This article contains spoilers.
The hit series Hospital Playlist saw its audience grow even larger in its recently concluded second season, but what also grew was the running times of the medical drama’s episodes. Already on the long side with a first season that averaged over 85 minutes, the show clocked in at about 100 minutes per episode this season, before closing with a gargantuan two-hour finale.
Given how little narrative drive there is on the show, it begs the question of how exactly is its audience consuming it? It’s hard enough to commit to a near two-hour block every week, but without major narrative developments or cliffhangers, what is it that keeps viewers coming back for more?
Perhaps the reason is that Hospital Playlist is the TV equivalent of comfort food. It’s easy-going, familiar and never surprises you with anything new.
Viewers tune in each week to spend time in the capable hands of young doctors Lee Ik-jun (Jo Jung-suk), Ahn Jeong-won (Yoo Yeon-seok), Kim Jun-wan (Jung Kyung-ho), Yang Seok-hyeong (Kim Dae-myung) and Chae Song-hwa (Jeon Mi-do), who march through the halls of the sleek Yulje Medical Centre sipping lattes and cracking jokes, in between their life-saving sessions in the operating theatre.
The quintet cap off each episode in Seok-hyeong’s basement, where they have practice sessions as a band during which they cover hit songs. Beyond that the only non-work aspect of their lives the show is concerned with is their love lives.
Oddly, for such a tightly knit and chummy group, they seldom talk about their romantic troubles or hesitations. Instead, they exchange knowing glances and are very supportive of one another when a long-held attraction finally evolves into a relationship.
Season one ended with several romantic cliffhangers, and while most of those were left hanging in balance through this year’s episodes, every character that fans had hoped would get together did so by the finale.
The main cast of Hospital Playlist season two.
This included Seok-hyeong, who finally relented and started dating resident Choo Min-ha (Ahn Eun-jin) after rebuffing her countless times.
Jun-wan got back together with Ik-jun’s sister Ik-sun (Kwak Sun-young), who had only broken up with him to hide the fact that she was sick. Jeong-won and fellow doctor Jang Gyeo-wool (Shin Hyun-bin) also remained an item.
Most crucially, Ik-jun and Song-hwa finally became an item, culminating years of alternating affections. Though they danced around it with vague terms, Song-hwa had essentially turned down Ik-jun’s confession of love earlier in the season, but after Ik-jun wound up in hospital following a random attack, Song-hwa was reminded of just how much she truly cared for him.
After grabbing some coffee on a rainy night, the pair sit in Ik-jun’s car and their friendly banter slows down to a trickle of awkward mutterings as the camera ever so slowly pushed in on them until Song-hwa confesses to Ik-jun and asks him if he still feels the same way. He answers with a kiss. This was certainly a big moment fans had been waiting for, but even so, at seven minutes the scene does feel stretched very thin.
While the show continued to present some compelling patient-of-the-week cases and broke the tension of these life-and-death situations with the group’s easy camaraderie, this year has felt needlessly bloated and meandering, especially when compared to season one.
It’s hard to imagine most viewers sitting down and focusing on the show and doing nothing else, particularly when episodes started topping 100 minutes. Even if viewers chose to only half focus on episodes, while cooking or chatting with family for example, they probably wouldn’t miss any significant developments in the overall story.
Jung Kyung-ho in a still from Hospital Playlist season two.
Some parts of the show were completely redundant, such as the aggressive product placement that sometimes dominated entire scenes.
At one point, the group head to one of their band practices and, while in the car, they spend an entire scene discussing what they want to order from McDonald’s by essentially listing everything in the menu.
Once they arrive at the drive in, they go through most of the menu again, as everyone conveniently wants different items. And then the group sits down and spreads it all out on the table in the practice room before they dig in. By the time any non-McDonald’s-related dialogue is uttered again, a full three minutes have elapsed.
Ahn Eun-jin (left) and Kim Dae-myung in a scene from Hospital Playlist season two.
Even though the odds of survival are unusually high at Yulje, no matter how rare or deadly the prognoses, the show was at its best when the doctors had to deal with major cases in exciting parallel surgeries. Alas, these highlights were few and far between.
A show like Hospital Playlist doesn’t need a cliffhanger to justify a new season but as of now there are apparently no plans for a third instalment.
With all the romantic threads more or less sown up, perhaps that should be taken as a sign that the writers were prepared for the eventuality that this may be the end of the road, at least for now, as Jeong-won and Gyeo-wool are heading off to America and the whole cast is currently free to pursue other opportunities, of which there will surely be plenty.
Jo Jung-suk in a still from Hospital Playlist season two.
Hospital Playlist season two is streaming on Netflix.Internet Explorer Channel Network