Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Boy, Oh (Flower) Boy: The Dramas



With a premise so shallow and mercenary—young women will go out of their way to watch cute guys, dontchya know—who would have guessed that there would be more to tvN’s Oh Boy! series of dramas than broad comedy and wish-fullfilment girl porn? (Not that there would have been anything wrong with that, necessarily.)

But it turns out that each of this series’ three installments has a lot more to offer—edgy production values, nuanced characters, and real insight into what it means to be young and searching for a future in today’s world.

So let’s take a moment to appreciate the most stunning recent development in drama land: every single one of tvN’s Oh boy! shows is actually good.




1. FLOWER BOY RAMYUN SHOP
October 31, 2011 to December 20, 2011


The concept
Pretty boys work together at a family-owned restaurant that specializes in ramyun.

What it really is
A spoofy, silly mix of drama types—equal parts school show, food pornography, noona romance, cohabitation farce, and spoiled chaebol shenanigans. Our heroine starts off as a teacher dealing with a particularly difficult student—who just happens to be the leading man, a devilish scamp who’s too pretty for his own good (and hers). Eventually she finds herself helping to run her family’s ramyun shop, along with a cadre of handsome young men.


The flower of my heart
Lee Ki Woo’s gentle giant Pillar, who fills the screen with sweet-hearted, narcoleptic charm. The male lead is a bit too groomed even for a flower boy (and appears to be eyebrowless, thanks to a haircut so trendy it’s already dated less than a year after the show finale).



The standout
Ba Wool, the tough high-school student with a heart of gold. His nickname is “Crazy Rooster.” Need I say more? 


What it’s lacking
This show isn’t as good with the darker emotions as it is with the zany laughs, which makes it feel shallow to some viewers.


What it has that the others don’t
Hot, hot kisses. (See above.)



2. SHUT UP: FLOWER BOY BAND
January 30, 2012 to March 20, 2012



The concept
Pretty boys in a rock band called, appropriately enough, Eye Candy.

What it really is
A coming of age story with a gritty, indie-rock vibe that focuses on a group of rebellious high school boys hungry to become rock stars. Along the way, they fight against the world, against each other, and against growing up, all the while trying to become the men they want to be.



The flower of my heart
Drummer Jang Do Il. He may not be much of an actor, but he sure is a looker—the only thing prettier than his scowl is his smile.



The standout
Byung Hee, the charismatic, slightly insane band leader the rest of the show’s characters orbit around, even long after he’s gone.



What it’s lacking
If you’re in it for the romance alone, this may not be the show for you. While there is a love story, the real heart of SUFBB is the tender (but realistically rough-and-tumble) bromance between the members of Eye Candy.

What it has that the others don’t
The gritty, working-class universe that surrounds the story and gives way to an insider peek into the world of Kpop hopefuls.



3. FLOWER BY NEXT DOOR
January 7, 2013 to February 26, 2013 (episodes 7 and 8 air this week)


The concept
A girl loner lives in a neighborhood chock full of flower boys. (Some people have all the luck.)

What it really is
A surprisingly moving, community-minded character study that centers on one of Kdrama’s most original female leads—a wounded, socially awkward professional editor who prefers spending time in her apartment to being out in the world (i.e., Amanda). Even the extreme proximity of unimaginably hot flower boys can’t lure her out, until quirky Enrique Geum emigrates from Spain to take up residence her heart.



The flower of my heart
Puppyish Enrique, who practically vibrates with energy and guileless good will. If you were to add up the cuteness of every single baby animal alive on the planet at any given moment, the total would still be several hundred ducklings (and at least one Korean-speaking elephant) shy of his massive appeal.




The standout
The over-worked, over-opinionated editor of Jin Rak’s webtoon, who has stolen every scene she’s been in with her exasperated commentary.


What it’s lacking
There are rumblings that some people think the plot is moving too slowly, but as far as I’m concerned any deficiencies must be in the still-to-air second act. This show’s pretty much perfect so far.




What it has that the others don’t
An outsider’s view of the world, thanks to the characters of Enrique (who’s just moved to Korea) and Dok Mi (who’s actually a citizen of her head more than she’s a citizen any country).


4. NEXT, PLEASE?
To date, the Oh Boy! shows are drawn from popular drama genres: foodie stories, music-centered plots, and workplace romance. In light of the recent trends, maybe the next one will have a supernatural angle? A flower-boy sageuk would be fun, too, although Sungkyunkwan Scandal has that pretty much covered. And you can’t go wrong with stories about girls pretending to be boys, which would give you an opportunity to crack jokes about how high-maintenance flower boys are, even compared to girlie girls.

What do you think the next entry in this series should be about?

18 comments:

  1. So far the current Flower Boy Next Door is what I expected the Oh Boy! series would be like. A lot of cuteness and hot guys with the engaging story line cable networks are known for. I didn't really enjoy Ramyun Shop because, as you said, the plot was too shallow for me. I was never engaged with any character, although I found Lee Ki-woo to be immensely hot. I really enjoyed Shut Up! but it was no ordinary K-drama, to my eyes.

    For the next entry? Maybe a leading lady that knows her business (what Eun-bi should have been) who becomes the big boss to the pretty boys. I guess an updated, what-could-have-been version of Ramyun Shop but maybe like in court. What?!

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    1. Ramyun Shop didn't really do anything for me, either. And I definitely agree about SUFBB being something special—although weirdly, I'm starting to suspect that this series gets better with each installment. Flower Boy Next Door has everything that was good about FBRS and everything that was good about SUFFB, plus lots of good things that are all its own.

      It's kind of amazing that these drama writers are able to keep coming up with new ideas—I can't think of a single one. It's no wonder they borrow from each other so often. ;) Maybe a Flower Boy version of 21 Jump Street? Pretty boy sleuths would be fun to watch.

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  2. Hmmmm...that might be a difficult thing to come up with...perhaps a university one, but still in modern times - it might be fun to have a college type setting without a noona-donsaeng romance - eh, that might get boring - I can't think of a conflict. We could turn the tables and have a male protagonist for once, though that might mess with the female demographic of K-drama watchers. We could always go with a 7 brides for 7 brothers type setting as well...I dunno...I am all out of ideas right now.

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    1. I've always thought that there were surprisingly few dramas set at colleges. The only one I can think of with characters who actually move away from home is What's Up, which was quite wonderful. I could live with more of the same :)

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  3. Sungkyunkwan Scandal is the closest one I've seen to any of these. I don't feel drawn to watch the flower boys type drama. But just talking dramas that almost fall into that category because their group of actors and their antics are so cute that I've seen are Rooftop Prince, Faith, Gentleman's Dignity (older version flower boys!) and, of course Coffee Prince!

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    1. Coffee Prince is like the grandfather of the flower boy series ;) You might actually give Flower Boy Next Door a shot, if you're ever bored: it really does have more to offer than just pretty guys. I love the characterizations.

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  4. Hi! I read somewhere that they are working on Flower Boy Agency and Shut Up Flower Boy Band 2.

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    1. Sign me up for both! I found some info at The Vault:

      "Oh! Boy Project is at it again, prepping another flower boy-themed trendy drama for tvN. Working title is 꽃미남 연애조작단 (Flower Boy Agency) – think the film 시라노 연애조작단 (Cyrano Agency) – and auditions have been underway for a couple of weeks now. At this point I can only speculate it’ll be like the film — so a group of pretty boys helping ladies win the heart of someone else. And… you know where that’s going. I’ve actually seen this called “꽃미남 연예조작단” as well, which would move the focus from the romance (연애) to entertainment (연예) — but that wouldn’t make all that much sense (flower boys training ordinary people to become celebrities?), so I’m treating it as a typo. Since 나인 (Nine) is airing after 이웃집 꽃미남 (Flower Boys Next Door), I suppose this might go right after, in late May or early June. Oh! Boy is also working on a sequel to 닥치고! 꽃미남 밴드 (Shut Up and Let’s Go). [Internal]"

      I wonder if SUFBB 2 would feature the same characters?!?!

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    2. Really?! :D Wow. Best news I've heard in a while, in terms of shows in the works! I like tvN's Oh Boy! series! ^^ & I LOVED Shut Up!

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  5. Fun post!! :D So witty & spot-on! ;D

    I loved Lee Ki Woo as Pillar too! So large, so sweet & so yummy! Loved that towel scene where he ended up laying on the floor! XD But otherwise, FBRS didn't exactly resonate with me.

    Shut Up! tho, is a whole other story. Love, LOVE, LURVE <3

    I'm totally going to check out FBND, especially after reading your thoughts on it ^^

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  6. Oddly enough - I think my mood for flowerly rom-coms came to a standstill in the past week or so. That, or maybe I've been lingering in that middle-melo realm for too long, but I can't really get myself motivated to watch FBND! :O I'm stuck in the middle of ep 7 and while I thoroughly enjoy myself some moments, I keep getting distracted and run off to do something else.. Maybe I'm sick, but I'm genuinely worried about myself. :X

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    1. Too many romantic comedies is the intellectual equivalent of eating cotton candy three meals a day for months on end. You're probably not sick...just developing a cavity ;)

      FBND is treading in dangerous territory—I wasn't that crazy about episode 8 because it focused on characters other than Dok Mi and Enrique. And Enrique seems to have lost some of his nuance since the early episodes: he's all manic, with no side of depressive. It makes him less interesting, and it's getting hard to imagine him as a sexual being. He's so much of cutesy little boy, I can barely imagine him kissing Dok Mi without running around with his hands in the air, wailing about cooties. =X

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  7. I LOVE the FlowerBoy Series!! I didn't think they could do any better than SUFFB, but I'm so in love with FBND too. I haven't seen epi 8 yet, but i think i'll like them focusing a little on the other characters, cause i'm so into the whole makeshift family thats brewing. I didn't care for Enrique in the begining, i'm so into Jin Rak (Loved him in Joseon Xfiles)but he grew on me. My farovite character is the deliriously sleep deprived Webtoon manager. Not just in this drama, but in all of history. haha.
    Oh, and with SUFFB, imo I think Sung Joon was the standout! Thanks for the great write up!

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    1. oh, I did read something about the next FlowerBoy installment to be about Byung Hee.

      With FBRS, I didn't get into it at first either. It's one of those drama's that need the recaps to really appreciate it. I ended up loving it.

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