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WWATD?!: 2011 Kdrama Awards (March Madness Edition)

March 24, 2012

Ok, it’s March. Sigh. I have been a very bad blogger, but in my defense, I’m crazy busy right now! I’ve taken so long to post 2011’s Kdrama awards, that I think Sunnie and I have likely already seen 2012’s winner for best Kdrama. Anyway, it’s past time for Vegan8Korean’s second annual Kdrama awards!!!!

Overall, I felt that 2011 was a pretty good year for Kdramas. In fact, after looking over my list of awards, I realized that a fair number of dramas I really liked didn’t actually even show up in the list. It seemed there were less clunkers too; although, that may have just been us having less patience with shows that didn’t grab us because of all the good dramas we were watching. Some of the shows that we tuned into but for whatever reason didn’t stick with us enough for us to keep watching include Midas, Miss Ripley, and the pretty popular City Hunter which we watched a number of episodes of, and didn’t dislike, but just weren’t into enough to keep up with it.

The Triple Shattered Hopes Award:
Named after 2010’s Triple, this “award” highlights a Kdrama that we were really looking forward to, but which ended up being a bit of a disappointment.

Winner: High Kick 3: Revenge of the Short-Legged

High Kick Revenge of the Short-Legged
Sunnie loved High Kick 2 so much that it was her choice for 2010 Kdrama of the year in last year’s awards. I didn’t see that series, so this year I was committed to watching High Kick 3 with her, and I hung in there for quite a few episodes, but it was just kind of not grabbing us. Sunnie’s brother, John, reminded us that last year’s version also took a while to pick up, so while I took a break, Sunnie kept watching, and watching, but finally just had to bow out. It just lacked the magic of last year’s, and never could pull her in. From Kdrama of the year expectations to complete lack of interest.

The Gong Yoo Hottie Award:
Named for Coffee Prince’s Gong Yoo, this award is for the Kdrama star who Sunnie most annoys me with by repeatedly gushing about how hot he is.

Winner: Gong Yoo
Gong Yoo Crucible

Last year, I talked about renaming this award after the 2010 winner, Park Shi Hoo. And having watched him in two dramas this year, it seemed like that might have to come to pass. After all, Gong Yoo has been in the army the last couple of years and out of the limelight. And, to be honest, we’re fudging things a little bit this year because we actually didn’t get to see Gong Yoo in any dramas this year. But, we did watch him in a couple of movies. Fresh out of the army, he appeared in the fun romantic comedy, Finding Mr. Destiny. And to be honest, Gong Yoo can be a little goofy looking at times, but this year, the hotness award was less about abs and more about heart because, as we linked to on our Facebook page, Gong Yoo was the driving force behind getting The Crucible aka Silenced made, a movie adaptation of a book he had read about the sexual and physical abuse of deaf children in a Korean school and the lack of justice surrounding the case. After pushing to have the movie made, and starring in it, Gong Yoo saw the movie able to do what the book could not and outrage the general public. In response to the movie, new laws were passed to better protect children. So, Gong Yoo firmly claims the award this year, because after all, what is hotter than depth, brains, and a commitment to make a difference!

The Something is Rotten in the Kingdom of Joseon and it’s not the Changookjang Award:
This award is named for the Kdrama that was the most absolutely Shakespearean in wrapping things up with a bang.

Winner: Tree with Deep Roots
Tree with Deep Roots

Not wanting to spoil anything about how this drama ends, but the name of this award is a nod to a particular Shakespeare play about a stressed out prince in Denmark who’s lengthy brooding over what to do wraps up in a pretty dramatic conclusion to the play. Tree with Deep Roots was refreshing in that the final episode was probably its best. The pacing for the drama was deliberate at times, and there was a lot of mystery to be cleared up, but boy, when they got to the final episode, they were ending things with DRAMA. So many dramas wrap things up a bit before the end, and the final episode or half-episode is putting the bow on things, but the drama has really passed. Cheers to Tree with Deep Roots for saving the best for last!

The Dream High “Who the hell hijacked this episode?!” Award:

Winner: Dream High
Kdrama Dream High poster

This award is given for the drama that has an inexplicable episode that sticks out like a sore thumb. Dream High wasn’t the best drama, but it was a fun, easy cotton-candy of a drama staffed with lots of kpop idols, and we enjoyed it. But one of the episodes, around six or seven I think, had the group head off to Japan, and it was absolutely horrible. The writing was horrific with this bile-inspiring forced connection between the local Japanese kids and the visiting Korean students. I clearly remember thinking how absolutely bad the show had gotten and thinking one more episode like that, and I’m calling it quits on this drama. But, the next episode, things were back to normal, and it was like nothing had ever happened.Weird.

The Autumn Tale “I miss those cute kids” Award:
Autum Tale Kids

Winner: The Duo
Kdrama The Duo

This award is named for one of our very favorite Kdramas, Autumn Tale which introduced us to Moon Geum Young, who along with her young co-star, almost ruined the rest of the drama. Autumn Tale starts with the two kids playing brother and sister for the first four episodes or so. The kids are so cute, and set up the relationship between the two characters so well that when the drama switched to the adult actors playing the two years later, you kind of felt a little bit cheated. This seems to be a fairly common thing for Kdramas to start off with young actors before switching to the older.  Thankfully, Autumn Tale did manage to pull things together and the drama is truly an excellent one, but not all dramas manage the challenge. I’m telling all Kdrama directors out there that you have to be careful and not give too many episodes to the young actors. Adults just can’t compete with cute kids, and once the audience is attached to them, it’s hard to make the switch no matter how good looking the adults playing the characters are! The Duo was not quite so successful in this transition. The first six or so episodes are with a bunch of cute kids who firmly establish the characters and then suddenly we switch to a slower pace, with older actors and blah blah blah…we ended up checking out and couldn’t finish the drama. Too bad. Cute kids though! 😉
The Duo Young Cast

The Eunchan & Han Kyul Best Couple Award:
coffee prince couple
Named for one of our favorite Kdrama couples, from Coffee Prince, this award is for our favorite Kdrama couple of the year.

Winner: Princess’ Man‘s Park Shi Hoo & Moon Cha Won
The Princess' Man

Princess’ Man was also very Shakespearian in nature in that it was a classic Romeo and Juliet story of two lovers from warring families, but it’s also very cool in that it is actually based on a true story. You already know how crazy Sunnie is about Park Shi Hoo, and the last time we really enjoyed Moon Chae Won was when she was in a sageuk, Painter of the Wind. Some people just seem better suited for historical dramas, and Moon Chae Won is one of them, I think. She just everything seems to work better for her when she’s in hanbok – she looks prettier and her acting is better. The romance, despair, and longing of these two as they fight to keep their love while the world goes to hell around them made them an easy choice this year and had Sunnie clutching her chest and sighing during many an episode.

The “Hey, Look at My Chocolate Abs” Excessive Shirtless Scenes Award:

Winner: Scent of a Woman‘s Lee Dong Wook
Lee Dong Wook shirtless

Ok, another common technique to promote the popularity of a Kdrama is for early episodes to have shirtless scenes for the male lead, typically while moping and being depressed in the shower. You take that and couple it with a guy, Lee Dong Wook, making his comeback from two years in the army and you get shower scene after shower scene, and then maybe a couple of beach scenes, and you get the point. Plus, he said he got really fat eating the food his fans sent him while he was in the army, so he’d just lost a bunch of weight – can’t blame the guy for showing off what he has, I guess.

The Queen Seon Duk Overrated Award:
Named for 2010’s Queen Seon Duk, this award highlights the drama we thought was most overrated and undeservedly popular.

Winner: Secret Garden
Korean drama Secret Garden poster

You know, we actually did like Secret Garden, but it became a cultural phenomenon with comedians doing satire based on scenes, with sequined track suits showing up everywhere, and with huge ratings and popularity, and we just didn’t think it was all that. Ultimately, the writing just wasn’t that special. We enjoyed the actors, it had a great sound track, but c’mon, there were better dramas out there this year!

The Kim Chang Hwan Joy to Watch Award:
Kim Chang Wan
This award is named for Coffee Prince‘s Kim Chang Hwan, who played Manager Hong, and was a supporting actor who just helped pull the show together and really make it a success without much fanfare. Think of it as a best supporting actor award.

Winner: Princess’ Man Hong Soo Hyun, who plays princess Kyung Hye
Princess' Man Hong Soo Hyun

Runner Up:  Scent of a Woman‘s Kim Hye Ok
Kim Hye Ok of Scent of a Woman

Wow, Hong Soo Hyun was so good in this role. Playing the haughty and cold princess who loses her throne, comes to love the husband she looked down and struggles to remain brave while being terrified and seeing those around her suffer and die, Hong Soo Hyun had a lot to work with, and she did not disappoint at all. She was so understated, and you could just see much expressed in a flicker of an expression on her face. She really had one of the stand out performances in a Kdrama this year, regardless of the size of the role. Amazing.

For much of Scent of a Woman, Kim Hye Ok plays a childish and irresponsible mother. But when she finds out her daughter has cancer after having lost her husband to the disease years before, she cracks into an angry, raging sorrow that breaks your heart. She takes what is truly a simple supporting role and brings the grief over the lead’s illness home like nothing else in the drama had to that point.

The Coffee Prince Best OST Award:

Winner: Queen of Reversals
Korean drama Queen of Reversals poster

Runner Up: Secret Garden
Secret Garden situp scene

As usual, so many good soundtracks this year, and this was a tough call, but we have to give the award to Queen of Reversals. Some seriously good songs in both of these dramas, however. Songs we’re still listening to!

2011 Kdrama Best Actor Award:

Winner: Tree with Deep Roots‘ Han Suk-Kyu as Lee Do
Han Suk Kyu as Lee Do

Playing an idolized historical figure can be a daunting challenge, but with some great writing to make King Sejong the Great a human and flawed Lee Do was a wonderful feat by Han Suk Kyu. Lee Do is funny with a penchant for cursing and a single-minded ambition that causes him to risk all, including frequently the lives of those he cares about. When things go wrong and he has no one to rage at except himself, Han Suk Kyu was able to really bring to life a great character.

2011 Kdrama Best Actress Award:

Winner (tie): Princess’ Man‘s Moon Chae Won as Lee Se Ryung, and
Moon Chae Won in Princess Man

49 Days Lee Yo-Won as Lee-Kyung
Lee Yo-Won in 49 Days

Runner Up: Scent of a Woman‘s Kim Sun Ah as Lee Yeon Jae
Kim Sun Ah in Scent of a Woman

Wow, so many great performances by the ladies this year. Sunnie went with Moon Chae Won who was excellent playing the heroine of Princess’ Man. Once Park Shi Hoo suffers the loss of his family, he turns into a pretty sullen, vengeful man without much else driving his character, leaving Moon Chae Won to carry the emotion of the story, and she does an excellent job playing the selfless and honorable princess who understands his rage and feels his sorrow while grieving at the gulf that has grown between her and her family, while also being unable to sever those ties. She is sensitive and yet implacably strong throughout this series.

I went with 49 Days‘ Lee Yo-Won who actually plays two characters in the series as her body is inhabited by a possessing spirit. So she plays a hopeless, depressed character, and a bubbly, sincere and somewhat clueless character, and convincingly captures both. I thought she was excellent.

And we also have to really give props to Kim Sun Ah who plays a woman who has been conservative and bullied much of her life who finally decides to live after being diagnosed with cancer. Yet she can’t escape the sorrow of her fate no matter how much she embraces life, and she really captures so much of the character’s fear and yearning in this very moving drama.

The Favorite Kdrama of the Year Award:

Winner (tie): 49 Days, and
49 Days Korean Drama

The Princess’ Man
Korean drama Princess' Man poster

So just as Sunnie and I split on best actress, we also split on favorite Kdrama of the year. Again, there were some really good ones this year, including some that didn’t even make it into the awards, like Athena and The Greatest Love. But for Sunnie, the romance, injustice, and superb ensemble acting of the entire cast led her to choose Princess Man as her favorite. It was indeed a classic sageuk, with an absolutely excellent villain played by Kim Young Chul. You need a fantastic villain to loathe and rage against, and he is at once horrible and brilliant. The drama uses tension excellently, but for me, wasn’t quite as gripping as my choice.

For me, 49 Days really captured my attention throughout. It was interesting (I tend to like fantasy pieces), and I enjoyed learning about the rules defining the afterlife as presented in the drama. I enjoyed the entire cast, and the only issue I had with the drama at all was that the conclusion wasn’t a slam dunk. But neither was it a lame attempt to tie a neat bow on everything. Instead, they leave you with some yearning and questions that befit the subject matter of death, but despite knowing that is probably the best choice, you still are left wishing everyone could live happily ever after. In the end, both dramas were absolutely superb, and so it is fitting we have a tie, which as I mentioned last year, is Kdrama award tradition, so is perfectly justifiable!

A great year of dramas, and 2012 has gotten off to a fantastic start with one of our favorite dramas of all time. But I’ll write about that next time!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Charmayne permalink
    April 22, 2012 5:36 am

    I have watched a few of your suggestions and have not been disappointed. My latest was Scent Of A Woman. I watched the whole series in less than a week. I love Kdramas!

    • Bill permalink*
      April 22, 2012 11:59 am

      Hi, Charmayne! Glad you enjoyed it. We’re in a bit of a dry spell right now for current dramas that really grab us, so we’re currently watching last year’s Heartstrings and are enjoying it. Thanks for visiting!

  2. April 22, 2012 4:13 pm

    Hi, Bill,

    I can’t wait to find out what your favorite drama of 2012 is so far. I just started watching “Moon Embracing the Sun” (I’m 6 episodes in), and I think it’s really good. It’s the first Korean drama I’ve watched in a long time, though, so my patience has had plenty of time to be restored. 😉 I usually run out of it after a long bout of drama-watching. 😀

    • Bill permalink*
      April 22, 2012 5:11 pm

      Hi, Lu! I was actually writing about it when you commented, so you can check out the new post. We really liked Moon Embracing the Sun early on, but I’ll warn you that it starts to lose some steam towards the end, so store up some energy to push through, or try watching Kimchi Family. We loved loved loved it!

  3. April 22, 2012 5:44 pm

    Whee! I just saw your new post. What a coincidence! I love the sound of Kimchi Family. 🙂 That will probably be the next one up for me. Thanks, Bill!


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