Thai television soap opera
Lakorn are a popular genre of fiction in Thai television. They are known in Thai as ละครโทรทัศน์ (RTGS: lakhon thorathat, lit. "television drama") or ละคร (lakhon, pronounced [la.kʰɔːn], or lakorn). They are shown generally at prime-time on Thai television channels, starting at 20:30. (after 2014 Thai coup d'état on Friday nights the lakhorns is interrupted, or broadcast on delay, due to simulcast of The Government-required Weekly Address by the Prime Minister of Thailand. the lakhorns resumed already in progress after Weekly Address is ended on 21:00 or 20:50 or later in some nights until July 2019 that governmental program ended after five years before the sworn in of new cabinet after 2019 Thai general election.) An episode of a prime-time drama is two hours long including commercials. Each series is a finished story, unlike Western "cliffhanger" dramas, but rather like Hispanic telenovelas.
A series will run for about three months. It may air two or three episodes a week, the pattern being Monday–Tuesday, Wednesday–Thursday, or Friday–Sunday. A channel will air three soap operas simultaneously at any given time (each producing their own series). Channels will compete for the most popular stars as they attract the most viewers. Some examples are Channel 3, 5 and 7 as well to a lesser extent Channel 9.
While the "best" series are shown at night right after the news, the ones with a smaller profiles (and shorter run time) will be shown in the evenings from 17:00–18:00. In some cases, the most popular prime-time series are shown on re-runs a couple of years after their initial release, generally in the afternoon.
A lakorn episode is normally 1 hour and a small amount or 30 minutes. When internationally broadcast, the running time is around 45 min. per episode.
Thai soap operas have very distinctive, though formulaic, characters, and narrative conventions. Though some stray from these conventions, most adhere to them, especially ones that are very popular among Thai viewers.
- The series' main goal is to achieve a perfect ending where the lead characters marry their soulmates, and live happily ever after.
- The two main lovers are established at the beginning of the story. Viewers will have no difficulties at singling them out from the crowd. They tend to be the most popular soap opera stars at the moment. The male lead role is called Phra Ek (พระเอก), and the lead female role is called Nang Ek (นางเอก).
- The presence of at least one female antagonist, sometimes more, is commonplace. This person is completely in love with the male lead, and will do anything necessary to stop the two would-be lovers from fulfilling their fairy tale ending. She does everything in her power to become the main actor's girlfriend, and continually attempts to get rid of main actress. She is often a stereotypical character who does not hesitate to do very bad things to the main actress, including trying to steal her boyfriend before the wedding. She is often a rich girl, comes from a good background, has a nasty behaviour, and is manipulative. Few of these characters are kind. She is usually a living person, but a few of these characters can be evil, dead women who come back as ghosts. The most popular ones are Poot Mae Nam Khong or the remake of Pob Pee Fa. Nang Rai or Nang Itcha (นางอิจฉา) is a famous name for Thai viewers.
- LGBT characters are often used as comic relief. Sapai Look Tung is popular for this role.
- In the end, all conflicts in the story must be resolved. Everyone forgives each other. The antagonists receive their punishments, and the good characters receive their rewards. However, some series end with unsolvable problems such as Poot Mae Nam Khong.
- Thai soap operas are often melodramatic to the point of becoming camp. Most productions are written and produced with the assumption that the more melodramatic it is, the better. This is why situations are grossly exaggerated, actions are overly theatrical, and screams and shrieks (from the female antagonists) numerous.
Because Thai soap operas present a melodramatic story line featuring simple one-dimensional characterizations to capture the broadest viewership and commercial sponsorship, they generally do not foster critical insight, reasoning, or problem-solving skills, nor a multi-perspective consideration of the human drama being viewed. They are simply an attempt to create dramatic tension and a "showdown" between the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s).
Several series adhere to this simple format which, over an extended period, may cause some viewers to develop a skewed view of reality. At least one critic contends that the recent political problems in Thailand may be at least partially attributable to the negative influence of soap operas, surmising that it is the disregard of common sense and common human wisdom that causes people to shy away from thinking critically and, as a result, becoming prone to manipulation.
In 2008, Thai Airways flight attendants urged the government to remove a prime-time TV drama (Songkhram Nang Fah) because it showed women flight attendants in short-skirted uniforms fighting over a male pilot. They complained the soap opera portrayed their job in a negative light.
In 2010, at a seminar held by the Christian Council of Thailand, issues were raised involving Thai soap operas and the television rating system. The most notable issues were that Thai soap operas are broadcast early in the day and may including content unsuitable for children, such as graphic or violent sexual assault scenes.
In Thai soap operas, rape is often shown as a vehicle for revenge or a path to true love. Critics have called for producers to stop romanticizing the crime as it feeds into the country's culture of gender inequality. A study by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation found that 80 percent of Thai soap operas depicted rape or sexual violence in 2014. Characters who commit sexual violence are rarely held to account and often win the heart of their victim. Directors and producers are often reluctant to change because soap operas depicting sexual violence, nicknamed "slap and kiss", have consistently resulted in higher ratings. "Most television soap operas are adapted from famous old novels containing rape storylines in which female protagonists are raped by male protagonists," says Jaray Singhakowinta, professor of sexuality studies at Bangkok's National Institute of Development Administration. "Some of them are so popular that they have been made into movies and television soap operas more than 10 times since the 1970s." According to Thailand's National Research Institute, about 30,000 rape cases are reported each year. The head of the Teeranat Kanjanauaksorn Foundation, a gender equality group, has suggested that the real number is probably 10 times official figures, as most rape cases never reach the legal system.
Most Thai soap operas portray the upper class of Thai society, usually through the male lead, but sometimes from both leads. The male lead is usually rich, like Phak in Dao pra sook. Early on, the male leads were nobility, usually junior princes, such as a Mom Chao, because, back then, these were the rich people in Thai society. The rich male has since evolved into businessmen from influential families. This change mirrors the change in Thai society with the upper class now filled with business people and not so much from the royal and noble classes.
Most, if not all, Thai soap operas are based upon novels. Romance abounds in Thai literature scenes and most have the perfect boy-meets-girl scenario. The ever famous, Dao pra sook, is also a novel while another 1994's Silamanee was clearly inspired by the novel of the same name.
Thai television soap operas have contributed to popularize the spirits and legends of the folklore of Thailand. Some soap operas, such as "Raeng Ngao", include the popular ghosts in Thai culture interacting with the living, while others are based on traditional Thai legends and folk tales such as "Nang Sib Song", "Kaki" and "Thep Sarm Rudoo".
Actors and actresses, referred to in Thai language as dara (stars) ดารา, are usually cast in the same roles over and over again. An actress who plays the lead female would assume the same role.
Suvanant Kongying still plays the female lead. The same goes for other roles, such as the friend of the main leads, the bad characters, the servant characters, the mother characters, and others. An "upgrade" or "downgrade" does occur, such as when a female lead assumes the role of the mother, but this is rare. Sornram Teppitak still plays the leading male character. Kob Suvanant Kongying and Num Sornram Theppitak were the highest paid TV actress and actor in Thailand in the 1990s. However, in the past 10 years a new actress has reigned as highest paid in Thailand, Pachrapa Chaichua of channel 7 and Ann Thongprasom of channel 3.
This trend causes problems for the female actors in the leading roles as they age. Thai audiences seem to like their leads young and beautiful and many past female daras have disappeared from the screen once they reach the age of 30 or so. A few defy this norm, such as Marsha Wattanapanich and, even then, she is gradually disappearing. Her latest TV series was 2002's Baung Ban Ja Torn (The Enchanted Bed), which became top rated.
This problem is not as bad for male actors, as can be seen in the prolific career of veteran actor Chatchai Plengpanich. His wife, the once famous Sinjai Plengpanich, has all but disappeared, except for the few commercials seen in primetime.
Among the younger crowd are leading actresses such as Usamanee Waitayanon and Khemanit "Pancake" Jamikorn who have continued to grab ratings despite their ongoing feud. Waitayanon and Jamikorn have come out numerous of times to deny that there is any feuding, but actions prove otherwise. Due to their behavior it is rumored that executives for channel 7, such as Khun Daeng, have called for the women to be disciplined. Waitayanon and Jamikorn have been given a high spotlight due to their feuds and their romantic links to other celebrities such as Golf, a famous singer from the duo better known as Golf Mike. Jamikorn has been linked to romantic interests, including leading actor Sukollawat "Weir" Kanarot.
Thailand has strict censorship laws on films containing nudity, sexual intercourse, smoking opium, or which might offend religious sensibilities. There are no classifications to rate films for different ages so censors often obscure scenes by scratching the celluloid or smudging it with a translucent gel. When actors are playing cards in TV series, a sentence displays that playing cards with money is forbidden by the law.
On Thai television, Chinese, Japanese, American, and Indian films are broadcast. No sex is shown on Thai television, but violence is not uncommon.
A rare censorship appeared in Talay Rissaya when a character's throat got slit with blood everywhere.
Some series are subject to a rating. Most of BBTV Channel 7 programs are usually rated as PG-18 (children under 18 should seek parental guidance).
Prior to the 2000's, Thai TV soap operas were primarily popular in neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Several Cambodian television channels aired Thai soap operas instead of their local ones. Dao Pra Sook was the most popular series for Khmer viewers. Occasionally, due to historical conflicts between the neighbouring countries, the content of these television programs would lead to offline political conflicts. For example, a plot line concerning Angkor Wat led to riots at the Thai embassy in Cambodia and Thai lakorn were banned in early–2003. However, but 2015, Thai content rapidly returned to popularity amongst Cambodian viewers and while they're mainly viewed on online platforms, many television stations were also broadcasting Thai dramas.
Apart from their immediate neighbours, Thai dramas have become increasingly popular in other Southeast Asian countries. Over the years, several Thai TV soap operas have begun to become popular in Singapore as Nang Tard and Love Destiny aired successfully in that country. They are usually broadcast in Singapore one or two weeks after airing in Thailand, primarily on Mediacorp's Channel 8 and Channel U. In 2020, Mediacorp announced that they will be airing a comprehensive set of Thai television content to their streaming platforms with English & Mandarin subtitling option. Several Thai hit series have also been broadcast on major national television channels in Malaysia, Indonesia (Rajawali TV), and Vietnam (VTV1). Likewise, Thai content have also gained considerable following in the Philippines, with numerous Thai series such as 2Gether the Series and The Gifted regularly topping Twitter trends in the country. In 2018, GMA announced that they will be broadcasting more Thai series and exploring collaboration options for production and talent development. ABS-CBN have also announced that they will be airing multiple Thai series on the Kapamilya channel and their streaming platform, as well as further partnership with GMMTV. Filipino newspaper Daily Tribune stated that "Thai lakorn (“television play”),...is slowly inching its way to the top of the tier."
Outside Southeast Asia, Thai television content have also gained popularity in the broader Asian region, particularly China and Japan. In the 2000's, many Thai soap operas are aired in China, dubbed into Chinese language. With the advent of online and digital media, Thai television content continued to gain popularity in China through word of mouth and viral hits on social networking sites such as Bilibili & Weibo. By the late 2010's, Thai content became a mainstay in Chinese streaming platforms, with led to many Chinese companies forming partnerships and collaborating with Thai production companies, such as iQIYI forming a partnership with RS Television to remake Thai content for Chinese audiences. Over the years, numerous Thai series were adapted and remade for Chinese audiences through such collaborations, such as Project S: The Series & My Husband in Law. In 2011, Thai dramas quickly became popular in China, with a high performance-price-ratio, passing South Korean dramas as the second most popular country of origin for foreign shows in China, following Hong Kong dramas. The rise of Thai entertainment in China have had an effect in other aspects of Thai-China relations, with Thai dramas credited as being partially responsible for the popularity of Thailand as a tourism destination amongst Chinese travellers and being consistently awarded as 'Weibo's most popular destination' award.
Meanwhile in Japan, Thai dramas experienced a boom in 2020, with Yahoo Japan stating that "the Thai wave is coming after the Korean wave." While the initial boom was led by Thai BL dramas such as 2Gether and SOTUS, the introduction of Thai entertainment to the Japanese market let Japanese consumers to explore other Thai entertainment content as well. After months of sustained popularity, TV Asahi announced a business partnership with GMMTV to "deliver fresh and stellar Thai content to the Japanese market and further unlock the great potential 'Thai style' entertainment holds".
With its rising popularity, numerous streaming platforms such as Netflix, Line TV and WeTV have purchased Thai content to stream to global audiences. Aside from airing the content, many of the streaming platforms have also formed partnership with Thai production houses to develop their own original content for their platforms.
Thai soap operas are available in Nepal alongside English language, Hindi, Korean and Chinese dramas.
Each series incorporates various dramatic elements such as horror or comedic sub-plots. However, due to the popularity of love stories, all series feature a love story. None do not.
Since the late–1990s, Thai soap operas are often remakes of old series, but with new actors and minor modifications to their plots. To add spice to older themes, producers add supplementary sex, violence, and vulgarity. The tradition of remakes in Thai soap operas began with the successful lakrons. Shows that have been redone include 1995's Sai Lohit ("Bloodline") starring Sornram Teppitak and Suvanant Kongying which was then followed by Prissana in 2000. Dao Pra Sook also had a remake in 2002. In early–2000, horror-genre soap operas made a comeback with a remake of Tayat Asoon, a witch and black magic soap opera starring Sinjai Plengpanich. Other recent remakes, Poot Pee Saward, Poot Mae Nam Khong, and Susan Khon Pen, combine both love and ghost stories. Remakes of Pob Pee Fa and Dome Tong have been announced. A 2008 remake of the 1994 series, Silamanee, became a hit and generated a positive response from audiences. Its attraction was due to new costume designs and the lead actress, Suvanant Kongying. It was called the most beautiful series of the year.
All soap opera series do not have another season but may be followed by sequel. The Thai hit series, Girl in The Glass Lamp, based on Indian legend Aladdin, had a sequel but with different casting. This series found as only sequel until 2000's hit, Angkor, released its sequel in the late of 2006. Meanwhile, a remake of Poot Mae Nam Khong is planning to produce a sequel after the question for audience appeared on its ending. One of the highest rating series of all time, Kom Faek now announced its sequel as well. Sawan Biang is one of the two series with the highest rating of all time. The lakorn's leads were played by the talented Ann Thongprasom and Ken Theeradeth, although no sequel is in sight.
- Khu Kam was based on novel of the same name by Thommayanti, starring pop star Thongchai McIntyre and Kamolchanok Komoltithi, broadcast on Channel 7 in early 1990. It created the phenomenon by being the highest rated drama in the Thai television industry with ratings up to 40 to this day. In addition to this, the main theme song of the drama Peerapong Polchana and Kamolchanok Komoltithi became a major hit and remains popular to this day.
- Dao Pra Sook became the most popular series in the 1990s and one of the first of leading the Thai soap opera reputation into aboard screen within the highest rate drama at 1994 including several foreign release. The highest rated country after Thailand, is Cambodia with giving the nickname for Suvanant Kongying as the morning star as well as the title of the series.
- Susan Khon Pen is a series which mostly remake as at least three times just in only one channel.
- Sisa Marn is noted the scariest series along with Pob Pee Fa and Tayat Asoon.
- In 2008, Kom Faek set the record for the highest rated Thai soap opera in history as well as for Channel 7, with almost 15 million viewers.
- Kaew Tah Pee has proved to be one of the most beloved series amongst international fans.
List of classic/folk-style series
- Kwan Fa Nah Dum (1983)
- Thep Sung Warn (1985)
- Thep Sarm Rudoo (1987)
- Ban Deang Nang Ay (1987)
- Jaoying Khuntong (1987)
- Kaew Na Mah (1987)
- Pi Khun Tong (1987–1988)
- Nang Sib Song (1988)
- Prasuton-Manora (1988)
- Tida Dao Dum (1988)
- Gomin (1989)
- Sung Singh Chai (1990)
- Malaithon (1991–1992)
- Janthakorop (1993)
- Bua Kaew Bua Tong (1993–1994)
- Bla Boo Tong (1994)
- Gro Pid Jid See (1995)
- Kraitong (1995)
- Mane Nope Gaow(1996)
- Nam Jai Mae (1997)
- Pra Rodthasen (1998)
- Laksanawong (1999)
- Nang Paya Prai (1999)
- Nang Sib Song (2000)
- Si Yod Kumon (2001)
- Kaew Na Mah (2001)
- Prasuton Manorah (2002)
- Uttai Tawee (2003)
- Thep Sarm Rudoo (2003)
- Singha Krai Phob (2004)
- Gomin (2006)
- Bua Kaew Juk Krod (2006)
- Pra Tinawong (2007)
- Sung Tung(2008)
- Bla Boo Tong (2009)
- Tuk Ka Tah Tong (2010)
- Darb 7 See Manee 7 Sang (2011)
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