This year was really a wild ride. It was my second full year as a k-drama watcher and my first full year blogging. Phew. Did 2012 go by as quickly for you as it did for me?
Some of it I loved, and some of it left me lukewarm. There were a few dramas I really wish I could obliterate from my memory. But the good ones made up for it, ’cause there were some GOOD dramas.
The reviews will be highly biased and highly noninclusive. It’s about what I remembered at the end of the year 2012. How did these shows impact me? Am I still salivating? Or did I forget it existed until I had to write this thing?
Note: This review WILL contain spoilers
A Gentleman’s Dignity
Broadcast Network: SBS
Writer: Kim Eun-sook (Secret Garden, City Hall, On Air, Lovers in Prague, Lovers in Paris)
Director: Shin Woo-chul (Secret Garden, City Hall, On Air, Lovers in Prague, Lovers in Paris), Kwon Hyuk-chan (Lie to Me, Secret Garden, Lovers in Prague)
This was my first Jang Dong-gun drama. GASP! I know. How could that be? But it was.
Anywho, even though the show finished airing this summer, it really, really didn’t stick. I enjoyed some of it immensely while I was watching and then I wanted to skip over other parts. And now, while I’m trying to remember what it was about and what was good about it, I have to go back and refresh.
Not a good sign.
I really enjoyed the friendship between F44 and how they really have weathered it all together. They fight and make-up. They understand each other and their friendship is stronger than a lot of marriages are. The friendships were way more compelling than the romances.
Jang Dong-geun and Kim Ha-neul were cute at first but then their relationship turned into a staring contest. All they did was look at each other half the time. Bo-ring. Then there was the creepy relationship between 24-year-old Me Ah Ri (Yoon Jin-yi) and Choi Yoon (Kim Min-jong). My ahjussi crush is totally on Kim Min-jong, but I was just creeped out by the whole thing. I think it was the way their relationship was depicted. It was like the actors felt uncomfortable with the concept and the writers felt uncomfortable showing it. It would’ve been more natural had there been a bit more physical affection or something.
I liked watching Kim Ha-neul’s roommate thaw from a rather frigid woman who avoids emotional closeness to someone willing to be a wife and mother. Her relationship with Kim Ha-neul was interesting. She’s not a friend I’d keep ’cause she’s judgy and bitchy. But Im Tae-san seemed to like her.
There was a lot more stuff in it, but I can’t really remember…it had some really funny moments, especially with Kim Ha-neul’s character sticking her foot in her mouth time and time again. It was a decent watch. I was amused…at the time.
Broadcast Network: tvN
Writer: Lee Woo-jung
Director: Shin Won-ho
Arguably my favorite drama of the year. It had heart, heart and more heart. I just wrote 10,000 words on it because I was fueled by my epic love for this drama.
It was idol-packed in terms of cast and script, which had me worried at first. But at the urgings of my friends, I dove in. Then I couldn’t stop watching. In fact, I watched it again. And then when I recommended it to my sister, I watched it again. I tried not to, but I kept hearing a part I liked and running into her room.
In any case, what really got me about the drama was the writing and how seamlessly each scene flowed into and out of each other on screen. There was a ton of jumping back and forth between time periods, but no confusion. There was paralleling between themes and ideas from episode to episode and between time periods. It was wonderful teamwork between writer and director and wonderfully executed by the cast.
It addressed friends, growing up, family, love, misunderstanding. It even had two brothers loving one girl. But it didn’t get ridiculously dramatic or over-the-top. It took real problems in the lives of our characters and make us laugh (A LOT) and cry (perhaps even MORE). There is death and cancer, but they aren’t overwrought. They are set into the plot as a part of life, not as a reason to create conflict and push things forward.
And not to mention some stellar acting. Wait, some? No, TONS of stellar acting. Jung Eun-ji was a knockout as spunky, H.O.T. -obsessed Sung Shi-won. Seo In-guk made a wonderful, brooding and uptight Yoon Yoon-jae. Even INFINITE’s Hoya had me tearing at his characters sincereity. They are the younger members of the six group of friends and the res is rounded out by veteran Eun Ji-won (yes, the Sechs Kies man), adorable Shin So-yool and hysterical Lee Shi-un. There was a natural chemistry between all of them that completely made me forget the age gap between the actors. It was actually kinda nice have younger and older actors mixed because they drew from each other. When they were in the ’90s, the older cast really worked off the younger’s energy and then vice versa in 2012.
Then there’s Song Jong-ho as Yoon-jae’s older brother and Sung Dong-il and Lee Il-hwa as Shi-won’s very-flawed but extremely loving parents. Jong-ho is so earnest as the protective older brother and love-sick puppy. Dong-il and Il-hwa are hysterical as the dysfunctional parents. I’ve never loved television parents so much.
There was only one thing that really distracted me from watching and that was, in the later episodes, the repetition of the “who’s the baby daddy?” spiel. It happened so many times I was jarred from watching. It was the only time. The rest of the time I felt like I was actually there, watching the action unfold – like a peeping Tom. As one tweeter said to me, the show makes you have completely visceral reactions.
So was it worth my time? Uh, I should’ve watched this repeatedly (well, more than I did) instead of wasting my time on some of the other 2012 disasters out there. This show is going down in the annals of k-dramaland along with the greats like Sandglass and My Name is Kim Sam-soon. It is my 2012 k-drama love.
Broadcast Network: KBS
Writer: Hong Jung-eun, Hong Mi-ran (Delightful Girl Chun-hyang, Fantasy Couple, Hong Gil Dong, My Girl, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, You’re Beautiful, Best Love)
Director: Ji Byung-hyun (Land of the Wind, Delightful Girl, Chun-hyang), Kim Sung-yoon (Dream High, Merchant Kim Man-deok)
Waste of my life. I was so excited for a Gong Yoo + Hong Sisters collaboration that I almost peed myself while waiting.
And then this show killed my hopes and dreams. They withered and left a black hole in my heart. It is the only show that I have ever given up on recapping. I seriously don’t know what happened. The premise could’ve been so much fun. A teenager stuck in an adult’s body, and said adult looks like Gong Yoo. There are so many more hijinx that could’ve been, so much talent wasted and a lot of atrophy of my brain. I can’t even remember the plot. I had to go refresh myself.
Biggest disappointment: underuse of Shin Won-ho as Kang Kyung-joon. He was so adorable for all of the two seconds he was on screen and conscious. The point of the story was to have Gil Da-ran accept him as a youngin’ and let their love flourish. So why wasn’t the youngin’ given more time? I understand that Seo Yoon-jae (Gil Da-ran’s doctor fiance) is played by Gong Yoo and we want him on screen nekkid as much as possible, but at the same time, I wanted him on screen with quality writing. And then the ending, where the Hong sisters totally copped out on Seo Yoon-jae’s storyline and left it hanging was so disappointing. We spent the whole time with Kyung-joon trying to grow up to win Da-ran, figuring out why the body swap happened and then have little to no information nor screen time for the real Yoon-jae.
I’m not sure what they were thinking, my beloved Hong sisters, when they tackled this. Did they actually plan this out? It kinda seemed like a free-write. Like a stream of consciousness exercise that should never be shown to anyone else but the author. I’ve never seen them ramble so. I felt light a few of their shows tended to beat a dead horse (Delightful Girl Chun Hyang), but still addressed all conflicts and gave adequate resolution for all the characters.
Let’s talk a bit about the actors. Gong Yoo rocked. Too bad he didn’t have much to rock after episode 4. But he squeezed what he could out of pitiful writing and dubious directing. I felt bad for him, being so wasted on this show. *sob* Then we have Lee Min-jung who is a good actress, but you wouldn’t know it. She looked like a deer in headlights the entire time. I’d never seen her look so stiff in anything before. It’s almost like she had no idea what to do with Gil Da-ran’s circular, ridiculous character. Shin Won-ho, I mourn for what could’ve been. Not that you didn’t look awesome lying prone in a hospital bed for most of the show, but you were woefully underused. Your spirit and spunk could’ve livened up the entire thing a hundred fold. You can’t exactly be spunky while lying unconscious. And we also have Suzy. I think she did a good job with what the role asked. She wasn’t quite as stiff as she was in Dream High. But again, the character got SO old. I don’t want to talk about the adult second lead, Jang Hee-jin. Boring.
This show is a whole big ball of “what could’ve been.” They had the cast, they had the writers and they had the director. Too bad none of it came together. After I type the last period on this review, I will erase it from my memory.
Rating: 3/10 (1 point for having an okay beginning, one point for Gong Yoo awesomeness and one point for his abs)
Broadcast Network: SBS
Writer: Song Ji-na (What’s Up, The Legend, Sandglass)
Director: Kim Jong Hak (The Legend, Sandglass)
This show is one that I would call an “easy watch.” But if you’re looking for more, look elsewhere. I would recommend it for a fun time because hey, it has Lee Min-hot and a wicked cast. It had a fun premise with time-traveling, political intrigue, an INTELLIGENT and CAPABLE heroine, superpowers and the writer and director team from Sandglass, one of the most epic dramas EVAR.
I guess the biggest flaw with this show was the lack of follow-through. Lee Min-ho’s Choi young had a kickass ability to wield electricity and one of his foes, Ki-chul (played by the amazing Yoo Oh-sung) could conjure extreme cold. We didn’t really see much of either power, have much explanation of where the power came from or have really fun super power battles. Philip Lee could control wind. I think he made it breezy…twice? Maybe?
Although Kim Hee-seon as our heroine Yoo Eun-soo was brilliant, we didn’t really get to see her doctor up too many patients. She is supposed to be the doctor from heaven; I’d like to see her doctor the entire way through. Or the fight scenes. They were SO awkward and usually ended so abruptly that it was jarring. It felt like a schoolyard fight rather than highly trained warriors wielding very sharp and extremely deadly weapons. We all know that Lee Min-ho can kick some serious fight scene ass (Shitty Hunta anyone?) but he was terribly shot so we barely got a sense of his badassery. The scenes were so clipped that most of the time I was like, “That’s it?”
I did really like some of the character development and of course, our two love lines were completely engaging. We had Choi Young falling in love with Yoo Eun-soo, a woman who lived life to it’s fullest and teaches him to desire more than mere existence, but to really live as she does. She falls in love with Young because he is so steadfast and earnest. His heart was brutalized by his warriors life and all the people he’s killed. As a surgeon in 2012 Seoul, she’d lost sight of what she wanted for herself and was really flaky about her future. He really steadies her and she gives him reason to want to live. It’s a cool dynamic that I wish was played up a bit more, but the time that could’ve been devoted to it was given to political intrigue.
Then we have King Gongmin and his Yuan wife, Queen Nobuk. What a sweet pairing. They have to overcome misunderstandings and grow to deeply love one another. He is insecure of almost every move he makes and she remains a constant support. They support each other in a way not often found in k-drama. She understands the pressures he’s under and doesn’t judge him for his weakness. He, in turn, a king, loves and trusts her enough to lean on her. It’s wonderful to watch them grow into their marriage, which is not only political, but one of love.
I liked the friendship between Gongmin and Young. Young, at first indifferent to the king, grows to respect him and support him unconditionally. Gongmin looks to Young for guidance and friendship, but is often swayed by political intrigue. It’s an interesting dynamic and save for the romances, one of my favorite relationships.
The baddies were a little 2-D either crazy, lusting for power or lusting to kill. I wanted more nuance in them and in their evil plans. Ki-chul because ridiculously obsessed with Eun-soo and “heaven,” where he believes she came from. If they were gonna play the insanity angle, I wish his minions wouldn’t so blindly follow him. Or, at least give a good reason for them to follow a nutjob. They were powerful enough and intelligent enough to strike out on their own. Why did they band together? Or what about Prince Deok-heung who was pretty much only hungry to sit on the throne and protect his own butt. He poisoned Eun-joo a lot and lied a lot and was on occasion clever, but I never found him compelling as a baddie.
And what about the woeful underuse of Philip Lee as potential Goryeo foil to Eun-soo? He got so little screen time even though he wasn’t scheduled for surgery until episode 20 or 21. It was a horrible oversight. He could’ve really brought out the doctor in Eun-soo a lot more and made for some interesting medical bits.
Oh what could’ve been.
I found the acting convincing even if the writing wasn’t always so. I wanted more of the inner workings of Choi Young. Eun-soo wore her heart on her sleeve and the insecurities of the king were great drama fodder. Side characters like the Woodalchi were loveable and well done.
Overall, it’s a fun watch with a bunch of “WTF?” moments littered everywhere. But if you’re not recapping, it’s not enough to drive you completely bonkers.
Give it a go, especially since the romantic chemistry between our two couples is sizzling.
Broadcast Network: SBS
Writer: Kim Ki-ho (Something Happened in Bali, Sweet Spy, Super Rookie), Lee Sun-mi (Sweet Spy, Super Rookie)
Director: Lee Myung-woo (Warrior Baek Dong-soo, Something Happened in Bali)
What a mindfuck. And not in a good way. But hell if I couldn’t stop watching (even though I was recapping.) I spent half the time going, they can’t really be going there, can they? And then being mindblown that they did. I mean, in the first few episodes Yoo Ah-in’s Young-gul gets trapped on a ship that has a mutiny? And he somehow gets from Mexico to New York City in under a day in the cargo of a semi?
And then there’s Se-kyung, the doormat who let Young-gul and Jae-hyuk walk all over her. She waffles more than IHOP and is just generally annoying.
An-na is pathetic and then suddenly way vindictive. No character growth. She has strange jumps in personality. Jae-hyuk is a snobby, obsessed rich boy with a crazy-psycho abusive daddy. Our poor Yoo Ah-in gets stuck playing Young-gul who wants to make it in the fashion biz and becomes obsessed with money.
Then we have that ending. WTF?! My mind is still blown by it. Bad choice of words, sorry Young-gul. But it is. I guessed that it would have a tragic ending, but being offed by Daddy Jae-hyuk? And then Se-kyung barely reacting to an extremely loud noise on the other line when she’s usually a whimpering mess over everything. Guh, I’m getting angry all over again thinking about it. Must stop…
Add in loan-sharks, poverty, rags-to-riches, terrible wardrobe, very little focus on actual fashion, strange scene cuts and very inconsistent character growth and plot movement and you get one hot mess of Fashion Disaster. It was the worst thing I did all year.
Rating: 2/10 (1 point for Yoo Ah-in; 1 ponit for Lee Je-hoon)
Broadcast Network: SBS Plus
Writer: Park Young-sook (Hon; Hello, Miss)
Director: Park Young-sook (Hon; Hello, Miss)
It started out so good. It used every trope in the book, but it didn’t take itself seriously and I busted a gut laughing at the antics on screen at at the ridiculous hair and clothing styles. I mean, Man-ok is a designer and wears her hair in a fro? Is she serious? And her fashion sense looks like my Jewish grandmother’s.
But that is neither here nor there.
I was disappointed there wasn’t more bromance. It was stuck in at the last minute. The romance was so infuriating, especially after Kang-hwi stopped being cute and started being retarded. Man-ok couldn’t figure out how to use her phone to save her life and save everyone the contrived angst based on ignorance. My least favorite plot device. It wasn’t even noble idiocy after a while. It was just idiocy. The writing and directing were splotchy.
It had the friendship betrayal of the first Full House but this one was so…dumb. The second lead was just needy and all of the conflicts were contrived. That would’ve been fine had the drama continued to poke fun at itself. But it didn’t. So blah.
I gave it a five ’cause the first 12 episodes were okay.
King 2 Hearts
Broadcast Network: MBC
Writer: Hong Jin-ah (Beethoven Virus, Beating Heart)
Director: Lee Jae-kyu (Beethoven Virus, Damo)
Let’s just admit it: this show was all about Eun Shi-kyung. At least it was for me. What a fabulous character. He was not “real” in any sense of the word, but he was all heart. And that’s what a good character is.
Well, the other characters were great, too. But I already had a pretty torrid mental love affair with Jo Jung-suk from What’s Up, so that’s that.
The premise of this show was really, really interesting. What would happy if the monarchy survived and South Korea worked to make peace with North Korea and the rest of the world.
Those are some pretty big stakes for a drama to take on.
The politics were interesting and fun. I fell in love with Lee Jae-ha’s brother, the monarch of South Korea, Lee Jae-kang and was invested in him when he was murdered. The man was the idealistic king who wanted to bring peace to the world. Lee Jae-ha, Lee Seung-ki’s character, wanted nothing to do with peace or politics; he just wanted to goof off. Then he gets thrust onto the throne and has to grow up right quick.
It’s about politics and about a man growing into his place in life. On top of that, he has some amazing people around him, both the good guys and the bad guys. He meets his love, Kim Hang-ah, a North Korean soldier, in a war game where North and South Korea contribute people for a single “Korean” team. He also meets the other soldiers who will shape his life, including Eun Shi-kyung, a South Korean soldier of the no-nonsense variety.
I love Shi-kyung. Totally unrealistically moral, upright and serious, but he’s perfect that way. He could’ve been a boring character, but Jo Jung-suk played him with such finesse that he was completely captivating. His love with the fiesty Lee Jae-shin who has become a paraplegic. They are SO CUTE TOGETHER. It’s such an honest love with no guile whatsoever. And Jae-shin is amazing. Lee Yoon-ji is absolute magic in the role. I always liked her, but here I was convinced she was the cream of the crop. When Shi-kyung died, I think a piece of me went with him. It was pointless and tragic, as a lot of deaths in wartime situations are. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard over a t.v. character’s death as I did for him. Me and everyone else I know.
Then there was the turbulent love between arrogant, North Korean-hating Jae-ha and the fiesty, talented Hang-ah. They love reluctantly and don’t really realize it’s love until later. They sort of play with each other and it’s an interesting development that’s fraught with political turmoil. They have to decide if the love is worth all the struggle and strife, because their love literally has ramifications that could ruin nations. Now THOSE are stakes.
Take those stakes and add in a crazy, magic-trick performing, Wagner-loving, sociopathic baddie and what do you get? An amazing drama that I’m going to watch right after I finish typing this sucker up.
Broadcast Network: MBC
Writer: Jin Soo-wan (Capital Scandal, Wonderful Life)
Director: Kim Do-hoon (Royal Family, Spotlight), Lee Sung-joon (Home Sweet Home, Creating Destiny)
I was so excited to see Kim Soo-hyun in something and I was so bitterly disappointed. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy watching this, but that it was so lacking in any depth. It’s a breezy watch, although a bit infuriating at times.
The best part, as everyone has said, is the child cast. WOW. Fantastic. I wrote about this ad nauseam in my review. But they were rockin’. They gave their characters depth and really set up well for the adult cast.
Too bad most of the adult cast wasn’t up to par and the writing was worse. Kim Soo-hyun was wonderful, but his character, Lee Hwon, was a whiny, yelling, stagnant king who progressed nowhere. Han Ga-in’s character, Heo Yeon-woo changed 100% from how she was as a child, wonderfully intelligent and outspoken, to this timid, withdrawn and pathetic woman. I blame most of that as a writer and the rest on Ga-in for not giving any subtlety to the role.
There was a lot of “what could’ve been” in the many nooks and crannies of the show. The bad guys’ plans were so linear and easy to predict, the conflict wasn’t even stressful. I was more stressed out about the bad acting, and the waste of Jung Il-woo. I felt like he was sitting there the whole time thinking, ‘What is this shit? Why am I doing this? My character is retarded, pining after a girl for a bajillion years even after she’s rejected him repeatedly.’
The side characters were underwhelmingly used, like Lee Hwon’s Eunuch and his sister. Or Yeon-woo’s slave Seol.
Easy watch, super entertaining, but not much substance. I wouldn’t watch it again, but if you’re bored, go for it.
Panda and Hedgehog
Broadcast Network: Channel A
Writer: Han Joon-young (It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl)
Director: Lee Min-chul
I needed a pick-me-up, and this was suggested. So ridiculously adorable. It’s charm was in the cute and that was it. It was pure fluff, no great feats of acting or writing or directing. But it made me feel damn good. And of course, any chance I can get to ogle Donghae is a chance that must immediately be taken.
The story was ridiculously stupid and badly executed. All the characters were tied by blood and circumstance to the point where the coincidence could’ve driven me crazy. But it was SO CUTE. Like, I can’t describe. This show is worth 3-points of cute in my rating.
Donghae was charming as the prickly hedgehog-like baker who wants nothing more than to create beautiful, tasty goods and get back at the large, corrupt corporation that humiliated him. The story was so dumb it’s not worth describing, but Donghae really added a lot of nuanced to a pretty stale character. Choi Jin-hyuk was hot. His character was obsessed with his childhood love. Yoon Seung-ah was cute, but her character was hard to decipher so I didn’t try. Too many inconsistencies. Wow, writing about this really makes me realize the show wasn’t qualitatively great. But the execution had heart and it was fun.
That’s what I’ll leave you with. Watch it when you need a mood booster.
Queen In-hyun’s Man
Broadcast Network: tvN
Writer: Song Jae-jung (Coffee House, High Kick! Through the Roof)
Director: Kim Byung-soo (Vampire Prosecutor)
This show snuck up and bit me in the ass – I was so surprised by how much I liked it. I’m not a huge Yoo In-ah fan and I really had no idea who Ji Hyun-woo was, but both pulled out some stellar performances as our time-crossed lovers.
I think this may be the only time traveling show that really has an awesome mechanism of time travel: the dude has to be mortally wounded in order to traverse time. That is totally wicked. And it was so much fun figuring out the secret of the talisman that allowed Ji Hyun-woo’s Kim Boong-do to go back and forth from his 2012 honey who plays Queen In-hyun in a drama and his queen, the real In-hyun. He is literally Queen In-hyun’s man wherever he goes.
Now Boong-do is that character every girl just needs to marry. He is smart, sweet, brave, physically fit and has a sharp sense of humor. He really is an easy person to get along with and when he showers his affection on Yoo In-ah’s Choi Hee-jin, I squee’d like WHOA. Actually, let me let one out now, ’cause I can’t contain myself. *squee* I literally waited with baited breath every time he was in danger or was fighting the clock or a foe to get back to her.
I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of Hee-jin at first. She is this airhead who is kinda selfish and whiny. But she understood Boong-do and his purpose. Well, once she believed that he was from the past and not a total looney. She loves to mess with him, which makes for some entertaining times.
The second leads were compelling as well. Kim Jin-woo as the conceited actor Han Dong-min was a total gas as my mother would say. Jin-woo is your typical arrogant actor who plays with women like toys. Even though his behavior is farcical, some genuine emotional and character development occurs. So cool.
The side effects of the time travel are no small thing either, which I love. You break the laws of time, you get punished. And so do we because we have to watch uri Boong-do get punished. Ow, my heart!
I remember watching this while recovering from my surgery in late May and thanking heaven above for it. It was cute but full of substance. Definitely worth my time. In fact, I recommended it to my sister. When she watches, I won’t be loathe to join her.
Broadcast Network: SBS
Writer: Lee Hee-myung (The Successful Story of a Bright Girl)
Director: Shin Yoon-sub (Why did you come to my house?)
I can’t help myself, I loved the show. It wasn’t the best by any means, but the wicked, wicked humor sticks in my mind to this day, so clearly that I laugh when I think of the color coded chicklets and their heavy-handed mother hen. Micky Yoochun proved that he is a fantastic comedian. He’s got the timing and the ability to make some wicked funny faces. Han Ji-min was so cute as Park Ha and I never knew she could be so adorable and funny. The three stooges were caricatures, but man, were they funny and they worked so well together.
At first I really liked the baddies, too. Lee Tae-sung’s Yong Tae-moo was mysterious, and although his jealousy was a little pathetic, I felt able to go along with whatever his nefarious plans were. And then Hong Se-na was deliciously wicked as the evil step-sister. She was cruel and we wanted her stumped at every turn, but she stumped poor little Park Ha.
However, as the company politics started to take the forefront rather than the murder mystery, I started to get weary, and wary. The plot mechanizations started to get tedious and seriously taxed my patience. I wished for the hilarity of earlier episodes and for everything to refocus on the murder and the time travel.
Despite all that, I still really enjoyed it. The chemistry between Han Ji-min and Micky was fiery and when the chicklets were added, it was magic. The cast masterfully played off of each other. It was the strongest point of the entire show. I just really loved watches the actors on screen together. It was joyous.
The ending left a little to be desired, but at the same time, how was this thing supposed to end? I mean, what souls were supposed to be in what bodies and when? I had to rationalize a bit, but I finally settled on “shit happens and not everyone gets what they want” and left it at that. Park Ha got her man and her man’s soul got his woman. That’s the best I can do!
In any case, you should watch. If you miss the funny in this (and those hot hot hot kissing scenes) you’re missing out.
Shut Up! Flower Boy Band
Broadcast Network: tvN
Director: Lee Kwon (Attack on the Pin-Up Boys)
Oh the bromance! Bestill my twenty-something heart. I completely fell into this show despite the hokey name. I started it for Lee Min-ki and Sung Joon. I’d nursed a crush for Sung Joon since White Christmas. Even just looking at the poster for this makes me want to watch it again. It talks about making dreams reality. It addresses the sad issue of talent versus business. Our characters go into the music business world and don’t make it out unscathed. But they do come out stronger.
The cast was strong, despite the rookie actors, and the writing was zippy and the directing quite sleek. Sung Joon was a knock-out. He stayed in the shadows during Lee Min-ki’s two episode cameo and then stepped out into the forefront, just like his character did. It was masterful acting. Newbie actress Nam Bo-ra was absolutely winning as Im Soo-ah, rich girl turned poor who struggles to maintain appearances.
The love story between her and Ji-hyuk was just the sweetest little thing. It developed reluctantly and the tension was from being immature and trying to care of each other without knowing how. Then there was drummer Do-il trying to win over Ji-hyuk obsessed Woo-kyung and he actually gets her. See? Sometimes our charming, intelligent second lead types get their girls!
I really like how the band, adorably named Eye Candy, thinks they have a unified goal, but they realize, too late, that they really have different aspirations. They are just too young to really know what they want. Ji-hyuk, the intrinsic musician, is one of the few who knows exactly what he wants to do for the rest of his life: prodigies are usually that way. But the others are not as single-minded. I like how the show depicted them starting together and then really butting heads before finally realizing what they needed to be doing.
Then we have the opposing band, Strawberry Fields, headed by genius composer Yoo Seung-hoon played by Jung Ui-chul. They are technically better, better funded and connected to the biz. The rivalry between them and Eye Candy is a real thing experienced in the music world. Add to that Seung-hoon’s love for Soo-ah and we get some pretty powerful competition between the two bands, especially between Seung-hoon and Ji-hyuk. Plus, Seung-hoon’s journey is interesting to watch and Jung Ui-chul did some fab acting.
We can’t forget the bromance, which as I said at the start, was amazing. Watching the bandmates fight was like watching lovers fight: it made me all twisty and icky inside. I just wanted them to kiss and make-up. And they did, evetually, after sixteen episodes of sweet torture. The dynamics between the five bandmates were great. We had joined at the hip Ha-jin and Kyung-jong; we had best friends Ji-hyuk and Hyun-woo who gradually became estranged because of jealousy over other relationships. Quiet Do-il held everything together but eventually loses his cool. It’s such a great dynamic.
And so much pretty. *drool*
In any case, this drama is worth your time and then some. Go watch it. Go buy it. Enjoy Sung Joon singing
Broadcast Network: MBC
Writer: Kim Gyoon-tae (Hyunhaetan Marriage War)
Director: Kang Chul-woo, Choi Hwa-jin
It has gumihos, Chunderella, adorable Hyomin and tears. I’m not a melodrama person. I tend to avoid melodrama like the plague and I tend to avoid the deaths of major characters. But, I dived into this one anyway and went even so far as to recap it.
At first I wasn’t disappointed. The show was fun, sprinkled with a bit of angst, family drama, quirkyness and some fun explorations into dating and love. I liked the slowish pace, the B1A4 theme song and Kang Ye-won’s dreamy, bizarre and outspoken Gu Mi-jin. Y’know, the gumiho who needs one more liver in order to become human or disappear into foam?
In any case, it was the last two episodes that were really jarring and highlighted the severe pacing issues. I suppose it’s inherent with the eight-episode format. It was trying to fit too much into two episodes. The entire thing should’ve just been spaced better.
In terms of dealing with the fantastical element, I thought learning the history of the gumiho in this context was interesting. But the costuming was rather terrible and the fight scenes were so blurry. I wanted kick-ass gumihos if they were going to fight!
Hyomin was a standout for me. I felt for her spoiled, misguided character. Kang Ye-won’s Mi-jin was interesting and quirky but looking back, the character was a bit meandering and hard to relate to. I didn’t feel for her right away. I was actually annoyed by her. With a show this short, we should immediately feel an attachment to our main. Lee Chun-hee, however, was so adorably naive and captivating.
Would I recommend you watch it? Sure. It’s got some funny and deals with some good life issues. It looks into love in an interesting way. Overall, I enjoyed the entire thing as a watching experience.
Broadcast Network: mbn
Writer: Song Ji-na (Faith, The Legend, Sandglass)
Director: Jang Mi-ja, Song Ji-won
I skipped worked to finish this drama. I started marathoning and couldn’t make myself stop. This show had musicians, music school and musicals. You all know I’m obsessed with k-drama, but I’m also a musical FREAK. This show was after my own heart and addressed so many issues that musicians face. That, and each character had a story, a COMPELLING story and the way that their lives were interconnected may have had some annoying coincidences, but they were played out so well.
Let’s start with the cast. These guys were perfect. The vocal ability was there for everyone and then we got delicious doses of powerhouse voices Daesung and Jo Jung-suk. Im Joo-hwan is such a commanding man. I never would’ve known just from his pictures. (No, I hadn’t seen him in anything else before this.) He comes alive on screen. Rawr.
Newcomer Kim Ji-won as Park Tae-hee had an angel’s voice and the emotional depth to pull off everything from the acting to the singing. There was Im Joo-eun as Oh Doo-ri who quickly worked her way into my heart. What a powerful actress. She sizzled on screen. Of course, Manzzang was brilliant as the troubled professor who was learning just as much as he taught. Each character interested me: Byung-gun and his fear of public performance; Do-sung having to hide his relationship with his politician mother. Even B-actress Eun Chae-young’s struggle to remain at the top was compelling (if annoying.)
Then we have the amazing, amazing, soundtrack. I would expect no less of a show about music school. They made some gorgeous choices from the soundtrack of Les Choristes for the death of Sunwoo. They covered some epic songs from the theatre (Seasons of Love from Rent, for example) and had some gorgeous originals ( like With You, the duet between Tae-hee and Byung-gun.)
This show talked about kids growing up and going through tough times and learning how to express everything through music. As a musician, you feel this innate drive to create. As an artist really. Jae-hun felt the compelled to be a part of the theatre. He ended up creating as a director. Sunwoo taught his kids how to take that need to create and allow the music and the artistry to pass through them to their audience. To create and to give. I guess this applies to everyone in all their callings and all their fields of work. I just relate to this particular venue so much as a musician. It’s about doing what you love with people you care about.
Would I recommend it? Yes. So go watch. Now.
Broadcast Network: KBS
Writer: Park Yeon-sun (White Christmas, Evasive Inquiry Agency)
Director: Bae Kyung-soo (Women in the Sun)
This show really wasn’t all that great. It’s saving grace was that it made me WANT to know what happened next and find out why the actors were behaving as they were. It had the drive going.
At first, I totally dug it. I thought having the crazy tomboyish bodyguard would be fun. And watching Lee Dong-wook is always easy on the eyes. They had some fun chemistry in the beginning and the fighting was interesting.
I was also excited to see Manzzang act again ’cause I had just finished watching him in What’s Up where he totally pwned. But his character was pathetic and weak and it was just ridiculously sad how quickly it digressed to utter crap. I felt like the writer manipulated him just to give the plot somewhere to go without any thought for solid character development. Which is weird, because Writer Park wrote White Christmas, the ultimate thriller. It’s one of my favorite dramas ever. Fail.
And then we have the mystery, which was fun at first, and then turned so lame. I figured out the culprit by episode 15 and that’s pretty much all the mystery was. There were no other puzzles to solve outside of it. Again, writing fail.
Not to mention the humongous black hole that was Jessica’s character. She was an utter waste of a second lead.
The fun of watching this drama was in making fun of it. That and watching Dong-ah and her robot secretary flirt and have an adorably awkward romance. For me, they were the interesting couple and it was a total secondary romance. I can barely remember the primary romance.
So you should watch this drama if you run out of other dramas to watch, (which won’t happen.)
So there you have it folks, my 2012 k-drama year in a nutshell. I actually averaged all of my ratings and came up with 6.4. That’s my score for the year. Not too bad, right?
I’m totally looking forward to next year. Give me more Park Shi-hoo, sexy kissing scenes and good writing. Don’t you dare repeat Fashion King or Wild Romance. And try to lay off all of the time traveling. If you’re gonna be trope heavy, subvert them. Just humble advice from a not-so-humble viewer.
With that said,
HAPPY NEW YEAR! HELLO 2013!