Many or most of the Korean TV shows that I have watched in the past several months would not translate well to the American entertainment palate. Many of the shows are formulaic in nature with ridiculous plot twists and are extremely predictable where you know the arrogant, socially dysfunctional rich department store heir will fall in love with the plucky, semi plain poor girl and against all odds, they will live happily ever after. There is a certain satisfaction in watching these shows as they are generally well done and I have found that Korean writers as a whole do melodrama and romance a lot better than their American counterparts. The shows are short as the entire story arc is typically completed in between 16 and 24 episodes and a 2nd season is very, very rare. That said, there are numerous cultural elements as well the repetitive and predictable nature of these shows that preclude the majority of American audiences from enjoying them on a wide scale in my opinion.
However, I have recently completed watching a series that I think would translate extremely well to American audiences. Reply 1997 is a story set in 2012 with 6 best friends (4 men, 2 women) who get together for a high school reunion and in a series of flashbacks, starting in 1997, their story is told. With each episode, more is revealed as you find out who has become successful, who has gotten married and how their lives have turned out.
This series was on cable TV in Korea and featured a cast of largely unknown actors from the southern city of Busan (very rare, virtually all shows on Korean TV are set in Seoul using local actors). From very modest beginnings, word of mouth about the quality of the show spread quickly and by the series conclusion 8 weeks after its start, it was shattering ratings records for cable TV in Korea. It has spawned a sequel, Reply 1994, which features a new cast and is set in a University setting that j.lee insists is better than the original but I haven't watched it yet so must reserve comment.
Why is Reply 1997 good? Despite the fact that I do not get many of the references that made it so allegedly cool to Koreans (the attention to period detail, the distinctive Busan accent as compared to the mainstream Seoul accent, the clever cameos by K-Pop stars from the time period) the story is smartly written, and features story lines centered around friendship, family, dating, sexuality and the oh so important Korean concept of First Love and what it means. One of the primary backdrops consists of the extreme K-Pop fan clubs primarily populated by teenage girls and is highly entertaining.
Frequently funny, realistic in tone and with plenty of drama, this is a fabulous series. It's absolutely brilliant. 10 stars out of 5 and if you don't watch it because you have to read the dialogue, you're an idiot. I found it on Gooddrama.net but its available on any number of similar outlets. Check it out.