Awwww yeah. If there ever was a drama made for my generation, this is it. Throwback 90s drama Answer Me 1997 premieres today on tvN, and judging from the long preview, this one’s going to be near and dear to my heart. I mean, a heroine who’s obsessed with H.O.T.? Teenage Me is doing a little dance right now. The 8-episode series (though it’s been called a sitcom, it’s more like a short miniseries) looks pitch-perfectly nostalgic, amazingly innocent and sweet, and a whole lot of fun. Here’s an introduction to the world and its characters.
The title is meant to be a question to your 1997-self, as in: Answer Me, 1997 Me. In Korean it’s Answer Me 1-9-9-7, the numbers read out as digits. The throwback drama features a group of teenagers who are all 18 years old in the year 1997, and while the story unfolds there, we get a How I Met Your Mother-esque flashforward, where we meet them all again in 2012, as 33-year old adults. They gather for a small high school reunion dinner, and there, one couple will announce that they’re getting married. We just don’t know which pairing survives the 15-year gap. It’s a fantastic setup, especially for a drama that’s only 8 episodes long.
The story takes place in Busan, and the idols that were cast are originally from Busan themselves, which makes a whole lot of sense. tvN released an Episode 0 special to introduce the series, featuring all the pop culture references of the day, like the Sechskies/H.O.T. fanwars, moms across Korea swooning over Ahn Jae-wook in Star in My Heart, and that quintessentially teenage feeling that you’ll never love anything or anyone as passionately as you do right then.
The heroine is Sung Shi-won (Jung Eun-ji), a girl who lives for H.O.T. and H.O.T. alone. She’s in love with Tony Ahn, who guests in a cameo as himself, so that she can do embarrassing things like wait outside his house to tell oppa that she loves him. They pull out all the stops, like the baggy overalls and the exact car he drove that year. Shi-won is last place in her class and has her head firmly in the clouds (when her exasperated father asks what she’s going to be when she grows up, her totally heartfelt answer: “I’m going to be Tony oppa’s wife!”), but she’s also forthright and sassy.
Her BFF Mo Yoo-jung (Shin So-yool) is her partner in crime, and her character is known for falling in love at the drop of a hat. Every day it’s someone new, whether idols or real boys. But one day she asks Shi-won if it’s okay that she confessed her feelings to Yoon-jae…
Yoon Yoon-jae (Seo In-gook) is the boy next door, first in his class and the quiet sensitive type. He’s grown up with Shi-won all his life and as teenagers, he falls in love with her. It looks like a really sweet and heartbreaking first love, because at first his competition is just Tony oppa, but then…
There’s Kang Joon-hee (Hoya), Yoon-jae’s BFF, who suddenly starts to spend a lot of time with Shi-won. Ruh-roh. Joon-hee loves to dance and also harbors a deep dark secret.
Bang Sung-jae (Lee Shi-un) is the mile-a-minute talker and one-man rumor mill of the group. He wants to be a rapper and is mostly concerned with everyone else’s business.
And then a new kid comes to town: Do Hak-chan (Eun Ji-won), the army brat from Seoul. His popularity is instantaneous for two reasons — (1) he’s good at sports; (2) he’s got a porn collection that rivals the naughty video store. HA. His one weakness is ACTUAL girls, because he goes from cool and charismatic to a babbling, spastic idiot around the opposite sex. I just love that Eun Ji-won is actually playing one of the teenage set, since he was one of the original idols of the day.
The entire show is like a nod to the audience in that way, and features cameos left and right: Kim Jong-min (How adorable of you to cameo in Ji-won’s new drama!), Shin Bong-sun as the the H.O.T. fanclub president (who behind the scenes confesses to being a Sechskies fan back in the day *gasp*).
It’s just nice to feel like a drama is tailor-made for my generation, clearly produced by people who listened to the same music that I did, and had a field day with throwback touches like tiny pagers and SES hairdos. More importantly, it looks like it has a lot of heart–both the love of the 90s, but also a strong coming-of-age narrative, about who we are at eighteen shaping the people we become.
Answer Me 1997 premieres today on tvN. Crossing my fingers that it delivers…
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