WWATD?!: A Tale of Two Dramas – A Gentleman’s Dignity and Big
We’re doing double-duty in today’s What’s with all the Drama?! post. It’s rare that we find two dramas that start airing at the same time that both really pull us in, but luckily, that has been the case with A Gentleman’s Dignity and Big! While we definitely have our favorite between the two, and while they both still need to close strongly, we’ve been racing through both of them as soon as they become available.
Big is inspired by the Tom Hank’s movie of the same name and has two of our favorite Kdrama actors as its leads. Gong Yoo (who was so amazing in our beloved Coffee Prince, and is fresh off his win of our 2011 Kdrama Hottie Award) plays Seo Yoon Jae, a doctor, or I should say he plays the body of Yoon Jae, as Yoon Jae and 18 year old Kang Gyung-Joon switch bodies when both are involve in a car accident together. Lee Min-Jung, who we really enjoyed in Smile, You, plays Yoon Jae’s fiancee, Gil Da-Ran.
Big is written by the sister Kdrama writing duo, the Hong sisters. The Hong sisters tend to write pretty successful but somewhat formulaic dramas, and I’m getting a sense more than ever of their approach to writing. We enjoyed My Girlfriend is a Gumiho before it fell apart. And we really liked You’re Beautiful, but the cartoonish characters like Jeremy, who was so infantile and cute that you kind of wondered if he should be forcibly admitted to a psychiatric ward, and even the total cluelessness and helplessness of Park Shi Hye really irritated Sunnie. With the Hong sisters, you get an interesting hook to a story because they start foremost with an idea: Gumiho in modern times, naive, nun pretends to be her twin brother in a popular rock band full of cute guys. They deal with fantasy (which I enjoy) but often I’m left feeling like if they could just tone down the zaniness a touch, it would let more truth shine through. And more than that, if they could just complicate the idea of the story a bit more, the plot could hold up for an entire series. That being said, they always hook us, and some, like The Greatest Love, do manage to hold up.
It’s this latter issue that we’re starting to see play out in Big. We were immediately hooked, and couldn’t wait to see the next episode, but then there started to be more and more episodes with just filler – kicking the can down the road without advancing the plot in any meaningful way. You could almost see the Hong sisters brainstorming “fun” scenes to fill up the time of an episode, but at the end of the episode we’d be left looking at each other and asking “what was that?” because nothing had really happened. Now the saving grace for Big is its stars. Gong Yoo, playing an obnoxious 18 year old trapped in the body of a 30 year old, and Lee Min-Jung, clueless and flustered as fiance to a body inhabited by one of her students, are golden. They are a joy to watch and often this is enough. Unfortunately, Miss A’s Suzy is largely wasted as Jang Ma-Ri, the teen girl obsessed with Kang Gyung-Joon. She is emblematic of the problems with the writing – being cartoonishly over the top obsessed (complete with support from the Terminator soundtrack) while not really having any substantial role to play in the plot.
So I’m nit-picking the series, but mostly because we really do enjoy it, as we do most Hong sister dramas, we’re just left wishing for a bit more, as we do most Hong sister dramas, so it could take that step from ok-good to definitively awesome! Big also has a pretty good OST.
Here’s the fun song from the OST, Hey You:
and Because It’s You:
and finally, One Person:
Our second K-drama we’re in full-on watch mode with is the Sex and the City inspired A Gentleman’s Dignity. Instead of four middle-aged single women in New York, we have three single (plus one married player) middle-aged men in Seoul.
Much like its inspiration, this series does a great job of really showing you the friendship that these men have built with each other over many years. The four are all distinct personalities. Jang Dong Gun plays Kim Do Jin, an arrogant, happily single womanizer who suddenly falls hard for ethics teacher Seo Yi Soo, played by Kim Ha Neul. These are the two leads of the show, and they are both strong; although, Dong Gun is able to show a bit more depth with his character. Sunnie was very familiar with him from dramas when she was in high school and college, but kept remarking how he was so interesting as the bad boy in this after always playing very pure and good characters in the past. A Gentleman’s Dignity ultimately is showing how these 41 year old men who still live their lives as boys are finally starting to want to settle down, and it is Do Jin’s journey that is the backbone of the show. The great thing about the show is how the men are neither gentlemen nor have much dignity, but are so likeable as they go on this journey.
We’re all used to having each Kdrama episode open with a replay of the end of the previous episode, but A Gentleman’s Dignity starts each episode showing a flashback of the four friends in the past, demonstrating their long friendship with each other. They follow this with a traditional replay, but I can’t emphasize enough how these little clips situate you in the past (the World Cup in Seoul or the finale of Sandglass) and let you experience their long friendship, further establishing the characters and their relationships.
This drama is very impressive because of many things, but the strength of the entire cast is a big part of everything. I mean everyone is rock solid here. Kim Soo Ro is Im Tae San, the baseball playing son of a rich family who is in a sometimes rocky relationship with the selfish and independent Hong Se Ra played by Yoon Se Ah. She is really excellent in making you feel for this woman who repeatedly shows her selfishness but also her fearfulness.
Kim Min Jong plays Choi Yoon, the most responsible of the four men, a widower who fights off the insistent affections of Tae San’s much younger sister, Im Me Ah Ri played by Yoon Jin Yi. Jin Yi also does an excellent job in convincingly playing this childish and spoiled young woman who wants nothing but to be with Yoon. For example, she has an excellent scene where she cries with embarrassment as her brother tries to force her to leave Yoon’s birthday party. She is so believable in her childish tears that you equally believe her over-the-top pursuit of Yoon in more comic scenes.
Lee Jong Hyuk, who neither of us had seen before, is excellent as Lee Jung Rok, the only married one, but the most flirtatious and irresponsible of the friends. He is so horribly immature, but you can’t help but laugh at him and the ridiculous lengths he makes his friends go to in order to try and save his marriage. He is married to the rich and powerful Park Min Sook, played by Kim Jung Nan, who is cold but earns our sympathy because she is truly hurt by her husband’s actions and clearly has a heart underneath her scary exterior.
We’ve so enjoyed this drama. It makes you long for life in the city as well as friendships as strong and established as these men have with each other. I’m really hopeful that the show ends well. I have to give props to Dramabeans who did a great job coining a phrase to represent our disappointment with the ungraceful plot machinations of the most recent episode. We get the cliche, ridiculously stupid activities of a Kdrama character wracked by guilt and feeling unworthy (funny enough the same thing happened in the episode of Big we watched this week), a term they dubbed “Noble Idiocy” in their episode 14 review. Let’s hope that was a little bump, and we don’t see this continue as an effort to regain tension in the plot by pushing two characters apart after they finally get together.
We also have an outstanding OST with A Gentleman’s Dignity, one that is reminiscent in some ways of our favorite Kdrama OST of all time, Coffee Prince.
We have the infectiously fun High High:
The lovely, Spring I Love You:
and also by Big Baby Drive (I’m going to have to check them out), You are Everywhere:
Finally, My Heartache:
So two dramas worth checking out. Hope you enjoy!