“Doctor Prisoner” debuted with a nationwide rating of 8.4% on March 20, according to AGB Nielsen Media Research. Figures for the April 11th episode saw viewership rise to 14.7%. It was the most-watched series in its time slot, where it faced anemic competition from SBS’ “Big Issue” (3.3%) and MBC’s “The Banker” (5.2%).
One reason for the popularity of “Doctor Prisoner” may be that it has incorporated some real-life news into its story arcs, similar to how American shows such as “Law & Order” draw ideas from sensational headlines. One of the biggest stories in Korea right now is the Burning Sun scandal, where well-known K-Pop idols have been accused of drugging women and then videotaping their assaults to share with each other on group chats.
Namkoong Min plays Dr. Na Yi-Je, who has been forced to leave his hospital after he was made into a scapegoat. Bitter and wanting revenge, he gets a job at a prison where he has access to powerful, wealthy criminals he can use. He begins providing false medical reports for his entitled clients, with the intent of earning their trust so he can get the information he wants. He doesn’t mind dirtying himself, because the justice system he once trusted has proven to be fallible. One of his patients is a chaebol heir who views women as pretty playthings, rather than as people. He sees no problem with drugging girls for his own use. And he enjoys going to a Burning Sun-style nightclub known for offering women — drugged or not — to the elite.
“My Fellow Citizens!” has had more modest success, with a debut of 6.8% viewership, according to AGB Nielsen Media Research. Its peak numbers to date was for the fourth episode, which aired on April 2 with 8.4% of all viewers. The series has stiff competition from its time slot competitors “Haechi” and “Special Labor Inspector, Mr. Jo,” which earned 8.1% and 6.8% viewership, respectively, on April 16. “My Fellow Citizens!” finished behind them with 6.5%.
The K-Drama has fared well with viewers overseas who are watching sub-titled episodes. Certainly, some K-Pop fans are tuning in to see how good the Super Junior star is at acting. But Choi actually started out as an actor, rather than a singer. He had a small role in 2004’s “Precious Family.” The following year — when he was just 18 years old — Choi got a meatier role, portraying the younger version of Ryu Soo-Young in “Eighteen, Twenty-Nine.” (Coincidentally, both of these K-Dramas aired on KBS.)
His breakthrough role, though, was as a handsome editor with a crush on his hot mess of a colleague in “She Was Pretty.” But that was a secondary role, where he took a backseat to Hwang Jung-Eum and Park Seo-Joon. Here, he is quite good at handling multiple characters in his role as a con man. With his leading man looks and comedic timing, he is a scene stealer worth rooting for.
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