Finally caught the first two episodes of the new KBS Wednesday-Thursday drama Three Dads, One Mom, and have a bit of a mixed reaction. On one hand, there’s a very cute quality to the drama, helped in no small part by its appealing cast — and while they’re not quite superstar-famous, all four main cast members are fairly established and known names.
There are some things I like about the series and the setup; there are other things I don’t. Right now, I’m not sure which way the balance tilts. Eugene is adorably gorgeous as the one mom amidst three possible dads, best-friend bachelors played by Jo Hyun Jae, Jae Hee, and Shin Sung Rok. Their interactions, laced with a healthy dose of good-natured male camaraderie, are one of the more appealing aspects of the drama for me. I’ll wait to see how things develop before making a final judgment; for now, I plan to catch a few more episodes.
SONG OF THE DAY
Instant Romantic Floor – “Same Thing (Song For Me)” [ Download ]
Simple setup: Start with four best friends who’ve grown up together since childhood.
Despite growing into vastly differing personalities, the four have stuck together all these years into adulthood.
SUNG MIN was the first to fall in love, and married his sweetheart NA YOUNG (played by Eugene). He’s perhaps the most emotionally mature of the four, and also the sweet-tempered one. He dotes on his wife, and she returns his affection wholeheartedly. Both have had somewhat tough childhoods, which heightens Na Young’s desire to become a mother and have a loving family of her own.
Sung Min’s best friends are all single and live together in their messy bachelor pad: SU HYUN (Jo Hyun Jae) is the good-looking, money-obsessed financial manager working in stocks and bonds. He’d like to marry and settle down in theory, although he’s never met anyone worth settling down for. Stingy bastard.
KWANG HEE (Jae Hee) is a manhwa artist who doesn’t believe in settling down and is always seeing one woman after another. Smooth (and fast) talker, somewhat irresponsible.
KYUNG TAE is the hotheaded cop, a little dumb on the outside but softhearted on the inside. He goes by two last names, Na Hwang, in a strange (to Korea) practice of observing his mother’s maiden name (Hwang) along with his father’s family name (Na). That should tell you all about him right there. He’s the sloppiest eater and the messiest dresser, but the kindest in heart.
Na Young mostly likes her husband’s three best friends, but they try her patience constantly by making a mess of her home playing poker all night, dragging Sung Min out with them drinking, and generally being well-meaning but insensitive. And vice versa — the guys like her and think she’s a good match for Sung Min, but she’s kinda naggy.
Na Young desperately wants to become a mother, but attempts at conception have failed. Lately her frustration has her fighting with Sung Min because while he’s accepted that they’re probably not going to be able to have children (he’s sterile, having no sperm), she wants to exhaust their possibilities and see doctor after doctor. He’s being realistic, but she interprets it as not taking her seriously.
Sung Min talks over his problem with his friends, who offer suggestions. They could adopt, or go to a sperm bank, but those are deemed out of the question. Sung Min off-handedly mutters that it’s too bad he can’t use his friends’ sperm… which gives him the brilliant idea to use his friends’ sperm. He knows them all personally and can vouch for their character. They won’t tell Na Young, naturally, and the baby will be raised as his. He won’t make demands afterward or dump them with fatherly responsibility. Furthermore, nobody will ever need to know whose sperm of the three was used. No burden. Su Hyun, Kwang Hee, and Kyung Tae — cheerfully drunk — agree. When they sober up, they’re horrified because they don’t really want to go along with it.
Sung Min, feeling desperate (Na Young is growing despondent, and he doesn’t want to lose her), pleads with each in turn go along and donate his sperm. Finally, they’re guilt-tripped into agreeing, and drag their feet to the clinic to make their donations. Sung Min has told Na Young he wants to see the doctor for one more try at insemination, and she happily agrees.
After the friends leave the clinic, they brood — each has the fear that fathering a child now will come back to bite them later, despite Sung Min’s assurances to the contrary. They call Sung Min and tell him they can’t go through with it: Rescind the decision! Sung Min concedes, to their relief — but then grimly progresses with his plan.
Na Young becomes pregnant (I’m assuming in vitro fertilization), blissfully unaware of the baby’s true parentage. Sung Min’s friends are suspicious about the timing and demand to know if he used their sperm; Sung Min insists (nervously) that the baby is his own, which is why they’re calling her/him Ha Sun, “gift from heaven.”
But about six months into the pregnancy, Sung Min is killed in a car accident, leaving behind a bereaved wife and three devastated friends.
For once, the guys think of Na Young’s welfare before themselves — she’s alone, pregnant, and completely overwhelmed. She has a hard time keeping herself together, much less taking care of closing bank accounts and official death-related administrative tasks. The guys promise to handle everything for her, and find among Sung Min’s things a DVD. It’s labeled for his unborn baby, and the friends watch Sung Min’s self-videoed clip. Onscreen, the three friends interrupt the video; after they’ve left, Sung Min resumes taping, now a little tipsy.
Sung Min tells the video that the baby’s three “uncles” are his best friends, people whom the baby should consider with the same regard as a father. He alludes to the uncles’ “priceless gift” without which the baby never could have been born — and they realize with dread that Sung Min must have used their sperm.
Episodes 1 and 2 were cute and light-hearted (death notwithstanding, since we were expecting that anyway). The three friends (or four, depending on the scene) have nice chemistry with each other, and I love male-bonding stuff. Always cute.
The characters are diverse; and despite my love for Jae Hee, Shin Sung Rok completely steals the show for me as Kyung Tae. His bumbling cop is supposed to be the most “unattractive” among the three — messy, hygienically suspect, a little dense — but has a heart of gold.
I presume Jo Hyun Jae’s Su Hyun character will be the one to pair with Eugene, because he’s the one who’s placed in the most traditionally leading-man role. He’s the best-dressed, most conventionally handsome, and the most strait-laced. Plus, he’s the one with the coolest relationship with Na Young (he doesn’t hate her, but he’s a little distant), so it’s highly possible that this means he’ll be the one who falls for her. Even if I can’t help hoping that they’ll go with the unconventional but lovable Kyung Tae instead. (Sorry to say, I don’t see much chemistry between Eugene and Jae Hee.)
First off, the drama takes an exceedingly simplistic approach. Everything is painted in broad strokes, and the characterizations are really one-note. I understand the need to differentiate among the bachelors when there are so many characters, hence the exaggerated differences, but I think we’re all familiar enough with the actors not to run into the trouble of mixing them up.
As far as story goes, it’s hard to say. The first two episodes went by very slowly for me, because we knew everything that would happen based on the setup. I wish they’d scrunched up everything in the first two episodes into one, because the drama doesn’t really get going until after Sung Min dies and the three friends find out one of them is the father. To have waited until the end of the second episode to bring us to that point seems a waste of the first week’s worth of programming.
The characters are made interesting and likable by the actors portraying them, but on their own they’re kind of flat. They border on stereotypical, in fact. (The finance manager ONLY talks in money-related terms. The artist is single-minded — GIRLS — and we see very little else.) Plus Jae Hee’s affecting some weird nasally tone of voice, which drives me bonkers. Those of us who’ve seen him previously know he’s got a nice, normal voice, so he must be using it as part of his “character work.” Perhaps it’s to make his flighty character seem even flightier, which is compounded by the extremely fast way he talks. All I know is, I wish he’d stop.
And then there’s Jo Hyun Jae. I swear, this has nothing to do with the recent army controversy, but I can’t seem to find him compelling. He’s good-looking, and he’s not a bad actor. But it’s like he has all the ingredients of a strong leading man, but lacks the alchemy to really spark. He’s kind of blank in the charisma arena. Very pretty to look at, for sure, but I’ve just never been drawn to his characters; it feels like watching a well-programmed robot.
I’m hoping Sung Min’s death spurs the three bachelors to develop some maturity. The three may be carried by the charm of their actors, but as characters they’re kind of annoying. They’re selfish and immature — I think their flaws are supposed to make them endearing, but they’re hammered in so strongly (like I said, simplistic) that it’s overkill. I start to hate Su Hyun’s stinginess (thriftiness can be cute, but extreme miserliness makes him seem petty in character as well as in pocketbook) and get tired of Kwang Hee’s libido. (I love Kyung Tae, so no complaints.)
Overall, the drama is good-natured, but it’s not complex, and it’s not exciting. It’s pleasant. I hold out hope that things develop more intriguingly in future episodes, and I’ll stick with the show for now. But I’m not convinced.