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Prison or Hospital, Which Life Are You More Curious About?

Rather than expecting an end to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the era of “living with COVID-19” is coming close to our lives. If you’re tired of your life, why not try and get some sympathy and consolation through the lives of people living in different societies? To introduce these other lives, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) will now look at the contents, characteristics, and appreciable points of Prison Playbook and Hospital Playlist.

Prison Playbook

Introducing the Prison Playbook

The Prison Playbook is a series of black comedy episodes that present the life of people living in prison, an unknown place to most of us. It was directed by producer Shin Wonho, who is famous for making realistic dramas and reflecting his tendency that is devoted to details and historical accuracy. A total of 16 episodes were aired on tvN from November 22nd, 2017, to January 18th, 2018, on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Many stages and musical actors who mainly act in Daehak-ro, a famous street for acting, were cast. The main character Park Haesoo (as Kim Je-hyuk) and supporting characters like Lee Kyu-hyung (as “Looney”) and Park Ho-san (as “KAIST”) are all stars in Daehak-ro. Through Prison Playbook , they showed outstanding acting while giving freshness to the audience. The plot is about a superstar baseball player, Kim Je-hyuk, who turns into a convict overnight after protecting his sister from an assault. Due to life-threatening injuries that the perpetrator suffers, he is sentenced to a year of jail time. The Prison Playbook is the story of adapting to prison, revival for a comeback, and Kim Je-hyuk’s growth in another society.

Kim Je-hyuk in Prison (program.tving.com)

The Story of Inaccessible Space *Spoiler Alert*

1. Unconventional Prison Drama

In Prison Playbook, a prison was used as a backdrop, which is not common in Korean dramas. While showing the circumstances of prison realistically, it minimizes viewers’ repulsion and focuses on the happenings of prisoners. In addition, it describes the daily life of the prison through many workshops, money kept in custody, and the religious assembly that inmates have to do. Also, it shows that the prison is another small society through the humanity of inmates that are disclosed through prison life. However, it does not embellish the crime but accentuates various types of grim realities such as corruption and other crimes in the prison. For example, in the drama, inmates must work in designated workshops. Yeom Sang-jae, the wood workshop’s operation chief, always takes the other workers’ overtime pay for his own and sexually harasses Kim Je-hyuk. In Prison Playbook, through the lines of the characters and many incidents in the prison, it suggests that the inmates are still criminals. Furthermore, it creates a breathing space in the heavy subjects by completing a black comedy with unique characters and occasional gag points.

Prisoners in the Gardening Class (program.tving.com)

2. Round Characters

There are two types of character posters in the Prison Playbook: the white version that emphasizes the good side and the black version that emphasizes the evil side. Just like the fact that the characters who show the good sides are criminals anyhow, it shows that there is no absolute good or absolute evil. For example, “KAIST”, a cellmate of Kim Je-hyuk, has a good relationship with the other inmates and is a person that Kim Je-hyuk believes in. He makes intimacy by taking care of and playing jokes on other people, but in fact, he is a fraudster with 10 previous convictions and a criminal that habitually cheats. This shows that he is a good person to some people, but he is also an evil person to the victim. In addition, not everyone can be edified by their prison life. Viewers are already aware of that, but the story progresses with Kim Jehyuk’s eyes, so they want the inmates who are close to Kim Jehyuk to be edified. Some inmates show changes, but in the case of “Looney”, he seems to come to his senses and never return to prison. However, right after being released, he takes drugs again and fails to be edified. Like this, the Prison Playbook focuses on the inmates’ behaviors as “people”, rather than the crimes they committed.

Character Posters of Prison Playbook (program.tving.com)

Hospital Playlist

Introducing the Hospital Playlist

Hospital Playlist is a series about a story in a hospital, which is called a microcosm of life, centering on five doctors who have been best friends since they entered medical school in 1999. The first season was aired on tvN from March 12th to May 28th, 2020, on Thursdays for 12 episodes. And the second season aired between June 17th and September 16th, 2021, also for 12 episodes. Unlike other TV series, the 12- part composition is intended to make one season be a year by putting a month’s story per episode. This is the second series of the Wise Life series, following Prison Playbook, but there is no connection between the two. However, it shows the same directionality in that it is a story of one place and one society. The plot flows by showing the friendship of the five doctors and what happens while they work in the various medical departments of a hospital.

Five Main Characters of Hospital Playlist (program.tving.com)

Daily Life of Five Best Friends

1. Humanistic Drama Different from Cliché of Medical Dramas

In common medical dramas, the characters usually appeal their compassion by doing surgery or treating diseases that would not often occur in real life. Unlike these, the Hospital Playlist represents the life of the hospital realistically, such as the situation of interns who are too busy to take a shower and everyday conversations during surgery. It brought positive effects by allowing viewers to be able to understand new medical information. According to the Korean Network for Organ Sharing, 16,231 people participated in organ donation between July and August, when the episode of organ donation was featured in the drama. The participation increased more than three times compared to the number of registered organ donors last year, which was 5,576 people. In addition, since the main characters’ personalities and backgrounds are all different, the harmony they make leads to the overall atmosphere of the drama. While showing the serious aspect of doctors, jokes and wit between friends do not make viewers feel bored.

The Number of Registered Organ Donors Compared to the Same Period Last Year

2. Nostalgic Soundtrack

The five doctors have been in a band since they were medical students, and the songs they sing are popular Korean songs released in the 1990s and 2000s. Cool’s Aloha (2001), sung by Jo Jung-suk (as Lee Ik-jun), released in April 2020, charted on the Melon Top 100 and has not dropped out of the chart until this October. And in the second season, all five doctors sang each original soundtrack, and these songs entertained viewers. The five main actors have done band practice since the summer of 2019, so they performed the band scenes themselves. Also, due to the fellowship from these ensembles, they organized a band named “Mido and Falasol”. They gave joy to fans by singing the soundtrack of the Hospital Playlist or performing a live concert on YouTube. In addition, in the second season, the episodes always end with the last scene where the five members are having a band performance, and according to this, new soundtracks were released every week. There was an episode in which three new soundtracks were released because sometimes other soundtracks sung by other singers were released together. Listening to songs of memories in various versions came as a gift to viewers.

Band Practice of Five Main Characters (program.tving.com)

Humans can adapt easily; even if they suddenly have to enter a prison, or even if they fail to adapt to the four phases of life, eventually they realize that there is also a “place where a man lives”. The Wise Life series shows the story like that. In the mannerisms of life, finding fun through Prison Playbook and Hospital Playlist, which perfectly embodied other lives, can be a small gift for you.

정민주  sophiejmj@g.skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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