If you have missed Grandpas/ Noonas Over Flowers series, you really need to carve out time to watch them. Both series are part travel documentaries, part reality sh0ws. Na PD is well known for his earlier 1N2D variety, where he throws a couple of well known actors/actresses into the wilderness to rough it out with a 24h rolling camera (or VJ) to film their trials and tribulations.
In the Flowers series, he doesn’t really make the halbaes and noonas camp in tents, but viewers can still get their sadistic kick from seeing the luggage boys (Seo-jin and Seung-gi) suffer. Being in an Asian context, the luggage boys are picked according to age — they muz be the youngest (or the only male) in the group…and thus at the lowest of lowest pecking order. In other words, they are there to be slaves. (tho one is a better slave boy than the other)
It’d be not that fun if the casts get thrown into a Korean countryside…cos after all, it’s still SAFE territory. Na PD ups the ante by dumping the lot of them in an unfamiliar country (which doesn’t speak/read/write Korean), with limited funds and totally no friendly local guide to help them. For the viewers, their trips are also our vicarious trips abroad to places where we may wanna go, but have no time/resources to do so (like Croatia, Switzerland, Turkey, Taiwan etcetc).
If you are still not convinced why you must watch Flowers, here are 5 reasons:
1) You never knew so-and-so actor/actress is like that in real life
- Lee Soon-jae halbae has a fantastic bedhead in the morning (an Einstein halo) which he doesn’t bother to tamp down. And he knows how to speak German!
- Park Geun-hyung halbae in Empire of Gold is scary. Geun-hyung halbae in real life is a doting husband who reports to his wife 24/7 and is the first to sweep souvenir stores to get her stuff.
- Yeon Yeo-jung halmeoni has a bedhead (and an attitude) that can match Lee (they were fantastic in King2Hearts, btw). And she has purrrfect English skills, having lived in the States for at least a decade.
- Kim Hee-ae noona is an elegant daylight mugger/robber (of food). And she will oh-so-gently command you to part with your stash…or else.
2) The luggage boys (or luggage) are so cringe worthy hilarious
- Seo-jinnie’s priceless look of horror when he realises he’s been duped to become permanant (3 seasons soon) slave to a group of seniors, instead of an oppa cum tour guide to Girls’ Generation. But to his credit, he manages pretty well…although I think he didn’t enjoy (or even remember) any of the trips he went on Flowers, cos he was too busy sourcing for restaurants/ hotels and acting as porter, driver and general care taker of the halbaes.
- Watch Seung-gi crumble from suave, world-class idol (he was recognised even in Turkey!!) to a bumbling headless mother hen. And while he is ripping through airports and train stations without purpose, his little noona chicks (whom he is supposedly to care for) manage to get their own luggage and find their way to the hotel. Ok, he does learn from mistakes (plural), and he matures into a thoughtful and more well organised tour planner near the end of the show — earning him heaping praises (instead of the inital “tsktsks”) from his charges.
3) Men and women have such different needs
As if I need to spell that out. But Flowers does distinctly bring out that difference. In Grandpas, the main (or only) concern for the halbaes is “where can we buy alcohol here?”. In Noonas, they are “is there hairdryer in the room?”, “are there enough bathrooms?”, “where can I get a replacement curler?” and even “how to unconstipate myself?!”…to name a few. (and guys, stop sniggering. they are valid points to note if you don’t want your partner to sulk for the whole trip)
4) Men and women react differently
- When Seo-jinnie tells his halbae group to “wait here”, they sit on grass patches/benches with coffees (or more frequently, sweets and ice-creams…how old are they again?) and wait. And wait. And wait. And they will still be there waiting — grumbling, yes — but still there.
- When Seung-gi asks his noonas to “wait here”, they wait. For 15 mins. After which, they decide that Seung-gi really is incompetent…and they decide to take matters into their own hands. With success. (and meanwhile, poor Seung-gi still has no idea)
5) Beautiful scenaries
Credit it to that flying robotic camera maybe, but the aerial shots are fantastic. Rastoke (Croatia) and nearby Plitvice Lake National Park (with its 16 naturally formed lakes) have never been on my must-visit places, but they are now. All thanks to Seung-gi and his noonas stopover. (seriously, Rastoke is fantastically unspoilt and beautiful)
If you are still unconvinced enough to watch, Dramabeans has posted recaps of each episode. They are wittily written and fun to read even if you have finished watching the shows. Grandpas can be found here, and Noonas here. And Season 3 of Grandpas is remoured to shoot soon — in Spain. Can’t. Wait.