MBC’s Wednesday-Thursday drama Medical Top Team ended its 20-episode run last week with relatively abysmal ratings. The finale clocked in at 5.5%, with much of the series barely hovering above the 6.0% mark. The medical drama’s low viewership comes as a bit of a surprise, considering its star-studded cast: Kwon Sang-woo, Jung Ryeo-won, Joo Ji-hoon, Ahn Nae-sang, Kim Young-ae, Clazziquai’s Alex, and Shinee’s Minho.
It’s always a little sad to see an ambitious, high potential project fail in the end, but there were several things that doomed Top Team from the start. For one, medical K-dramas typically have a hard time picking up much popularity in general. Add to that Top Team’s poor character development, inconsistent themes, flawed core conflict, as well as its tough competition with KBS’ Secret and SBS’ Heirs, and it’s no wonder why Top Team never kicked off. Medical Top Team was not an excellent drama deserving of high ratings and widespread acclaim. However, it did have one secret weapon that should have been able to save the drama from completely tanking.
Almost anyone would have expected the numerous veterans in the Top Team cast to put on stellar, dependable performances — Jung Ryeo-won, Kwon Sang-woo, and post-drug scandal Joo Ji-hoon are A-listers for good reason, while Ahn Nae-sang and Kim Young-ae have been on the small screen for decades and have already proven themselves beyond their worth as actors. But good, consistent acting can get kinda boring. Even with the experienced veteran actors on Top Team’s billing, there’s no real surprise and no extra oomph to keep the audience on its toes. The drama world is always in need of new talented faces to keep things fresh.
Which is where Shinee’s Minho comes into the picture.
It is a proven fact that Minho is an excellent actor with an impressive resume of past roles. Anyone who’s seen him pretend to be a piano genius in Pianist, pretend to be a computer hacker genius in Salamander Guru, or pretend to be a high jumping genius in To The Beautiful You would know that Minho is so good at pretending, it would only make sense that he would do an excellent job of pretending to be an actor.
Indeed, Minho’s performance in Top Team was, to say the least, incredible — he rattled off anglicized names of various diseases and medications with absolute finesse, and he wore that stethoscope around his neck more convincingly than any other actor I’ve ever seen. He also proved his ability to sniffle-cry on cue, which in itself ought to dissolve any accusations of Minho being a “godawful SM idol actor.” (And can I just say how cruel of an accusation that is? Can’t everyone see how hard Minho works? How underappreciated he is? GAWD.)
Moreover, Minho’s overwhelming star power as a top-of-the-notch Hallyu super idol should have sent Top Team’s ratings through the roof. This, in combination with Minho’s sheer undeniable talent, should have been enough to take a mediocre drama like Medical Top Team and its worn-out cast of senior citizens like Kwon Sang-woo and Joo Ji-hoon, and transform it into a cinematic masterpiece. Never mind the fact that Minho played a minor character and was only onscreen for an estimated four minutes per episode — the cast and crew should have been able to absorb Minho’s natural acting genius simply by being in the presence of his flaming charisma.
Something had to have gone very, very wrong for Top Team to be beyond the saving graces of Minho’s enormous talent. There’s only one explanation for this: Minho wasn’t given enough space in the drama to show off his full potential. Anyone who watched the drama would have immediately noticed the injustice of Minho’s limited screentime. If the folks at Medical Top Team really wanted to save their show from tanking, then they wouldn’t have been so foolish as to underestimate Minho’s talent and cast him in a tiny role where he wouldn’t be able to work his true magic.
That said, here are six ways Medical Top Team could have been improved and/or saved from its inevitable doom simply by making minor adjustments to Minho’s role in the drama.
I’m legitimately shocked that the production team passed up the chance to air Minho’s glorious abs on television. While it might be true that the entire continent of Asia has seen Minho’s abs a billion times by now, if only because he makes a point of showing them off at every opportunity…well, you can never have too much of a good thing. Minho’s abs are literally perfect. Forget the fact that this is a hospital drama, Minho plays a resident surgeon, and Kwon Sang-woo’s ab legacy extends far beyond Minho’s. The time for Minho abs is always, always now.
You would have to be out of your mind to miss the opportunity to show off a national treasure like Minho’s abs on television. You would have to be out of your mind to deny anyone the privilege of experiencing such a glorious sight. Shame on you, Medical Top Team. Shame. On. You.
2) Allow Minho’s character to get the girl.
This is even more astounding. While it’s good that Minho’s character was interested in not one, but two different girls during the series’ duration (because seeing Minho pretend to have hormones in a drama is almost as good as knowing that Minho actually has hormones in real life), he doesn’t end up with either of them! One of them ends up with Kwon Sang-woo’s character, while the other one…dies.
It just doesn’t make any sense why anyone would ever turn down someone like Minho. It’s completely unrealistic, and a drama is only good if it’s realistic. And I’m sorry, but a drama in which a man as perfect as Minho gets his heart broken TWICE and ends up forever alone shouldn’t exist in anyone’s reality.
Joo Ji-hoon’s character, Chief Han Seung-jae, is pretty much my ideal type: intelligent, hopelessly stoic and cold, but with a secret soft side and a need to be cared for. I would be all-in for Joo Ji-hoon, except that he’s really old (he’s thirty-two, so like, a few years removed from geriatric care). He also had a drug scandal a few years back, and drugs are, like, really bad.
Minho, on the other hand, is young and a upright model citizen. More importantly, Minho is at his best whenever he plays the brooding, serious types of characters. It really allows him to show off his manly, sensitive side — which is extremely challenging for any actor to pull off, but Minho does an incredible job at it. His debut performance in Pianist is proof of this.
Minho’s original role as Kim Sung-woo is just so boring and vanilla; it doesn’t reflect the true complexity of Minho’s real personality. Minho needs a challenging, complex character like Han Seung-jae in order to show off his true potential. I’m pretty sure Joo Ji-hoon doesn’t have half the amount of emotional depth that Minho has. Does Joo Ji-hoon have thousands of Livejournal fanfictions that analyze every nuance of his personality and emotional state? I don’t think so.
Oh, wait, they already did that. Well, they should have had more scenes with Minho making food and being domestic. Maybe they could’ve thrown in a small child in there for good measure. Nothing says ratings quite like exploding fangirl ovaries.
5) More crying scenes.
Minho is an excellent crier. You can just feel the raw emotion by looking at his various facial contortions and painfully scrunched up eyebrows. He’s just a really emotional person, period. Minho has so many painful, pent-up feels from his stressful life as an idol, and the only chance he has to let it all go is when he’s filming his crying scenes for his dramas. That’s how you know his tears are genuine. Real tears = good acting.
Plus, most of the people who aren’t watching the drama in full and are just looking for the Minho cuts (i.e. everyone) are probably typing stuff like “minho medical top team crying” or “minho medical top team sad” into Youtube just so they can see that shit. Know your target audience.
6) Have Minho sing.
It’s pretty much a proven fact that any drama episode featuring a live singing performance by an idol actor directly translates into a ratings boost. It happened with Sulli’s performance in To the Beautiful You and with Jung Yonghwa’s performance in Heartstrings. It doesn’t make any sense why they wouldn’t have Minho sing in Top Team. It’s basically free ratings.
Besides, Minho is a great singer. Minho is revered in the K-pop world for his unique low, raspy voice and his five-note wide vocal range. He’s even on pitch most of the time. I’ll concede to the fact that a hospital setting isn’t the best place to hold an impromptu concert, but maybe the writers should have just written a random club scene into the script so that they wouldn’t have missed the chance to have Minho sing in the drama.
Better yet, they could have just invited all the members of Shinee to be recurring guests on the show. Whenever a patient regains a pulse after flatlining, Shinee would come out and perform “Why So Serious”…because, you know, zombies. It would’ve been perfect.
Medical Top Team wasn’t a terrible drama, but it had so much unfulfilled potential. More than anything else, it’s incredibly disappointing that one of Minho’s few chances to shine on the drama scene was effectively quashed due to poor planning by the production staff. It pains me to think that Minho will probably have to wait for a long, long time before another drama role comes knocking. K-pop idols aren’t offered drama roles every day, you know.
There will always be doubters when it comes to Minho’s talent, and there will always be antis secretly disguised as credible drama reviewers — or worse, people who claim to be Minho’s “fans” — who will freely spew their biased hate of Minho whenever he finishes a project. Remember: it’s not about how high the ratings are or how good the reviews are. As long as Minho is trying his best, his performance will automatically be worthy of being praised to the high heavens. And Minho is always trying his best.
Rating (Medical Top Team’s scriptwriters, production staff, cast minus Minho, etc.): 1/5
Rating (Minho only): 10 million/5
(MBC, Dramawiki; images via MBC, Topstar News)