I was looking for some family dramas for my Mom to watch on a lazy afternoon, since we couldn’t stand You’re the best, Lee Soon Shin, and Mom doesn’t like the idea of an Alzheimer patient Mom in Perfect Mom, we decided on Im Joo Hwan‘s post-army drama, Ugly Alert. The first episode already had my Mom hooked, and the ahjumma in me agrees with Mom.
I have no idea why the synopsis given describes Joon Su (Im Joo Hwan, the younger counterpart is by Kang Yi Suk [Joo Ji Hoon’s younger counterpart in Five Fingers, Taecyeon’s younger counterpart in Dream High]) as a silly and worthless man, because he is neither. Joon Su is a poor kid who can’t catch a break since young, having to earn a living by peddling fake medicine with an ahjusshi at the countryside, while Dad (Ahn Nae Sang) serves time in prison. The day when Dad is finally released, Joon Su went to receive Dad, and a pretty lady (Shin Ae Ra) was waiting for Dad as well. Joon Su was smitten immediately, and Dad introduces her as Joon Su’s new stepmother. She brings her back to their place, and she has two children, Jin Joo (Kang Byul, Jung Da Bin as the younger version) and Hyun Suk (Choi Tae Joon, Nam Da Reum as the younger version).
The lives of all three children are thus turned upside down; Jin Joo hates having an ex-con as stepdad, and Hyun Suk goes along with his sister’s sentiments. Joon Su is happy to finally have a family, and narrates that he hopes to have a wife like stepmom when he grows up. Jin Joo and Hyun Suk couldn’t understand why Mom would marry an ex-con, and so it turns out that Dad was Mom’s first love. Joon Su is well versed is all kinds of household chores despite being only thirteen. Mom is a nurse, and Dad tries his best to live an honest life by selling coffee at the market, so Joon Su does the household chores and cook, on top of going to school (and may I add he tops the class although he attends 4th grade only).
It so turns out that Jin Joo and Joon Su attends the same class, and Jin Joo hates it so much that she asks Mom to let her and Hyun Suk change school because she hates that everyone knows how she is related to Joon Su, as well as having to change her surname to Gong. Mom relents. One day Mom announces that she is pregnant, and only Joon Su is happy. Jin Joo continues to throw her tantrum, but Hyun Suk tells Joon Su he’ll love the baby as he will to his sister. Hyun Suk is caught between his loyalty to Jin Joo, and admiration to Joon Su as a hyung.
Mom is advised against having the baby, as she has chronic heart disease, but she still goes ahead with labor. The good days did not last long, as Dad is killed in a car accident shortly after the baby, Na Ri (Kim Sul Hyun, Kim Ha Yoo as the younger version) is born. The household is also plagued with debts, and Mom brings all four children to stay in a rented rooftop room. Joon Su is guilt ridden as he thinks that it is his and Dad’s fault that misfortune falls on Mom and his step-siblings, and he leaves them with a note saying he’ll earn money and send to them. Mom goes to great lengths trying to locate him, and dies on the bus after bringing him back.
Joon Su decides to take up all the responsibility of bringing up his step-siblings and the newborn sister, as he was greatly moved by Mom’s words before she died. She said that a family has to stick together through thick and thing, whether they’re blood-related or not. Mom was the first person who showed him love and warmth, thus Joon Su lives by her words and example, no matter how dire the situation is. Poor Joon Su can never catch a break but he continues to soldier on all the way into adulthood.
I absolutely love the performance of Kang Yi Suk, because he was really sincere as the wandering boy who found maternal love and a family, no matter how short-living it was, and despite his step-sister always looking down on him and is hostile to him. He emotes very nicely, and is defeinitely on par with Yeo Jin Goo and other child actors of similar age (Kang Yi Suk is a 1998er).
I’m only one episode into the adult cast, and the interaction between Nari and adult Joon Su is very sweet. Grown-up Jin Joo is still a pain in the ass to Joon Su, but how exactly Hyun Suk feels towards Joon Su is pretty vague. I’m sad there’s no bromance so far. Apparently Joon Su is going to prison in place of Hyun Suk when he accidentally kills his classmate (I know, totally makjang), and Hyun Suk will become a lawyer (or is it prosecutor) when Joon Su is released.
I wouldn’t be watching this fully, only random episodes, or when Lee Soo Jae (favourite Flower Halbae) appears. Im Joo Hwan is earnest looking enough, and I hope his Joon Su will have a better life than his younger version. And oh, I think Im Joo Hwan looks like Fukuyama Masaharu, the evergreen icon of Japanese idols.
I recommend Ugly Alert only for the child cast, so just watch until the first half of Episode 5. Unless you have alot of time on your hands, or you’re a Im Joo Hwan fan, please skip this as apparently things will get makjang with lots of complicated relationships and what not.
EDIT: Apparently, as seen in the comments below, Ugly Alert is not makjang-ish as I think it is. HOWEVER, I still maintain with my stand that watch this only if you have alot of free time. 120 episodes with each episode clocking 40min or so is no joke, you know what I mean.