Today saw the premiere of a new kdrama, QUE SERA SERA (케세라세라), on MBC. I’m not sure if I’ll keep watching it, but I saw the first episode, so I thought I would weigh in.
I’d say the series is probably most anticipated for starring Eric (aka Moon Jung Hyuk), as he’s built up quite the fanbase as a member of kpop group Shinhwa and several high-profile roles in dramas such as 2006’s Invincible Parachute Agent, 2005’s Super Rookie, and 2004’s Firebird. I haven’t seen any of those (I mostly know Eric from appearances on variety shows like X-Man; seems like a nice enough guy), so I can’t attest to his acting ability, but he generally has received favorable response.
SONG(s) OF THE DAY
These aren’t from the drama itself, but when something is named after a particular work, I always like to know about the original work.
Doris Day – “Que Sera Sera”, Doris Day’s sunny 1950s version of the song [ zShare download ]
Pink Martini – “Que Sera Sera”, a beautifully haunting (almost creepy?) version [ zShare download ]
For me, a notable attraction is the director-producer, Kim Yoon Chul, who did 2005’s megahit drama My Name Is Kim Sam Soon, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m generally more apt to follow screenwriters I like more than the directors — for instance, Sam Soon‘s writer followed up that project with the funny and entertaining 2006 drama What’s Up Fox? — but there have been a few directors I’ve been impressed enough to follow. (One would be Jeon Ki Sang, who first did 2005’s Delightful Girl Choon Hyang, followed that with 2006’s super-charming My Girl, then returns next week with Witch Yoo Hee. The other would be No Do Chul, who directed my all-time favorite kdrama, Soulmate, as well as quirky vampire-comedy Hello Francesca.)
Anyway, the resume for QSS’s writer isn’t quite as noteworthy — Do Hyun Jung wrote 2003’s A Man’s Scent, which I haven’t even heard of, and sounds vaguely, um, naughty — but that doesn’t mean she’s (he’s?) not good.
Other than Eric, I’m not familiar with the other actors except perhaps Lee Kyu Han, whom I remember fondly as the philandering ex-boyfriend in My Name Is Kim Sam Soon. He was barely present in the first episode (only in photo form), but I’m already anticipating his character.
Official MBC site: http://www.imbc.com/broad/tv/drama/queserasera/
Que Sera Sera is different. There’s a different feel, pace, and aesthetic to it. It feels rather more like an indie film than the super-glossy, pretty feel given to most modern kdramas. The colors aren’t as bright, there’s a slightly gritty, intentionally imperfect ambiance, and a lot of Steadicam (handheld camera) work to give a feeling of immediacy and intimacy. To further punctuate the atmosphere, the music is quite different — using some expected kpop but also inserting jazz classic standards and some more moody music as well. Again, it feels more like a film in that aspect.
Maybe it’s because of this departure from the norm that I’m drawn to QSS. It’s not quite my style, and the story isn’t exactly what I’d call fun. But it’s got a different perspective and I respect that. I’ll have to hold off on deciding whether I like it; because the series feels different, I feel like I can’t judge it by the same criteria as a conventional kdrama. For one, by the end of the first episode, I’m not even sure I like any of the characters. But I think the director’s going for flawed and realistic, rather than feel-good wish fulfilment.
That said, this series DOES have fun, funny moments. I’m making it sound dour and sad, but it’s not. It just has potential to be more than a throwaway filler drama; it’s up to the creatives working on the show to make it really fly.
EPISODE 1 SUMMARY
Eric is KANG TAE JOO, who’s introduced right off the bat as a smooth, confident ladies’ man — after all, the very first scene has him breaking up with a rich woman, who’s so fond of him she wants to give him a fancy sports car as a farewell gift. He doesn’t accept because it would be unseemly to drive around a car like that with his meager monthly salary. Oh, and they’re breaking up because she’s getting married. So we learn a few things right from the start — Tae Joo makes the ladies swoon, he’s not rich, and he’s emotionally cool.
He goes home to find a strange girl sleeping in his doorway. They get off on the wrong foot immediately, as he thinks she’s a crazy-psycho-pervert-beggar, and she thinks he’s living with her younger, underage sister, Ji Soo. She’s roughly turned away by an impatient Tae Joo, but she has sudden stomach pains, and needs to use the bathroom. With nowhere to go, she bangs on Tae Joo’s door until he opens it, and rushes inside, locking him out of his own bathroom. Tae Joo is, needless to say, annoyed. He kicks her out again, and she rushes out without her bag.
Turns out the girl, HAN EUN SOO, got the wrong apartment; her sister Ji Soo is staying in a different unit, and appears to be squatting while the apartment goes unrented. In exchange for letting her stay there, Ji Soo agreed to work for a week as a cleaning lady. But because she’s underage, Eun Soo takes her place working as a maid.
Tae Joo works at an event planning office. We see from his interaction with his boss and his senior co-worker that Tae Joo’s pretty self-assured in his charm and good looks, and has a bit of a smart mouth. Just the kind of guy girls love to fall for when they know they shouldn’t. But in contrast to most kdramas where this character is a lovable scamp, Tae Joo’s got a hard edge to him. He’s kind of cold and hardened.
Tae Joo crosses paths with the glamorous fashion designer, CHA HYE RIN, at the Palace Hotel, where Hye Rin purposely ruins a meeting meant to finalize her marriage plans. She’s met the guy three times and shocks his well-to-do parents (and her own) by announcing she used to live together with a man five years ago when she was studying fashion in Italy. Her father, the head of World Department Store, is furious and slaps her in front of everyone; her mother pretends to swoon; and the other family leaves in affront. They’d be clutching their pearls if they were wearing any.
Later that night, Hye Rin meets a friend at a club, where she’s introduced to her friend’s onetime boy toy… Tae Joo. Tae Joo, cocky and suave, pours on the charm — but Hye Rin really couldn’t care less. It doesn’t really seem that Tae Joo’s genuinely interested in her; it’s a game for him. He’s good at it, so he enjoys playing. Hye Rin shows some claws when she notes the disparity between Tae Joo’s expensive watch (a gift from his ex) and his cheap suit.
She needles him, offering to hire his services as a gigolo and dress him in fancier suits, and Tae Joo — gasp! — actually throws his shot of cognac in her face. (What a waste.) He says you should always just do as you feel; no use in resisting and bringing yourself frustration. She attempts to slap him, but he roughly pushes her away and she stumbles to the ground. He tells her she’s pathetic and that she underestimated him. No wonder her marriage plans fell through; however rich she is, and however much a frog her suitor is, she should grab the chance and be glad someone’s willing to marry her.
Frankly, Tae Joo’s kind of an ass here. To be fair, Hye Rin’s not winning any charm awards either, but he seems like a little boy using physical aggression because he didn’t get to win. It’ll be an interesting challenge to bring him from this point to a main character we can like, or at least care about. This is what I meant by character realism, because it seems nobody’s making apologies for the fact that Tae Joo is entirely flawed; he definitely isn’t the perfect Prince Charming we’d expect of our handsome lead actor.
But in any case, he takes the long, lonely walk home, and you get the sense that all of this is rather meaningless for him, anyway. This song plays (Loveholic’s “Bless You”) in the background as both Tae Joo and Eun Joo tiredly arrive home after a long day, and the song nicely underscores the mood of quiet isolation for both. [ zShare download ]
Eun Soo remembers she’d left her bag in Tae Joo’s apartment. She meets him outside his door, but he’s had enough of her, and hurls insults at her, even causing her to cry. He doesn’t believe that she’s there only for her bag and threatens to call the police on her. But the next morning, he notices the strange bag in his apartment and feels pangs of guilt.
Tae Joo is sent to wine and dine some potential customers who are known for being overly picky; he’s the charmer, so it’s up to him to win them over. Hye Rin is drowning her sorrows at the bar, completely drunk, having argued with her father earlier that day. Basically, he’s pulling his support of her clothing store in retaliation for her ruining the engagement. Either she make it on her own; or she bring her fashion line into the department store itself. She takes a moment to look at a photo, and it seems to suggest she’s resisting marriage because she has lingering feelings for the guy pictured (Shin Joon Hyuk, played by Lee Kyu Han).
In any case, this time SHE throws alcohol in Tae Joo’s face and picks a loud, drunken fight. She calls him lots of horrible things, insulting him and his clients, insinuating that he’s just a boy toy entertaining lonely older women for money — she’d been joking earlier when she called him a gigolo, but it looks like he really is one. He drags her out of there as his hyung attempts to joke that Hye Rin is Tae Joo’s girlfriend, with whom he’d had a fight recently.
Tae Joo resists the urge to dump the unconscious Hye Rin in an alleyway, and instead takes her to a hotel… where she promptly throws up all over him. Disgusted, he calls the hotel’s cleaning services, and comes face to face with Eun Soo…