Here we are, Part 5!
As girlfriday said in her review, I’d also like to thank guest bloggers Dahee Fanel and thunderbolt for participating in this year’s year-in-review roundup. A particular thank-you goes out to GF herself for being so game to jump into this whole world of crazy with me, and I think you’ll all agree when I say that Dramabeans is better for her addition to it. I never fail to get a huge kick out of her wicked humor, or for Dahee’s frank and bold insights, or thundie’s thoughtful eloquence. We don’t always agree, but that’s exactly why I love hearing the differing points of views.
Most of all, thanks to the DB readership — that means you! — who have been so supportive, vibrant, and often laugh-out-loud funny. We don’t take you guys for granted, rest assured, and are honored by the community you’ve built here. It’s like a second home, which sounds like a metaphor but actually isn’t because with all the hours I spend here, it really IS one.
So here’s the last of the reviews! With that, we bid adieu to the past year and look forward to lots more laughs, craziness, and yes, head-pounding-WTF-ery in the new year. Bring it on, 2011.
SONG OF THE DAY
Standing Egg – “First Christmas.” The song’s a day or two late, but no matter: Hope your Christmas (or other seasonal holiday) was merry! [ Download ]
2010 Editors’ Picks
BEST DRAMA SERIES
javabeans: On its own, Joseon X-Files is a standout, weaving together story, direction, ambiance, and emotional threads while also succeeding at being a kick-ass sci-fi mystery thriller. But when you step back and compare it against the rest of the dramas this year (as we did when compiling this here list), it’s all the more noteworthy for standing so far ahead of the pack. It was exciting and driven by heart-pounding suspense, but had a brain behind all the stylish camera work and smart editing. As a whole package, it’s a gem of a near-perfect product. The k-drama landscape is better for counting Joseon X-Files among its ranks.
Honorable Mention: Jejoongwon, My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho
Jang Hyuk, Chuno
Dahee Fanel: There are always those actors whom you watch in a few shows and think, “Huh. He’s decent,” and then you immediately forget about them once they’re not actually in front of you. Jang Hyuk was one of those actors for me. He’s been around for years, and has always shown good performances and potential, but he’s never really tapped into it…until now. His performance in Chuno was a tour de force of passion and power, the kind of acting that left me breathless and in shock at what he had become. Here he holds nothing back, and BECAME Dae-gil, a human being whom you couldn’t always like, but who always felt real. His emotions were so raw and viscerable that I felt they were reaching out of the screen to dig into my chest and clutch at my heart. His performance elevated Chuno to make it become an even better drama than it was. How many actors can boast of that?
Rain, Runaway Plan B
javabeans: Most acting awards — Western, Asian, or otherwise — tend to use dramatic acting as the default, but I credit Rain’s performance in Runaway Plan B to his comedic skills as much as his dramatic ones. While I didn’t always love his character’s cheesetastic flirt mode, I really believed in Ji-woo’s integrity as a person underneath the frivolous jokester exterior, even when his partner, Lee Na-young, wasn’t so sure. Playing a cocky lothario who uses laughter as a coping mechanism, Rain managed to weave together Ji-woo’s glib humor and serious intensity into an intricate net, then switched back and forth between the two with ease and, more importantly, emotional credibility. Also? Dude can fight.
Honorable Mention: Hyun Bin (Secret Garden), Park Yong-woo (Jejoongwon)
Moon Geun-young, Cinderella’s Sister
girlfriday: Moon Geun-young had a hell of a year. I can’t say that either of her dramas didn’t each drive me crazy in their own sadistic way, but through no fault of hers, that’s for sure. The Nation’s Little Sister transformed herself in her most memorable role to date, the one that really made me stand up and take notice of her for the first time. Gone was the sweet and innocent young ingenue, and in her place stood a heartbreakingly wounded, feral animal, otherwise known as Eun-jo the friendly neighborhood porcupine. Moon called forth a darkness and an angst from the depths of her soul, and she exuded the raw emotion in every fiber of her being. She was utterly mesmerizing, and the fact that she followed it with Mary and made that character equally believable is a testament to her phenomenal range.
Shin Eun-kyung, Flames of Desire
thunderbolt: In a 50-episode drama, you expect the lead actress to take her time easing into her role, so that her character can be unpeeled like the skin of an onion. You certainly do not expect her to knock your jaw to the floor in the very first episode and to trample on said jaw until it’s a bloody mess. This is a leading performance like no other in the last few years; I tried to think of another actress who could match Shin Eun-kyung in sheer mesmerizing power, but no, she made even Go Hyun-jung in last year’s Queen Seondeok look like a lamb. Whether you love or loathe Flames of Desire, there’s no question about its lead actress’s performance. She simply has no equal this year. Is her Yoon Na-young just vastly misunderstood as a wife and mother, or is she shaping up to be the villain of all time? There’s no telling at this point because this is one character you can’t pin down.
Honorable Mention: Kim Ji-hyun (My Sister’s March)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kim Gab-soo, Cinderella’s Sister, Jejoongwon, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Joseon X-Files, Home Sweet Home, and every drama ever
Dahee Fanel: This has really been Kim Gab-soo’s year. Not only did he act in a billion and a half dramas (as well as a movie and a sitcom), he also acted in many of them simultaneously, often portraying completely different characters. Which isn’t that rare for a veteran actor used to playing supporting roles to do. But he managed to be memorable in every single role, and also upped his popularity considerably, which is something that not everyone can claim. Whether it was as the slimy villain in Merchant Kim Mandeok, the stern father in Sungkyunkwan Scandal, the World’s Best Stepdad in Cinderella’s Sister, or the mystery man with the pipe in Joseon X-Files, he gave depth and charisma to every character he took on, and lit up the screen with his very presence. It also helps that he has the sexiest eyes of a K-drama ahjusshi evaaaaah. And yes, in case you were wondering: He’s MINE.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lee Mi-sook, Cinderella’s Sister
javabeans: Lee Mi-sook’s character was based on the familiar archetype of Cinderella’s Evil Stepmother, but she made Kang-sook into so much more than that. Hard, calculating, and selfish up the wazoo, she’s a character you’d expect to hate as a stereotypical stand-in for the kdrama villain… if only Lee Mi-sook hadn’t given her such dimension. While you could hardly admire her, you had to admire her resourcefulness and deftness at self-preservation, which sometimes yielded devilishly funny moments (her feigned hysteria at a funeral? Hilarious). Underneath her cold, manipulative shell (albeit one thick and impenetrable enough to rival the Great Wall of China), there was a woman who felt self-loathing, guilt, and love. Though she’d sell her daughter before admitting it to anyone else. Lee Mi-sook was commanding and fascinating, and above all entertaining.
Eom Ji-won, The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry
girlfriday: She had her whole wedding planned, right down to who would catch the bouquet…all she needed was a man. Jung Da-jung is that friend we all have, whose single-minded obsession with marriage lands her in the wackiest of situations, but Eom Ji-won also managed to imbue her with such empathy, and loneliness, and love. It’s hard to be emotionally vulnerable, and even harder to be funny while doing it; Eom was pitch-perfect as the Chanel-wearing, guru-chasing girl on a marriage mission who wore her heart on her designer sleeve.
Honorable Mention: Sung Hyun-ah (Flames of Desire)
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST
thunderbolt: How many actors acted their hearts out in this war drama? I started counting and gave up after I ran out of fingers and toes. In a cast of hundreds, so many stood out in Comrades it’s unfair to single out just a few for special mention. Whether playing a general or just an unnamed soldier, an old village elder or a child, everyone delivered in this heart-wringer of a drama. In a year of exceptional ensembles (because this was such a great year for kdramas!), you can’t watch this ensemble and not be moved or changed. The group camaraderie is the best this year, as though these actors have worked together all their lives. When a character in Squad One goes missing or is killed, the sense of loss is so palpable it’s like losing a piece of one’s body. It’s no wonder fans of the drama can’t listen to the lyrics of the theme song and not experience an onrush of tears. “O friend, my dear friend. I will never forget you until the day we meet again.”
The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry
thunderbolt: This was my favorite ensemble until Comrades came along, but it is still tops for giving me the most toasty-warm-from-head-to-toe feelings. Everyone jelled in this drama that repeatedly made me burst out in raucous laughter. Their individual comic timing was perfect but as a whole they brought the house down. But I love this perfect rom-com not just because it made me light-headed with joy, I adore it for the chemistry between the cast members. Be they playing best friends, housemates or soul mates, they obviously had so much fun together. Each role was expertly cast, with Park Jin-hee and Eom Ji-won as standouts. This is one drama to watch over and over, its ebullience carrying you along on its heady and heartfelt way.
Honorable Mention: Sungkyunkwan Scandal
Dahee Fanel: Here’s a fact: Joseon X-Files would not have been the amazing drama it was without the brilliant directing. With this kind of story, with a mixing of the sageuk and sci-fi genres, execution is everything. And JXF got execution down to an art. From the fascinating camerawork to the gorgeous lighting to the tight editing, it made the already wonderful script seem even more genius, and captured the actors’ best moments. It’s enough to make you count down the days until Kim Heung-dong announces his next drama.
Honorable Mention: Bad Guy, Chuno
javabeans: Sometimes cryptic, sometimes elusive, Joseon X-Files doesn’t hand you the easy answer or dumb its story down. It assumes its viewership is smart, and therefore makes you feel smart when you start to put together the clues, seeing how the pieces fit together in the world they’ve created. No, it doesn’t wrap up everything in a neat bow, but for a show whose premise is all about the unknowability of absolute Truth, we could hardly expect the key to the universe. Instead, the drama raised questions and showed us the path to various different possible answers, allowing us to determine what Truth meant to us, just as its main character does over the course of his journey into the world of the supernatural. Sharp, mysterious, fascinating.
Honorable Mention: My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho
javabeans: Stately, uplifting, dignified on one hand. Cheery, playful, animated on the other. A drama that combines the giddy schooltime antics of energetic, hormone-driven young scholars (and a crossdressing girl) with the gravitas of court politics and government intrigue needs a score/soundtrack to encompass all extremes of its material, and somehow Sungkyunkwan Scandal’s music does it. Whether we’re talking lush, delicate instrumentals or even the occasional modern pop song, the music enhanced the drama of the moment while refraining (mostly) from being overbearing (I admit to finding a few modern selections a bit jarring). Just as a particular scent can take you back to a specific childhood memory, listening to the soundtrack now calls to mind particular scenes and fills me with corresponding feelings of youthful optimism, idealism, and/or giddiness. I’d say it’s done its job.
Honorable Mention: Flames of Desire, Bad Guy, Jejoongwon
BEST COMEDY SERIES
My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho
javabeans: You know what makes a good comedy great? When it makes me cry as heartily as it makes me laugh. Granted, the ratio of laughs to tears was (thankfully) skewed much more heavily in favor of laughs with My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, as it should be. Furthermore, the humor was often rooted in fundamental themes that drove the drama, tying the comedy thematically into the mythology of the narrative. Double bonus points. Scenarios included Mi-ho’s adorable explorations of what it means to be human, whether it’s eating her face cream (“Yum!”) or using cows as a barometer of all that is good in the world. Add to that a wimpy hero and an assertive heroine who was unashamed to want love (and skinship!); Gumiho spun common tropes on their heads to give us comic beats that were as refreshing as Mi-ho’s favorite bubbly-fizz water.
Dahee Fanel: Comedy is one of the most difficult of art forms, so when one succeeds at it, the taste of it is that much sweeter. Harvest Villa is one of those comedies that comes along only every once in a long while. It’s a riotously funny show, but it also has a dark side, as the best comedies do. It’ll use a moment of extreme tension and then turn it around at the last minute to force a surprised laugh out of you. It’s smart, never too over-the-top, and has great timing. True, the comedy petered off in the second half in favour of more suspense and darkness, but ultimately it was a show that really understood the strength of laughter, and the humour in little moments.
Honorable Mention: The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry
BEST HISTORICAL SERIES
thunderbolt: Set during the twilight years of the Joseon dynasty, during an era of tumultuous change, this drama is unwavering in its vision: a faithful retelling of a historical event that many people aren’t aware of. The writing stays focused through the 20-year span of the drama’s story, beginning and ending with one man’s astonishing journey from butcher in a despised caste to surgeon in Korea’s first Western-style hospital. Interwoven with that central story are other stories that will grip and move you. The directing is splendid and always sensitive, with cinematography that is achingly beautiful but never self-engrossed. Straddling both the ancient and the modern, the sets and costumes are reinvented with grace and boldness. Yoo Seok-ran’s (Han Hye-jin) hanboks are a visual feast in themselves, so much so you want to steal both her clothes and her dad!
thunderbolt: Unidentified flying objects and otherworldly occurrences in 17th-century Joseon? This is the basic premise of this masterpiece of a drama. Fabulously written, directed and acted, and also barrels of fun, Joseon X-Files is both awe-inspiring and humbling. (No drama will make you feel smaller this year.) It tells multiple stories, each one beguiling in itself, but its message is singular: the Truth is out there and it’s stranger than anything we can imagine. Helmed by a small but fantastic cast, and imbued with a pulsating energy that will suck you in and leave you breathless, this cable drama has done what no other period drama has managed to do before: make ancient Joseon suddenly hip and happening. We demand a sequel or two, Station!
Honorable Mention: Sungkyunkwan Scandal, King Geunchogo
BEST ACTION AND/OR THRILLER SERIES
Dahee Fanel: My heart still beats a little faster when I remember all those scenes of chaser versus chased, the gorgeous fight sequences that emphasized every straining muscle in the actors’ gleaming bodies, and the sharp editing and exciting music that heightened the tension that much more. The scenes were also very creative, using different tools to make them feel fresh each time, such as the three-on-three fight, or the fight on the beach with emphasis on the rippling of water. And best of all, the action ultimately had an emotional throughline – you sat on the edge of your seat while watching Dae-gil chasing Tae-ha because you wondered if THIS would be the time he would finally encounter the love of his life, Un-nyun. How could it possibly get any better than that?
Runaway Plan B
javabeans: It comes as no surprise, then, that the same writer-director-production team that did Chuno also brought us Runaway Plan B. Runaway’s action sequences were plentiful and creative, and to make up for their excess (lots of running without enough plot movement made for some repetitive episodes early on), the drama gave us a cornucopia of innovative fighting methods and backdrops — in cars, on high-rises, onto trains, among crowds, underwater. Initially played for slick entertainment, we soon got to see the emotional undercurrent driving the best fight scenes, which revolved around a wrongly accused Ji-woo struggling to prove his innocence, against the cop who was at first convinced of his guilt and then came around as grudging ally. Then the goofiness stepped aside to up the stakes and allow real danger to befall our underdog Casanova, making for a fun, sometimes silly, sometimes intense thrill ride.
Jung Bo-seok as Jo Pil-yeon, Giant
thunderbolt: In one of the most chilling scenes of the year, a father bashes his grown-up son with such viciousness it causes his unflinchingly loyal lackey to scream out, “Stop! You’re going to kill him!” But nothing stops Jo Pil-yeon, least of all blood ties. This man will do everything to get what he wants. See how his eyes gleam, with nefarious intents, as he gazes upon a little boy; it’s enough to make our blood curdle. In this 60-episode drama, no one laughs as much as this villain, but it is laughter that terrifies rather than titillates. So frightening is Jo Pil-yeon, it’s the first time that I do not care for a Jung Bo-seok character. The times that I watched this veteran actor previously, he played flawed humans who possessed a certain charm that made you waffle between dislike and grudging admiration. But not this time. I watched transfixed as usual, because this actor is gold, but I couldn’t wait for his character’s comeuppance and eventual downfall. For making Jo Pil-yeon this year’s most unforgettable villain, thanks and no thanks, Jung Bo-seok.
Kim Hye-ok as Madam Shin, Bad Guy
girlfriday: You better watch out/ You better not cry/ You better not pout/ I’m telling you why/ Santa Claus is coming to town/ He knows when you’ve been killing/ He knows when you’re a snake/ He knows if you’ve been bad or good/ So be good for goodness sake/ You better not gloat/ You better not lie/ You better go choke/ I’m telling you why/ Santa Claus is coming to town
Lee Seung-gi & Shin Mina, My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho
girlfriday: Dimples, Ahoy! What these two lacked in maturity, they made up for in sweet, unadorned, bask-in-the-sun sincerity. They made us cry when it rained, swoon when they they touched, and die of laughter when Mi-ho wanted some lovin’… which was all the time. Of the twenty(!) dramas I watched this year, this was the only couple who moved my stone-cold tear ducts to let loose the floodgates. For that alone, they deserve a prize. One giant chicken leg, coming up. I felt just like Woong on that fateful first day: as soon as this couple entered my life, they stuck to me like superglue. They defied the laws of the universe to be together. What could possibly be more romantic than that?
Kang Ji-hwan & Park Shi-yeon, Coffee House
javabeans: Coffee House had its uneven spots, and there were probably bubblier, cuter romance dramas this year. But the relationship between Kang Ji-hwan and Park Shi-yeon is one that stands out for skirting clichés, as well as being mature and passionate rather than being the cute puppy-love dynamic that characterizes so many trendies. These two are best friends before they’re lovers, and carry relationship baggage into their romance, lending it a dash of realism. She’s strong, feisty, and utterly winning, while he uses his eccentricity as a defense mechanism. But when you cut through facades and comic gags, the love between them is palpable and imbued with emotion.
Honorable Mention: Lee Seon-kyun & Gong Hyo-jin (Pasta), Park Yong-woo & Han Hye-jin (Jejoongwon)
BEST ALTERNATE PAIRING
Yoo Ah-in & Park Min-young, Sungkyunkwan Scandal
thunderbolt: We knew where Yoon-hee’s heart lay, but that did not stop us from wishing fervently for a miracle: a Yoon-hee twin or clone. What we would do for Jae-shin’s happiness! From the instant he saw and saved her, his curiosity grew, even if he professed otherwise. He asked her never to appear before him again, but when she did, his heart skipped a beat and soon gave him away; he could not help the hiccups. The first to discover her true identity, that she was a woman in disguise, he protected her in a way that made us swoon and giggle. She in turn adored him as she would a brother or best friend; he was the one she sought when she was beset with doubts or just needed someone to talk to. They were two puppies at play, bantering with such ease it made a certain someone jealous and confused. Jae-shin had never smiled so gleefully on the Sungkyunkwan campus until Yoon-hee came along, nor hurt so deeply. In an alternate universe, they would be the perfect couple. Hear our prayers, ye drama gods!
Honorable Mention: Lee Tae-ran & Kim Myung-soo (Comrades), Jung So-min & Lee Tae-sung (Playful Kiss)
Yoo Ah-in & Song Joong-ki, Sungkyunkwan Scandal
girlfriday: It’s the bromance that spawned the fanfic boom of the century. And Lawd have mercy, for some of those youtube videos were just, um, Idon’tknowbecauseIdidn’twatchanyofthem-onrepeatIswear. Now we know what the REAL scandal at Sungkyunkwan was all about. Ahem. But beyond the subtext was a friendship that was as grounded as it was noble and heroic. Yong-ha’s unparalleled affection for his tough-guy bestie was the sweetest surprise of the year. Who says your BFF can’t be the love of your life? Relationships come and go, but a true blue friend is for keeps. It should be the highest compliment you could pay to a friend: You’re the Jae-shin to my Yong-ha. Or vice versa depending on who’s the bigger badass.
Gu Mi-ho (Shin Mina), My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho
girlfriday: I was ready to throw down on this one. **waves fists ineffectually** This category had a four-way tie, but I bullied everyone for the win. Because, HELLO, gumiho totally trumps human! Mi-ho was a revelation. Two parts Anya (centuries old being who takes everything literally) and one part newborn (wide-eyed with wonder), she brought a whole new kind of heroine to the k-drama landscape. The most impressive thing about her wasn’t even her super-strength or her ability to eat her weight in cow, but her unflinching open heart for her one and only Woong-ah. She made love look easy, and life seem precious. Best. Character. Ever. **finger guns**
Honorable Mention: Seo Eun-young (Park Shi-yeon) in Coffee House, Park Il-kwon (Kim Roe-ha) in Comrades, Hwang Jung (Park Yong-woo) in Jejoongwon
Yoo Ah-in, Sungkyunkwan Scandal
thunderbolt: If you poll Sungkyunkwan Scandal viewers, you’ll likely find that some think Micky Yoochun acquitted himself well, while some others want him to stick to singing. Try finding such a divide where Yoo Ah-in is concerned. Everyone, and I mean practically everyone, loves our Guh-ro. As far as I can remember, there has never been a breakout performance like this one, where the second male lead in a drama is loved so universally and fiercely. The moment Yoo Ah-in’s Moon Jae-shin appeared in the marketplace in Episode 1, a bidding war broke out among viewers. “Mine, mine!” chants rang out; by the end of the drama, new YAI-dedicated blogs had sprung up and reams of fanfiction penned in his honor. Those who had watched him before marvelled at the newfound fervor even as they themselves were swept along; they always knew he could act, but holy cow, the Yoo Ah-in in SKKS was startlingly different. He nailed every scene and broke our hearts in tandem with how his own broke, he acted with such strength and also gentleness. Never has scruffy been this gorgeous.
Honorable Mention: Jung So-min (Playful Kiss)
Road No. 1
Dahee Fanel: I will never forgive MBC for ruining a potentially good (or even great) drama by pushing the brilliant Kim Jin-min out of the main director’s chair, and replacing him with that sorry excuse for a PD named Lee Jang-soo. Road No. 1 should not have become the mess that it did, and my heart bleeds to this day at the thought of what it could have been. I mean, sure, Han Ji-hoon is a very flawed writer, but he worked with Kim Jin-min in Time Between Dog and Wolf too, and that drama was simply cracktastic. No, I have to blame it all on Lee Jang-soo, who insisted on emphasizing the romantic storylines, and made it painfully obvious every time he directed a scene. It is him I blame for the bad acting, him I blame for the incredibly schizophrenic mood, and him I blame for what is my biggest disappointment of the year.
Mary Stayed Out All Night
girlfriday: You take Jang Geun-seok, Moon Geun-young, and Kim Jae-wook, put them in a trendy rom com, and THIS is what you get? How is that even mathematically possible? By all accounts this should have been Full-House-meets-You’re-Beautiful. Instead it’s a cautionary tale for drama writers: knowing that they’re cliches does not make it subversive. If there’s ever a drama that wasted its talent, it’s Mary, bar none.
Honorable Mention: Personal Taste
BIGGEST WASTE OF TALENT
Sohn Ye-jin, Personal Taste
Dahee Fanel: Sohn Ye-jin is one of the most talented young actresses working in Korea today. End of story. So why did she agree to star in something like Personal Taste, which wasted her immense talents so? It is true that it has been a very bad year for K-actresses in Chungmuro, with few meaty roles for them to choose from. So it’s understandable if she figured that this was a good time to flex her romcom acting muscles a little more, and widen her audience. But couldn’t she have chosen a romcom that at least understood what kind of talent it was working with? Couldn’t she have chosen to play a character that actually widened her scope as an actress? Oh well. I’m just going to pretend Personal Taste never happened, and wait eagerly for her to choose her next (hopefully better) project.
Honorable Mention: So Ji-sub (Road No. 1)
MOST OVERRATED DRAMA
Baker King Kim Tak-gu
Dahee Fanel: Baker King is a perfect example of makjang, the kind of show that throws all integrity to the winds and opts to do anything, and I mean ANYTHING, for the sake of ratings and money. Each episode I watched had me rolling my eyes and laughing out loud at parts it clearly meant to be serious. It is predictable and brainless, and yet it garnered over 50% in ratings in Korea. That’s good news for the cast and crew, but it was annoying for everyone not caught up in the hype to be faced with it wherever they went. With this show’s success, it signals to broadcasters that makjang works, and makes them keep dishing out the same old tripe, over and over again, in hopes of repeating the previous dramas’ successes. I can’t wait for this trend to be over. (It will end eventually…right? Please say yes!)
thunderbolt: It began with a bang, pulling in 23% ratings (4th in the nation) and then took off like a speed demon from Episode 5, never once relinquishing its lead in the Wednesday-Thursday primetime slot. It even saved the best for last; the night it aired its final episode, 36% of households were tuned in. If only it were deserving of that sort of following. This was a drama eagerly anticipated for months before its airing, as it teased and excited with its seductive stills and trailers. It lured us in with its opening desert scene, so jaw-dropping in its beauty. And then it slowly dawned on us, with disconcerting clarity, that our expectations of greatness were just a mirage in the making. The plot meandered along, losing its bearings in pursuit of style rather than a solid story. Its characters, most of them, left us cold and eventually disinterested. It was never really bad a drama, with masterful directing that got carried away, but it could have been so good.
Honorable Mention: Sungkyunkwan Scandal
MOST UNDERRATED DRAMA
The Woman Who Still Wants To Marry
girlfriday: It came and went quietly on the drama landscape, but this funny, true-to-life, heartfelt comedy about the friendship between three thirtysomething women is definitely this year’s diamond in the rough. It takes three very different friends on a journey through harsh, side-splitting, and heartbreaking moments in life and love, to help them discover that age is just a number, life never goes the way you plan it, and family is the friend who scrapes you off the asphalt when life gets you down. Literally.
Honorable Mention: Jejoongwon, My Sister’s March, Freedom Fighter Lee Heo Young
BEST USE OF AN IDOL STAR
Micky Yoochun, Sungkyunkwan Scandal
javabeans: There were a LOT of idol stars in the drama world this year. With this trend comes a stigma that has become attached to idol-actors (Korea even coined a new word, the 연기돌, akin to saying the act-dol, or id-act — yeah, it doesn’t translate well). While that fear/skepticism is often proven true, a number of idols held their own. Micky Yoochun was one of the idol-actors under the most scrutiny — to be tackling a debut in a lead role and a historical piece — and surprised many by being…well, not bad at all. To be honest I can’t say he was revelatory, but he gave Sun-joon a fitting noble, principled air. Was it good acting or good casting? Probably a bit of both; ultimately what mattered to me was that I bought him as Sun-joon and thoroughly enjoyed his and Yoon-hee’s nerdy romance without once thinking, “If only he weren’t an idol-actor, we could have had a better Sun-joon…”
Honorable Mention: Taecyeon (Cinderella’s Sister)
WORST USE OF AN IDOL STAR
Kim Hyun-joong, Playful Kiss
javabeans: You write this blurb!
girlfriday: No, YOU do it!
javabeans: I can’t. You saw the uproar when I called him a bad actor.
girlfriday: But do you disagree with that?
javabeans: Um… is this mic on? *tap tap*
girlfriday: I be scared of hate mail.
javabeans: I get WAY more hate mail than you do!
girlfriday: Because you’ve been running the site for four years. That’s bound to add up.
javabeans: He’s back to having straight hair. I have nothing positive to say.
girlfriday: But…fangirls are scary.
javabeans: YEAH they are.
MOST GLORIOUS MANE OF GLORY
Yoo Ah-in, Sungkyunkwan Scandal
girlfriday: Is it just me, or was it the Year of Hair? I’ve watched k-dramas pretty much my whole life, but never have I noticed such an emphasis placed on hair: from idol oppa perms to 80s rock mullets, hair took on a life of its own this year, and went beyond just the latest fashion craze. In some cases it was the make-or-break IT factor that turned actors into characters, became dominant character traits themselves, and even became plot devices to chart characters’ emotional changes. The honor of Most Glorious Mane of Glory goes to Yoo Ah-in, whose transformation from cutie pie into Badass Messenger Hottie was ALL ABOUT THE HAIR. Honorable Mentions include: Jang Geun-seok (Mary Stayed Out All Night) for Most Glorious Mane of Androgyny, Moon Geun-young (Cinderella’s Sister) for Most Glorious Mane of Angst, Kim Bum (The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry) for Most Glorious Mane As Grand Gesture, and Noh Min-woo (Rock Rock Rock) for Most Glorious Mane of Rock.
Annnnnd…. that’s it! Onward to the new year!
- 2010 Year in Review, Part 4: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear (girlfriday’s review)
- 2010 Year In Review, Part 3: Heady with a chance of ho hum (thunderbolt’s review)
- 2010 Year In Review, Part 2: Finding the gems among the stones (Dahee Fanel’s review)
- 2010 Year In Review, Part 1: A year of surprises and disappointments (javabeans’ review)
- 2010 Beanie Awards: Vote for your favorite dramas of the year
- 2009 Editors’ Picks [Year In Review, Part 6]