Drama Reactions & Reviews
A Newbie Reviews 2009 [Year In Review, Part 3]
by | December 29, 2009 | 155 Comments

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My pick for Drama of the Year: City Hall.

I’ll start of with an admission.  When javabeans asked me to give my thoughts on 2009, I was pretty excited, and agreed without much thought.  After all, 2009 was the best year of k-drama watching I’ve ever had.  But then it hit me: 2009 was also the only year of k-drama watching I’ve ever had. lol. And so, even given the number of dramas as I have seen this year (probably topping 50) I feel a bit out of my league.  How can I be critique-ing with any legitimacy?  

Nevertheless, I do think a newbie’s perspective on dramas is not necessarily a bad thing - since everything is new to me, it is tougher for me to be jaded.  Like when I saw Save The Last Dance For Me (my third k-drama ever!), I spent days afterwords thinking about what it would be like to have amnesia and then a second round of amnesia where I would forget what I had promised to remember while being forgetful the first time time around…

So while I can’t do an expert review, since I’m not an expert, I can give a newbie opinion on what worked for me, and what didn’t.  First though, a little background on me so that you know where I am coming from.  Sample of pre-2009 dramas that I liked:  My Love Patzzi, Who Are You, Full House, Save The Last Dance For Me, Two Outs In The Bottom of the Ninth, and Super Rookie.  These dramas tend to mix cuteness and heart together in a way that Western television shows still haven’t figured out how to do consistently.  I think it has something to do with the soundtrack songs that act as demi leit motifs and burrow the sentiment of the drama into your heart and mind. I mean would Full House have been as good, without “I Think I” by Byul? Or how good would Save The Last Dance For Me have been, without Edward Chun’s breath-y lyrics?

And taking it up a notch, here is a sample of pre-2009 dramas I loved:  Goong, Coffee Prince, Bad Family, Dal Ja’s Spring, Hong Gil Dong and My Girl.  Even more than the first group, these latter dramas did more than just create a nice balance of cuteness and heart; these dramas created a love story so palpable and real that, if you wanted to, you would need both hands to reach out and hold onto one.  And lastly, my first and still favorite drama of all is My Name is Kim Sam Soon, which combined everything – the cuteness, heart, love story, wonderful acting and a kickass OST.

Enough with the old, however. In no particular order, here are my thoughts on 2009 (oh, btw, hit “play” for the mp3 so you get the full technicolor and sound effects of this review. if the song ends, and you’re not done reading, then just scroll back up and hit play again. hehehe!):

SONG OF THE DAY

City Hall OST – “웃어봐” (Laugh) by Chae Dong-ha [ Download ]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

What worked for me in 2009

Tamra the Island.

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Cute and fun, this drama reminds me of what happens when you go on an island cruise vacation, going to visit places you’ve never been before.  And that first night, rather than just staying in your room, you get up the courage to just start exploring a new world.  You may not like it that much at first because it’s not quite what you expect, and you may not “get it” on the first go around, but by the time your time on vacation is at and end, you might wish you just had a few more days to spend.  An extended stay on Tamra the Island pretty much ensures a return visit. Seo Woo is a standout here, although she might have whimpered “Willlliaaaaam…” maybe once too many times for my taste.

Dramabeans readers being an odd bunch, having created not one but two fan groups to support this drama: Team Park Kyu and the Tamra Islanders. While I am not a card-carrying member of either group, I do think this is worth watching in its entirety, and not just the condensed version. Having seen Im Joo Hwan in a few of his previous roles (Snow Queen, Millionaire’s First Love), seeing him in an entirely different persona of Park Kyu was quite neat.

City Hall.

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Yes, the acting was not uniform.  And yes, I agree, the editing and writing were a bit choppy at times.  And for sure, the drama had trouble establishing an even balance between and among comedic, dramatic and romantic elements.  But make no mistake, City Hall is not a comedy and it isn’t a political drama.  It is a love story about a woman who went from being nothing to becoming Wonder Woman, to protect her people.  It’s a love story about a man who had to choose between his love and his ambition, and ends up gaining both by growing to meet the challenge.  By the end of the drama, if you’ve not alternated between cheering and tearing up, and then cheering again, then, well, there is no then.  You will be moved.

Now, I don’t judge dramas on whether the director did this or whether the cinematographer did that; I judge dramas on whether I was moved. And more than any other 2009 drama, City Hall moved me. From tears to cheers, from face flushing fist-pumps to surreptitiously wiping my eyes with my sleeve as I stretch, this drama moved me. And that’s why this drama holds my vote for Drama of the Year.

You’re Beautiful.

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There is an art and a science to creating culinary creations that are true delights on every level. The science / analytics to culinary creation is quite real, as you have to know what works and what doesn’t work. In addition, to create something that goes beyond the standard cook-book fare, you have to add in your artistic measure. And so, when a creation comes along that hits all the right spots, analytically and artistically, then you know you have a hit dish.  That’s basically You’re Beautiful, a trendy and youthful mixture of good writing, good acting and good marketing.  Funny, clever, with good writing and just the right amount of cute and beautiful, heart and soul, You’re Beautiful did not disappoint.  And the OST is the same way – produced to please, it is pleasing to the ear.

More than any other trendy drama this year, You’re Beautiful delivered on expectations and provided a moving story. I believe that it should be on everyone’s watch list, because young or old, male or female, You’re Beautiful has something to offer that is fun, interesting and with enough heart that makes you want to just go ahead and watch that next episode.  What is interesting to note is that initially, I was not going to watch this because I thought it was going to be boring. But because I was volunteering to spot-translate the initial episodes for WITHS2, I grudgingly watched Episode 1…and within 15 minutes, I absolutely knew this was going to work and I knew I was going to love it. It is that good.

Story of a Man, aka The Slingshot

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Technically, this might be the best k-drama of 2009.  The writing, the layers of plot, the consistency / uniformity of the acting excellence – it is all there.  If you have a chance, watch and re-watch Story of a Man (SOAM) to see how the story was put together, to see how plot-points were constructed across episodes, across characters. 

And yet, despite all the accolades I can give it, SOAM falls short of a full-weight recommendation.  Why?  Because there was never a point where I lived and died with any of the characters.  Still, I can appreciate technically well-done dramas without crushing on them, and this is one I can appreciate on multiple levels. Kim Kang Woo as incredibly scary Chae Do Woo is a revelation. Of all the 2009 k-drama sociopaths, I think Chae Do Woo is the one I would least want to have as a roommate. I think I could handle Lady Mishil – I can outsmart her by flattering her to death. But Chae Do Woo, you just never know, and that’s truly creepy.

Queen Seon Deok. With that segueway, I guess it’s time to talk about QSD. Despite its monster ratings, Queen Seon Deok has been panned by far better and more experienced k-drama watchers than I. So it is hard to voice a differing opinion here, not the least because what I know of QSD largely comes from them, since as WITHS2 subbers, they are responsible for me understanding what was happening in the first place. But while QSD may be known as “Queen Snore Deok” among those in the know, I remain blissfully unaware of its short-comings and just think of this drama as fun and interesting.

And yet, even those who pan this drama will acknowledge the superlative acting of Go Hyun-Jung, who played the part of Lady Mishil. Who’s Lady Mishil?  Well, she’s just the biggest bad-ass in the nation known as Shilla, during the Three Kingdoms Period of Korean history. What is interesting, though, is that GHJ’s performance is not at all why I liked this drama. For me, it was Lee Yo-Won, who played Princess Deok-Man, who made me tune in twice a week. Everyone talks about GHJ, but wouldn’t QSD have been a failure, if Lee Yo-Won’s character wasn’t at least as strong as Go Hyun-Jung’s?

Friend, Our Legend

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Part history lesson for the uninitiated in the turbulent times pre-postmodern Korea, and part epic tragedy, Friend Our Legend really had something I’ve not seen before in k- drama.  I’ve seen it in movies, especially in HK films, but not in k-drama.  The operative word for this drama is pathos.  Pathos is Greek for “suffering” and it also can mean “to feel” or “feeling.”  And pathos is pretty much what happens to Hyun Bin, who devolves into a sociopath over the course of the story arc.  And pathos is what happens to the viewer.  Episode 19 of this drama is worth seeing by itself, even if you don’t watch the whole drama.

Friend, Our Legend is a remake of a movie by the same name, and there was a lot of speculation as to whether Hyun Bin could pull off the titular role. Let me say this about Binnie’s performance. Whatever you think you know about Hyun Bin, based on Snow Queen and My Name Is Kim Samsoon, whatever you saw in his acting from Worlds Within or Ireland, his performance in this drama is different. It’s like he tapped into a dark side to him that he’s never had to touch before. One of the best acting performances of the year, if not the best.

But Hyun Bin isn’t the only gem.  Kim Min Joon is solid in his role opposite of Binnie, and Jung Yoo Mi (playing the role of Eunji) was my pick for best supporting actress of this year

Sons of Sol Pharmacy

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What is this drama about? It’s about the stages of life, and how love and sadness can hit you at any stage. It’s about a family of men who take their time in becoming adults, even as they pass from age to age. And in the end, this wonderful drama is about the little stories.  You care enough about the family to watch these stories get concluded, and in the meantime you get rewarded every now and then with songs and heart-filled events that satisfy your craving for k-drama.  Isn’t that really what k-drama watching is all about?  Caring about the people whose lives you follow, until the very end?

The one criticism, if you can call it that, is that this drama is long. 54 episodes. But before that gets you down, trust me – there is a good reason why it won the ratings battle for the last half of the series, and almost half (49%) of Korea’s television audience tuned in to the very last episode.

Kyung Sook, Kyung Sook’s Father

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You’ve probably never heard of this drama, at least not until the End of the Year reviews.  At least, I didn’t.  But rave reviews by some very intelligent and knowledgeable people made me take a look.  This is a 4 episode “mini” drama about a daughter and a father during the Korean war (1950 – 1953). 

But right off the top, I have to say that Kyung Sook, Kyung Sook’s Father isn’t for everybody.  If you don’t have at least some background in Korean, you might not “get” a lot of what makes this drama endearing.  For me, watching this drama made me feel really uncomfortable for a while.  It’s like having a crazy drunk for an uncle, whom nobody really talks about but during the holidays when there is even money he will get wasted and embarrass everyone.  This drama is a story that Korean people of my parents’ generation will see as part of their past – they will see the drama and think, “Was I really like that?  Were things really that bad?”  It will cause them to dig up memories more than 50 years buried, and they will remember how things were really, really different 50 years ago. 

While I didn’t like this drama because it made me very uncomfortable, it still is a wonderful drama – one of the best of 2009, and one thing is for sure – Shim Eun Kyung, the lead actress in this drama, is phenomenal.   She was my pick for Best Actress of the Year.

That Fool.

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This drama, with Hwang Jung Min and Kim Ah Joong, takes a hackneyed plot – the fake relationship plot, and makes it work beautifully, at least for a dozen episodes or so.  If you’ve watched k-dramas, you know the fake relationship plot.  You’ve breathed it, and you’ve dreamed it.   You’ve watched Full House, and you wonder when Rain (or SHG for the guys) will ask you to be in a fake relationship with him/her.  Why can’t such a thing happen to me? And now, in this cute drama, That Fool,  an honest, rather idealistic postal employee / everyman ahjussi lives that very dream.  Is it predictable?  Oh, absolutely.  Is it believable?  No, not really… but do we really want to talk about how realistic Full House was?

In the end, this drama works because Kim Ah Joong is simply stunning, because Hwang Jung Min is heart-warming, and because That Fool basically takes the movie Notting Hill and turns it into a 16 episode series with a Full House kind of twist. At first I was not convinced because I started this drama about halfway in, but I restarted this series from the beginning, and boy did I fall for it the second time around. Lee Chung Ah as Dong Baek’s younger sister is a gem throughout this series.

IRIS

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Expectations were extremely high for this action drama, and it delivered – mostly.  Lee Byung Hoon alone makes this drama worth watching.  But while it was fun and interesting to watch, and while the production values were through the roof, I felt like I was watching something other than a k-drama.  And I mean this as a detraction.  If I wanted to watch Bourne Identity, I can watch that – Matt Damon does it better in my opinion and my English is better than my Korean.  So while I do appreciate IRIS quite a bit, I can’t say that I liked it a whole lot, because I never got invested in any of the characters.

Still, I feel like IRIS is an evolutionary step for k-dramas, and a lot of the techniques used in the filming (e.g., the jerky documentary style camera motion ala the Fox action series “24” or the upgraded production values for sound effects and music (not OST)) should be a great boost to future action drama projects.

Temptation of Wife.

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This is my pick for Worst Drama of the Year.  It is so stupid and so lacking in any virtue, that it probably damages your brain if you watch all 129 episodes.   Seriously, this drama has no redeeming social value.  It is pure mindless entertainment that actually degrades your mind and ethical principals as you watch.  So why does it reside in the “What Worked” section?  Because it WAS addictive.  Because the episode breaks were all habit-forming.   This drama is known as a “mak-jang” or a dead-end drama, but really, I call it a “crack-jang” because that’s really closer to the truth.

Temptation of Wife made me stay up at night, for weeks, shielding the TV light with a pillowcase to avoid waking the wife.  It worked because by the halfway point, I cared a whole lot whether the heroine would get her revenge.  It worked because even though I knew I was getting dumber while watching it, literally, getting dumber by the episode, I still watched.  And even though the ending was complete BS, and even though I was totally unsatisfied, I don’t regret finishing.  I regret starting and getting addicted, but once you start, you might not be able to stop.

What didn’t work for me

Cinderella Man. From the outset, as I was early yet into my newbie ways, I was excited by the prospect of a genuine KSW make-em-cry-but-have-happy-ending drama.  I honestly couldn’t see how this could fail.  It has all the hall marks of an epic. 

It has long lost twins creating a switcheroo in the fashion industry.  The latest Girls Generation ‘it’ girl (Yoona) as the love interest.  A chae-bol corporate proxy fight.  Grandma in a coma with two humidifiers by her bedside, giving you an idea of how serious of a coma this really is. Multiple scenes in street soju bars.  Rooftop apartments with that square table to sit upon, stare at the sky and reflect. Characters leaving to study abroad and return. Want more k-drama cliches? It has not one but TWO love triangles, with the odd person out being the crazy-I-Will-Never-Let-You-Go lunatic. We have a hero who grows up in an orphanage. Yeah, but does it have terminal illness that affects a main character? Oh, you betcha. How about a fireman’s carry for a passed out girl? Check! What about Ahn Seok Hwan? Gotta have Ahn Seok Hwan…. Oh, you better believe he’s in there!

But at the end of the day, surprisingly for me, it just didn’t work.  I never got into the story enough to root for anyone in this drama. What a waste of a two-humidifier coma chae-bol CEO grandma.

Good Job, Good Job.   

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Cutest girls ever?

Where Chae Rim goes, I tend to follow.  But Chae Rim didn’t go anywhere in this really long drama (40 episodes) about a single mom who is pursued by two men:  The Wrong Guy / Jerk who happens to be the unknowing father of her child (the über cute Joon Min Seo, who plays Chae Rim’s daughter, Byul), and The Right Guy / cute and nice guy.  The Wrong Guy pretty much stalks, pesters, annoys, threatens and otherwise makes Chae Rim’s life miserable for dozens of episodes.  The Right Guy also pursues Chae Rim, the latter of whom vacillates between giving up on having a love life altogether and being with The Right Guy.  Every episode of Good Job, Good Job was pretty much the same, as if the production was trying to live up to the repetitiveness of the title.  If it wasn’t for Joon Min Seo and Chae Rim, two of the cutest people on the planet, I probably wouldn’t have watched all 40 episodes.

Assorted Gems / Jewel Bibimbap.  

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Another super long drama (50 episodes).  I can’t say for sure that it didn’t work, because I only saw about a fifteen episodes sporadically and randomly spaced out on MBC America (cable television), but the episodes I did see were uninteresting.  I never got the motivation to see back to back episodes.  Others will tell you of Jewel Bibimbap’s virtues, but here’s what I saw:  various people engaging in various relationship-type issues.  That’s it.  That’s the entirety of the show from what I saw.  That’s… life? 

Michael Blunck (you can probably pick him out in the above picture – he is the… bald guy) was notable to me, but not really for his acting, which I found to be…. average.  (For those who want to parse – when I say “average,” I mean “not bad, not great” relative to other k-drama actors)  What was notable about Michael Blunck was that although his Korean speaking skills are way better than mine, and probably better now than I will ever be,  his pronunciation and his awkwardness in using Korean with slow-to-react facial expressions (as if he had to remember which facial expressions went with which Korean phrases) pretty much killed his character for me.  You know how, if you say, “OMG, no way…” you have a certain facial expression?  Now, in Korean, that’s “Jung-mal?  Seol mah…”  If you see MB saying this phrase, which he does, his mouth moves first, then his face follows.  Which says to me that he is speaking first, acting second.  It’s not a deal-breaker (the deal-breaker is the ennui that follows an episode), but it is interesting.

Dream / Partner / Style / Triple

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Like most dramas that fail to get my interest, these dramas failed because I never really cared that much who won, who lost, who got whom, in the end.  I watched them all, sometimes due to subbing responsibilities.

The reason for my lack of care for each drama, however, was different across each. For example, in Triple, I liked the main character a lot, but nothing that happened in her life was beyond the norm. Everyone has struggles, and everyone has decisions and issues that they have to face. And in Style, my reason for not caring was that I seriously did not like any of the characters – my feeling was that whoever was going to win, whoever was going to lose, just please win or lose already so I can watch something else. And with Partner and Dream, I just didn’t like the stories that much. There wasn’t enough there to hold my interest.

My Fair Lady.

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Even given the less than stellar dramas above, I would say that by far the biggest Disappointment Of The Year came with the drama, My Fair Lady.  After Goong and Coffee Prince, I am, without reservation, immediately on board with whatever YEH puts out.  But what was put out in this drama was just not very interesting.  I watched the first few episodes, and then to be fair, I just fast-forwarded through the rest of the series, hoping that at some point I could hit play against rather than FF >> or FF >>>.  The fatal flaw, shared by all the dramas that did not work for me in 2009, was that I never got to the point where I cared about the main characters.  And when that happens, you can shut off the drama and just move on with your life. I am certain that YEH will bounce back, and I look forward to the next project she has with the same eagerness that I had for My Fair Lady.

Parting Thoughts -

This year has been one of many milestones for me, both personally and in k-drama land. And looking back on this year, I note with some surprise how much I’ve expanded my own horizons and learned much more about life and people than I have ever had before. And quite a lot of it is due to how wonderful a place that dramabeans.com is, with its denizens reflecting the spirit and character of the site’s host. As I look back at this fantastic year of 50+ dramas, including about a dozen or more epic dramas, and how cool it was that I found (errrr, rather, that my wife found) dramabeans.com, I am grateful to javabeans for her gift of KJH to me, and I am grateful and to everyone who spends the time to deposit little bits of knowledge, humor, sadness, their personal lives and their hopes and dreams onto dramabeans. I grew here, and I hope that everyone else grew as well, in 2009.

Whatever your viewpoint, whatever your tastes and background, let’s remember that this is all for our enjoyment of our mutual interest and a warm exchange of ideas and knowledge. Be civil and open-minded as you read the reviews of others; a different opinion does not diminish your own. We might disagree or have strong feelings about things, but in the end, we are just talking about our own thoughts – and we should take care to respect what others think.

Finally, not everyone who began 2009 with the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, will be leaving 2009 intact and whole, and I hope that we won’t ever forget those who will not see 2010, who are lost to us for reasons that could have been prevented if only people treated one other with the respect and dignity that each of us deserve. This is a lesson that I hope has been learned, that we ought to take care of each other, we ought to take responsibility for each other, to support one another. What I wish, for 2010, is that we won’t have the senseless tragedies that littered the landscape of 2009.

I am reminded of a quote from Hwang Jung Min’s character, Goo Dong Baek, in That Fool. Goo Dong Baek was talking to one of the principal antagonists, the father of the Kim Ah Joong’s initial love interest. The father was doing everything in his considerable power to protect his son’s bright political and career future, to the detriment of Kim Ah Joong’s character, Han Ji Soo, who was getting her heart torn to shreds by the father’s machinations.

Goo Dong Baek: You must love your son very much, like any parent would love his child. But that person [Han Ji Soo], she is also someone’s child too.

And so, with that, my parting shot is this. What I urge for all of you for 2010 – be better to others than you were in 2009. Happy Drama Viewing everyone! CitC, Chuno and Damo in 2010! *wave*

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155 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. ockoala

    You know I’ve been waiting for you, don’t you, samsooki?

    You and I have some unfinished business……of which I mean a giant congrats on your first ever year-end review. By know I know your writing style and tone even if you didn’t plaster a giant City Hall picture before your review. Nonetheless, thank you for the fanservice.

    Great review, and I’m happiest to know you actually boarded that ship to Tamra and didn’t sink with the weight of one too many a “William……”

    And oh, is it even necessary for me to say that I agree with your choice for drama of the year? Another VOTE for City Hall from me. With a second vote for Tamra, too.

    Bravo! And an obligatory OPW to you for a job well done!

  2. mLinsoundtrack

    ^-^ It’s here!

    thanks for the review, I look forward to reading it.
    /leavestoread.

  3. Snikki

    50 dramas?!?! On top of that, you have your day job and your family. Do we have the same hours in a day? Wow, I’m amazed.

    Ok, off to read your reviews.

  4. mie

    I think it’s refreshing to read your thoughts because, like you said, it’s your first year of watching K-dramas (albeit, you watched a heck of a lot of dramas this year, pre-2009 included) and you aren’t yet “tainted” by the pessimism that strikes a lot of K-drama watchers. I like that you don’t get super technical in your review (oh, this one had TOO MUCH use of music, that one had a plot hole that just bugged me to death, etc.), but you simply stated what you liked and that’s it.

    I agree with a lot of what you said – particularly about QSD. I’ve been watching K-dramas for years now (way over a decade) and I’ve watched a lot of the old Korean sageuk “greats” (pre-Daejanggeum). QSD is flawed like any other series, but it was a lot of fun and I think that’s what’s most important. Everyone knew from the onset that the series wasn’t going to follow history very closely (it got pretty much everything wrong from the start except the character names), and I think as long as you aren’t a historian, it was a fairly exciting and fun ride. Could it have been better? Sure. But it was pretty good in its own right.

    Anyway, I thought 2009 was a decent year (definitely better than 2008) in terms of dramas. There were some duds, some real gems, and some it-may-be-mediocre-but-it’s-still-fun-so-it’s-okay in-betweens. I’m looking forward to more fun dramas in 2010!

  5. Olowo

    Thank you Samsooki. I loved your review, it was full of heart and even though I don’t agree with some of your opinions, I enjoyed reading them. I hope you have a great 2010. Best Wishes.

  6. Anna :D

    I LOVED your review!!
    It was the best so far, and we have the same drama interests!!

    I’m really glad you added Tamra the Island cause I LOVED that drama :)

    Unlike the other reviews, you also stated you thougt Lee Yeo Won’s acting was good as well. I totally agree. Yeah, Go Hyun Jung’s acting was superb but so was Lee Yeo Won’s!! I still love Bidam and Chunchu <333 and alcheon

    I LOVED You're Beautiful!! I'm such a fangirl now :)

    I'm really considering wathcing City Hall now cause everyone seems to like it….

    Partner = am i the only one who enjoyed it?? maybe it was because there was nothing on during the summer days in Korea, but I enjoyed is ALOT

    Anyways!
    Good job on your review! A+

  7. elisa

    YAY. finally someone who acknowledges lee yo won. it would’ve been a total snooze if deok man’s character/lee yo won’s performance wasn’t at least worthy of competition.

    and for story of a man – you got me there. it’s an excellent drama… but i don’t think i can connect to any of the characters on a level where i’m tied and if they fall, i fall. @___@, but nevertheless, kim kang woo, park ki woong, park yong ha, amazing!

    btw if you’ve watched that many dramas this year… wow o-o. i’ve only watched like 49 in the past 3-4 years? :P

  8. Kate

    I can watch Dal Ja’s Spring and My Name is Kim Sam Soon over and over…What about BOF?

  9. nabi

    TEAM PARK KYU! XD

    Samsooki, I thoroughly enjoyed your review.. (You got me by putting Tamra the Island-my drama of the year- first in Dramas That Worked category, hehe.) I’m glad you joined the world of K-drama and this blog and thank you for entertaining us fellow K-drama lovers with your wits and interesting ideas.

    Your review is making me really obligated to watch Kyungsook, Kyungsook’s Father which has been burned in a dvd and has been sitting in stacks of my drama backup dvds for months. I wasn’t going to watch Friend but I guess I’ll at least try Ep 19 like you suggested. Most of the dramas that worked for you worked for me as well except for a few lengthy dramas. Hope to see you back around this time of next year in your year end review for 2010.

  10. 10 Lahmongnese

    I agree 100%, City Hall was by far the best drama of 2009. The story, acting, music, was all flippin’ amazing. I have always been a fan of Kim Sun Ah and think that she is a fantastic actress, and this drama(City Hall) only proves what I think. Laughter, tears, romance and a happy ending really makes this drama standout among all dramas of 2009.

  11. 11 Dahee_Fanel

    Awesome write-up, as expected. I don’t know what you were worried about, haha. I’ve loved discussing this year’s dramas with you and the other Dramabeans editors, and I loved reading what you had to say about the year’s shows. Beautiful!

    See ya when Chuno starts January 6. ;)

  12. 12 annieee

    i think its wonderful how everyone has such different opinions on the same dramas! lol
    jb’s blog is simply heaven. even though i dont nearly watch as many kdramas as the folks here, nor am i as addicted xp, i love how everyone’s so nice and friendly and open to discuss all things kdrama. the reviews are truly entertaining, despite my not having watched many kdramas this year. ive heard about most of them, and the reviews help me alot in choosing what to watch next. as always, i tend to over-think and over-analyze things, esp when it comes to those addictive kdramas, and im really glad im not alone in that aspect!
    infinite thanks to jb for this awesome place! also ty to all the guest bloggers and everyone else here! you all are so intelligent and witty and fun! and of course, may 2010 be a healthy, happy, and prosperous year for all!

    (may i ask what citC stands for?)

  13. 13 snow

    it’s been a pleasure reading your review, samsooki! i think you said a lot of things very nicely without going into histrionics, and balanced out what you liked and didn’t like about the dramas. kudos to you for taking the time to watch these dramas and sharing your thoughts with us. while i can’t see kim sun-ah’s perfect screen partner beyond hyun bin (hence giving City Hall a miss), yay for both of us that we’re MNIKSS fans!

    happy 2010!

  14. 14 Nonbirira

    Thanks, Samsooki, for a great review! Might just watch City Hall after all!

    (Oh, and VERY impressive for a newbie! Don’t know how on earth you manage to have a life as well! And appreciated your final thoughts. “A different opinion does not diminish your own.” Very wise words indeed for a blog such as this.)

  15. 15 ockoala

    @ annieee

    CitC stands for Conspiracy in the Court. A few of us are planning to watch it in the near future. Its supposed to be awesome (so sayeth hjkomo).

    @ snow

    I agree, Hyun Bin and KSA was perfect couple alchemy in MNIKSS. But if you can imagine it – Cha Seung-won and KSA was also couples chemical magic in City Hall. Made me just have to make room in the best KSA couple category for a tie. Sigh, it does happen, and I’m happier for it, two awesome KSA dramas to watch and re-watch anytime. Oh, and there was a couple of inside jokes to Hyun Bin himself in City Hall. We wondered if HB would make a cameo, but alas, it was just his name, and oh was it hilarious!

  16. 16 unny

    Thank you for your wonderful review! City Hall was DEFINITELY one of my favorites of this year. Along with Brilliant Legacy and You’re Beautiful. If I had to choose one of those as the best drama, I’d probably go with Brilliant Legacy because although I loved all three, I have to say I was most giddy with Brilliant Legacy. I CRAVED it. I couldn’t stop watching once the story line started getting good. It was crazy addicting. The antagonistic elements of the story were just so over-the-top but so well done that they produced this deep emotional attachment in me to the drama. I seriously wanted the evil mother and her daughter to go to hell xD So because I cared so much I really invested myself into the drama and I must say, it paid off. I wish it was included in your list because I’m curious to see what you would think of it, but oh well :P Your list was well-put either way!

  17. 17 langdon813

    Great job samsooki!

    You’ve been my Pied Piper of Kdramas all year long, and though I may give you a hard time about some of them (ahem…Hong Gil Dong; Friend, Our Legend), the truth is I was never led anywhere I didn’t want to go. You may have broken my heart but you never steered me wrong.

    Thanks for a great 2009 and for all the fun I know we’ll have in 2010 (just as long as you don’t get any ideas about Lee Min-ki and Jang Hyuk, mister…everything will be cool)!

  18. 18 kdramalovers

    ” It worked because even though I knew I was getting dumber while watching it, literally, getting dumber by the episode”

    LOL, best line ever to why we watch k-drama and why we get addicted to it! hahaha, I totally agree with you^^

  19. 19 Sere

    Samsooki, how much I loooove you. Seriously. First of all, if we hadn’t had exchanged a few emails months ago and you didn’t rec me City Hall, I would have missed one of my favorite kdramas. For that alone, I’ll be forever thankful. Did I say forever? Cos yeah. Forever.

    Secondly, I agree with pretty much everything you said. Hahah. I don’t even know if that sounds like me fangirling you? But no, I just agree with your opinions. And I might even give That fool a try now. It’s the only kdrama on your list I’m reluctant to watch, but if you rec it…

    That said, I know I’m pretty much alone on this, but for all its faults, I still watched Take care of agasshi and liked it. I mean, it’s soooooooo far from perfect it’s not even funny. I think, for me, it was so bad it actually turned almost good again? If you know what I mean? LOL, even I don’t know what that means. *thinks* I think TKoA was to me what BBF was to other kdrama viewers: a hot mess, but still enjoyable. BTW, I coudln’t even finish BBF. *shrugs* I don’t know. Maybe it was temporary insanity or something.

  20. 20 ybfan

    Great reviews Samsookie.. didn’t even sound like a newbie. I think I am pretty much in line with you on all the dramas that I have watched thus far. I myself am also a big fan of City Hall. But I’m surprised that you didn’t mention Brilliant Legacy. I loooved that one as well. Happy New Year!

  21. 21 Jay Jay

    Short and sweet. I praise your review. My Name is Kim Sam Soon is definitely worth its hype, I’m very glad that it was your first kdrama and still remains as your favorite. Seems like we have the same taste. :D

  22. 22 unny

    @ 15 ockoala

    I’m sorry, I was trying to find “CitC” on dramawiki but apparently the drama aired in 2007?? What exactly is the drama that is going to air in 2010? Thanks for the info…I’m always on the lookout for potential dramas to watch.

  23. 23 hyall

    I have been coming to this place on and off for some time. I just love to read all the intelligent comments and discussions that go on here. Many sites do not have very good discussions because either people post very little or are not taking the time to share their thoughts.

    I too think City Hall was simply great and I agree with what you have written mainly because you seem to have my tastes. I felt the drama would not have worked with any other casting. The casting was simply brilliant.

    I also watched You’re Beautiful and I agree they managed to hit the right notes with that drama. When I first saw shots of it I too had decided against watching it but the hype drew me to it and I was trapped.

  24. 24 deannadsc

    Samsooki…i can’t believe just how in sync your reviews are with mine!!! I’ve watched ALL the dramas you’ve critiqued on (well,except for SOAM..w/c I’ve reserved for a marathon run this week..after all my Holiday-obligations are done)…& I must say, we’re on the same wavelenght!!!
    I recommend that you re-start watching Assorted Gems though…I’m soooo loving this drama right now…best family drama for me this year!!! It’s heart-warming, especially the 2 grandmas, but I also am turned off by the “Kyle” character.
    Smile, You…I like because of the 2 leads’ chemistry.
    Creating Destiny, I’m watching only because of my loyalty to Eugene.
    WISFC…I’m watching solely because I’m a sucker for that kind of melodrama…because I’m falling for GO SOO!!! Gong Yoo, my first love ought to comeback soon cuz I’m sooo getting into GS these days!!!LOL!!!
    I’ve watched & liked Partner,too only because of LDW….so as you can realise by now, a lot of my drama choices weigh heavily on whether the leads are eye-candies or not!!!LOL!!!
    I totally agree that CH & YAB are two of the best dramas this year!!!

    Samsooki, thanks to you & JB…you’ve enhanced my drama-viewing experience year after year!!! Hope you’ll continue w/ your recaps, etc….can’t start & end my day w/o DRAMABEANS!!! LOVE YOU< GUYS!!!

  25. 25 ockoala

    @ 22 unny

    Yes, CitC aired in 2007, and Damo aired in 2003. I believe samsooki mentioned those 2, and the upcoming Chuno (premiering on Jan 6, 2010 on KBS), as dramas he is planning to for sure watch in 2010 (not that all those dramas are airing in 2010). Only Chuno is set to air in 2010. And all three are sagueks. Sounds like samsooki is on a sageuk-binge. ;-)

  26. 26 unny

    @ ockoala

    OH! I got confused and thought all three were premiering then :P Thank you! By the way it looks good, CitC. Yay! Another drama on my potential drama list :)

  27. 27 bluebunny

    Thanks for the reviews Samsooki!!! :)

    “Save The Last Dance for Me” started my craze for K-drama! I wanted the OST so bad after watching it!

  28. 28 anna

    loved your review! and i am also a newbie in this whole kdramas world. and could not agree with you more with what you say about different opinion does not diminish your own. different people have different way and angle of viewing things.
    and i am very impressed actually envy you for the fact that you could manage to squeeze in 50 dramas in a year! wow. i fell into the kdrama craze and world only last summer and managed to watch only around 15 dramas.

    anyway, happy new year and thanks for the great review.

  29. 29 Becky

    I have the same criteria as you: I have to be moved. It’s interesting how some dramas “move” different people. Like I totally was not crazed about City Hall, but I loved/love Sons of Sol, You are Beautiful (though I felt the ending was not as great as it could have been) Smile, and even Partner. Anyway, thanks for sharing what moved you this year!

  30. 30 Sonam

    I must watch KS, KS’s father. It seems to be on everyone’s best list.
    I disagree….I don’t think you need to have a Korean background to appreciate a drama. I am not Korean and I was very moved by Park Chan Wook’s JSA. It’s my fav’ PCW film. If the drama is good it will work no matter what.
    Not having watched any of the drama you have reviewed except half of CH I cannot agree or disagree but I am looking forward to watching Sons of Sol Pharmacy. Just finally realized I am the family drama kind of gal…thanks to Smile You.
    City Hall just didn’t work for me tho’ I am a huge fan of KSA. Two grown almost middle aged people acting like love sick teenagers was just too …ugh.

  31. 31 eiko

    Samsooki…..I have been waiting for you!!!! You are the best when it comes to analyzing and commenting the dramas! You NEVER disappoint and you have a way with words and your choice of words keeps me giggling from beginning to end and many times….onward!

    You’re right on about City Hall…..and absolutely on the mark with You’re Beautiful! I keep trying to encourage people to check out both dramas just BECAUSE! They are on opposite ends of the pole….but oh so inspiring like a cleansing emotionally and psychologically! I felt like I could relate to so much of the story line in both dramas….and it was the best medicine!

    Hauoli Makahiki Hou Samsooki! Happy New Year! I look forward to more from you in 2010! And I expect to read about the excitement of baby’s first word or first step and first “bite”….check those choppers! :-)

  32. 32 Jane

    Thanks for the review! I really liked it and the different view that you took to your review. Instead of technically analyzing the dramas, you judged them on whether or not they moved you, which is how I judge (and prefer to judge) my dramas.

    Your review was very refreshing to read. Keep it up! :]]

  33. 33 bbm

    YAY!!! you can’t miss Samsooki’s recap with the big city hall picture on top :P
    thank you for sharing your thoughts…
    and i gotta say, even though 2009 is the first KDrama year for you, yet you finished about 50 dramas, that’s insane!! bow down to Samsooki…
    at last somebody mentioned Chae Do Woo… even though This Mishil took everyone by storm, to me Chae Do Woo is still the greatest psychopath/villain of the year!!

    waiting for your CitC recaps!!

  34. 34 Jihwan

    I really do hope that Chuno does not disappoint. It seems that everyone (this year’s reviewers in particular) has high expectations for this project.

    Tamna the Island is indeed a gem. One that is concealed by other drama’s popularity. I never had much expectations for Tamna and the only reason why I started it was because I literally had nothing better to do. To my surprise, though, one episode was enough to get me hooked. Tamna the Island gets better and better with every episode. I just wished MBC didn’t shorten it into 16 episodes. Who knows how much MORE amazing tamna could have been.

  35. 35 diane

    Samsooki, you did good! I love reading your reviews, always.

    You did manage to bring a tear to my eyes at the end of your review. How very true.

    Thank you!

  36. 36 anon lurker

    JB, Samsooki and everyone else here at javabeans, thank you. Majority of my selections are based on what I read here. I’ve got to find this Kyung Sook now!
    @ockoala
    same anon that loved Damo here….I also watched CitC and it is a very heavy drama. In fact, I had to watch it twice. First time, had no idea what was going on but after I watched Yi San and Painter of the Wind, went back and re-watched it. It was really awsome the second time around. I’ve been trying to watch 8 Days also but haven’t had the time to get past 3rd episode.

  37. 37 cingdoc

    (Hands clapping, Standing ovations from me and my 16yo)
    Once again, your writing was Brilliant. .. you know you’re good, no need to be humble, my friend ;)
    I think what I like most about this review is that it was very objective in tone and yet personal ( like you’ve mentioned- each of us like/dislike each drama for our own personal reason). Needless to say, I’m one of your fans ( but don’t expect any OPW from this old girl), and I will continue to enjoy reading your drama recaps and analysis.

    PS That was sneaky of you on how while you were praising JB, you just “claim” KJH for yourself…and you thought none of us notices that ;)

  38. 38 nycgrl

    Samsookie great job. I loved your background intro and though you may be a newbie critic, your passion for kdramas is plain and clear and around here we all know you and your love of binnie and KJH.

    I watched 4 or maybe 5 kdramas this year and even if I times that by the years I’ve watched kdramas I don’t think it would still amount to your 50 episodes this year.

    Out of the ones you reviewed I’ve watched 4 on your list. I agree with City Hall, Your Beautiful and Sons of Sol Pharmacy but I really really disliked IRIS. I thought it was one of the worst I’ve seen in the last few years since I’ve become pretty adept at picking dramas that would appeal to me. Except for LBH the acting was subpar, writing dismal, love story boring and the drama just lacks soul. If there is a drama that was created solely for ratings and not for critical success its this one.

  39. 39 hjkomo

    @ Samsooki

    Great review!
    And it’s set in stone 0′s & 1′s…you’re going to watch CitC! :D
    (nice try w/KJH :P )

    @ unny

    Btw, Chuno is the romanization of the Korean title. The English title of the drama is Slave Hunters.

    January 6th, 2010. Mark your calendars!

  40. 40 annieee

    thanks, ockoala, for clearing that up!

    btw, my fav kdrama EVERR is also MNIKSS. i can rewatch that drama 234903 times and never be bored. it’s funny as hell, hyun bin and daniel henney are yum, sun ah is amazing, and it’s by far the most heartwarming and addicting drama i’ve seen! in my heart, i dont think any drama can ever top it!
    i was planning to watch friend, our legend after hearing you guys rave about it (and also b/c binnie’s in it xp), and i even watched the movie just for reference, but it was recently removed from dramafever and i’ll have to download it, which will take some time. and after hearing what you guys had to say about it, i think i’ll have to give myself some preparation first before embarking on the dark journey ahead!

  41. 41 Amy

    Great review!
    I must agree with you on My Fair Lady; it was the most disappointing k-drama of the year. I had such high expectations going into it and I really tried to stay upbeat and focus on the positives, but, ugh, a bad drama is a bad drama.

  42. 42 Samsooki

    @37 cingdoc *blerg* and I would have gotten away with it too! *shhhhhhhhhhhh* there’s still a chance jb won’t notice…

  43. 43 Kay

    Thanks a lot for your review! I always enjoy read your comments, and it was a really goog rewiew. I felt the same in my first kdrama year, and I guess I watched every drama that crossed my path, so I understand your 50+ drama for this year.
    I agree with you with almost everything that you post (at least the ones I watched), except perhaps SOAM, for me is the number one of this year, I really loved the characters a lot, and make me had a wonderful time. Guess is a matter of taste, but I think that you also enjoyed this one.
    Im glad to be one of the followers of this blogg too, thanks to that, is way easy for me to decide the next drama to watch, even if everyone has a diferent taste you can feel the true in every recommendation, and in that way I dont have to throw away that many hours with a drama that I end hating.
    Thanks, a lot, your comments were refreshing and full of heart.

  44. 44 soysauce

    50 dramas along with your job and family? I have never felt so inferior in my life. Seriously? I struggled to get through 56 episodes of East of Eden, and can barely handle high school. MAJOR props to you Samsooki.

    I have to agree that Temptation of Wife was SO.DUMB. I couldn’t sit through the whole 129 episodes, but saw bits and pieces there on TV. Another failure of the year, Heading to Ground? I didn’t bother to check it out, and was definitely not looking forward to Yunho’s acting. Dream was a drama that I WANTED to like SO much, but it’s so hard! Son Dam Bi was all blegh, and Kim Bum, no matter how hot he is, just didn’t fit his character.

    SOAM- I’ll get onto that as soon as possible since Bean here has been raving about it. And my TOP TOP drama of the year has to be You’re Beautiful. Jang Geun Suk and Park Shin Hye totally rocked that series. Lee HongKi is WAY too adorable. The OSTs were AMAZING! (and I have to agree that, what are K-dramas without the awesome awesome OSTs?) Speaking of TRENDY dramas, Boys Before Flowers is a MAJOR MAJOR disappointment. The plot was incoherent, the music was edited in such an untimely manner that “AALLLMOOSTT PARAAADISE” gets more and more annoying my the episodes. Jandi didn’t live up to my expectation and I just wanted to shout at JiHoo to man up and get the girl already.

    Either way, congrats to you for discovering your new interest and keep making up those past few years of missing out K-dramas. Dare I suggest you watch Alone In Love (If you haven’t already). Son Ye Jin & Gam Wu Seong were ♥♥♥♥

    :D

  45. 45 Lumi

    Samsooki, thank you for your review of 2009 k-dramas and contributions to this blog throughout this year. I enjoy reading your posts very much as there is always something interesting or new to me in them.

    Dramas a is my window into the Asian world I knew very little ot before I started watching them. Besides being entertained, there is always something about life and/or Asian culture to learn from/and through them.

    Boredom and channel surfing made me tune one summer day to the International channel where episode 30 something of Jewel of the Palace was being aired. One year later, it was Emperor of the Sea, and from them on I never looked back and became another k-drama addict. And as most people afflicted by such disease, I don’t want to be cured from it.

    Best wishes and blessings for you, Mrs. Samsooki and little Ji Hoo.

  46. 46 tokai

    in all the 3 reviews so far.. nobody mentioned HON (which was the top highlight this season, IMHO!)? :)

  47. 47 sleeplessinwgtn

    I was looking forward to reading your review.

    I LOVED all those pre-2009 dramas that you highlighted(except for MLP, STLDFM and SR, which I have yet to watch). I guess I like the same style and the same effect – I have to be moved. I need to feel the angst, the joy, the rollercoaster ride of emotions, the cheering and the sobbing, while watching a movie. I was telling my friends… if a movie does not move me enough to make me cry, then it’s not a winner for me. And I don’t cry just out of sadness, I cry out of joy, too.

    What makes a drama tick depends largely on one’s own personal circumstances and if it touches me, then it’s done its job.

    I have yet to watch Friends; I know it’s a good drama. I will muster the courage and watch it one of these days.

    Thanks for sharing your insight with us.

    To you, samsooki, JB, and all dramabeans readers…

    All the best to 2010… may it bring you peace, good health, prosperity, fulfilment, happines and more great Asian dramas.

  48. 48 cingdoc

    @Samsooki!!!!
    (wiggling/waving my index finger)
    …Noooo my friend…since @hjkomo and I are “Aunties” of our Ji Hoonie, we will not and cannot condone such sneaky behaviour…better luck next time, but remember, ahem , I’m very good in seeing details ( just ask @ockoala ;)

  49. 49 heejung

    crack-jang = my new favorite word :]

  50. 50 jandoe

    samsooki, interesting review! loved it, thanks :D

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