It’s that time of the year again, and as usual, WHERE DID 2014 GO?! I’d say this year had better dramas than 2013, though bad dramas are still very much around, and thank goodness I skipped quite a few of them. Nevertheless, I’m not totally free of them, because what’s a KDrama addict gonna do without watching any bad snarky dramas?
Sab and I have decided to do separate posts unlike last year, because the post will get crazily lengthy. I’m going to rank dramas from this year in order of my preference, but I’ll try to be as partial as I can. Let’s start with the bad, because good things should be saved to the last, no? The dramas are listed in alphabetical order in each section. And do remember that much as I try to be objective, drama reviewing is very subjective in nature.
Age of Innocence/Inspiring Generation
OMG. This drama totally derailed after the scriptwriter switch hullabaloo, though it was strangely entertaining to the end. The first ten episode was pretty awesome, and there were actual reasons for why things are happening, like why our hero needed to learn how to jump off trains. But then everything went haywire when we left Korea for China in the story, and it’s just endless mindless fighting and changing of rules as and when people like it. However, even if everything doesn’t make sense, there’s always Mo Il Hwa (Song Jae Rim) and Shinichi (Jo Dong Hyuk) to punch some sense into things.
This is another one which totally didn’t make sense, from the beginning to the end, which I suppose, yay for consistency? I didn’t care for the birth secret, I didn’t care for the hotel politics, and the only reason I watch (albeit in fast mode) was for the two minor characters, Park Chul Min and Kim Seon Young. And oh, because it was the Nth OTP reunion this year (Lee Dong Wook and Lee Dae Hae). Utterly forgettable.
Can We Love
Ah, it could have been much better. I enjoyed it for the first half, but when Jung Wan (Eugene) started being the noble idiot, I really couldn’t care less. And how I lament the waste of not exploring the theme of teenage pregnancy! Sure, the central theme is about the love and life of three 30-somethings girl friends, but you don’t just shove such an interesting topic under the carpet and resolve it so simply in the end! The only shining gem is that of Uhmform Uhm Tae Woong, for being (one of) the most awesome guy that could ever exist in K-Dramaland.
Honestly, I wasn’t really paying attention while watching this. It’s another case of coulda, woulda, shoulda been so good, but it was all too technical and not enough action. If anything, at least the acting kinda made up for the boring plot, though half the time I felt like shaking some sense into Ji Wool (Kim Ji Won). Has she got no brains or sense of danger? But, note to self: good looking guys may very well be serial killers. I blame the script for not making Tae Oh (Lee Joon) scarier, though I felt Lee Joon does seriously have some acting chops.
High School King of Savvy
It was so quirky, but in a charming way for the first half. And then as all drama extensions go, the second half became your usual drama, noble idiots and dragging storylines. I also didn’t like OTP because it just wasn’t convincing to me. I thought Lee Ha Na was great being the socially awkward Soo Young, and felt netizens were harsh on her portrayal. But when Soo Young began to fall for Min Seok (Seo In Gook), I just couldn’t get her change of heart because it felt more like a rebound (from Jin Woo (Lee Soo Hyuk) to Min Seok) than a genuine love. But maybe that’s just me. I’m generally okay with noona romances, but I’m sorry, this one simply failed to grab me. And oh, I wish there were more hijinks between Min Seok and Hyung Seok (also by Seo In Gook), and Hyung Seok’s so called revenge felt like an anti-climax.
The title was a lie. The whole timeline was more than three days, and I still can’t wrap my head around why is it called 3 days. Nevertheless, it had more actions than Gap Dong, and Yoochun has definitely improved (congratulations for all the New Actor Awards he’s gotten from his movie Haemoo by the way!). The villain was pretty one-dimensional (“Lemme take over the country or else!”) though I do like how some of the twists turned out. Park Ha-sun was also much more likeable in her role here as the plucky traffic police, than in Temptation. Ultimately, it was still the veteran, Sohn Hyun-joo who stole the limelight as the conflicted President who wanted to right his wrong committed in his younger days.
Fated To Love You
The chemistry of Jang Hyuk and Jang Nara cannot be denied. It’s so strong and they’re so familiar with each other but it in no way gave off the familial feel. The first half of Fated was hilarious and sweet at the same time, and totally enjoyable because of Gun (Jang Hyuk) and his snail Mi Young(Jang Nara). The second half was sadly, less than a shadow of its first half, because both Gun and Mi Young were separately moping, and Show was no longer fun. I stopped watching for a few weeks because it was utterly dreary for the sake of it. The last two episodes sort of made up for the previous lull, with over the top sweetness, but at least all’s well again and Gun and his snail were happily reunited. That’s all that matters.
Flower Grandpa Investigation Team
The setup was utterly ridiculous, but nonetheless funny. Who would have thought the veteran actors Lee Soon Jae, Byun Hee Bong and Jang Kwang would be willing to make fun of themselves, a deviant away from their usual patriarchal characters? Coupled with Heechul and Lee Cho Hee, the team tried episode after episode, to find out why only three of them turned old after dropping into a tank of water, while Jung Woo (Heecul) remained his youthful self. The truth requires a serious suspension of disbelief, but it was a fun ride nonetheless.
I love this for the simple question it threw out: What makes an affair an affair? I still stand by my analysis that Se Young (Choi Ji Woo) did not break up the marriage of Seok Hoon (Kwon Sang Woo) and Hong Joo (Park Ha Seon), and in any case, Seok Hoon was most likely the one who is at fault. Show opened a can of worms in terms of morality, and that’s what engaged me most. I also loved Lee Jung Jin‘s character, whom I termed the shit-stirrer. The writing failed at spending way too much time on all those business maneuverings and what not, and the ending felt too simplistic.
You’re All Surrounded
This is one Show that made me went “aww” almost every episode. The good vs bad setup was pretty standard, but our core characters were the ones carrying the entire weight of Show, and the growth of not only our young and idealistic cops, but also their mentor, was a satisfying watch. It’s a dream come true for Lee Seung-gi and Cha Seung Won to act together, after the former’s short cameo in Best Love, and their bromance was a delight to watch. However, I think the most well written character had to be that of Suprintendent Kang (Seo Yi Sook), for she falls in a grey area, trying to atone for her sins, yet unable to leave the dark side completely. Watch this for all the cute bromance and interactions in the Violent Crimes Unit Team 3, and skip all the villains part.
The Almost Excellent
I admit I wasn’t really paying attention sometimes while watching this, but I really like the twists here. The case of the episode for the first few episodes were pretty eerie, but as we move to the background stories of our “bad guys” here, I kind of missed of the “crime of the day”. Nevertheless, the history of the Crazy Dog Team is pretty much interwoven together, and I thought it was quite a feat for thinking up such a story where the characters are actually connected to each other in the most remote ways possible. And the million dollar question: Are monsters born or raised?
Ah, this was my crack when it was airing. I love how dogged Do Yoon (Kim Kang Woo) was in unraveling the truth behind his sister’s death, and how he sought to bring down the the most powerful and secretive organization in Show’s universe. The main players from the organization however, felt like desperate people trying to cover up cracks and holes all the time, which made them rather one-dimensional, unfortunately. I also like how unpredictable Michael Jang (Uhm Ki Joon) was, and he only sought for what benefits him the most. I have to say this is the drama that traumatized me with Jung Bo Seok, and I’ll never ever look at him again without being reminded of his utterly creepy character here. Ugh!
Oh Lee Joon Gi oppa, how hot art thou? I’ll willingly go to you if you motion for me in your ninja suit. Joseon Gunman falls short of being excellent because 1) of the extension, 2) the writer just fails to raise the stakes really high. After some time, conflicts and their resolutions keep going in circles, and things felt recycled. It felt like a kiddy roller-coaster after some time, and it left me a little dry for dropping me baits of thrill, but taking it back at the last minute. Ugh. Nevertheless, it was still fairly engaging and hey, Joon Gi oppa is forever a plus in any shows.
Marriage Not Dating
This has got to be the best romcom of 2014, and that’s really saying something. I look forward to it every week, wondering when will Ki-tae (Yeon Woo Jin) admit that he likes Jang Mi (Han Groo). Show is only marred by crazy parents, whom luckily, are relegated to the side most of the time; and also the cray cray Se Ah (Han Seon-hwa). For goodness sake, whoever goes telling their exes that they’re fine not being married, but “please gimme your sperms”. Dafuq? I’m fine with Jin-woon‘s portrayal of Yeo-reum, and I thought he’s pretty cute to look at, so I don’t get why many people thinks he’s creepy or whatever. Anyway, I strongly recommend this, if you’re looking for a funny miniseries.
I think why Misaeng is enjoying such popularity is because most viewers are able to relate to at least one of the characters, or identify someone they know with a character. I’m often lost with the business aspect of Show, but I really love how the strategies in baduk are applied to work survival, and in extension, life skills. Show may be of the most ordinary setup, but the intricacy of the various relationships is what make Show interesting. Also, it raises the issue of sexual harrassment and discrimination in Korean offices, which I believe is worth looking into, because OMG, I felt so disturbed everytime one of the female characters get verbally harrassed or abused.
Plus Nine Boys
Despite the unwanted attention, I thoroughly enjoyed Plus Nine Boys. The story was refreshing, and the chemistry between each pair of 9-boy and his girl was pretty strong too. The trajectories of each pair’s story were convincing, and they’re all pretty much slice-of-life. No annoying third parties, no usual drama troupes. Yes, Da-in (Yoo Da In) was quite frustrating at times with her refusal to explain and understand, but I wasn’t all that against her as a number of netizens were. Also, I love that Show introduced us a lovely young man named Kim Hyun Joon. I’ll never forget that expressionless face for all expressions scene. Priceless.
Show didn’t make the cut to be in The Excellent in my books, because it was too long, and it felt preachy. I’m okay with long dramas, don’t get me wrong, but Show probably should have lasted just 2/3 of its 50 episodes instead. I do like the slice-of-life concept of the blue-collars and people living on the fringe of the society, but really, it felt seriously preachy whenever Chang Man (Lee Hee Joon) decided to poke his nose into others’ affairs and reform them for the better. Kim Ok Bin’s Yoona was much more relatable, and it felt as if the character was custom-made for her. The supporting cast is equally good, which made Show enjoyable week after week. Lastly, congratulations to Kim Ok Bin and Lee Hee Joon for becoming a real-life item!
Jeong Do Jeon
It’s been a long long while since I watched a well made, rather historically accurate sageuk. Show is a standout among all the dramas this year because it pride itself as THE sageuk, and that, earns an excellent from me. And it’s not only me, because Show was a big winner at the earlier 41st Korea Broadcasting Award. It’s a shame that there’s absolutely no fansubs out there, and KBSWorld did not upload their in-house translated version onto Youtube. Show is definitely one I’ll remember for a long time, for all the lessons learnt from a revolutionary with visions beyond his time.
Secret Love Affair
Ahha. I know that many, many out there despise stories depicting an affair, turning their noses at such dramas, but Show is truly a standout for its consistently noir atmosphere. I love the cinematography, for bringing out the intensity and hopelessness. I’m a sucker for depressing shows, and though I am in no way supportive of any kind of affairs, Show did, imo, justify why Hye Won (Kim Hee Ae) strayed. It was more of the story of a middle-aged woman’s rediscovering of herself, than a scandalous extra-marrital affair with a guy 20 years her junior. Coupled with a lovely classical piano OST, count me sold.
What Happens to My Family
If its predecessor, Wonderful Season, as javabeans put it, a “six-month-long anticlimax”, then I’m glad that Show is full of climax, but none of them makjang. Show is of tears and laughter, thought-provoking as the story unfolds, and hey, love your parents more, is the bring home message. I’m rather surprised that after a few rather disappointing scripts (Gu Family Book, Man of Honor), Writer Kang Eun Kyung produced such a thoughtful script that doesn’t feel preachy, and is peppered with comedic moments. The ensemble cast is holding together rather well too, though I think the weaker link is Yoon Park. Nevertheless, I totally recommend this if anyone is willing to spend 50 hours watching a family drama.
And there’re some which I just didn’t finish. It doesn’t mean they’re no good, but 1) either I lost interest or 2) there’re other better dramas clamoring for my attention, or 3) I really have no clones (contrary to sab’s belief) and there’s simply not enough time. Here they are, those dramas which I’m sorry to shelved:
Okay, technically speaking I’m still watching this. At the half-way mark, I find this version very Yoo Jin-centric (the ever wonderful Joo Won), and it almost feels like a one man show. I wouldn’t count myself a Nodame Cantabile fanatic (like sab is), but the Japanese version is one of my favorite J-dorama of all times. Having watched all live action remakes of the manga, I thought the chemistry between Ueno Juri and Tamaki Hiroshi was stronger than Joo Won’s and Shim Eun Kyung‘s. Also, Shim Eun Kyung’s Naeil is not as quirky and whimsical than the original Nodame. I do appreciate the Korean version as a remake of the manga, not the J-dorama, but despite so, one can’t help but compare to the Japanese version, and while having its own charm, I’m afraid to say that the Korean version pales in comparison. Perhaps some things just can’t transcend the cultural difference.
I Need Romance 3
I’m just a few episodes from finishing this, but somehow there’s just no…motivation to. I don’t know why, but I never really liked the I Need Romance franchise. I remember reading raving reviews for the first series, so I tried to watch, but I just couldn’t relate to anyone in that show. So I dropped it at around 4 episodes, and I avoided INR 2. I caught this because there’s just this unexplainable soft spot for Sung Joon, and I like prickly heroines. It still feels like a chore trying to watch each episode though, and so when I started lagging behind and a whole new season of dramas started, this was dropped. Oops.
It’s Okay It’s Love
I know it’s atrocious of me for not finishing this too, for it’s Writer Noh Hee Kyung! And a collaboration between Jo In Sung and Gong Hyo Jin! The dream combination! How could I?! But alas, time is unforgiving and despite loving the slightly whimsical directing and writing, as well as the awesome chemistry between Mr Jo and Miss Gong, I just didn’t continue with this. However, I do not really get why anything related to sex is given so much attention to in Show, like, is there a need to focus so much on it? Are we trying to say that a good majority of people who needs to visit a psychiatrist has sex issues or the likes? This is the one part which I think, mars an otherwise fantastic drama.
Ah, the pace so slow, nothing much really happened each episode, and my love for Lee Seon Gyun and Lee Ki Woo is not enough to sustain going through this. Granted, there was also alot happening in real life at that time, I simply did not have the luxury to watch as many ongoing dramas as I wish I could. Watching Miss Korea was like watching Romance Town all over again, and I remember for the second half of RT, I watched at 2x the original speed, and still managed to catch all the subtitles. Miss Korea is the essential character study kind of drama, so if you’re easily bored and need lots of action to sustain your interest, spare yourself the trouble and don’t watch this.
Records of the Night Watchman
Should I continue this, to see for myself how ridiculous it was? I’m only one-third through, and I see no ghost-busting activities at all. Except for the back-story, absolutely nothing progressed, and Jung Il-woo is just this pissypants who pretends to be pissypants in order to stay alive. All these fantasy sageuks; why you like to shoot yourself in the foot for being so ambitious?
Sly and Single Again
Again, I’m a few episodes away from finishing this, and what made me stopped watching besides real life, is the change in personality of the second female lead, and all the cliches that sprouted in the second half of Show. I read the recaps till the end, and inwardly I groaned at the endless reuse of misunderstanding between a couple that carried on for years. Lee Min Jung and Joo Sang Wook are definitely cute together, and Show introduced to us a new cute dongseng known as Seo Kang Joon, so hey, probably I’ll pick up watching the remaining episodes if there’s a lull, though I don’t foresee it being anytime soon.
You Who Came From the Stars
Despite all the raves and thumbs up from the K-drama watching community, I didn’t finish this (too much on my plate in real life then), and then as the year went on, this was just pushed further and further down my list of to watch. I DO intend to finish this one day, because I really love Writer Park Ji Eun‘s previous work, You Who Rolled In Unexpectedly, and I know she can come up with some really witty dialogues that’ll have me LOL. And who can resist Chun Song Yi’s (Jeon Ji Hyun) charm? I love her sassiness and big ego. I can’t say the same from Do Min Joon (Kim Soo Hyun) though; perhaps seeing his face everywhere I went while in Korea, was too much.
And so, 2014 is coming to an end, but dramaland never rests. There’s still a couple of other dramas that I’m watching currently, but because it’s either not aired even to the halfway mark, or I’ve watched too few episodes to give a review of sorts. I hope I can complete more dramas in 2015, but most importantly, may there be more good dramas in the coming year!
Thanks for dropping by this blog, folks! We hope to bring you more recaps and reviews in the new year!