The truth about K-drama 'Pinocchio'

  • TV
  • Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015

Our chemical romance: Like many K-dramas out there, Pinocchio boasts good-looking leads who share amazing chemistry. – Filepic

There’s no business like the news reporting business, if this blockbuster South Korean drama series is anything to go by.

In an ideal world, journalism seeks to safeguard the verification of truth and the welfare of the community. No considerations whatsoever for major shareholders, advertisers or political agendas. It’s a notion that – although remarkably tough for newsrooms in today’s capitalist market to practise – makes for an excellent subject to preach, when dramatised.

South Korean blockbuster series Pinocchio knows this quixotic view of the profession all too well, and wastes no time extolling those values through the show’s male lead. But, paired with a fictional symptom whereby someone involuntarily hiccups when they lie (hence the fairy tale-inspired title), the premise about journalistic integrity and veracity can be cloying.

Not that you can blame the bright, sensible Choi Dal-po for having rigid ideals about reporters. At a young age (his name was Ki Ha-myung then, but for the sake of convenience, we’ll refer to him as Dal-po), the media misreported his firefighter father’s disappearance at an accident site as a case of negligence.

That incident tore Dal-po’s family apart and forced him to live with an amnesiac old man along with his son and “Pinocchio” granddaughter Choi In-ha in an island village. He also assumes a new identity as the old man’s deceased son.

In-ha’s estranged mother happens to be steely broadcast journalist Song Cha-ok, who deliberately turned public opinion against Dal-po’s father. The revelation causes young Dal-po to give In-ha the cold shoulder even though he harbours romantic feelings for her – much to the confusion of our spunky and sunny (of disposition) female protagonist.

I’ll be the first to admit that the primary reason I tune in to K-dramas is to soak up the warm-butter-melting-over-hot-toast feeling of the courting process. And this strained relationship between the two leads makes for a very interesting watch indeed.

It’s refreshing how Pinocchio subscribes to a very different approach when it comes to romance. Halfway through the series (there are 20 episodes in all), our leads are still bumbling through the awkward and indecisive early stages of affection instead falling head over heels in love with each other. It’s sweet, but not in a revolting way.

The dynamic between Dal-po and In-ha does lighten some of the show’s heavier and darker themes, which can make for daunting viewing at times. Story-wise, this romantic-comedy family drama is engaging and unexpected, with the most compelling plot being Dal-po and In-ha’s stint as rookie reporters at two competing broadcast stations.

Suddenly, the media is no longer portrayed as the “Big Bad” that keyboard warriors love taunting on Facebook. Seeing the leads learn the hard way that news reporting has its inescapable shades of grey is proof of a humanising script. Writer Park Hye-run (I Can Hear Your Voice) has an earnest approach when it comes to tackling social issues. And she does this through realistic and flawed characters.

The casting is also commendable. It’s nice to see Park Shin-hye play the sassy and blunt In-ha after the actress’ number of frustrating turns as a damsel in distress. There are also many vibrant supporting characters with intriguing back stories in this show. 

Jin Kyung as In-ha’s mother – a cold and merciless news anchor who chose to abandon her family to climb up the editorial hierarchy – is a magnetic force on screen.

As for Lee Jong-suk, I’m still not entirely sold on his capability as a leading man. The actor has improved by leaps and bounds since his appearance in 2010’s Secret Garden, but there are a couple of emotional scenes here that made me cringe.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about Pinocchio is how it provides a realistic view of how fact and impact are balanced in the newsroom. Just as both elements fuel the business of reporting the news, they also make this drama worth watching.

Sassy Choi In-ha is another example of Park Hye-run's stock-in-trade of creating strong female characters.

Pinocchio airs every Wednesday at 8:55pm on ONE HD (Astro Ch 393).

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