Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Good Doctor - Korean vs American Version - The First Episodes

The first couple of times I heard that Hollywood had purchased the rights to produce an American version of a popular Kdrama, I got excited. I would get to see a story that I loved recreated by those in my own country. I was interested to see their take on it, what elements translated well, and what they changed. But as the years went by and none of these remakes ever came to fruition, I gave up hope. So much so that I had completely forgotten that "Good Doctor" was among those that were up for a remake. Until I saw that the pilot episode of the American "The Good Doctor" came out this week. I never watched the Korean version when it came out, because at that time in my Kdrama life, I was looking for cutesy romances (still am, tbh). But now that an American remake has come out, I decided to give Good Doctor (Korean) a try as well as The Good Doctor (American) so that I can compare the two and see what an American adaptation of a Korean Drama is really like and how it lines up against the original.

As a disclaimer, at this point I have only seen the first episode of both versions. If the American version has factors from the Korean version shown in later episodes, I won't know because I haven't gotten that far yet. So first, I'll point out some similarities, then I'll point out key differences, and then give my thoughts overall. There are spoilers below, but only from the first episode and I haven't seen beyond that, so it doesn't really spoil the plot of the drama at all.

Honestly, I was impressed because there were more similarities to the original than there were differences. Even scene by scene they were nearly identical save a few factors. All the way up to the lead's name Shi On in the Korean version and Shaun in the American. So rather than detail every single frame of what was similar, I will highlight the important things that remained the same.

  • Autistic Savant: In both versions Shi On/Shaun has both autism and savant syndrome making him a medical genius with impaired social skills.
  • Board Needs Convincing: Shi On and Shaun's mentor doctor is the lead of the hospital in both versions and has to speak in front of the other directors to convince them to give Shi On/Shaun a chance.
  • Saves A Boy's Life: Shi On/Shaun both save a young boy who is injured by a falling sign. In both cases he delivers first aid that saves the boy's life that even the other doctor on the scene didn't know how to. Then he takes the ambulance with the boy who happens to be going to the hospital that Shi On/Shaun has been recently "hired' at. Video of Shi On/Shaun saving the boy's life goes viral which impacts the hospitals decision to give Shi On/Shaun a chance.
  • Female Doctor is an Advocate for Mental Health.The female lead in both versions has a fight with the senior surgeon about how mental health of a patient/their peace of mind is just as important as physical health.
  • Domestic Abuse: In both versions Shi On/Shaun was abused by his father growing up and bullied because of his condition.
  • Doting Brother: Shi On/Shaun both are close with their brother. Their brother protects them and tries to help them befriend the other kids. Both Shi On and Shaun keep the toy scalpel their brother gave them as a gift when they were kids.

  • Cold but Brilliant Lead Surgeon: In both version the Senior Surgeon is arrogant, but recognizes Shi On/Shaun's skill/expertise. He's mean and doesn't want Shi On/Shaun to be a surgeon, but something tells me he's going to become a softie as the story goes on. At least in the Korean version. Lol.
  • Inspired to Become Doctor by Brother/Bunny's Death: In both versions, it is a speech from Shi On/Shaun explaining how he wanted both his bunny and his brother to grow up and have children and how it wasn't fair that they didn't and that is why he decided to become a doctor that inspires the directors to give him a chance. It's a moving speech and I'm really glad that they kept it.
  • Director's Job is on the Line: The one that surprised me the most was that in both versions, the director/president of the hospital vows to resign if Shi On/Shaun cannot make it as a doctor. This surprises me because it seems like a much more Kdrama -specific thing but it certainly ups the ante for tension in the American version. 
As I said before the shows are both very similar, so there aren't a lot of big differences but here are a few that caught my attention.
  • Sex: Unsurprisingly there is sex in the American version, within the first 7 minutes and it keeps getting brought up. They don't show the act, thought.
  • Attitude: Shaun is more talkative than Shi On was and in that way he's also a bit more antagonistic/curt towards others. This could be a cultural thing or just a different portrayal of autism. I find both portrayals to be accurate to life. 
  • Type of Hospital: In the Korean version, they work in a pediatric hospital. In the American version, it's just your standard hospital.
  • Death of Brother: In the American version, Shaun's brother is younger than him and dies from falling off of an old train car. In the Korean version, Shi On's brother is older and dies in a collapses old mine.
  • Surgery Timeframe: Shaun goes into surgery with the other doctors at the end of the first episode, whereas the first episode of the Korean version does not see Shi On in surgery.
  • Gender/Racial Discussion: In the American version the difficulties faced due to racial and gender issues with the difficulties faced as someone with a disability such as autism.
  • Drunk Kdrama Trope: In typical Kdrama style we get a scene where the female lead gets drunk, goes home but apparently it's in the house that Shi On is living so obviously one of them is in the wrong places, and wakes up to find him in his underwear brushing his teeth. 
 Firstly, I will say that I really enjoyed the first episode of Good Doctor - the Korean version (and the American version to but more on that in a minute). I was intrigued by the plot and the characters and definitely plan on finishing it. Because the American version is so similar to the Korean, I also plan on giving it a chance. However, I didn't feel quite the love Freddie Highmore's portrayal of Shaun as much as I did Joo Won's portrayal of Shi On. I just felt more drawn to Shi On as a character, but that could have been an acting choice on Freddie Highmore's part. Also, there is the fact that Freddie's American accent is a fake one (he's British) and he has that to add on top of acting as an autistic man. In addition, there is the fact to consider that the first episode is the pilot and acting in the pilot seems to typically be a little stiffer. That being said, I look forward to seeing what the American version brings forward and how it lines up with the original. So far they have maintained not only the spirit of the drama, but also have remarkably stuck very closely to the original. As the show progresses, I hope they are able to at least keep the spirit of the show the same. Unfortunately, based on the pilot critics don't seem to be the biggest fan of the shows, viewers however say otherwise. But as I say, you can't judge a show from its pilot.

Let me know your thoughts! I'd love to hear them.

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