties had One Direction. But since 2013, 7-member Korean boyband BTS and their fans, the ARMY, have slowly achieved world domination challenging Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters, Justin Bieber’s Beliebers, Taylor Swift’s Swifties and Beyoncé’s BeyHive to send the band’s hits stampeding up the charts.

In South Africa, local BTS ARMY members have used their fan power for good too, with fans uniting in blood donation drives and other charitable events, along with supporting the band. And South African superfans have been featured in the book, I Am ARMY: It’s Time to Begin, published in 2020. Their passion for K-Pop is pushing many local African fans to study Korean to better understand their favourite bands’ songs, interviews and social posts.

The strong choreography, family-friendly lyrics that speak openly about the pressures placed on teens, loss, learning to love oneself and celebrating individuality, their sincerity, and personality-driven star images have really struck a chord, giving fans a feeling of belonging.

Band mastermind Bang Si-hyuk explains, “I recently came across a company document from [2012] the year before BTS debuted, in which we were debating what kind of idol group to create. It said, ‘What kind of hero is the youth of today looking for? Not someone who dogmatically preaches from above. Rather, it seems like they need a hero who can lend them a shoulder to lean on, even without speaking a single word.”

K-Pop on tVN

So if you know, you know. But even if you’ve never danced to a K-Pop bop, there are 2 series coming in the tVN launch that’ll intrigue you as well as introduce you to some of the biggest K-Pop acts on the planet.

Nct World 2 0 E08 Epg

The K-Pop reality series, NCT World 2.0, launches on Friday, 5 March on tVN at 18:45, and unites all 23 members of the boy band NCT (Neo Culture Technology) in a show that’s a blend of reality series, gameshow and fantasy extravaganza.

NCT is currently the largest group in K-Pop and works in an intriguing way. The group as a whole is composed of sub-groups like NCT Dream, whose members are all under the age of 20. NCT 127 (“127” represents the longitude co-ordinate of Seoul, this sub-unit’s home base) is prepared to take on members from all over the world. Seven-member subgroup WAYV brings Chinese singers into the mix and NCT U selects members from the other groups whose strengths fit whatever the concept is of the song they’re working on. It’s like one big, happy, repertory musical theatre group.

In NCT World 2.0, the group members will have to take on Minute To Win It-style challenges as their colleagues and friends cheer them on and joke about them, casually revealing all sorts of personality quirks and facts we might not have guessed about the guys. Whether they’re trying to say tongue-twisters in 5 different languages or piloting a drone they’ve never seen before, they’re game for a try. Once they’re out of that section of the game, they’ll be doing things like “travelling back in time” to take on challenges such as re-enacting a school sports day in 2012. Or they’ll find themselves in the future or performing highwire stunts. Neither you nor the NCT guys will know what you’ll be facing at the start of each episode, but every activity will reveal something about them and you’ll soon pick out your favourites.

Having 23 members drives something home about K-Pop. To stand out, each of these performers has to highlight their personality. They have to be different and celebrate their differences. It’s a central message that supports their fans’ individuality too.

If you’d like to start connecting online, NCT Fandom’s name is NCTzen.

Watch NCT World 2.0 from Friday, 5 March, on tVN (DStv channel 134) at 18:45

Iland Still 10

To double your K-Pop fun, Survivor-like reality talent show I-LAND launches on Thursday, 4 March, on tVN (DStv channel 134) at 18:30. The 12-episode series follows the creation of the next-generation K-pop group. A total of 23 would-be singers will spend 113 days fighting for votes from producers that’ll allow them to move from their basic Ground Base into a posh, 3-storey complex called the I-Land, which took 3 years to build and contains everything they’ll need to train as superstars.

As series storyteller Namkoong Min explains, “This place is I-LAND. An unknown place completely isolated from the outside. This place is so that those who dream of being an idol can grow on their own and break out of their eggs. It is a perfect and evolved space for a survival competition that has been designed for a long time. And in this place, only the system controls everything. The I-LAND system provides everything. Anything that is needed for the growth of those who came in here is locked in abundantly. In I-LAND, there are only 2 rules: Limited time, and one’s own choice. The result of their choice will determine their fate.”

Namgoong Min isn’t kidding when he talks about those resources. Among the helpers these would-be Idols will have is their own producer group. BTS producer Bang Si Hyuk will produce their songs and create the stages that their tests will play out on. Rain, the performer, directs and evaluates the 23 hopefuls and producer ZICO will be working to bring out the 23’s musical capabilities. With them, we’ll watch closely as each Idol grows and takes on challenges.

Iland Still 07

Throughout the series, the show will welcome guests like BTS, 13-member hit group Seventeen, which is divided into 3 sub-groups covering Hip Hop, Vocals and Performance. Seventeen is unusual on the K-Pop scene in that the members of the group themselves spearhead their songwriting, choreography and aspects of performance. And we’ll also see relative newcomers TXT, a 5-member boy band who debuted in 2019.

Watch I-LAND from Thursday, 4 March, on tVN (DStv channel 134) at 18:30

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