Long story short: Lakorn is the Thai word for Soap Operas. Now let’s make that story a bit longer. Soap Operas in Thailand are not just TV shows, they are a way of life and probably the most popular TV genre in Thailand. In Thai it is called ละครโทรทัศน์ (in ‘karaoke’: lakhon thorathat, lit. “television play”) or ละคร (lakhon,pronounced [la.kʰɔːn], or lakorn). Normally they are shown during prime time and can last up to two hours. Usually those shows get a finished ending compared to typical cliffhangers in the west. A better comparison would be Hispanic telenovelas. Some of the typical channels that run Lakorns are Channel 3, 5 and 7.
There also are less successful Lakorns that won’t run during prime time but rather from 5 to 6 pm. Nowadays such lakorns don’t run as long and adjust to international standards such as 1 hour, or 30-45 minutes.
What makes lakorns have mostly in common is that they have very over the top characters which are very distinctive and won’t leave their path once they set it up. I very often disagree with Wikipedia but it lists the following as typical Lakorn content and hits the nail on the head:
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 one “bad” female character, 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 arePoot Mae Nam Khong or the remake of Pob Pee Fa. Nang Rai or Nang Itcha (นางอิจฉา) is a famous name for Thai viewers.
“Katoei” (กะเทย – man dressed like a woman) 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 “bad” guys receive their punishments, and the “good” guys 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 bad female) numerous.
Thai Lakorn influence modern society quite heavily, not always in a good way. But that’s more for another article that will follow soon. If you want to see a list of Lakorns that are available, you’ll find one over at http://www.thailakornvideos.com/lakorn-list/