Scene analyses and comparisons: Sam-Girl-Wolf-Rose edition
As you know, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been on the prowl for a good show to watch. I’ve sampled a bunch of series, but so far, none has really stuck. The ones I’ve found interesting have been on the mild end of the excitement spectrum, but nothing’s really gripped me.
Maybe it’s because I haven’t been very into any of the series I’ve been trying that I’m finding myself more critical of little things. For instance: scenes or beats that aren’t merely reminiscent of earlier dramas, but downright lifted from them and transplanted into the new one. It’s one thing to wear an influence on one’s sleeve (for instance, the striking musical similarities in Hello! Miss‘s score to Dal Ja’s Spring were really obvious to me, but never got in the way); it’s another thing to pilfer directly.
(Random) SONG OF THE DAY
Vintage Blue – “Your Song” [ zShare download ]
First off, I tried I AM SAM because I heard it was light and funny, and I’m always up for light and funny. It stars the girl I recognized from hit sitcom Unstoppable High Kick, and I tend to be slightly more interested in series when I can at least recognize a cast member or two.
But immediately, from the first scene the series took the opening sequence of 2006’s bizarro, off-color teen sex film DASEPO NAUGHTY GIRLS — and without even trying to make the scene its own, I Am Sam just lifted the scene from Dasepo, apropos of nothing.
In both versions of the scene, a hapless, ineffectual high school teacher finds himself at the mercy of his rowdy, disobedient class, and hangs his head in shame. Shouldering the responsibility for being unable to teach his students properly, he invites the head student to come up and spank him in punishment.
In I Am Sam (above), the teacher is alarmed to see his students accept his proposal without hesitation, and shrinks back to have his bluff called. In Dasepo Naughty Girls (below), the teacher actually gets a perverse sadomasochistic thrill (it ain’t a sex comedy for nothing), since Dasepo is much racier than the made-for-television-broadcast I Am Sam. But that just highlights Sam‘s lack of originality even more — not only did it directly copy previously released material, it watered it down.
By the way, the movie Dasepo Naughty Girls is not to be confused with the cable TV show bearing the same name, although both are based on the same blue manhwa series centering around taboo and sex-themed goings-on at Useless High School. The film is silly and free-flying, more raunchy than erotic, imbued in a rich candy-coated color palette, and boasting a roster of young new talent, including Kim Ok Bin (Over the Rainbow), Park Jinwoo (Nonstop 5, Bad Family), Yoo Gun (Hello God, Bad Couple), Kim Byul (Taereung National Village), Eun Sung (Que Sera Sera), Lee Kyun (Hello Francesca), Lee Yong Joo (Goong)…
The cable TV version is completely different in tone — darker, more perverse, weird. But that’s something for another post.
And then, there’s TIME OF DOG AND WOLF, which I should’ve been much more interested in seeing, because I think Nam Sang Mi (Bad Family, Sweet Spy) is adorable. But when I watched the first episode, it felt so… empty. All flash and no substance.
Its high-octane opening should have been exciting — Lee Junki speeding away in a furious high-speed car chase — but it was like a James Bond movie without the Bond. I don’t have much of an opinion on Lee Junki, but I’ve noticed his tendency to overact, back when he was the sensitive second lead in My Girl.
(Can we talk about My Girl for a second? I see why people consider Lee Junki cute, but I don’t really get the appeal. And as Jeong Woo, he was vastly annoying with his over-emoting — oh great, now he’s crying again. Poor him. I never believed he was truly in love with Yoo Rin, so all his tears and blubbering got on my nerves. I would actually yell at my screen, “I don’t feel sorry for you at all! Next!” Between him and Park Shi Yeon of the flaring nostrils, it’s a wonder My Girl was so charming — actually, I think Lee Dong Wook was the only actor who didn’t overact in the entire series.)
Anyway, so Time of Dog and Wolf left me bored, and then I forgot about it. Until, that is, I randomly picked another old series to watch, 2005’s GREEN ROSE, which immediately brought back to mind Dog and Wolf‘s first episode.
Similarly, Green Rose immediately kicks off with a high-speed car chase — our hero, played by GO SOO, is desperately trying to shake off the authorities, unsuccessfully. In total contrast to Wolf and Dog, the opening of Green Rose had me intrigued and invested — I’m still not sure why, and I’m not going to oversimplify it as an acting comparison between the male leads, although that is one factor.
It could be that Dog and Wolf kicked off its action without context — a guy in a dark car, chased by dark-suited guys in more dark cars. But Green Rose pays more attention to emotional context — Go Soo drives a newlyweds’ car decorated in “just married” ribbons, in sad, sharp contrast to the grimness of his situation. It could also be because of Go Soo’s interpretation of his character, who drives on with solemn, desperate, but cool determination. He’s got the Bourne Identity underdog thing going for him — clearly outnumbered, clearly screwed, driving a battered car into a dead end — that makes us want to root for him. And when he’s caught, his despair is stark, as he looks at the water below, preparing to jump — and rather than giving us a Fugitive-esque moment where we know he’s going to survive the fall, Go Soo is at the end of his road.
It’s a pretty ballsy way to start off a series, because Go Soo closes his eyes in finality, and thinks:
“I could have been happy, too. Mother, Su Ah… We could have been happy. Couldn’t we?”
And then he jumps…
“At just 26 years and eight months old, in the cold river waters, I died.”
This is seven minutes into the first episode. Then we backtrack to happier days.
Normally, Green Rose is exactly the kind of series I’d hate to watch — there’s NO HOPE, and seriously, you think I’m gonna stick around?? It’s a hair melodramatic for my taste, and as far as I’ve seen it’s not really funny at all. Even the lovely Lee Da Hae wouldn’t be much of a draw in a series I dislike. But for some reason, there’s something compelling about Green Rose — and I’m sure many viewers felt the same, given its success during its initial run two years ago. But we’ll see how things go…
(Oh, by the way, please don’t spoil me for Green Rose — I don’t really care about the others, but in the event I stick with Rose, I’d hate to lose steam by having things spoiled. Thanks!)