Thursday, July 11, 2013

Drama Drop: Summer’s Desire (2010)

I called this show quits after episode 8 (but then skipped forward to watch the finale while writing this. I think I made the right decision—unlike the heroine).

Taiwanese romance

What it’s about
An obsessive love triangle starring three orphans who meet as children and all grow up to be what the show calls “celebrities.” (As far as I can tell, all this requires is occasionally making time in their busy love-triangle schedule for dance practice.)

First impression
You can tell from its opening credits that this show is something special: as the background music soars in one scene, two pairs of dolphins leap majestically into the air behind the male lead, who turns to regard them in a fair rendition of the Dramatic Chipmunk viral video that was all the rage a few years ago. Seriously. Dolphins—real ones. Cheesy, choppy and indecently over the top, I’m thinking that Summer’s Desire is to Taiwanese dramas what Liberace is to pianists. The story seems to have been created by a focus group of eighth graders hopped up on too much sugar and caffeine—Orphans! Cat fights! Amnesia! A quasi-evil male lead whose favorite pastime is using a bow and arrow to shoot apples off people’s heads! The acting is bad, the plot preposterous, and the execution silly. And yet, I think I’m going to love it.

Final verdict
This drama sounds like it will be fun from the its description, but its execution killed any enjoyment I might have taken in its exaggerated melodrama. It was probably pitched as a modern, edge-of-your-seat take on a classic drama romance, but chopping up the story and serving it in single-serving bites ended up feeling more misguided than innovative.

Summer’s Desire takes a Lost approach to its narrative: Instead of establishing its characters slowly, it throws you into the middle of their relationships, only filling in their backstory in fragmentary flashbacks that are drawn out over the course of many episodes. The story deals with three timelines—the first focusing on the leads as adults, the second involving their teenage years, and the third touching on their childhood. (As of where I jumped ship, we’ve only seen hints of the childhood portion of their story. I assume that will continue.)

Someone should have told the screenwriter that if you want to keep your viewers guessing about your characters’ complicated histories, you have to make them care about your characters’ complicated histories first. Summer’s Desire is the Cliffs Notes version of a better show: it cuts every corner in service of its silly narrative mission. With clumsy editing, cardboard cut-out acting, and a total lack of connective tissue, this is a story told backward—but you’ve got to build something up before you can tear it down.

Random thoughts
Episode 2. This is amazing. It’s almost a collection of skits more than an actual drama—there’s no connective tissue, no chronological narrative. Characters appear, have arguments (often involving slapping each other), and then disappear until they’re needed for another argument. Its people have no lives beyond the current scene, no backstories or reasons for existing. I keep waiting for it to rewind like a Kdrama and start telling a chronological story starting with the high school era it keeps flashing back to, but it resolutely refuses to fill in any of the blanks. I guess this might be intended to create suspense, but mostly it just feels like somebody accidentally erased half of the footage for each episode, and the desperate editor patched 45 minutes together from whatever happened to be remaining. I can't decide if it’s postmodern, or just bad.

Episode 2. I love my pajamas, but I usually take them off before I leave home. This is in sharp contrast with this drama’s female lead, who appears to have a wardrobe of nothing more than babydoll pjs.

Episode 2. The fireworks in this scene actually look less real than the ones on the background in my sixth-grade school photo. This drama’s special effects are clearly courtesy of Crayola and the director’s four-year-old.

Episode 4. I have a rare opportunity for a full-day drama marathon, but this show just isn't doing it for me. Its nonlinear storytelling can only be classified as a total failure, and it’s sorely lacking in the soul department. How can its creators expect you to care about the characters if they give them no world to live in except one scene of exaggerated melodrama after another? They have no relationships—just fights. They have no positive emotional ties or experiences—just jealousy, manipulation, and rage. It also doesn’t help that every single scene ends with the same kind of overblown music and hammy posturing that's typical of the very last second or two of Kdramas—I keep thinking I’m at the end of episodes, just because the narrative flow is so out of whack.

Episode 6. You can tell this isn’t a Korean drama—not only is the female lead wearing shoes in the house, she just put her feet on the couch while she was still wearing them. Ick.

Episode 6. Another way you can tell this show isn’t Korean? Not only is there open-mouthed kissing, it’s accompanied by heavy breathing. How porny of you, show!

Episode 7. I’m obviously a big fan of badly produced television, but this show is beyond what even I am willing to accept. Maybe all the pieces will come together sometime before the end, but I’m not sticking around to find out—hate the characters, hate the shorthand storytelling, hate the sloppy production.

You might also like
Just go watch Autumn’s Concerto instead. You can thank me later.


  1. Hehehe... I was purely on a streak of watching the un-watchable when I got through this one. I'll confess, I got through the last 10 episodes by multitasking. It was right around the time I discovered Pinterest..

    1. Heck, this show wasn't going to make sense even if you watched it with rapt attention. Why not multitask? The only thing I regret missing is how they rehabbed the winner of the love triangle enough to avoid riots when he got the girl in the end. That dude was batshit crazy.

      How's the house hunting going? (Real estate porn is my life, FYI.)

    2. He was batshit crazy - they managed to make me like him by the end, if only bc they made the girl act even stranger.

      We've signed all the paperwork with the seller and now are just getting the financing taken care of. If all goes well, we close end of August! Biggest problem then will be where to set up my drama TV!

  2. *off-topic*

    Amanda! You are watching Alone in Love! ahh! Savor it!
    I miss my original boxed set, which I had loaned out.

  3. am I the only one who think that summers desire is like the best taiwanese drama ever

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