Drama Reactions & Reviews
All Told, A Pretty Fun Year [Year In Review, Part 4]
by | December 29, 2009 | 142 Comments





After a pretty meh 2008, I was ready for the drama landscape to fire back up with 2009. And while there were a number of misses and disappointments — isn’t there always? — I was pretty satisfied with the dramas I watched in 2009. I still don’t think there were as many top offerings as, say, 2007, but I found a number of series to entertain me and satisfy my drama craving. There were a few selections early on that got me pumped for the year and things lagged during and after the summer months, but all told, I had an entertaining year.

(Okay, this is LONG. I tried to contain myself, really.)

SONG OF THE DAY

IRIS – “Empty” by Juni [ Download ]

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In the order in which these dramas aired over the year…

BOYS BEFORE FLOWERS

The year kicked off with a bang when Boys Before Flowers came onto the scene and a wholly unknown new face took the nation by storm with his curly hair, haughty sneer, and surprisingly strong charisma for a rookie actor. The name Lee Min-ho shot to the top of internet searches overnight, he was flooded with CF offers within days of the drama’s premiere, and new fans quickly scoured the web for old info, which had the ancillary effect of reviving two of his old shows, both teen-centered, lower-budget affairs that he’d done soon after his official debut (Secret Campus and Mackerel Run were both re-aired on television).

And that was just one member of F4. Each of the other three — Kim Hyun-joong, Kim Bum, Kim Joon — also experienced instant rises in popularity and parlayed that into a rash of CF deals and tie-in promotions. The drama already had strong pre-show buzz due to the widespread popularity of its source material, Hana Yori Dango, and with the much-loved story and a hot young cast, it was poised to be a hit. And it was, but not for the reasons it should have been.

By all rights, Boys Before Flowers is not a good drama. It is at best mediocre, and at its worst moments nearly painful to watch. It suffers from absurd plot turns, characterizations that change wildly from one episode to the next, and often poor acting. There’s no logical reason for it to have been as much of a pop-culture phenomenon as it was, yet I have to question arguments that use terms like “fangirls” or “children” or “populist” as pejoratives. (Reason being: Whether you like it or not, Boys Before Flowers connected with a huge number of people. To dismiss them all as fangirls or as faceless masses lacking discernment is to willfully misunderstand the situation. Dramas aren’t made for a small elite carrying cards proving good taste; television is, almost inherent in the definition, for the populace.)

What Boys Before Flowers managed to do was, remarkably, succeed in spite of itself. It had neither great writing nor great directing nor great acting (on a consistent basis, at least), so where did it get lucky?

To allow it some credit, there are some shining actorly moments — Lee Min-ho’s invested portrayal of a misunderstood bully anchors the show, Lee Hye-young plays his gleefully vicious mother with aplomb (without overacting her as a cartoony bitch), Lee Shi-young takes a bit part and turns in a surprisingly layered humanization of a teenage villain, Kim So-eun shows more spunk as the sidekick than the lead character does — but for the most part, we are in mediocre to bad territory. Even some of the good performances are marred by wacky plot logic. Ironically, many of the guest actors — such as Jung Eui-chul as the broody model or Lee Min-jung as the bubbly fiancee — are stronger than the main cast. Kim Joon benefited the most because he shows off some charisma while not really being required to act, and to be honest I watched Kim Bum’s playboy portrayal with one eye closed — it was not convincing, which was a disappointment because he came off such a strong dramatic turn in East of Eden. Kim Hyun-joong has taken a battering for his wooden, lifeless portrayal of Jan-di’s white knight, and Gu Hye-sun‘s most-watched role of her career was, unfortunately, also her worst performance. (Watch her in Pure 19, King and I, heck, even Nonstop 5 and you’ll see a promising budding actress with solid dramatic chops, who disappears in the overacted and milquetoast Jan-di character.)

Somehow, Boys Before Flowers chanced upon just the right formula, combining the heart-fluttering romance of shojo manga and the speedy makjang plotting of Korean dramas to addict its following. We weren’t blind, we KNEW it was bad, but it was like MSG for the brain — we just kept shoveling it in and wanting more, and only after it was over did we feel slightly disgusted with ourselves.

I really believe that if one were to watch the drama now, in a vacuum separate from the pop-culture buzz surrounding the show, the reaction is likely to be more of puzzlement than excitement. And that’s one of the drama’s greatest failings — it doesn’t hold up on its own legs. Without the ties to Hana Yori Dango, or the fandom craze, or the hectic live-shoot scheduling madness, or the media hyping up the dreaded “Boys Before Flowers curse” (wherein each main cast member was involved in at least one, and sometimes two, car accidents) — well, it loses some most of its insane, addictive, wacky, over-the-top, angsty, inexplicable magic.

But if you were part of the craze, well, for a short while there was magic.

 
RETURN OF ILJIMAE

Return of Iljimae premiered two weeks after Boys Before Flowers, and a starker contrast could hardly be struck. I’ll contradict myself a little here, because while I vigorously defended the popular type of drama above, watching a beautiful show like Return of Iljimae makes me wish that dramas that truly merit superlatives would get more popular recognition. My two sides are always in conflict — I enjoy the entertaining, popular hit but often form attachments to underappreciated mania selections.

SBS had already aired its version of the comic-book hero in 2008’s popular Lee Junki vehicle — a show that had a strong youth following but which I did not enjoy. It was therefore with some hesitation that I took on MBC’s version, curious to see how a different director and cast would fare with the same subject material. And oh boy, what a difference. I wouldn’t even think to compare the two Iljimaes to each other, so disparate are they in plot, theme, tone, scope, everything. (If we must compare, I’d put Lee Junki’s Iljimae closer to Hong Gil Dong, while Return of Iljimae gets categorized alongside Painter of the Wind.)

Return of Iljimae is, at base, a story of growth. Our hero is born into abject circumstances — a product of rape, he is taken from his mother and abandoned like Moses in the reeds — but gradually transforms into a hero. What this drama captures so beautifully is the evolution of Iljimae from a sheltered, quiet adolescent to a rebellious youth to a man spurred by righteous anger. One of my favorite aspects about the Iljimae character is that he doesn’t want to be a hero — he would prefer to live a normal life, but he is a hero because he cannot stand by and see the world suffer when he, with his particular gifts, can help.

The acting is particularly strong with Jung Hye-young as Iljimae’s mother, who plays her with delicate sensitivity, and Kim Min-jong as the man who speaks little but feels much. Both have lovely, expressive eyes. Jung Il-woo is not really a naturally gifted actor, but his efforts shine through and he is very good, achingly vulnerable — watching him as Iljimae is like watching a newborn foal opening its eyes for the first time. Often covered up with Iljimae’s black mask, Jung is forced to act solely with his eyes, and the result is fantastic. He doesn’t mug for the camera, but plays Iljimae with quiet dignity.

The drama is sumptuously shot by director Hwang In-roi, who is immensely talented at capturing breathtaking vistas and enhancing that visual appeal with the most gorgeous drama score I have heard in a long time. Rather than enhancing with CG or using fancy action tricks, the production climbed deep into the mountains to capture its natural wildness. Fight scenes are stripped and raw, but still exciting despite a lack of cunning editing or camera techniques.

Return of Iljimae‘s tone is not one you’ll often find in dramas. For example, my very favorite scene of the series is a death scene — but not because it’s tragic, or tearjerking, or indulgent. It’s beautiful and still, and the moment allows you to see the wonder of the life being cut short rather than glorifying the tragedy.

Above all, the writing is assured. Somewhere in the middle (in the mid-teens, episode-wise) it felt a little slower, but this drama wasn’t as bad as in most cases of mid-drama slowdown. The writing never fumbles or feels uncertain. It’s unfortunate that the first episode is, in my opinion, the weakest, perhaps deterring people from continuing. (The episode incorporates a modern-day segment whose purpose I understand but which I feel detracts from the wonder of the rest of the series.)

Some dramas you watch and promptly forget once they’re over. Return of Iljimae will remain impressed in my mind for a long while.

 
KYUNG-SOOK, KYUNG-SOOK’S FATHER

I wasn’t going to write about this drama, but I sort of feel the need to offer up an alternate opinion, since this will be a selection much featured in the last review post. I had heard about this little drama earlier in the year, but wasn’t intrigued. However, in the course of putting together these year-end reviews, all four of my fellow reviewers not only rated Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father very highly, they positively raved about it as the best-written, best-directed, best-scored, most comedic, and best overall drama of the year. Naturally, I had to give it a try after such unanimous praise.

Only… well… I don’t see it.

What Kyung-sook does is take a comical spin on what would otherwise be a miserable circumstance for a family during the Korean War, creating what I am told is a darkly humorous tone that I, personally, don’t see. I love black comedies and irreverent humor, and I don’t usually find myself chafing at this kind of treatment of a serious subject. But curiously enough, despite really wanting to join the club on this one, I just couldn’t understand where the superlatives were coming from. It’s not a bad drama. It’s well-acted, and Shim Eun-kyung once again puts in an impressive performance. The directing is perfunctory and the music doesn’t really leave an impression. There are moments of wit.

But is it funny? Well, no. I suppose I don’t find it amusing when people starving in wartime desperate to locate their next source of food accidentally get high on medicine and lick their chops, imagining food dancing before their eyes. I don’t find it witty or subversive when the snotty village rich boy taunts other poor kids with food, knowing they’re hungry, just because he’s lonely and bored.

My colleagues have said that the beauty of the characterizations in this drama is that these people do some awful things — like the father who runs off when war breaks out and leaves his family to fend for themselves — but that they can’t hate them. But I do hate them. I grew up on Korean War stories — my parents and grandparents lived through some desperate times, and Kyung-sook, to me, doesn’t feel particularly special. It feels like reality told through a goofy lens, and for some reason I can’t credit the drama for amazing writing or directing merely because it tries to make war funny. Life Is Beautiful is an example of a movie that did accomplish that feat — finding humor in the Holocaust — but it had a delightful spirit that I don’t find here. It, unlike this, reveled in the beauty of life from amidst the horrors man inflicts upon his fellow man.

Samsooki has said that Kyung-sook isn’t for everyone and I agree completely. I don’t mean to discount my fellow reviewers’ positive comments — only to say that my experience is wholly different. Usually if I don’t respond to a drama, I shrug and move on — but Kyung-sook is unusual in that it rubs me the wrong way. I was heartily dismayed to be overruled in the upcoming Editors’ Picks — not because my favorites lost in the majority vote, but that they had to lose to Kyung-sook, which I find, at best, a decently told four-hour story.

I’m sorry, but in the interest of proffering a dissenting view, there’s my honest opinion.

 
THE SONS OF SOL PHARMACY

Sons of Sol Pharmacy is a drama that made me feel at home, that made me think amusingly of my own sprawling, sometimes brash, often nosy extended Korean family. But one scarcely needs to have a family like the Songs in order to enjoy the good-natured stories told through them.

Compared to conventional miniseries, family dramas generally have larger casts and smaller stories, which usually means that their appeal rests not in the specific stories but the relationships. None of the stories is particularly inventive, since they are all variations on familiar themes: a mother dislikes her son’s choice of girlfriend, two guys develop feelings for the same girl, a man pines for his first love, a bickering couple end up adorably married. However, Sol Pharmacy plays out these scenes with a lighthearted sense of humor built upon a foundation of genuine familial love.

What I particularly appreciate about this drama is the way that these friends and neighbors come together to find connections with people to whom they are not related; it highlights the importance of family but doesn’t restrict that to blood relations. Bok-shil is drawn to the Songs because her life lacks familial warmth, and therefore when she leaves them her absence is felt not only by the love interest but the entire household. Korean-American Bruce had an abusive, alcoholic father but forms a relationship with Grandpa Song, who teaches him to write hangul and supplies him with, however belatedly, a positive older male influence. Grandpa even draws Bruce’s son into the writing lessons, showing Bruce indirectly how to perpetuate a positive fatherly model. The wayward teen mother Su-hee comes to the family as an irresponsible high school dropout, but learns that when people expect more of her, she has it within her to rise to the occasion. She cleans up, not because she’s told to, but because she starts to see that she can build a better life for herself and her baby.

Not to say that the Song family is perfect, nor is it some kind of panacea for emotional pain. They’re loud and dysfunctional and have their share of issues. But this drama shows that family can frustrate you and aggravate you, but ultimately supports you.

 
STORY OF A MAN (THE SLINGSHOT)

Story of a Man OST – “세상을 너에게” (Give the world to you). This song still gets me wound up in anticipation. [ Download ]

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Hands down, Story of a Man was the best- and tightest-written drama of the year; this is one battle I’m prepared to duke out. My declaration has nothing to do with writer Song Ji-nah‘s track record, although it doesn’t hurt that she wrote seminal kdramas Eyes of Dawn and The Sandglass, as well as the more recent fantasy hit Legend. I was torn between naming this or Return of Iljimae as my top two picks of the year; thankfully, this is my blog and I don’t have to choose!

Though billed as a revenge drama, Story of a Man differs from other revenge pieces (Angel’s Temptation, East of Eden) in that it is far from melodramatic or angst-ridden. It’s intricately plotted and cleverly constructed to unfold its story continually — the story is always evolving as Park Yong-ha adapts his strategies in accordance with the movements of his slippery enemy, the fabulous Kim Kang-woo.

The series is directed with a stylish flair, and the strength of this drama’s direction is that it’s not just about scenes looking cool. Often the composition of shots is layered with wit. Sure, a drama can be shot in a basic way without any symbolism built in — but when it does convey additional meaning, it adds to the overall viewing experience. Story of a Man doesn’t talk down to its audience; it’s smart and sexy — and it’s also a heck of a lot of fun. Team camaraderie, capers and heists, bromance — it’s all there, livening up littler beats that fall betwixt the darker ones.

Acting-wise, this drama is strong all around. In the supporting cast, Han Yeo-woon shines as the kindhearted sister who is at first the cruel villain’s tenuous last link to morality, and then his foil. Park Ki-woong goes completely counter to his light, goofy image by investing himself into the autistic financial genius character. Even though Park Yong-ha does a solid job as the lead, his biggest accomplishment isn’t in standing out but in putting up a formidable obstacle for his enemy. Without one, the other wouldn’t have the reason, or opportunity, to up his game; their constant oneupmanship spurs each other on to be faster and cleverer than the other. Kim Kang-woo creates a chilling psychopath not through big, crazy antics but in quiet moments, with precise movements and restrained acting. Furthermore, inasmuch as he is compelling as the quiet psycho, he is that much more exciting when he starts unraveling at the seams, slowly and with growing intensity.

Korean television series are pretty much works in progress, and the live-shoot system frequently results in a narrative shakiness that makes you uneasy for how a series might continue. However, Story of a Man is the rare show that didn’t make me uneasy or worry for its future. This drama has a confidence about it that makes it pretty sexy, and instead of being concerned over whether it could continue holding up its own high standard, I found myself wondering how each new episode would impress me. And it almost always did.

 
QUEEN SEON-DEOK

Reading through my review last year, it struck me that for me, Queen Seon-deok is like this year’s Beethoven Virus. Both are dramas that were extremely popular, led by a deliciously badly-behaved main character, which I caught in spurts rather than following closely as is my usual habit. And as a result of that casual viewing, I enjoyed both.

I’ll qualify my remarks by saying that I didn’t watch every episode, and because I never made it a great commitment to follow this drama, I felt free to fast-forward upon occasion. So I didn’t suffer through the drawn-out political intrigue and instead zipped from highlight to highlight. I’ll leave the close analysis to viewers who watched carefully and stuck with it week to week; all I can say is that I get the hype. I wasn’t part of it, but I get it.

My first impression of the show was, “Wow.” The scenery is beautiful, likewise the music and costuming. The cast is packed with strong names and topped off with some great child actors introducing us to the main characters. And, of course, there is Go Hyun-jung in her first villainous role, enjoying the hell out of playing this over-the-top, ambitious character with a performance that is exceedingly affected — but also terribly fun to watch. Later on, Kim Nam-gil steals scenes and adds a fresh jolt of energy.

Queen Seon-deok‘s weakness, however, was in being too eager to cater to viewer response, in chase of that elusive 50% ratings threshold, which it never reached. (If it had been satisfied with the already staggering mid-30% to 40% numbers it was receiving, it would have been a better drama. Instead, its greed got the better of it.) As a result, the producers decided to put a greater premium on romantic angst and developments that weren’t organic to its original intention than on a fully logical plot.

To say that Queen Seon-deok takes liberties with historical record is an understatement. Even without being an expert on the history involved, I can see the logic holes, so I can only imagine how a true history purist might react. It seems like the conventional sageuk is on its way out and the new historical shows are just as prone to viewership demands, makjang story elements, and fusion tricks (to sex up the show) as their contemporary counterparts are. We could lament the death of an older format, but for me, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. Maybe this shows my lack of taste, but I wasn’t interested in sageuks until the fusion trend came into vogue, and without those gateway shows allowing me entree to the genre, I wouldn’t have ever touched a long-running sageuk in the first place.

 

TRIPLE

I wrapped up recaps for this drama only a few days ago, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much.

I was really looking forward to Triple, which had so many things going for it. I don’t usually pin hopes for a drama’s success on its cast, because great actors can often appear in bad projects, but this ensemble seemed so winning — Lee Jung-jae, Yoon Kye-sang, AND Lee Seon-kyun? Not to mention the team who wrote and directed 2007’s Coffee Prince, with Tearliner serving as music director to serve us up another round of delightful indie pop.

I was charmed by Triple‘s summery, breezy air and the camaraderie of its characters at first. It brought a smile to my face to watch longtime friends joking around and teasing each other, and Min Hyo-rin was unexpectedly winning as the aspiring figure skater. An incredibly thin side character was brought to life based on the sheer pull of Song Joong-ki‘s personal charm. There was a refreshing quality to having events unfold without a lot of trauma, which poised the drama to explore its conflicts with a naturalistic, matter-of-fact touch.

But then, things just stopped progressing. Stuff happened, but nothing really happened. The same problems repeated, like the characters were running in place without a goal in sight. What started out pleasantly carefree became meandering and tiresome. Characters acted in puzzling ways that didn’t feel real, and people grew emotions seemingly out of nowhere.

The drama’s shining center was the relationship between ex-step-siblings Min Hyo-rin and Lee Jung-jae, but I couldn’t help wishing for a more concrete handling of the development. Instead, they waffled back and forth, what-if-ing themselves into exhaustion. It’s something we might see in real life, but for a drama to address a central conflict with such ambiguity feels like a betrayal of our time and interest. If they wanted to go there, they should have just gone there. If not, they should have not. (Heck, even if that ambiguity was their intention, nobody benefits when the ending is so puzzlingly vague that many people wonder what it’s even saying.) In the end, Triple‘s lack of decisiveness killed its momentum and therefore makes this a huge disappointment in my book.

 
TAMRA THE ISLAND

Tamra the Island OST – “Tamra, the Island” [ Download ]

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I’ll preface by saying that I can’t speak with authority on Tamra the Island because I had made the decision when the drama was cut down that I would continue after its full, unbowdlerized version came out. However, till that point this show proved to be a pleasant surprise; it hadn’t even been on my radar until about a week prior to its premiere, but it was a welcome departure from the norm.

What it has going for it — once you ignore the awful first episode — is a wonderful refreshing quality. Aesthetically, it’s a breath of fresh air; the manhwa origins combine with the gorgeous seaside backdrop and period setting (1600s Jeju Island) to give this an upbeat burst of energy. (Most sageuks take place on the Korean peninsula, largely in the capital or its environs, so even the location of Tamra, the old name for Jeju, is a novelty. In addition, despite its modern status as a resort destination, Jeju was once considered a remote backwater where people were sometimes exiled, and is therefore not a common setting in dramas, particularly historical ones.)

Tamra diehards will know this better than I, but one key attraction of this show is the chemistry of its two leads (Seo Woo and Im Joo-hwan), with particular emphasis on Im. His haughty aristocrat character plays upon a familiar archetype, and the pairing with a clumsy, bubbly girl is something we’ve seen a lot before. (One prime example: this year’s Boys Before Flowers.) Thus it’s Im’s ability to simultaneously convey the character’s strength and vulnerability that makes his portrayal noteworthy. Hwang Chan-bin‘s William is a bit dim, but in such a benign way that it’s difficult to hate him. And Seo Woo succeeds in making her scatterbrained character lovable when she could easily be annoying.

When the full DVD becomes available, I’ll be watching.

 
MY FAIR LADY

As one of the most popular actresses of her generation, Yoon Eun-hye came into the year with a reputation for solid projects and a lot of fan anticipation for her upcoming drama. She hadn’t been seen since 2007’s Coffee Prince, which was a drama that went a long way in showing her growth as an actor and winning over critics who’d previously panned her for her acting.

The first sign of trouble was when the drama changed writers, switched up its character descriptions, and unveiled a new name. Yoon, who had signed on based on the initial premise, stuck with the changes and interest remained high. One of the year’s breakout actors — scene-stealing Yoon Sang-hyun from Queen of Housewives — was brought onboard, and the drama finally launched.

I had been won over with her Coffee Prince portrayal, so I was dismayed to see Yoon Eun-hye’s acting so stilted, her dialogue delivery so artificial. Yoon Sang-hyun was more natural but tended to exaggerate, and the pairing felt off-kilter somehow. It wasn’t until midway through that they started to click better, and the two shared some nice emotional moments as their angst heated up.

The flipside to that was that the drama lost its sense of humor and went full-on for the romantic turmoil, so although the acting improved, the story did not. Without its comic tone to buoy the narrative — Yoon Eun-hye desperately stuffing Yoon Sang-hyun into an armoire is one of my favorite laugh-out-loud bits — the plot holes became glaring. The live-shoot syndrome was in full effect, and as producers tweaked this and that to respond to viewer complaints, any adherence to story logic flew out the window. Jung Il-woo (who was so confused with his character) alternately clung, then got angry, then clung again. The couple was forced apart with reasoning that never quite made sense, no matter how hard the actors tried to sell it. (And they did try really hard.) As a result, the resolution and reunion was just as illogical.

It’s amazing that the drama maintained mid- to high-teen ratings throughout, and that’s a testament to Yoon Eun-hye’s draw as a leading lady. My Fair Lady was a total mess, but because of Yoon it was saved (at least ratings-wise) from being a total failure. Storywise, however, it had no such luck — it’s a pretty big wreck. Better luck next time.

 
HEADING TO THE GROUND

And to think, this drama was initially cast with Kim Rae-won. I wonder if that would have steered this in an entirely different direction, or if the shoddy writing would have trapped him as badly as it did these actors, namely Go Ara, Lee Yoon-ji, and first-time actor Jung Yun-ho, aka DBSK’s leader U-Know Yunho.

For a drama about soccer, there was a lot of plot meandering that had nothing to do with soccer. I would almost vote this the worst drama of the year, but I hesitate because that rather feels like kicking someone when they’re down. It was badly written, but not offensively written (unlike some others, such as the makjang monster Temptation of Wife). Yun-ho’s acting, for instance, was not good, but you could see that he was earnestly doing the best he could. It did improve toward the end, but at the end of the day he is an actor who was given a plum job because of his idol status, so I can’t let him off the hook with a mere, “He tried and he’s a really nice guy.” I believe both of those are true, but I also believe that he did this drama no favors.

On the other hand, there’s Go Ara — she is admittedly gorgeous to look at, but has now acted in multiple dramas and seems to be making no improvement whatsoever. I accepted her in Who Are You because Yoon Kye-sang was in love with her, but here she had little chemistry with Yun-ho. Were they paired with stronger actors, Ara and Yun-ho may have been elevated by association, but together they fell flat. Lee Yoon-ji is a talented actress, but I actually felt that her acting was just as jarring as the bad acting. For instance, in an emotionally charged scene that has her telling Go Ara off angrily, it feels like she’s emoting at a wall, or a cardboard cut-out. When you put them together, it’s so clear that they’re on different planes that it takes the viewer out of the drama.

Perhaps Heading to the Ground doesn’t deserve to be labeled worst anything and is better off forgotten.

 
YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL

You’re Beautiful wasn’t the biggest hit of the year, but you wouldn’t know it from its fanbase. Something about this show struck a chord with viewers, and not just young ones.

There are a lot of ways you can describe this show — idol drama, youth romance, Jang Geun-seok vehicle — but the most apt descriptor, perhaps, is quintessential Hong Sisters drama. With five hit rom-coms in five years, these two screenwriting sisters have established a brand, and You’re Beautiful displays their trademarks in abundance: gentle mocking of standard romance cliches, a love of pop-culture parodies, inordinate attachment to symbolic trinkets, and an infectious humor that is always there to undercut a moment that might be getting too earnest.

It’s not so much the plot itself that is fresh — HOW many cross-dressing girls have we seen in recent years? — but the way they execute it. For example, it’s a standard expectation that a cross-dressing plot must place our disguised heroine in uncomfortable circumstances amidst men who think she’s a man. But who other than the Hong Sisters would give us Mother Superior emerging from a gym locker into a room full of naked idol stars to advise our heroine how best to deal with her embarrassment? The “oops I fell and landed on your lips” ploy is an absurd bit that always makes me roll my eyes — but then the Hong Sisters pervert that faux-kiss with vomit. A rom-com must lead our two characters to embrace before they’re ready to admit their attraction — but who else would get us there with the aid of a taser?

Despite the laugh-out-loud zaniness, You’re Beautiful has its share of flaws. Unfortunately, another Hong Sisters trademark is that the comedy-to-angst ratio typically flips in later episodes, slowing the wild ride we fell in love with in the first half. Subtlety seems not to be a particular goal of their writing, and in fact they overdo the Big Symbolic Speeches. (We get it, stars are special! Night is dark!) Park Shin-hye‘s Mi-nam was sweet and cute, but lord was she dim. If she weren’t a nun (novice), you’d have thought she was stupid. I actually think that the Hong Sisters took a step backward in this drama, in terms of narrative development. Fantasy Couple was skimpier on the character work (except for Han Ye-seul, who was great) but I welcomed their departure from angst. And Hong Gil Dong took them on more mature plot paths, and was their most ambitious project. You’re Beautiful, on the other hand, seems to have returned them to where they were post-My Girl. I absolutely enjoyed the drama, but I don’t think they stretched themselves that much here. In their defense, their forte has always been in humor, and they provided so much hilarious comedy that they deserve due props for always managing to stay a step ahead of the curve and making the audience laugh.

You’re Beautiful‘s appeal is that it is so heartwarmingly upbeat and lovable that I had no problem letting those wrinkles go. The drama gave me an overwhelming number of side-splitting, wacky fun moments that it built up a surplus of goodwill.

A review of this series must include Jang Geun-seok, who played the abrasive idol star character with a gusto I haven’t seen from him before. (This was the first drama where I really felt for him and responded to his character.) Yes, his lip-curl was overdone and he wore some questionable fashions, but how could you not love his delightful sneer, or the little-boy charm he let occasionally show out from under the gruff facade? (The fellow idols were enjoyable as well, with Lee Hong-ki‘s quirky playfulness and Jung Yong-hwa‘s gentle calm rounding out the ensemble, with the former outperforming the latter. But really, this drama owes a big debt of gratitude to Jang Geun-seok.)

Romantic comedies are one genre where the ending is a foregone conclusion — we know that the couple gets together. What I want is to root for the couple and be entertained along the way, and in that this drama was a success. You’re Beautiful gets my nod for giddiest, funniest, laughingest fan frenzy of the year.

Dramas like You’re Beautiful and Boys Before Flowers are the kind that often introduce people to kdramas — and if the newly initiated go on to watch a City Hall or a Story of a Man because their interest was piqued by something popular… well, that’s no loss.

 
IRIS

I have mixed thoughts on IRIS, but ultimately the bottom line is that I was entertained.

Lee Byung-heon is by far the biggest asset to this drama (and my pick for best actor of the year), with Kim So-yeon and Kim Seung-woo close behind. Although they’re casting the sequel without Lee, this first season is as much about him as the Bourne movies are about Matt Damon. It could work with someone else, but he set the bar pretty damn high. The drama definitely threw in lots of fanservicey bits (shirtless Lee Byung-heon, glistening with dirt and sweat and writhing in chains!), but he had ample opportunity to do some strong dramatic work, burning with energy and intensity. As for the others… I normally enjoy Jung Jun-ho, but had some hiccups with his character (more below). I laughed whenever TOP opened his mouth (with his muddled gangsta drawl), but at least he provided an element of unintentional amusement.

The romance was a detriment in that it was the most conventional aspect of the drama and wasn’t particularly convincing. I say this without casting aspersions on Kim Tae-hee‘s acting — she wasn’t terrible, and I liked how her character was assertive — but I didn’t feel the chemistry between her and Lee Byung-heon. As a result, the love story took up an inordinate amount of real estate and slowed things down whenever it came to the fore.

Perhaps more so than any other drama on this page (or this year), I think IRIS is one where you can see a difference of reaction from within Korea and from the international community. I suspect that what the Korean television audience saw as a plus wasn’t necessarily the same for those of us elsewhere — namely, IRIS‘s Western feel. I mentioned it in my initial IRIS recap, that I found it well-produced and slick, but also pretty familiar. Whereas, Korean media reviews seem based on an element of cultural pride, praising IRIS for doing a good job creating a Korean version of those Western spy hits like 24, Alias, and Bourne Identity. Sort of like patting oneself on the back and saying, “Anything you can do, I can do… just as well!” Whereas, I was hoping that they’d up the ante and make something better — something that had the fun excitement of a spy show that still felt like a kdrama.

But that, I recognize, is my own hope and I don’t hold it against the drama. What I DO hold against IRIS is where the plot starts getting murky. IRIS is to me what I suspect Queen Seon-deok is to others: When I watch without stopping to question, it’s easy to watch. When I take a closer look at the logic, oy, I start to get a headache. You can definitely tell that certain bits were included because they look cool, not because they make sense. (For instance, using gobs of C4 to bust open a padlock. Or a scene that I’d completely forgotten but found scrawled in my notes as “death by maraschino cherry.”) The drama threw in a lot of spy-show buzzwords and cliches without necessarily making sure they grew out of the plot.

IRIS seemed like it had a lot to prove, and the producers appear happy with the result. I can’t call this a great drama and I feel very little emotional connection to it, but it was an entertaining ride.

 
WILL IT SNOW FOR CHRISTMAS?

This drama is only half over, but I think leaving it off till 2010 might result in it being forgotten in the shuffle, so I’m commenting here.

I was swept along by Will It Snow For Christmas‘s strong beginning and its nostalgic feel, which recalls the days of the classic melodrama, like Winter Sonata or Autumn Love Story. There’s almost something anachronistic-feeling about it; the childhood portions begin in 1996 but it feels like it actually belongs in the ’70s, back in a simpler time with its sepia tones. Even though it comes described as straight melodrama, there’s a humor and heart to it that drew me in despite my leeriness for melodramas, which is almost always synonymous with the term “tearjerker.”

Once it moves into the adult years, the story becomes more subdued, while generally maintaining that delicate sensibility that drew me to it initially. There’s no doubt that Go Soo elevates this with his expressive eyes that are at once intense and sensitive. His character is an interesting amalgam of several kdrama hero tropes: in youth he is poor, fatherless, and ashamed of his family; as an adult he is polished, well-off, and successful. It feels like the writer wanted to have her cake and eat it too, and I think if not for Go Soo’s heartfelt performance, this would probably bother me.

The co-stars are good, too, if one can separate their performances from their characters — I’m not sure what the future will bring, but the writing seems to be flirting with bringing them into areas I may find problematic. But I’m pleased with Sunwoo Sun‘s portrayal of her volatile, selfish character and Song Jong-ho‘s strong-but-cowardly dichotomy, and he speaks volumes in his looks. Han Ye-seul… she’s adequate. I accept her as the object of Go Soo’s affection, and for that she has done her job.

Followers of this drama are starting to feel uneasy about the direction its plot is taking, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Will It Snow For Christmas, and Go Soo will keep me tuning in to the end. Please don’t make me eat my words.

 

Again, in order of airdate:

CINDERELLA MAN
Watch the first two episodes, and you’d think Cinderella Man was a silly, slapstick romantic comedy. Watch the last two episodes, and you’d think it was an overwrought melodrama. I give Kwon Sang-woo credit for taking on a “shabby” role (as in, one that had him dressing down and taking on an unpolished character), but this drama didn’t do anything for his career, and his colleagues are starting to leave him behind as they move on to more ambitious, challenging projects.

 

PARTNER
For having a cast I liked — Lee Dong-wook, Kim Hyun-joo, Choi Chul-ho, Kim Dong-wook — and a cute chemistry between the leads, I found Partner surprisingly boring. The legal cases weren’t terribly interesting, and one thing Korea still struggles with is in creating engaging procedural shows — those that rely on cases (whether it be medical, legal, or criminal). The strength of kdramas lies largely with its character developments, so when it sacrifices those for cases that end up being nothing special, we’ve got a lackluster procedural with lackluster character relationships. It’s too bad that Lee Dong-wook’s last pre-army project weren’t stronger.

 

SWALLOW THE SUN
This drama sorta feels like it’s trying to be several things at once, but it does accomplish it with a stylish flair. It’s beautiful to look at and listen to, although I did frequently feel that the music, rather than the scenes, manipulated the emotions. This is another revenge series that uses familiar drama conventions — gangsters, birth secrets, “good son” versus “bad son” dichotomy, power plays and secret plots — but handles them well. The acting is solid, although as with many of these kinds of large-scale dramas, the veteran actors outshine the pretty faces in front. Sung Yuri takes another step toward improving public opinion about her acting; and while Lee Wan is passable in his first villain-ish role, he doesn’t take full charge of the situation to really make a strong impression (a la Seon-deok‘s Bi-dam or Mama Kang in Boys Before Flowers). But while I could see where this drama’s strengths lie, ultimately it didn’t speak to me.

 

DREAM
Kim Bum gave an interview saying that he gets excited about characters and jumps into roles quickly; I can see how that happened with Dream. I’m a fan of the boy and I think he has acting skill, but if he doesn’t come up with a great role soon, he’ll have to be relegated to the ranks of those with unfulfilled talent. Dream had some odd casting (Sohn Dam-bi wasn’t terrible in her acting debut, but she was hardly strong, either) and the tone felt scattered. It was part sports drama, part revenge piece, part bromance, part underdog story; I wish they had stuck with one strong concept rather than spreading themselves around. Korean dramas have yet to come up with a sports-themed success (not since 1994, at least), and part of that failure has to be that the so-called sports dramas aren’t actually about sports. (See also: Triple, Heading to the Ground.) They’ve mostly been excuses to set the same old story in a new background, and haven’t found ways to incorporate the sport in a meaningful way.

 

STYLE
Style fared pretty well in the ratings, but I found it annoying and confusing. Lee Jia was shrill and over the top, so although she was ostensibly the protagonist, it was hard to root for her. Kim Hye-soo as the capable fashion editor was supposedly this drama’s version of Meryl Streep’s editor in The Devil Wears Prada, but she was so much more competent than the assistant that she ended up a lot more relatable. Ryu Shi-won‘s character was the most puzzling of all — what does a macrobiotic chef care about fashion or editing?

 

HON (SOUL)
When I think of Hon in the daylight hours, I think, “Oh, I should really get on that.” And then night rolls around and I shudder, “Maybe tomorrow.” Hon has a fantastic eerie ambiance that isn’t always outright scary, but is always unsettling. Its beautiful aesthetic and high quality made this a surprise summer hit, while catapulting rookie actress Im Joo-eun to the spotlight. I am normally a terrible scaredy-cat when it comes to horror, but I found myself so impressed with early episodes that I am determined to one day grit my teeth, prepare for some blood ‘n violence — and a great villain’s performance by Kim Gab-soo — and finish this drama.

 

SMILE
I was more inclined to catch up with Smile before a 16-episode extension drew its length out from 30 to 46 episodes. Although Sons of Sol Pharmacy showed me that longer family shows don’t have to feel burdensome and long, I’m not sure I’m up for another one yet. On the other hand, Lee Min-jung and Jung Kyung-ho have a winning rapport with each other, and their budding romance is a lot of fun to watch unfold. The parents’ generation is less captivating, and I find the experience enhanced by use of the fast-forward button. (So it’s with great thanks that I leave this drama’s recapping to more capable hands!)

 

And with that, another year’s review is done! One more guest review to go, and then our collective Editors’ Picks will wrap up the series. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this collection of reviews, and that you agree that the beauty of such a series is the diversity of opinions that emerge.

 
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142 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. miss_procrastination

    javabeans you do know how to write a damn fine review! thumbs up!

  2. CoffeeLove

    ah yes finally!!! i’ve been waiting for your input the whole day! hurray hurray! on to reading! ^_^

  3. GreenFreak

    The one everyone’s been waiting for…

    THANKS!!!

  4. butterball

    Great review, JB.

    I only watched YB and Will it snow from your list and your review speaks my mind! Being a casual Kdrama viewer, without your recap and insight, I may have not watched these two series at all actually.

    Can I also say that my Kdrama of the year is My name is Kim SamSoon? lol. I only watched it recently (I know I live in the poor village far from Kdrama land lol). Anyway love it!

  5. Sonam

    Dahee’s was moody and passionate, Thundie’s very witty and humorous, Samsooki’s was sweet and yours was wise and calm. I like the way you don’t get carried away by your likes and dislikes. Awaiting the last one.

  6. anjell

    FINALLY!!!!!!!!

    I’ve been waiting for this since yesterday 😉

    I never get tired of reading your posts and reviews… you are an amazing writer JB! two thuimbs up for you!
    Your comments are so engaging and thought-provoking…

    I agree with you about Go Mi Nam… I mean while watching YAB, especially the part where shin woo created their love story, i thought she was kind of – -err..dumb? she was just so insensitive… BUT i didn’t hate her… in fact, I didn’t love her less…… when I think about YAB, GMN stays cute, adorable and lovely (what other adjectives can i add? 😉 ) in my mind.

    I’m glad I found this site this year… THANK YOU JAVABEANS! 😉

  7. Rabgix

    Love the review Javabeans!

  8. Pully

    AWESOME writing. You should do this for living.

    The only surprise I got is that you actually watch QSD. That’s so unusual of you.

  9. Linda

    I thought this was a pretty good year for kdramas, definitely better than 2008. Though, I watched less of them, but I fell in love with pretty much all I watched!

  10. 10 Molly

    Is there a better reaction than “WOW” to describe how I’m feeling right now? As always, thank you, Javabeans! I think you deserve a long round of cyber-applause for all YOU’VE done this year as well. What would we do without you?!

    @butterball
    Sam Soon! I’ve seen it twice! HYUN BIN. He’s tied with GO SOO (both names require caps, to represent the shrill fangirl voice that’s in my head saying their names) for the position of best male kdrama lead in my mind. They melt me with their expressions.

  11. 11 samsooki

    …..and that is how to write a review!

    Wonderfully written, perfect balance. You write a lot like SOAM – layered, balanced, with great pace and timing.

    I’m not sure how many will pick up on how difficult it is to write with such balance and pacing, but I know how difficult it is to write well… ack, wjhy do I always get tongue-tied when I want to say something about jb’s writing. hehe! me want say jb done good! seriously, nobody knows how hard it is to write like jb… ah, screw it, i am already confusing myself…

    happy new year sunbae!

  12. 12 butterball

    samsooki, I appreciate your review, too. Actually you may convince me to watch City hall 😀

    @ Molly, yes yes I agree on HYUN BIN & GO SOO. Love them in the two dramas I saw this year.

  13. 13 anjell

    @ samsooki

    you are also a great writer ^^..

  14. 14 Elsie

    I really enjoyed your review! Very professionally done, and you were very unbiased. You looked at dramas with an openheart and you know how to judge and analyse things very well. I really enjoyed your explainations and your sense of humor 😉

  15. 15 Taohua

    JB, to say that I value your reviews and thoughts would be a mere understatement. Over the past few years, I have come to highly value your opinions and thoughts, especially on kdramas. And while I may not agree with 100% with your opinions, you always make me think and reconsider my own views and opinions and look at things differently–something which I greatly appreciate. You are unapologetic about what you like whether it’s popular or artsy, yet always respectful of other people’s views. It’s something that is both humbling and amazing. For your infinite wisdom and insights, thank you! For having DB and providing a haven for us kdrama fans, thank you!

    On dramas this year…I really want to thank you for doing the recaps for Story of a Man, which was my favorite drama of the year. I wouldn’t have watched it if I hadn’t seen the preview for it on DB. It was my first time really watching an airing drama and I loved reading your recaps after watching the raws. Return of Iljimae will have to be seen next year as well as the other half of Tamna.

    Again, great review—I enjoyed reading it ^_^ And thank you for everything you do!

  16. 16 ockoala

    Thanks for a wonderfully thoughtful and thorough review, JB.

    I can’t wait to watch Tamra in full as well, but I must say, even watching the abridged version was sheer pleasure for me. I’m glad I didn’t wait, but then again, I’m constantly wondering what the heck was cut to make the last few episodes so choppy. Double-edged sword, yes, but who knew k-drama watching could yield a two-fold pleasure for me: the pleasure of watching it, and then the pleasure of discussing it later here at dramabeans.

    Thank you for everything you do in creating such a enriching blog for k-drama lovers everywhere.

    Happy New Year, and much rest to you!

  17. 17 Penn

    Great job!!! I’ve stayed up for this review and now I’m headed for bed. I’ll read it again in the morning because it’s just damn GOOD.

  18. 18 Molly

    @ samsooki
    You are a wonderful writer as well! By sunbae, do you mean it as you know Javabeans in person? Or just a sunbae as in a drama-reviewing, drama-loving sunbae? :)

    @ butterball
    Was that Friend? I haven’t seen it, though I probably should. As much of a Hyun Bin fan I am, I’ve only seen one drama with him, and that’s Sam Soon.

    Watch City Hall! It makes me squeal too, because you will definitely be thinking CHA SEUNG-WON while you’re watching it. He’s got the eyes too – he’s close behind GO SOO and HYUN BIN. And Samsooki does a great job on the recaps.

  19. 19 Tati

    A review with a heart. Makes it a more enjoyable read than the other one dripping with pure cynicism and negativity. Nice to know the JB i look to for kdrama pointers knows how to balance sensible analysis and simple tolerance. Very laid back and calm. Great review JB!

  20. 20 curiouscat

    thanks for a wonderfully insightful and great review! I have always come to your site to see what your thoughts were on the dramas that I am currently watching/will watch and have always found your recaps and reviews quite on point. It’s always been such a thrill for me to read your thoughts on a Kdrama and loved your recommendations. I have enjoyed coming to dramabeans this 2009 and am looking forward to more happy fills this 2010! Thanks again JB!

  21. 21 M&M

    Aigoo ~ I can’t believe the year is ending so soon T_T
    But still great reviews :)
    Personally, I thought this years dramas were soo..flat, like they were just re-using ideas. I hope next year gets a LOT better in both acting AND writing.
    O, well – Happy Early new Years 😀

  22. 22 langdon813

    I have so much love for Story of a Man, Return of Iljimae and Tamra the Island, and it’s strictly because of your wonderful first episode recaps for each of them that I was even tempted to watch them in the first place. Whenever I find myself on the fence about a new or upcoming drama, your opinion counts the most towards whether I decide to watch, or not.

    January 2009 is when I discovered Kdramas, and I found Dramabeans not long after that…two events that have significantly changed my life for the better. And for that I’m so grateful, I could never hope to express it adequately.

    All I can do is say thank you from the bottom of my heart, for this wonderful site that I now call home, for endlessly entertaining and informative updates every single day (!), for always introducing me to fantastic music, for giving me so many yummy reasons to form the ICOMYM club, and most importantly, for the wonderful friends I’ve made here.

    JB, if I ever win the lottery, you will be set for life. FOR LIFE.

    *hugs*

  23. 23 Jay Jay

    JB, you never disappoint.

  24. 24 Sonam

    hmmmm I am in two minds to watch KS, KS’s father. Sounds a little too nihilistic.

  25. 25 Kay

    Great review. Well, in my case I kinda of knew how your opinion was placed, since Im a loyal follower of your blogg, so mostly all the dramas reviewed, were all ready explain before. Thanks to you I watched almost every drama mentioned, and I share the same opinion (or really close at least) about your drama review, with the exception of Queen Seon Duk, drama that I definitely wont touch again or at least in a very long time.
    I agree with you about 2009 to be a fun year, particulary if you make a comparation with 2008, even if there were some flaws.
    I like the way you express your opinion, so unbiased and honest.
    My favorite for this year: Story of a man (haven’t watch Return of Iljimae, yet)
    My worst kdrama disappointment: Triple and My fair lady.
    Well, again, thanks a lot, ill wait the next guest, and hope I keep getting great reviews, at this moment I am happy with the differences between writers, it makes everything more objective, and interesting

  26. 26 sunahforever

    Hey, what about City Hall??? Not even worth a mention???? Am terribly disappointed!!!

    • 26.1 tweetiepie

      Was wondering the same thing…

  27. 27 fizzle

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing what you did about Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father.

    I am always so frustrated when I just don’t get the critically-acclaimed so-called “gems”. I love finding a great underrated show that I can have fun watching even though nobody else is – it’s like you’re better than everyone because you’re the only one who can see and appreciate what what makes it special – but with Kyung-sook it just didn’t click with me. I found it to be cute and mildly funny but could not for the life of me see what was so fantastic about it. I watched one episode and then didn’t even bother to finish it and it was only four hours long! Coming from someone who slogged through 15 episodes of Cain and Abel before finally giving up, that’s a pretty embarrassing effort.

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who wasn’t raving about Kyungsook, Kyungsook’s Father. Now I don’t feel as bad about not finishing it.

  28. 28 more

    I love reading your reviews more then anyone because we have simliar taste in dramas THANKS 😀

  29. 29 Amg1

    Never in my wildest dreams will I thought that I could get addicted to an internet blog!!! JB you did me in!! Thank you again for your hard work… May 2010 be a great year for you and all your “DramaBeaners” Peace!!!!

  30. 30 nabi

    Thanks JB for another year of great recaps, reviews, etc though our opinions didn’t always agree.. and mighty thanks for introducing Tamra and to us.

    For me, Triple was the biggest disappointment of the year since I’ve been eagerly waiting for it to air for over a year.. Return of the Iljimae is on my To Watch list but not sure when I’m actually going to watch it.. if only I had more time!

    Heading to the Ground.. I really wanted to like this because of the director, but it was just badly written and I hated Go Ara’s character and what was up with the choppy editing, bad CG and annoying music?? It was another huge disappointment for me. Another victim of bad script was My Fair Lady.. I don’t think I’ll ever watch the writer’s work in the future.

  31. 31 chajjye

    haha. i wish you kept will it snow on christmas to next year. cause i am also wishing that you won’t have to eat your words. like star’s lovers last year. oei.

    that said. i think star’s lover has its plus points, one being the awesome chemistry. but i agree that the first four epis (where they were in japan and there) were the best. I can never forget those episodes. i think they were so nicely done it’s a shame really. but the soundtrack makes me want to rewatch it. :S

    but let’s hope that will it snow on christmas will be a solid melodrama till the end…we always have this fear that it will all go into crazy wreck that cannot redeem itself. unfortunately. like star’s lover.

    a great review overall. your recaps often make me want to watch the dramas. thanks to u, i’m watching return of iljimae and will it snow on christmas.

    at least if will it snow on christmas fails (i hope not!), there’s always go soo to redeem it. T.T

  32. 32 Snikki

    I like reading all these different reviews; it sorta shows us a glimpse of each reviewer’s personality outside of cyberspace, too… maybe. :)

  33. 33 wednesday

    great review jb. im also awarding you “100 points out of a possible 10.”

    and thank you so much for another great year of posts/recaps/reviews.

  34. 34 ruthie

    [quote] We weren’t blind, we KNEW it was bad, but it was like MSG for the brain — we just kept shoveling it in and wanting more, and only after it was over did we feel slightly disgusted with ourselves.
    [quote]

    omg JB! did u just took this out of my mouth?!
    im GUILTY ok! it just that this line made lol’d
    so much that it hurts! ahaha really enjoyed your
    review JB. hopefully, we’ll have some more
    worth-watching dramas for 2010!

  35. 35 chajjye

    @Samsooki:
    hey, i enjoyed your reviews too!

    i think that it’s important that you feel connected to your characters. :) you and all the cityhallers were the ones who convinced me to pick this drama up. XD

    thanks!

  36. 36 javabeans

    Samsooki, you make me blush. No, really! Thank you for those generous words, but more importantly, thank you for participating in the review extravaganza! (That goes for dahee, thundie, and hjkomo too.) You guys went all-out and I’m incredibly grateful.

    Thanks to everyone else, for reading, and enjoying, and loving kdramas!

  37. 37 Andromytta

    Thanks for your review, as well as all the guest bloggers! (Samsookie’s was my favorite of theirs…that pic he used for his IRIS review…well, my favorite!)

    I have to say, I totally agree with the romance portion of IRIS. Totally unnecessary. I’m still waiting to see the last three episodes, and I am looking forward to how this show wraps up. It is one of my favorites so far. (I would say “so far this year”, but that would be redundant, since this IS my first year of Kdramas!)

    As for Dream, well, it’s no secret that I enjoyed this show, and I choose to think of it as a “bromance”. MoBum stuff was the BEST!

    I recommend you take the time to finish Soul. Being a fan of horror/supernaturally themed shows, when Dramafever got this, I watched it right away, finishing it up on Halloween (which was really fun for me.) There isn’t really a LOT of blood and gore, but there is some. The storyline is intriguing, and I liked it.

  38. 38 xylo

    I was surprised with your rating of Kyung Sook, Kyung Sook’s Father, but then when you explained the reason it made a lot more sense to me. After reading the other reviewers rave about it I was prepared to give it a try. Still, like you I was raised (am being raised) in a Korean family who thoroughly educated me about the Korean War, especially since almost all of the family on my father’s side resides on the other side of the DMZ. I was admittedly curious to see how they would pull off a humourous side to the war. I can see now that it definitely depends on your perspective and the context you watch it in. Thank you for your opinion, it was very interesting.

    On another note, I read your blog regularly and I’m always impressed with your analytical skills and writing style. Thanks again for the excellent review!

  39. 39 cheonsa

    Finally, JB’s review! And it starts with the 2009 sensation that is LMH! Let me get me some java and settle down for a good read.

  40. 40 jm126

    I KNEW javabeans wrote this one because this is the best review I’ve read so far!

    Agreed with both although I’m surprised you wrote Boys Over Flowers in a brighter tone than expected but it’s all good (I, for one, fairly enjoyed BOF. It’s fun & charm overshadowed its flaws).
    I’m currently suffering from You’re Beautiful withdrawal again.. ):

    2010, are you ready for us drama-lovers?

  41. 41 sukispop

    And this is why I love YOUR blog, JB! As others have mentioned, you approach your reviews with an open heart and an open mind, and I thoroughly enjoy reading them.
    Thanks, so much, for the guest reviews, and the different perspectives they provided us with. All in all, very entertaining reading, even if I didn’t agree with some of their impressions(and with one, the overall tone).

    I’d like to also give Samsooki a special nod. I’ve always enjoyed reading Samsooki’s comments, here on DB…his “Newbie Review” was no exception.
    Good stuff, Samsooki!

  42. 42 mzpakipot

    one word…

    EXCELLENT!

  43. 43 cingdoc

    @JB
    I will make my comments short and sweet- all the reviews are well written , and like the drama’s , I like each of the reviews for different reasons. I love the facts that as I was reading each of them, I found similarities and differences . But , that’s ok…we are not some cult which demands we all “conformed” to one liking. I also enjoyed reading each contributing writer’s different styles of critiques( just by reading the content of each review, I can tell who wrote it…I love that! ) I know I have said this before, but THANK YOU JB for your wonderful site- all those OT’s, recaps, and of course these great end of the years reviews. :)

    …sorry, I really meant to be brief….

  44. 44 pat

    I ffwd thru Cain and Abel, endured Castle ( kept hoping), found he who cannot marry and Fool charming, Housewives watchable,YB full of sparkle, SOAM too grim, IRIS too pleased with itself, (but LBH was great.) Iljimae pretty but boring, Painter wonderful, Lee Min Ho was cute and City Hall’s CSW was amazing. And I finally saw all of Jewel in the Palace this year. (I’ll try to forget BBF and both Temptations)
    Thanks JB and samsooki too for the encouraging discoveries and insightful reviews
    Happy New Year everyone.

  45. 45 all4movies

    Hey jb and team, 2009 has been a great ride in kdrama-land and I look forward to an an even more interesting 2010.

    Wishing everyone a happy new year. I know, it’s a few days early but doesn’t everyone celebrate New Year’s Eve in their own fashion?

  46. 46 cat.leafs

    Thank you for the review, javabeans!

  47. 47 asianromance

    “When I think of Hon in the daylight hours, I think, “Oh, I should really get on that.” And then night rolls around and I shudder, “Maybe tomorrow.”” —> exactly how I feel. And when I do watch something scary in the daylight hours, when night rolls, I’m mentally kicking myself while suffocating under my huge comforter.

    Great review! It’s like reading all your recaps at once! it left me feeling giddy! I’m so glad you have other reviewers too so that we can get different perspectives about the same dramas and so that we can get as many dramas in as possible. I agree that 2009 really wasn’t that bad. Sure there are a few disappointments, but there are enough gems to make it a pretty decent year.

    Thank you so much, javabeans, for another great year of recaps, reviews, translated interviews, and news stories.

  48. 48 isabella

    Thank you so much, JB!

    I really enjoy all the reviews, especially those written by Samsooki and you, JB. They speak my mind the most of all, I think. I’m also fond of the rest although Dahee’s “brutal honesty” made me wince a little from time to time.

    I didn’t watche all of the listed drama, just speedily wrapped up half of them in 2 months but I think I won’t regret not watching the others. Although my most favorite drama, Family Honor which was wrapped up at the beginning of 2009 isn’t mentioned in both 2008 and 2009’s reviews of yours, I share the same thought about these shows. Really admire your hard work and all the effort you’ve put to bring us the best and most delicious dishes of K-drama. As a trainee writer, I’ve got far a lot to learn from you as well as the other fellows.

    Happy New Year!

  49. 49 Marzy

    nice choicesss i agreed with most of them. great review as always Jb! ^^ thanks for the year awesome blogging and comments, reviews whatnot. it was a fun ride. as was the drama year, is looking forward to next as well. cheers all!

  50. 50 Jane

    Thanks for the review, java! Loved reading every single word of it. :]]

  51. 51 birdscout

    @23 Jay Jay

    I agree wholeheartedly! javabeans never disappoints.

    Now I really have to check out Kyung Sook, Kyung Sook’s Father to see which camp I belong.

    Thank you, javabeans for another year’s worth of awesome kdrama blogging!

  52. 52 linda belle

    JB…I love your review!
    you’re not intimidating the bad movies but you stay calm and wise haha…
    For this years, I watched BBF, My Fair Lady and YB, and yes YB is my fave altough GMN is like a fool 😀 and I love JGS a lot even tough the clothes looks weird to me but I love his delightful sneer…
    Thanks JB for the review…hope we can see more good Kdrama next year

  53. 53 nara

    I have just finish watching The Sons Of Sol Pharmacy….and i still rewaching it….especialy….Dae pung-Bok Shil part….Love it…Hope..2010 comes with more interesting drama… Thanks that you keep doing your blog…Javabeans…

  54. 54 kaedejun

    woooh! thanks for a wonderful, concise, inclusive review of the year! i didn’t get to watch a lot of dramas this year, so thanks for summarizing them and letting me know which to watch and catch up on this break! =)

  55. 55 thunderbolt

    Sarah, I’m floored by the breadth and depth of your year-end reviews. As someone who cares deeply about writing, you’re the bar that I hope to reach… in about a hundred years.

    This year’s review extravaganza has been loads of fun with Samsooki and hjkomo coming on board (and we miss you, Sevenses). I LOVED our back-and-forth exchanges (especially on Kyung Sook’s Father and Hwang Jung-min). We’re an opinionated bunch (and I mean this positively), but we also value each other’s opinions and are willing to eat our words, if necessary. I find that immensely humbling. Take Samsooki, for example. With so much on his plate already, he went back and rewatched That Fool from the beginning, just because he wanted to understand why we were raving about Hwang Jung-min. As for me, I’m eager to check out Story of a Man (which I dropped after five minutes, don’t ask why!) because you, Samsooki and Sevenses rate it so highly. I’m also going to continue with Friend soon because of Dahee’s moving review.

    With 2010 around the corner, I hope to watch more dramas than I did this year and to love them even more. I need to space them out better, though, so that I’m not cramming them down my throat all at once at the end of the year! Finally, several people have hinted at how much (fun) I’m missing not participating in your Open Threads, so I hope to visit more, come out of my shell more, and just swim gleefully with fellow addicts in this vast and glorious kdrama sea.

    Happy New Year, everyone!

  56. 56 Laica

    Great reviews as always. Your writing is as usual eloquent and wryly humorous. I agree with everything you’ve said. Except for the Return of Iljimae, for some reason I just lost interest after Iljimae became unhinged and violent after a certain someone’s ‘death’. But I agree, it was hauntingly beautiful. My favourite part was actually the relationship between the police officer and Iljimae’s mother – both actors did a beautiful job.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention City Hall though, did you not see it? It was definitely my favourite of the year.

    I have to reiterate what some others said, there are a few dramas I never would have watched if you hadn’t blogged about them, and You’re Beautiful is one of them. Thank you for your tireless, witty, well-informed posts, Javabeans, and have a wonderful new year!

  57. 57 D:

    i can’t believe you forgot temptation of the wife! that was freaking huge in korea.

  58. 58 karened

    I’m glad you typed that very long review on BOF, because that saved me the effort to type on up on my own. Every word in there echoed what I feel about the drama (and its craze), especially this line – “we just kept shoveling it in and wanting more, and only after it was over did we feel slightly disgusted with ourselves. ”

    This was especially after watching YB. =/

    Being a fan of Park Yong Ha, I bought the Slingshot dvd, but after reading a few online reviews on how good the other Park was in the show, and nothing much being mentioned of Yongha, I delayed watching it, up till now. I was worried that Yong Ha didn’t perform as good as I had expected, and that will ruin the show for me. Furthermore, the lack of discussion about Yong Ha, and his position in official posters made me think that he wasn’t the lead, meaning less screentime. But he is the lead ne! Gonna watch it soon!

  59. 59 deeta

    I’m echoing the praises, JB. Your writing skills are so perfect. They’re elaborate but not boring. They’re fast paced but not rushing. Whenever I read your reviews, either I would be nodding my head vigorously or I would be shaking it in disagreement. But never I would be closing the window before finishing or scratching my head in confusion. Perfect clarity.

    Thanks for writing a differing opinion on Kyungsook. I’m one of those who actually loved it but it was refreshing to read an opposing review.

    I’m a little disappointed that none of the preceding reviewers touched on Return of Iljimae because it is truly my #1 drama this year. I was rather excited to read a negative review on RoI because I just can’t find sufficient flaws for RoI. Oh man, I can’t give enough raving for that drama.

  60. 60 Two Cents

    JB-

    Have to give you credit for introducing me to two of my favorite K-dramas this year. Without reading your enthusiastic reviews, I would never in my wildest dreams have been even remotely interested in watching You are Beatiful and Story of a Man. I started watching YAB at episode 7 only after your continued raving reviews about it because I was completely turned off by the whole idol premise. But boy, I am so glad I followed your lead, for this turned out to be by far my favorite drama of 2009! I also wholeheartedly agree that JGS deserves at least 95% of the credit for carrying the drama. I am also glad I watched Story of a Man and agree wholeheartedly with your description of it. Your description of BBF is also so apt and accurate, I could not have expressed it better.

    Thank you for hours of entertainment and feeding me with information about the Korean entertainment industry.

    Looking forward to even greater things in 2010.

    Happy new year to the JB and K-Drama community!

  61. 61 pixie

    bravo JB! a well-balanced review! that’s why i always anticipate your recaps and comments, you’re a great writer :) and yay for SoaM lol! thank you for another year of great recaps/comments. One more reviewer to wrap up 2009 dramas :)

    Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

  62. 62 Erica

    Did NO ONE (well at least the reviewers) watch Queen of Housewives? XD

    Ah well. Thanks for the well written review series! All of you guys did a great job and I’ll definitely be catching up on some of the ones I missed this year (City Hall, IRIS, The Sons of Sol Pharmacy)

  63. 63 Atsirk

    Awesome review Javabeans :)

    “Story of a Man” was super awesome. I loved it :) Kim Kang-woo blew me away…

    You should rethink about watching “Brilliant Legacy”. Bae Soo-bin was…(blushing) awesome, and Lee Seung-gi was a revelation (squealing like crap…).

    “Smile, You” is certainly one of the best for me. I can’t stop watching Lee Min-jung and Jung Kyung-ho :)

    It makes me super blush that you also have good words for “You’re Beautiful”. Jang Geun-seok (despite the heavy eyeliner…ergh) is such a breeze. I was super amused to watch him as Hwang Tae-kyung, which made me want to have a very OC, terrible boyfriend this 2010. LOL…Kudos to Jeremy, Jolie, and Kang Shin-woo, too :)

    And I absolutely agree with you on the Hong sisters. They’re awesome, but they could be better :)

    HIGH FIVE TO YOU TOO JAVABEANS :) HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

  64. 64 yabb

    great review. i have been reading your blog for a couple of months, and i thoroughly enjoy all of your thoughtful commentary. usually when i watch a television show, i switch my brain to “off,” but after i read your recaps, i begin to notice the different nuances and layers (or lack thereof) of kdramas.

    about boys before flowers. you are right that it’s a show that draws people into kdramas. it was the first kdrama i watched. however, i don’t think this drama’s success is attributed solely to cute actors and crazy hype. i watched BOF without knowing anything about kdramas (or finding lee min ho attractive). so there wasn’t any hype for me–yet i became addicted. BOF was so much fun to watch because it was fantastical and ridiculous. it was cliche, but its tone was refreshing. in any case, BOF was cheesy but unapologetically so.

    based on your review, story of a man sounds like a drama with much artistic integrity. i will watch that next!

  65. 65 Dahee_Fanel

    Thank you for the amazing write-up, Sarah (you never, ever disappoint). You are a goddess of the K-drama writing world. :) And thank you for allowing us editors to write and to get together and have such meaningful, meaty, wonderful discussions. I had so much fun.

    Happy New Year!

  66. 66 Alert

    Wow. That’s one long review that I really enjoyed reading haha. Thanks JB for the great write up. I promised myself that before I go back into my lurkerdom, I have to at least say thank you to all the lovely reviewers! And of course, a huge hug goes to you JB!

    Looking forward for the last review and editor’s pick!

  67. 67 alison

    @Sonam

    “Dahee’s was moody and passionate, Thundie’s very witty and humorous, Samsooki’s was sweet and yours was wise and calm.”

    you took these words right out of my mouth. i love how all the reviews have such range.

    JB, i sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart for creating this beautiful and rare website devoted to korean dramas and beyond. it is so refreshing to read something beyond the usual k-pop fluff that is out there.

  68. 68 vis

    Weeeee! Thanks so much for the review! Of course, I couldn’t agree more about Slingshot/Story of A Man!!! ^________^

  69. 69 bbm

    Aahh… if you just changed the welcome banner/picture (IRIS & BBF to YB or CH)… all three beside IRIS are in my top 5 this year (those plus YB n CH)
    SOAM is just like you said, smart and sexy (Chae Do Woo still better than This Mishil IMO)
    RoI is just sooooo beautiful, the cast, view, relationships, music…
    SoSP is just so refreshing, the only daily/family drama that didn’t make me throw something on the TV (my poor TV set has been in so many hard times :P), the warmth of family and/or friends are just so abundantly showed here…
    YB, well… you’ve said it already, and i have to agree with your opinion of the dim-witted GMN, JGS is so great here, JYH still need to improve but he’s sweet nonetheless, and LHK is such a revelation, his bus scene i think is one of my favourite KDrama scene this year…
    CH… i have to give my thanks to all the City Haller that overtook months of OTs few months back just to encourage people to watch CH…
    Triple n MFL is such a dissapointment, i really don’t believe the amount of talent that go wasted on both of that drama…

    what make me an avid JB follower are that somehow my taste in dramas are similar with you (beside CH of course, and don’t worry i will not force you to watch it :P), and especially your writing style… this review is one great example of how a great writer you are… and i learned so much by just reading what you have to write (and from other commenters, guest bloggers who also have great writing styles).
    and also thank you for these sets of year end reviews from you and all the great guest reviewer. although different in so many ways, but all shows each reviewer taste and style.
    waiting for hjkomo’s review and then we have the editor’s pick… can’t wait to see that…

  70. 70 Goldenlotus

    15. Taohua: I just want to say that you completely took the my thoughts and wrote it down. So JB, I extend the same message to you. I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for a few years now and I look forward to continuing to do so in the future. Let’s hope for a great kdrama year for 2010.

    Cheers!

  71. 71 D

    thank you… nice, as usual.

    i did watched KS, KS’s father – or rather it was on the background while i was on my machine. mmm, i can’t say i like it much.

    looking forward to 2010..

  72. 72 celestialorigin

    JB! I do so appreciate you, your recaps and reviews! I didn’t watch some of the dramas you’ve reviewed. Otherwise, the one I did, I’m pretty much with you!

    JB rocks!

  73. 73 E

    Hi JB, Great review and excellent writing. I was never much of a fangirl while growing up but YAB turned me into a rabid fan. Even when I was travelling to the USA on a work trip, I watched the subtitled episodes once I get back to the hotel room to keep up with the episodes. What YAB provided was mindless escapism and entertaining fluff, just what is needed after a long day at work.

  74. 74 rainerust

    Was waiting all day for this! Read the reviews of the others, and while I appreciate their thoughts, I think our tastes are perhaps more aligned, which is why I enjoy reading your reviews so much. Excellent recaps and reviews, I really need to start on Return of Iljimae soon…always meant to but never quite got around to it…

    To the other reviewers as well, two thumbs up for investing so much effort in reviewing 2009 dramas. I may not agree with all you’ve said, but certainly I understand how long it takes to pen such thoughts down. :)

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

  75. 75 Brendel

    I love this review, Javabeans! Thanks to you, I now have more k-dramas to watch next year.

  76. 76 shin mi rae

    i love your BBF review. i also finished the series until the end. you expressed it correctly when you said,

    “We weren’t blind, we KNEW it was bad, but it was like MSG for the brain — we just kept shoveling it in and wanting more, and only after it was over did we feel slightly disgusted with ourselves.”

    i was truly disgusted with myself after watching this…. what was i thinking?

  77. 77 snow

    yay, thanks javabeans for a lovely review! i enjoyed reading it as i’ve been following your recaps for a while and also liked some of the dramas you did. i’m happy you gave Story of a Man and Will It Snow for Christmas? a mention because i enjoyed the first and am watching the second (go soo’s eyes are amazing). totally agree with you about Triple, and was bored by Partner, but really enjoyed what i saw of Sons of Sol Pharmacy!

    here’s hoping for a better 2010 for k-dramas! do you have anything in mind that you’re particularly looking out for?

  78. 78 Agent Darwin

    Final reminder: Dramabeans, you did not finish recapping Star’s Lover!! That’s your unfinished business in 2009. ^__________^ Thank you anyway!!

  79. 79 estelle

    I’ve been waiting for this all week! Thank you Javabeans, for this impeccable year end review and a whole year of fantastic reads! Thank you so so sooo much!

  80. 80 alexandra

    Yep thanks for the non-partial review!!

  81. 81 Net-chan

    THANKS JAVABEANS! I’ve been waiting for your review! As always, I like the way you write. Maybe I’ll start watching Will it Snow For Christmas to see how “nostalgic” it is… I haven’t watched Winter Sonata and Autumn Love Story, so I won’t be able to compare, but I need something to make my heart cry (and I know this drama will do)!

    In the whole I agree with you (on the dramas I’ve watched): BBF worked “in spite of itself”, YAB was a phenomenon, My Fair Lady was disappointing, and IRIS untertaining.

    However, in BBF and MFL, the secondary characters are very good: Kim So Eun, Lee Min Jung and Moon Chae Won (who’s also brilliant in Shining Inheritance) are the ones I’ve discovered this year!

  82. 82 mskimbab

    HOORAH! *Standing ovation*

    It’s just so amazing reading these reviews- they beat critics’ views anytime. And for her passion and good heart in sharing such valuable insights, I salute Javabeans 😀

    Now eagerly anticipating hjkomo’s piece! Cheers.

  83. 83 Vanessa

    Hi !

    I really enjoy your review..
    There are dramas that you must see in 2009 : A man’s story (excellent), swallow the sun (nice chemistry between Ji Sung and Sung Yuri and solid cast), Cain and Abel (So Ji Sub was perfect !), shining inheritance (Lee Seung Gi did a great job) and BOF (good story and actors that make me feel good for watching this drama).

    ah, will it snow at christmas? and smile,you are very good too and I really think that they are worth to watch..

    Sorry for my english but I’m Brazilian and I don’t know if everything that it’s written is correct 😉

  84. 84 Kelela

    @yabb took the words right out of my mouth in regards to BBF.

    It was my first kdrama as well. I had never seen one before, but I started watching and just became enthralled with it in a way that I cannot totally explain. It was magical. Sometimes wicked. But there was that charm that I just loved. I even watched it twice as a whole and I go back to episodes every now and then. I find things about it that I just enjoy. The acting for me was better than expected. Maybe my jaded Hollywood life had lower standards.

    I just finished “You’re Beautiful” and your review was spot on. I can’t say any more than that.

    I really enjoy your site. Since late November I have just become obsessed with kdramas. I’ve watched 4 already (the above and Coffee Prince & Sam Soon). I have 3 ready to watch and it is a genre that I can’t wait to tackle. Thank you for taking the time to make this site well done and informative.

  85. 85 elise

    2009 will not be complete without your year end reviews! thank you and looking forward to more dramas in 2010! Happy New Year!

  86. 86 ShiningPartner

    Thank you for the review javabeans!! love it and love your blog! (: (:

  87. 87 RD

    Like alot of people, I was in the BBF craze also and I cannot believe I finished it. At least the ending was good.

    You’re Beautiful was entertaining but I wasn’t totally impressed by it like everyone else. I won’t deny that I wasn’t entertained by it though.

    Story of a Man! Best drama of 2009 hands down. Sleek, stylish, and sexy with all its elements just all working together. Thank you for your review of it javabeans. More people need to see why Story of a Man is such a great drama. I’ll even say that it’s one of my favorite dramas of all time along with My Name Is Kim Sam Soon.

  88. 88 xiahkixiri

    \o/ These reviews have been a blast, never felt their length once and even wished they were longer! Feels a bit odd to be feeling nostalgic and sad over the end of another year in this way too, but thank you for creating such a wonderful environment.

  89. 89 jandoe

    my favorite thing about this blog: the year-end reviews.

    and yours, is always a pleasure to read :)

    excellent job, thanks JB!

  90. 90 yankoala4

    thanks javabeans…
    no word can describe how thankful I am to accidentally found ur blog..

    after BOF I had stop watching kdama because of busy-ness but then again..
    I missed the fun and come back to ur site

    now I’m introducing your blog to as much friend as I can get..in other words(ahem2..’fly me to the moon’s takeout lyric) continue your spirit and soul for 2010 and afterwards… great review for 2009.. =D

  91. 91 Ariel

    Insightful, superlative writing and full of heart these are the things that keeps me coming back to Dramabeans. I might experience drama burn out every now and then but you are the spark that rekindles and sustain my love for k drama through all these years.
    Thanks for the k-music another addiction that I could totally blame on you. Thanks for introducing me to Nell, Lucid Fall, Loveholic (w/ Jisun and post Jisun), Clazziquai, and all those Song of the Day that has continously fed my addiction. Also for generously sharing them.
    I discovered your site 2007 and its 3 years hence, this is the only site that I am truly faithful too and it just keeps getting better.
    Thank you! Salamat! Kamsa Hamnida! Dōmo arigatō! Terima kasih! JAVABEANS

  92. 92 lebcora

    Wow!

    First, I’d like to extend my most sincere thanks to javabeans, samsooki, thunderbolt and dahee fanel for their incredible work on these year-end reviews. I simply don’t know how you find the time – you really all must have a secret door into another dimension where time moves much s l o w e r ….

    I hope each of you (and all the rest of the great DB posters) know how refreshing it is to be part of a friendly, passionate and fun group of folks! I am addicted to Kdramas, and to DB, without which I wouldn’t be able to get through the workday!

    I’m a bit picky about what I’ll watch, but I am adding my vote to City Hall as the drama of the year. I was, as samsooki so eloquently put in his comments, moved by the story and impressed with the overall acting chops, especially CSW. (though KSA will always be my favorite – she could be in an American soap opera and I’d watch her!)

    I am one of those who always has “plans” to watch this or that great drama, often madly disrupted by my young children and my job. But – thanks to all of you, I can still live vicariously through recaps, comments and reviews!

    Looking forward to a dramatic 2010 and Wishing each of you a Happy and Healthy New Year!!

  93. 93 Lisa

    Well, okay, I guess I’ll give Tamra a chance!

  94. 94 nycgrl

    I loved how you put the BBF phenomon into context. BBF was not one of the dramas I watched this year due to limited time and personal taste but I always wondered what contributed to its success since I heard from most people it wasn’t very good–namely falling short of other F4 iterations and the subpar acting and writing.

    I think overall 2009 was better than 2008 though not 2007 or 2005 levels. Thanks so much for your blog JB. It is a warm home in the endless ether.

  95. 95 Nonbirira

    Thanks so much, Javabeans, for the great review and for providing the opportunity to read so many passionate and informative reviews by others as well. Love your site – visit every single day (often multiple times). Unfortunately, I haven’t been watching much this year (curse you, overtime!) but thanks to you and your fellow reviewers I now know which dramas to pick when I do get the time. Thanks SO much for this site and for all the energy and effort you put into making it work. Wishing you a great year of Kdramas in 2010!

  96. 96 loveydovey

    all i have to say is: nope, Smile, You is the best drama of the year; it is very well written and the story is interesting. But i guess it would depend on taste since i like funny and easy-going types of dramas, maybe you like excitement and action better :). Also, i sincerely don’t understand the hype about YB, it’s way too much..so slapstick…

    p.s. does Smile You remind anyone else of Bad Family?

  97. 97 diane

    Thank you so much for your reviews, Javabeans. After reading your review I realized I watched more dramas than what I thought I did. I watched a lot of the older dramas this year. ( Your recaps of Que Sera Sera were great!)

    I loved Story of a Man. I thought the acting was solid, the story was realistic and intense. I didn’t want it to end. I really connected to the characters. Kim Kang-woo was mesmerizing. I just loved this drama.

    I also loved Sol Pharmacy. Had I known it was going to be so many episodes I may not have watched it. I loved the brothers, I thought the fathers were priceless. It made me laugh out loud quite a few times.

    BBF, well… it was OK. It had some interesting parts. I prefer Hana Yori Dango. (Which I just watched again)

    You’re Beautiful was cute. JGS was adorable. Actually I think I watched this just to see him. Loved his character.

    IRIS. Overall I liked it. I thought the romantic parts were blah. I did like LBH, KSY and KSW. JJH (whom I adore) his character had me so confused. Don’t know if I’ll watch an IRIS 2.

    Hon (Soul) overall was pretty good. It had it’s uneven moments.

    Will it Snow for Christmas is still a work in progress. I can see where it’s starting to bog down a bit. I still have hope and will watch this to the end.

    Once again, thank you all for all of your insights, your time and efforts. I really appreciate it.

  98. 98 Nom_Kitteh

    Thank you for the wonderfully written — as expected — review, JB. I especially appreciate the fact that you did not bash BOF, using (the unfair advantage of) clarity of distance. Also, while I really enjoyed reading all the other reviews, I felt disquieted, in a kind of like, “Wait, This is not what I come here for coz all this is so foreign and I’m all stressed out” sort of way, so reading your review — familiar, and thus comforting — was especially nice.

    Thank you for your honest comments about Kyung-Sook’s Father. I am pretty sure that I won’t be checking out the drama.

    For me, BOF will always hold a special place in my heart. The sheer energy and fun the fans created was enough to make the experience memorable. I have gone back to the first few of its episodes — months after — and there is something really magical about them. The production quality is high, the exclusive world of rich, isolated kids is believable, and JanDi’s role as an interloper (in those first few episodes when she had energy) is great. Before the drama fell apart, it deserved the hype.

    I cannot choose one drama of year so I am going with both City Hall and YAB, and I think they can both occupy the number one spot because they are so, so, so different. City Hall is darkly feel good, and even when the good people win, you have seen enough of the machinations of politics to wonder if good can ever truly triumph. YAB is light-fare feel good all the way, and it is infectiously fun and cute. Both dramas tugged at my heartstrings, and that’s all I ask for from my entertainment.

    I wish Shining Inheritance/Brilliant Legacy had more commentary — I think only Thundie reviewed it. It is a good drama — really. It is the most “soap opera” K-drama I have ever watched, but it has so many wonderful messages, and I found myself, embarrassingly, nodding earnestly as the grandmother imparted her words of wisdom. It’s also estrogen-central, in a positive way.

    Next stop: Tamra Island. I hope DramaFever picks it up soon!

    I am tempted to watch Chuno…but I think someone’s going to die in it. Dunno — just a feeling. So until the lack of deathiness is confirmed…

  99. 99 keunsukfan

    loved your review! it’s so easy to read, even though you don’t like some drama’s it doesn’t come off us condescending, and so it’s easier to swallow, to agree to disagree, it doesn’t rub you the wrong way and that’s how it should be.

    thanks for your review! it was excellent!!!

    keep up the good work :)

  100. 100 samsooki

    I just want to clarify my weak-sauce comment above. lol. I don’t want to belabor this, but I’ll try to be brief.

    Writing is very hard. It is hard because there are an infinite number of ways to say something, but only a very small number of ways to say it well.

    First –
    Content: you must get across what it is that you are trying to say.
    Substance: what it is that you are trying to say, has to make sense.
    Impact: you must consider who it is that you are writing for.

    Second –
    Delivery: given the content / substance, what’s the proper method of delivery?
    Style: given the delivery, what’s the proper style of writing?
    Personality: does what you say reflect who you are?

    Third –
    Grammar: have you eliminated awkward phrasing and diction issues?
    Difficulty: how difficult is it to read? are you talking down or up to your readers?
    Length: now that you’re ‘done’, can you eliminate 30% of what you just wrote?
    Design: have you crafted paragraph and sentence structure to reflect the look?

    Fourth – (for blogging)
    Screen captures / graphics / pictures: Can you find the ones you want?
    Design: can you make the post look good, in keeping with your words?
    Timeliness: can you do it… in no time at all, because everybody is waiting for it? Come on come on come on. Everybody is waiting, where is jb’s review, where is it……

    ***

    And that just scratches the surface! I’m just going off the top of my head. Within each step, there are dozens of important considerations, and I am sure there are things I missed. It’s incredibly difficult to write well.

    I just want y’all to know how much props to give to jb. How much props? A lot. =)

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