Episode 1 of Live-On wastes no time, jumping straight into the action. Baek Ho-Rang is the anchor of the high school broadcast station. She reads a submitted letter and gives her honest if harsh feedback, eliciting cheers from the other students and a slew of social media comments. She starts to read them aloud, answering questions live.
Then a flood of hate mail arrives targeting her directly. The comment garnering the most reaction from Ho-Rang reads: ‘Here’s the truth about Baek Ho-Rang.’
We flashback one month to the beginning of the school year, when Ho-Rang was shiny new and popular. A social media star, she’s pretty and spoiled. And a grade A bitch. We also meet a number of her classmates including desk neighbour Kim Yoo-Sin, who seems to be the only one who genuinely likes her. But then again, she’s not exactly welcoming.
Meanwhile, the school broadcast team is preparing for the morning news announcements. Their leader/student producer has a schedule written out in 5-minute increments. The team races to prepare for go-live.
Back in the classroom, the students chat away and in blasts the brusque and outgoing Kang Jae-Yi. Once the broadcast begins, Yoo-Sin nonchalantly reveals his crush on programme anchor Ji So-Hyun even though he’s clearly Ho-Rang’s lapdog.
In the booth, a team member is late by 13 minutes and 57 seconds – Producer Go Eun-Taek timed it. As part of the news report, a school festival is announced for the following month. At the team meeting, they agree to scout Ho-Rang instead of posting an anchor vacancy, believing she will enhance their turnout at the festival. So-Hyun looks uncomfortable at every mention of Ho-Rang’s name.
By chance, Ho-rang discovers there’s a fake social media account in her name and publicly calls out the culprit, classmate Park Hye-Rim. Word quickly travels to the whole school via their group chat account. Hye-Rim denies it but the other kids look at her with suspicion.
Aiming to complete his check-list, Eun-Taek is rudely refused when he approaches Ho-Rang to become an anchor. Later he receives a message from his father asking what time he’ll be home. Eun-Taek assigns himself a task and replies that he’ll be late.
At home, Ho-Rang posts beauty product photos on her feed, garnering instant likes. She receives a text from her mother suggesting she order dinner in; that she’ll be out. Meanwhile, a shadowed girl sends a message to the broadcast inbox.
During the next day’s lunchtime broadcast, a letter is read that sends Ho-Rang into panic. It’s cleverly worded, but Ho-Rang deciphers it instantly. She then crashes the broadcast club interviews, now keen to join. On her way out, she asks who submitted the lunchtime letter, but Eun-Taek notes a policy of anonymity for submissions.
After school, Eun-Taek’s friend Woo-Jae has a date with Jae-Yi, as they get back together after their third break-up. Jae-Yi is also close friends with Woo-Jae’s sister Woo-sol. He smiles benevolently at their social media antics but perhaps this is why they break up regularly. Or is it Jae-Yi’s temper?
Eun-Taek texts Ho-Rang to ring as soon as she receives the message. She ignores it until midnight, only wanting confirmation that she’s got the gig. Eun-Taek asks her to meet at the booth at 12:30 the next day.
Ho-Rang shows up late without an ounce of remorse. Eun-Taek fires her but retracts it once she apologises. At the team meeting, Ho-Rang again asks about the letters but is told to just read her script.
Eun-Taek assigns Ho-Rang cleaning duties. There’s implication that if she performs well, she’ll eventually get access to the letter inbox. That evening, Ho-Rang and So-Hyun have a chat that indicates they have a history, but the demise of their previous friendship is unclear.
That week at the studio, Ho-Rang seems to be everywhere, cleaning and organizing. But eventually, Eun-Taek realizes the underclassmen are actually doing the work.
Hye-Rim sends a new message out to the group chat claiming that Ho-Rang set her up regarding the fake account. Her final cryptic line stabs Ho-Rang. It seems as though Hye-Rim has teamed up with the anonymous letter writer to undermine their common enemy.
At lunch, there’s another broadcast, another letter where the writer refers cagily to ‘a gift’ – the tip given to Hye-Rim. Ho-Rang storms the booth before So-Hyun can go to a song. She grabs the mic saying she’s not scared and beckons the writer to address her face-to-face.
The Episode Review
From the first moment, there’s cyberbullying as well as in-the-flesh bullying going on and a secret that sounds like it could be mortifying. But who’s bullying whom? Based on the setup, expect some lessons on coping with tormentors as well as – hopefully – some strong character arcs for a number of the characters.
A hot-off-the-presses coming-of-age drama on Viki, Live On stars Jung Da-Bin as Ho-Rang and Hwang Min-Hyun, who plays Eun-Taek. Da-Bin’s got a number of dramas to her name, including the recent Extracurricular. Hwang Min-Hyun typically goes by MinHyun as a member of the K-pop group NU’EST. This is his first starring role.
Live On kicks off by establishing some acute personality traits for the leads – her haughty demeanour and selfishness and his control-related obsessions over timeliness and tidiness. He’s definitely on the OCD scale. We anticipate some vigorous disagreements over the course of the series.
With a mix of supporting characters typifying every high school caricature and an opportunity for comedic moments, Live On looks to be easy, possibly tepid fun. Of all the characters, the one most at ease with his role appears to be Choi Byung-chan as Kim Yoo-sin. Byung-chan is a member of the K-pop boy group Victon. This looks to be his first drama too.
We’ve only just got a glimmer of rest of the ensemble at this point, having spent most of the story setting up the two key characters and the plot, so let’s see what they bring us next. Expect the episode 2 review next week when it goes live.