Abandoned Dramas of 2020-2021

It’s been a year. Since last summer I have tried, and failed, to get back into Korean dramas. I found myself watching a lot of Scandinavian shows and a few made in Germany. But 2020 and now 2021 have been nothing if not strange times.

More Korean dramas are popping up on Netflix, which is great, and I’ve renewed my Viki subscription to get more variety. Slowly but surely I’ve found several that I’ve enjoyed enough to review – and a few I completed but haven’t bothered to review cause there’s not much to say about them (such as Lovestruck in the City). 

But overall it’s been a lot of ship jumping.

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West

These are some shows I started but did not finish… and most likely never will. In alphabetical order, for my OCD and your viewing pleasure.

100 Days My Prince – ep 1 – cutesy and not my style.

Absolute Boyfriend – ep 20 – I honestly don’t know why I watched so much of this… it was just kinda on in the background. It felt like a cartoon.

Abyss – ep 5 – certain aspects of this show annoyed me considerably… though I like both actors, I was not charmed by the body swapping shenanigans.

Alice in Borderland (Japanese) – ep 2 – eh. Killer escape rooms is kinda a worn out concept at this point, isn’t it?

Angel’s Last Mission: Love – ep 3 – too cutesy for my taste.

Beauty Inside – ep 9 – what the…? Did we just stop trying, Korea?

Beyond Evil – ep 8 – sigh. Shin Ha-Kyun and I just don’t mix, apparently.

Born Again – ep 6 – what a waste of potential. Felt like a day time soap opera.

Devilish Joy – ep 2 – meh.

Doctor Prisoner – ep 16 – It was exciting but unfortunately it spent all its time trying to be exciting. You can’t stay on Code Red every minute of the day, Doctor Prisoner. Without some calm to contrast your high stakes over zealous plotlines, it’s just cheap tricks. You know the music they play in game shows, right before a contestant chooses and they’re building the excitement and tension? They played it like that the whole hour, episode after episode. It was exhausting.

Doom at Your Service – ep 11 – another show that thinks two attractive leads is all it takes to charm an audience (which apparently is true from how many positive reviews this got). The plot line is paper thin. With some script development this could have been a more interesting and beautiful story – the outline is there, but right now it’s just a child’s coloring book and not a work of art.

Find Me In Your Memory – ep 9 – I like it and I wanted to keep watching… but this drama is soooo long and not enough is happening. My time is precious, people.

Flower of Evil – ep 10 – The sadness of the wasted potential! These are the kinds of story lines that generally suck me in. But… not this show. To be honest, I will probably try to finish this one at some point cause I do love a psycho killer story and Kim Ji Hoon is fun to watch.

The Good Detective – ep 7 – meh.

The Guest – ep 2 – really wanted to like this one. Shaman, Catholics, demons, and murder? Sign me up! But it felt unfocused and after the second episode ended, I hadn’t been hooked. Is there a plot? Or just an idea of a plot? Should I give it a few more episodes? Has anyone watched this one?

Guardian (Chinese) – ep 2 – not my style.

Hello, Me! – ep 8 – very cute idea and overall not a bad show… just not that good either. Love the leading actor, Kim Young-Kwang, in particular, though he seemed pushed to the background in this show. 

Hotel Del Luna – ep 7 – decent concept but felt like someone just cut out characters from better dramas and didn’t bother to try to make them work for this particular show.

I’ll Go When the Weather is Nice – ep 6 – I generally adore slow melodramas but this one just didn’t grab my emotions.

Into the Ring – ep 2 – meh.

The Last Empress – ep 2 – dreadful.

Less Than Evil – ep 7 – started out okay but I’m not a fan of the male lead… 

Kiss Goblin – ep 1 – ack, no thank you.

Live Up to Your Name – up to ep 7 – time travel comedies are hit and miss, and this one was a miss for me.

Mad for Each Other – ep 8 – fun concept but not quite funny. It’s Okay That’s Love or Heart to Heart are far superior, if you like love and mental health stories. Kill Me Heal Me is also a zany romantic comedy that was better. I dunno… this felt like something slapped together over a luncheon. 2020 was a tough year, though, so… it is what it is.

Melting Me Softly – ep 11 – snaps for a fun plot line but thumbs down for not putting any real effort into how to hold up such a plot line with narrative structure and intrigue. 

My Country : The New Age – ep 11 – it wasn’t awful but kept reminding me how superior Six Flying Dragons was.

My Strange Hero – ep 28 – the show that is just one head-shot after another. It’s like a teenager who can’t stop taking selfies of itself. Soooo many giant heads on the screen. And I just don’t care to watch even one more minute of these continuous, tedious tight close ups of people’s faces. We get it! They’re attractive! Geesh – just back up, man!

My television is eight feet from my couch and I felt like my personal space was being invaded by this show. I snapped. Honestly, it’s not a bad storyline… and the actors are good. I just couldn’t take one more close up – to the point where I don’t care how this show ends, even though I only have about two hours left. I can’t! Call it a protest.

Private Lives – ep 3 – nope. This is gonna sound mean, cause maybe it is… but Ko Gyung-Po does not have leading man charisma… he’s awesome as a second lead, though. Anyways… dropped it.

Psychopath Diary – ep 6 – cute but sadly does not have a complex enough plot to justify the run time. If they would have developed the whole angle of the killer/cutie weirdness… then yeah. That was truly complicated and strangely sexy and just… wow, what a fun concept! But nope, they hopped over that before it even warmed up. Just watch Me Too Flower or one of his other shows if you wanna see Yoon Si-Yoon be adorable. 

School 2017 – ep 9 – School 2013 is far superior in every aspect.

School Nurse Files – ep 1 – too camp

Sisyphus – ep 8 – I’m hard pressed to think of a show where the leading actors had less chemistry. When separate their storylines are interesting but together they just drag this show into a dull sci fi landscape.

Sky Castle – ep 7 – I might give this another shot eventually… maybe… I do love scheming rich ladies.

Start Up – I made it through the first 3 eps before I realized what direction the love story was headed. This is not to say this drama is bad – it may very well be awesome… but I kinda fell for the second male lead, apparently, and I just can’t support a show that created a leading character who is not the leading love interest.

Tale of the Nine-Tailed – ep 7 – ugh.

Tell Me What You Saw – ep 2 – overacting anyone? 

Train – ep 7 – nice idea but lackluster execution 

True Beauty – ep 2 – Did we need an entire show about the power of makeup? No, no we did not. We still have access to the old YouTube video Contouring 101 by Sailor J… and that’s all we need on the subject.

The Uncanny Counter – ep 1 – too goofy for me.

The Untamed (Chinese) – ep 11 – I tried, ya’ll. This is as far as I have ever gotten with a Chinese drama. I love some smoldering gayness, but gheesh, these plotlines… I just can’t get into it.

Vagabond – ep 3 – I love an action drama but… not this one. 

Vincenzo – ep 2 – I love this actor but could tell I was not going to vibe with this drama.

Eulogy for Dramafever

I think we were all stunned and deeply saddened by the unexpected and untimely departure of Dramafever, one of our beloved streaming services. Dramafever passed away October 16, 2018, without warning. Known for its large collection of Korean Dramas, spanning multiple decades, and pristine quality videos… Dramafever was a close friend to so many of us K-addicts. It let us comment and review. It offered us helpful collections. It provided adorable fan service. And it held the solitary rights to some of our favorite K-dramas (Goblin! Where will we watch you now???).

I read the articles detailing the reasons behind your demise and, okay, some of them made sense. Basically this is what happens with conglomeration mergers and bidding wars for content that drive the prices too high for our favorite “independent” stores to survive. But Dramafever was more than a profit generating vehicle that bridged the gap between Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Thai content with international viewers. It was a safe haven.  And with its departure, I feel like one of my private spaces has been invaded and blown to pieces.

There is a Dramafever shaped hole in my heart.

You will be missed.

 

Funeral donations may be made to our closest family member, Viki.

Viki.com (Great site, includes lots of shows from all the major channels -fork out for the premium, it’s worth it – $9.99USD/month or $99.99USD/year – almost always sale offers going on)

 

And more questionable relatives may seek comfort from…

Kocowa.com (SBS, MBC, & KBS dramas – $6.99/month, or $69.99/yearly)

AsianCrush.com (more movies, limited tv dramas – $6.99/month, or $69.99/yearly)

OnDemandKorea (lots of dramas, but not everything has english subtitles – $6.99/month)

DramaGo.com (free with tons of dramas – but an external link maze and popup nightmare)

GoodDrama (… I think it’s just a mirror of DramaGo… same boat)

Rom Coms or Ambien?

Rom Coms or Ambien?

K-Drama romcoms have always been hit or miss, but there’s a troubling amount of “middling” and “mindless” romcoms coming out lately.  Lazy writing, relying too heavily on cliches, rapid jumps in behavior without foundational character development… I find myself bored before each episode ends.

I will also admit to be very cranky today… so throwing some romcoms into the shredder is just an outlet.  I’m sure I’ll finish each of these shows and may have a totally different perspective once I do… so wait for the reviews.  Until then, let’s pounce on some current summer snoozers!

Example 1:  ABOUT TIME, a new romcom with two outstanding leads… and so problematic.  Character development?  Forget it, not happening.  Chemistry between the leads?  It’s there… but they forgot to actually build up a solid romance before slapping these two together.  Problems in the relationship?  They’re almost entirely manufactured… which is just lazy writing.  We need a conflict!  Oh yeah, let’s just use this jealous rich gal – AGAIN – to randomly throw conflict into the story.   It’s shameless for a show about knowing you’re going to die soon (seriously, has anyone felt the impact of that, cause I haven’t felt the urgency at all) and musical theater (unbelievably dull musical theater… compounded by cheap, corny background music in the actual drama… it sounds like a kid playing on a toy xylophone!  Background music is not supposed to be that noticeable, people… it should enhance the story, not attempt to direct it).  Also, how old is our lead male supposed to be – because he keeps acting like a fourteen year old boy instead of a man and it’s confusing, cause the actor is quite manly looking and what’s supposed to be endearing comes across as pathetic.

Example 2:  WHAT’S WRONG WITH SECRETARY KIM?  Another great cast with an outstandingly stupid plot.  I love a show about an extreme narcissist (Secret Garden, Greatest Love), but it’s important to balance that with commendable naivete and charm.  We have to like you.  We have to… get it.  I don’t get this show.  The perfectionist secretary who all but wipes the butt of her OCD CEO has finally decided to call it quits – but then doesn’t.  OCD CEO very quickly goes into woo-back-my-secretary mode, in an attempt to keep his slave-girl and possibly develop common emotional responses in the process.  It’s actually a cute premise, I mean yes it’s well worn territory, but everyone likes a story about a good-natured woman saving a dumbass from his own self-sabotage .  So why can’t they do it right?  It’s rushed, fails to be charming, and relies too heavily on cliches.  Disneyland?  Already?  And how many shirtless scenes are we going to have?  The oooo la la moments of a glimpse of sculptured man flesh become ordinary if you throw it out daily.  It’s not a dinner special if its always on the menu.  (update:  this show is getting more interesting as it goes, introducing a nice mystery)

Example 3:  ARE YOU HUMAN TOO?  Someone tell this show you can act like a robot without looking like you had a frontal lobotomy.  There is nothing sexy about a full grown man staring at you like a four year old boy.  Gag.  I have always loved the idea of androids – super smart, effective, built to run space ships and bridge the communication gap between complex technological systems and humans.  I also like the robot-soldier idea.  But the robot house-mate / child-replacement theme is odd.  There are deeply rooted societal implications in the creation of robots to replace humans in a world where the human population is so vast.  It seems off putting not to have these issues addressed.  Even in the bubble-gum I AM NOT A ROBOT they at least attempted (poorly) to dive into the sociology of relationships, replacements, servants and subservient, power and powerlessness.

I love romcoms – in particular, “feel good” romcoms – and have rewatched most of my favorites mulitple times… so until another good one hits the market, here’s a list of some alternatives to help us get through the dry season.

Feel Good Dramas.

 

Never Grow Up (but please do and quickly!) – Thoughts on Nam Da-Reum

How amazing is this kid?

Nam Da-Reum has been popping up in dramas for a while now, since he was seven years old, actually – usually playing the “young” versions of male leads in flashbacks.  I’ve been watching Come & Hug Me, and he’s the young male lead.  And perfect.  He was the young version of Lee Bang Won in Six Flying Dragons.  The young version of our prosecutor in While You Were Sleeping.  The young version of our celebrity DJ in Radio Romance.  His acting profile is long already, and he’s only sixteen.

I love this guy.  He’s got the sweetest face.  And he’s intense as all get out, too.  The boy can pull off an impressive emotional range.  I can’t wait until he’s old enough to play lead male roles – you know, the grown up versions.  But then again… can we just slow down time a bit so we can keep those innocent eyes a little longer?  Oh, the conflict!

P.S.  If you’re not watching Come & Hug Me, you should be.  It’s great.

Yoo Ah-In Always Brings It

Yoo Ah-In Always Brings It

Oh, he’s bringing it… and has so much he’s leaving with leftovers

So, it’s been a pretty lazy Spring for me – with a tendency to rewatch old dramas over committing to new dramas.  I justed rewatched Chicago Typewriter (absolutely love this unusual love story that bounces through time), and was in awe of the acting prowess of Yoo Ah-In.  What can’t he do?

Chicago Typewriter

He’s so good that I didn’t even realize he was Moon Jae-Sin in Sungkyunkwan Scandal.  And I’ve watched that romantic drama at least six times!  Maybe it’s the wig, but even so… I generally recognize my favorite Korean actors now.  I’ve got an eye for it.  Or so I thought….

Sungkyunkwan Scandal.

I thought he was a cute, horny mess of a piano prodigy in the “noona” romance Secret Affair.  Still not a favorite, but I admit it was good.

piano inspired orgasms everywhere

To me, probably forever, he’ll be Lee Bang-Won, the Scholar Dragon, from Six Flying Dragons.  Damn, he was amazing in that drama.  That entire drama was amazing!

Six Flying Dragons

So far, there’s nothing on his docket for 2018, as far as dramas go… but I would rather he hold out for something worthy of him than just kill time making a “meh” drama.  He could probably transform a “meh” drama into something fantastic just by being in it… I mean… geesh, he’s good.  But quality actors should seek out quality dramas.  It’s always so disappointing when one of the A-Lister’s make a so-so show.

There are very few actors I keep an eye out for… watching the news feeds to see what their next move will be.  Yoo Ah-In is one of those actors.  He’s just golden.

 

 

100 Percent Love – Top 10 Feel Good Dramas

Everyone Feels the Love in a Classic Feel Good Drama

There are a LOT of great romances in K-World.  But sometimes my favorite romances are the ones that are just that – romantic.  And not much else.  This is not the list for Goblin (too many tears!), Love in the Moonlight (political plotline rather dull), While You Were Sleeping (serious crimes), or Will It Snow for Christmas (dude… so melodramatic!)… though all of those are stupidly romantic.

This is the list of the FLUFFY BUNNY SLIPPERS variety… the ones you start smiling just thinking about it.  Though there may be some drama (well, there’s gotta be a little conflict for plot), it will not distract you from the ultimate plot, which is love sweet love.

Top 10:

  1.  Coffee Prince – a joy ride from start to finish
  2. Sungkyunkwan Scandal – Sageuk cuteness
  3. Shopping King Louis – gaaaaahhhhh so adorable
  4. 1% of Something – a classic premise of contract love
  5. The Greatest Love  – zany and fun
  6. Beautiful Gong Shim – weirdos in love
  7. Cinderella and the Four Knights  – fairytale romance
  8. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo  – slice of sweet life
  9. Flower Boy Next Door & Me Too Flower! (tie of Yoon Si-Yoon, king of cuteness, dramas)
  10. Which Star Are You From?  – opposites attract

Runners Up:

  1. My Girl – an oldie but goodie
  2. Tomorrow’s Cantabile / Naeil’s Cantabile – quirky proteges in love
  3. You’re Beautiful – a staple of K-world silliness and fun
  4. What’s Up & Dream High (tie of musical teen group  feel great dramas)
  5. Cheer Up Sassy Go Go – aerobics love
  6. Twenty Again – ajumma!  I love you!
  7. Reply 1997 – nostalgic sweetness
  8. Queen In Hyun’s Man – grinning like fools in love
  9. Oh My Venus – so adorable
  10. Marriage Not Dating – cuties falling for each other

Hm… I didn’t realize I hadn’t reviewed some of these until now.  My goodness.  How did I forget to review My Girl???  That was one of the first romantic comedy K-dramas I watched, many moons ago…. gives me an excuse to watch it again, I guess.

What about you?  Do you have a favorite 100% Feel Good drama that didn’t make it to the list?  Let me know!  

Best Korean Drama of 2017

The new year is approaching and with it, lots of lists are popping up everywhere… best dramas, best couples, best kisses, and so on.  It’s hard to get into a new drama right now when instinct propels you into “year in review” mode.  So I find myself rewatching some of my favorite dramas instead of investing in new ones.  The new year will pull me back into new dramas, but for now… let’s savor the last few minutes of 2017.

I’ve sat around and attempted to compile a few  “Best of 2017 Lists” of my own – my journal is a mess of notes about bromances and genres and kissing and whatnot.  I honestly put some time into it, but in the end it was all futile.  There’s only one show that completely won me over this year.

GOBLIN.

I have rewatched this show at least a dozen times.  It’s funny, it’s romantic, it’s supernatural and melodramatic and interesting and totally unique.  Though other shows may have had better elements – this is the show that stands above them all for combined effort.  Goblin got me back into the swing of watching K-Dramas after a long hiatus.  If I had to recommend one show this year… it would be this one.

So… thank you, Goblin, for being the bright light in a rather dim year.  There were other great shows (quite a few, honestly… lots of great dramas came out in 2017), but you reigned supreme.

Full Review of Goblin.

My Favorite K-Drama Tropes

A trope is a storytelling device or convention, a shortcut for describing situations the storyteller can reasonably assume the audience will recognize.  K-Dramas thrive on tropes – from the piggy back ride for romance to the embrace after saving someone from a collision with oncoming traffic – these plot devices are tried and true signals of the developing relationships.  If you see two people pass each other in slow motion… you know they’re bound to hook up or tear each other apart, for example.  Everyone has their favorite tropes… including yours truly.

So, without further ado, these are my Favorite K-Drama Tropes:

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Global Domination

It’s been six years and I still haven’t met another living soul, in person, who watches Korean Dramas (other than the ones I have forced to watch a few – and none of them have taken to them to enough to watch unprompted).  Maybe you are in the same boat, finding your K-Drama connections online, who knows, but regardless… you are here… so I just wanted to say…

“Hey, there, friends.”