Review – Backstreet Rookie (and Ji Chang Wook’s Career Choices)

So cute! So breezy! So light weight it floats away as soon as you let go of it.

Here’s my issue with Backstreet Rookie, Melting Me Softly, & Lovestruck in the City. They all featured Ji Chang Wook, so of course I watched them all cause I’m a fan. But they’re all just… good. But not great. Not outstanding. Not the types of shows to get you excited about the story line or the fate of the characters. None of these shows are top tier dramas and Ji Chang Wook is a top tier actor, so it feels like a waste somehow, even when it’s a good show.

Ji Chang Wook is an actor who is skilled in his craft, who can bring complexity and a wide range of emotions to his roles, who can really suck you into the character arcs of a story. And none of these story’s are worth him. These are all shows you hand over to lesser actors. These are shows that only required a handsome male lead who can be charming and a little pathetic when in love. And by taking these roles… Ji Chang Wook has lowered his standards, and ours.

Listen, I’m not saying I didn’t have a good time watching this show. I enjoyed every episode of it.

Backstreet Rookie is a story about a handsome dude running a convenience store and the young super model “average girl” who is obsessed with him. She comes to work at his store and helps the business do better in order to win his heart and of course it works. They both fall in love. There are obstacles along the way. It’s a typical romantic comedy without any over-dramatic high stakes or melodramatic emotional obstacles to overcome. They’re both impossibly attractive and single – so yeah… cue the wedding march, I guess. I honestly don’t remember much more to the plot than that, now that it’s been a while.

I think there was a side story line about her sister wanting to be an idol. And another side story line about a guy obsessed with Reggae music. Maybe? Was he an author or something? I don’t remember. Whatever. The side stories were cute, but they were garnish, not appetizers. They weren’t mean to be filling in any way, just decorate the surroundings of the main story.

Ji Chang Wook was super sweet in this. He’s good at playing these frustrated, adorable men. He’s good with comedic timing and playing off other characters. And he’s always good with his female leads, always.

The female lead, played by Kim You-Jung, was a drop-dead gorgeous young woman who went through a rebellious phase before settling into the routine and responsibilities of a regular job. She was stunning in every scene and her character was quite charming and I liked her the entire show.

There’s nothing to complain about. You’ll like watching it. You probably just won’t remember much of it later.

There are God-Tier work place dramas, like Coffee Prince, Incomplete Life/Misaeng, Live, Move to Heaven, & Pinocchio – you know, the ones that do the heavy lifting and bring more to the table with incredible character development, deeply moving character arcs, unexpected realism, and award winning performances – and then there are all the others, which vary from good to meh to skip it. Backstreet Rookie was good. Check it out. You’ll undoubtedly like it as it was a fun, feel-good rom-com.

I will warn you there is no physical intimacy in this drama. A hug, maybe?

This is not a spoiler, in my opinion, as we all know what we are getting into when we start a romantic comedy. For whatever dumb reason we, as an audience, weren’t allowed to see the couple kiss (other than the pop kiss in the first episode with the weird pseudo-flying move). I thought this was a bullshit choice by the show runners, frankly, and it deeply annoyed me right at the end when I was supposed to be happy about a happy ending. So an otherwise cute and cheerful romantic comedy went out on a sour note. They even had the audacity to have the characters break the fourth wall and look directly into the camera and wink at us, as if we were on this decision and agreed to look away. Listen, that’s not how the endearing break of the fourth wall at the end trope works. Watch The Greatest Love, that’s a far better romantic comedy that did the same trick the correct way. That is what we want to experience when our characters acknowledge the viewing audience.

Sigh.

Ji Chang Wook, are you sure you don’t want to do action dramas again? It doesn’t have to be anything as exhausting as The K2, mind you. We know you don’t want to be Super Wook any longer, but surely there is a middle ground. Something between. I know you’ve got it in you to bring the house down, so I’ll keep watching and hoping you pick up a role worthy of your acting chops.

Until then, I guess I’ll have to settle for these good-but-not-great romances you keep churning out.

Backstreet Rookie – Overall Rating: 8/10 – Ridiculously Attractive People Maintain Their Perfect Figures & Complexions While Working Blue Collar Jobs Selling Junk Food.