Drama Reactions & Reviews
A Grump Reviews 2008 [Year in Review, Part 2]
by | December 29, 2008 | 91 Comments

How should one convey bad news in writing? By creating a buffer first. Avoid traumatizing your audience with the bad news all at once, but instead cushion the blow so that you can maintain goodwill. That textbook approach (business communication, by the way) would be dandy if the crop of 2008 dramas I watched was anything like the stellar quality of 2007. But no, this was a harvest to make one downright grumpy.

This time last year, eight dramas vied to be in my Top 3. Even the ones that disappointed weren’t half bad and at least I finished them. Not this year. I picked up around twenty dramas and dropped at least fifteen. “Dropped” is putting it mildly. I ran from some of them like a kid fleeing an apparition: hands in the air and hair standing on end. As the year wore on, my patience wore thin and my grumpiness increased.

So, no, I can’t use the buffer approach when reviewing this year’s dramas. Hedging doesn’t work for this grumpy cookie. I will present to you the worst dramas first, followed by the so-so ones, and then the few gems of 2008. Even though the year was overcast and gloomy, the sun broke through the clouds occasionally and when it did the effect was glorious. Let’s get the bad news out of the way and we can enjoy the good stuff, shall we?

SONG OF THE DAY

Jin Yi-han – “This is the Moment” which he sang (live!) in Episode 3 of Who Are You. [ Download ]

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COULD USE AS FIREWOOD

The four dramas that I dislike the most this year are ironically the ones I did not expect to go wrong. Consider the reasons: Kim Myung Min, Lee Jong Hyuk, Shin Sung Rok, Lee Beom Soo. Even if you aren’t fangirly over them (which I am), you have to agree that they aren’t your average pin-up boys with the hot looks and nothing else. These guys can actually act. Kim Myung Min was best actor of 2007 (disagree with me at your peril, haha) and he helmed the best drama of 2007, White Tower. And then came Beethoven Virus in 2008.

Every episode that I’ve watched of Beethoven Virus I wanted to throw a shoe at the screen. After a while, and for my own sanity, I stopped rolling my eyes and resigned myself to parking my brain aside when watching. These are orchestra players? Sure, and I’m a Cirque du Soleil acrobat. Acting is over the top (take a bow, Lee Ji Ah), conflict is contrived, developments are far-fetched (see me drunk, see me deaf, see me almost drown!), and even the poor dog is not spared the overwrought theatrics. I could have stopped watching after the first excruciating ten minutes and ordinarily I would have. But I plodded on for only one reason (see previous paragraph).

Can I go out on a limb here and say that Kim Myung Min’s acting in Beethoven Virus pains me sometimes? I never thought my most admired actor could be capable of bad acting, but his latest drama proves me wrong. Still, in this awful drama he is the best thing about it. When he conducts he is so, so mesmerizing you have eyes for nothing else but him. So, no matter how long it takes (because I can only stomach one or two episodes a month), I intend to keep watching Beethoven Virus to its brain-numbing end. Because the maestro is worthy of it.

Such doggedness, alas, did not extend to Powerful Opponents. In the first episode, Lee Jong Hyuk and Chae Rim demonstrated convincingly that it’s possible for two people to be grown ups, to be training for the elite Presidential Guards, and to still behave like seven-year olds brawling in the schoolyard. Think of two children fighting to be first in line, or to have the last word. The childish one-upmanship between the two would be slightly funny if it weren’t so excessive and ridiculous. Like their fellow trainees, I watched their long and self-absorbed charade with growing bemusement. You couldn’t have asked for more evidence of immaturity than what the two adults, grim-faced and sweaty, were displaying. And you trust these kids them to protect your president and other dignitaries?

Sorry, Lee Jong Hyuk. You’re my all-time favorite villain (Green Rose) and your voice makes me melt, but your 2008 drama is more paltry than powerful and I’m not sticking around. And sigh, I have to say the same thing to Shin Sung Rok whom I adored in Thank You and Hyena.

When twice (the first time for laughs and the second time for a lack of ideas) Jae Hee and his nasal pressed-duck voice rolled off the bed onto Shin Sung Rok and his bad perm, I said to myself, “Enough.” If the gags in Three Dads, One Mom were genuinely funny, I wouldn’t have minded so much. But no, they felt so fake and forced. Ya right, trot over to your married friend’s apartment with your dirty laundry every week so that your friend’s wife can enjoy a “marry one, toil for four” deal. Hammer home the “we five are so cozy we’re practically family!” point at every opportunity. Creep your viewers out with saccharine sweetness one moment, and shady underhandedness the next.

Three Dads, One Mom. You had the potential to be funny, but you busted it with crappy writing and insipid acting. In one fell stroke you dimmed the lights of your four leads and made us scratch our heads in befuddlement. Did Jae Hee always sound this awful? Strange how Shin Sung Rok’s good looks have all but disappeared here, eh? Jo Hyun Jae was never this spaced-out, was he? And surely Eugene’s acting had improved prior to this drama even if it didn’t seem evident here?

The last one in this sorry bundle, On Air, was also the one that I bailed out of at the shortest notice. I ran from it in voiceless horror, aghast at all the on-screen shouting and temper tantrums. Okay, so Lee Beom Soo is loud here, as he was in Surgeon Bong Dal Hee. But in that 2007 drama where he was such a dreamboat of a doc, he was mostly the only one shouting. In On Air, it’s like in every corner someone is yelling and acting all aggrieved. Such shrillness. Such angst. Thanks but no thanks.

On hindsight, I may have been too quick to judge On Air. A close friend loves the drama to pieces and I’m fascinated by how much she likes Park Yong Ha here (she couldn’t stand the sight of him in Winter Sonata, and who could blame her?). Supposedly his character is so very charismatic as a PD, and so caring towards his lady love… Oops, would that be Kim Ha Neul’s character or Song Yoon Ah’s? Couldn’t tell them apart honestly; both were two very pissed-off divas in the first episode and I was too busy plotting my escape.

Oh wait, there’s one more. It’s still airing so we can’t feed it to the flames, but I watched the first two episodes and really have no more use for it. Surely the most hyped drama of the year, our East of Eden. And supposedly the most star-studded (although the only one I like in that “dream” cast is Lee Mi Sook). Also the drama with the most convoluted plot (think five daytime soaps rolled into one). Who liked whom? Who violated whose modesty? (Oh, for Pete’s sake, stop skirting the issue. It’s rape, rape!) Who is friend and who is foe? If this one is your wife, who is that lady staring so forlornly at you? (Don’t ask me, I was so confused myself.) Unwrongful death. Babies switched at birth. A fire. Etc.

So much was going on in the first two episodes my head was spinning. Yet I also found unexpected mirth, and from the most unlikely source. Song Seung Heon made me howl in laughter when he appeared, so unnecessarily intense were his expressions, as if trying to out-glare all the naysayers who said he couldn’t act. Point taken, Mr. Handsome, but work on the nuances, will ya?

 

JUST YOUR AVERAGE FARE

When I was drawing up my list of dramas for this write-up, I was stunned by how many of them I had forgotten. Episodes faded away, some almost instantly, like streets you pass in a daze when driving in an unfamiliar city. Nothing stood out to remind you of the “scenery”; everything was ordinary and just so-so. Some of these dramas I discarded long ago. A couple I am still watching, either because I have to or because a particular actor has caught my eye.

Happiness a.k.a. I Am Happy started out promisingly. How not to like a drama with that title? The main story (of a couple from two economically disparate families) was funny and engaging, the characters were fleshed-out sufficiently, and there was suspense (an old love, a bastard child, a scheming daughter-in-law, etc.) to keep one going in this 58-episode series. The drama exuded a palpable warmth and I was a happy viewer.

After sticking around for more than twenty episodes, why then did I decide to leave? Oh, for various reasons, one of which may seem flimsy to you. Spousal abuse is a huge no-no, and it is worse when a dictionary (I love my dictionaries) is used as the weapon of assault. When the dictionary flew out of her hand and hit its target hard, the one who recoiled in pain was me. Ouch! Okay, so the leads weren’t out to maim each other, but their squabbles and childish antics were fast getting old and unfunny. A supporting character (that conniving daughter-in-law, who else?) usurped the main plot and kept hoodwinking everyone with her ploys. Nothing looked like it was going to get resolved soon. The thought of plodding through 34 more episodes of wearying sameness instantly aged me and I left.

I Love You was actually decent. Ahn Jae Wook was adorable as a marriage-averse comic artist who got Seo Ji Hye’s character pregnant after a one-night stand. Their situation was mirrored in a second couple (Hwan Hee’s character impregnated a girl who had the same name as Seo Ji Hye’s character, how coincidental), albeit with more sobering undertones. I really enjoyed the first couple; they had wonderful chemistry and were delightful together. Acting was solid (the two mothers were a riot; to this day I remember their first meeting) and the story oozed oodles of charm. Although the atmosphere was generally lighthearted, it was balanced by moments of poignancy. Marriage is not to be undertaken frivolously, of course, even if hurried into it by circumstances such as an unplanned pregnancy, and I felt for the two couples caught in that situation.

Still, I aborted my watch and finished only half the series. I think I grew impatient with the two guys’ cowardice as they tried to run away from their responsibilities. Life also got busy and since the drama wasn’t exactly a standout, it became another of those dramas that you watch to pass the time, one that doesn’t stay with you long after you are done, a drama easily summed up (and as easily dismissed) in one word. Cute.

The Last Scandal Of My Life I watched for Choi Jin Shil and because of the raves. (A married friend kept saying, “You must watch! It’s soooo good!”) I loved Choi Jin Shil’s acting; she was so natural and had wonderful comic timing. I admired her character’s guts and tenacity but must confess to feeling majorly irked by her naiveté and gullibility around her asshole husband. His character was pretty unbelievable, no? The strokes used to paint him were too broad, thus turning the man into a caricature (not that he was the only one in the drama). For some odd reason I also could not stand their daughter; she was just too petulant for my liking and her over-the-top acting didn’t help. I normally enjoy watching mother-daughter dynamics, but this one didn’t feel authentic to me.

Then there’s Jeong Joon Ho. His character was endearing (if you consider a 39-year old man behaving like a kid half the time to be endearing) and quite sweet and funny. But the drama’s portrayal of him as a star also felt staged and less than convincing. Despite my friend’s enthusiasm, I gradually lost interest in the drama and stopped after nine episodes.

Hong Gil Dong I could have continued. The wacky opening episode definitely left an impression, of the eye-popping sort. The term fusion sageuk took on a whole new meaning, forcing sageuk purists everywhere to gnash their teeth and don sack-clothes. I didn’t mind, actually. (Moi am all for inventiveness!) Shades-wearing Kang Ji Hwan was a joy to watch (unflattering perm notwithstanding), and I didn’t roll my eyes at Sung Yuri’s acting this time (A Thousand Years of Love being my previous, and unfortunate, exposure to her).

So why did I drop the drama after just four episodes? Was it because the drama bordered on the inane sometimes? Was it because Sung Yuri’s Yi Nok did a No. 2 in the waters and totally grossed me out? Maybe. But the real reason had to do with two sageuks (explanation in the last part of this year-end review) and I just could not go on with Hong Gil Dong.

Robber reminded me of why I stopped liking Jang Hyuk midway through Thank You. That smirk, that posturing that showed too much self-consciousness. Lee Da Hae also looked like she had walked right out of My Girl into this one. Getting typecast, huh?

The supporting cast in the drama was the more attractive draw, with Kim Jung Tae giving me the giggles with his wonderful turn as the deadpan Jin Goo who’s forced by his father to court Lee Da Hae’s character. Watch him in the action thriller H.I.T. where he plays a detective and marvel at how talented and versatile this actor is. Son Byung Ho as the lovestruck gangster boss was a hoot to watch as well. Since I didn’t care too much for the lead actors, I thought I would put Robber on hold and come back to it another day. Then I read that an overused plot device had been rehatched for the drama and that was it. Bye, Robber.

Gourmet I quit because it gave me flashbacks of Dae Jang Geum. You know, that evil rival who steals or spills your ingredients right before that all-important cooking contest. As a result you’re running around like a headless chicken trying to salvage the situation even as the minutes tick mercilessly away. (In Gourmet’s case, searching frantically for that missing set of knives, dammit!)

I can’t stand foul play and to think of its various machinations unfolding episode after teeth-clenching episode to thwart our hero’s path was too much for my weak heart. I did like the atmosphere of the drama (love its old-world charm) and thought Kim Rae Won acted really naturally. (Can’t say the same for Nam Sang Mi who seemed a little too excitable. Still, have a soft spot for her because of her unassuming girl-next-door vibes. Because she’s not stick-thin. Because she’s acted with two actors I love, in two dramas I love: Bad Family and Time Between Dog And Wolf.)

My Sweet Seoul I had really looked forward to. The leads were two actors I liked very much: Lee Seon Kyun (a.k.a. The Voice) and Choi Kang Hee. But right from the start something about Choi Kang Hee’s acting and character niggled. A cloying childlikeness. A preoccupation with self. A certain hypocrisy in her relationships. All very subtle, actually. Some of my pals thought her Eun Soo character extremely well-written and realistic; they appreciated her idiosyncrasies and little imperfections. I didn’t. I thought her incredibly pretentious. It bugged me like hell that she seemed caring on the surface but really wasn’t. Like for instance someone would be confiding something in her and she would seem to be listening, but as soon as the person stopped talking, Eun Soo would switch the conversation to herself. It happened so often I wanted to scream. As the drama progressed, even the initial liking that I had for her two girl pals vanished, replaced by a growing irritation with all three of them!

The only thing that kept me going was The Voice; he was the “sweet” in the drama’s title. But then the plot took an abrupt shift in the last few episodes where his character was concerned. “Sweet” became “sinister,” and I was left gobsmacked. Not a nice feeling at all.

Kingdom Of The Wind is the only drama in this so-so category that I can’t drop. I love editing the subtitles because it’s barrels of fun working with the translator (wave to your fans, Your Grumpiness). The drama itself is a lot less enjoyable, alas. The script feels like it’s written by two people with very different styles. Almost without fail half of an episode will be a stupor-inducing drag, the other half suddenly jerking you awake with hooves-pounding excitement. Transition is haphazard. A tense situation fizzles out without the expected consequences and you’re left wondering what the previous brouha was all about.

But it’s the uneven acting in Kingdom Of The Wind that bothers me the most. Song Il Gook, Jung Jin Young and Han Jin Hee deliver the goods as expected, and together they are holding up the drama as best as they can. But three people do not a drama make, especially when they are outnumbered by folks who can’t act to save their lives. Choi Jung Won, Park Gun Hyung, Kim Hye Sung and Kim Jae Wook seem in cahoots to act as awkwardly as possible. Choi Jung Won is unbearably wooden and you can count on her to ruin yet another momentous scene with her one-expression-fits-all delivery. Accept your award for Worst Acting (Miniseries, Actress), Your Blankness.

Worlds Within is another yawn, although I hear from trusted sources that it gets better after the seventh or eighth episode. That’s a long way off for me, and I’m not sure I will reach that halfway mark. I’ve never disliked Song Hye Gyo, but here she really gets on my nerves, both the actor and the character. Just shut up, woman. Just, even for a moment, spare a thought for the people who populate your world. It’s not all about you. I also don’t care one iota for her relationship with Hyun Bin’s character and it annoys me to no end how the two keep rehashing their old misunderstandings.

What else to gripe about? Oh, direction is awful, music is terrible, and everyone talks too fast. But two reasons keep me going, barely. Noh Hee Kyung and Eom Gi Joon. I have always loved the former’s writing (More Beautiful Than A Flower, Solitude, Goodbye Solo). The latter I have never watched before, but I loved him at first sight here. Easily the best actor in Worlds Within, he is utterly yummy to boot.

 

GOOD FOR A FEAST

And finally we come to the good stuff. Phew. Of the many dramas sampled this year, these were the few that stood out. They aren’t perfect, mind you, and I confess I don’t love them like I did my favorites last year. But in a year of dismal offerings, they granted this grump some respite. The spread isn’t enough for all your neighbors down the road, but for a group of five it should do nicely. Enjoy!

The best drama of 2008 opened with an unsettling scene: a detective investigating an unnatural death on a rainy night. Then the darkness shifts, we’re in a different country, and dazzling brightness takes over. A woman surveys that white wintry landscape; she seems excited and also somewhat melancholic. A man insists on hitching a ride in her car; he seems strangely intent on following her. And thus begins La Dolce Vita, this wondrous drama that stood head and shoulders above everything else offered this year.

I approached La Dolce Vita with high hopes, and for good reason. Two months before, I had started watching Shin Don, a little-known 2005 sageuk written by Jung Ha Yeon. A note of explanation first. Earlier, as you were plodding through my list of awful and so-so dramas, you might be thinking, “Thunderbolt, you are most unfair. Just because you are nitpicky, you claim this and that drama stank.” In defense, may I say I wasn’t always this dismissive? I’ve put up with god-awful dramas in the past, hell, finished them even.

Then I watched Conspiracy In The Court and Shin Don early this year. Two awesome dramas with writing that sizzled and characters you loved because they were so human. The historical consciousness in the dramas was searing, production values rock-solid, acting top-notch. Watching these two masterpieces resulted in a strange malady, though. I became a grump, irritable and impatient. Every drama I watched I measured against these two, perhaps unjustly. Hong Gil Dong, for example, suddenly became too silly for words even though I had thought it amusing initially. But it was different with La Dolce Vita. Jung Ha Yeon was writing this, he who had written Shin Don, the drama that knocked Eyes of Dawn off its No. 1 position in my all-time favorites list. And he would be reuniting with the same Shin Don director, Kim Jin Min. Wow.

La Dolce Vita is not a comfortable drama to watch. It’s troubling to watch unhappiness at such a close range, to witness a marriage fall apart frame by frame. Betrayal, despair, scars so deep healing seems impossible. The drama, through Jung Ha Yeon’s amazingly humane writing and the voiceovers, allows us to see deep into the psyche of the main characters and what we see leaves us perplexed. What is truth if what you hear does not jell with what you feel? What is reality if your memory keeps shifting? Is love worth pursuing if it means forsaking all that is precious to you, to chart an uncertain path? And if I forsake everything for you, why can’t you be happy?

Contrary to what some people think, the drama is not depressing. It just doesn’t offer easy answers, and more importantly, it doesn’t judge. Its characters are flawed, they have inner demons, they do things that make you question their sense of morality. Yet they are painted with marked gentleness. Jung Ha Yeon respects his characters, and similarly, he respects us, the viewers.

I made a Best of 2008 list as part of my notes for this write-up and it made me laugh. Because La Dolce Vita swept almost every freaking category. Best drama, script and directing. Best actor (Jung Bo Seok, hands down), best actress (Oh Yeon Su, who incidentally, also won in the swimsuit category, ha), and best supporting actress (Park Si Yeon, who elevated her acting to such a level she left me shaking my head in awe). The drama even won for best non-human acting, with our little Shih Tzu dog walking away with the honors, woof!

The second best drama of 2008 made its appearance quietly in late October, airing on cable TV and with just one episode a week. Not many people noticed it, but those who did could not stop raving and I was one of them. After a year of mostly duds, Fight (a.k.a. Road Fighter) was that breath of fresh air I badly needed.

Only eight episodes, and with each episode under an hour, its premise was so simple the creators of East of Eden would have rolled their eyes in derision. A drama about fighting and fight clubs? That’s all? But that simplicity, stripped of all unnecessary trappings, gave Fight a focus and energy missing in many of the dramas this year. I never knew watching two men beat each other to a pulp could be so exhilarating. The fights were beautifully choreographed and realistically fought, and a wonderfully upbeat music score made them even more compelling to watch. I sometimes replayed a fight scene immediately just so I could hear the music. And if one of the fighters was Baek Do Bin, then I replayed the scene again and again.

Ah, Baek Do Bin. Just for him may I add a new category to my Best of 2008 list? Find of the Year. This unknown actor was clearly the best thing in Fight, outshining lead actor Yoo Geon and even Uhm Tae Woong (who had an important cameo in the series). His relationship with Yoo Geon was undoubtedly the highlight of the drama, sensitively handled and deeply felt. I would love to see a sequel to Fight, just so I could see their bond develop further. However, may I suggest a different actress if a sequel does pan out? Lee Young Jin may own Uhm Tae Woong’s heart (the two are dating in real life), but she sure doesn’t own any of his acting skills. In fact, if Choi Jung Won didn’t own the Worst Actress award so completely, I would have divided it between the two of them.

Third place was much trickier this year. La Dolce Vita and Fight were shoo-ins for Top 2, but it took several days of mulling over one drama and frantically trying to catch up with another before I could decide. In the end Who Are You? won, simply because I had watched all of it.

Who Are You? could easily have been one of my dropped dramas this year because I didn’t like the first episode. Go Ara’s acting was too shrill (I hated how verbally abusive she was towards her dad; the girl had no manners at all) and Yoon Kye Sang was this fastidious stick-in-the-mud who yelled too much. But such is Conspiracy In The Court’s hold on me I simply had to continue with Who Are You? just so I could watch Jin Yi Han (who was so awesome in Conspiracy).

I’m glad I stuck around because the drama quickly turned out to be a delightful surprise. Yoon Kye Sang’s dual role allowed him to stretch his acting and I loved watching his transformation from overbearing boss to overcompensating (ghost) dad. He was hysterical. Jin Yi Han was the villain you couldn’t help loving (no effort needed on my part at all, tee hee). The veteran actors were excellent, especially Park Ji Young as the girlfriend of the father. She needed neither words nor wailing to convey the depth of her grief; with just a glance she made my heart hurt with her. (Take notes, Go Ara.) Not an exceptional drama by any means, Who Are You? was nevertheless a ray of light in this gloomy year.

Fourth best drama of 2008, for now at least, is Painter Of The Wind. I say for now because I’ve only watched seven episodes. A trusted source told me, most grumpily, that the second half of the series stank to the heavens. Well, we’ll see when I get there. For now, what I’ve seen so far has been heavenly, and I’m awestruck by the drama’s gorgeous details and dumbstruck by its boldness. The gay sexual undercurrents overflowed in the last two episodes I watched and I was literally trembling at what was unfolding on screen. Can’t wait to get to episode 8 as soon as I finish writing this review!

Moon Geun Young is so convincing playing a lad who is really a lass let’s give her the Best Young Actress award, shall we? Park Shin Yang, on the other hand, is alternately underacting (I sometimes forget he’s even around) and overacting (ya right, show how pissed you are by blasting everyone at the top of your lungs and kicking everything within sight, eh?). And something tells me he’s not used to acting in a sageuk. Just observe his behavior in front of His Majesty, the very kingly Bae Soo Bin. *insert fangirly squeals* Our monarch, by the way, is a joy to behold, so compassionate, authoritative and handsome is he. Excellent, Your Majesty. May you act in many more sageuks to come.

And now we come to the last drama in this year-end recap. Strongest Chil Woo will make few people’s Best Dramas of 2008 list. The opening episode was a mess, with cannonballs and chickens flying all over the place and a schizophrenic music score that didn’t match anything that was happening on screen. Oh Man Seok (heart, be still!) must privately be relieved he only had a cameo in that first episode. Looking at his face (yes, my powers of scrutiny go into overdrive when he’s around), I thought he might burst out laughing any moment even though his scenes were of the tearful and bloody kind.

The whole setup of the drama was so wacky it actually became a thing of wonder. The fake horses, Chil Woo’s bad hair, incessant flashbacks, horrendous directing, etc. somehow ceased to matter; out of that entangled mess a story was actually emerging. There was order in that chaos after all! I found myself defending the drama when others were dissing it. I looked forward to each episode, mainly to watch Yoo Ah In’s Heuk San, and also because of the on- and off-screen camaraderie of the cast.

When Eon (who played Jaja) passed away so tragically, instead of avoiding the drama, I threw myself into it, determined to do my best for the subtitles. And when you labor over something with that sort of determination, inevitably you will come to love it. Strongest Chil Woo, you were the oddball of 2008, but you had guts and heart. Other dramas may have more impressive credentials than you, but they left me cold. You, on the other hand, surprised and entertained me. You are my fifth best drama of the year.

There. Nineteen dramas in all. The number surprises me actually, because so few left a deep impression on me I thought I had watched only a handful this year. Thank you, Sarah, for giving me the opportunity to rant and rave again. I can’t wait to read your year-end review, and Dahee’s and Sevenses’ as well. Would the three of you be just as grumpy? I can’t wait to find out! Happy 2009, my drama-loving friends.

 
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91 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. christina

    i’m SOOO glad you pointed out how overrated EoE is. you know a drama’s bad when you’re fast-forwarding through half the episodes. sooo dramatic, sooo repetitious, sooo damn annoying. the rape scene was extremely disturbing. the next sandglass? snort.

  2. Daria

    I watched Fight and I really liked it. Gonna hope, that some more people notice it.
    And it would be awesome to have more dramas about fighting in general.

    Nice list, I also dropped most of the dramas I started to watch this year.
    I hope for better stuff 2009 and I have to say, that I am REALLY excited for ‘the Return of Iljimae’, hehe.

  3. Emily

    Thanks for the recap. I think I will give “Fight” a chance but will skip the others.

    The dramas aired this year were really disappointing. I tried watching “Three Dads One Mom” and “Powerful Opponents” only to drop them less than halfway through. “Illjimae” was kinda blah and after these failed dramas, I had no energy to invest in another drama except for EoE. I had anticipated EoE for quite some time but I did not like the direction of the drama and have since quit watching.

    The only one I kinda liked was Hong Gil Dong but I still hated the melancholy feel of the latter half of the series. ::sigh::

  4. Liv

    I mostly agree with you – “mostly ” only because most of the dramas you rated I didn’t bother to watch so I have no opinion – but I agree that Who Are You? was pretty much the cream of the crop of ’08. Whereas 2007 marked my initial foray into kdramas (and subsequent downspiralling into addiction), 2008 was the year of the “meh” for me – Who Are You? is one of 2 dramas I actually completed this year. Here is to ’09…I anxiously anticipate Triple (swoon Mr Voice. Swoon) and I hesitantly (and somewhat skeptically) approach Boys Before Flowers.

  5. ajmystro

    Well i kinda disagree with u on some level….

    Granted, La Dolce Vita, Fight (a.k.a. Road Fighter), and The Painter of the Wind were one of the best dramas of 2008. But so was On Air. i get what u meant about the first episode being razz but as the drama progressed it became what it should be. Good…darn good. Lee Beom Soo and Kim Haneul show cased their performance to my expectations, expecially Kim Haneul.

    Even So Love was another brilliant drama, Tazza wasn’t bad (well becasue of the game itself), Worlds Within was fairly okay, in that it didn’t actually follow the usual norm for korean drama (what with Hyun Bin and Song Hye Gyo kissing in every scene…lol) it was, in a certain way, different. Oh i loved Love Marriage just for the fact that it was cute and it didn’t strike me as a drama looking for high ratings (though all dramas aim for high ratings…lol) but it was a breath of fresh air. Sweet Seoul to me was interesting because it had that indie vibe going on and plus there was Lee Seon Kyun (a.k.a. The Voice) to make it all better.

    I’ve yet to watch Lawyers of Korea and Iljimae

    I can’t really see Who Are You? as one of the best dramas of 2008 because it just wasn’t. Not only did they stretch the fact between reality and fantasy, the actors tanished it by over acting *sign* on second thought i blame the director. Yoon Kye Sang is a good actor but this wasn’t for him and as for Go Ara, she still has time to brush up on her acting.

    Happiness a.k.a. I Am Happy started out fine like you pointed out but the problem with these 50 plus episode drama is the fact that they could get boring…very fast. after getting to episode 20, i just scratched it and skipped right to the last episode. And guess what…it was still disappointing…in a way.

    Don’t even get me started on Strongest Chil Woo, Kingdom Of The Wind (though its still airing), Robber (Jang Hyuk ruined it for me), Hong Gil Dong (how it went from funny cutesy to tragedy, i’d neva know…it wasn’t even in a subtle way), Three Dads, One Mom (no comment…it was bad *pause* na definitely bad), Powerful Opponents (i just couldn’d bring myself to do it after episode two)

    As far as i’m concerned East of Eden could might as well be the worst of all for korean dramas this year (worse than Powerful Opponent and Three Dads, One Mum) even as it’s going into 2009. It has a great story line but they just had to go and complicate things by bringing in big names and unnecessary drama, alas! they had to make some cut backs.

    seriously most of the stars weren’t needed *cough* Daniel Oh *cough*. There were just too many people and when u have to many people (playing pivotal roles) in a drama filled with aghast, it’s suffocating…it’s too much becasue there wasn’t anybody bringing in any form of comic relief, no space to stretch the actors ability.

    Mind you, La Dolce Vita had more aghast than one person could ask for but it revolved around 4 characters, spacing out the performace. East of Eden had like over 10 characters sinking in aghast and what not.

    Now the leading lady Lee Da Hae has left, i mean really…what does that say for the drama. *sigh* At this point i just fill bad for MBC (So much money…swept away to nothingness).

    there were so many good, bad and weird dramas this year but i hope 2009 will be better…i really do.

  6. elise

    i totally agree with your reviews of i love you and who are you (these are two of the three dramas i watched this year)….. i also watched love and marriage and i think it is ok maybe because i didn’t set such high expectations when i began watching it. i had a lot of laughs watching it!

    hope 2009 will be better for us drama fanatics!

  7. more

    La Dolce Vita is the best drama also the longest i have seen this year very underrated. i loved everything about it the writing acting which is way the acting is more believable then east of eden or goong. I hope to find a drama this good in 2009 because of your excellent review and our similar taste i might try watching shin dong.

  8. Dahee Fanel

    THUNDIE! :D Awesome, awesome write-up. I’m swooning over the sheer deliciousness (and grumpiness, lol) of it all. Love it! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to reread it. :P

  9. flooooo

    This year was strangely not my korean dramas year. I dropped a lot of dramas, started to watch two or three episodes and then felt bored …but i came back in the same time to japanese dramas and japanese anime which I let down in 2007 …
    I must give dramabeans blog my first place for contributing on nice review and Javabeans you are a great journalist for giving such a nice news and articles translation…You should try a job in writing or journalism!
    anyway your blog is where i start my day…THANX and happy new year

  10. 10 avonmarissa

    off-topic: I am watching the sageuk Shindon, and as much as I enjoy the drama, it’s not an easy one to watch. The writer did a really good job with that drama. I am left confused after almost every episode as I try to understand the characters especially Pyeonjo(Shindon).

  11. 11 Dahee Fanel

    Posting again to say: OMG Jin Yi Han sang “This Is The Moment”??? (Yes, I did just notice.) *swoons* You do know that Oh Man Seok sang that at the 2007 SBS Drama Awards, right? Man, I love musical actors…

  12. 12 selva

    ehem lol I’m kinda ashamed to be one of the 1st people to comment on your raving (cause yeah I’m superficial girl who didn’t even watch half the number of the dramas you mentioned here!!) but I’ll do it anyway and then run and hide :P

    hehe lol thundie I was waiting (anxiously waiting) to read your review fearing you would place KOTW in your firewood list (love the name BTW), but thanks god it was only in your so-so list :P
    I’m still trying to get my jaw back in place after hearing about Ms YeonWood’s nomination for the best actress award :x she ruins the scenes for me , seriously. I’ll ALWAYS hate this prince(ss) and will never ever bother to watch any of her other dramas!!
    I will say that I’m half disappointed by it, cause the drama had so much potentials in the beginning, but then the writers kinda ruined it. But I’m still watching and enjoying it.
    with that said, I have to give my hubbies in KOTW some LOVE kekeke
    SIG (I’m insanely in love with his character as Muhyul *sigh*) and JJY (whenever I think about how a king should look like, I’ll always remember our most beloved and kind Yuri Taewang!) .

    and Hurray, Road Fight managed to get in your top list. Love this drama *blushing* and the OST rocks… Also seeing how they were before and after they start training for their roles (in the special) was amazing… their transformation was marvellous…

    I enjoy watching East Of Eden only when I skip like 5 or 6 episodes then pick it up again… that drama could have worked if it only was 20 or max. 30 episodes (and not 50 episodes with loads of people stories).

    Beethoven Virus grrrrrr timed one episode, tried to do others but I just couldn’t!!! Sorry for the fans, Lee Ji Ah was getting on my nerve. But I have to say that KMM’s Kangmae will be a character I’ll always remember, cause he reminds me ALOT of the grumpy Doctor Gregory House *drooling all over the floor* I absolutely adored Huge Laurie as Dr. House mwah.

    I should really watch POTW whenever I have the chance, cause wherever I go I hear nothing but good reviews :D

    love your list and I always enjoy reading your reviews dear :D

  13. 13 Asiacollision

    Thanks for all those reviews! They’re highly helpful. I didn’t even bother with EofE because I heard crap about it early on from trusted sources, and most of these others I haven’t seen either as I’m still catching up on older dramas, so it’s nice to have some guidance for the future(crossing OFF dramas to be seen in the future is almost as fun if not more as adding them:).

    I’m curious though – do you have a blog of your own? And if so, where is it?

  14. 14 javabeans

    Thundie! D’you know you just wrote nearly 5,000 words? (But don’t worry, so did I, lol.) D’you know that’s, like, almost 10% of a novel?? And when you add up all the words in your, Dahee’s, Sevenses’, and my year-end reviews, we’ve got nearly 20,000?

    WHERE IS OUR BOOK DEAL, UNIVERSE? ;)

    But back to seriousness, thanks for your awesome review(s)! We’ve got some very very different ideas about a few of those dramas, but that’s the whole fun of it, no?

  15. 15 Angela

    Those were great reviews! This year was kind of “blah” for me too, and I had trouble really getting into any dramas, unlike in 2007. (I finished Hong Gil Dong, but I really can’t blame you for stopping. I hated the way it turned all melodrama and angst in the end. And the toilet humor was really gross).

    Here’s hoping for a terrific 2009! ^_^

  16. 16 ripgal

    WOOHH.. long review… 19 dramas..

    I’ve seen most of the dramas you have mentioned except for Fight and Happiness. Some I dropped mid-way, some half-way… and some, I just couldn’t find the time to finish..

    I’ll try to finish La Dolce Vita some day I think… I still have it sitting untouched in my HD. All I have heard about the drama have been good and positive.. just didn’t have the mood to delve myself into the melo/depressing mood.

    Out of all the dramas you have mentioned, I loved On Air, Robbers, Painter of the Wind, Gourmet and Iljimae. ^^

    I even loved Lawyers of Great Republic of Korea, which you did not mention/or watch.. lighthearted and funny.. sometimes OTT, but still endearing to watch ^^

  17. 17 puela

    I HAVE TO AGREE WITH FIGHT!!! If you havent given it a chance do. It was just a delight from beginning to end, and Baek Do Bin (Choi Dae Ri) add me to his fanclub. Ahhh why are good cable dramas so short?? I miss my “MR. KANG…” ^^v

  18. 18 Pammy

    I guess you do know what you are talking about – since I’m new to your site, I wasn’t sure if you were another trashy blog.

    Cause of all the drams you covered, I’ve watched Who Are You. It’s easily the most stupid and low-budgeted film that I would love to kick aside if not for Go Ara whom I adore. However, I was beyond surprised by the lead actor’s acting abilities. That guy was by far the best Korean actor I’ve seen. (I have not seen a lot and I couldn’t care to because all I’ve seen were shallow acting.) He was so amazing with his role switching and it was so believable. Yoon Kye Sang is his name?

    Someone said he overacted. I think otherwise.

    However, sorry to say I fall into the pop culture. EOE is on top of my list now despite its hiccups and occasional unnecessary drama. It has so much life lessons and moral values embedded in it. Plus, I love blings. I can see how expensive the production is. I enjoy it immensely. Good props, good sets, everything. Only the the draggy storyline annoys me. Wait till it finishes.

  19. 19 raahmose

    Thank you for the review. I always enjoy listening (or reading in this case) to other’s thoughts about kdramas. I have a few of my own to share as well.
    I started watching kdramas in summer of 2006. Fairly quickly, I learned to ignore logic and rationality prior to clicking on an episode. I have seen a significant numbers of kdramas through some legal and not so legal websites. I classify myself as an addict and not a fan on the basis of following distinction: a fan goes out and buys legal dvd’s to view dramas if live broadcast is not an option; whereas, an addict will adopt legal or illegal avenues to satisfy his “needs”.
    My choice for dramas is never influenced by ratings, press coverage or the amount of eye candy included. I neither seek nor wish for this info and often ignore it incase of accidental discovery. Beethoven Virus was not on my list of must see dramas. I have seen Nodame Cantabile and was not impressed and did not wish to see anything inspired by it. However, the forums were filled with praise of Kang Mae and the orchestra of beehthoven virus. My decision for intially refusing to watch and then watching it later was very much influenced by the ratings, press coverage and “baby hottie” JGS. Yes, I’m aware of my self contradictory behaviour.
    In my opinion, beethoven virus is one of the finest kdramas i have ever seen. The portrayl of Kang Mae by KMM alone is reason enough to watch. I was in awe of his relentless commitment to the role. The supporting cast was very much intuned with their roles and a nearly perfect ensamble or dare I say orchestra was created. It was a KMM show but the significance of his instruments was not lost on the audience. Sure the story dragged on a bit at times. Sure not every performance was hair raising. But is there any drama free from these accusations? Overall, the drama is worth watching at least once. Needless to say, I have watched it numerous times. The music alone keeps me interested.
    Thanks

  20. 20 mel

    Fights good? it’s short. doesn’t hurt to give it a try. I hardly watched any of the dramas on the list cuz most of them didn’t appeal to me (well not may kdramas appealed to me this year)
    Beethoven Virus and On Air – they do seem forced. I was rolling my eyes with their next “conflict” and diva personalities… The instrument playing in BV didn’t seem real… compared to the Japanese drama, “Nodame cantabile” and the conductor’s attitude seems unreal.

  21. 21 ilovekangmae

    Oh yes, the very kingly Bae Soo Bin in Painter of the Wind is one hottie, as I’ve said in my earlier post. So very adorable!

    I also agree with your observation about Yeon’s (Choi Jung Won) acting. She has one facial expression throughout the entire drama. But Song Il Gok is awesome here as well as Jung Jin Young!

    @ Selva: I also had the same thought: Kang Mae reminds me a lot of Dr. Gregory House. LOL. Still, Beethoven Virus is one great drama for me because of Kang Mae, and of course because of Kim Myung Min.

    @ raahmose: Yes, I too, am in awe of KMM’s relentless commitment in his portrayal of Kang Mae. The intensity, the intelligence and passion was really overwhelming. I guess, that’s the reason why he is one great actor!

  22. 22 quantumvis

    Thanks for the recaps!!!! and javabeans, for the wonderful site!!

    There was so much I disliked this year too! It almost feels like Korean drama has been cursed ever since I started watching ^-^.

    I think On Air was definitely bad, but I ended up finishing it. It’s like watching all these people glaring at each other in a fantasy world that doesn’t exist. Escapism of sorts, I guess. And because I download all my dramas (horrors, low-definition streaming), I began to pick and choose very carefully. Which prevented me from trying out new series more.

    I agree with most of your reviews–I dropped I Love You, Happiness, Beethoven Virus for the same reasons. In the future, I suppose I should wait until subs are finished before beginning to watch, because in between waits (really not complaining, fansubbers!) Gourmet, and Happiness began to really lag. I suppose I really should try Fight and La Dolce Vita. Blood is so icky.

    Sorry, those who loved it. I despised Lawyers of Korea. I suppose I was expecting more of a real legal battle, instead of random unrelated occurrences.

    On that subject, how was Scales of Providence? I’ve heard that the ending is bad, so I’ve been waiting to try it.

    Onward, 2009! Hopefully a better year!

  23. 23 Cindy Li

    OK. I don’t understand all the praise for La Dolce Vita. I heard so many great things and I love me some Lee Dong Wook so I gave it a try. About 7 episodes in, i totally gave up. It was too serious and everything dragged and I couldn’t stand the complicated switched identy plot, not to mention the horrid annoying whines of that other chick, former Miss Korea or whatever. There was just much too much going on in the plot (which is partly why I can’t deal with East of Eden either). I gave it another go a month later and gave up at the end of episode 8 again. And the thing is generally I really like serious dramas, dark dramas. One of my favourite all time K-drama is Mawang, but I think the pacing in that is absolutely brilliant and the acting riveting. With La Dolce Vita, I couldn’t stand most of the characters. After I gave up on this drama, I pretty much haven’t watched or had the urge to watch a single K-drama since. Not sure if that’s significant but man, that drama really was physically exhausting to watch and totally burned me out. Anyway, I’m inclined to give it another go. Partly because I’m stubborn and dislike giving up on dramas half-way through, partly because I’m a sucker for punishment. Please give me some words of assurance!

  24. 24 c_gunawan541

    I agree with you to a certain extend. 2008 was definitely a VERY bad drama year for me. None of those dramas that i watched left an impression on me. I watched and ditched many dramas halfway… Such as On air…. i can’t stand it, it just doesn’t make a good impression on me despite how much i like Kim Ha Neul and Park Yong Ha. And i already watched that drama till epi 9, almost halfway through or maybe it’s more than half of it? I hated Song Yoon Ah’s character. I was skimming through every episode of this drama…. i’m grumpy and i lost patience.

    Maybe i should really go back and try watching Who are you since the first episode made me roll my eyes… But lots of people recommended this drama as they say it gets better along the way. Hopefully so.

    And sad to say, those kind of fighting, sageuk dramas are just not my type. I’m bias towards them even though it may be a good drama. I just can’t feel them when it’s a sageuk drama. Sageuk drama means NONONO… and sadly this year, there’s a lot more sageuk dramas than last year which means nightmare to me. UGH, i just can’t stand the sight of the actors wearing sageuk costumes. Because i accompanied my mom watch sageuk dramas too much and it actually makes me feel ill.

    Even though i love sung yuri, hong gil dong still made me ditch it on episode 11. It was good at first even though i hate sageuk, i love the humor and fusion, sung yuri although her acting is not as good as other casts in HGD but i’m superficial. But then it became the tragedy. Hate Jang Geun suk’s hairstyle and his forced facial expression to make him look like the villain even though he’s a cutie. I kept rolling my eyes starting from episode 6…… i strained myself towards 11 and i decided to stop watching.

    Iljimae….. i only like Han Hyojoo in the cast, i didn’t like Leejunki….. i never like him in his previous dramas as well and plus it’s a sageuk drama, i didn’t bother to watch it even though i read the summary and i thought “HGD clone?”

    As well as Strongest Chil Woo… i didn’t know that hero sageuk characters became such a fad in 2008. I like the casts, GHS, Eric<33, Lee Eon but i’m still hesistant to watch it because again…… it’s sageuk.

    I was attracted to painter of the wind because of the chemistry i saw between MGY and MCW….. the homo-feel, it’s unique but i’m still hesistant because it’s sageuk.

    Again, another sageuk drama…… i just hate the sageuk feel. Sorry, i’m picky and grumpy.

    Robbers, i tried watching but i dropped it after a few episodes.

    La Dolce Vita, i watched it, i was depressed by the first episode and i thought it was too heavy for me. I wasn’t in the mood of watching something that’s slow in pacing and about betrayal but i’m pretty sure i love the directing and the scripting.
    Gotta go back and try this again.

    3 dads 1 mom was just decent for me, i felt that the comedy was pretty fake but it made me laugh. It wasn’t impressive to be a good drama for me but it was entertaining and good enough to kill time. At least it’s not an angsty/heavy drama for me.

    Gourmet, Worlds within and beethoven virus don’t interest me because they’re theme dramas that’s too bland for me even though i love some of the casts such as Nam Sangmi, Lee jiah, Hyunbin…

    I have more favor towards female actress this year because the few actors that i love aren’t having any dramas recently, they love big screen, sigh……

    The only one that i entirely enjoyed this year is lawyers of korea….. but i’m pretty sure some of you wouldn’t agree with me that this is the only enjoyable drama. It was unexpected because i didn’t have any expectation when i watched that drama. But i’m planning to re-watch a few of the dramas mentioned again… maybe i will have a better feeling towards this year’s dramas.

    I’m grumpy towards Sageuk dramas.. i wish there’s less sageuk next year..

  25. 25 May

    Wow…impressive review which is making me rethink some of my viewing choices. I’ve been meaning to watch Last Scandal of My Life but the sadness I feel about Choi Jin Shil’s suicide is making it difficult to start. And your description of Fight has me intrigued.

    It seems that I am not the only one who believes this was a bad year overall for dramas. For the first time, I have dropped more dramas than I actually finished. And I have been very disappointed in some I was looking forward to watching, specifically East of Eden. I stuck with On Air in spite of the shrillness because of a sudden, inexplicable attraction to Park Yong Ha (hangs head in shame). I honestly don’t know what came over me.

    Looking forward to a better 2009.

  26. 26 Rubysing

    I particularly enjoyed “Women of the Sun” and “Love Marriage” and wonder why these were not up for mention (so far)?

  27. 27 anastassia

    Dear Thundie, I always has the same preference with you. It just always do. I’m eager to read your reviews since the you got the same all time favorite drama. MISA.

    Back to this year dramas. I’m soooooo agree with you. Why on earth that I’m a no person in the dramas knowledge wise will feel the exact feelings while reading all of bad-average review or sneak a two episodes and then drop it off. I just can’t easily satisfies with a drama. Sometimes I called myself a little over critical or too choosey while it may be not sooo needed when watching a mere entertainment stuff. But I long more that just a fun or entertainment watching. So I’m always stucked in the middle can’t finish or just have a 1-3 favorite Korean drama of all time. Or I always has the different favorite or unrated dramas as my favorite.

    It just if I had watched one or two episode then it it didnt give THE FEELINGS of awestruck then I will grumpily raving and ranting and stopped. Such a waste of time, I told myself.

    I have to agreed with almost all of your reviews. It just speak up my mind but potrayed in a really great analysis of course. I just can’t watch Bettovhen Virus, EOE, WW, so on and so forth reading several different reviews and most importantly after get all my energy and yearning to try watch it THEN didnt get a feeling that I yearn for, I stopped.

    First dramas that I have read and has the review that I yearn for is:-

    -LA DOLCE VILTA. Even I didnt watch it yet. But my preference and first intict proved again by reading your review.

    -Then, the drama that I REALLY HAS WATCHED I LOVE FROM ALL OF MY HEART and will be PANITER OF THE WIND!! Only I didnt watched it over yet for waiting for subbing that time. But heck ya. While almost give up that no drama can get my feelings all mesmerized in it, POTW did! It has all of you want in a drama.

    -Now, the drama that I just ignored, smirk and didn’t even bothered to really read or taking into account what is the story or plot is all about despite I found a lot of hassle talking about it and trying to ignore because thinking it just a mere popular drama is A VERY GREAT DRAMA. Which is WHO ARE YOU. Just great.

    After didn’t finish several dramas, cant gey conteded with LOTS OF dramas these two is my favorite this year maybe all time.

    POTW is masterpiece of course. I wll try your second though later.

    Thanks for the reviews and I always enjoying & loving reading yours insights.

  28. 28 ajmystro

    @ Rubysing: you’re totally right. how did anyone miss Woman of the Sun?
    it was the best drama of the year second to La Dolce Vita.

  29. 29 Shaenna

    (Oh, for Pete’s sake, stop skirting the issue. It’s rape, rape!) Hahaha…

    You literally read my mind with those dramas. Crazy.

    Can’t wait for the other reviews!

  30. 30 purple teddy bear

    Thanks for the review. As always, it’s a great read. However, like you, I dropped so many Korean dramas this year. I just felt like they all lack the sensitivity and truthfulness that makes a drama “believable” to watch. I just could not relate in almost all of them. That’s probably why I continue to watch EOE despite the spinning confusion of the plot. At least it makes me alive, if this even makes sense (maybe I just desparately needed something different in the typical Kdrama plots). I turned to Japanese dramas this year, by a strong recommendation of a friend who lives in Japan. I’m a little relieved that some of those I tried I was satisfied. I needed dramas to keep me from going nuts with the seriousness of work and school and the pressure and stress that goes with it. Here’s hoping that 2009 would be a better year for Kdramas.

  31. 31 Jo

    One other drama i will hold dear in my heart, despite the main actress’s overacting is Lawyers of Korean. I loved the character Han Min Gook, he was so idk how to describe his character. but he made me swoon.

  32. 32 thunderbolt

    *emerges from hiding* I know I’m dead meat for grumbling about your favorite dramas, but thank you for all the comments!

    #1 christina, Sandglass’s awesome, isn’t it?

    #2 Daria, I hope more people will notice Fight too. BTW, did you watch the Fight Special? It’s wonderful and Baek Do Bin’s even more dishy there without the frizzy perm.

    #3 Emily, oh, definitely give Fight a chance. And in case people are thinking it’s a drama for guys, nah, not true. I can vouch for that. ^^

    #4 Liv, while awaiting the 2009 dramas, you might want to check out The Voice’s White Tower and Taereung National Village. Gems, both of those, and great for swooners, LOL.

    #5 ajmystro, thanks for sharing your take on the dramas you watched. I might give On Air another look since the English-subbed DVD’s out. I just need to forget my extremely strong aversion to the first episode!

    #6 elise, I watched bits of Love and Marriage ep 1 and thought it was okay. (I didn’t like the male lead, though. I know, I’m weird!) I liked Kim Min Hee in Goodbye Solo and may continue L&M one of these days.

    #7 more, oh yes, watch Shin Don!! ^^ It’s Korean Shakespeare and so delicious and decadent. Every episode makes me laugh and cry, it’s so good. English subs released up to ep 38, so do check it out.

    #8 Dahee, haha, just be truthful and say you keeled over from the review’s sheer length! Can’t wait to read your write-up tomorrow. I’m guessing your No. 1 would be LDV too? ^^

    #9 flooooo, I agree with you. This blog is tops and javabeans’ writing is beyond awesome. She should do this for a living!

    #10 avonmarissa, yes, Pyeonjo’s character in Shin Don is pretty complex and that’s what makes the drama so fascinating, among many things. Is he a Buddha or a devil? I’m still waiting to find out. I love the layers in the characterization. Even the minor characters aren’t one-dimensional.

  33. 33 Ishida

    Thunderbolt I take a bow in front of you, your review of La Dolce Vita is just AMAZING! It’s like when I read the review of this drama by misterX on Twitch. I’m totally agree with every single world.
    And I wish you a very good time for the rest of Painter in the Wind, for sure you will not be disappointed.

  34. 34 thunderbolt

    #11 Dahee, tell me about musical actors. *swoons* You do know that Ha Jung Woo is theater-trained, right? Tee hee.

    #12 selva, haha, no worries. X and I may grumble endlessly about KOTW, but our digs are mostly good-natured (except where Yeonwood a.k.a. Her Blankness is concerned; then it’s outright venom, grr!). I agree that SIG is rocking the drama; he’s a joy to watch.

    #13 Asiacollision (intriguing name!), I’m also catching up on older dramas and my absolute favorites this year have all been pre-2008 dramas. I have a blog but am quite tardy about updating it. It’s parked in a forum that I run. (click on my name to take you to the site.)

    #14 javabeans, howdy! Is it 5,000 words? Good lordy. *crawls under table* And it was longer too, until I realized belatedly (and most sheepishly) that Yi San and In Soon Is Pretty are 2007 dramas. Can’t wait to read your review. *salivates*

    #15 Angela, thank you. I hope 2009 will be terrific too.

  35. 35 Mindy

    I have to agree with your ratings for some of the dramas but disagree with some others…
    So far EOE has kept me interested; it’s fast-paced and just exciting to watch cuz there’s just so much drama!
    I’ll say the worse drama of the year was Love Marriage and Who Are You. They were quite boring to watch and I also didn’t like Go Ara’s character—rude and lacked skills in portraying her emotions.

  36. 36 Mindy

    Ah forgot to add…the absolute worse drama was actually Lawyers of Korea. I dropped that like a hot potato! Man that was so bad that i even erased it out of my mind that i forgot to mention it.

  37. 37 pinklover27

    I have to agree that this year has been pretty disappointing in terms of the quality of dramas we have. I have dropped more dramas than ever. I usually get hooked just watching 1 or 2 episodes, buut this year it was so hard for me to finish a drama. I just hope that 2009 will be a good year for us kdrama addicts!

    Thanks for the review dramabeans. It is always a good read. What you said about La Dolce got me intrigued so I’ll start watching it. Some of my friends have been raving about it ,but I have been quite reluctant because with the craziness of school, last thing I wanna watch is a depressing drama. Since it is the holidays, I’ll give it a try.

    I have to agree that EoE is such an overrated drama! I ditched the drama after 12 episodes, unfortunately even SSH’s good looks was not enough for me. It such a shame that EoE was not able to utilize such a star studded cast properly.

  38. 38 coollady

    i haven’t watched half the dramas you have, but i just needed to comment because you are the only person I’ve read about who has the same liking for Uhm Ki Joong’s chracter Song Kyuho as I do. Honestly, he WAS the best thing in Worlds Within. His character was suave, smart, clever, sly, realistic, cynical, and sarcastic…all characteristics that I love to watch esp. in a k-drama. His character was complex but in an intriguing and engaging way, where you couldn’t (well, i couldn’t) stop watching him. he was the perfect character and he was so freakin’ handsome too. loved Song Kyuho. best awesomest PD ever (fiction PD, that is). just wanted to agree with you is all. as for the drama, it was okay. kinda on the dull side cause i couldn’t find any interest in the main two leads.

  39. 39 amy

    I think you and I have somewhat similar taste in drama (VERY PICKY ;-) ) so I’m definitely coming back here to choose which drama to watch. I was sort of interested in La Dolce Vita and I actually watched a couple of episodes but then decided to drop it because I couldn’t stand Jung Bo Seok’s acting.. (I guess I just don’t like that actor) I so wish someone else I liked played that part.. then I would’ve definitely watched it.

    Another dramas I tried but didn’t finish are Hong Gil Dong and (I actually found it enjoyable and wanted to wait until it ended so I could watch them in a row but then during the wait I got lazy and didn’t find any motivation to watch the whole series.. part of the reason was that I don’t really care for Jang Geun Seok, speaking of whom, prevented me from continuing to watch) Beethoven Virus.

    I think I finished less than 10 dramas this year.. let’s see.. On Air, My sweet Seoul, Love Marriage, Who are you, Iljimae, the world they live in and the last scandal of my life. My number one was Who are you, which turned me into a YKS fan girl, and number two was Love Marriage which I started from 3rd episode but made me all giggly and happy while watching it throughout the whole series. #3 would be On Air which I liked but was mad at the ending only because the chemistry between Lee Beom-soo and Kim Ha-neul which I liked was totally ruined–the writer liked the writer character just too much! My sweet seoul–okay but sort of boring / Iljimae–entertaining but I was many times appalled by the nonsense story lines and felt sympathy towards all of the wonderful actors (both lead and supporting actors) go into waste by that stupid script.. I mean, that drama had so much potential with the wonderful cast of actors (and the script writer dared to rant that actors didn’t appreciate her effort) / the last scandal of my life & the world they live in –just okay.

    I normally don’t watch anything too masculine but I think I might watch Fight based on your review… was Baek Do Bin that good? I liked him in two movies I watched.. I hear he’s the veteran actor Baek Yoon-sik’s son.

    Overall, Year 2008 was really a blah in that there wasn’t any drama that I either really anticipated or was extremely excited to watch. In 2007 there was the Devil and coffee prince and whatnot but 2008.. none like that. I think 2009 will be whole lot better though, starting with the one with the F-4 in it (can’t come up with the title now) and Triple. Star’s lover is so far so good.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your review even though I didn’t watch majority of the dramas reviewed. The picture of Song Seung-heon is hillarious.. His facial expressions are for some reason so exaggerated that I cannot possibly take him seriously.. which is sad because he’s such a good looking guy.

  40. 40 Javafiend

    Thunderbolt,
    2008 Kdramas aside, did you bake the cookie and if so, how many tries to get that particular pinched grimace??? lol ;-) Just perfect.

  41. 41 thunderbolt

    #16 ripgal, hi! I didn’t watch Lawyers of Korea, oops. For some reason it just wasn’t on my radar. So many dramas, so little time! One 2008 drama I really wanted to watch was Scales of Providence. Saw a bit of the first episode and it gave off strong Resurrection vibes, and I really love Resurrection. Will wait for SOP to be fully subbed.

    #17 puela, welcome to the Baek Do Bin fanclub, LOL! For starters we need a thread for him in soompi, don’t you think? ^^ *nudges puela*

    #18 Pammy, yes, Yoon Kye Sang really delivered in Who Are You? although I think Jin Yi Han was just as impressive. I’ve nothing against expensive productions like EOE, but tend to have a soft spot for those that aren’t too showy.

    #19 raahmose, thanks for that rigorous defense of Beethoven Virus! As a Kim Myung Min fan, I’m happy that there are many who love the drama and love him in it. That’s also why I’m doggedly continuing with BV. I hope to eventually have some good things to say about it.

    #20 mel, Fight’s very good! ^^

  42. 42 Jac

    I haven’t watched more than half the dramas you mentioned here , but those that I did, our views on it are similar. Much more than the talk about the dramas, I really want to say, how much I enjoyed your writing.

    To the point, laced with harmless sarcasm but not smug-ly cruel and you managed to summarize without obvious spoilers. And you are actually talking about dramas that not many people are talking about – full marks there.

    If you run a drama blog, please do leave an URL, I would love to read more of your writing. I will be back to re-read this. Thanks again for the entertaining writing.

  43. 43 ChristaLuvsDrama

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that this years drama selection was extremely lacking. I found myself reading fanfics or watching reruns, because I just couldn’t get into most of these so-called good series. I only wanted to watch EOE for SSH, I can totally admit. EOE was boring me out and I couldn’t help but not to fast-forward and then utimately stop watching it. Along with Kingdom of the Winds, I’m so happy someone thinks the same about her. When I first saw her, I felt she just didn’t fit, such a dull expressionless face. I was just looking forward to his family reunion haha and wondering where it would take off from there.

  44. 44 Sparrow

    Thunderbolt your year’s summary hit the proverbial nail. This was a very disappointing year indeed. I have finished only 4 dramas this year: Love & Marriage, Last Sacandal, Happiness and I Love You.
    Not because they were stellar, but all 4 were refreshing enough and cute.

    Most of the other dramas made me cringe,
    Dramas I highly aticipated like: Worlds Within and My Sweet Seoul, three Dads and One Mom, fell flat after the adrenalin rush of the first episode wore off. They all started with a bang but failed to follow through with other great ideas: characters became one dimentional and grating, plot seemed to repeat it self over and over again.

    Some dramas I haven’t even bothered trying, like EOE which held no appeal for me despite being star studded (SSH is a complete turn off for me, being “Hot” is not enough in my book, and I can see here I’m not the only one to find him lacking).

    Thanks to youI will check out Fight (that cable TV thing put me off). Though I still have a hard time with Seaguk, because I have too little knowledge of Korea’s history.

    Hopefully next year will be better. Currently I am curious about several weekend dramas, which unfortunatly are not subbed like My Precious Children and My Father’s Honor (the later already has me hooked). Plus I hope Star Lover and F4 will deliver the goods:-)

  45. 45 erwinia

    “Ouch!” is all I can say. Your reviews are brutally blunt.

  46. 46 shirley

    lol thunderbolt , i think we are at the same pace with Beethoven Virus , one or two esp per month , i wonder how long will it take me to finish but for Kim Myung Min ‘s sake i will try. i think i am more upset with PD Lee for this disappointing effort when i expect it to be so much more . Anyway the only good thing that came out of BV is maybe that more know about Kim Myung Min ^~

    i didnt really get to finish La Dolce Vita –; . not because it was bad but i think i wasnt in the mood for that drama at that point of time but from the esp i saw the acting is really good.. .

    Painter of the Wind should be one of my most watchable drama .for 2008 apart from the fact i think a few brushes went missing from the later half of the drama that it doesnt shine and draw as beautifully as the first half but i really love Moon Geun Young..she is such a shinning gem ~

    Lawyer of Dae Han Min Gok wasnt really too bad . i wont call it a great drama but i do find it entertaining enough ~ Lee Jung Jae .is just so effective and addictive kek i think i go for the ahjushi more in this year

    Love and Marriage was quite a sweet drama ..nothing too taxing but neverthelesss romance was soo in the air ..i melted somehow ~^

    My Sweet Seoul was a pretty honest and sincere drama ..i know i think i also didnt really like the twist at the last few esp ..but still from the drama of 2008 , it is still recommendable .

    EOE . i never give it another look after i watch the first esp ~ which i think i saved myself from quite a mess it seem .

    oh ya My Mom got Horns .i think i got rather mad during the proces but it was more from debate with the whole premise presented in the drama then anything ..after it ended and i saw what follows up the Precious You bored me to sleep –;; ..i really do think ..gosh My Mon got horns was infact quite a memorable family drama for 2008 .

    and yesss i totallly concur with the World Within ..Eom Gi Joon as PD Son was totoally yummy!! .. i was guilty of skimming through esp for his scenes !!

    anyway . now i am addicted to My Family Honour .~~ .

  47. 47 shirley

    oh i think Spotlight is part of 2008 isnt it , i thought it was a pretty good effort despite the whole issue with the change in scriptwriter . the pairing of Son Yejin and Ji Jin Hee was pretty good . at least i thought the production stick to what it want to deliver and didnt yield too much to pressure for scream of “we want romance “..~~! it was a nice step for the kdrama production to take to in the genre of occupational drama .. i simply cant take the way On Air was done –; .

  48. 48 ron

    Thanks for the reviews!!! It would be helpful…

    For Beethoven Virus, currently I am watching it but why is it take so long as at Episode 19??? 16 would be better. The much interested character in that drama is Kang Mae thanks to Kim Myung Min. He portrays it excellently.

    Hong Gil Dong- unpredictable. Funny but later on, it turns to melodrama as the ending comes.

  49. 49 Free

    Hi Thunderbolt,

    “These are orchestra players? Sure, and I’m a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.”
    ha, ha, ha, I couldn’t stop laughing.

    Please do continue with Painter of the Wind, it’s really good. MGY is awesome!

    For Powerful Opponents, I watched it on TV and skipped the first few episodes, which after reading your review feel that I didn’t miss much. I guess the fact that I skipped the first few episodes helped me to complete the drama without seeing the “silly” plots.

    Enjoy your review a lot &
    Happy New Year !

  50. 50 deannadsc

    La Dolce Vita…your choice for best drama is excellent!!! in fact i’ve already watched it 5 times!!! who are you, turned me into a Yoon Kye Sang fan overnight, so i recently researched & watched his previous dramas. although hong gil dong may seem silly to most, i loooove Kang Ji Hwan, so i watched it twice!!! love marriage, was like a breath of fresh air, so light & Kim Ji Hoon looked sooo handsome here!!! i sooo loved the world we live in too, though others may not agree with me on this…last scandal was hilarious, watched it thrice!!!
    thank you dramabeans for all your recaps, reviews & articles…they’ve greatly influenced my KDrama choices!!!
    happy new year!!!

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