Imitation is a 12-episode/hour KBS2 drama based on the Park Kyung-Ran webtoon of the same name. The show ran from the beginning of May through the 23rd of July this year (2021) and is chock full of Kpop idols, which is perfect since the story is all about the South Korean idol industry.
“In the era of one million trainees, the probability of debuting is only 0.1%.” – Kwon Ryeok
As a teenager, Lee Ma-Ha saw a young man named Kwon Ryeok dancing with his friends and was captivated by the leader’s abilities. Secretly, she would watch him from behind a pillar and then do her best to imitate his dance moves. The man was standoffish at first but, seeing potential in her and a willingness to work hard for her dream, he gradually began to give Ma-Ha pointers. And then one day, he was gone.
Years later, Ryeok (who is now a member of the beloved boy group Shax and one of the entertainment industry’s major idols) and Ma-Ha (who is a rookie trainee) keep running into one another and although their status has changed dramatically from the first time they met, their admiration for one another hasn’t. As Ryeok and Ma-Ha begin to become closer, they worry about what kind of damage a serious relationship could do to their teams’ popularity. Will the two idol sweethearts choose love or career?
When it comes to his profession, Kwon Ryeok is a perfectionist, someone that should not be bothered while practicing. Ryeok is not only a member of Shax but he is the only one in the group that has branched out to acting and the young man’s career is soaring – he recently won the 43rd Baekho Film Festival’s Best New Actor Award for his starring role in the motion picture Criminal City. Shax has a very loyal and quite obsessive fan base, known as Fins, and those who love Ryeok follow him everywhere, buying food and making up goodie bags for the cast and crew of the movies he’s in.
Coming from humble circumstances, Lee Ma-Ha has worked hard to make her dream of being an idol come true. She grew up in a small town by the sea where he mother runs a small orphanage. Ma-Ha was chosen to replace a member of a three-person rookie girl group called Omega 3 when one of the young girls committed suicide. Omega 3’s debut was canceled just seconds before they went on stage which not only broke Ma-Ha’s heart but crumbled her spirit. Luckily, just before quitting the entertainment business, the girls were given another chance to reinvent their group which is now called Tea Party.
Lee Yoo-Jin has liked Ma-Ha ever since their trainee days together. Over the years his feelings have grown into something more but she simply thinks of him as a good friend. He is a member of Sparkling, a four-member male group whose popularity has been waning. The team has been working hard, preparing for a comeback and Yoo-Jin is anxious to show Ma-Ha that he can be just as successful as Ryeok.
La Ri-Ma not only has a big career but a big ego to match. She is a solo artist with talent that has earned her one hit after another and a tremendous fan base. She has liked Ryeok for some time and is slightly bothered that he is unwilling to move their relationship anywhere beyond a cool, professional level. She comes across as arrogant and condescending but really has an emphatic heart.
Shax’s manager, Ji-Hak left the entertainment profession after one of its members simply disappeared. Ji-Hak now owns and runs a small, out-of-the-way coffee shop that he calls H Café. After being away from the industry for three years, he has now decided to come out of retirement and has founded JH Entertainment in an effort to give the girls of what was once Omega 3 another chance at success. He is kind, sincere, and works tirelessly to help Tea Party achieve its dreams. Although he is no longer connected to Shax, he still has a soft spot in his heart for its members.
Other Shax Members (according to Ji-Hak):
Han Jae-Woo is the mom of Shax.
Bang Do-Jin came from abroad.
Kang Lee-Hyun forgets to eat when he works.
Yoon Hyuk is powerful and cute, but the scary maknae (youngest member).
Lee Eun Jo (the member that disappeared) looks soft from the outside but is really hardcore.
Other Tea Party Members:
Sim Hyun-Ji is the soft-spoken member of the group. She questions her own abilities, thinking of herself as simply the visual of the group. She has a crush on Lee Yoo-Jin but he only has eyes for Ma-Ha.
Yoo Ri-Ah is the main singer of the group as well as being its leader and is 100% focused on making Tea Party famous. She loves to sing and wants to learn the technical end of making music. Lee-Hyun (of Shax) is interested in her.
Because there are so many characters in Imitation it would take up tons of room to give you even a tiny bit of information about each of the actors/actresses so I decided to just mention their names and who they portray.
Lee Jun-Young (a member of U-Kiss) is Kwon Ryeok
Jung Ji-So is Lee Ma-Ha
Jeong Yun-Ho (a member of Ateez) is Lee Yoo-Jin (a member of Sparkling)
Park Ji-Yeon (a member of T-ara) is La Ri-Ma (a solo singer)
Danny Ahn (a member of g.o.d.) is Ji-Hak (Shax’s former manager, now CEO of JH Entertainment)
Yu-Ri Park (brand new to the industry) is Bang Do-Jin
Ahn Jung-Hoon (has appeared in three dramas) is Han Jae-Woo
Kim Young-Kyun, aka Hwi Young, (a member of SF9) is Kang Lee-Hyun
Choi Jong-Ho (a member of Ateez) is Yoon Hyuk
Kang Chan-Hee (a member of SF9) is Lee Eun-Jo
Tea Party Members:
Lim Na-Young (has been a member of I.O.I. and Pristin) is Sim Hyun-ji
Kim Min-Seo (took eighth place in Superstar K 7) is Yoo Ri-Ah
Since most of the actors in Imitation are Kpop idols in real life, you’d be correct in thinking the singing and dancing done in the show is good. Unfortunately, we never get to hear from Danny Ahn (he plays Ji-Hak) who happens to be a member of g.o.d., one of the most popular boy groups in the early 2000s. I couldn’t help but wonder what crossed Danny Ahn’s mind during the making of this drama. Was he thinking the idols/managers/entertainment agencies were being correctly portrayed? Were the other actors/actresses thinking, “Yep, this is what we’re really going through,” or were certain things completely off and just made up for entertainment purposes? The rules the idols in the drama are expected to live by are the following: “No cell phones / No going out after 10:00 / No drinking / No dating / No clubs / Clean up what you eat / Don’t steal money / Don’t steal clothes / Don’t steal cosmetics or accessories.” I wonder if real idols have those rules as well.
This drama highlights the horrendous (in my opinion) way Korean fans treat their idols. Celebrities (music, drama, and sports) in America are allowed to have social lives. The paparazzi and media coverage of them is extremely excessive but no one throws a fit and the stars’ careers are not in danger of ruin simply because they choose to date/marry someone. American fans are overly curious but don’t begrudge these famous people a personal life. I hope that Korean fans will ease up and allow their idols/stars to have normal human relationships without having to worry about whether or not being with the person they like will doom their career. It broke my heart that Sungmin was chased out of Super Junior, by the fans, simply because he quietly got married. That’s just not okay.
I was surprised that there wasn’t as much singing and dancing as I had expected. I thought a 12-hour drama that is all about the Kpop industry would have had tons of musical performances. However, the little bit that was put in the show is great – and it’s real life idols we have to thank for it.
If asked, “Is Imitation great?” I’d answer, “Not even close.” If someone questioned, “Is Imitation horrible?” I’d say, “Nowhere near that.” So let’s look at how the drama did popularity-wise. Quoting Wikipedia – Imitation “… was the first mini-series on Korean free-to-air television to draw average ratings below the 1% range. It was consistently outperformed by rival late-night dramas on cable networks.” That means shows people have to pay to watch had more viewers than this free-to-view one. Ouch! Do I agree with those statements? Well, I haven’t seen all the other shows that played opposite Imitation so I can’t fairly say yes or no. However, what I can tell you is that Imitation was given a 9.6 out of 10 score (from over 18,000 fans) on Viki.com. I didn’t think it was anywhere near worthy of such a high score but it was entertaining enough to keep me watching until the end.
Okay, what I’m about to write could possibly be considered a spoiler but I’ll try to be vague enough so as not to give away too much. Personally, I have my fingers crossed that what happened in Imitation will eventually happen with Sungmin of Super Junior. Enough said.
Imitation just took the number one spot away from Let’s Fight Ghost for the biggest glaring mistake made in a Kdrama. Unfortunately, it’s way too big for me to even refer to as an “oops.”
When Ma-Ha decides to quit the industry, she cuts her very long hair so that it barely touches her shoulders, and the two other members of Tea Party comment on it. However, a few minutes later her hair is back to the exact same long length it was before she cut it and no one mentions a thing! We see her with her short hair as she’s being told she will be going on a TV show in one week and then the next scene shows her at that TV show with long hair! What? Her hair grew back in seven days!? I was stunned and scrambled for an explanation. Extensions? Since her group members commented on her haircut I thought maybe the writer would eventually have them say something about her hair being long again but it’s not mentioned at all. It’s like the haircut never even happened! Maddening! There’s also a scene that shows the three Tea Party gals in a convenience store and Yoo Ri-Ah has items piled in a shopping basket on her arm. Two girls in the store recognize them and stop to talk and take pictures. Then, as the Tea Party members are leaving the store, all excited that they had been recognized, no one is carrying anything – no sack of things purchased. What did they do, put it all back or just leave the full basket and walk away in front of their fans? Ahhhhh! There were other “oops” but those are the ones that bothered me the most.
I read that, in an effort to promote the drama, social media (Instagram and Twitter) accounts were created where things like pictures and interviews were posted for Shax, Tea Party, and Sparkling – as if the three fictitious groups were real – and the actors/actresses were interviewed and performed on Music Bank while in character. Also, the drama’s three groups and soloist, La Ri-Ma, will be releasing individual mini-albums of the songs they sang in the show. Quite clever. It kind of reminds me of what the actors/actress did for the drama You’re Beautiful. Here is a list of songs performed in the drama along with the people that sang them…
Malo – Shax
Call Me – Omega 3
Show Me – Tea Party
Diamond – Sparkling
No Answer – La Ri-Ma
If We Were – Ma-Ha / Tea Party
In my opinion, the best song is the one in the finale called Constellation.
The backgrounds mainly deal with the entertainment companies’ practice rooms and the dorms the groups live in which naturally goes up in how nice they are the more famous the group is.
Imitation isn’t bad. If you’re a huge Kpop fan I recommend you put this drama on your watch list. But if you’re not particularly crazy about Kpop, it wouldn’t be a big loss if you skipped this one.
Singing and dancing
Decent love story
Danny Ahn’s acting is good/character is lovable
No A-list actors/actresses
Major hair “oops” and some small “oops”
Didn’t need to be so long
Not a lot of character background information
Acting is so-so
Not enough singing and dancing