Well this was a surprise: out of nowhere comes a new historical drama of sorts ... and it's actually done in a serious manner!
"8 Days: I Have a Dream" essentially a documentary about the "Uigwe" - an enormous, detailed record of King Jeongjo's journey to his father's tomb (for us K-drama fans, King Jeongjo is perhaps best remembered by his princely name, Yi San).
Fans of the MBC series "Yi San" will remember how a considerable amount of time was spent with the royal artists, who sketched detailed pictures of every important royal event. Well, the "Uigwe" is the real thing - these are the real sketches, done by the real royal artists.
This show is a hybrid: part historical drama (with actors performing in the historical roles) and part documentary, with frequent narriation from modern experts, who point out details that might have gone unnoticed by the viewer.
I liked the first episode, though I might have preferred having had the actors tell more of the story (rather than the narrators). Still, if you're a Korean history fan, it's well worth a check-out.
From what I've been able to gather, this show airs on KBS World early Saturday mornings, late Wednesday afternoons, and early Thursday mornings - but I'm still a little unclear about which episodes are scheduled for any particular day (it seems that episode #1 did air on Wednesday, and that it was repeated early the next morning - but Saturday's programming is still a mystery to me).
Big thanks to mikey for pointing this out. I caught the first episode of it today and enjoyed it thoroughly.
As mikey said, this is about a procession by King Jeongjo to his father's tomb. The procession, in 1795, was for his elderly mother's benefit and was a huge undertaking, involving thousands of people and a staggeringly high budget. Every detail of the thing was recorded and illustrated in eight volumes of the Uigwe historical record, and those volumes are the basis for the show.
I know, it doesn't sound like it would make for much of a TV program, much less several, but the raw amount of information that's available makes it very interesting. Plus they venture into historical events that relate indirectly to Jeongjo and the procession. And it's well-produced. We do see re-enactment of scenes of the procession, but it seems to be based all on the historical record and there's not a lot of dramatic license taken (which I really enjoyed, more than mikey did but I'm a sucker for a good documentary).
I can't find much of anything about this show on the Internet, even on the English-language KBS sites. Not even the number of episodes. The first episode covered days 1 and 2 of the procession so that would suggest four episodes. Best guess for the schedule:
first airing: Wednesday evening, roughly 6:45 Eastern / 5:45 Central / 3:45 Pacific second airing: Thursday morning, roughly 9:15 Eastern / 8:15 Central / 6:15 Pacific third airing: Saturday morning, roughly 7:30 Eastern / 6:30 Central / 4:30 Pacific
Before KBS left the US airwaves they used to run some fantastic historical documentaries. This looks like the same kind of thing. Definitely worth watching.
I hope I didn't give the impression that I consider "8 Days" to be a turkey. I think it's very good: maybe a B+ grade so far (and, compared to the last few years of Korean historicals - none of which I would rate better than a C+ - this is quite a stunning improvement).
But yes, this is a rather low-key drama (a lot like "Great King Sejong") with the kind of style that won't leave you on the edge of your seat, but is nonetheless quite satisfying.
How interesting it is that KBS has offered almost zero promotion of this show. With all the time KBS wastes on repeating (over, and over, and over again) that multi-nationally performed "KBS World" theme music, you'd think they'd have a minute or two available to promote some of their upcoming shows.
"8 Days" is, I think, the very kind of historical drama that would go over well in the United States. And, furthermore, it's the very kind of drama that would seem to follow KBS's corporate mission: to spread Korean culture worldwide. Too bad, therefore, that so few American K-Drama fans (well, what there are left of them ... ) will even know about it.
And yet, these weird fusion dramas keep getting promoted up the wazoo. You know, the kind of shows where the historical characters have super-powers, stuff like that. They may be big in Korea, but I think they've never had much popularity in America.
Of course, the KBS's American audience is miniscule. Still, if they're going to resume showing Korean shows on free, broadcast television (a commendable reversal of past corporate policy) you'd think they'd study their target audience, and help us know about the shows that they're going to be presenting.
Finally had the chance to sit down and watch part two of this, which I had recorded. Fascinating stuff. They're using the story of this eight-day procession to tell the larger story of King Jeongjo's reign and even explore how the event ties back to his seeing his father put to death. Makes me think I should sit down and watch Yi San sometime.
This episode took us through the remaining days of the eight, but there's supposed to be at least one more episode. Not sure what it will be about, although it might have something to do with the Uigwe historical record itself and its preservation.
Whenever this ends I'm going to contact KBS America and see if they're going to make it available for download or DVD purchase.
I wish I could see it, even for comparison to the "Eight Days Mystery" drama.
From Dae Jang-geum: Sun-dol: "Are you trying to dry me up and kill me? Why do you say the same things over and over every day? Rather, come and hit me once! Aigu!" But then: Dr. Lazarus: "By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan... You shall be avenged."
Just watched the final episode of "8 Days," and I have to say, it was very, very nicely done! The final episode was more of a behind-the-scenes story of the Uigwe: not only the book itself, but also the making of this documentary.
While the term "monumental" is so overused today, bringing the Uigwe to the screen - with the intention of conveying the document's extraordinary detail as accurately as possible - really seemed to be a monumental task. According to KBS, that three-episode documentary/drama took no less than 800 days to complete. And KBS spared no expense in this production, using the very latest and greatest technology to make it as realistic as possible.
Bravo to KBS for this terrific effort; if all the other Korean historical drama producers of today would make even one-tenth the effort these guys did, well, we K-drama fans would all be in historical K-drama heaven.
Although I would have preferred a longer run (there was easily a dozen episodes worth of historical drama there to work with ) given the cost and complexity of this undertaking, it may be understandable that it was limited to just three episodes.
But, let's all be happy for what we got, for what we got was some really great stuff.
Finally had the chance to sit down and watch Part 3 of this. Didn't enjoy it as much as the first two parts, just because there was too much "making of" stuff and most of it wasn't really all that surprising or interesting. Yeah, CGI takes time and detail work, we know, and we've seen green-screen production before. A lot of it was the same kind of thing we saw in the making-of special episode at the end of IYSS. But there were a few interesting things about new technologies like mikey mentioned--seeing the drone camera at work, that was fun. And it was still good overall, certainly well worth watching. Some more good information about the Uigwe in general.
I wish they'd have done one more part and gone into more detail about how and why this particular Uigwe was compiled. Especially the why part. The level of detail that went into it, it goes beyond impressive to the point where it seems almost insane. I mean, things like illustrating the underwear styles worn by the dancers at the royal feast, and every single detail of the acquisition of every ingredient of every food item prepared for everyone for the entire eight days. What possessed them to want to record it so minutely? Today after 200 years, we're grateful to have it because it tells us so much about life back then. But just doing all of the data gathering, it must have been staggeringly costly and you have to wonder what people thought about that at the time. Would have been a good topic to delve into...but like mikey said, they spent a lot of money on recreating the procession so maybe that limited what else they could include.
Anyway, I've sent an e-mail to KBS America to ask about the possibility of getting this thing released on DVD. I see they have a few other short documentary series for sale so hopefully they can be talked into releasing this one too. I'll follow up here when I hear back.
Thanks again to mikey for flagging this ahead of time so I could see it. Excellent stuff.
So I e-mailed KBS America about this and heard back the next day.
I told them how much we had enjoyed this program and asked them if they could please try to make it available on DVD. I said I had checked their website and found a few other documentaries for sale, and asked them if they could please pass along our request for "8 Days" to whoever makes the decisions about what gets sold on DVD.
Their response was to tell me that a few other documentaries are for sale on their website (Gee thanks for that) but that this one isn't (Gee thanks for that). And that they don't know if it will be available, so I should just keep checking the website.
Boy, they really went out of their way, didn't they. I'm not even sure who does make those DVD decisions, but I'm guessing whoever does it probably doesn't speak English. I'd go over KBS America's head on this one, but it looks like the KBS World contact for the US is KBS America....so I'm right back where I started. UGH.
Anyway, that's the scoop. We'll just have to wait and see.