Initially when I watched Eccentric, I had the impression I’d accidentally started on those long-running, makjangish weekend dramas (yunno, those that end at ep100+++ ?) Plus, the setting and feel of Eccentric screams “low budget”. A quick check however, confirms that the total no. of eps stands at 12…well, I don’t suppose you can draw out too much crazed angst with juz 12eps?

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Main cast:
Someone needs to draw a family tree with connecting dotted lines for Eccentric

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Family 1: Cha Clan

  •  Da-som (from Sistar girl group) as Oh In-young. In Eccentric, she also plays a member of a girl group — Ruby. But unlike real life, Ruby is firmly on its way to rock bottom. To save her career, she is volunteered to take part in a new reality-based variety programme titled “Experiencing being the Daughter-in-law”. In the programme, In-young is the “eldest daughter-in-law” of the traditional Cha family, who is famous in the area for producing doenjang and kimchi.
  •  Ko Du-shim as Yang Choon-ja. In-young’s “mother-in-law”. Mdm Yang has 2 sons and 1 daughter: Myeong-seok, Dong-seok and Young-ah. Her husband is the stereotypical lazy bum (much like her younger son), and prefers to drink and while his time away out from the house. Mdm Yang is the stern, overly traditional mother-in-law, who holds double standards when it comes to treating her sons vs. daughter, and her own daughter vs. her daughter-in-laws. Naturally she can’t stand her fake “eldest daughter-in-law”, and considers her a bird brain. (well…she is not very far off the mark)
  • Ryu Soo-young (from Blood) as Cha Myeong-seok. Eldest Cha son, also a geeky Maths lecturer (or professor). He has zero interest in women, much preferring to spend his entire lifetime researching obscure probability formulae and teaching Maths. Mdm Yang, however, wants him to wed and continue the family line…as long as the bride is NOT In-young.
  • Kwak Hee-sung as Cha Dong-seok. Second Cha son, and a bum. He thinks he “owns” an artiste management company; in actual fact, he juz lives off his family. But he isn’t a bad person…juz lazy.
  • Kim Yun-seo as Kim Se-mi. Second daughter-in-law and wife to Dong-seok. She was an English lecturer until she had no choice but to become a full time housewife in the Cha clan. She gets a second chance for a teaching job, only to have her mother-in-law throw obstacles in her path to prevent her from stepping out of the household.
  • Baek Ok-dam as Lee Ha-ji. Maidservant (?) Adopted daughter (?) of the Cha family. She is hardworking, and perfect daughter-in-law material. Unfortunately, I don’t think Mdm Yang will consider her in the running list. She secretly loves Myeong-seok, and likely will play the bitch in Eccentric.

Family 2: Kang Family

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  • Ki Tae-young as Kang Joon-soo. In-young management company’s CEO, who is looking for 101 ways to terminate her contract and fire her. He purposely assigns her this shit task in order to force her to walk out herself. Interestingly, he is married to Cha Clan’s only daughter — Young-ah. Back home though, he drops the bossy CEO stance, and is very much the son who hasn’t cut apron strings with his om-ma.
  • Kim Bo-yeon (from My Beautiful Bride) as Jang Mi-hee. Joon-seo’s single mum, and she is the scary type of mother who continues to aegyeo and clings to her son like a parasite.
  • Son Eun-seo as Cha Young-ah. Joon-seo’s wife and Mdm Yang’s daughter. She is also Mdm Jang’s (aka her mother-in-law) colleague in the municipal office. (o.m.g) She is definitely a better staff than Mdm Jang (who has longer working experience), leading her mother-in-law to be insanely jealous of her. Mdm Jang takes out her work stress on Young-ah back home, by stealing her husband (Joon-soo) away from her.

Synopsis:

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As described in the characters’ makeup earlier, In-young is assigned to take part in the new variety programme held at her CEO (Joon-soo) in-laws’ home. She will play the eldest daughter-in-law to a very traditional Korean family. And of course, it isn’t easy. Since the “job” requires her to do really inane tasks like cleaning the doenjang/kimchi jars, weeding, harvesting, cooking, cleaning, blahblah. (if you still think stay-at-home mums have a good life, think again) Needless to say, she flunks nearly every assignment given, and Mdm Yang doesn’t have a good impression of her.

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Neither does Myeong-soo. His first encounter with In-young was during her trip to his house, and she accidentally sat in his car (same color as her manager’s) — and let out several smelly, loud farts. And later during the duration of the shoot, In-young enters his study-bedroom, and wipes off all the mathematical formulae he has been researching on his blackboard. However, his impression of her takes a slight change for the better when he realises she isn’t a bad person, and is the only one who can “click” with his dad (whom nearly all the family members despise).

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Eccentric also shows us 2 other daughter-in-laws: Se-mi and Young-ah. Se-mi used to be a rather famous English teacher/lecturer, and had to quit her job after she got pregnant and had to move into Dong-seok’s family. Mdm Yang doesn’t have any good words for her, although she tries very hard (for 3 years) to meet her standards. When her sunbae offers her a new teaching job, she leaps to take it…and Mdm Yang is livid. She tries to stop her second daughter-in-law from “leaving” the Cha clan, by insisting that she finishes a PILE of household chores before she can leave. Dong-seok secretly helps Se-mi out, by donning a wig and apron and clearing the chores for her in the middle of the night.

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Well, at least Mdm Yang isn’t such a tyrant. When she realises her son is helping Se-mi secretly and her own daughter is suffering under Mdm Jang, she softens her stance, and allows Se-mi to continue her teaching job. In return, Se-mi needs to complete some basic chores before she leaves every morning.

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The other daughter-in-law, Young-ah, faces a much more tricky situation. Her mother-in-law, Mdm Jang, is also her colleague. And Mdm Jang is insanely jealous of Young-ah’s abilities at work. Whenever she is pissed off with Young-ah (like refusing to back down and not submit her project so that the bosses can like her a little less), Mdm Jang will return home and change the passcode on Young-ah’s door (they are neighbours too), locking her out. Young-ah’s husband, Joon-soo, is 500% on his mum’s side. He may be cold and calculative at work, but is the doting son to his mother. Young-ah eventually gives in a little by submitting her project under Mdm Jang’s name, so that her mother-in-law gets the credit…and she gets a little bit of ceasefire. (sigh)

Review:

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To be fair, not ALL mother-in-laws are horrid witches. (i have a wonderful mother-in-law and she is nothing like Mdm Jang or Mdm Yang) I also don’t think all Korean mother-in-laws are like that. But I do agree that women tend to be harsher towards their own sex, and although Eccentric blows some things out of proportions, friction between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law does exist — and men (the sons/father-in-laws) are most times caught in the middle.

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The rom-com in Eccentric is rather on the predictable side. The bimbotic but good natured female lead changes the aloof (and in this case, also dorky) male lead and he falls in love with her. (in fact, the falling part will start in ep3, based on the previews) While predictable, it also leads to a lot of laughter due to the polarity in the OTP’s personalities. For example, Myeong-seok agrees to let In-young continue with the shoot, if she wins him in rock-paper-scissors in the next 3 days. And no matter how many times In-young tries her luck, Myeong-seok wins. (he’s the probability-maths-genius-whiz, remember?) It’s very funny to see In-young get from frustration to semi-awe, as she starts to believe Myeong-seok can read her mind.

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Besides the light comedy that the rom-com brings, the relationships between the 2 pairs of mother-in-laws and their daughter-in-laws are also rather funny — satirically funny. And In-young represents the pair of “fresh eyes” in the family, spotting the double standards, the holes and the flaws for us. Like when Mdm Yang issues a huge mountain of vege to Se-mi to clean after she comes home from work at night, In-young gasps and wonders aloud as to how any one person can complete the task in one night, leading Mdm Yang to look the slightest bit guilty. Or when Mdm Yang comforts Young-ah while railing at Mdm Jang for daring to suggest her daughter quit her work to become a housewife, In-young innocently thinks (aloud) that Mdm Yang is approving Se-mi’s decision to become a working mother. Which has the intended effect in the end: Mdm Yang relents and works out a win-win deal with Se-mi.

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Imo, while Eccentric may not be ranked on the muz-watch shows of 2015, it is still a passably light hearted watch. Oh, and the faked reality-variety formatting reminds me so much of The Producers.

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