WWATD?! Spring is here! 2011
This edition of What’s with all the Drama?! finds us in a bit of an in between mode on our dramas. We had a bunch of dramas wrap up, and we’re now in full search mode to figure out which of the new ones we should be watching!
A show that we really enjoyed was Queen of Reversals.
There was no doubt that we would be watching this series, due to the presence of Park Shi Hoo, Sunnie’s current obsession, playing the rich but tortured chaebol Goo Yong Shik. Surprisingly, a wait-and-see approach by the network on how many episodes the series would end up being relegated him to a very minor role in the early episodes, and the expected development of romance between he and the female lead, Hwang Tae Hee, played by Kim Nam Joo, took a lot time to get going. That being said, it set up the drama to really take its time dealing with what really was the main theme: the break up of a marriage.
This series was sometimes hard to watch due to the frustration of the injustice with which its characters were treated by the cruel and greedy bosses at their workplace, Queens, as well as the sadness of seeing two likable characters, Hwang Tae Hee, and her husband, Bong Jun Soo, played by Jung Joon Ho, struggle to hold their marriage together. Chae Jung Ahn, marking her best appearance since Coffee Prince, is Baek Yeo Jin, Tae Hee’s rival at work and in her relationship with her husband.
Once the series finally got rolling, we saw a classic Korean drama love quadrangle but despite plenty of romantic scenes, it was always tinged with elements of sadness as the only way for the couples to realize their love would be for the other relationships to break apart.
A further element of sweetness and sadness was brought to the series by our favorite (who we named our “Joy to Watch” award after in our year-end drama awards), Kim Chang Hwan, who plays a terminally ill worker at Queens who is hiding his illness to earn as much money as he can for his wife and children who are living in Canada. This was probably my favorite amongst the dramas that just wrapped up due to its depth, and how it tackled several difficult topics in life. It certainly could leave you feeling hollow at times, not knowing who you should be rooting for and what you should be hoping for, and they maintained that feeling throughout the drama. They also had a nice OST with several songs we really liked:
To counteract the occasional melancholy of Queen of Reversals, we turned to a nice piece of fluffy confection for our weekly k-drama dessert: the K-pop idol-fest, Dream High.
Dream High was about a performing arts high school (think Fame), and starred a number of Kpop idols: Miss A’s Suzy, 2PM’s Wooyoung and Taecyeon, T-Ara’s Ham Eun Jung, and most importantly to us, IU. Singer and music mogul JYP also played a feature character, and I was looking forward to seeing him after his hilarious turn as a singer trapped on a toilet in the Wondergirls’ Nobody music video:
And he certainly didn’t disappoint. Probably the biggest star from the show ended up being the non-idol Kim Soo Hyun as Song Sam Dong, who did a passable job singing and dancing amongst his idol peers, while showing off some nice acting chops. Honestly, we were pretty surprised at the quality of acting by all of the idols, and IU did a nice job in her debut playing an overweight girl who is told that she must lose weight to be a singer. She and Wooyoung formed a really cute couple who ended up being given the moniker, “Milky Couple” by fans (due to a play-on-words when combining their names).
A pleasant surprise was IU’s character’s refusal to be defined by her weight. Outside of one horrific episode that took place in Japan (it was like some mystery director kidnapped the production and totally messed things up) this was an easy and enjoyable watch with nice performances by the idols and adult actors alike.
Plus, Dream High gave me an idea for a brand new award for next year’s K-drama awards: Drama Most Likely to be Mistaken for a Budweiser Commercial. In the early episodes, filmed in winter, they had the heating system shut off on the set and every time any of the actors said anything, huge clouds of breath would come rolling out. It was totally distracting, not for the least because you were thinking of the poor actors having to act in what looked like arctic conditions!
Somehow we missed the mega-hit Iris, but we ended up watching the spin-off, Athena.
Athena started a little slow for us because of a uber-hyper focus on action, if that makes any sense. They put so much focus on action scenes that I had a hard time understanding what the heck was going on. Ultimately, it settled down to a really gritty and dark series. It never came close to being the hit that its predecessor was, but we were pulled in by the actors, who were solid across the board (and very very good looking, which never hurts). While there were times reality seemed to be taking a vacation, I liked this series and am probably going to have to go back and give Iris another try. SNSD’s Taeyeon had a nice contribution to the Athena OST:
One fun bit of voyeurism that came from Athena was the revelation of a secret off-screen romance between two of its stars. The Korean paparazzi managed to track them down as they met up in Paris and took the following shots:
Now normally I would feel very sorry for Jung Woo Sung and Lee Ji Ah for not being able to have their privacy and rage against the inhumanity of the paparazzi, but the pictures are just so funny that I kind of got a kick out of it. They just look like they’re trying so hard to be secretive that the only way left to go is to pull out the glasses and rubber nose with a mustache, so I guiltily confess to getting a kick out of this. The couple initially denied the romance, but soon admitted that the gig was up.
The biggest K-drama amongst these that garnered much of the attention in Korea was Secret Garden.
We previously blogged about Secret Garden due to the vast amount of fur they were throwing in our faces, but they unfortunately are hardly alone in this. The show had charismatic actors, and the male lead, Hyun Bin, rode this show to huge stardom right before heading off to fulfill his military service requirement in the marines. We enjoyed this show but were a little bit mystified at what all the fuss was about. Outside of the initial zaniness of the body switch early in the series, it was a pretty cut and dry romance, dealing with the challenges of class issues. There were certainly some of those iconic scenes ripe for parody, notably the sit-up scene:
but ultimately we felt the last half couldn’t match the first, and while we easily watched the whole series, we weren’t really blown away at all. One place that Secret Garden wasn’t over hyped though was its OST, which was dominant in the ratings and really, really good:
We felt a little lost at all our dramas wrapping up at once, or come to think of it, it may just have been this particular group of dramas which were pretty dark at time. We’ve since tried on a couple of the new ones. Sunnie started watching My Princess, which inexplicably does not have subtitles on the American broadcast, and she enjoyed the early episodes but it’s started to creep a bit during the later episodes. The main new drama we’re enamored with is The Duo.
There’s something very satisfying about a well done historical K-drama, the injustice is INJUSTICE, and the stakes just seem higher. We’ve really been enjoying this one; although, to this point, it’s been the younger actors we’ve been watching, and it looks like they are about to switch over. We really enjoyed the younger versions of the characters quite a bit.
Plus, I really like the score for the series using traditional Korean instruments, another bonus to historical K-dramas. I loved the Painter of the Wind music, for example.
We’re still probably missing some good K-dramas right now, as there are always too many to keep up with. What are you watching now? What are we missing out on?!