to promote or publicize (a product or idea) intensively, often exaggerating its importance or benefits

Excessive publicity and the ensuing commotion

Nothing has the potential to ruin a drama more than hype. Hype inflates otherwise neutral expectations into proportions that a drama can never live up to. Kind of like when you watched the new Star Wars movies and said, “Wait, that was it?” Or when you read the last Harry Potter book and said, “Wait, that was it?” Or when SNSD finally came out with “The Boys” and you said, “Wait, that was it??

Hype is the reason why I’m too scared to watch the ridiculously popular The Moon That Embraces the Sun, which continues to enjoy soaring ratings between 30%—40%. Starring Kim Soo Hyun, who was utterly impressive in Dream High, and Jung Il Woo, who is hot off of his uber cute Flower Boy Ramyun Shop romp, the drama is secure in the phenomenal acting category. At least that’s what I hope. But what if my expectations are so high that Moon/Sun finds it hard to scale those expectations? While other people have daddy issues and abandonment issues, I struggle with drama hype issues. And I’ll tell you why.

The first time I experienced hype was right before watching The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince. Boasting both critical accolades and commercial success, it had solidified its position as one of Korean television’s most cherished offerings. It tackled unconventional notions of gender and sexuality and cemented Yoon Eun-hye’s position as the undisputed ratings queen. So when I finally decided to watch it, I was gearing up for the most life-altering piece of entertainment that I’d ever experienced in my entire life.

But when it was done I found myself asking, “Wait, that was it?” Why wasn’t it as amazing as I had made it out to be in my head?

Don’t get me wrong. There was nothing particularly wrong with Coffee Prince. In fact, objectively speaking, it was well above average. But its importance to the trendy genre had been so over-amplified that it was difficult to watch without expecting something considerably more mind blowing. With Coffee Prince—and later My Name is Kim Sam Soon, You’re Beautiful, Sungkyunkwan Scandal and a couple others—I wondered what I was missing, and even tried to fool myself into thinking I really did like it. The hype had obviously skewed my expectations, but why wasn’t it affecting anyone else? Perhaps there was a small faction of viewers who, like me, were unwilling to admit openly just how hyped they thought the show had been.

It seems as if there are three ways in which hype is generated. The first is by word of mouth. When online top 10 lists, close friends, and ratings strongly suggest that a particular drama is the cream of the crop, it’s hard to dismiss both the qualitative testimonies and quantitative proof that the drama is a must-see.

The second is nostalgic. This is when you’ve held a drama in your heart since childhood only to watch it a few years later in disappointment. Sometimes an experience is exaggerated in our minds so much, that when we return to it, it doesn’t quite live up to that very first experience.

The third way that hype is generated, and probably the most common way for those of us scouring the interwebs for K-drama news, is when show producers purposely over-promote in an effort to guide eyeballs to their upcoming show. But the cultivation of hype is a double-edged sword. After bombarding viewers with teasers, posters, news of casting, OSTs, news of re-casting, and on-set photos, drama producers are left with the obligation to deliver a product worthy of the over-done promotion. They have to live up to the fact that their drama is a Hong Sisters production or that it is written by the same guys that brought you Full House. Or that the drama stars both Hyun Bin and Cha Seung Won. Or that DBSK somehow reunited just to record the soundtrack. My point is, the more hype that these producers knowingly create, the more they are obligated to give audiences something above and beyond normal expectations. And that begs the question: can something ever really live up to the hype?

So while I’m holding out to watch Moon/Sun after the hype dies down and I finally gain the courage to commit to it, I’ve set my sights on the unhyped ratings underdog, Wild Romance. What’s great about this drama (besides Lee Dong Wook’s post military abs) is that there’s no pressure to like it. It doesn’t have to worry about not living up to the hype because it didn’t have any in the first place. On top of this, it’s a genuinely good production. It’s amazing what neutral expectations will do to your drama-watching experience.

The only disadvantage of watching such a low-key drama is that there may be less people to discuss the show with. Who are you going to talk to about Lee Dong Wook’s shower scenes? Where are you going to find decent recappers to remind you how drool-worthy those shower scenes were? However, with an underhyped drama, all it takes is a little bit of searching to find that small pool of viewers who enjoy the show.

So when it comes to K-dramas, my motto is always “Don’t believe the hype.” Or more accurately, avoid the hype altogether—you’ll have a better viewing experience that way.

Are there any dramas that made you wonder what all the hype was for? Or maybe some hype that ruined the drama for you?

(AGB Nielsen)