Even those of us with Spotify playlists shamefully lacking in K-pop can find much that amuses in new Netflix Original series YG Future Strategy Office – however unexpectedly.
Based in what passes for the headquarters of the real YG Entertainment, one of South Korea’s most influential entertainment companies, this quirky sitcom “mockumentary”, with hurriedly focused close-ups borrowed from The Office, is one of two things.
It is either an opportunity for YG to endear itself to screaming teens by being commendably honest and revealing various eccentricities of show business; or it is an extended advertisement for its star roster created to boost the company’s power, influence and riches – suddenly important following the defection of Psy and significant losses incurred by the cancellation of a planned talent show. Come to think of it, it might be both.
It achieves the former by having its most scream-inducingly popular employees star in the show and seemingly be themselves (with some exaggeration, probably, for comic-effect incompetence and gullibility).
It achieves the latter by having its most scream-inducingly popular employees star in the show and seemingly be themselves.
In both instances their actual names are used.
The most shriek-worthy star is Seungri, of manufactured boy band Big Bang fame, who is among the most successful surfers of the cultural “Korean wave”. Having been consigned to the company’s Future Strategy Office as punishment for embarrassing himself while drunk at an official function, Seungri proves adept at playing the deadpan fall guy, not least to the heard-but-never-seen big boss, Yang Hyun-suk (the real name of YG’s founder).
Bungling abounds as Seungri and colleagues Yoo Byung-jae, Son Se-bin and Lee Jae-jin flunk every job of making the company look good: everything they touch turns to … well, something less than a “hit”. Floating in and out come the likes of boy band Winner, girl group Blackpink and pretty-boy rapper One, all somehow recalling the Hollywood contract system of old, in which the stars were “owned” by their studios. Even catwalk-ready golf pro Son Se-eun is shoehorned into one instalment.
All eight episodes of series one are available now on Netflix, and you can expect slapstick rather than sophistication and sight gags in place of sharp dialogue (at least in translation). But you’ll never look at your favourite boy (or girl) band in quite the same way again.
Al Profit’s ‘American Dope: Cold War, Heroin Heat’, an Amazon Prime documentary
Director Al Profit (real name Alan Bradley) offers an irresistible line in Amazon Prime documentaries from society’s grim extremes.
A Michigander like Michael Moore – but one who flies under the radar of personal branding, and who looks and sounds like the 1970s Bruce Springsteen, rather than Meat Loaf – Profit recently released American Dope: Cold War, Heroin Heat, examining in forensic detail how the Vietnam war created the United States’ first great drugs epidemic.
Highly dishonourable mentions in the whole nefarious enterprise go to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, all essential opium-processing centres or staging posts on heroin’s long journey to US cities. And if you thought the CIA were a bad lot before, Profit contends that in cahoots with Washington, international crime syndicates and corrupt Asian governments, the agency allowed drugs to swamp the US as a reward for bolstering Western capitalism in opposition to Chinese and Soviet communism.
Now comes the real kick in the clean-living teeth. Last year, says Profit, the US suffered more opioid-related deaths than ever, heroin availability having rocketed since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Meanwhile, US troops are helping Afghan farmers grow poppies. So much for the naive – or wilfully ignorant – and sanctimonious “war on drugs” trumpeted by cuddly old Ronald (and less cuddly Nancy) Reagan.