Cute show. Challenging, no. But amusing, generally yes. It pretty much delivered what I expected: some conventional setups and kdrama cliches, with a cute lead boy (Choi Siwon may have the body of a man but he’s firmly in boy-man territory for me) and a lovable leading lady. (I am SO glad to see Chae Rim back on television.)
Oh My Lady feels like a remix of several familiar stories and dramas, so it’s not wildly original. Its charm is in the characters and the relationships, and if things continue the way they’ve started, I think it’ll be a fun, light watch.
SONG OF THE DAY
Oh My Lady OST – “Love Is” [ Download ]
Chae Rim is YOON KAE-HWA, a 35-year-old single mother, divorced two years, who now lives with her young daughter MIN-JI. They’re very close and Min-ji has a love of piano playing; top on Kae-hwa’s list of things she wants to buy her daughter is their own piano for her to practice on.
That won’t happen anytime soon, however, because Kae-hwa is struggling to pay the bills, though no fault (or at least little fault) of her own. She used to work as a restaurant manager until recently, where her boss had been promising to pay her for months. Thus she is behind on the rent and works a side job with a maid service while looking for a new full-time job.
On the other end of the spectrum is 28-year-old star SUNG MIN-WOO (Choi Siwon), a top actor with a boatload of fans, CF contracts galore, and a hot bod. His main weakness, of course, is that he can’t act. And we’re not talking just-a-little-weak-in-dramatic-roles bad, but everyone-acknowledges-he-sucks bad. Butt-of-every-joke bad. Keanu Reeves bad.
On the other hand, Min-woo is so hot that he still rakes in the money and the fans despite his deficient talents. Plus, he doesn’t really care about the acting itself — he’s superficial and vain and more impressed with his celebrity than his work. He’s not a mean guy, just incredibly self-absorbed. He can turn on the charm when necessary, but it’s mostly show. Min-woo has had trouble with the media in the past, although his manager has managed to keep his image squeaky-clean in recent months.
Lee Hyun-woo has had a whole career playing the same character — cool, smooth, professional — but at least it works for him: his YOO SHI-JOON is the CEO of a musical production company called The Show Company. He is currently working with employees JAE-HEE and JIN-HO to get their new project funded and produced.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
We open on the set of Min-woo’s latest project, where he races in glorious slow-motion toward his love interest, music swelling dramatically, hair blowing in the wind, sweat glistening prettily off his anguished expression. All looks beautiful and affecting… until he opens his mouth to deliver his dialogue.
He’s alternately flat and overemotive, which makes the director grimace and the staff sigh — even his co-star is dissatisfied — but Min-woo remains blissfully ignorant that he’s the problem here and maintains a smug attitude. To make things worse, he has barely read the script. He tells his manager that his fan-signing event yesterday tired him out, but he’s confident he can pull off the rest of the shoot without a hitch.
Amazingly, he’s right about that, because when filming resumes Min-woo gets to show us why he’s so popular as he wows the crowd — and his co-star — with a kiss. As the schoolgirl fans squeal in the background (and deliver gifts to the crew), the director is reminded that working with Min-woo has its benefits, like popularity and foreign investment interest. So what if he can’t act? Everything has its ups and downs, right?
Min-woo even appears in an Andre Kim fashion show, and you know what that means, since Andre Kim is shorthand for two things: ugly clothes and hot stars. This tells us that Min-woo is the drama-land equivalent of Song Seung-heon or Daniel Henney, only with even worse acting.
Amazingly, he’s cultivating an image as a thoughtful, intelligent person (har!), thanks to his manager’s prepared soundbites. For instance, he explains to a reporter that he’s currently reading a book by Paulo Coehlo, even though we can bet he has no idea who he’s talking about. His manager wants him to take on a sageuk drama next, but Min-woo balks at that.
He’d rather sneak off to meet a lady friend than be mindful of his reputation, even though he last ran into a scandal six months ago when he hit a reporter and took his camera.
With the aid of a friend, Kae-hwa accosts her old boss to demand her seven months of owed salary — a total of 10 million won ($8,000). The woman fobs her off with a fraction of that amount, and Kae-hwa has to sigh and turn her energies to finding new employment. She has been taking odd maid jobs through a maid service, but what she needs is a steady office gig. She used to be a reporter for a magazine that folded, but doesn’t have a lot of relevant work experience, which is her main obstacle.
Through some careful sucking-up, Kae-hwa gets assigned a prime maid job that pays extremely well, in exchange for keeping her mouth shut about the employer. She discovers the reason for this when she arrives at the posh apartment.
Kae-hwa doesn’t understand immediately that this is Min-woo’s place; her initial reaction to his wall-size portrait is to grumble at this fangirly gesture. She looks at the photo and concedes half-grudgingly, “Well, he is good-looking.”
Min-woo arrives just in time to catch that part, and he’s gratified at her assessment. But when she looks over and spots him, her first instinct is to assume he’s an intruder, and she whacks him on the head with her vacuum.
Like I said, Min-woo may be a mimbo (himbo?) but he’s not mean. He accepts her profuse apologies and waves her aside. Kae-hwa offers him some fresh-made juice, which he has to admit is pretty good.
He finds her hovering annoying, though, because he’s trying to watch a movie and she keeps casting glances his way, as though working up her nerve to ask for something. When you’re hottie Sung Min-woo, you automatically assume that what she’s interested in is YOU, so he sighs and grabs a pen and paper to write his autograph.
She actually wasn’t asking for one, but says, “Sure, you can give me one” before catching on that that’s insulting to his pride. She adds, “I mean, please absolutely give me your autograph!” even though it’s clear it’s just to flatter him.
This next exchange made me laugh out loud, because Kae-hwa is so not impressed with Min-woo, who is not used to people not being impressed with him:
Kae-hwa: “Do you happen to be friendly… with Kim Myung-min?”
Kae-hwa: “Kim Myung-min is such a great actor. But it seems like he might be a little difficult in real life. You know how people who are so intense about their own work can make things hard on people around them. He doesn’t seem like he’d be such a great husband at home, either, but what is he like?”
Min-woo: “How would I know that?”
Kae-hwa: “True, Kim Myung-min’s a real actor, so he’s probably friendly with serious actors, isn’t he?”
Min-woo: “What did you say?”
Kae-hwa: “Even among actors, you stick together in groups, right? Serious actors with serious actors, kids who party with kids who party. You seem like you’d be friends with ‘flower boy’ or ‘momjjang’ types of stars.”
Min-woo, defensively: “I’m friends with Kang-ho hyung. You know Song Kang-ho, the serious actor.”
Kae-hwa, laughing: “But it seems like Song Kang-ho would be so nice that he’d be friends with anyone!”
Gratuitous ab shot! And that’s not even the only one in this episode.
Min-woo gives a shirt to Kae-hwa to iron, telling her to be careful since he has to wear it tonight. She gets right to work, but is soon distracted with a distraught phone call from her daughter (and burns his shirt in her distraction). Min-ji reports that their belongings are out in the street — they’ve been kicked out of their home.
Kae-hwa rushes out, telling Min-woo that there’s an emergency and that he doesn’t have to pay her for today. She hurries home and pleads with her landlord, but she’s months behind on rent and the landlord is out of patience.
With nowhere to go, Kae-hwa takes Min-ji to a sauna where they can bathe and spend the night. Kae-hwa has to make some hard decisions, and tells Min-ji gently that she’s saving to buy her a piano, but she’s still pretty short. What if Min-ji stays with her dad, just until she has enough money?
This is a tough choice, but one that Kae-hwa feels is better for her daughter in the long run. Her ex-husband protests at first — he’s a newlywed — but he ultimately takes her.
The online character descriptions say that the ex cheated on Kae-hwa, leading to the divorce, but they haven’t mentioned that in the drama yet. Even without that info, we can see how this marriage dissolved when he grumbles about Kae-hwa’s money problems — she wouldn’t be in this mess if she hadn’t poured everything into medical treatments for her mother, who ended up dying anyway. He begrudges the money they used, thinking it was a waste, and this is a very sore point between them. Aside from this (not-insignificant) issue, he seems like a generally decent sort, just selfish.
Kae-hwa buys her daughter a cell phone so she can stay in touch, and assures Min-ji she’s not abandoning her. It’s just for a very short while, okay? She then checks herself into a gosiwon — a sort of hostel, like a bare-bones dormitory. They’re usually populated by young students and offer tiny rooms with communal bathrooms and often no kitchens.
Meanwhile, Min-woo basks in the adulation of the adoring masses at a fan meeting. The guy sure knows how to play up to a crowd, and the girls scream their love for him. When they clamor for him to show off his ripped abs, he has to pause — because his shirt is burned underneath the jacket, thanks to Kae-hwa. With some maneuvering, Min-woo manages to bare his choco abs without showing off the singed shirt.
Afterward, Min-woo deflects a persistent reporter, who has sniffed out rumors of Min-woo’s romantic connections to another star. (While it appears that Min-woo is interested in pursuing her, they don’t seem to be dating yet. His manager warns him to keep cool and not let this grow into a scandal.)
Now for The Show Company. The relatively small firm is run by Yoo Shi-joon, who is preparing for a new musical called “All That Love.” The theater company is resistant to the idea, saying that the production won’t be able to get the required funding, but Shi-joon says confidently that it’ll go.
His confidence is more for show, because as he discusses things with his employees Jae-hee and Jin-ho, we can see that the project is on shaky ground. Jae-hee sighs that they need a big name to buoy their project — someone on the level of Sung Min-woo, for instance. True, the guy can’t act for beans, but his name alone would get the investors onboard. So for their presentation with an investor, they add the name Sung Min-woo to their list, hoping it’ll help them look favorably on the musical. Unfortunately, the businessman calls their bluff and guesses that they were just using Min-woo’s name. If they do get him, then he’d be willing to do business, but only then.
Shi-joon plays along with the bluff and accepts the challenge. Jae-hee and Jin-ho fear that if he can’t deliver, their company will sink.
Kae-hwa has been sending her resume around for job interviews, with little success. So when she receives a call from her maid service about a job opening, she jumps at the chance. And when she arrives early to practice her interview answers on the roof, she doesn’t notice that Shi-joon has overheard. Perhaps it’s embarrassing to have him witness her practice session, but on the upside Shi-joon’s curiosity is piqued, and he is less likely to dismiss her straightaway.
Jae-hee and Jin-ho see that she’s an ajumma, and realize that something went awry — the job posting for an intern went to the wrong agency. They dismiss her, but Kae-hwa has got one foot in the door and asks for an opportunity to be their intern. They’re going to hire someone anyway, so why not her? She promises to do anything they need.
Jae-hee asks sarcastically, “What, then can you cast Sung Min-woo for us?” Because what they really need right now is Min-woo.
Not understanding the subtext here, Kae-hwa scoffs at their choice, replying that Min-woo’s not so great — from her personal experience, he’s not as good-looking up close, plus he’s super immature. The Show Company staff exchange looks — she’s talking about him like she knows him. Is that really true?
Kae-hwa answers that it is, then grows wide-eyed as Shi-joon tells her that if she brings Min-woo to them, he’ll make her a full-time employee.
I could probably list a half-dozen or more drama series that Oh My Lady reminds me of, or shares very similar plots/themes with — off the top of my head there’s Full House, Last Scandal of My Life, Wish Upon a Star. So right off the bat we know this is not going to break new ground as far as dramas go, neither in content nor in execution/delivery.
As a light-hearted, family-friendly romantic-comedy, though, Oh My Lady seems to be on solid footing. It’s got a well-picked cast, led by a winning Chae Rim, and Choi Siwon ain’t so bad himself — I like him poking fun at himself and star stereotypes. Maybe one day he’ll tackle more serious dramatic roles, but at this budding stage of his acting career I think he’s picked well in showing off his comic sensibilities.
I’m not so thrilled about Lee Hyun-woo, who’s always the stiff businessman in dramas, but he’s not really much of a contender for Kae-hwa so I don’t have much problem ignoring him. (He is actually not bad when the script calls for dry humor like in Dal Ja’s Spring, which started off with him as a straight-man character but then played around and poked some fun at him.) I’m not much excited about Park Han-byul (who’ll be Min-woo’s ex), whom we haven’t seen yet, but I do like Moon Jung-hee (as Shi-joon’s wife).
All in all, I’d say that Oh My Lady is a pleasant successor to Wish Upon a Star. Personally, I’m in the mood for something a little more serious to balance out all the recent and upcoming comedies, but I always have room for a good-natured and funny series.