(My mom made this opening graphic. She’s awesome. Check her shop!)
This year was the year of unfulfilled potential. So many fantastic premises came out with fantastic casting and fantastic directors and writers and huge budgets. And most of it fell flat. I won’t say that I didn’t have fun immersing myself in dramaland, I just felt like it was not up to snuff.
That said, there were a few standouts that totally made the entire year worth it for me: Nine, Heartless City, I Hear Your Voice, Monstar, Two Weeks, Flower Boy Next Door. There are a few currently airing dramas that I’m looking forward to finishing in 2014: Prime Minister and I, and Empress Ki.
Now for how this year’s review works. I will review and gush and rant and rave. Then I will rate it on the Potential Meter. This is a meter, fueled by Raine powers, that gauges whether or not a drama filled it’s potential. After that will be my highly objective *cough cough* ratings of the show on a scale of 1 – 10. Was it worth the watch?
Note: This review WILL contain spoilers.
Because this is a long review, I’m going to list the 27 dramas included in alphabetical order so that you can pick and choose your poison: Answer Me 1994, Cheongdam-dong Alice, Cyrano: Dating Agency, Empress Ki, Flower Boy Next Door, Full House 2, Goddess of Fire Jeongi, Gu Family Book, Heartless City, Heirs, I Hear Your Voice, Mandate of Heaven, Marry Him If You Dare, Master’s Sun, Medical Top Team, Miss Korea, Monstar, Nail Shop Paris, Nine, One Warm Word, Pretty Man, The Prime Minister and I, The Queen’s Classroom, Suspicious Housekeeper, Two Weeks, Who Are You, You’re the Best Lee Soon-shin
Answer Me 1994
Broadcast Network: tvN
Writer: Lee Woo-jeong (Answer Me 1997)
Director: Sin Won-ho (Answer Me 1997)
This drama had some of the magic of 1997, but it fell short of the mark in how the big reveal and the plot was organized. Setting it in a boardinghouse was nice, creating that makeshift family was the strongest point of the drama. I fell in love with each boarder, and of course with mom and dad. This drama made mega stars out of everyone in it and I’m glad. They deserved it.
I was majorly a team Chilbong fan mostly because Oppa was slow on the uptake. He delayed in everything and that annoyed me. Jung Woo played him winningly, so of course I loved him, but I still loved the earnestness of Chilbong. And I’m glad he got Jung Yu-mi. Cute. Yoo Yeon-seok was a favorite from Gu Family Book and I’m glad to see him break out.
As for everyone else, I can’t pick a favorite. Baro as Binggeure broke my heart into bitty pieces until he got his woman. I loved his struggle with love and sexuality and how sure he was once he figured it out. I could’ve used way more Puppy. I loved Baro from B1A4 (BILASA TO THE NASTIES! Raise you’re hand if YOU SO NASTY!) and I was stoked to see him also show talent as an actor. He is nothing like his rapper persona in 1994 and that was BADASS!
Song Ho-joon as Haitai was exquisite. He has timing down to an art and he’s so damned handsome! WOW! I just loved how he, and everyone else, WAS Haitai. He was the awkward, too-coo-for-school, country bumpkin struggling in the city and to get over his first love. I loved his friendship with Na-jeong. I loved him being a family man at heart and watching over Sook Sookie. I enjoyed watched him grow up.
Samcheonpo. Well what good things won’t I say about him and Kim Sung-kyun is a riot with such fabulous comedic timing. He worked so well with the young Dohee that I’m sure he was the one who really made that couple work. He has an innate sweetness that he brought to Samcheonpo and into the relationship Samcheonpo had with Yoon-jin (Dohee). I loved his bromance with Haitai, which was epic. You never know where you’l find friendship. It’s often in the most unlikely of places.
Yoon-jin was the fan girl I expected Na-jeong to be. Her drunken habit of spewing secrets made for a lot of fun and embarrassment and I’m particularly impressed with Dohee’s sense of timing in line delivery and with how she used her eyes. I vote that she become an actress.
Na-jeong. I expected her fangirldom to carry on a bit farther like with Shi-won, but it didn’t happen. I loved how her character quirks persisted and how honest she was.
What I didn’t like was how convoluted the plot and the triangle got in order to keep the husband a mystery. They could’ve made the husband a mystery, but underplayed it and that mystery would’ve been a lot more effective. The roundabout killed a lot of the feel-good nostalgia that the Answer Me series is known for. It should’ve just focused on the major events in the time periods covered and let the relationships develop naturally without dancing around ‘who da hubby?’ The drama would’ve been better if it were shorter in the number of episodes (preferably 16) and in time. An hour and a half was a doozy.
It made me want to watch 1997 again.
Potential meter: The meter wanted more 1997 feels. It didn’t get it entirely.
Broadcast Network: SBS
Writer: Kim Jin-hee
Director: Jo Soo-won (I Hear Your Voice)
Oh what could’ve been. Adorable, adorable, adroable Park Shi-hoo. Extremely talented and elegant Moon Geun-young. Interesting premise. Great supporting cast. And then…the plot and the characterizations fell completely flat. The comments on society that could’ve been made were completely neutralized by the roundabout doings of the plot. Park Shi-hoo’s character, however adorable, ended up being pathetic, which didn’t match the personality needed to hold down his job. Moon Geun-young’s character was just all sorts of cowardly and crazy and had she just opened her mouth, the whole show would’ve been better.
It honestly just took the wrong direction. If Park Shi-hoo had known about Moon Geun-young’s ladder climbing and had been the one to help her, at least part way, it would’ve done a lot better. Then he would’ve seen ladder climbers can be nice and cute like Korea’s Little Sister.
Luckily, the OST was fabulous. I do own it. The clothing was terrible…which is weird because this is about Cheongdam-dong. My favorite character ended up bing the Tick, i.e. the second lead, because she made the most understandable personal growth.
Potential meter: The talent in this and the amazing hilarity of Park Shi-hoo’s acting is what bumped the rating up. It had LOTS of potential. It was squandered away. Poor Moon Geun-young had been choosing cruddy dramas. Bye bye potential! It was nice knowing you!
Cyrano: Dating Agency
Broadcast Network: tvN
Writer: Shin Jae-won (Tamra: the Island)
Director: Kang Kyeong-hoon (Joseon X-files)
First of all, AWESOME cast. Taemin was a guest star. I thought my life was complete. And then the ending happened. What the hell, how? Kidnapping? Is that how you garner interest. What about the quick-paced dialogue, quirky love-desperate clients (and the badass guest stars) and the awesome Cyrano team you relied on for most of the show?
Do you see the production crew behind this? They’ve been on stellar shows before. tvN usually makes stuff I like, but this fell so flat. It was all in the later weeks.
The zippy chemistry between the leads despite the age gap, the awesome guys who played the behind-the-scenes guys at Cyrano. It had it all…until it didn’t.
I was a sucker for the lovelorn guest of the week. The Sadako-like Jung Yumi, the always adorkable Lee Kwang-soo, idol star Taemin. I loved how the team interacted with the guests and grew up because of the interactions. I loved the awkward romance that burgeoned between Lee Jong-hyuk and Sooyoung through helping other people find love.
There was nothing wrong with you, show, so why did you DO THAT?!
The whole thing with Moo-jin’s girlfriend turning to the dark side, but not really, was like Zack in Bones. Just lame and a stupid reason to kick someone off the show.
I wouldn’t watch it again…well, I’d watch Taemin and Hong Jong-hyun.
Potential meter: This show was blowing up the meter for the first half and then the meter forgot it existed. It got an extra point for my SHINee bias, Taemin. Hehe.
Empress Ki (still airing)
Broadcast Network: MBC
Writer: Jang Yeong-cheol/Jeong Kyeong-soon (writing pair from Incarnation of Money, Salaryman)
Director: Han Heui (Royal Family, My Princess, Personal Taste), Lee Seong-joon (The Moon that Embraces the Sun, Creating Destiny)
Beautiful, beautiful, slick, beautiful. This drama is gorgeous. But more than that, Ji Chang-wook is acting the shit out of it. He really is the heart and soul of the drama despite the fact that his character is the most pathetic ruler that ever walked the planet.
Let’s get back to the pretty. The directors work with beautiful landscapes, gives us wonderful panoramas of the palaces, glamorous indoors and then desolate poor towns of enslaved peoples. Then there are the clothes. Wow, just wow. Stunning. Empress Tanisiri’s clothes make me want to be an Yuan Empress. On top of that there is clean, slick camera work, wonderful use of lighting (natural and otherwise) and the music is gorgeous. It’s a wonderful blend of period instruments and song styles and contemporary. The production on the music is extremely clean and well-balanced. The show definitely has the funding to make me very, very visually and aurally happy.
The plot: well-thought out, complicated without being confusing. Sometimes a bit simplistic, but that’s okay because all of the character interactions are so complex. People have complained that it is not accurate, but the kind of things that are happening are true to life. This is a recreation based on written accounts and I think they are doing a great job.
Acting: JI. CHANG. WOOK. Cherkell unni, the goddess of all things Wookie, must be beside herself. No, I know she is. But she’s right. The man can act the shit out of a paper bag. I’m serious. His character is utterly pathetic and whiny and weak and really just needs to man up, but Wookie makes me invested in him. The second he mans up, I’m going to be a total goner. Then there is the solid Ha Ji-won, who is doing a beautiful job. She always plays strong women well. She has chemistry with both Wookie and Joo Jin-mo and makes me really believe that her character, Seung-nyang, is fighting with everything she has. Joo Jin-mo is just badass as the strong leader of the Goryeo people. There’s really not much to say about the cast. They’re just so strong and in character that I don’t really think about acting. They ARE their characters.
Characters: The development has been slow for some and quicker for others. And some have had no development. A few, introduced late, are still interesting and well-rounded. It’s a strength of the show, even the little guys have personalities and do some growing on the side.
I’m looking forward to finishing Empress Ki‘s run in 2014!
Potential meter: This drama could be really good. We’re 18 episodes in at the turn of the year and it’s going strong. Every once and a while it wavers when it tries to cater to ratings, but it’s mostly solid. Potential meter predicts at least an 8 in next year’s ratings!
Rating: Still airing
Flower Boy Next Door
Broadcast Network tvN
Writer: Kim Eun-jeong (Gabi, Hwangjin-i)
Director: Jeong Jeong-hwa (Pretty Boy, Flower Boy Ramyun Shop)
The Flower Boy series has been consistently excellent for me. This one may not be as popular to most people, but it really spoke to me. It had this wonderful air of maturity and melancholy over it that was absolutely delicious. It was completely brilliant in terms of psychological exploration and letting the pacing of the show reflect the development of the psyche’s of the characters. The pace was a complaint for many. Me? I loved it. I loved to revel in the show along with the show.
The world of Flower Boy Next Door was small. It mostly took place in two apartment buildings with a small quirky cast of neighbors that were lovable and each had some time to learn and grow.
Yoon Shi-yoon was, like Jung Kyung-ho in Heartless City and Lee Jun-ki in Two Weeks, and complete show stealer. He captured the heart and soul of the show with his free-spirited portrayal of the lonely-heart Enrique Geum. He was so painfully lonely, humanly fallible and so full of passion that it was hard not to adore him. I love how he showed Enrique’s surprise and wonder of being changed by Dok-mi as much as he changed her. I plan on writing a more in depth review, perhaps by episode, to tell you how awesome I think this show it.
Park Shin-hye. To me, this was the highlight of her career. She was so subtle and wonderful as the reclusive Go Dok-mi. Her damage is one that we can all understand and I loved watching her come out of her shell as Enrique and the others around her showed her that the world is actually an okay place to be.
My least favorite part of the show was the idiocy with Park Soo-jin and Cha Do-hwi. Her persistence was annoying, but at the same time, it brought about some awesome character development. And she ended up not changing in the end despite all the pain she suffered. Some people are like her, and I like that the drama showed that.
The other characters were wonderful and the sleepless editor was a particular delight. Kim Ji-hoon and Oh Jin-rak was adorably insecure alternating with gruff and macho and I loved it.
Mostly, this show hit me right in the heart. I felt privileged to be allowed into the small, quiet world of Dok-mi and I bought the drama so that I could do the same thing, over and over again.
Potential meter: This meter got what it expected and it is fulfilled.
Full House 2
Broadcast Network: SBS Plus
Writer: Park Yeong-sook (Hon, Hello, Miss)
Director: Kim Jin-yeong, Nam Gi-hoon
The bromance was the reason I watched, and the show failed me. With an awesome actor like Park Ki-woong, I felt like the show should’ve done him more justice than lock him in a basement (literally) and let him pine away for a girl with a terrible frizzball hairdo. The bromance was the best part and if the bros were going to brofight, then they should’ve fought, not been separated for half the drama! It made the bromantic reunion unbromantic. And that…is just sad.
The central conflict between Sheepy (No Min-woo) and his nasty president was so badly played that it ruined the entire show. Not to mention the role of his stylist (Hwang Jung-eum) was flat the entire time. Jung-eum tried her damndest, but nothing is going to bring that lame-o role to life.
Honestly, I remember shit about this drama except for my the nicknames Deeno and I came up with. Those were the best.
Potential meter: There was so much potential (well not ALL that much) between Sheepy and Bunny with the hair and the cuteness. This meter wasn’t gauged too high, knowing this wouldn’t be stellar, but the latter half made the meter sad. Sad, sad, meter.
Goddess of Fire Jeongi
Broadcast Network: MBC
Writer: Kwon Soon-gyoo (Warrior Baek Dong-soo)
Director: Park Song-soo (No Limit, Dr. Gang)
The casting it what had me excited and the fact that Kwon Soon-gyoo was penning it. But I was so disappointed week-to-week that I can’t even pretend to like it, not even for Kim Bum and Moon Geun-young. I think they are the best thing to come of this drama, their dating that is. I hope you two last a LONG time!
But seriously, there was zero real plot development, the characters were stagnant. I mean, the brilliance of Bummie could NOT SAVE it. It was repetitive, the heroine wasn’t worth rooting for and the romance was staler than day-old cold.
Oh, the porcelain was pretty.
Potential meter: The meter is sad and saggy right now and wants to give Kim Bum a hug for his wasted time. So much potential, so little payoff.
Gu Family Book
Broadcast Network: MBC
Writer: Kang Eun-kyeong (Glory Jane, Dal Ja’s Spring)
Director: Kim Jeong-hyeon, Sin Woo-cheol (A Gentleman’s Dignity, Secret Garden)
This show was one of three this year that skyrocketed an actor to fame. You all know who is is: Daddy Gumiho Choi Jin-hyuk. They wrote the man in because he was so wildly popular. I thought that was pretty cool. And he was pretty awesome in everyday. Too bad the stuff they wrote in for him was a little one-dimensional.
Lee Seung-gi was as adorable as ever as the gumiho puppy and he acted the hell out of his character. I really wish the story had explored his gumihoness a bit differently near the end because that was a huge issue for him throughout the drama and it never was properly addressed. Instead they had that weird ending that looked like the drama got cut off. It also never explained how he learned to deal with his gumihoness.
Suzy was okay. She was adorable. Her character was badass and also trickled off near the end until she was killed. I think she should’ve died when she was shot. The prolongation of death was dumb and weakened the story. Especially if they wanted her to be reincarnated.
The bad guy was an awesome badguy and Lee Sung-jae was sufficiently creepy. In fact, I still found him creepy as a good dad in Suspicious Housekeeper! Too bad his evilness also fizzled out at the end.
Yoo Yeon-suk was one of my favorite characters in the show and I thought he was poorly used and underused. Same for Lee Yoo-bi who was totally BADASS and then…I think they forgot she existed because I didn’t see her anymore.
I think this show forgot what its purpose was and reinvented itself in the middle. The whole thing just got confusing. But it had enough heart and enough good acting that I enjoyed myself. I was sad that Sung Joon’s role got shafted most of the time. But who could act the shit out of a role where your main action was to stand around and glare better than Sung Joon? His facial expressions were AWESOME.
Potential meter: This meter expected more than it got, but was satisfied by the ride.
Broadcast Network: jTBC
Writer: Yoo Seong-yeol
Director: Jang Yong-woo (Nineteen, If Tomorrow Comes), Lee Jeong-hyo (I Need Romance 2012)
As Girlfriday said of My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, “Show, you complete me.” I seriously love this show. I haven’t been able to rewatch it because my heart is still too full of the EPIC AWESOMENESS! This is probably my favorite show of 2013, not because it was the best made or best acted, but because it packed an emotional punch.
Let’s get the not good stuff out there: the cops and the system were overly simplistic. The secret tracking lipstick had a button that BLINKED RED. Like that isn’t a dead give away that you’re a secret agent. The drug system wouldn’t really work in real life. But none of that mattered because the story worked around its flaws and the characters were even better.
Now onto awesome. I’ve never loved a woman character like I loved Lee Jin-sook. She was strong, beautiful, 2ooo% woman, powerful, and yet still vulnerable. She was clever and an awesome ally. I cannot contain my love for this woman, nor for the actress, Kim Yu-mi. Choi Moon-sung as Safari was full of heart, fierceness and such tenderness towards Jin-sook despite his bravado.
I was a little blah about Nam Gyu-ri as Soo-min, but it didn’t matter because she blended in so well with the rest of the cast. Yoon Hyun-min as Kim Hyun-soo was half the reason I love this show. He made the most epic bromance with the lead.
And who is that lead, only the amazingest, awesomest, most wonderfulest Jung Kyung-ho as PAKSA! Jung Shi-hyun! THE MAN! Kyung-ho carried this show from start to finish and he was so amazing that I think I went a little crazy watching him. After seeing him as the goofy lead in Smile, You, I definitely didn’t picture him as the badass Paksa. Because he was BADASS. The show revealed his layers episode by episode in the most tantalizing way. His interactions with everyone were so strong because he considered all his closest relationships to be precious and did anything for them despite the abuse he suffered at the hands of the main baddy, a crooked cop.
Just a stint about the cop, played by Song Chan-min. I really loved how we never knew what side he was on and I was so glad when the fucker got shot!
Back to Paksa. PAKSA! We love Paksa. This show was really about him and if he hadn’t been such a strong character or so well-acted, this drama would’ve been a lot worse. This might be blind love, but it’s love. Give me Paksa.
Potential meter: This meter cannot judge because it is in love. Love skews all things. <3<3<3
Broadcast Network: SBS
Writer: Kim Eun-sook (A Gentleman’s Dignity, Secret Garden)
Director: Kang Sin-hyo (Midas, Tazza)
Oh the hype, the limelight, the star-studded cast and the glory…that never was. The awesome, fucking fantastic cast acted the shit out of every second of the show and got nothing for it. Why? The plot was terrible, the pacing was terrible, the villains were terrible and the characters were terrible. I was most interested in Kang Ha-neul’s predicament and I got hardly any screentime with him, WTF? I know a few people like’s Krystal’s Bo-na and she was cute and consistent.
I’m just so fucking mind blown that Lee Min-ho, Park Shin-hye and Kim Woo-bin were so nastily used. Not only them, the whole AWESOME AWESOME CAST! The show also started off slowly. I couldn’t get into it. I thought I ‘d be happy once they left the land of terrible American actors and landed in good ol’ Korea, but no, they were jerking my poor, worn out chain.
I don’t want to talk about this anymore.
One point for awesome actors. One point for consistency in Choi Jin-hyuk’s character.
Potential meter: The show that could’ve been.
I Hear Your Voice
Broadcast Network: SBS
Writer: Park Hye-ryeon (Dream High)
Director: Jo Soo-won (Cheongdam-dong Alice)
This show is all heart. Park Soo-ha loved Hye-sung so unreservedly that I was completely jealous of her the entire time. They were such a raw, beautiful couple and changed each other for the better. It’s easy to see they will continue to change each other well beyond the ending of the drama. I just love the utter vulnerability they’re able to have with each other and that carried to the other characters.
The heroine was fun, quirky, and hysterically conceited. And, I must sing Jung Woong-in’s praises as the villain. For me, he was the oldest brother in Ojakkyo brothers, goofy and kind. He scared the crap out of me here and it was glorious. You are amazing Woong-in ssi.
Also to be praised are Yoo Sang-hyun and Lee Da-hee for their wonderful performances. I love Sang-hyun as the awkward lawyer and the subtlety that Da-hee infused into her character.
What was good about this drama was that it was not only character-driven, but plot-driven. The legal system was weak so the plot suffered for that, but I liked the stalker/killer’s motive and watching the good guys trying to evade him. I loved watching Soo-ha’s amnesia work its way skillfully into the drama, upsetting all the other dramas that lamely used amnesia.
This show also shot Lee Jong-suk into super stardom and he’s been everywhere this year because of it. I’m glad, because he was fucking brilliant. He, like Kim Jae-wook, has a scary control over how well his face emotes.
One of my favorites of this year.
Potential meter: The meter did not expect much from this show and found itself completely won over by its heart. This meter is overflowing.
Mandate of Heaven
Broadcast Network: KBS2
Writer: Choi Min-gi (Just You), Yoon Soo-jeong
Director: Jeon Woo-seong (Ooh La La Couple), Lee Jin-seo (Babyfaced Beauty)
Like Two Weeks, it is the father/daughter connection that drives this intrigue. Unlike Two Weeks, the show feels completely different and a bit hokier. I was much more interested in Song Jong-ho and his development as a cop and a man. I was also more interested in his romance with Kang Byul, who played Kim Dong-wook’s sister, that I was in the main romance. The main couple was so boring whereas the secondary couple was feisty, full of life, and made me want to fall in love again.
The involvement of the Crown Prince played well by idol star Seulong was something I particularly enjoyed because that is a dynamic that a modern fugitive show wouldn’t have: king and subject. Those titles round out their strained friendship in unusual ways and makes the friendship more poignant.
A lot of the side characters seemed frivolous, which I didn’t like at all. I like it when even the smallest of characters seems like a real person, not just a pawn to toss around to further plot.
Lee Dong-wook was good as the lead, but he grimaced a lot. I was kinda wishing he was Song Jong-ho, but I loved Jong-ho with Kang Byul.
At the end of the day, er, year, I really don’t remember much about this show, but that I enjoyed it. It didn’t really stick with me.
Potential meter: The show did a good job and lived up to most of the hype. The main couple was a bit lackluster. Kid was cute. Cuteness always makes Potential meter happy. Potential mostly filled.
Marry Him If You Dare
Broadcast Network: KBS2
Writer: Hong Jin-ah (King 2 Hearts)
Director: Kwon Kye-hong (Bad Love), Yoo Jong-seon
This show was great to marathon but really started to break down in the second half. The time travel mechanism didn’t hold up well and the open-ending really didn’t work for it. I didn’t need her to end up with anyone in particular, but I would like to see the outcome of Mi-rae’s choice! I was hoping for a bit more from Hong Jin-ah because I thought that King 2 Hearts was a well put together drama in terms of writing and character development. In fact, this drama was very strong at the beginning.
After the first half of the drama, however, the whole thing deflated. People stopped smiling, and learning and just moped the whole time. I had severe second lead syndrome as well. He was just better for her. I also thing that Jung Yong-hwa turned into a fine little actor for this drama. You may disagree, but he didn’t feel stiff or robotic to me. I wanted him to get the girl SO BADLY. And I wanted him to get the other girl: Seo Yoo-kyung (Han Chae-ah).
More than that, I wanted his character to have a better trajectory at the end. I was invested in his career and they cast that plot thread to the way side. It just trickled away.
There was a wonderful rapport between future Mi-rae (Choi Myung-gil) and her oppa (Oh Jung-se) that was heart-warming and beautiful. Their scenes were some of my favorites and they did continue well into the last reaches of the final episode. Unfortunately for them, they were the only strong scenes in the last episode.
This drama was higher rated because I enjoyed the first half so damned much and how the two Mi-rae’s and oppa made such a cute, hodge podge family.
Potential meter: The meter was expecting a lot and was left wanting. Feed meter good dramas please.
Broadcast Network: SBS
Writer: Hong Jeong-eun, Hong Mi-ran AKA the Hong Sisters, (Big, Best Love, You’re Beautiful, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho)
Director: Jin Hyeok (City Hunter)
The best part of this was the humor and the puns. The plot was a tad slow and nonsensical. The characters tended to blow things way out of proportion for dramatic effect. The ghosts weren’t all that scary and I wanted more out of Gong-shil’s character development. But the strengths of this show made me enjoy it. The chemistry and clear friendship between Gong Hyo-jin and So Ji-sub was winning. They had great comedic timing. I was surprised with how spot on Ji-sub was with his timing. He had me rolling in stitches.
Seo In-guk’s roll was…lame. He was so badly used, but he did well despite all of the confusion. I keep yelling out “Geo jyo!” at home and waving my hand like Master did whenever something stupid happened on screen.
I did absolutely love, however, the interactions between Seo In-guk and Kim Yoo-ri. Yoo-ri was fabulous as the ditzy, jealous star and the pairing with In-guk was absolutely hysterical. I thought they were more interesting (at times) than the main couple!
What the Hong sisters managed to do with this drama was keep their wit in their writing and also made the characters endearing. Their plots in the last few years have suffered quite a bit and I’m hoping they go for a bit more plot-driven stories next time so they can clean up the messes they’ve caused for the past two years.
The OST was beautiful. Yoon Mirae and Hyorin sang for it, which had me fangirling, but the instrumental tracks were also lovely.
Potential meter: The Hong sisters got this meter excited, but in the end, it didn’t fulfill the hype or the potential that it had with the writers, director and the cast it had. So, “Get lost/Geo jyo/꺼져!”
Medical Top Team
Broadcast Network: MBC
Writer: Yoon Kyeong-ah (Brain, God of Study)
Director: Kim Do-hoon (The Moon that Embraces the Sun)
Choi Minho, I love you my SHINee rapper extraordinaire. You stepped up the plate and became a real boy after the disastrous acting in To The Beautiful You. While you did well, this show was a clusterfuck that made no sense. Characters had personality make-overs and lovers had zero chemistry. Nothing made any sense.
Wait. Something did. The medical aspect. That was clear and well explained. It was actually the best part of the show. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. You can read my reviews for it here. I wrote reviews of each episode for Hancinema and I can’t bear to write anymore. Well, maybe I can. What was this writer thinking? The plot was so linear that nothing connected. No one’s individual story lines converged properly to create a good drama tapestry. I was bored. The actors looked bored. I’m sure they were bored and incredulous. At least they got paid. But Minho didn’t get to do promotions with SHINee…
Potential meter: This meter feels sadly empty.
Miss Korea (still airing)
Broadcast Network: MBC
Writer: Seo Sook-hyang (Romance Town, Pasta)
Director: Kwon Swok-jang (My Princess, Pasta)
This show is so like Pasta in feel and production that it’s a bit uncanny. The camera work and OST and the recycling of actors makes it seem like the Pasta universe. Luckily, Lee Yeon-hee is hitting the role out of the park as the strong, feisty Oh Ji-young, a Miss Korea hopefully who is coveted for her beauty by Miss Korea creators.
The problem with the show is that I care more about Jung Seon-saeng (yes, his name literally means Jung teacher…hehehehehehe!) the crazy, incompetent, pitiful loan shark than I do about Lee Seon-kyun or Lee Yeon-hee. It’s only been out a few weeks, but the drama lags and the muted colors that are used to make it seem like 1997 just drag me down. This show needs a pick me up.
Potential meter: This meter doesn’t expect much. Lots of smiling maybe.
Rating: Still airing
Broadcast Network: Mnet
Writer: Jeong Yoon-jeong (Arang and the Magistrate)
Director: Kim Won-seok (Sungkyunkwan Scandal)
Thank god for brilliance. This cast was just hands-down brilliant. Aside from Yong Jun-hyung who blew me out of the damned water with his unexpected badass acting, the entire cast had no favorites with me. They were on par, strong, great chemistry and made me ache for the poignancy felt during high school.
Let’s start with Jun-hyung, rapper of B2st (or Batoost for all ya’ll nasties out there!) I expected nothing from him and got one of the most natural actors I’ve ever seen. The kid was made to be in front of a camera, holy shiitake mushrooms, Batman! I vote more acting for Jun-hyung.
The general plot movement was not something I cared for one way or the other, but the timing of line delivery, camera movement and pacing of the plot was what grabbed me and kept me in the moment. I felt for these kids who suffered and reveled every moment of every day because they’re young. They’re in high school.
I really loved the contemplative feel of the whole thing. It wasn’t like Flower Boy Next Door that had a more mature feeling to it. The “feeling” was like a mixture of the Answer Me series plus the introspection of Flower Boy Next Door. Delightful!
Plus, Kang Ha-naeul held the cello right even though he wasn’t great and the music faking wasn’t all that great. But I’ll let it go because the talent that I got to see made up for it. Park Kyu-sun beat boxing? Park Ui-shik belting? HELLZ YES. Not to mention that Kim Min-young has a stunningly beautiful voice. And despite her “weight,” I think she’s beautiful. I like that a full-figured woman like her graced the screen of a successful drama. Power to us full-figured women!!!!
This show was unexpected. It did need to close a few of the open ends for me to feel like it really had come full circle and was ready to send the kids off to their futures, but overall, I like the open feeling of the entire drama and I’m looking forward to more Mnet productions.
Potential meter: This show had this meter boiling, tapping its toes and doing a happy dance to all of the awesome.
Nail Shop Paris
Broadcast Network: MBC Dramanet
Writer: Seong Min-ji (Manny)
Director: Park Soo-cheol (My Girl)
This was the black-hole of dramas. What the fuck was that? Seriously? Rapist ghosts? Plastic glue on gaudy nails? Reading sex drives from nail bed health? Uh…Song Jae-rim, I’m choosing your dramas for you next time. You are too good for this shit.
The story made zero sense. No continuity, terrible acting (‘cept for Jae-rim). A waste of my life. And I have to mention it again, rapist ghosts? Seriously? Ack.
Potential meter: Doesn’t know this show existed.
Nine: Nine Time Travels
Broadcast Network: tvN
Writer: Song Jae-jung, Kim Yoon-joo (writer pair from Queen In-hyun’s Man)
Director: Kim Byung-soo (Queen In-hyun’s Man)
This drama was basically everything I wanted in a drama. I’ve never quite had a watching experience like this one. There was not one moment where I felt the desire to know how it ended. Nine is all about the journey and while there was a big netizen hullabaloo over the ending, I felt like it was the perfect end-cap for the show. Of course, I marathoned the drama and it made a lot of sense that way because details were fresh in my mind.
Let’s talk weaknesses first so I can get to gushing. The split-screens were a bit much, but not distracting. What was distracting was how Jung Dong-hwan as villain Choi Jin-chul gaped like a fish any time anything didn’t go his way. I felt like he overacted way too much and detracted for the evil nature of his character. He turned Jin-chul into a caricature of evil near the end. This could be a directorial flaw, but since Dong-hwan tends to play cool villians, I tend to think the erratic nature of Jin-chul’s character might’ve been out of his league.
Another reason I think it may be a directorial flaw is that Young-hoon (Lee Seung-joon), the main character’s best friend, also tended to gape like a fool whenever time travel effects were felt, but it fit his character more because Young-hoon is a bit of a drama king (in the best of ways).
Onto the story: solid. Solid. Solid. There were small time travel mechanism discrepancies that I ignored. Time travel makes zero logical sense anyway and I think this drama did a great job of making a time travel mechanism and creating the rules that the characters are bound by when using the mechanism (incense sticks) and then suffering its consequences. While romance was a key aspect to the drama, it wasn’t the main motivator for hero Park Sung-woo (Lee Jin-wook). It was his sense of justice and need to right past wrongs that sent him back into the past. He was amazingly unselfish about most things, which was great to watch. When he was selfish, it was much easier to get behind him.
I’ve read a lot of reviews and comments that say the story was confusing, but I think that may be a result of watching the show live. I watched it in two days (yes, I’m insane) and I was not confused except by what the show wanted to remain confusing and vague. It’s a lot easier to hold onto the details when you watch a show in a few days versus over a couple of months.
Pacing. I liked the slow pacing and set up of the beginning because then the show ebbed and flowed like so many literary concepts of times. At times the pacing was breakneck and riddled with tension, and others, it was thoughtful and quiet. The show began quietly, with the romance, with the Himalayas as the STUNNING background. I loved Sun-woo in the first ten minutes so by minute 12, when he confirms that the dead man in Nepal is indeed his brother, I shed a tear with him for his loss.
Characters and acting. These characters were, save for Jin-cheol’s, well-rounded, easy to support or hate, and easy to understand. Sung-woo was a wonderful hero who was AWESOMELY acted by Lee Jin-wook. Without his solid performance, this show would’ve fallen. The show is as character-driven as it was plot-driven. Joo/Park Min-young (Jo Yoon-hee) was such a winning heroine. She was so refreshing with her sunny demeanor without being too aegyo or a total airhead. She was intelligent, diligent and fun-loving while also being attractive as a woman as appealing as a character. Again, good writing, fantastic acting.
Special shoutout goes to Young-hoon’s character. A better best friend there never was! He was supportive, honest and a bit of a dramaqueen and I loved him for it. And love him. It’s hard to mention all the characters in this review, but I was especially impressed by Hyungsik as young Sung-woo. He was right on par with Jin-wook and they actually felt like the same person. Jeon No-min as older Park Jung-woo, Sung-woo’s weak-willed hyung, wrung out every last bit of emotion from my completed devoted soul. He was so pitiable and pathetic, but so winning in his weakness and his desire to do right. A well written, totally flawed character like Park Jung-woo has rarely been seen in dramaland or, in truth, on television.
I could go on an on, but I’ll save that for a singular review on Nine.
As for the comparisons I’ve seen made to Queen In-hyun’s Man, it was definitely the same emotional quality as QIHM. It had a similar directing style, but the feel was different. The writers/director team did a great job of not replicating QIHM and creating a new world. Yes, there were some similarities, especially in the camera work, but Nine was definitely its own story.
The feeling of the show is what got me like in Heartless City. It created a wonderful tone that was only broken by Jin-cheol’s fish face. I was able to escape into the world of Nine and suffer and revel along with the characters. I seriously couldn’t help the moments I cried out with the the characters or when tension peaked. The show outshone its flaws and made them negligible. And I also ordered the DVDs. And forced Lil Raine to start it.
Potential meter: The meter blew up from all of the awesomeness and will need to be replaced.
One Warm Word (still airing)
Broadcast Network: SBS
Writer: Ha Myeong-hee (Can We Get Married?)
Director: Choi Yeong-hoon (Five Fingers)
I totally don’t condone cheating. In fact, I think it’s dirty and disgusting. However, if there has to be a drama about cheating, One Warm Word is the one I’d watch. It really does a lot of exploration of the cause, the happening, and the aftermath of cheating, which I really like. We see the cheaters reel, the families and lovers real. The children. It explores how devastating adultery is in Korean society (and in any really.) It’s not afraid to get down and dirty with the flaws in people and the pain we cause each other and must suffer through. It also gives us some beautiful levity in the healthier family relationships, those relationships that are the reason for the secrecy and pain, because the characters don’t want to damage the delicate balance that creates the happiness.
I also must thank this show for introducing me to Park Seo-joon. I avoided Dream High 2 so I missed him there, but I’m gaga over him in this. He’s beautiful and powerful and intense.
Potential meter: Good thing this currently airing one comes after Nine so I have time to replace the meter…but if I have to work without it, I say this one has pretty good potential to do some great digging into human relationships. Don’t get too makjang, please.
Rating: Still airing
Pretty Man (still airing)
Broadcast Network: KBS
Writer: Yoo Yeong-ah (No Breath, Birdie Buddy)
Director: Jeong Jeong-hwa (Flower Boy Next Door, Flower boy Ramyun Shop), Lee Jae-sang (Grudge: The Revolt of the Gumiho)
This show is so terrible and pointless, but it’s addicting. I LOVE IU and Lee Jang-woo together. They have ridiculous chemistry. IU always manages to be winning and lovely. But I have the same issue with this as I did with Playful Kiss and the entire franchise. I can’t respect someone so obsessed with another person who doesn’t like them or treat them well. I can’t stand watching them get looked down on. And yet, I watch it like a car crash. Mostly I really just love Lee Jang-woo and think, “Where have you been? Oh yeah, I refused to watch I do, I do.”
Potential meter: This meter doesn’t expect much except for lots of pretty and lots of cute and lots of stupid.
Rating: Still airing
The Prime Minister and I (still airing)
Broadcast Network: KBS
Writer: Kim Eun-hee , Yoon Eun-kyeong (writer pair for (My Fair Lady, The Seasons Dramas)
Director: Lee So-yeon (Add Genius Lee Tae-baek, Babyfaced Beauty)
This show is breezy, cute, and manages to touch on sturdy issues with enough gravity not to seem flippant. The chemistry between Yoona and Kim Beom-soo is surprisingly fantastic. I’m sad that Yoon Shi-yoon is in second lead territory, but he can pull off anything. I love the dark side of him.
I also love her changing the family and learning how to define her role in the family with this contract marriage. She has no real place as a mother or wife, but she’s fulfilling those duties anyway. It causes tensions between her and Kwon Yul (Kim Beom-soo) and his kids. It’s a wonderful premise to explore.
I’m also happy with the general pacing of the show. There are a few things I’m not into at all: Yul’s strife with his brother-in-law, which is both political and personal. I also don’t care for the Scandal News people (sorry little Lee Min-ho! I love you, but you’re better than that piddly role!)
Potential meter: This meter didn’t expect much, but it is dancing in anticipation for the next episodes in the new year!
Rating: Still airing
The Queen’s Classroom
Broadcast Network: MBC
Writer: Kim Eun-hee, Kim Won-seok (Monstar, Sungkyunkwan Scandal)
Director: Lee Dong-yoon (Feast of Gods, The Greatest Love)
The first of the two Japanese remakes I watched (the other was The Suspicious Housekeeper.) I found both too intense on the STELLAR kid casts. Especially this one. Go Hyun-jong was absolutely striking and fearful as the teacher who will do anything to teach her students, including terrorize them. The entire classroom of students won awards at the MBC awards show for their stellar performance.
It may be just me, but I seriously can’t handle the cruel-to-be-kind method that Teacher Ma used on her kids. The kids in the show came out no worse for the war, but imho, real kids would be scarred by that shit. That’s my moral incompatibility with the show.
The other thing is that the show started to rehash its storylines around episode 8 when I was hoping for something new. It was just the same stuff over and over. Albeit, the kids and their plights were heart wrenching and their performances were what kept me in the game, but I really wasn’t feeling it.
Potential meter: The meter was unsure and didn’t set its bar high, but it went up as the kids began to act and as Go Hyun-jong blew the other teachers out of the water. But the story did not fulfill the meter’s expectations. No, no, no.
The Suspicious Housekeeper
Broadcast Network: SBS
Writer: Baek Woon-cheol (Mighty Chil-woo)
Director: Kim Hyeong-sik (Ghost, Sign)
This drama was well-acted, especially by Choi Ji-woo and the kids. It was finely made, the intrigue was there, but there was something missing in it for me. I didn’t connect with Bok-nyeo’s mission or the way she carried things out. I couldn’t connect with the obsession that the kids felt for her. Song Jong-ho as the deranged killer/stalker was particularly amazing, but I couldn’t connect with him either.
I suppose that was this shows biggest flaw, it had a complete emotional disconnect for me. All the elements were there, the father learned to be a father, the kids learned to appreciate him and move on, Bok-nyeo learned to open up. As with the Queen’s Classroom, I have trouble with her methods. They are too rough for me and I can’t handle treating people roughly in order to gain a desired result. I’m not Machiavelli.
Great thing about it was the child actors. I love when kids are given meaty roles and prove that they have the mettle to be working in the industry. Props!
Potential meter: The meter was set low and was pleasantly surprised, but not blown away.
Broadcast Network: MBC
Writer: So Hyeon-kyeong (My Daughter Seo-yeong, 49 Days)
Director: Choi Jeong-gyoo (Horse Healer), Son Hyeong-seok (Personal Taste)
This show is wonderful. Pure awesomeness. The best plot-driven drama of the year. The time constriction on the events in the show did everyone and everything about it a world of good. Acting was tip top and I have never loved Lee Jun-ki more. He’s always been fabulous as an actor and a physical actor because of his martial arts background, but this time he just worked magic with the face acting and in those moments with his on-screen daughter, the talented little Lee Chae-mi (who is kicking butt in One Warm Word right now.)
This show did everything right. Excellent pacing, interesting characters, tons and tons of character growth on all sides and excellent rounds of one-upsmanship between the baddies and the goodies. It made me cry tears and cry out in excitement during tense moments. I was actively engaged the whole time. The fact that the legal system is a little sketch didn’t bother me. There is usually a give in take with quality in dramas: better tension and character development instead of accurate portrayals of real life system. I’m cool with that. It never stopped me from enjoying the show.
And I loved the ending. In my not-so-humble opinion, I think he’ll go back to his family, but he wants to make something of himself and of his life first. he wants to be able to stand on his own two feet before he can carry them. I think that’s awesome.
All of the actors were simply amazing and top notch. I thought they came alive under this script and this director pair. So did my screen. It was so fancy and slick and pretty. The action was AWESOME and I loved all of the chases and explosions and bullets. I was a happily entertained puppy and so was the Potential meter.
Potential meter: The meter is sizzling hot, hot, hot! Start the conga line!
Who Are You
Broadcast Network: tvN
Writer: Moon Ji-yeong (I Love Italy)
Director: Jo Hyeon-tak (Beloved, Daemul)
I actually really enjoyed this, I enjoyed Taecyeon in this and I loved having Kim Jae-wook back on screen. So Yi-hyeon was the best I’ve seen her and I liked her chemistry with Taecyeon. My sister, Lil’ Raine, and I really enjoyed his antics the most along with the intensity of Jae-wook’s faces. He should’ve had more screentime and should’ve been able to do more. The ghost cases were more awesome near the beginning. I was actually creeped out in the beginning. Then everyone, cop and ghost and bad guys, became incompetent. The outcomes became easy to guess and characters didn’t not follow logical progression. Luckily, I really enjoyed the chemistry between the three leads.
And dammit, I LIKED TAECYEON. You have permission to hate on him (nicely, he still has abs…be nice to the abs…) in the comments, but I just had to publicly air that. *Breathes easier*
My enjoyment of this show was on a different level than the quality of the show. This is one of the only shows like that for me this year, this and Master’s Sun.
Potential meter: This show had a lot going for it and it really just crumbled away by the end. Fizzled out with a few last gasps of cuteness. Potential meter was left wanting.
Broadcast Network: KBS2
Writer: Jeong Yoo-kyeong (Marry Me, Please, In-soon is Pretty)
Director: Yoon Seong-sik (Gaksital)
Admission: Totally watched this show for it’s star power: Jo Jung-suk is my oppa, Yoo In-nah is my girl crush and IU is just flipping cute. The premise is common and unfortunately, so was the writing and the directing. I was surprised they didn’t make IU and JJS sing more. They both did wonderful jobs as did my unni In-nah.
This show also introduced me to Jung Woo, who played my favorite character of the family drama and who later struck a home run playing Sseuregi/쓰레기/Trash/Kim Jae-joon in Answer Me 1994. He pulled the same depth from the sexy baker Jin-wook character as he did from the Sseuregi character.
As for the story, it started out with the promise of being decent, but quickly spiraled into makjang land as the writer wasted Lee Mi-sook’s acting on a pouting, selfish mother who made zero progression for forty-nine episodes, then had a sudden turn around. There were too many uninteresting and annoying side story lines to reap the rewards from the cute ones. Recapping this drama was torture every week, which is why I made aniGIFs of JJS to survive:
Soon-shin getting a fist bump out of Joon-ho. Gah CUTE!
If you want to read the full rant, check out the final episode. I don’t want to rehash it. This drama wasn’t worth my time. If I really need a JJS or IU fix, I will go to the cute scenes and aniGIFs that I made:
Happy, smiley adorableness
Potential meter: Meter didn’t put on bells and whistles to wait for this show, which was a good thing. It didn’t live up to much, but JJS, IU, Jung Woo and In-nah unni gave the show a much needed meter bump.
Dropped Dramas. I Should’ve tried to stick them out, but…no…: King of Dramas, Good Doctor
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HAPPY NEW YEAR! HELLO 2014!