Sunday, March 21, 2010

The High Kick through the Roof Finale (an Open Letter to Kim Byung Wook)

Dear Mr. Kim,

It's been three days, and I still can't get over how mystifyingly stupid the High Kick through the Roof finale was. I'm not alone. On the peninsula and beyond its hallowed shores, the series' final episode was greeted by fans of the show with confusion, regret, and anger. How could such a whimsical sitcom go out on such a melodramatically sour note?

You were the show's main producer, well known for your sad endings, but it's fair to say that no one really expected you to pull what you did with High Kick through the Roof. The show had its moments of drama, sure, but they were always tempered with the humor for which the show was best known and beloved. Suddenly, in its 126th and final episode, the show resembled not the witty sitcom viewers had come to know and love but the over-the-top brand of melodrama for which Korean television is infamously known. There were zero moments of humor, no instances in which the laugh track was used. Instead, what we got was the death of two main characters and nothing but ambiguity as to the fate of the show's other leads.

Far be it from me to tell a successful television producer how to do his job, but I'm totally going to tell a successful television producer how to do his job. You see, Mr. Kim, one of the key elements of storytelling is theme. Another is genre. They often go hand in hand, but they don't always have to. However, you can't abruptly turn what was a light sitcom for 125 episodes into a full-blown melodrama. Well, you can, but that just makes you a poor storyteller, what is known in the business colloquially as "a hack." When the genre or theme is betrayed, the effectiveness of the story is compromised. Imagine, if you will*, the last twenty minutes of Casablanca turning into a screwball comedy or 'Salem's Lot being a criticism of gentrification instead of a horror novel about vampires**.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, and some of storytelling's greatest achievements have come from men and women who challenge what defines art. You, sir, do not deserve that distinction. What you did was tarnish the legacy of the greatest sitcom to ever air on Korean television. I believe you did this intentionally.

Based on the quality and popularity of the series, its fairly safe to surmise that a) a better ending could have been written, and b) the show's ratings were such that MBC would have allowed enough time to achieve that ending. Why, then, were viewers subjected to the conclusion that aired? I know little of your previous work in television, sir, but from the overall quality of High Kick through the Roof -- from its perfect casting to its talented writing to its excellent score -- I think you're a talented individual. I also think you knew, and perhaps anticipated, just how virulently the show's fanbase would react. This, Mr. Kim, does not speak well of your respect for your fellow human beings.

Only a truly inept person would expect High Kick through the Roof's viewers to respond positively to the show's finale, and, as I've already expressed, I don't fashion you to be that type of person. Therefore, only two explanations for closing the series the way you did remain: 1) You thought you were being "artistic" and 2) you wanted to create controversy.

My estimation is that it was the latter. The former would prove that you're an extremely poor judge of what constitutes avant-garde storytelling, but the latter would be much more damning, for it would provide substantial evidence that you are a misanthrope.

Not to sound overly crude, sir, but in closing the series the way you did you effectively took a shit on your show and its fanbase. There was nothing "edgy" about the way the series ended, nothing in its ambiguity that resembled, for example, the fine conclusions David Chase created for The Sopranos or the Coens crafted for No Country for Old Men and A Serious Man. No; what you treated millions of 지봉킥 fans to was the storytelling equivalent of spit in the eye, a kick in the crotch.

As a huge High Kick through the Roof fan, consider this my condemnation of the series' finale. I'm sure I'm not alone.


Simon Sailboat

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* © Rod Serling

** I love you if you're reading this. Call me.


TMH said...

[Quote]The show had it's (sic) moments of drama...[/Quote]

Oh, Spark. I go away for four little years and it comes to this?

Sparkles*_* said...

Ak! Corrected.