I’m a big fan of order and routine. I sometimes think this is why I like Korean drama so much—once you master the key elements, everything about them is as straightforward as the basic geometry proofs I learned in high school. From their inevitable plot twists to the hierarchical social order tying their characters together, Kdramas give me just the right mix of predictability and imagination.
My love of consistency definitely impacts how I watch dramas. During the first year of my obsession, I patiently waited for shows to finish airing before I started them. This allowed for marathoning at my own pace, and meant I never once suffered through a cliffhanger; the resolution was only as far away as the “Play” button. The next year of my obsession, I started watching one currently airing drama at a time. Much to my surprise, keeping up with a new series was a totally totally different viewing experience. I came to the show without baggage, forming my own opinions as the story revealed itself. This usually isn’t the case when I watch an older show. Even though I try to avoid spoilers, I’m still an avid reader of the dramaweb. This means I’m always aware of other people’s opinions: Koala hated most of Mi Rae’s Choice, and practically everyone I follow on tumblr is in love with Answer Me, 1994. I haven’t seen a minute of either of these shows, but I’ll never be able to escape this knowledge—when I finally start watching them, I’ll be prejudiced against one and in favor of the other.
Keeping up with a new show from episode one, you come to understand it on your own terms. The existence of an unwritten future can make even a mediocre drama feel immediate and compelling. You’re not a passive watcher checking off episode after episode on your Mydramalist profile; you’re an active participant who’s invited to devote brain cells to conjecture and theorizing. And best of all is live-watching a show that has been adopted as a Tumblr favorite—everywhere you look are short, pithy commentaries and glorious gifsets of all your favorite moments.
So far I’ve live-watched seven dramas: Big, To the Beautiful You, Nice Guy, I Miss You, Flower Boy Next Door, Master’s Sun, and Heirs. They’ve been a pretty mixed bag—some were great, some were good, and some were downright bad. (I’m looking at you, Big.) But they all benefitted from a kind of engagement it’s hard to experience with an older drama.
For year three of my obsession with Korean drama, I’m thinking of being a crazy rebel and watching two currently airing dramas. I’m not sure how this will change my experience of the shows—will it mean that I like them both more? Or will watching two ongoing dramas divide my limited time and attention, making it impossible to appreciate each one as much as it deserves?
And here’s another question: Which two dramas should I watch?