I have made sweet, sweet blog love to Coffee Prince more times than I can count.
My relationship to this drama has progressed much in the way actual romances do: It started with love at first sight. I watched episode after episode in rapt, starry-eyed euphoria, unable to believe how much I liked everything about them. Then came the honeymoon period. Things were still pretty amazing, but Coffee Prince was starting to edge its way off the pedestal and my obsession with it was becoming more manageable. In the doldrums of our relationship, I came to notice my beloved’s failings: the second half was packed with tension-killing filler, and the concert scene sure was silly. Nowadays, Coffee Prince and I are like the cozy-looking elderly couple I sometimes see holding hands as they walk through the park in front of my office. We’ve been through a lot together, and it’s a comfort to know that my favorite drama will always be there, just waiting for me to hit play.
Although the sizzling passion of our early days has burned itself out, I think I may be better able to appreciate Coffee Prince now, in the advanced stages of our love. When I first saw this show everything about it seemed impossibly new and original. But all the many hours of Korean television that I’ve watched since have given me another perspective: Coffee Prince is actually just as derivative as most other Kdrama romances. It uses the same raw materials as all those other shows, and might have ended up being the drama equivalent of a suburban American mall, a cookie-cutter entity virtually indistinguishable from every other member of its species. But because its creators were smart enough to twist their common elements and use them in unexpected, thoughtful ways, Coffee Prince ended up being something more like the Taj Mahal—it uses the most earthbound of foundations to make something etherial.
Last week I watched Coffee Prince for the fourth (fifth?) time. In honor of another seventeen hours of my life down the drain, I thought I’d try once more to crack the mystery of what exactly makes this drama so spectacularly rewatchable.