Eung-dab-ha-ra 1997: Reply 1997 (aka Answer Me 1997)
September 27, 2021 4:06 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Set in the 1990's, the drama centers around a female high school student Shi Won, who idolizes boyband H.O.T and her 5 high school friends in Busan. The timeline moves back and forth between their past as 18-year-old high schoolers in 1997 and their present as 33-year-olds at their high school reunion dinner in 2012, where one couple will announce that they're getting married.

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KDramaKisses review: "Reply 1997 was cute and down to earth. All of the teens felt very real and their simple life stories were well played out. Being set in the 90’s, the drama did really well at capturing the nostalgia of the era by highlighting many key things that defined the time period. Of course, some of the Korean cultural references don’t have the same meaning to international watchers, but it was easy to compare similar popular culture elements from my own country. But there were plenty of things that many fans can relate to such as the slow dial up internet, boy bands, and simply what it is like being a teenager."

Kdrama Fighting! review: "As someone who came of age, myself, in the late 1990's/early 2000's, watching Answer Me 1997 (or Reply 1997) is like watching what my life would have been like had I been born in South Korea, and had my best guy friend been an incredibly attractive Asian man that just happened to be madly in love with me."
posted by oh yeah! (2 comments total)
I had planned to get around to watching all of the "Reply" & "Let's Eat" kdramas at some point, only to find out earlier this month that they're all leaving Netflix on 9/30/21. I figured I'd just wait and hope that they get added back again someday in the future since there wasn't enough time to binge them all in a month, but my best friend decided she'd watch at least "Reply 1997" since it was mostly half-hour episodes, so I joined her in the watch. Sorry for posting a thread for something about to become less accessible (though it looks like it's already up on Viki for free).

I've got mixed feelings on this one. It trades on nostalgia for bands/an era that I'm completely unfamiliar with. While the Dramabeans recaps were very helpful in pointing out all of the pop culture references & cameos, it's not as affecting as getting the references personally. And I can't really put myself in the same headspace by comparing to my own teenage experiences, since I don't think I ever went through a boy-band-fever phase. And I think a lot of the humor and tropes in the series are more distinctly Korean than the kdramas I've been watching (and the production value isn't as slick as the more current high-budget shows). There's a lot of hair-pulling and head-slapping between couples or from parent to child that's played for laughs.

But there were sweet moments too. While this wasn't the show for me, I guess I can see why it was a hit at the time and still a favorite for many kdrama fans. I hope to watch the other "Reply" shows when/if they come back on Netflix, or if I ever run out of new kdramas on Netflix and start working my way through Viki.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:36 AM on September 27, 2021

This is easily one of my favorite kdramas. Top 5 for sure, if not top 3, and definitely top fave for a few years. It's still my "comfort" drama, probably the one I've rewatched the most -- and I rarely rewatch a drama.

However, I can understand why it might not hit the same in 2021.

Some background (this is mostly off the top of my head, so apologies if details are incorrect): A decade ago, original content from cable networks in Korea was pretty slim. The vast majority of shows prior 2010 were strictly on the main three terrestrial channels: KBS, MBC, and SBS.

CJ E&M was established around that time and sought to hop on the "Hallyu Wave" with TV programs. (Not just dramas, but music programs as well via Mnet -- fun fact, the first major music program they did was Superstar K, a music competition program like American Idol, and the winner was Seo In-guk, who plays Yoon-jae.) This included tvN and OCN -- jtbc is the other major cable drama content creator, but it's under a different conglomeration. There was (still is, I think?) other smaller cable dramas on Channel A and MBN, but those channels have never done that great so let's forget them for now.

So cable dramas didn't get much love (even if they were excellent, as I think many of the early cable shows are) -- they were lucky to break 1% in viewership ratings, whereas the terrestrial channels could have popular dramas easily bringing in over 30% of viewership ratings. (Compare that to 2020, when tvN's Crash Landing on You broke 21% in ratings.)

tvN was starting to get attention because of it's "Oh! Boy" series, which was a riff off the "Flower Boy" concept, where they put ridiculously pretty boys in shows to attract a younger viewing audience (who would watch shows on cable, but they would be from other countries, mostly USA). But Reply 1997 started off with basically no fanfare. It seemed mostly like a fun little side project, filled with a buncha pop stars (the aforementioned Seo In-guk, two current idols, a past idol who we could wink-wink about with jokes since he was that boyband the girls were screaming about) and written by the team who brought us the long-running variety show, 1 Night 2 Days.

No one expected the show to do that well. It was a fun bit of fluff that wouldn't have aired on any other channel. It was weird and funny and heartfelt and just... hard to define. It shouldn't have broken 1% ratings. Yet each week, the ratings went up and up until it was consistently over 3%. For cable shows, that was insane! And all through word of mouth, people going, "Hey, have you watched this? You should watch this!" The finale was over 7%! That was madness!

Yeah, it was a ridiculous show, full of gags (that goat sound!) and nonsense, but it had a lot of heart that tied it all together. Plus, the nostalgia, which it leaned hard into, with cameos and fashion and references and technology. Still, it was hard to define, and didn't seem poised to attract more than young women who wanted to relive their teenage years. Yet... entire families were watching it.

By the last couple of episodes (which were lengthened because of the popularity), people were fan-subbing same day instead of it being fan-subbed over a week later. People were having huge arguments about who the husband was, who the father was, and being caught up in this dramatic weird fan-girl's life and family.

It shouldn't have done so well. There's no reason on paper why it should have been the #1 tvN show for years. But it just... hit right.

That paved the way for Reply 1994 and Reply 1988, the latter of which is what most people consider their favorite Reply 1988 (I have no opinion, as I still haven't watched it -- those episodes are looooooooong and require too much commitment from me).

This further paved the way for tvN to become the kdrama juggernaut that it currently is, with shows routinely going over 10% in ratings. Not that viewership ratings are the only measurement, but it matters to the people deciding to buy scripts/stories and pay to produce a drama, and Reply 1997 helped convince studio execs to take a chance on more shows that didn't fit the mold.

So, yeah, compared to the dramas we get nowadays, I can see why most people don't understand the appeal. It wasn't made with an international audience in mind and didn't have the budget most shows on Netflix do these days.

But at the time, Reply 1997 was unique and special. It was a drama about fandoms that created its own loyal fandom, one that propelled it to further heights and created a whole new "Reply" series.

It was H.O.T, and we were Shi-won.
posted by paisley sheep at 11:49 AM on September 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

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