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TV drama remakes: from blockbusters to failures

Vietnam’s TV drama industry took a step backward from ‘Nguoi phan xu’ (Judge) in 2017 to ‘Hanh trinh cong ly’ (The journey to justice) in 2022.
'Hanh trinh cong ly' is a remake of 'The Good Wife'

At a press conference introducing ‘Hanh trinh cong ly’, the Vietnam Television Film Center (VFC) said it took two years to build the scenario for the drama series. VFC had to work closely with the copyright holder of the original TV series ("The Good Wife") – the US’s CBS network – during the remake process.

‘Hanh trinh cong ly’, with a team of experienced and famous actors and actresses, was once hoped to become a ‘blockbuster’ of Vietnam’s television in 2022. However, contrary to predictions, it has been criticized as ‘absurdity’ with intricate content which has no relation with the name of the drama.

"The Good Wife" is a US drama series aired on CBS from 2009 to 2016. It won five Emmy awards.

The success of the drama series led to many countries buying copyrights to obtain the right to remake it, including South Korea. While the original product is a legal and political drama television series, Vietnam’s remake is a psychological film.

The remake has not been applauded by audiences. People commented that the ‘Hanh trinh cong ly’ script has rambling content with many illogical circumstances. The series is nearly ending, but people still don’t understand what the "journey to justice" is and who will get justice.

A VietNamNet reader commented that the characters would not act like this in Vietnam and that the remake "has gone too far" from the original one, and is a failure.

In fact, remaking a film is never easy and such failures can be seen often. This is because writers simply "translate" the content of original products into Vietnamese. 

As a result, audiences don’t have sympathy towards characters and they don’t think the stories occur in Vietnam. Many remakes have low viewership.

However, the number of such failures is not high, and many TV drama series can be remade successfully. Two of them are ‘Nguoi phan xu’ and ‘Song chung voi me chong’ (Living with the mother-in-law). The former is a remake of Israel’s ‘The Arbitrator’ which attracted 6 billion views. The latter was remade from a Chinese novel.

These are considered the two most successful remakes thanks to scenes featuring the life and culture of Vietnamese society.

Up to 60 percent of the content of the original was changed when creating ‘Nguoi phan xu’ with violent scenes cut. Meanwhile, reasonable solutions were used for ‘Song chung voi me chong’ to erase the differences between Vietnamese and Chinese culture.

Viewers commented that screenwriters were creative in making the products based on the good content of the original product.

Another drama series which once stirred the public when being aired in 2018 was ‘Ve nha di con’ (Go home). This was a remake of ‘Khi nguoi dan ong goa vo bat khoc’ (When the widowed man burst into tears) directed by Vu Truong Khoa before.

However, the content was rewritten. Screenwriter Thu Thuy told a story about a single dad raising three daughters. The wonderful acting was believed to be a reason behind the success of the film. However, the good script played a major role in its success.

Two serial films aired recently, ‘Huong vi tinh than’ and ‘Thuong ngay nang ve’, the remakes of South Korean ‘Mother of mine’ and ‘My only one’ are the other successful examples. The stories about paternal love in Vietnamese conditions really won people’s hearts.

In Vietnam, the role of screenwriters is placed after directors and actors. In other countries, including South Korea, screenwriters are paid highly, about VND1 billion for one episode, which is hundreds of times higher than in Vietnam. 

Asked about the pay for film scripts, a veteran screenwriter of the Vietnam National Television (VTV) refused to answer. A writer who wrote many film scripts said that this is ‘sensitive’ information. 

Quynh An


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