Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Drama Doldrums (with Random Recs!)

Jang Ok Jung: The winner by default is still the winner, right?

As part of my quest to become the world’s greatest repository of Kdrama knowledge, I’m usually following two shows at any given time—one an older, completed drama that I can watch at my own pace without running out of episodes, and one a show that’s still airing in Korea. But for the first time I’m not particularly interested in any of this cycle’s new dramas.

Maybe my drama ennui is caused by a scarcity of youthful rom-coms. Or maybe it’s rooted in the end of my Kdrama honeymoon phase—the novelty has worn off, and nowadays I only want to watch shows that are genuinely good. It’s hard to predict whether any of the currently airing shows will be worth watching in the end, which is making me extra ambivalent about settling on one of them.

I decide what to watch based on some strange mental arithmetic, which might be represented like this:
(plot summary ÷ length)(hotness of male lead – female lead’s hairstyle2) x 3.141592

All the new series fall short on one front or another.

• Neither Queen of the Workplace or At the End of the World are being subbed in real-time, so they’re both out. Otherwise, At the End of the World would be the easy winner—it’s a medical thriller centered on a deadly plague produced by the team behind last year’s glorious A Wife’s Credentials. That’s a recipe for awesomesauce, my friends. (Unfortunately, Korea doesn’t seem to agree; At the End of the World’s running time was just shortened by 8 episodes due to low ratings.)

• Time-travel drama Nine is practically done with its run, so I might as well wait until it’s completed before I start watching. Also, the female lead’s modified Dorothy-Hamil hairstyle might just be a dealbreaker.

Gu Family Book: In spite of every trick in the Photoshop Family Book,
even the poster is wooden and lifeless.

• I want to give fusion sageuk Gu Family Book more time to crash and burn before I decide whether to watch it. Its silly, half-gumiho premise seems like a guarantee of the sort of cartoony antics I hate. The show’s dubious lineage as the newest work from the team behind Gentleman’s Dignity and Secret Garden—two of my least favorite dramas of all time—also makes me skeptical. (As reluctant as I am to admit it, I’m not a huge Lee Seung Gi fangirl, either. He’s reasonably cute and proved himself to be a capable actor in King 2 Hearts, but his appeal isn’t powerful enough to motivate me to watch this show until I have a better sense where it’s going.)

• I’m not crazy about action shows and haven’t seen any of the related dramas, so Iris 2 isn’t even on the docket. I don’t hold out hopes for it being good, anyway—sequels rarely are.

• I came out of Boys over Flowers liking Lee Min Jung and wanting to see her in more dramas. I came out of Big loathing Lee Min Jung and swearing I’d never watch her in anything again, so it’s a longshot that I’ll ever get around to political rom-com All About My Romance. Also, political rom-com? Excuse me while I give that concept a big side-eye. Another drawback is that the male lead (whom I’ve never seen in anything else) isn’t doing much for me.

When a Man Loves: Hot? Check. Robot? Check.

• There is such a thing as too many tragic melodramas, and having just finished That Winter, the Wind Blows I’m not eager to pick up When a Man Loves, Song Seung Hun’s gangster-with-a-heart-of-gold sudser. Even with decent actors That Winter wasn’t such a great watch. What does that mean for a show starring the man Dramabeans regularly refers to as “Mr. Robot Hotness”?

• Weekend sageuk Cruel Palace and family drama You’re the Best, Lee Shoon Shin both look promising, but their fifty-episode running times require too much commitment. I’ll save them for some rainy weekend (or ten) after they’re done airing.

So by a process of elimination, that leaves me with only Jang Ok Jung: Live for Love. It’s not a show I really spent much time thinking about, but I am interested to see how it will rehab a character who’s usually portrayed as a scheming fox. I also know how the real story that inspired it ends—will a drama that dares to turn a seventeenth-century concubine into an anachronistically modern “fashion designer” also dare to give her a happy ending?

As an added bonus, I still have a lot of Sungkyunkwan Scandal-related love for Yoo Ah In (no doubt because I decided to skip Fashion King after its resoundingly bad reviews started to come in). At this point he’s had hardly any screen time in Jang Ok Jung, but I’m still struck by how odd it seems to actually see him talking. He spent most of his time as Geol Oh staring moodily at things. (For more commentary on this show, see the “random thoughts” sidebar.)

In case you, too, are suffering drama indecision, I give you a brief list of random recs.

• If it’s so hot out you can barely stand it: crisp, cool Spring Waltz

• If you could really go for an all-expenses paid shopping spree, followed by a tropical vacation: the unparalleled wish-fulfillment powers of Boys over Flowers are just the ticket

What’s Up Fox: Do leads get any cuter than this? I think not.

• If you’ve been perving over a younger man: the sweet romance (and even sweeter ending) of What’s Up Fox will make you believe it could all work out

• If you live in a drought-stricken area: soggy Love Rain will make you glad for sunny skies

• If you wonder what it would be like to be part of a traditional Korean family: 54 episodes of melo Family’s Honor will answer all your questions

• If the winter blahs are getting you down: the gorgeously green Seoul of Coffee Prince and the lush summertime city in Heartstrings will bring warmer days to mind 

• If you’re suffering from insomnia: Take two episodes of soporific Summer Scent and you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time

Pasta: What’s more toothsome—the dish, or the male lead?

• If you need to gain a pound or two (ha!): gobble up lusciously yummy Kimchi Family, carb-o-rific Baker King Kim Tak Gu, or garlic-soaked Pasta

• If you’re interested in learning a foreign language: Flower Boy Next Door might be just the inspiration you need. If an elephant can learn Korean, why can’t you?

• If you just had a painful breakup and need to be cheered up: after being dumped, My Lovely Sam Soon ends up with a way hotter guy

• If you need to be inspired to work harder: the young professionals of In Time with You make working nonstop seem appealing (or you could try not watching a drama and actually working instead)

• If you have a crush an impossible unicorn of a boy: there’s a continent worth of remakes of Japanese manga Itazura Na Kiss to cheer you up—including Korea’s own Playful Kiss. The common theme? The hopeless girl always gets him in the end.

• If you hate everyone and just want to mope: you’ll appreciate What Happened in Bali’s cast of miserable characters being miserable to each other

• If you need a good cry: A few episodes of I’m Sorry, I Love You will have you on the fast track to catharsis (but don’t forget the tissues)

Padam Padam: There just aren’t enough pretty
winged boys on TV these days.

• If you could use a guardian angel: sparkly, lovely Padam, Padam will give you one (kind of)

• If you’re feeling nostalgic for high school: Answer Me 1997’s fangirl antics will hit you in the feels

• If you’re in high school: School 2013 will speak your language (as long as your language is Korean)

• If you’re getting a bit too comfortable with the idea of being an old maid: watching Kim Bum dye his hair grey for his older girlfriend in The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry ought to put you in a dating mood

• If you’re desperate to know what it’s like to be a Kpop idol: indulge your curiosity by tagging along with Park Shin Hye for a behind-the-velvet-rope, gender-swap perspective in You’re Beautiful, or recover from your curiosity with a glimpse at the seamy underbelly of the industry in Shut Up: Flower Boy Band


  1. I have about six (!) dramas I'm currently watching and a good many more on hold. My plate is pretty full right now, so I guess it's a good thing most of the new spring dramas aren't that appealing. But that's only South Korea. Japan and Taiwan come out with new dramas and movies all the time. That and I like to read the "new" crop of books my local library brings in every spring and fall. There's just too much, and I wanna watch it all (well not all, but the good sounding ones at least). *tears*

    1. Too much entertainment, too little time! I recently realized that I'm reading about half as much these days as I used to, all because I usually chose dramas over books =X Blogging actually doesn't help, either—I feel a weird obligation to post regularly, so I'm always on the lookout for Kdramas to write about. (Why can't I be this dedicated to anything in real life?)

  2. I agree with you on this latest round of dramas - nothing seems particularly exciting. I tried one episode of Gu Family Book.. just one hour of the prologue and I'm already hating it. Maybe it'll get better after some time.

    On the other hand - I started watching Dramafever's first Japanese simulcast: Mischievous Kiss.. I watched the first episodes TWICE before watching ep 3 last night. It's the cutest thing in the world!!!! I'm so in love. Now everything pales in comparison.

    1. Jang Ok Jung is actually showing some promise, but I'm skeptical about that Gu Family Book. It's clearly the drama of the season because of Lee Seung Gi—both Dramabeans and Koala's Playground are recapping it. It's funny that their opinions are so different: Girlfriday seems to be loving it, but Koala hates it. And now that you've weighed in against it, too, any hope I may have had is gone.

      I'm so excited that Dramafever is carrying Japanese dramas now! I'm definitely going to watch the new Mischievous Kiss soon. Nine episodes sounds just about right—unnecessary padding was the greatest failing of the other dramas I've seen based on this manga.

      I guess it's proof that I'm truly old, but MK's leads look too young for romance =X

    2. Oh gooodie! *heads over to Koala's recaps* Lol

      MK's girl is 16 years old. The "boy" though is 25 :O

  3. Ohhhh... I mean... Your choice of these random dramas is just... so right :3 I think I should just print that list and put it near my bed like a first aid kit :D Thank You for your awesome articles :*

  4. Hey Amanda! Stuck in a drought just like you :) None of the dramas airing right now are appealing to me, apart from Cruel Palace. I do think End of the World is being subbed (slowly) by darksmurfsubs...as far as I know they've finished episode 3.

    Might be a good time to try jdramas. I have a list including the original (good) JIN and Ninkyo Helper. And Love Shuffle was absolutely adorable addictive happiness. Maybe you'd like to try one of those? They're low commitment too at 11 episodes :)


    1. Thanks for the tip about Darksmurf. I'm such a streaming watcher that I rarely think to try the subbing sites. (Although I guess the subs always trickle down to places like Dramacrazy, anyway.)

      Thanks for the Jdrama tips! Love Shuffle has been tempting me for a while...I'll have to give it a try :)

      Good luck surviving your drought!

  5. I have started Jang Ok Jung, Gu Family and Whan a Man Loves. None have grabbed me so I'll probably have to agree with Amanda, but I will stick with them for a little while. I still have older dramas to finish up, Lovers in Prague - which is really good, Jumong - which is good but 81 episodes and I'm on #18. I also thought I would try Boys over Flowers 2 but since I really, really disliked #1 it's just been sitting in the Q. I can't bring myself to watch other than Korean dramas. I'm sure the others are great too, but if I can't keep up with one nationality how am I going to keep up with more than one? I don't think I can handle additional addictions!

  6. It's not you it's them. This season has been filled with such a collection of 'meh' shows. At first I was afraid it was me, as I tend to get bored with things easily and then drop they get dropped forever. My friends call it 'second season'. I worried, has Kdrama hit second season? But luckily there are others saying this year is so ho-hum, that I'm not worried anymore. Instead I choose to look on the bright side. My 'long as my arm' TBWList isn't going to get any longer...

  7. I’m not really affected by weak drama seasons. I usually watch mostly older dramas, which have already completed its run and I’m completely absorbed with watching Chuno right now. After recently finishing A Wife’s Credentials (what a wonderful drama!) I was actually looking for something in a similar vein but ended up falling madly in love with Chuno instead. lol. My kdrama love often has its own unexpected ways.

  8. I'm actually really liking Jang Ok Jung, Live in love. The second episode had some really cute parts <3 and the third one.. well i wont say ^_^
    But yeah, the rest of this seasons Korena Dramas aren't really catching my attention. But the Japanese Drama "Itzura na Kiss" is sooo cute (and Taiwanese "Substitute Princess")so it's not like I don't have anything to feed my addiction with xD

  9. I just can't seem to finish anything lately. I watched This Winter, The Wind Blows until episode 12, then read about the ending and dropped it for the same reasons everyone else was upset with it. I dropped Flower Boy Next Door after one episode because I found out I still can't stand PSH; I dropped Alice in C. after 8 or so episodes because I detested MGY's character and found the whole premise lame and Shi Hoo's acting erratic and stagey. I have been watching Substitute Princess, but stopped at episode 8 because Guan Jun is such a jerk and I am afraid what they will do to Terry, who is fabulous. I am allergic to aegyo and other sorts of puppyish cuteness so I stay away from Lee Seungi; I thought the premise for JOJ was stupid...but now I think I may give it a try. I just really want something to knock my socks off, like Shut Up Flower Boy Band and Queen In-Hyun's Man did last year.

  10. so i guess it's not just me then. i was kinda sad thinking that my interest in k-dramas is going downhill. i hope i get out of this rut soon! even if i love lee seung gi i'm still a bit skeptical about GFB. i'm actually more interested in jang ok jung at the moment.

    i also discovered rainie yang of taiwan! been going through her dramas these past few weeks. try watching devil beside you! the chemistry is sizzling!!! :)

  11. Totally with you on Lee Min Jung. I really liked her in Boys Over Flowers and was exicted when she was cast in Big. But then Big proved to be this disasterous black hole that sucked out all logic. I don't want to say I loathed her in Big, but I do feel like I want to avoid seeing her in dramas for a while.

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