According to an exclusive from The Hollywood Reporter, Amazon is in talks with Mnet to produce a K-pop competition reality show entitled K-pop: The Search for the Next K-pop Superstar. It will be Amazon’s second idol-themed show after drama The Idolmaster Korea, which begins airing on the 28th on SBS Plus. There’s so much unknown about this newest endeavor, but from the premise it looks like rounding up some wannabe pop stars from the US and sending them to South Korea for a rude awakening and lots of drama. However, why is Amazon making this move?
There’s been a definite push in bringing Korean entertainment out of South Korea. Aside from the major streaming sites for Asian entertainment, Dramafever and Viki, big names in streaming such as Hulu and Netflix offer a selection of K-drama and other Asian shows. Furthermore, remakes of K-dramas are not a new idea. Ukraine had a successful remake of Ice Adonis, though dealings for US versions of My Love from Another Star and Nine: Nine Time Travels have both fallen through. On the flip side, The Good Wife was translated from American drama to a highly rated K-drama. With this track record, Amazon is taking a serious risk, though it could help them that the medium–online streaming as opposed to television–is weighed in their favor.
This could also just be a classic case of follow the money. Since Psy hit it big with “Gangnam Style” in the pop market K-pop was suddenly seen as an exploitable market. With the steady stream of worldwide concerts in the past few years (BTS, B.A.P, Got7, etc.), the emergence and growth of the various iterations of Kcon, and the general uptick in accessibility to K-pop, it’s obvious that there’s a market ripe for the picking. Besides the live shows and conventions, there are already multiple versions of what K-pop: The Search for the Next K-pop Superstar is trying to do.
K-pop Star, Unpretty Rapstar, Show Me The Money…K-Pop fans already know and love these shows. We look forward to seeing regular people–and even a few celebrities–step in front of the big names in the industry and watch them try to make it. This isn’t American Idol, where the entertainment value comes mostly from seeing people crash and burn in the first few rounds. What touches us most about the shows we’ve already been presented is the stories of the participants. There’s an intimacy that doesn’t always translate with American television.
And to be wholly realistic, there’s drama to live for. K-pop fans complain about evil editing but that’s part of the draw to the shows. What would any Mnet show be without a bit of editing magic? Even Produce 101 has its own brand of drama. It comes from recognition of faces, the plight of trainees, and the berating of production for putting the poor kids through all this hardship. That’s not something you get with American Idol or The Voice. Those shows focus only on the stage and leave out the critical connections viewers want with the contestants beyond the obligatory backstories.
All in all, my cynical side is saying that Amazon is using the term “K-pop” to draw in an audience but the show won’t live up much to expectations. If anything, the creators will receive the same warnings, threats, and petitions to not ruin K-pop that Nick Cannon got when Make It Pop was in production. For those unfamiliar, Make It Pop was a television show, created by Nick Cannon and starring Megan Lee. The show was initially promoted as bringing K-pop to America and basically being about being in a K-pop group. When K-pop fans got wind of this, they petitioned the network and even Cannon himself, leading to the revamping of the show, before its initial airing, and leading Cannon to clarify that the show would only be “inspired by K-pop” versus “about” K-pop. The producers and writers also brought in K-Pop bloggers and writers in an attempt to ease the public’s mind and create a sense of authenticity.
In all fairness, maybe the show will introduce a new audience to the world of K-pop. This can be done right if the team does their research and shows the proper respect to the culture and the business that they’re trying to highlight. We won’t know until Amazon and the producers decide to tell us more. Until then, fingers are crossed that K-pop: The Search for the Next K-pop Superstar will be a success.