Looking Back on the K-Drama’s Influence


The stakes were high; the body count was higher. And that explains only part of Squid Game’s massive success.

Debuting in September 2021, the series took Netflix by storm, following down-on-their-luck individuals who signed up to play childhood games for the chance to win big money. Its shocking deadly twist in the first episode ensnared viewers, making it the streamer’s first Korean drama to crack its weekly Top 10 most-watched TV show charts globally.

Ultimately, it climbed the grid, pushing ahead of the sudsy Shondaland costume drama Bridgerton, which reached 82 million members in its first 28 days, compared to Squid Game’s 142 million in the same span. It now stands as the streamer’s most-watched series.

(Credit: Netflix)

What truly captivated was Squid Game’s mix of human drama and inhuman action. It was hard to turn away from Seong Gi-hun (Emmy winner Lee Jung-jae), a man stuck in a financial rut unable to provide for his daughter and sick mother. The catch of potential death awaiting game participants — plus the necessity of seeing or hearing fellow competitors die — made it difficult to turn away.

But what’s next? Season 2 was green-lighted in June 2022; this past June, Netflix announced Lee Jung-jae would reprise his role alongside other returning stars Lee Byung-hun (Masked Front Man), Wi Ha-joon (Detective Hwang Jun-ho) and Gong Yoo as the game’s mysterious recruiter. A dozen new names have been announced.

Season 2 will also see Hwang Dong-hyuk back as a director and executive producer. At press time, production was planned to commence this year with no further info on a potential release window. The only guarantee is, when it’s back, the numbers will be killer.

Inside Squid Game‘s Astounding Stats

142 Million Netflix member households that viewed Squid Game in its first four weeks

456 Players in both the series and The Challenge. The meaning behind that number has caused speculation for years.

6 Primetime Emmys won (of 14 nominations), including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Lee Jung-jae

1.65 Billion Number of hours that viewers streamed Squid Game in the first 28 days after its 2021 premiere

12 Years Time it took creator Hwang Dong-hyuk to bring the series—based in part on his own money troubles — to TV

2,205,200,000 Hours that Squid Game Season 1 has been viewed, making it far and away the streamer’s biggest series ever

Squid Game, Streaming Now, Netflix

Squid Game: The Challenge, Series Premiere, Wednesday, November 22, Netflix

This is an abbreviated version of the Squid Game: The Challenge cover story from TV Insider’s November issue. For more in-depth, reported coverage devoted to streaming shows from the publishers of TV Guide Magazine, pick up the issue, currently on newsstands, or purchase it online here. You can also subscribe to TV Insider Magazine here now.

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