Category: Urban rom-com
What it’s about
After breaking up with her longterm boyfriend, Na Mi Ru—a reporter at a women’s magazine—finds herself forced to write a column about dating men of each Western astrological sign. The extensive, “hands-on” research required could ruin her reputation and leave her single forever—or introduce her to her true soulmate.
A light and airy take on contemporary urban life, this show splits the difference between the zaniness of Queen In-Hyun’s Man and the candid naturalism of the original I Need Romance. I could do with a less love-obsessed heroine, but props to tvN for staying away from the safe, comfortable dramaland of the big networks and keeping it real(ish).
Overall a fun, involving watch, this show is at its best when it’s following Mi Ru on her quest to meet and date men from each of the twelve astrological signs. It creates a slew of amusing characters, breezes into their lives for an episode or two, and them leaves them behind. Unfortunately, though, 12 Men in a Year has a lot in common with its female lead: it sucks when it comes to building a lasting relationship. All too often the show’s boundary-breaking central plot and great supporting cast (especially Tanya, the quirky best friend), are downplayed in favor of the abrasive, unlikable female lead and her cold-as-ice relationship with her ex-boyfriend. Unlike so many Kdramas, though, 12 Men in a Year keeps you guessing until the very end about where Mi Ru’s heart truly lies. (And as an added bonus, it’s a smorgasbord of toothsome male actors.) The finale was almost what I needed to overlook 12 Men’s sins, but it didn’t quite hit the necessary notes: I wanted more passion for the written word and a stronger sense that the women involved had triumphantly shrugged off the shackles of the status quo. Instead, the closing felt a little half-hearted and route.
• Episode 2. Now that was a good reason to wail “otokae” and dance impotently around. This show is a funny, youthful-but-mature change of pace. How did it fail to get noticed when it was originally airing?
—Newsflash, sweetie: You’re an alcoholic, and you deserve to be fired.
• Episode 5. So the column the female lead is writing seems to be a two-page spread consisting of 150 words’ worth of easy platitudes and trite clichés. I can see why the reading public is eating it up...or maybe not.
• Episode 6. Pinch me—I think I’m dreaming. Either that, or I just watched an episode of a Korean drama about (1) a woman’s right to enjoy physical intimacy and (2) a woman’s right to say no to said intimacy if she so chooses. I guess another possible interpretation is that the finale is the show’s way of reminding us what happens when girls step out of line and misbehave...but we’ll just pretend the last ten minutes didn’t happen, shall we?
• Episode 8. As far as I can see, this show only has two weaknesses. Unfortunately, they’re big ones: Neither lead has any charm, grace, or depth, and when you put them together, they’re like a black hole where chemistry goes to die. On the bright side, the supporting cast is wonderful—especially the female lead’s no-nonsense best friend and police-officer mom. Plus, the plot is diverting fun: when it’s focusing on Sophia’s column, it’s zippy and entertaining. If only the lead actors and characters had been worthy, 12 Men in a Year could have been a truly great drama.
• Episode 15. Wait. So Tanya actually owns some sort of home tattooing device? That’s not a great way to spread hepatitis or anything.
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Both I Need Romance and I Need Romance 2012, for their candid, believable take on modern love