Rewatching 2015

Hello Drama Watchers! Curlynoona here. In a few days, 2015 will be over!

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I’ve been pretty absent on wordpress this year, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t watching dramas! Boy, was I watching dramas. I was watching them so much that I didn’t have much time to write about them. Oh, and you know, there was also life going on. But since dramas are way more interesting than my life, let’s talk about those.

For me at least, 2015 was a good year for Korean dramas. My #1 requirement for a show is, of course, good writing, but I also have my pet genres. I am an avid romantic comedy nerd, a sucker for friendship stories, and if you throw in an underdog thread or a good undercurrent of action or fantasy, I am yours for life (or at least the 12-24 episodes it takes to tell your story.) I am also a fan of suspense and crime procedurals, but I am a downright snob about those. (Only the best, well-thought out crimes for me, please, waiter.) 2015 offered many dramas in my favorite genres, as well as some that temped me to go outside of my comfort zone.

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I usually avoid melodramas, for instance, but I spent quite a long time screaming at these two to “Just get together already!” though my computer screen.

Now, as we head into 2016, I’m re-watching some of my favorites, or those I feel I didn’t give a fair chance when I attempted to watch them the first time. I thought I’d share with you dramas that I think are worth watching again, or, if you haven’t seen them, worth adding them to your list of completed shows to marathon. (Who doesn’t enjoy putting on a show, planning to watch 1 episode but watching 5, then swearing you’ll go to sleep as soon as this episode is over, then saying you’ll just watch the first 10 minutes of the next one to make sure the protagonist is safe after that cliff-hanger, then realizing you’ve watched the whole episode, then figuring two hours of sleep is good, you can watch one more and not be a total zombie the next day, and then realizing not only is it time to get dressed and go about your day but you still haven’t finished the series and you really want to know what happens? It’s not just me, right?)

I’m going to try to keep this spoiler free just in case.

Here are the first three dramas that are on my rewatch list:

Healer

Worth the Hype

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I’ll tell you something slightly unbelievable. I didn’t really watch Healer when it came out. I read a few recaps, was unsure about it, and felt that it was probably overrated. I try not to be too “hipstery- too-cool-for-anything-popular” about my drama choices, but sometimes it happens. I’d never seen Ji Chang-wook in anything (weird, right?) and I hadn’t made any conclusions about Park Min-young’s acting abilities, so I didn’t know how the acting would be or if they could make me care about the characters. But at about the middle of Healer’s run I started watching bits and pieces, mostly the romantic bits, and was quickly sucked in by the action and mystery. I watched it again recently from the beginning, and I have to say Healer lives up to its reputation. The thing I probably like the best about the show, besides two great lead characters, many wonderful supporting characters (including several bad-ass women), and very little love-triangle shenanigans,  is that the tragedy from 1992 is every bit as compelling as the story that is unfolding in the present. It’s rewatchable for the squee factor alone, as the relationship between Jung-Hoo and Chae Young-shin is pretty darn adorable. But it’s also got action, intrigue, and depth.

The Lover

Loved it

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I’m struggling a bit to describe The Lover. Raunchy good fun with a dash of gross-out humor and absurdity, amid realistic obstacles and sudden poignancy? The omnibus format (bouncing between 4 unmarried couples in different stages in their relationships who all live in the same apartment building) can be a little frustrating, especially if you’re particularly a fan of one couple, but most of the couples are amusing to watch. The couple living together planning to marry wasn’t fleshed out enough for me, but the other three had interesting stories and even more interesting personalities. One couple has been dating for quite a long time, one couple is bridging a large age gap and his career(?) as a musician, and the other couple is two male roommates who just met who may or may not have feelings for each other. (Side-note: Takuya and Joon-jae, the male couple, drew a lot of fans, both in and out of Korea, to the point were other watchers were annoyed. Although some might disagree, I don’t think those fans were only interested in seeing how a possibly gay couple would be handled, but were drawn to them because they were the only couple that was still (possibly) in the process of coming together.) Anyhow, the raunchiness is mostly talk (this show is PG13 at most) but this does veer away from what many consider a typical Korean drama. I enjoyed the humor, the realism (which was often buried in unrealistic situations), and seeing the couples interact from time to time. It’s rewatchable for a lot of reasons, but one is that if you are only interested in one couple, you can simply watch their scenes and still have an understandable story.

Angry Mom

Don’t Mess with Mom

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There are many reasons I loved Angry Mom, and only a few of them are Ji-Soo in his breakout as Go Bok-dong. The story is somewhat ridiculous: a mom goes back to high-school undercover as a student to protect her daughter from bullies. While that is the set-up, bullying turns out to be the least of the problems for students of that school. This show gives us underdogs that fight even though they keep getting knocked down, unlikely friendships that turn into unlikely family, and powerful, corrupt villains that you can’t wait to see get exposed. I’ve seen people say this show has no romance, and while I wouldn’t entirely argue with that, I will say that lovers of romance will probably be satisfied anyway. (I can’t be more specific without epic spoilers.) The characters in Angry Mom learn hard lessons (I will say, some of the plot lines were so harsh as to be almost cruel, but love of the characters and the dark humor in the show kept me going.) This show is infinitely rewatchable to me because it’s satisfying to see a mom fight (literally, in some cases) for her child, amusing to see how she fits in with a class of students half her age, and rewarding to see even the adults grow up.

That’s it for now, although I’ll certainly be rewatching more. If you have any suggestions or commentary, I’d love it if you left a comment.

The Dreaded Drama Slump

Hello everyone! I have been absent for quite a while, and it is mostly because I am not watching many shows. While there are some shows I have found enjoyable, nothing has really jumped out at me and made me want to write about it.

Nae-il’s Cantabile is probably the show I am most faithfully watching right now, but I don’t feel that I can comment on it because many people have seen the original and I have not. Also, the things I like the most about it also highlight some of its weakest points. I enjoy slice-of-life dramas, and the acting is quite good- Joo Won is probably one of the best actors currently doing TV- but while the quiet moments and simple human interactions are done incredibly well, the bigger plot is a bit meandering. The weakest point, in my opinion, is we’ve had characters seem to be important characters involved in the main plot lines, and then suddenly take off to go abroad. First off, if there is a trope I could do without, it is the sudden trip “abroad” as if travelling out of any country doesn’t take months of planning and paperwork, especially when you are going somewhere to study. Secondly, when you send characters away in the middle of a show, especially characters who seemed like they were going to be antagonists, they take a bit of the necessary plot tension with them, and it makes the show seem like it is not well thought out. But- I still very much enjoy the show. I would rather just enjoy it than think about it, if that makes any sense.

I have also been occasionally watching Pinocchio. I think Park Shin Hye playing a spunky and irreverent character is fantastic, and I think if she nails a kissing scene this time around her naysayers shrink quite a bit. But the show, while I find certain things interesting, hasn’t really grabbed me yet.

I’ve been watching a few things from Taiwan and Japan, and as always, watching many of my favorite dramas until I can pretty much recite the dialogue verbatim. My fiancee has let me know that’s abnormal, but it hasn’t really made me stop 🙂 Still, I think I have to admit I am in a slump. I don’t have cable, but I’ve seen a few American movies lately that I really enjoyed- Guardians of the Galaxy fpr instance, and Big Hero 6. Unfortunately, you get 16 or so hours of viewing pleasure from your average K-drama, and only about 2 from a movie.

If you’re thinking I sound obsessed with TV, I totally am. I don’t know if that is because of my obsession with writing, or if I have a problem and need to seek a 12 step program immediately. But TV really helps with my mood, and in a way I think it helps me cope with daily life. I would like to find a show to be obsessed with, and ponder, and write about, but lately I have nothing.

Park Ki-Woong (unfinished)

I made an attempt to draw Park Ki-Woong circa Full House take 2 a few months ago. Truthfully, I am a big Park Ki-Woong fan (I started watching Korean Dramas because I saw him in My Tutor Friend 2) but I couldn’t watch Full House Take 2 because of all the horrible hair.  Still, I thought the glasses were cute, so I gave it a shot.

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I guess I have to Watch Roommate tomorrow

Hi all! I think if you viewed this blog before you remember I have a special affection bordering on obsession with Song Ga Yeon. She was such an adorable mix of mellow little sister and spunky fighter that I wanted to adopt her immediately. I stopped watching Roommate not because Ga Yeon left, but because the whole structure and cast of the show was rapidly falling apart.

I had developed some interest in seeing the show’s new incarnation “That’s okay, it’s roommate” when I saw who the newer members teaming up with the skeleton crew of the old team would be. I’ve watched a few clips and I’ve really come to like the dynamic between some of the cast. That said, I am VERY wary of watching a show that I feel will screw me over, by either ending early or having sudden unexpected casting changes. (Surplus Princess being cut down to 10 episodes broke my heart, by the way.)

I saw this video this morning, which instantly means I have to watch episode 23 of roommate. Ga Yeon comes to visit, and Jackson, who apparently sees Ga Yeon as his ideal female, is a little…um…shy?

The fact that a member who moved out last season is visiting makes me hate what happened last season a little less. The thing that bothered me the most is that there weren’t on screen goodbyes. The cast who left were just gone. I know they did have blurbs at the very end, but it was too little, too late. Now that the show is illustrating that they all still know each other and get along (real or not, it just works for me narratively) I can enjoy the new episodes.

Looking at past posts

My feelings have really changed about a lot of shows, and sometimes I go and look at posts I wrote and am shocked by what I read there. Like about “We Got Married” apparently I wrote that I thought Jo Kwon and Ga In really had romantic feelings for each other. Me barely three months later is looking at the screen with my eyebrows raised going- “Really? You really think so? Ya sure?”

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Having a blog is pretty hilarious, because sometimes I look at past posts and just want to hug my former self. Like when I got all enthusiastic about Trot Lovers, not knowing that right before the end the unrealistic-but-entertaining writing would turn unrealistic-and-insane. Of course, I would have continued to watch it had I known or not, but at least I would have been prepared. At one point I swore off watching currently airing dramas, but that was the most boring 48 hours I’ve ever spent in my life.

Variety and reality wise, I have a new philosophy: I don’t try to pretend I think it’s real, or that it should be real, or that it in any way shows reality. I look at it like I look at the 50s. I was watching Project Runway the other day and thought “There’s no way they actually voted that dress through. The producers must have-” And then I realized I was breaking my rule, so I just relaxed and shrugged it off. And I feel much better for it.

Is there any show you once loved but now hate? Or vice-versa? Y’all, I would love comments about anything, truthfully. I always wonder what people actually think of this blog.

Out of touch

Odds and Ends

I feel a little lost right now in the kdrama world. I’m gonna just throw out some odds and ends that are haunting my brain. I have a problem with depression, which you’ve probably heard me mention if you’ve looked at my art blog, and sometimes it makes getting anything done, including simple things like blogging, feel like earth-shattering tasks. But I hope I can blog more frequently, and my little cuz Nerdnoona will put more beauty stuff up. As for me, I hear Oakland has a Korea town (although it’s a little manufactured) so I thought I might go there and see if there are any cool skin care products. There are also a good amount of Korean Markets in Oakland. My best friend lives above one that seems pretty great, but every time we go in there she feels guilty because she’s buying ingredients to make Japanese food. I tell her most shops are pretty okay as long as you’re giving them money to purchase goods and services, so I don’t think it’ll be an issue. Anyhow. Actual drama thoughts follow, some spoilers.

Roommate

Roommate sort of imploded, but maybe they’ll realize with the second season that stars abruptly leaving upsets fans, and that at the very least they need to give goodbye episodes. I’m going to watch the new episodes because some of the new roommates seem pretty interesting.

High School King of Savvy

High school King of Savvy ended a few weeks ago, and that was a good wholesome serving of awesomely weird. Plots that pair together two characters who are at heart both very strange, despite major surface differences and one being more socially apt has long been one of my weaknesses. It’s lucky the two leads were so out-there. No one thinks the show is trying to encourage typical 27-year-olds to marry 17-year-olds. My only complaint was Jin-Woo’s resolution. I would have liked more for him, less rushed. My theory is he was supposed to end up with the younger sister, but someone realized she had better chemistry with the friend (they were adorable) and looked like an 8 year old next to Jin-Woo. There also should have been more bromantic scenes, like Min-seok bringing Jin-Woo chicken. Let’s be honest, that’s the relationship a lot of people were watching the show for, anyway.

Fated to Love You

Ending more recently was Fated to Love You. I’m glad it took a detour from the original, but the illness thing was just too stretched out. The pain over losing the baby was done amazingly well, and I really appreciated the sensitive way it was handled. But the forced separation for no real reason is one of the worst staples of drama land. It made sense in the original Taiwanese version (for multiple reasons, the main one being that Se-ra’s character did something way more evil.) Gun’s character in that version was still a little bit of a self-centered jerk before Mi-Young left (he started out practically schizophrenic, in my opinion. Sometimes he was sweet, and sometime he was so unlikable I couldn’t stand him and couldn’t stand the girl for putting up with his crap.) Mi-Young’s character in the Taiwanese version didn’t have the inner steel that the Korean version had, and the years abroad were really needed for her to become a stronger, self confident person. But our Mi-young was already a fighter, already extremely lovable, and our Gun was pretty amazing and in love. I know the separation had to happen, but it went on far too long. Oh, also, the end was cute and all, but it was as if someone sat there with a checklist trying to make sure every last person got a happy ending. Also, the whole drugging people thing…I accepted it as funny in the show, but it’s really not. Gun and Mi Young were married, they wanted to be intimate, so I guess I’m just supposed to laugh at the fact that they were drugged to prevent them from using protection so that they’d get pregnant again. But, uh, when I just write it out like that, it seems really creepy.

Discovery of Romance

I’m sort-of watching Discovery of Romance, but with reservations. I’m not always keen on more realistic romances. I watch TV to escape real life. That said, I don’t hate it but I need the characters to be more honest and open with themselves and with each other, so that they can be more likable. I pretty much liked them all at first, and then with every episode every character but Joon-ha and Sol did something extremely shady. Maybe this will be another show where I’m more focused on the side romances. I really don’t mind realism, but it bothers me when “realism” is a code word for everyone begin horrible and every awful thing that could happen, happening. That’s why I tend to avoid Frank Miller comics. But, this is a funny show, and I’ll wait and see what happens.

High school-love on

I don’t generally mind when a show is once a week instead of twice, but this little gem is suffering from the format. It doesn’t seem like it was written to be shown this way, and the fact the it keeps getting preempted shows that it’s not really being cared for by the network. This issue is especially blatant right now, because the show is still setting up it’s conflicts about Seul-Bi needing to return to being an angel (or reaper), the situation at school, the two boys unknowingly being step brothers, forming a tentative friendship, both liking Seul-Bi and, I don’t feel like this when I’m actually watching, but when I think about the plot, it feels like it’s creeping along. Especially the romance. I understand completely why she can’t entirely admit she likes Woo-Hyun, but he’s already confessed to her, and she’s sorta, kinda, maybe given out the vibe that she’s not offended by the idea. That kind of thing is not satisfying to veiwers! If the show was being broadcast twice a week, it wouldn’t feel that slow. We’d have pretty quickly gotten most of the info we need. I gotta tell you, with this being preempted so often, I’m having My So Called Life flashbacks. That should date me for you.

Surplus Princess

Another quirky once a week drama. I like it! I think this baby has way more substance that it;s been given credit for. So far, weird, perverted, adorable, sweet, slightly evil mermaid is one of my favorite heroines on air right now. And I like that it actually is really hard to tell who the lead male is. Of course I’m shipping her with Hyun-Myung because he has eye-crinkles when he smiles because she’s developing an actual friendship with him instead of just liking him because he’s hot, unlike her feelings for Shi-Kyung. Also, Hyun-Myung deserves a nice girlfriend who won’t dump him the moment she starts to climb the social ladder. He also needs someone to push/pull him along into the real world instead of sitting in his room writing masterpiece cover letters. I don’t hate Shi-Kyung, especially when he’s smiling and laughing with our lead, but there’s something about him that’s a little odd. The face-blindness explained some of it, but I can’t help but feeling there’s something else. I’m hoping next week the plot moves a little more zippily. Not saying its dragged, but it is not a fast moving show by any means.

Plus nine Boys

I don’t speak Korean, but I’m gonna guess that’s a terrible translation, especially since it doesn’t explain what the show is about at all. What would be better? Age ending in Nine Boys, which I’ve seen, is another no, because at that point you might as well hand out a summery of the plot as the title. The Terrible Nines? That’s not really a phrase- forget it, the name sucks, but the show itself is great. 39 year old romance: I really, really want to solve the mystery of what happened! What made that sweet lady reject his proposal that way, in front of everyone? And while I think we’re pretty clear that’s not his daughter, she gets pretty uncomfortable when the topic of her marriage comes up, so I think there’s another story, there. 29 year old romance: I really, really hope this one works out, but he deserves to suffer a bit first. I know he’s sorry for what he did. I also know that they saw the scene differently- he didn’t feel insanely bad when she saw him kissing that other girl, but he didn’t feel good about it; however, she remembers him not caring how hurt she was and even smirking as the car drove away. I think he also doesn’t realize how much she liked him at that time. This seems like the one and only time he’s ever actually been in love with someone, but his jerkiness was so complete in the past that I totally understand why she doesn’t believe he’s serious. I mean, he really truly was just working his way around campus/work and included her along the way. So sure, he realized soon after that that he liked her, but if he’s going to prove to her that he’s sincere, he’s got to resist going back to his playboy ways out of frustration. 19 year old romance: This kid totally deserves whatever his “destined girl” is gonna unleash on him. How happy am I that she’s not some shrinking belle? Maybe she can get him to stop taking “meaningful” instagram selfies everywhere, while she’s at it. 9 year old romance: I expected this to be annoying, but it’s actually kinda cute. The kid is acting like a jerk to everyone, but especially his little “girlfriend” now that he’s not doing too well in show business. I was afraid this was going to put a lot of adult behaviors onto little kids, but the romance is playing out just like in real life, little kids who are close friends mimicking adult behaviors but still having childish thoughts and motivations. She just wants him to be nice like he used to so they can play and have fun, and he wants her to like him better than that Do Min Joon kid who everyone else thinks is better than him. And in the meantime, they hold hands occasionally and call each other boyfriend and girlfriend. I’m okay with that.

It’s Okay, it’s love

I have some mental health issues myself, so I’m very sensitive about how they’re handled. I held off on watching this until I got some feedback on the level of realism/sensitivity involved. I’m hearing good things…what do you guys think?