I hate to be cliché, but man oh man has this year just flown by without so much as a by your leave. One moment, whitecarrot and I were writing up our thoughts about the dramas of 2012. The next, it’s somehow already Christmas and 2014 is looming. Where did the year go?
Looking back on the dramas of 2013, I must sadly admit that there weren’t very many that left strong impressions. I really had to think hard about what exactly it was that I had watched this year. 12 months of non-stop Korean dramas, and yet I couldn’t name anything besides the few I’m watching right now. Sad panda.
Rather than dumping everything into 1 post, I decided to divide things up – for the sake of your sanity, and mine. We kick off our year-end celebration with a look at the daily dramas of 2013! More festivities forthcoming! 😀
Your Woman (당신의 여자)
I tend to watch dailies because of the actors – the stories usually follow the same paths, so the fun comes from ogling the fashion and makeup and whatnot of people I like. No point in watching people I ain’t that fond of, right? Your Woman starred Lee Yoo-ri and Park Yoon-jae, two people I wubs (well, I wubs Lee Yoo-ri and am merely fond of Park Yoon-jae), so I faithfully tuned in each morning while in Korea – I even got my uncle to watch it hahhaaa! Judging by my inability to remember very much about the show, it wasn’t all that spectacular… and now that I think pretty hard, it did some crazees stuff. The premise: A woman loses her memory after being hit by a car; six years later, she is happily married to a doting husband and has a precious son. Memories of her ‘past life’, however, start to slowly come back… and she learns that the person who hit her is her current husband. Dun dun duuuun! Of course, we can’t forget the birth secret: she’s an orphan! With a super famous/rich mommy! And her son isn’t her current husband’s son! Hmmm, was there more? Prolly, but I do believe that alone is enough to give you a taste of the crazees. Yep.
Two Women’s Room (두 여자의 방)
The drama that followed Your Woman, Two Women’s Room is still airing and going strong. I started this one half out of loyalty(?) to Park Eun-hye – perhaps I was hoping for something better from her after the mess that was Can’t Live Without You, though you can’t exactly blame her for it. CLWY Family, I miss youuuz. But yes, I’ve only been watching bits and pieces – the show sadly seems to lack some of the fire I’m looking for in a morning ahjumma daily, but I tune in every once in a while to see Park Eun-hye rocking the eyeliner and chic clothes. Seriously, I don’t think she’s looked better. The ratings have gone up the last few weeks thanks to her revenge plot – I do believe this is Revenge Plot #52 or something, but hey, you can never have too many in a morning daily, right? Anyhoo, only a few episodes left so it’ll be interesting to see how things end.
Birth of a Family (가족의 탄생)
If there’s a show that makes me realize just how quickly 2013 flew by, it’s prolly Birth of a Family. It feels like the show aired a mabajillion years ago, but apparently it started at the end of last year (I included a short piece on it in our 2012 Year-End Review post) and was still airing while I was in Korea earlier this year. *still in a daze*
This show started off well enough… and then went into crazees land. Halfway through, when it seemed there was no more story to tell yet loads of episodes to fill, the writer conveniently became “ill” and was “forced” to ask another writer to take over for her. Cue the rushing in of a new rival for our heroine’s heart and a whole new dimension to the flagging story. The story did manage to get me worried towards the end when Lee Su-jeong (Lee So-yeon) suddenly seemed to be feeling guilty for abandoning her man Kang Yoon-jae (Lee Kyu-han), and my poor puppy Han Ji-hoon (Sung Hoon) was about to get the boot. Thankfully, my Second Lead Syndrome was rewarded and the 2nd-half OTP got their happy ending, and Kang Yoon-jae also got his. At best, a harmless but forgettable daily for everyone involved.
Ugly Alert (못난이 주의보)
Let’s get this out of the way: The title makes me cringe. There really isn’t a good translation for “못난이” (mot-na-ni)… it refers to someone who is a fool or immature, sometimes someone who is ugly… it really depends on the context. In this show, it refers to the imperfect people who populate its world. All of the characters are flawed in some way or another, and the show really explores the power of family and love in face of such imperfections. Everyone loves the show for being so heartwarming and touching, and yes, I agree that it did some wonderful stuff. But at the same time, it did quite a bit of the annoying, dragging out stuff with irrational, annoying villains and irrational, annoying decisions made by the characters. Im Joo-hwan did a lovely job, and Choi Tae-joon’s improvement was palpable over the course of the show. Baby sister Seol Hyun was a surprising fresh breath of air – there are, apparently, some idols who can act. Sadly, Kang So-ra was a bit of a disappointment in her drama lead debut. I had high expectations, to be perfectly honest, and perhaps those expectations were what caused such disappointment. She wasn’t bad, by any means. But I feel she could have done so much more. Sigh. All in all, though, the core of the drama – family, its importance, and the unconditional love it brings – is certainly worth lauding and something to which we should all aspire.
Ruby Ring (루비반지)
Lee So-yeon has had a busy, buuusy year. After wrapping up Birth of a Family in May, she jumped right into Ruby Ring, which began airing in August, so she had to have been filming since July at the laaatest. (And now she’s ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE on We Got Married with Yoon Han. More on that later!) She’s the one and only reason I started the show – though I will admit I was curious to see Kim Seok-hoon again post-All That Glitters (aka Twinkle Twinkle) – and it hasn’t been a bad watch thus far. Lee So-yeon plays 2 different characters: Jung Ruby is a sweet, kind young woman who is engaged to Prince Charming Bae Kyung-min. Her twin sister Luna is envious of the ‘perfect’ life Ruby lives, and when they get into a horrible car accident, Luna decides to ‘steal’ her sister’s life. Both women’s faces have been damaged beyond recognition, thus Luna takes the opportunity to literally take on her sister’s face and live Ruby’s life. Well what about Ruby, you ask? She conveniently doesn’t remember anything prior to the accident… until The Time to Repay Debts comes calling. It always comes, ya know. In every drama. And in life. But I digress. Luna-living-as-Ruby marries Kyung-min and attempts to take over the world with her devious ways. He has no idea that he ain’t married to the right woman, mother dearest recently found out, and Ruby-living-as-Luna is hell-bent on revenge. With only 10 episodes left, it’s gonna be one heck of a ride to the finale. Giddyup y’all!
Princess Aurora (오로라 공주)
This show… just… defies imagination. What went down IN the show, what went down OUTSIDE of the show… I just have no words.
When Princess Aurora first began, there was a looot of talk about how makjang it was and how horrible it was and all that yadeedadeeyada. I, for one, was all for supporting the drama. Yes, there were makjang elements, but it was so cleverly written and so well done. Aurora was so cutting with her wit, her set-downs, her reprimands, her just plain ol’ everything. She was brilliant. And Hwang Ma-ma was, too. I guffawed when writer Im Sung-han not-so-subtly dissed Ugly Alert on her show. It was all so marvelous. A piece of never-got-posted material:
Oh my gollies, what a drama! For seriously, this show has done a number on me, and I don’t know how or why I’ve become this obsessed! Okay, fine, I kinda know, but still, it’s crazy how addicted I am.
Those who look at this show with jaded, hoity-toity eyes prolly see nothing but makjang and hateful characters. Most of the media are screaming “makjang trash!” at the top of their lungs, but such vehement hatred and vitriol just make me cherish the drama even more. I won’t lie: the elements presented, on the surface, take the cake for every makjang storyline ever. But this is not – and I repeat, NOT – your run-of-the-mill makjang morning drama. Or evening drama or weekend drama, for that matter.
Penning the cleverly, cuttingly, brilliantly written Princess Aurora is none other than Im Sung-han, she of famed See and See Again (보고 또 보고), Foolish Princes (온달왕자들), Miss Mermaid (인어 아가씨), Dear Heaven (하늘이시여), Lotus Flower Fairy (왕꽃 선녀님), Queen of Ahyun (아현동 마님), Assorted Gems (보석비빔밥), and most recently New Tales of Gisaeng (신기생뎐). She is in no ways your typical writer – both in content and in casting. While most productions vie for big names and/or fresh faces, Im Sung-han chooses people she thinks fit her characters. Just 2 examples: Jang Seo-hee ruled the K-ent world with Miss Mermaid, and she was a little known actress who had been around for quite some time. Lee Da-hae became a household name with Lotus Flower Fairy.
And then… things went downhill. The show was about Aurora + her 3 older brothers and Hwang Ma-ma + his 3 older sisters. The narrative pointed towards 4-way in-laws. And then, out of the blue, Aurora’s 3 older brothers were kicked off the show. She ushered in a new family out of the blue, and though my Second Lead Syndrome-ridden heart loved that there was a new contender for Aurora, I was disappointed in the loss of the 3 oppas. If that had been the end of things, we might not be remembering Princess Aurora with such horror. Im Sung-han was still churning out the goods.
But alas, we hadn’t even seen the tip of the crazees iceberg. Aurora ended things with Ma-ma and planned to marry second-lead sweetheart Seol-hee. Ma-ma decided to become a Buddhist monk if he couldn’t have Aurora, his 3 Crazy Sisters begged Aurora to come back to their brother, and so Aurora dumped Seol-hee without so much as a by your leave and married Ma-ma. My Second Lead Syndrome soul saw red. And then the 3 Crazy Sisters (well, mostly 2) made Aurora’s life miserable enough for her to want a divorce. Seol-hee got engaged to resident harpy Ji-young, then he found out he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He declared he couldn’t undergo chemo because cancer cells were “also a form of life.” Ji-young broke things off. Aurora found out. And she declared – a mere few days after filing for divorce – that she wanted to marry Seol-hee and have his child to remember Seol-hee if he died. They got married. He had a stroke the second day of their honeymoon. So Ma-ma decided to become Seol-hee’s caretaker – which he couldn’t do properly unless he MOVED IN with them. The 2 Crazies found out and demanded he come home. Seol-hee said he wished the three of them – Aurora, her ex-husband, and her current husband – could all just live like this together forever. Ma-ma died in a car crash. Aurora got pregnant. The 2 Crazies went even nutso-er and the oldest declared that she was sure Aurora’s child was her nephew. With one episode left and no second extension granted (she got one but demanded another), Im Sung-han concocted a happy ending with Oldest Crazy seeing the little boy every so often – because he looked like her brother, though he wasn’t her nephew – and everyone living happily ever after. The End.
The ‘death’ toll count by the end of the show? A whopping 12, if I recall correctly: Aurora’s dad; her 3 sisters-in-law + her 3 brothers (who didn’t die but “went to America” never to be seen again); Ji-young’s half-sister; Natasha (though he magically came back then disappeared again); Aurora’s mom; Ji-young’s mom; and Ma-ma. The LEAD was killed off the show. After it was made clear that MBC demanded Im Sung-han change that portion. I just… And then there was all that talk of nepotism – the actress who played Noh Da-ji is Im’s niece (in the real world), and man oh man was the girl in every scene EVER towards the latter half of the show.
It was an absolutely nutsos ride. No one could say anything publicly because Im would just trash them via her characters. And the ratings only seemed to be fueled by all the madness. I knew of the rumors and talk about Im’s real life, but I was willing to trust her and see where things went. Well, let’s just say that my trust was sorely abused and irrevocably lost where this lady is concerned. Never again. Never, ever again.
Pure Love (일말의 순정)
My latest crack-drama. Or, to put it more correctly, crack-sitcom.
Korean TV-land is overflowing with dramas and variety shows, but for some unfathomable reason, sitcoms haven’t been able to really get a hold in the market. They seem the perfect vehicle – both drama and variety show – but in the last several years, the niche for sitcoms has gotten smaller and smaller. Last year, MBC just cut it out of their programming altogether, even going so far as to prematurely end the one that was airing at the time. The Highkick series was one of the few sitcoms that actually managed to gain some ground, but even that dwindled in popularity with each successive ‘season’. (Don’t even get me started on the asd@#$%fgkldakjf that was the finale of Season 2.)
KBS launched its newest sitcom An Ounce of Pure Love – or Pure Love – last month, and it is for seriously the best thing since sliced bread. I saw nothing in the news, no nothin’ except a random interview in Entertainment Weekly with the cast. Me loves Lee Hoon and Jeon Mi-sun, so I thought I’d give it a watch… and I have been absolutely hooked. Though its reception hasn’t been mind-blowing, or even anything worth noting, I am just tickled to bits by this super sweet, super cute, super EVERYTHING show.
The show was helmed by a very, very solid veteran cast and young cuties who certainly weren’t Yeo Jin-gu but did a pretty darned good job. It was full of heart and laughs and knew how to make you tear up one moment then crack up the next. It never took itself overly seriously but neither was it patronizing in its humor – the characters played themselves straight and made you believe in their sincerity, in their relationships, in their lives. I mean, a show whose 3 male leads’ names are Choi Min-soo, Jung Woo-sung, and Ha Jung-woo? LOL.
Jeon Mi-sun (playing Kim Sun-mi) was absolutely adorable in a very different role from her usual – she was dorky and immature and the cutest thing on the planet. Kwon Ki-sun, playing Jeon’s mom, was probably one of my favoritestest characters on the show. She was absolutely hilarious and so wonderful at being the concerned-with-everyone’s-business, meddling ahjumma, who was never annoying but oh-so-cute and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Seriously, her laugh? Hahahhaaa, I’m busting a gut just thinking about it. The way she doted on and loved Ha Jung-woo (played by Lee Hoon) like her own son was so sweet. When things took a very unexpected turn and Jeon ended up dating Jung Woo-sung (played by Kim Tae-hoon), Kwon had major Jung-woo-withdrawal symptoms. It was hilarious. As for Kim Tae-hoon, I was pleasantly surprised by his wacky, slightly zany character – he was so cold in Nice Guy (as the attorney who suffered from unrequited love for Park Si-yeon’s character), but here he was loud and funny, and yet earnest when needed.
There were so many cheeky little moments throughout the show, and one I enjoyed in particular was the cameo by Kim Tae-hoon’s real-life older brother Kim Tae-woo. He reprised his role as Moo-chul from That Winter, the Wind Blows, complete with eye-scar and all – except he was hilariously starved for his younger brother’s love. Hahahaa. The little behind-the-scenes from his cameo:
Every single character was played to perfection, and even the younger cast’s love story was done so well. Jo Woo-ri and Lee Won-geun were cutecutecute, and idol rapper Pil-dok was pretty good as the goody-two-shoes perfect student. Lee Jae-ryong and Do Ji-won were so cute – college sweethearts who’d married young and were going through some middle-age crises but ultimately loved each other to pieces. And perhaps bestest of all was Seo Yi-sook, who is fabulous in everything. Seriously, this NG reel of her “oh my gaaaawsh” is the best thing evaaar:
Yes, the story did drag at times, and I was devastated when Sun-mi chose Woo-sung over her long-time best friend and first love Jung-woo, but ultimately, when I remember Pure Love, I remember lots of heart and lots of love and lots and lots of laughter. It really did highlight the sweetness of unadulterated, pure love – the kind we wish everyone could share. It never once touched the makjang element, and it was sweeter all the more for it. Pure Love, you will be missed for a long, long time.