Drama Reactions & Reviews
2012: Something for everyone? [Year In Review, Part 1]
by | December 8, 2012 | 263 Comments

Review extravaganza time!

I know: Already? It feels like just the other day I was killing myself to corral all my thoughts in coherent fashion in a monster review of 2011’s dramas, and already it’s time to lose sleep wrangling my thoughts together for 2012. Time sure flies when you’re having fun, or old. Guess which one I am?

These days I shy away from blanket statements like “This was an awesome year” or “This was a terrible year.” Dramaland has been putting out so much material that all the nuance gets sucked out of a flattening statement like that. If anything, 2012 was the year it overflowed with variety—so yes, there were terrible shows, and there were awesome shows, and there were shows every step in between. But thanks to the explosion of cable programming—aided by the launching of not one, not two, but four new cable stations boasting big drama lineups—there was just about something for everyone.

 
SONG OF THE DAY

Shut Up Flower Boy Band OST – “Jaywalking” [ Download ]

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I’ll start with the non-drama series, since they’re a different format than our standard prime-time miniseries. It seems apt to talk about them together, to compare apples to apples. As with all years, I add the caveat that not all the year’s dramas are talked about in this post, but future reviews in our year-end series will do a pretty good job covering the spread.

THE SITCOMS

Vampire Idol

Vampire youths from an alien planet spacewarp to Earth for the love of K-pop, and get wrangled into becoming idol trainees. This is not a case where you hear about the show and think, “How could this possibly go wrong?” Nope, it’s the kind of show where you could picture something going horribly awry at every opportunity—whether it’s the crackpot premise or the relatively green cast or the fledgling cable station that launched it—and wonder if it could somehow defy the odds.

Yes… and also no.

From a strictly business standpoint, Vampire Idol proved to be a mixed bag for its station, MBN, which launched in December 2011 with what seemed like a lack of preparation. The sitcom attracted modest early buzz and picked up steam with the younger demographic. But as the new stations soon found, programming is a tough business and their ratings began to falter; initial talk faded and MBN pulled the plug on Vampire Idol forty episodes early (from its planned 120).

From a creative standpoint, the show fared better. You’ll have to forgive the sitcom its crude production values, given what must have been a tiny budget, but the cast was appealing and the premise inventive. There were a lot of outrageous elements to the story—the ridiculous names, the Munsters-Meet-Rocky-Horror costuming, the wacky situations—but to their ever-loving credit, the cast stayed committed to their roles. There’s nothing worse in a campy project than an actor who seems embarrassed to be there. I love that they went for it, and that just made these vampidols all that much more endearing.

The creativeness went beyond just mashing unlikely genres together, since its universe felt full and thought-out; as we progressed, we saw that the story was going somewhere—both on earth and beyond. Clearly there were plans for the story to evolve… but the episode cutdown got in the way and the show never got to go where it was going.

This resulted in a truly rushed final week with a twist ending that was one of the biggest cases of dramaland WTF-ery I’ve ever seen. (Without spoiling the plot, suffice to say it’s like dropping a bomb, having a character ask, “What happened next?” and then slapping on a “The End” sign. Did somebody die? Did somebody get married? Was somebody a secret vampire all along?) Yet unlike other WTF endings in dramaland that have raised my blood pressure and had me swearing at my screen, this one didn’t piss me off, because it didn’t seem poorly conceived or lazily written. Rather, it’s like the writer was showing that there were Big Ideas in the works and used the final episode to deliver a big eff-you to the station, and I can’t help but be a little impressed with that. Although as always, it’s really the viewership that gets screwed most.

 

You’re Here, You’re Here, You’re Really Here

MBN has recently been able to salvage itself with variety and current-events programming, but early on it was after the sitcom market and You’re Here, You’re Here, You’re Really Here was another of its attempts. Like Vampire Idol, this was also cut from the initial 120 order (to 60) thanks to low ratings (army sitcom Bolder By the Day was another, getting cut from 50 to 36 episodes).

Unlike Vampire Idol, You’re Here didn’t have that spark of something special, that buzz factor to build up a mania following. It had bigger stars (Lee Soo-kyung and Jin Yi-han) and a bigger source of “inspiration” (U.S. sitcom Friends), but a more meandering approach with a juvenile funny bone. There’s nothing wrong with telling looser stories, but it always felt like this show didn’t know where it was going. Or that it was supposed to be going.

In the absence of other factors to make up for the lack of plotting—for instance, a great directorial style, fantastic acting, a quirky premise—it felt like a low-rent jumble of comic sketches. At the center you had three friends from childhood, living together, and… hanging out, I guess. Their mothers and fathers and bosses got into lame love triangles, but the main couple took an awfully long time to go anywhere.

Consider the more polished sitcom High Kick 3 by comparison (which I’m not covering this year since it was in last year’s review): That show also had a sprawling cast and small stories, but it treated its characters as real people and delivered poignant moments. It wasn’t necessarily a funny sitcom, but neither was You’re Here’s sledgehammer approach to laughs.

It’s too bad, because the loveline at the fore—Lee Soo-kyung and Jin Yi-han—was cute once it finally got moving and they were juggling the old friendship with the new romance. But it was too little, too late.

 

Standby

Sigh, another flopped comedy. Why was this the year I got all aboard the sitcom train, only to have them all putter to a standstill?

MBC’s Standby doesn’t have the cable excuse, and sure enough, it didn’t suffer the same shoestring budget as the abovementioned shows did. It had decent camerawork, an established lead-in (High Kick 3), and a heckuva star-studded cast. Okay, maybe “star” is taking it too far, but “mid-level-television-celebrity” doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

I was pretty excited about Standby as it premiered, because I liked the idea of a workplace comedy to deviate from the usual family-centric ones, and I loved many of the cast members: Ryu Jin being goofy, Ha Suk-jin being hilariously uptight, Jung So-min being sweetly earnest, Go Kyung-pyo being a lovable idiot, Lee Ki-woo being… ab-tastic?

Sadly, writing will trump cast every time—or in this case, bad writing will sink a good cast. The show took a surface approach to everything: its characters, backstories, jokes, conflicts. All one-dimensional and therefore flat. I wanted to feel for them, but they never dug deep and searched for real connections. It was sitcom paint-by-numbers: here’s a joke scenario, act it out, slap in a laugh track! That makes it funny, right?

The characters were the show’s biggest weakness, in that they felt written as sketches or caricatures: big blank gaps with nothing to fill them in to make them feel whole. Ha Suk-jin did the most with his, and Im Shi-wan has won me over, but aside from them the characters often acted in ways that felt mechanical. I’d say better luck next time, but MBC has pulled the plug on sitcoms, so let’s just hope to see the cast in better dramas in the future.

 

MINI-DRAMA

Ma Boy

There was only one “mini-drama” (for lack of a better term) that I watched this year, but it seems awkward to put it amidst the full-length series. Even if, in terms of cohesiveness and completeness, Tooniverse’s tween offering Ma Boy could probably hang with the rest.

At three episodes, Ma Boy is probably best compared to a TV movie—there’s not much time to develop emotions, and with such a young target audience (lead actress Kim So-hyun plays 16, but is just 13) the love angle lacks a sense of reality. (We know she can do tear-jerking romance, but this isn’t the same market as I Miss You.) That’s fine, as this falls squarely in the range of Disbeliefs I Can Willingly Suspend; just know that we’re working with a different set of restrictions here.

What works for Ma Boy is that despite its one-line premise (pretty boy disguises self as pretty girl), it doesn’t expect the gimmick to do all the heavy lifting. Our hero may find himself in drag, but instead of going for the cheap laugh, the show gives him an emotional conflict and a direction. The heroine has a key role in his trajectory, pushing him to find himself, so that while I don’t really feel the chemistry there between the actors (with their age gap, that’s something of a relief), I appreciate their narrative connection. As a bonus, supporting characters were cute too, with the idol boy Tae-joon wringing extra laughs for his adorable self-absorbed posturing.

Ma Boy’s biggest asset is that in three short episodes, it tells a story that’s surprisingly complete. It knows what it is and is true to its direction, leaving us with a satisfying wrap-up. Ultimately it was short and sweet. Like the heroine.

 

THE DRAMAS

Color of Woman

This was a good idea in concept. It wasn’t so awful in execution, either—for the first half, at least. Color of Woman was the inaugural drama for another fledgling station, Channel A, and I liked its approach. If you’re trying to hang with the Big Three stations, you need to set yourself apart somehow by being better or different. Color of Woman opted for different, with a tone that skewed lighter and slower than standard prime-time fare; it was a breezy take on the workplace drama, centered around a careerwoman and her friendships and romances. Sort of like Ugly Betty mixed with a bit of Dal Ja.

The tone was welcome, flirty and cute in a year that was rather absent of both. The characters had great rapport and the main foursome was charming. Pitting two diametric opposites against each other in work and in love, the two female leads could have been made shrill caricatures of catty frenemies. Thankfully the series took the other approach, developing them as grudging friends rather than backstabbers.

I’d argue that its place on a cable station was good for Color of Woman, which may have been too lightweight for a mainstream slot. In its corner of the TV grid, the series got its chance to play with a simple second-chances romance, and the requisite meddling stayed relatively low-key.

…until it didn’t. When the drama was all of the above things, it was entertaining enough—unchallenging and unthrilling, perhaps, but a nice casual watch. But perhaps the drama was too laid-back, too lacking in conflict, to sustain its initial premise. It started to run out of steam, and thus overcompensated by throwing excess at it. Breakups, conflicts, business-related schemes. What started as an easy rom-com turned exaggerated and lost its sense of fun. I’m still fairly sure there’s a cute show buried in the midst of all that clutter, but it may not be worth the effort to dig it out.

 

History of the Salaryman

History of the Salaryman is a tough show to explain in one neat description; it rather defies categorization. It had a quirky sense of humor that elicited some of the biggest laughs of my year, but you couldn’t really label it a comedy. Neither could you say it was a corporate thriller, or a modern adaptation of a famous story, or a satire, or a tale of underdog triumph. It’s all those things, but doesn’t fall easily into a genre.

Like many dramas this year, Salaryman looked amazing from a purely visual standpoint. More and more shows are adopting fancier cameras and upping the quality of their cinematography, and sometimes the pretty pictures can obscure the value of the material itself. For instance, a fair share of mediocre-to-poor dramas have looked fabulous and may, perhaps, have been received with more generous spirits than a similar show shot in the standard format. Thankfully some did have the content to match their visual flair, and Salaryman was one of those.

I have to concede that I was a bigger fan of the offbeat wackiness of its earlier episodes, compared to the shift in focus of its latter half. I do wish that Salaryman had sustained that light-hearted thread the whole way through, which is a common complaint/occurrence in practically any drama that starts out hilarious. They just all tend to tone down as they progress; I’m not sure whether it’s a deliberate choice to skew dramatic once you’ve hooked your audience, or whether the loss of comic momentum is a hurdle all comedies have to confront at some point.

Even so, I found enough in Salaryman to keep me onboard and rooting for our characters, an unlikely odd-couple pairing of the perpetually great Lee Beom-soo and the amusingly foul-mouthed Jung Ryeo-won. The drama boasted strong performances all around, whether it was by the leads or the bevy of veteran mainstays who consistently turn out solid performances, led by Kim Seo-hyung as the tightly wound villain. There was an extension (sigh) that did drag the final stretch out longer than necessary, as those things are wont to do, but it was fun while it lasted.

 

The Moon That Embraces the Sun

Gorgeous costuming, a colorful fictional Joseon, a sparkling adolescent romance. Charming young actors, a stellar soundtrack with lush fusion-classical touches, a clear good-evil dichotomy, a hint of the occult. It’s no wonder that The Moon That Embraces the Sun picked up a lot of hype early on and built on that steam as the drama transitioned to its adult storyline. By then it had amassed such momentum that it was apparently going to take a lot more than a cartoonish villain (bug-eyed Queen Grandma), some amnesia, and a gossamer-thin thread of conflict to get people to turn away. And they didn’t.

The adults years were not without their appeal, and had some solid performances, like Kim Soo-hyun as the frustrated young king and Kim Min-seo as his love-starved wife. The problem was that as the drama wore on it became painfully clear that Moon/Sun was coasting on one conceit, and that everything else served as set dressing to frame that conflict: The king’s still hung up on his first love.

First love does occupy a huge part of dramaland as a motif, a motivation, a conflict that Just Won’t Die. A drama that hinges upon it is hardly new. Yet given the stakes in play here—the throne, the rule of an entire nation, succession intrigue—you can’t help but wonder why the king doesn’t have better things to do than obsess over a dead girl. A better drama would have given the king another layer of conflict to sustain the character, but no, this hero’s got a one-track-mind, and it’s not fixated on how to rule his country better. Even plotlines that were given such huge weight (as in the royal consummation) were suddenly dropped, proving that they were mere placeholders while the couple was in its separation stage.

With ratings breaking the 40% mark (truly rare these days, and for a miniseries, too), this drama is one of the most overrated of the year, in the most literal way. Yet how do you argue with a drama’s ability to speak to a huge segment of the viewing audience? Should we really be turning that disappointment inward, at our tastes, rather than blaming the show for churning out mediocrity dressed as fine fare?

Nah, I’d rather blame the drama.

 

Dream High 2

The classic failed sequel. I knew I oughtn’t get my hopes too high for the second round, but even with my reservations I was ill-prepared for just how far this franchise could plummet in a year. Where was the heart, the fun, the tension, the underdog thrills? Where was the plot? The point?

Dream High 2 is what you get when you put together a show backwards. Which is to say: You cast, record songs, shoot, then remember at the last minute that you need a story. The first season was by no means perfect, but it’s as though the second took all the flaws of the first and magnified them, then ditched what made us love the franchise in the first place. That’s not throwing away the baby with the bathwater; that’s tossing out the baby, then serving up the bathwater as a fine vintage.

Yeah, no. We’re not buying it.

I can’t put the blame all in one corner, though; that’s something that has to get spread all around. The director was all over the place and needed focus. The musical sequences should have been fun, but were overproduced and irrelevant (ten-minute music videos dropped into an episode—yawn). The idol-laden cast was supposed to draw viewers, but they were paired in the strangest configurations bereft of chemistry. Kang Sora came off such a strong showing in Sunny, but her character was such a sad sack.

Which isn’t to say there was no potential. With the once-illustrious Kirin becoming a dump, we extended the underdog setup for the entire school, and the idols were formidable rivals for our motley assortment of averagely talented students. The songs were catchy.

But the series couldn’t commit to anything, and so rivalries fizzled out and lovelines trailed into nothingness and characters’ dreams were given up. Isn’t that a terrible message for a drama with this title? Dream high, but when your wings melt and you crash to earth you’ll have to change those dreams.

Or in other words: Give up. Like I did with the show.

 

Shut Up: Flower Boy Band

Shut Up Flower Boy Band OST – Sung Joon – “몰라야 할 말” (Words I Shouldn’t Know) [ Download ]

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Hands down (and hands up?), Shut Up: Flower Boy Band was my favorite drama of the year. And not by a nose or a hair, but a huge margin.

This was one of 2012’s earliest offerings, yet it’s still the one that sticks the most vividly in my mind, and more significantly, in my heart. There’s something about its approach—raw but not too gritty, heartfelt but not saccharine—that hit me deep and reminded me of what it felt to be young and floundering and scrabbling for hope. Not that I was ever a teenage street rat with abusive parents and a soul seeking solace in rock ‘n’ roll, but the drama isn’t really about that. It’s about making your way in a world that doesn’t quite know what to do with you, of proving to it—and yourself—that you’re more than a lost cause, and of finding a home in your friends, even when you come to divergent paths. Or maybe especially then.

When I think of Shut Up, I think of hearts on fire. The emotion is stripped-down, and that rawness imbues it with added power. Especially when experiencing it through the eyes of a hero who struggles to process that depth of feeling in words—what a wonderful, charged performance by Sung Joon—because you get what he feels on a visceral level rather than computing his words intellectually.

Narrative themes aside, Shut Up was also wonderfully executed from a technical standpoint. Few dramas this year remained constant throughout and felt whole, but Shut Up had a completeness to its story and an ending that made sense and satisfied. It’s sad how rare that is in dramaland.

Even with all the angst and challenges the plot dished out, Shut Up also provided one of the best examples of bromance, served up five ways (six if we include Lee Min-ki’s cameo—how could we not?). The guys acted like real friends who didn’t always see eye to eye but always had each other’s backs. And at the drama’s core, amid the plotlines of friendship, romance, and ambition, we got a message of growing up and finding yourself, and of being true without selling yourself out (or anyone else) along the way. Words to live by.

 

Rooftop Prince

Rooftop Prince is an odd duck. It’s one drama in the middle, bookended by a different drama at either end. It had some of the funniest laugh-out-loud scenes this year, but also got weighed down by absurd baddies and heavy melo twists. For a fusion sageuk, there was a tiresome lot of corporate takeover scheming. It had a time-travel element, but it got overshadowed—in a year full of time travel!—by reincarnation and that old standby, Fate.

To the drama’s credit, it was bolstered by committed comic performances, belly laughs, and a winsome chemistry between the leads, Han Ji-min and Yoochun. His portrayal of the haughty prince humiliated by modernity was hilarious, and welcome for its lack of vanity. ‘Cause we’ve gotta be honest here, that troll hair was not his best look, nor were the Power Ranger tracksuits or his comic array of derp faces. But they were all in service of the series, and it reaped the benefits.

Rooftop Prince was wildly uneven, even at its best, but thankfully it happens to be one of those shows that manage to remain entertaining despite the flashes of ineptitude. Yes, the villains were terrible and over-the-top, but their incompetence at villiany made them fun to hate. And it turns out that viewers will forgive lack of plot momentum, IF the alternative is at least entertaining. Our quartet of Joseon fish out of water were definitely that, with their adorable misunderstandings of present-day culture and the way they latched onto their 21st-century guide like a mother hen.

The series tends to fall apart under scrutiny; it comes together as a whole the way a closetful of mixed puzzle pieces do—you can cram them together, but they won’t fit right. Its resolution of the time-travel conflict is bittersweet at best (and that’s if you didn’t find it aggravating or confusing), added to the fact that the time-travel mechanism itself was never explained. Really, it was just a shell for Fate—watch out, she comes disguised now! But to look on the bright side, this was a drama that made me laugh and kept me smiling, and allowed me to disengage easily at all other points. As a bonus, that durned Yoochun is just adorable, especially paired with the sprightly Han Ji-min.

So while it almost doesn’t register as a real drama series for me, as a collection of comic vignettes it does the trick.

 

Queen In-hyun’s Man

If Rooftop Prince had one of the flimsiest time-travel explanations of the year, then Queen In-hyun’s Man had the strongest. I wasn’t perfectly satisfied with it, but the narrative did a solid job of establishing the rules and hewing to its internal logic (most of the time). Thanks to that consistency we were able to invest ourselves into the hero’s century-skipping; the time-travel became a character unto itself, at times a savior and at others a heartbreaking antagonist.

What it wasn’t, thankfully, was an agent of Fate. This drama took a seriously refreshing attitude about Fate—in that it had no hand in things. The characters rejected the idea that they were drawn to each other by anything other than choice, and such was the strength of that choice that they always managed to find their way back to each other. Even across time, space, and forgotten memories. Where there’s a will there’s a way, apparently, which means these two earned their happy ending.

A good thing, too, since Yoo Inna and Ji Hyun-woo had some of the strongest, most palpable chemistry around. Perhaps that’s helped by their offscreen dating status, but that’s never a guarantee that the kisses will crackle onscreen. Fortunately for this smitten duo, they got a lot of practice time in. (Seriously! So many kisses. Not a complaint.)

There’s political intrigue in the Joseon scenes and meddling exes in the modern-day ones, but mostly Queen In-hyun’s Man is pure romance. And the best kind, at that: The kind that defies all pesky interferences and does its damnedest to be realized. The kind that feels like everything pales in comparison to such an intense love. The kind you wanna believe in.

 

Dr. Jin

Dr. Jin OST – Song Seung-heon – “마지막 사랑” (Last Love) [ Download ]

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Yeah, that was look on my face too—a little horrified, a little deadened inside—while watching the whole thing. I’m still not sure why I did. Maybe it was human nature rearing its ugly rubbernecking head, where you see a train wreck and need to know all the gory details.

Nowhere in dramaland was the premise-versus-execution quandary more apparent than in Dr. Jin. Especially considering that it had an existing template of how to execute it properly. It’s like taking tracing paper to a drawing of a tree and coming away with a mutant cat. There’s a well-produced, well-received source drama right there; you couldn’t manage a half-decent facsimile?

Under this production team, no. The directors bear the brunt of the blame here, proving that Dr. Jin was a failure of realization, not conception. In theory, we could have gotten quite the interesting historical-fusion melding as the modern doc struggles with ethical questions of whether he should let people die to let history run its course, or to interfere because he took an oath to save lives. (In practice, our hero was a hard-headed dolt who seemed surprised every time he realized that messing with history was perhaps inadvisable. But did it anyway. And then got upset when all was not well. You dolt.) From a genre standpoint, Dr. Jin offered up a fresh take in the rather cluttered field of medical dramas by forcing our hero to MacGuyver his way through the Joseon era.

The directors seemed determined to outdo themselves on the gross-out scale, pouring loving attention and intimate detail into shots of vomit, pus, and diarrhea. And syphilis boils, and crude abdominal surgery, and you get the point. You’d think they could put the same care into character consistency or a romance that didn’t defy logic. (She has the same face, ergo she is a parallel existence? And because I love one version, I automatically love the other because of the transitive property of love?) The acting ranged from acceptable to terrible… yet you can hardly hold the cast accountable when nothing else made sense.

Worst of all, perhaps, was that even if the individual flaws were overlooked (and that would be one major blind spot), the drama would still fall abysmally flat, because as a whole it’s just as much a mess as its parts are. Tonally unsure of itself, Dr. Jin had some broadly comedic moments where you were almost sure they meant to be funny, but then went for weighty political intrigue (which got peppered with farts, ’cause, okay), time-travel-driven existentialism, melodramatic romantic angst, social commentary, and the kitchen sink while we were at it.

This is a textbook failed drama if ever there were one—being that failure came on all levels—and a show really ought not be watchable solely ironically. On the upside, unintentional hilarity is still hilarity. (A gummi bear brain fetus. WTF?)

 

Gaksital

Oh, Gaksital. Hold on, I need a minnit to pull myself together. *tears*

If I recall Gaksital through a coldly analytical lens, I will remember that it was far from a perfect show. It had uneven swings in pacing and tempo and its rough edges were sometimes visible; you could make out the place where its vision hit up against constraints of its production environment (say, the live shoot, the budget, the sets). So Gaksital wasn’t a seamless affair; there were bumps and hiccups along the way. I remember that.

Yet it had a potent alchemy that elevated the show beyond its weakest links. Overall it left such a strong impression that when I think of the drama, it’s like the thinking recedes and the feeling takes over. I relive its emotional highs, the welling of spirit and passion that it inspired.

Gaksital was characterized by a number of notable traits: For one, it dared go darker than many a prime-time drama has ventured. Forget sheer body count, the hero himself traversed a wide swath of the nobility spectrum—from not at all to awesomely so, but not always on a linear path.

Moreover, the storytelling was strong and the direction top-notch. Action, music, gravitas—all were calibrated skillfully and in service of the story; it didn’t feel silly when trying to convey dire, or underdeliver when going for grand. Committed acting from leads Joo-won and Park Ki-woong brought their conflicted love and growing antagonism to life and broke your heart, in a small-scale representation of the greater conflict, which broke your heart again.

Historical context was worked in to anchor the story in a specific time and place, and that incorporation of real-life injustices and atrocities added heft to the fictional storyline. But it was the show’s deft hand that conveyed the emotional weight, and the show’s awesomely shot action scenes that made it so badass. Gaksital may have had its missteps, but nobody could accuse it of being afraid to go to difficult places or taking the easy way out. It had balls of steel, and a heart as big as the country our characters fought to claim for themselves.

 

I Do, I Do

Romantic comedies are so dependent on chemistry that even when you’ve got all the other elements in play, without a spark between the couple you’re toast. That’s what I Do, I Do felt like to me: a workable setup pulled down by a lack of believable connection between the workaholic heroine and her much younger, much more naive love interest.

It’s a shame since individually, they did their parts. Had I Do been a bigger hit, it would have been lauded as Lee Jang-woo’s big breakout; he burst onto the screen with such exuberance and warmth. Plus, Kim Sun-ah has had chemistry with so many of her co-stars that you just take it for granted that she’ll sizzle with anybody. Part of the problem was that she was so true to character that her type-A humorless heroine rarely broke from her dour mold to reveal the vulnerability underneath. I understand that as a narrative choice, but it had the unfortunate side effect of killing Kim’s spark. And she has such spark.

Trendies like I Do live and die by their relationships; since so many of these shows tread the same ground in terms of plot, it’s up to the dramas to find characters the audience can root for and get behind, whose paths we want to follow. Again I think he succeeded; she had a tougher task and never quite got there for me. I wanted to like her, and I wanted her to succeed—but emotionally, I wasn’t with her.

Where I Do picks up points is in really going whole hog with its concept of reversing gender roles in the workplace. She’s not just a noona, but the acting head of the company. He’s not just a younger co-worker, but the fresh-faced new hire who’s the total bottom of the office totem pole—the guy who fetches coffee and cleans up the office. More than being about age, this is about power and role reversal. For all that dramaland loves its Candy heroines being rescued by their Daddy Long Legs and chaebol heroes, it’s rare to get the flipside.

The drama didn’t do as much with that swap as it could have but I appreciate it taking that step, perhaps clearing a path that more future drama heroines can travel. Preferably in stylish heels.

 

Big

Big is a concept without plot. That is to say, it’s a body-swapper without direction. It’s Gong Yoo, there to just… look pretty. (Which he achieves, fabulously.)

Not all dramas need to be heavily plot-driven; depending on the genre, a strong concept can carry a lot. However, for being a high-concept fantasy romance, Big really needed to work through its story so that there was a point. It needed a meaning behind the whole gimmick upon which it’s predicated, other than an excuse for a star to do some charming acting. (Which he did, fabulously.)

A resolution that made sense would’ve been nice, while we’re making a wish list. It felt like the story ended because the show ran out of time and direction; it came to an end because it stopped moving, not because that was the destination. Insert time skip, automatically resolve conflict! (Whaddaya mean, the world doesn’t work that way?) What a travesty to build the drama around one actor, especially when his true identity wasn’t the “hero” of the story. You put the star before the story, and we all suffered. (Even if he was fabulous.)

The biggest misstep the drama made was in raising this very interesting philosophical question—if the hero’s inhabiting another’s body, who is it that the heroine loves?—and then failing to answer it properly. You really wanted the drama to go there, to prove that of course the shell was less important than the good stuff inside, but then why couldn’t they actually show that? In refusing to give its hero his resolution, or to trust us to accept it, the drama basically contradicted the message it purported to convey. The shell was most important after all.

Big did mask some of its plotular failings (at least early on) by bringing out that gorgeous hi-def camera to put its gorgeous cast in the best possible light. A couple of quirky characters in the supporting cast kept the tone zippy, with Suzy as a dogged stalker and Baek Sung-hyun as a lovelorn puppy. So cute.

It wasn’t all drear; when Big bothered to be funny it was breezy fun—although you’d never guess that it was written by the zany Hong sisters, given its sedate sense of comedy. It’s like the star writing duo finally got tired after eight dramas and let their minds and senses of humor go on vacation. Next time, I’d rather they took the vacation and came back refreshed, ready to make us laugh with more cracktastic fare in the vein of You’re Beautiful or My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho. By no means do I write them off as scriptwriters because of one big (heh) disappointment, but I’m also not about to let my love for Delightful Girl Chun-hyang, Best Love et al. con me into letting Big off the hook. This one’s a miss.

 

Arang and the Magistrate

Arang and the Magistrate OST – Lee Jun-ki – “하루만” (Just One Day) [ Download ]

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Aw, Arang and the Magistrate. Whether it was because of timing, strong competition, or its plot dense in worldbuilding, I feel like this show got short shrift; it gets my nod for the year’s most underrated.

On the surface this seems like your garden-variety fusion sageuk, although who’d’ve thought I’d ever say fusion sageuks were ordinary? But there you have it—they’ve become so commonplace that being fusiony and sageuky alone is no longer enough to make a drama stand out from the pack. Arang did that by diving into its fantasy mythology with enthusiasm and constructing a rich world that was fresh, well-conceived, and above all, home to a complete story.

Mysteries are best unraveled in slow, gradual reveals that keep just enough information out of our reach to keep us engaged, but not so much that it feels like the writers are fishing for ways to be deliberately cryptic. Too many shows are so intent on keeping the audience guessing that they change things along the way to keep the truth ever out of reach—those get aggravating. Arang unveiled its answers with a confidence that bespoke careful planning, and if you happened to guess the truth ahead of time, great. They weren’t going to yank that out of your hands and swap it with something else just to frustrate your expectations. I appreciated its assurance in its mythology and the way everything fit together in the end.

Although Arang started off with a comedic bent, the prevailing tone was one of stirring pathos—it was buoyed by a quiet kind of intensity, much of which we have Lee Jun-ki to owe. I have never liked him more than as the steadfast, dogged magistrate, who emitted strength even in stillness. He was one of my favorite characters of the year, even above Shin Mina’s sympathetic displaced-ghost character, who sadly became less interesting as the story turned her more into an object to be moved by the others’ machinations. But as much as I was let down by her lack of independent movement, I loved her chemistry with the hero, and together they conveyed a sweetly stirring romance. Arang may not have had the passionate smooches or the grand confessions, but the characters’ connection felt rock-solid and full of longing.

As icing on the cake, the drama’s score was one of my favorites of the year, rich and melodic to match its colorful world. With its emotionally charged and engrossing storytelling, it’s too bad more people didn’t cotton on to Arang and the Magistrate, but it did all the right things for me.

 

Answer Me, 1997

What a fantastic story Answer Me, 1997 turned out to be. By all rights it should’ve been a tiny show on a cable station that aired to a niche fanbase of 30-somethings who could relate to the nostalgia of being in high school in 1997. It was expected to air quietly, and exit quietly. Thus there were zero expectations and practically no promotional hype going into its premiere; what little attention it did garner was mostly thanks to Eun Ji-won, former ’90s idol, joining the cast of rookies.

Instead, the little miniseries that could quickly drew positive word of mouth and blew up into a full-fledged sensation, not just outperforming expectations but setting new records for cable, its ratings outstripping some prime-time dramas on the Big Three. The newbie cast rose to the occasion and delivered strong performances, and Answer Me, 1997 worked its way into the pop-culture consciousness at large.

For all that, Answer Me can thank its writing: witty, thoughtful, and smart. This is a writer’s drama through and through, and I firmly believe that’s why it was capable of such a dramatic Cinderella story (for the production, I mean, not the plot itself)—the producers allowed the writers to tell the story they wanted, and trusted them to deliver. Then because they did deliver, the fans recognized that quality and came onboard in droves.

It helps that the ’90s are just far back in our memories to be a fun throwback, with its H.O.T fashions, the Sechs Kies fanwars, and the S.E.S hair. Not to mention the parade of cameos to send the audience a wink-wink, nod-nod at the references. Still, no abundance of meta jokes could carry a show, and that burden fell to the show’s adroit hand in portraying the sweet little moments of life, and the relationship at its crux: Jung Eun-ji and Seo In-gook, who played first loves thwarted by missed timing and miscommunication. The series played with the “Who does she end up with?” question the whole way through, but that wasn’t really the driving force (because we all knew, didn’t we?). It was their rapport that grabbed us and made us wish them the best.

To be sure, some of its overwhelming hype worked against it; the drama’s second half get bogged down by overindulgent writing, meandering conversations, and fan-service-driven moments. The plotting lost momentum and the charm of the high school years faded a bit. It’s true that those things diminished my enjoyment as we wound to a close, but taken in a broader context these are truly small complaints. Overall, Answer Me, 1997 was one of the strongest dramas of the year, alternately humorous and heart-tugging, with relatable emotions that took me back to a time that felt sweeter and simpler. Even if those outrageous hairstyles are the furthest from either.

 

Faith

Here we come to the most recent of the time-slipping bunch with SBS’s Faith, which bears a number of similarities to previous entries in the genre, most obviously Dr. Jin for the medical angle. As it turns out, though, when you’ve got so many dramas trading on the same central conceit it’s really the differences that stand out, rather than the gimmicks they’ve got in common.

Faith shook things up a little by making our traveler a female character, which seems a minor difference on paper, perhaps, but opened up a whole host of issues bypassed by the other dramas. And I don’t just mean by forcing our heroine to concoct her own cosmetics out of herbs (though she did that—you can take the girl out of Cheongdam-dong, but you can’t take Cheongdam-dong out of the girl). In making the woman the foreign entity, Faith turned her into a spoil of war, buffeted about by powerful men who all wanted to possess her in some way as an asset. Thankfully, she wasn’t having any of that and refused to relegate herself to object status.

That’s one example of Faith’s strengths: It had interesting philosophical debates written into the storylines, with characters’ actions reflecting the greater themes and messages in play. Too bad Faith also had one big downfall: It was plodding. Some might say slow. Others might use the word boring. What it wasn’t was exciting, epic, or grandiose.

Since there are plenty of fine shows that are not exciting, epic, or grandiose, this should not have been a huge drawback for Faith, except for the fact that this project was once drawn along the lines of exciting, epic, and grandiose. That was before it languished on the shelf for a couple of years while the production dealt with a revolving door of lead actors and lost a chunk of its budget. Nothing a good revision couldn’t fix, only you got the sense that they never were able to fully shed their former intentions. Some parts were scaled down accordingly to this newer, quieter, more cerebral story. Others wanted to be badass and action-worthy and were woefully short of the mark in execution. Ultimately it felt like Faith wanted to be two different shows but never could make up its mind which way to go.

The romance between the modern Kim Hee-sun and Goryeo’s warrior Lee Min-ho ended up carrying much of the show, which is fine since they showed rapport and really worked the star-crossed (or time-space-crossed) lovers angle. It was less fine in that Faith wasn’t meant for the romance to be the end-all and be-all, so the love story had to shoulder more narrative burden than it should have. In contrast, the rest of the cast lacked cohesion, often dropping in and out without transitions, leaving threads untied.

Faith was by no means the worst of the time travelers, but neither was it at the top of the heap, either. Unfortunately its production limitations were all too evident, keeping it firmly in the middle of the pack.

 

Vampire Prosecutor 2

As a true sequel—uncommon in dramaland—Vampire Prosecutor 2 hit the ground running, wasting no time in picking up where Season 1 left off. We had our hot broody vamp back, hotter and broodier than ever, as well as his team of prosecutor-investigators. We lost a couple of supporting characters, but gained meaningful additions: the warm but stubborn new coroner joined the workplace family, the icy and unyielding new prosecutor became the antagonistic boss, and a fearsome new Big Bad rolled into town in Red Eyes.

By all rights, this indicated an upgraded Vampire Prosecutor. With the team camaraderie already established, we could get right to enjoying the repartee. Our hero went from aloof to a protective father figure to his team, which invested him more fully than in the first season. Plus, we were given a window into the backstory of this show’s taken on vampire mythology.

I know all this, and I was prepared to jump into Season 2 with all the gusto of the last one. Yet for whatever reason, it lacked a certain spark this year and I was hard-pressed to pinpoint the cause. The series had the same stylish look, the same fast-paced action scenes, and the same amount of blood ‘n’ guts (maybe a little more). Why didn’t I care as much?

I’m still not sure I know, but a huge chunk of my investment in the story must have left the building when the show chose to expand its vampire world and therefore diminished the hero’s own role in it. There were long stretches of story that omitted him, that had him offscreen or reacting to stuff, and that was frustrating. What good is Vampire Prosecutor without THE vampire prosecutor?

Being on a cable movie channel, OCN, this show enjoys greater leeway with violence and language—it’s part of the appeal, really. It feels that this year they ran wild with that freedom, however, and went far beyond the needs of its stories to just out-shock and out-gore itself. It got hard to watch, and felt more and more gratuitous. Part of our vampire prosecutor’s aura of cool comes from his stylish restraint; it would serve the drama to strive for the same.

 

Nice Guy

As the most recent of the year’s big hits, Nice Guy is riding a wave of buzz right now that positions it nicely for awards season, which is good news for its cast. It certainly knew how to push all the right narrative buttons and give us fast-paced melodrama. In conjunction with strong performances and brisk editing, Nice Guy had the knack of sweeping us into its world of revenges and betrayals.

That speed was a huge asset, because the drama didn’t allow you to take any time to pause and consider its flaws, of which there were plenty—it just barreled onward, overriding potential hangups. As though dancing in circles around the audience would prevent it from noticing inconsistencies, or at least from caring about them. To be sure, as a tactic it does work; I would find myself swept up in the feeling of the show, regardless of the little voice protesting the absurdity of the events that were transpiring onscreen.

I’m not sure Nice Guy would have been the success it was without Song Joong-ki playing the titular nice guy—or is he? The show argued, sort of, that he was the world’s nicest guy, which is why the betrayal sent him on that path of destruction wherein he turned into a woman-using, body-selling, self-hating bad guy, except all his badness was really just a roundabout expression of his innate niceness, because he never would have been driven to such extremes had he not been a decent person at the core, hence his badness is proof of his goodness. Or something.

That’s an example of the convoluted kind of logic that formed the twisted framework for this show, which had you scratching your head until you usually just gave up and figured, “Hey, it sounds good. Must be right.” If it sounds smart, it must be smart? Again, it’s dancing in circles to confuse your audience into compliance, like the writers picked up battle tactics learned by watching fighting insects.

But back to Song Joong-ki, who was certainly good as the hero (a term to be used loosely here), though perhaps not as strong as he was in last year’s Tree With Deep Roots. I felt no connection to the character, which was partly a function of writing that kept him a cipher for most of the drama’s run, and partly because he was a guy who did bad things and then got excused because he was really pretty, and also maybe really just misunderstood at the core. Because god forbid he actually be held accountable for his misdeeds without rationalizing it through this filter. If anything it was Moon Chae-won’s amnesiac heroine who drove the story, although her inexplicable love of the hero never rang true for me.

That may be because these were not people who existed in our reality, but rather in a hyperreality of extreme situations and extreme emotions. Thanks to the strong acting and a very well-paced sense of escalation and movement, despite my misgivings I found Nice Guy an easy, engaging watch—maybe because time flies when you’re watching unlikable people being horrible to each other. There’s a queer sense of detached gratification in watching them tear each other apart, I suppose.

That’s why I feel like there’s a strange veneer over Nice Guy, like it somehow managed to use its stylish delivery to hoodwink the viewers into thinking it some masterwork of cleverness when really, it’s pretty conventional stuff, just packaged really prettily. Even without the flat ending—disappointing in its ambiguity, but more so in the way its message seems to negate a lot of what happened in the show—Nice Guy gets my vote for the year’s most overrated drama.

 

Oohlala Spouses

The other big trend this year, though less represented in this review, was the body-swapper. The comedy was inherent in the premise, so I was all set for hilarity in Oohlala Spouses as a married couple on the outs gets swapped and comes to a new understanding.

Curiously, the body-swappers didn’t capitalize on the full comic potential and chose to go melo, which seems like an odd choice until you remember that dramaland loves its melos. Still, I would have been onboard with a melo twist… if only the show weren’t built on what I believe was a flawed premise. Namely, that this was a marriage that should be saved.

The setup itself worked, but where it fell flat was in the portrayal of the marriage at the outset. In getting us onboard the heroine’s plight as the unloved, unappreciated wife, the drama went to extremes in painting the husband as a terrible person. The fundamental conflict was made so strong that the lead was left too far afield in unlikable territory. I’m all for character redemption, but the balance was so skewed in the beginning that I just couldn’t get behind the idea of reconciliation.

Thus the “gods” pulling the strings behind the scenes seemed unreasonable and capricious, and I wanted to demand that they just let these poor humans be. Who were they to “know better”? They were Fate in person form, in the most annoying way possible.

For a while I pondered whether the alternate pairing was viable, only that turned out to be impossible since the show became locked into its original concept at the outset with its reincarnation framework. It established the idea that our married couple is Fated To Be, and we were stuck with it.

 

STILL IN PROGRESS…

I’m setting these dramas off in their own section, because as of this writing they’re all still airing. But some are already near the halfway mark and next year’s a long way off, so I’ll touch on them briefly here.

I Miss You

The melodramas have been out in full force this year, and I Miss You falls squarely into that category, amidst all its Sturm und Drang and tears and gnashing of teeth. It’s classic melo stuff, centered around an angst-wrought romance and populated with dastardly villains. There are tears everywhere.

All that aside, I’ve been keeping up with the show despite the decision to stop recapping it (too aggravating for that level of scrutiny), and I find that the show has enough qualities to keep me coming back. (One of those may be a masochistic trigger, so take with a grain of salt.) The conflicts are strong, and I Miss You is actually a fairly quick watch, despite the fact that the content has a tendency to raise your blood pressure or make you want to die.

The issue I have with the show is in the way it doles out the pain. Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with drawing upon intense human experiences as a driver of storytelling, so the fact that pain is doled out isn’t the issue. No, it’s the way the drama makes tearjerking its goal, rather than an organic byproduct of a well-written story. Each plot turn feels designed to maximize your viewing anguish, as though there’s some complicated drama calculus designed to churn out the highest pain-per-second quota possible. Thus I feel manipulated into tears, rather than shedding them because I’m caught up in the plight of these people. I don’t do well with crying on cue, and this is no exception.

That’s why I Miss You feels strangely cold, despite the amount of intense emotions paraded in and out of these characters’ lives. This kind of show is and always has been a vehicle for acting more than anything—the kind of stuff to beef up the highlight reels and give the stars an exercise in expanding their range. I find Yoon Eun-hye and Yoochun credible in their roles, and I’m fairly sure they’ll come out of this project better actors. Good on them.

 

King of Dramas

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King of Dramas OST – Lee Hyun – “사랑에 멀어서” (Far From Love) [ Download ]

What a fun, feel-good drama. Being that it’s all about drama production (which satirizes the process as much as it portrays it), King of Dramas rides on a bunch of meta references and in-jokes, but the reason the show works is because it knows better than to think those are enough to sustain a series. Sure, its lead character Anthony (Kim Myung-min) struts onto the screen like an over-the-top caricature—until the show peels back those layers to show that he’s a real person after all. Just with a fabulously snarky (and impeccably styled) outer shell.

King of Dramas is a prime example of how you can turn anything into drama fodder, with pumping action and suspense and stakes, just so long as you execute well. The biggest conflict these characters face may be whether their drama makes it to air or whether they’ll have jobs for much longer, and yet my heart’s always ready to leap (or sink) along with them. The director earns the credit for much of this, knowing just when to turn up the sly humor or when to dial it down for a flash of real feeling to poke through.

I hesitate to name a drama best anything before it’s completed its run so I can’t call this one my favorite comedy of the year, but I can say it’s pretty close to claiming that title anyway. Yes, that’s partly because we’ve had a thin year for solid comedies, but it’s also because King of Dramas has a droll wit that makes me laugh, out loud, episode after episode. After so much heaviness and melancholy these past months, the burst of good humor is a welcome addition in dramaland.

 

Jeon Woo-chi

Admittedly, the drama version of Jeon Woo-chi isn’t quite the zippy, stylish action-comedy I wanted it to be—not like the movie, say. It took longer than it should have to get to the point, and didn’t give enough anchoring into these characters or their world or why any of this is going on. So flawed, yes.

It is, however, picking up momentum now at a few weeks in, thankfully. Clark Kent is the obvious point of comparison for the hero’s nerdy, bespectacled alter ego, and after all the Batman-esque revenge stories we’ve seen, it’s definitely fun to have a lighter, more comic take on a classic superhero. The show also provides Cha Tae-hyun with plenty of fodder to make us laugh—he gets two characters, thus double the opportunity to crack us up with his hilarious brand of physical comedy and quick-witted deliveries.

This isn’t the show to turn to for epic conflicts or badass fighting (the action scenes are campy on a good day, best appreciated with a healthy side of humor). But if you’re into fantasy comedies and sageuks with a twist, Jeon Woo-chi might be the ticket to liven up the selection you’ve got on your plate. Not that it’s overflowing with drama selections or anything, I’m sure.

 

School 2013

Just barely a week old at this point, I’ll keep this one short. Especially considering the 2013 in the title; I’m sure it’ll have a space in next year’s lineup. It just felt like it’d be such an omission to ignore School 2013 when it evoked such a strong response in me, and seems poised to take up residence in my heart for the foreseeable future.

This isn’t a trendy show, and it’s got a stated focus on keeping things realistic—real-life problems depicted in real-life ways. That means multi-faceted characters who shy away from stock characterizations, and people caught between rocks and hard places, trying to figure out how to navigate their slice of their world. Already School 2013 shows potential to be the kind of drama that will quietly move you, speaking to you through its understanding of universal human experiences rather than big sweeping dramas. If this is a sign of what 2013 has in store for us, I think we’re looking at a promising new year.

 
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263 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. 51 maxzzr

    thank you for the review, I feel a little embarrassed that I have seen most of these show. I really need to stop my kdrama addiction

  2. 52 kopytko

    Funny thing. Of the dramas mentioned here I watched like…3 or 4 till the very end. The rest – either I ditched short before the last episode or never started. There were lots ofthings I cannot get excited for – sageuk, time travel, vampires… Ok, the idea behind Vampidol wasn’t that bad and Vamprosecutor earned some diehard fans (I do like mr vampire himself, but I cannot handle that much blood and cruelty on screen), but somehow, it wasn’t me…

    I loved Salaryman because it was different and hilarious. And because of Yeo Chi.
    I watched all episodes of Nice Guy because I found machinations interesting and twisted characters twisted :)
    QIHM did have time travel but it was used in a coherent way, I didn’t swear at writer’s logic, the main characters were charming, the “toe kiss” was sizzling hot…
    I watched all episodes of Color of Woman, because hope dies last… And I can forgive a lot for sake of Jae Hee and Yoon SoYi.
    As I said, the rest of the shows mentioned didn’t capture me that much (or at all).

    Now, if I were to choose one drama, it would be A Gentleman’s Digninty because it was fun. Lots and lots of fun. Even with the annoying MeAhri and her Lawyer, I enjoyed myself immensely. Some people say it lacked plot, but I didn’t feel that way. What counts are characters and they were endearing. I laughed a lot, I rooted for the characters, I will rewatch it in the future.

  3. 53 Maya

    I just realized that there’re so many dramas from your list that I haven’t watched yet this year! I definitely have to make the time to watch Shut Up Flower Band, I’ve been reading a LOT of good reviews but just haven’t found the time to marathon it.

    The dramas I throughly enjoyed this year are: History of The Salaryman (I love the hysteria and the hilarious epilogues at the end of every episode), Queen In Hyun’s Man (I loved everything about it until the cellphone thing happens – still think it’s the best romance of the year though), Answer Me 1997 (one of the few dramas that I can totally relate to -no birth secret, no evil characters- AND the nostalgia), but I have to say that GAKSITAAAAL is definitely my fave from this year. It’s not perfect just like you said but it’s definitely one that leaves the most lasting impression on me (esp with that epic ending). It’s dark, awesome, and touching. It made me flinch at the sight of box of nails, trampled on my heart and left me bleeding on the floor, but even so I still love it..

    • 53.1 ashura

      I was a big fan of Gaksital. But somehow i am not as moved by the ending like a lot of people. It resembled a lot like V for Vendetta, where the citizens assembled together wearing V’s mask. Not saying Gaksital ending wasn’t good, just wasn’t epic for me.

      • 53.1.1 Maya

        That’s fine, even though we are both big fans of Gaksital, we could have different opinions regarding the ending.. Btw, I just looked up the ending of V for Vendetta in YouTube and I do agree that both scenes carry the same message/symbolism. I feel that it could’ve dulled the effect of Gaksital’s ending if I had watched it first. But I’m kinda glad I haven’t and that’s why I still feel that the ending was epic :)

        • 53.1.1.1 ashura

          Yup yup that is exactly what i mean. If i had watched Gaksital first, its ending would haved moved me like V’s ending did : )

  4. 54 Lilian

    It’s too early to say coz I have just watched two episodes. But if it continues in the same vein, with so much heart in the story and excellent acting, I think School 2013 will be one of my favs. As of 2012, two dramas which turned out to be surprise fav for me would be Shut Up and Answer 1997. Cable dramas which had tight plots and great acting. Most overrated for me is definitely the Moon the Embraces the Sun!

  5. 55 Jinny

    Yay this must be my favorite time of year. Holiday festivities and wonderful drama reviews from the best people! Thank you javabeans!

    I feel like I have heard about so many dramas but I haven’t had time to watch them all :P
    On my list: Ma Boy, QIHM (I haven’t watched this yet but I feel like if I watch it I would be bored because I’ve read all the recaps and I know what’s going to happen already…does anyone else have this problem? Darn my curiosity), Vampire prosecutor 1/2, Jeon woo-chi.

    There were also drama I really really liked reading recaps but couldn’t get into watching; I even wanted to like them but I just didn’t…: History of a Salaryman, Gaksital, Arang, Nice Guy, and King of Dramas (I feel like this is in the same genre as Salaryman and JRW is in both haha hopefully just an accident because I do love her).

    MoonSun was wholly overrated and even my love for KSH couldn’t make me sit through it, I was so excited for DH2 but I guess it fell to the curse of bad sequels (is there a sequel that has been good for a drama?!), Big was such a disappointment I was totally on the Daran-Kyungjoon ship :(, and Ooohlala’s voice change gave me a headache and I wanted to punch my screen.

    Butt for the dramas I waited/am waiting for every week would be SUFBB (AWESOME. I shouldn’t even have to say more. Recommending it to my friends was a definite pain because they all heard the title and gave me a WTF look haha), Answer me 1997, Rascal Sons, Alice in Cheongdamdong, School 2013. I guess I’m sort of seeing a trend haha.

    Eagerly awaiting 2013 dramas, ESPECIALLY FLOWER BOY NEXT DOOR ALSDKFJALS okay I’m done. January 7th. Marked and circled a million times.

    • 55.1 owl

      Hi Jinny I read the recaps after I’ve watched an episode or two, then I can sort out my thoughts with db input cuz it would spoil it for me, too, if I recapped before watching.

      So true about recommending SUFFB to friends (it’sl like saying your fav group is the Monkees or something). Once hooked, though, it takes you to a place of no return. And that’s where I like to live.

      • 55.1.1 Jinny

        Oooh interesting I’ve always read a recap or two and then watched, mostly because of the lack of eng subs and the lightening speed of recappers on db. I might try it the other way around when there’s a new drama that seems interesting! Thanks :)

  6. 56 earthna

    I said I’ll just take a peek on db co I still have to study for my finals but here I am an hour later. I really agree with Arang being underrated. It was really beautiful and just felt right. Not too heavy and not too light. Just bad timing that it aired during Gaksital’s peak and Nice Guy came before it ended. Reminds me of Gumiho being shadowed by TakGu then.

    Thanksss for this, I might try watching the other dramas you mentioned. (maybe dr jin for the laughs). Maybe I should really continue watching Gaksital. Stopped at episode 8 coz I felt that taking the girl, torturing her, then her escaping was on repeat.. I’ll just read recaps on Nice Guy just to know how it ends. And since you really liked SUFBB, i’ll watch it. My friend said it wasnt that could but she probably said that coz she’s L biased and doesnt like him getting partners. Lol.

    I should also write a mental note to continue Queen Inhyun’s Man.

  7. 57 pg

    i havent had tht big oh my god drama for 2012…although currently i miss you is kinda getting tht attention..but we will see as it goes….

    some my fav are gaksital..man joowon n park kiwoong was sooo good…i like the bromance rather than with the lead couple…great cinematography n action…..
    rtp was a good past time for mi…i love hjm n pyc chemistry but ending was a let down…nevertheless i like it
    i agree on nice guy…i was soo eager for this cuz joongki n mcw psy are one of actor actresses…but tru out the drama, it lost mi n too much flashback was used….plus after princessman mcw n psh chemistry, i saw lacking between sjk-mcw…but acting wise all 3 lead was amazing
    answer me n qihm was a great drama to watch…both had sizzling chemistry n for qihm those kisses was the best by far in 2012…mets was good as well..kim soo hyun was great but his chemistry with hgi failed big time…the lil ones had a prefect chemistry..
    disappointment were dr jin just yikes….i do i do just failed mi…i drop king to heart even lsg n hjw love didnt kept mi going on….faith why did u show this movie leeminho….love rain n too beautiful to lie was just blahhh…
    yet to watch arang i love ljk n sma so i cant wait to see tht

  8. 58 redfox

    totally agree on Shut Up. No year-end drama managed to drop it from no 1 place for me.
    it was one of the best youth dramas I have ever seen anywhere and the band subject is something I can relate to as I see so many new bands trying to make it and the changes in their course.
    and I dont agree on Arang cause many characters were just lame, they were meant to be scary I think but it felt embarrassing and ridiculous.

  9. 59 SH

    Thanks for the review, JB :)

    Of the shows you’ve listed here, some of them I dropped, some I haven’t seen. The only one I finished was Faith and I loved it! It had a lot of flaws (I know). But I thought it was really intriguing on how the concept of time-travel and allegiance were used in the series. The physical space is there for eternity, but as time passes, names can be changed and people’s heart can be moved or can it? And I like that I can picture these characters in any era, and they still fell genuine to me. I really liked that Song Ji-na approached history from a very contemporary point of view. Admittedly, Faith is probably a weak writing by her standard. But I just love this writer, and will continue watching anything she’s written.

    On going series– I like King of Dramas but I’m having a hard time trying to understand the show at a macroscopic level. As of now, it gives me a lot of lols and mini arcs, but I feel that character development is sort of lost.

    School 2013 — High school/teen shows are not really my thing, but you, GF and Joonni were raving about it, so I checked it out. The first two episodes were alright. Though I felt like I’ve seen this set up before in Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, American teen shows, etc… I don’t really find the situation really that unique or new.

    Alice in Cheongdam-dom — I’m liking this show a lot! I know it’s bit lacking in whimsical atmosphere. It is light with added social commentary on wealth and status. My kind of show.

    Overall, 2012 has more diversity, but for me, nothing can beat 2009…yet.

  10. 60 redfox

    now rooftop prince, if it could have been funny till the end. I need something so funny I hurt. because I am having such a hard time and the job is just killing me and I cry all the time just being so exhausted. please give me a drama with every scene as funny as the best ones in Rooftop prince. 2013, hope for the best.

  11. 61 WvR

    Thanks for the reviews!

  12. 62 kumi

    Good reviews, thanks.

  13. 63 missjb

    Abit sad about Nice guy review, because I love it to death. Maybe I learned alot about life and It did deliver a narrative purpose I was waiting for. there is a little moment a feel connect with. So eventhough this drama seems a fairy tale melodrama, but it never loses the narrative they are tring to deliver. For some reason the character always gets me. My biased towards writers, Maru’s chracter, and the narrative purpose of a drama? Maybe… Because despite it flaws, this drama remain one of the best this year in my watching experience this year.

    • 63.1 missjb

      oh and the directing of nice guy, it nicely done and one of the best directing.

  14. 64 Llamaesque

    This is like…the War and Peace of year-end recaps. Only better.

    Dramabeans is the anti Moon That Embraces the Sun: Your monster ratings are utterly deserved.

  15. 65 owl

    Girl, how do you do it? I’m thinking that if my allotted sleeptime is slim due to kdrama mania, then yours must be, well – nothing. Nada. Zilch. Thanks to your supreme sacrificee (and that goes for the entire dramabeans team) dramabeaners like myself benefit from your highly entertaining and informative reviews – the Cliff Notes of kdramas – that often make of break the kdrama (for me).

    My next goal is rather ambitious if I do say so myself, and a direct result of kdramas and dramabeans – squeezing in HT learn to talk korean with kdramas from one of the sites. My friend just married a Korean guy and I want to WOW him with Koreanspeak (he’s such a good guy that I am sure he will refrain from rollling his eyes and only encourage me to keep it up).

    Over vacation, I am going to watch Answer Me 1997 – I feel totally out of the loop not having watched it live, so onto marathoning it!

    Sending lots of kindred spirit love (’tis the season) to kdrama mamas (and oppas) everywhere *\/*

  16. 66 Tani

    FOR ME:
    NICE GUY: nice but overrated!
    SHUT UP FLOWER BOY BAND: my favourite drama of the year.-> the story, the characters, the leads and their romance! wow!
    QUEEN IH MAN: THE KISS(S???) just the kiss! and the romance. the ever ever lasting love. need some more dramas of this kind in dramaland
    BIG: I just remember Gong Yoo and his eyes. what was the story all about?!! I can’ remember
    Lee min Ho is not a good actor. sorry, but this is a fact. and Faith was not a good drama.
    and one last question: why are the actresses (much) oldar than the actors (heroines vs. heros) in korean dramas?! it happens again and again and sometimes it really does not make sense-> e.g. Faith and I do, I do.
    it is just akward!

  17. 67 Beekinga

    Gaksital; for me it was a good history lecture that went overboard with the torturing; I guess they signed an extension and couldn’t come up with nothing better to fill endless minutes with.

    Queen Inhyun was my time travel option. Every thing came together to make it wonderful to me. That one ranks up there with Corazón Salvaje, La hija del mariachi and Padre Coraje. Though to be fair, Faith won me over with all their female characters pulling the story forth when all the men went there to pose prettily.

    Nice guy I enjoyed but I filled my quota of mental and physical abuse with that one so I haven’t given I miss you the time of day.

    Arang was nice because it gave me insight into what loom there is in which Korean lore is weaved and how similar it is to some southamerican lore too.

    Answer me 1997 didn’t call my attention until I read you guys ranting and raving and was pleasantly surprised. Though there were some major hiccups trying to get subs with the tv company going bonkers over that issue.

    I did enjoy enormously 3rd ward, which you haven’t commented, so I suppose it wasn’t every one’s cup of tea, but it was a lovely show easy to watch and not gory at all which was to thank for.

    Other few ones that are well worth the effort, are the madame butterfly one, where I have enjoyed one cool lead female utterly cluless but full of zest. My daughter is also quite entretaining; and Cheongdamdong Alice is proving to be a nifty show.

    • 67.1 Annie

      That was my problem with Gaksital, the torturing. JB complained about pain in IMY for pain’s sake, but that’s how I felt about the torturing in Gaksital. And they recovered fresh as a daisy the next day.

      Really, the story never really went anywhere. It wasn’t that intriguing. And the two leads had zlich chemistry. I liked Joo Won and PKY a lot, but outside of that there was nothing in the drama. Okay, I give you Horsitaal.

    • 67.2 Gasenadi

      Yes! Corazon Salvaje!!! I’ll NEVER forget the movie, (not the drama) my first college movie with my college roommates. That lead still shines in my memory 40 yrs later.

  18. 68 luri

    This is my third year in dramaland and I am so grateful for the year end reviews and the recaps in general.

    Arang was my favorite although I thought I was going to skip it due to not really liking the premise. I watched one episode for Shin Mina but stayed for the story up to the 18th episode where the story really completed for me. I will finish eventually but to be drawn in by the light and fluffy then to really see what a bitter desire for revenge can yield. I mean what will you give in to, what will you help destroy just to punish someone. It was amazing story telling with a lot more tension than I think it was given credit for having.

  19. 69 Peridot

    I definitely agree that Moon/Sun was one of the most overrated dramas of the year. I feel that there were many lost opportunities with that drama. There were many solid performances but I wish that the other characters did more than serve the sole purpose of reuniting the two lovers.

    Arang and the Magistrate was one of my favorite dramas of the year. I loved the supernatural elements (and the moody, ethereal musical score) and really felt that, despite some of the loss of momentum and dragging moments toward the last few episodes which are both a a part of the live shoot schedule, there was a solid story at the heart of everything. I also appreciate the fact that the love story wasn’t at the heart of the drama; there were too many other things happening.

    As for Gaksital…Gaksital was amazing even if it also suffered the effects of the live shoot schedule and became a little too black and white in its portrayal of the conflicting sides. While I loved Joowon in this role, I really felt that Park Gi Woong was the one to steal the show. He is such an expressive, talented actor. I really hope that he gets a lead role in a drama soon. Then again, I am sure that his army duty will be approaching soon. *cries* Let me not think about that!

    • 69.1 Mari

      I’m really losing it. I read this and said out loud, he can’t go to the army!! He is having eye problems!! Lol. Mixing realities & dramas..

      • 69.1.1 Peridot

        LOl! The day he is called upon to begin his military service will be a day of mourning for me! lol!

  20. 70 Meg

    YES YES YES to everything you said about Shut Up, it was such a good drama and it still stays with me

  21. 71 mia

    At what point do we add TvN to KBS, SBS and MBC? In 2012 the have had more success with dramas than either of the big 3 imo and also have SNL Korea in their roster, with the flower boy series to get another instalment next year I wouldn’t be surprised if it did take the step up into “The big 3″

  22. 72 firsttimenewbie

    I heart you for your take on Nice Guy. :)

  23. 73 Thomas

    For me it The King 2 Hearts and Answer me 1997 was best. Both on my top 10 list of the best dramas.

    Dr.Jin and Big I could not finish.

    • 73.1 flour

      lol i think we’re the same person.

  24. 74 sogazelle

    Thanks for the review JB!

    For me:

    #1: I Miss You( I adore Yoochun and Yoon Eun Hye and they are doing a fabulous job)

    #2: King of dramas (I love the world of dramas)

    #3:I Do I Do (it was such a feel good drama for me)

    #4: Nice Guy

    Biggest disappointments:

    #Big (a total waste of Gong Yoo) and

    # Faith (too early for Lee Min Ho in Sageuk)

    I couldn’t get passed episode 5 and episode 2 respectively.

  25. 75 catherine

    TvN is really hitting it in the ballpark with all the dramas they’ve released so far. Answer Me 1997 has to be of the best dramas I’ve watched this year. I can’t wait for the next installment of the ‘Flower Boy’ series next year (but I’m not setting my expectations too high in case it flops xD).

  26. 76 Aleena

    Shut Up is my favourite drama too! :D I totally agree with the way you described the whole feel and the whole message of the drama :D

    Thank you, javabeans, for always writing such awesome reviews and recaps! :D

  27. 77 Rashell

    Thanks JB. I love these. It’s always great to read about what dramas you loved, liked, and hated during the year. I usually agree with your picks and this year isn’t much different. I loved SUFBB and hated Dr. Jin. I also think Nice Guy is overrated and Arang underrated. I think I enjoyed Faith a little more than you. Although I don’t disagree with your criticism of it either. You didn’t have King2hearts on your list but I know that was GF’s drama, so I’m sure I’ll see it on her list.

    Thank you so much for another year of hard work. You make drama watching that much more fun!

  28. 78 im_inadaze

    1. Gaksital –> My favorite drama this year. The ending was perfect. gaahh I still vividly remember everything.

    2. Shut Up Flower BoyBand –> Friendship, heart, love, this drama a close second.

    3. King2Heart –> my favorite thing from the drama was the bromance; between the brothers, between the nk/sk team and earnest bot Si-Kyung…more than the love story (which is great too btw)

    4. Queen InHyun Man –> Epic love story. Like JB said, their love transcend time, space and forgotten memory.

    5. Arang and The Magistrate –> Enjoy while it last, the scene, the plot, the love story, everything works, but when it ends there’s nothing memorable. I don’t dislike it but I’m not exactly loving it. To be honest I’m more interested with Jo-Woon story rather than the lead.

    6. Big –> Initially there’s nothing so terribly wrong/bad with the story, I’m still full of anticipation, until they CRUSH it in the last episode. So yeah…biggest disappointment of the year.

    7. Dream High 2 –> LOL it’s a big joke. I don’t have any high hope for this so the disappointment wasn’t so big.
    Still…at least they could um…i dunno try HAVING a coherent plot!?

    8. Rooftop Prince –> Loved the beginning, the Joseon F4 was so awesome, the comedy was on point, start to lose interest at the second half of the show, the company plot, the sisterly shit and all the unnecessary thing start taking over. Fast forward, all I care was Joseon F4 got their nice ending, and Yi-Gak and Park-Ha have their happy ending.

    9. The MoonSoon –> Like everybody else, loved it until episode 5. The love story was getting on my nerves, there are so many interesting side character that so underused because all they care about is the King and his first love. But Kim So Hyun was so passionate and on fire here, I can’t dismiss it, I really thought he deserves all that hype.

    10. Answer Me 1997 –> so instead of Moon-Soon this one gets my vote for the most overrated drama of the year. You know…because everyone was keep mentioning about how awesome it was so I watched it with pretty high expectation. The first half of the drama was pretty solid, the comedy was awesome, the second half, this is what over hype does to you, the writer start to lose focus of what they want to achieve/tell and star catering more to what the audience wants to see.

    11. Faith –> Choi Young Daejang…Lee Min Ho owns it, I swear I never been Lee Min Ho fangirl, this is the first drama that I’m truly interested in him. This is not exactly a memorable drama either but unlike Arang I’m pretty invested with the main leads journey. and Choi Young Daejang left a very deep impression on me *swoon*

    12. Nice Guy –> Disappointing. I swear to you the writer set all this for a tragic ending but back out the last minute for fan-service sake. I would love it better if they went all dark. It’s more fitting with the whole concept of the drama, which is an OBSESSION. Maru Love for Noona and Noona love for Maru was an obsession, Eungi love for Maru was an Obsession, Maru love for Eungi was also an obsession rooted from his guilt. No matter what I will never bought their twisted love which is why the ending was very upsetting for me.

    13. There’s also some other drama that I don’t finish and I don’t really care about to form an opinion like OhLaLa, To The Beautiful You and Glass Mask and then there’s Fashion King that I’m planning to pick up (still stuck on episode 6) for my love to Lee Je-Hoon opparrrawrr.

    Whoa…that’s quite handful of drama!!

  29. 79 pumpkinattack

    Wow. Is it that time of year already?

    Well, this *is* now (officially) the most wonderful time of the year.

    Thanks, all off dramabeans! :)

  30. 80 boholAnna

    What you said… drama with “balls of steel” and “potent alchemy” Gaksitaaaaal!
    Reading your recaps after watching the drama completes the whole experience for me …Thank you!

  31. 81 dhud

    Actually i love jeon woochi..

  32. 82 LK

    Biggest fail: Big

    OMg, what the hell is wrong with this show? It was completely pointless. And the ending? Don’t even get me started…

    • 82.1 Muuta

      on this drama, I will say it in one word: AGREED

  33. 83 twilove26

    I actually shed tears for your review of Shut Up Flower Boy Band!

    That was my favorite drama of 2012 and one of my top dramas of all time ^___^

    It was just so much heart, I fell in love with all the characters and I can’t wait to watch it for a third time on the winter break

    The soundtrack is plus, they became some of my favorite songs =)

  34. 84 Ash

    Drama of the year for me is probably Queen In Hyun’s Man. I didn’t have problems with the ending like a lot of people did, so it was the perfect drama through and through. Excellent acting with some of the most intense chemistry I’ve seen yet, beautiful directing and editing, and that music cue that got me in the heart every time. (So of course Ji Hyun-woo had to go into mandatory service after filming. Dramaland giveth, and the military taketh away.)

    Honorable mentions:

    King 2 Hearts: increasingly stupid title, good drama. The pacing was a bit uneven – as was Ha Ji-won’s character – but it has moments that still stand out in my memory, and I can’t undersell the importance of that.

    Arang, if for the thought and care that went into world-building alone. I always got the sense that the writing knew where it was headed, and that’s a bit more rare than it should be. Also, it had Shin Min-ah and Lee Jun-ki’s faces in it.

    What’s Up, which is my most underrated of the year. I never noticed the drop in quality that drags down so many dramas, and it pulled off an ensemble cast beautifully.

    History of the Salaryman I loved intensely… right up until the villain reared her head. I have a feeling that the writer didn’t know how to make the second lead also be the main antagonist, so we ended up with another character as Captain Evil. To the detriment of our main four. It never stopped being good, but it did stop being great. Which is almost more disappointing for me.

    For the bad: Big. I still can’t think of that ending without having a rage blackout. This is the drama that made me angry about seeing Gong Yoo. (ANGRY. ABOUT SEEING GONG YOO.) I can never forgive it for that.

    And for the merely disappointing: Faith. Big might make me furious, but Faith mostly makes me sad. Terrible, terrible directing and editing with a plot that meandered more than it should have, but it had so many glimmering moments of brilliance despite all of that. I weep to think what it could have been with a better budget and a production staff that could actually produce.

    (For the still meaning to get around to: Shut Up, Vampire Prosecutor 2, and a whole host of currently airing dramas.)

  35. 85 Pyong

    Gaksital is definitely the drama with most replay value, and coming from someone like me who never watches dramas twice, that’s a lot.

    Also, fell in love with our pyonggi hero (see 1N2D) totally different guy! :)

  36. 86 Jess

    My top 2 favorite dramas of this year were Answer Me 1997 and Shut Up Flower Boy Band. The latter was definitely underrated. I didn’t enjoy the romance as much as the bromance though. Of course, as for 1997, just thinking about it still makes me feel nostalgic, just how the writers wanted its viewers to feel.

  37. 87 quincy

    definitely History of a Salaryman. It has such a refreshing approach and vibes (and it is great when all four leads have their fair share of screen time). Yeo Chi totally rocks! (probably the defining role for Jung Ryeo Won?)

    King of Dramas may turn out as good as HotS (fingers crossed)!

  38. 88 MhsC

    Arang , Shut Up and Gaksital are the IT dramas for me this year … Arang just stole my heart , Gaksital was awesome and made me cry for hours esp. during its finale and Shut Up really made me appreciate music and my teenage life (best k-drama ending so far) :D Thank you Javabeans !! Epic Review :)

  39. 89 Mari

    My top dramas of 2012
    1. Arang and the magistrate. I love everything about it. The story, the scenery, the actors. Even if it seem like some times they just went crazy with the fog machine.
    2. Queen In Hyun’s man. Great use of time traveling, the cutest couple ever!
    3. Answer me, 1997. I was a teen in the 90’s, so the whole nostalgia. I really enjoyed the family/friendship part of the story more then the romance. The whole running joke about the mom cooking waaay too much food still kills me. Baaaaah!!
    4. King 2 Hearts. I just finish & can’t believe they killed my cute soldier boy. Still loved it, probably cause I love Lee Seung Ge.
    I’m still watching Gaksital, so I give my opinion later.
    Biggest disapointmet….
    To the Beutiful you . My first drama I watch while airing. I was so excited about it cause I seen the other versions. Then nothing happens..
    The I’m pretending it never happen drama.
    Big. I love Gong You, so I’m just erasing this from his list.

  40. 90 kimchi pop

    oh my gosh i’m so glad you said that about Nice Guy because I felt like I was the only one. Totally overrated but okay to watch.

    I miss you-agree with you too. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s amiss and you nailed it. I’m crying but its not because I’m really vested in the characters, I’m crying because its a sad scene. Thank god someone else gets it.

  41. 91 Wolle

    I am used to an avid k-drama watcher because I would literally watch every single k-drama when they came out. Over the past years, school has taken a toll on one of my favorite hobbies, watching kdramas. Overtime, I lost the drive to follow all dramas because most of them either have the same theme with different presentations or nothing new/exciting. As I grow older, I lose the patience to finish a drama that has more 16 episodes because the plot is either too predictable or slow-driven plot. Is it just me? I am sure there are some exceptionally well done dramas that have a lot of episodes. Thus, I tend to be very selective when I choose what to watch next. For this year, I have the pleasure to finish watching the Shut Up Flower Boy Band and What’s Up (unfortunately, this one is very underrated). I believe that Shut Up Flower Boy Band is the best drama this year, IMHO. In all fairness, I did not watch all 2012 kdramas (but I read some kdramas reviews here at DB), so my opinions may be obscured/bias. Like what Javabean said, SUFBB is about finding yourself but at the same time, trying to be true to yourself and honoring your words. I’m a sucker for self-growth, friendship, and romance dramas when they are done right.

    • 91.1 Wolle

      * I am used to be >_<

  42. 92 Susan

    wow, how do you find the time to watch so many dramas O_O
    I’ve watched at least one episode of the majority of the dramas listed here and hated/disliked most of them (but then again, I usually hate 90% of kdramas anyway, lol)
    My favorites this year were Queen Inhyun’s Man and Shut Up Flower Boy Band. Still trying to find time to watch Answer me 1997 and Vampire Prosecutor.

  43. 93 k-soup

    a lot of dramas are missing. I would love to read your reviews in To the Beautiful You, Kings2Heart and Love Rain

  44. 94 KZ

    School 2013! That’s my new drama. And yeah, Dream High 2 is disappointment of the year. I personally felt Jin Yoo-Jin, Jin-Woon’s character, was the most interesting character with a real conflict. But they just completely flew over him and focused on Kang Sora and JB. Both’s who conflicts I found completely unimportant. And though you say Nice Guy is overrated, I still love it. I don’t gave a fack. It’s cuz I’m Running Man biased. And yes, Shut Up is drama of the year for me too.

  45. 95 h0ns

    woooww… that was a lot to read.. but I’m so happy reading it.. thanks Javabeans ^^
    I’m so agree with your opinion in Arang and The Magistrate.. that show was so underrated.. but I love it.. it was my delicious piece of cake.. hehhehe

  46. 96 asianromance

    I still can’t believe it’s that time of year again when the year-in-reviews come out.

    I felt like there were a lot of enjoyable and interesting dramas this year and I’m sort of sad that I didn’t get to watch all of them. Or even finish some of the ones that I enjoyed, but wasn’t so into them that I would follow the drama religiously week after week, like K2H (felt too bummed by 1st king’s death) and Salaryman.

    Still sad about Big. I thought it was great that the Hong sisters stepped outside their usual formula, but it was such a betrayal that they didn’t have the guts to really tell the story they could have told. And the ending was such a copout. TMTETS – feel horribly for Jung Il Woo. That was his only 2012 project and his role was a dud. And I’m sure it’s almost time for him to enlist too.

    Nice Guy was my obsession for 2012. I was super invested in the characters, but I agree with you that the story is pretty basic, just packaged really nicely. However, I think it also says a lot when you can take something simple and make it seem exciting and feel new again….which makes me feel sad for all the unexciting dramas with exciting premises. The ratings for NG weren’t super awesome (or maybe TMTETS has skewed my perception of good ratings…). It’s just that there was so much buzz about SJK, who was also promoting Wolf Boy and featured in the latest Kim Jong Kook mv at the time, that it felt like everyone in Korea must have been tuning in.

    Arang, I think, was the drama closest to my heart (though I shed the most tears for Answer Me 1997). It’s been almost 2 months since the drama ended and I still think about the adorable ending from time to time and wonder what Arang and Eun-ho are up to. I wonder if how the young master feels about being a reaper and if Dol-swe will think it’s weird to have a mini Eun-ho and mini-Arang running around.

    • 96.1 pillowhead

      haha. cute! I think about Arang’s world too. I miss them. :)

    • 96.2 Ky

      I like your take on Nice Guy! Yep its pretty much the traditional stuff, very nicely executed. Which indeed speaks a lot though it’s kinda sad many don’t appreciate that!
      I’m no fan of wacky narratives but this one was interesting enough to keep me fairly engaged until its last run. I won’t say it’s the best drama out there because it really isn’t but it will surely remain as one of the more memorable ones. It’s a pity because I really wanted to love it and there are times when I still think ‘Hadn’t it been for that abrupt ending I would’ve liked it a lot more.’ It did make narrative sense but having sat through an entire 19 and a half episodes of complete ‘twisted-ness’ the epilogue just didn’t seem fair. Eesh I was left feeling hollow instead of being satisfied and that’s simply frustrating! But well overall I enjoyed it, great cast and directing and oh I love the soundtracks!

  47. 97 pillowhead

    YES. Arang under rated and Nice Guy overrated!!!!! I posted somewhere, while watching Nice Guy, I had a feeling of resentment towards it’s sweeping ratings over Arang. Arang and SUFBB are my years favorite, as well as King 2 Hearts.

    • 97.1 MKake

      I fell in love with SUFBB although their hairstyles kinda bothered me. Def one of the better shows out there

    • 97.2 justcommenting

      Same, disappointed that Arang lost out to Nice Guys on ratings. It was a great pairing and concept. Started out well but died off in the end. Really a pity.

  48. 98 doremi

    I pretty much agree with all the comments JB made… for the dramas I watched, anyway.

    Is anyone watching Can We Get Married? On JTBN, with Sung Joon and Jung So Min? I’m enjoying it a lot and have no one to talk about it with haha.

  49. 99 MKake

    OMG i was born in 97 but i still love Answer Me 1997! I watch the episodes over and over again! I definitely recommend it to anybody looking for a good laugh. *ba-a-a-a*

  50. 100 wanne

    Such a long review! You’ve watched a lot this year!

    My drama watching has been going downhill. I dropped more dramas than those I finished. I’m sad because I keep looking for something to watch but end up losing interest at some point.

    Anyway, my favourite this year are The King 2 Hearts and Answer Me 1997. The former has such great, satisfying characters and relationship while the latter is so endearing and nostalgic. I appreciate the little details they put into the show and it open my eyes to the early days of idol group craziness. It’s no wonder that it comes from the same people behind 1 Night 2 Days. Both shows are full of hearts and natural and have a group of people that feels like family.

    Now I’m watching King of Dramas and School 2013. Can We Get Married has started to annoy me (the characters especially the heroine’s mom ugh!) but I may continue some time later. Missing You *sigh* Why is Yoo Seung Ho suddenly so hot?!. I’m interested to see Alice, will check out later.

    Thanks for this review, Javabeans. Looking forward to the next one!

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