Review – Great Seducer / Tempted (to Fast Forward)

Review – Great Seducer / Tempted (to Fast Forward)

Full disclaimer – I adore the male lead in this show.  Even if his character is immensely boring, as it was in this drama.  Even if his usually shining star seemed dim playing a conflicted, conceited Lothario.  Even when he tried to convince the audience that rich kids have problems too… just not money problems, which is the vast majority of life’s problems, but, ya know… problems.  Even though this show kinda sucked, I still liked it.  Such is the power of Woo Do-Hwan.  I’m just a fan.

This show was an odd, very loose adaptation of the old Les Liaisons Dangereuse by Pierre Choderlos de Lacios.  What?  Not familiar with that 18th century French novel?  What about the play?  What about… Dangerous Liaisons, the fantastic 1988 movie with Glenn Close?  Or Valmont in 1989?  No?  Okay… Cruel Intentions in 1999?  Untold Scandal… the 2003 Korean movie?  The 2012 Chinese version?  It’s a popular story.

The plot (of Dangerous Liaisons) is simple:  Two very rich and powerful people are friends, skirting around some powerful attraction to one another.  They are both shameless sexual deviants, having affairs left and right with no real feelings for the people they are sleeping with.  When the woman is jilted by her lover for another woman, her pride is hurt and she concocts a revenge scheme… ruin the reputation of her sweetie’s new sweetie.  It’s a very passive aggressive move.  She enlists the help of her bestie to seduce this new woman, offering herself as the reward for a job well done.  Everything goes to hell once her bestie falls in love with this conquest… ruining all their lives in epic proportions.

It’s a great story, honestly, who isn’t fascinated by the idea of sex as a weapon – and worse, love as a game.  It’s a story about cruelty for pleasure, about deep insecurities, about those with power using it shamelessly over those without.  It’s funny, sexy, and… a tragedy.  Because if you start to care about your prey… it’s no longer the same game.  You’ll have a hard time serving the family dog for a holiday meal, ya dig?  Once you love them, to destroy them is to destroy yourself.  If you haven’t seen the 1988 movie version, do yourself a favor… Glenn Close is the master at playing a cruel bitch.  Though for camp value, the 1990s Cruel Intentions is also fun.

This drama takes the Dangerous Liaisons story and adds a bunch of unnecessary story lines – unrequited love between parents, another leading male, some teen sob stories, a few tangled connections and angles that do nothing to enhance the classic tale of sex and heartache.  It attempts to make the villains, aka the leads, sympathetic… which declaws the beast.  It doesn’t really make us love the bad guys or the good guys… everyone is just lounging around in the middle.  The power of the original story is that the two leads are total assholes – just terrible, terrible people –  and having one of them fall in love shatters their delicate world of manipulations and smug, shameless conduct.  That in fact, they are their own worst enemies.

This show wants to play it nice.  It’s not a morality play, it’s a teen romance.

So instead of being a fantastical, K-world version of the centuries old, beloved and wicked classic Dangerous Liaisons, it’s more like a few episodes of Gossip Girl.  And there’s nothing wrong with Gossip Girl.  Sometimes you just want to watch beautiful rich people run around and be mean, then nice, then mean, then nice to each other and know it will all work out in the end.  Fans of Gossip Girl will love this.

Overall Rating – 7.5/10.  Basically a Few Episodes of Gossip Girl, K-Style. 

Review – Mad Dog

Review – Mad Dog

Just an all-over great show, with action, drama, a little comedy and romance, and a whole lotta love.  This story illustrates how people make their own families.  The rag tag team of Mad Dog all had different, tattered pasts but when they came together, they found a home.

The plot is this:  A plane crashed killing a ton of people and injuring more and the reports said the pilot was to blame, taking the aircraft down on a suicide mission, leaving his younger brother with a fortune in insurance money.  The younger brother, played to perfection by Woo Do-Hwan, isn’t convinced his older brother was the culprit however.  Unfortunately, no one believes him.  Let alone the leader of a rogue team of investigators who lost his wife and son in the crash and passionately despises him.  How these people come together – to work towards a common cause of uncovering massive corruption, is the basic plot.  And it’s captivating, thrilling and hugely enjoyable.

The Bromance is Strong With These Two.

The entire show was great – from beginning to end – and really let all the characters shine.  Even the bad guys (and there were several) became fully developed, their motivations and personalities distinctive and interesting.  My favorite was the unique, twisted relationship between Joo Hyun-Ki, the heir to the airline company, and Cha Hong-Joo, the heir to the insurance company.   Those two snakes were mesmerizing!  Especially the crazed Joo Hyun-Ki, played by the talented Choi Won-Young.

Love ’em or Hate ’em… these two were made for each other.

Oh, the playful, loving relationships of the Mad Dog team, all dependent on each other, full of laughs and genuine emotion, how I loved them all!  They truly cared about each other and it grounded the drama with heart.  These were people you liked to spend time with – and wanted to see succeed despite all the obstacles in their way.  It made escaping into each episode with them more exciting and rewarding as a viewer.  Other shows should take note of this formula – as it is often sadly lacking in thrillers, the creation of a unique, likable cast.

The Team of Mad Dog… which you want to be adopted by…

Who knew a show about insurance fraud would be so spectacular?

Overall Rating – 9/10.  Using White Collar Crime to Catch Criminals.

Review – Sweet Stranger & Me

Review – Sweet Stranger & Me

Welcome to backflash city.  The heavy handed, overuse of backflashes in this show reminded me of K-dramas of old… when you’d have a backflash to something that literally happened in the same episode.  It’s K-dramas for goldfish.

With that said, I still enjoyed this light drama.  The side characters were particularly enjoyable.  It’s one of those rare dramas that fully develops its side characters, so that they’re not just around as a plot device to add conflict as the two leads find love.  Oh no, these side characters get their own stories and you’ll be rooting for them to find happiness too.  In fact, I liked the side characters more than the lead characters.  A lot more.  The two second leads, the stalker sister, the goofy side-chef, the young gangster guy… I found them all to be more interesting and complicated than our reformed gangster turned chef and the grumpy stewardess.  My biggest qualm with this entire series is that it didn’t firmly wrap up the endings to these people – after laying all that foundation for them, giving them walls and windows and doors… why leave us hanging?  Give those people a roof, damn it, and complete their stories.

The simple version of the plot:  A young woman comes home to rest shortly after her mother dies and she catches her fiance cheating on her.  Once home, she discovers her mother secretly married a young man and this handsome guy is now her stepfather and owner of her family house, business, and property.  Her family turns out to be full of secrets, including tons of massive debt.  An extremely handsome and feisty local “Robot Museum” owner wants to buy the land to develop it into a resort… and he’s not only interested in the property, but also our leading lady.  On top of all this, the girl her fiance had an affair with keeps hanging around, bringing all her drama and shenanigans with her.

It was cute.  You have to suffer through the flashbacks for it, but it’s still a nice romantic show.  With two very handsome leading men.

Overall Rating – 7/10.  Kneading Dough… Better Than Crossfit For Upper Body Strength.

More on Characters, Spoilers, Complaints and Musings follow….

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Review – Save Me (from people!)

Review – Save Me (from people!)

Is this show a dark commentary on humanity?  YES.  Was it awesome?  Yes… but it’s very, very dark, so light a few candles and pray for the soul of the world before you start viewing.

This is the story about how a family got sucked into a cult.  It’s also a story about growing up, and realizing your parents aren’t the gods of our childhood.  It’s a story about society, and how the struggle for power changes people.   Power over your own life, power over circumstances, power over others.  It’s a commentary on politics, religion, government, and the basic needs of humans – to be useful, to be happy, and to be safe.  And at its heart, it’s a story about friendship.  There’s a lot packed into this drama.

It’s not a pleasant experience, though.  The drama tackled quite a few uncomfortable topics – from police corruption to political corruption, violent school bullying to murder, unbelievable cruelty to cold manipulations of others – both emotionally and physically.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I’m not sure I want to again for a while, either.  You’ll want to give your brain a rest after this intensity… maybe watch a Disney movie or something.  Cleanse the palette, cleanse the soul.

Overall Rating – 9/10.  Getting To New Heaven Is Hell On Earth.

Thoughts on religion, my personal opinions on the matter, and various musings follow…

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