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Basketball: Episode 1

Good news, everyone—Basketball is off to a fantastic start, with amazing production values, a true underdog hero destined for greatness, a story set in a tumultuous time all but guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings, and it’s all topped off with gritty basketball sequences which aren’t anything like I imagined they’d be, all squeaky sneakers and, you know, rules. Because basketball in this show is more like dropping a ball into a UFC cage match. It’s awesome, but violent. (Or is it awesome because it’s so violent?)

As for me, I couldn’t be any happier that this premiere was so solid. Had this come directly after Conspiracy in the Court and Chuno, I would’ve had no doubt that PD Kwak Jung-hwan would deliver a winning product. But then Runaway Plan B happened, and I’ve since been a little gun-shy about this director’s most anticipated new project, worried that hope would turn into disappointment. But if there’s any director capable of bringing the epic back to this year’s drama landscape, it’s this one. Welcome back, Kwak PD. We missed you.

SONG OF THE DAY

Basketball OST – The One – “A Thousand Nights” [ Download ]

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DOCUMENTARY WEECAP

tvN aired a special documentary episode a week before the premiere of Basketball to introduce viewers to the world of the show, and among numerous interviews with former basketball players from the Japanese occupation era onward was one from PD Kwak Jung-hwan explaining why he chose to tell this story.

While the dark years of the occupation era are engraved in Korea’s cultural memory, the fact that Korea’s first unified national basketball team made it to the quarterfinals in the 1948 London Olympics a few small years after its liberation isn’t as well-remembered. PD Kwak explained how he wanted to reach and inspire the generation that perhaps lived though this period with a story of the obstacles their peers overcame to represent their country, a country which was finally their own after having been under Japan’s colonial rule since 1910.

Unlike the middle years of colonial rule—where Japan tried to implement a softer “cultural rule” after their brutal and counterproductive crackdown on the Korean people after the March First Movement in 1919—the year prior to this show’s beginning marked the first step toward an even darker period for Korea: Japan’s wartime mobilization, which worked to turn Koreans into true imperial subjects of Japan through forced labor for the war effort, the capture of thousands of women to be forced into sexual slavery for the imperial army, and the forced adoption of Japanese names. All this and more lasted until Japan’s 1945 surrender at the end of World War II.

Basketball begins in 1939, three years after a famous act of national defiance in the journalistic printing of marathoner Sohn Kee-chung’s picture with the Japanese flag on his uniform rubbed out, and only one year after wartime mobilization began. Yet while the history is tragic, this story promises to be one of hope and inspiration, of surmouning insurmountable odds in order to become a part of history.

FIRST EPISODE RECAP

We open on bustling night market as a smiling youth runs through it, peddling the liquor he carries on a jug on his back. When asked about his identity, he proudly proclaims that his name is KANG SAN (Do Ji-han). Short and sweet. I like it.

His next stop is a busy main street mostly frequented by Japanese citizens (called Honmachi), but he’s drawn away by the distant sound of cheering. He follows its source, and the sound turns deafening the second he reaches the underground room where a wild crowd watches a one-on-one basketball game in progress.

Bets are placed as one of the players (cameo by Oh Ji-ho) scores a winning shot. He and his opponent literally wrestle each other for control of the ball right before Ji-ho scores yet again. Nothin’ but net.

San watches the eager bookie taking bets from the crowd as he becomes acutely and achingly aware of all the money surrounding him, with fistfuls of the stuff crinkling inches away from his ear.

But this isn’t your normal basketball game—the players have to be violent in order to claim the ball. Ji-ho is victorious once more in wrestling the ball away, but as he leaps up to make a dunk, his angry opponent rams him, hard, into the backboard.

He falls on the ground stunned as someone from the crowd shouts, “It’s a raid!” Suddenly the room erupts into chaos as all the illegal gamblers run to escape the incoming policemen, with San among them.

The bookie falls next to him, but when San stops to help him, his jug of alcohol goes crashing to the ground. Aw. Still, he helps the man to stand and urges him to split up from the group in order to evade capture.

But, this means that San has to face his ajumma employer with a broken jug and nothing to show for it. She reprimands him immediately, thinking he was off playing basketball again (would it help if she knew he was just watching?), and declares that he won’t be paid for today’s work.

San is willing to take all this silently until the ajumma’s daughter MI-SOOK (Kim Bo-mi) comes running to her oppa’s defense—the word “oppa” being one her mom finds ludicrous, since San is younger than Mi-sook.

Either way, the ajumma gives San another chance.

San attends a class the next morning taught in Japanese by a Japanese officer (played by Jo Hee-bong, who by the description will play a variety of roles in this drama).

Even though San answers every question perfectly, he and his other Korean classmates are pulled aside to be hit and derided by their teacher. Apparently they haven’t been able to pay their tuition, which the teacher claims is sooo typical of Korean street rats. (Racism in 3… 2… 1…)

Teach demands that they each say that they’re thieves, but San remains silent. When confronted, San looks Teach straight in the eye defiantly, which earns him a beating.

A well-dressed woman’s arrival interrupts the proceedings, and San gets an inverted view of her bribing the teacher from his forced punishment position. Once again, he sees how easily money changes hands.

Later on, San plays basketball in the school court while his buddy sings to cheer him up. They’re both poor and freezing in their meager straw shoes against the chill, but San finally cracks a smile as he tells his buddy that their suffering will be over tomorrow once the basketball scout comes around.

San’s sights are set ahead—once he makes the (business-owned) team, he’ll be able to play basketball as much as he wants, and make money at it. “When I do, I’m going to make sure my mother lives in comfort.”

Welp, that’s it. I’m a goner.

San’s mother works as a maid for a rich Japanese mistress, and is treated appallingly when she accidentally breaks a vase. Through her mistress’ ensuing angry rant, all Mom can do is repeat “I’m sorry” in Japanese.

Mom is surprised to see San waiting outside the home, and the two are adorably sweet together as each one fusses over the other. Though Mom tries to hide the bruise on her hand caused during the accident, it doesn’t escape San’s worried gaze.

She assures him that she’s fine and hands him a little money so he can get a warm meal. Aww, Mom.

The shantytown where San lives has just received government notice that their neighborhood will be demolished in order to build luxury apartments. When he’s asked by the elders to join their protest tomorrow, San replies that he’s got his basketball tryouts, expecting the elders to be displeased. To the contrary, they give San their blessing to go.

Tryout day. Though San is playing against students who can afford real shoes (as opposed to his straw ones), he’s good enough to attract the scout’s notice.

His teacher huffs and puffs and recommends the student whose mother he accepted a bribe from, but unfortunately for both of them, San easily overcomes that player to execute another perfect shot. Needless to say, the scout is impressed.

We meet journalist CHOI SHIN-YOUNG (Lee Elijah) in a much neater (read: rich) environment, as she discusses her true-love-conquers-all romantic idealism with her much more pragmatic maid BONG-SOON (Wonder Girls’ Yeeun), who’s a money-matters-more kind of girl.

(And ha, I guess they weren’t lying about Jo Hee-bong being a “one-man band,” since he’s playing a meek editor here as opposed to the Japanese officer we just saw him as.)

Shin-young brings up the 1936 romantic film Camille (about—you guessed it—lovers caught up in a class divide) as an example: “That’s what real love is like. Love that’s strong enough to overcome any difference in class and society.” Bong-soon just shakes her head, knowing that Shin-young’s knowledge on love only comes from the movies.

Regardless, Shin-young lists the qualities which make up the perfect man for her: That he’s safe and trustworthy, masculine yet gentle, kind while knowing when to make a stand, and resolute in his beliefs while knowing when to concede. So… every girl’s perfect guy. A reminder from her editor reminds Shin-young that she’s got actual work to do in covering the basketball team’s homecoming, and she’s off.

An alarm goes off in the city, causing everyone to stop what they’re doing and bow toward the east in honor of the Japanese emperor, all under heavy police scrutiny.

San and his buddy are amongst them, but they use the time they’re bent over to discuss how much the scout seemed to like him. San’s hopeful smile is contagious.

Thanks to the crowd gathering for the parade, Shin-young can’t move her car an inch. Bong-soon tells her to just hoof it to the parade—as it is, she’ll be the last reporter there.

San reports for work at the ajumma’s restaurant, and she comes out of her bedroom partially undressed. The man she was with is none other than the bookie from the basketball game, who nods to San all, ‘Sup.

It’s only when the ajumma tells him that everyone’s gone to see Min Chi-ho that San is almost overcome by fanboy feels—does she meanthe Min Chi-ho, star Korean offensive player for the imperial team? It takes one affirmation before San is off to see the homecoming himself, and the ajumma explains to the bookie that San is crazy about basketball and the best at playing it, which gets the bookie thinking.

A crowd is gathered outside the train station to cheer for MIN CHI-HO’s (Jung Dong-hyun) homecoming, calling out his name only even though he’s among his other team members.

San is on his toes amongst the crowd, eager to catch a good glimpse of his hero. While Shin-young tries to ease through the wave of people herself, a shout of “You lying lowlives!” comes from the crowd as the players are suddenly pelted with rocks.

The rock-thrower is an unwashed, dirt-covered girl who yells that Chi-ho is Japan’s dog (using a less kindly racial slur), causing a few of the players to try and capture her.

In the ensuing chaos, Shin-young and San fall together, with her landing on top. His eyes go wide in shock while she barely notices before she scrambles up to chase after Chi-ho.

Another part of Japan’s mandate to assimilate the Korean people was to order them to pay visits to Japanese shrines, and we find two gentlemen paying a visit—one of whom is on the Governor-General’s council (the Governor-General being the highest Japanese administrative position during the colonial years), while the other is a wealthy factory owner whose factory is in danger of being seized by the colonial government.

In order to save his factory, the other promises to do anything the councilman asks.

We then cut to the residents of San’s shantytown as they protest outside the Government-General Building. Part of the councilman’s request was that the factory owner help clear the protestors so that their homes can be demolished as planned. The businessman does as asked.

San walks home in a daze as he thinks of his brush with Shin-young. He comes across the bookie bribing a policeman, which gets him thinking about the raid during the basketball game, and how it was oddly beneficial for that bookie…

San confronts the man over his ploy and demands compensation for the liquor jug he broke trying to save him from his own scheme. He’s brushed off, and left to face the bookie’s two lackeys when he tries to follow. Eek.

The bookie is back at it during another basketball game… until a grinning and bloody San suddenly appears behind him, “Hey, thief!” Ha. Clever use of editing.

He demands compensation lest he tell everyone that the bookie’s running a scheme, so he’s taken to a back room where the bookie GONG YOON-BAE (Gong Hyung-jin) finally gives him money and an offer to play basketball for him. He can make real money that way.

But San, ever-principled, counts out only what he needed for the jug and passes the rest of the money back. He sends a dangerous look up at Bookie Gong: “Do you think I learned how to play basketball just so I could become a pawn for people to gamble over?”

San is dealt a crushing disappointment at school the next day: The kid with the bribe-happy mother got scouted over him. While his teacher claims San will have another chance, he knows he won’t—he’s just graduating high school even though he’s twenty-four, and those tryouts were his last hope.

He heads to a factory to beg to see the scout, only to be rebuffed by the guards. Shin-young arrives in the meantime and is instantly let in, and while San drinks in her every movement, she doesn’t even notice him.

The guards explain to a questioning San that she was let in because she’s the president’s daughter… meaning that her father is none other than the factory owner we saw earlier, CHOI JE-GOOK (Kim Eung-soo), whom we find lecturing a group of workers coughing from their poor working environment.

Despite their obvious suffering (or perhaps because of it), Daddy Choi orders them to just keep working, with all the fervor of a commander leading his troops to war. Shin-young doesn’t pay the workers any mind as she instead hones in on her father’s secretary, since he conveyed her father’s message that she be fired from her job.

San waits by the entrance so that he can catch the basketball scout as he’s leaving. He begs for one more chance, that he’ll do his best…

But the scout cuts him off to give him some advice: “Stop playing basketball.” Basically, he tells San that he’s too poor to play such a gentlemen’s sport. The bribe-happy mother appears just then, and San remembers her bribing, realizing that’s why he lost.

Shin-young tries telling her father that she liked her job as a reporter, but doesn’t make much headway with him. What she doesn’t know is that her dad is making arrangements to get her married off asap lest her “worth” go down.

Meanwhile, San returns home to find collection agents repossessing what little he and his mother have because of his unpaid tuition. San tells the men that he’ll stop attending school, but they don’t care—they just want the money.

However enraged he is, Mom stops San from getting into a fight and chastises him for saying that he’ll quit school, “If you don’t even graduate from high school, do you think anyone is going to treat you like a human being?!”

The next day, Mom visits his teacher at school with a gift of homemade food and an envelope, which the teacher digs into first assuming that money will be inside. (There isn’t.)

San is called in. The teacher acts like everything’s fine, then turns on a dime to begin a litany of cruel remarks against San and his mother.

Right in front of them, the teacher throws the food in the trash. San sees the heartfelt letter of gratitude (in Japanese script, no less) that Mom included with the food and starts trembling with indignation. And this is all before Teach starts racially condemning the both of them for being inferior Koreans, replete with slurs which need no repeating here.

Mom holds San’s shaking fist down to stop him from retaliating, even as Teach keeps tearing into them. Finally, San breaks and attacks him.

Even after San is dragged off, Teach still has more hateful things to spew (he’s making me SO ANGRY), and eventually draws his sword on San with a vow to fix his rotten Korean mentality.

Mom jumps in front of her son and sets to begging Teach for his life. San tells his mother to stop begging to such an awful son of a bitch, but Mom turns and slaps him across the face. Whoa.

She bows to Teach and keeps repeating in Japanese, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” until they’re finally left alone.

On the somber walk home, Mom tells her son her philosophy on life—that there’s not much to it, and as time goes by, wounds will heal. She holds back tears as San kneels in front of her to give her a piggyback ride.

“Thank you,” he says. “I’m grateful to have you as my mom.” But in voiceover, we hear him say that he won’t live like his mom—he’s going to do whatever it takes to pay his debts, make money, and succeed in life.

Time for another down ‘n dirty basketball game, this time with Lee Jung-jin dominating the court as he fights off any of his opponent’s attempts to score, making an impressive pass that nets him a perfect dunk. Awesome.

San makes it through the crowd right as Lee Jung-jin’s team wins, and I love how Bookie Gong is all, What brings Mr. High and Mighty to this place of decadence and sin?

“If I do this… how much will you pay me for it?” San asks. Bookie Gong laughs—he’s got San now.

Before we know it, it’s San’s first one-on-one game against a much larger player, and we see San’s tough guy act slip for the briefest of moments as he looks just this side of lost in the middle of all those screaming people.

The referee throws the ball into the air to start the game, and San surprises everyone by leaping higher than his opponent to catch it first. He scores his first point easily, but then his opponent starts using his size as a weapon to throw San around like a toy.

But San twists, turns, and fakes his opponent out in order to lunge for the ball, and uses his size and agility in order to score.

The crowd goes wild at the start of the next round, and… whoa—San’s opponent shoots the ball, but San leaps over his head to steal it. That. Was. Awesome.

He leaps again to make the shot, with commentators wondering if he’s a human or a horse (I was going to say a gazelle on steroids) as San wins the game. Hooray!

Bookie Gong gives San his payment afterward, which has San in shock: “I had no idea… that money could be made so easily.”

Gong tells San that if he gives him five years of his basketball-playing life, he’ll be financially set for life. You can see San actually considering this before one of Gong’s lackeys suggests a trip to Honmachi to see some girls.

The city is beautiful all lit up at night for Christmas, and San’s eyes light up with wonder as he takes in all the sights and sounds.

A women’s clothing display at a department store catches his eye as he thinks of his mom, but the price tag has him doing a double take. Even with the money he earned, he can’t afford that.

Then we cut to a fancy banquet being thrown in honor of the Japanese Imperial Army, which our fancy heroine is attending. (And if strapless prom dresses existed in 1939, then I’m a wizard.)

But unlike her friends who are only interested in talking about men, Shin-young is there for a higher purpose—work. She’s brought a camera along in the hopes of catching a photo of Min Chi-ho.

San asks Bookie Gong if he’s really going to help him make money, like he still doesn’t believe it can be so easy. San: “I’m not going to live as I did in the past. I’m sick of living in suffering day in and day out.”

Gong assures him that they’ll face the future together since they’re family now, right before leading his new son to a Japanese brothel. San accidentally bumps into one of the star basketball players we saw earlier, but since no one is nice in this world, the player insults San by calling him terrible things.

But the minute San grabs him by the lapels, the coward starts calling for the police. Bookie Gong holds San back, but the player keeps calling San terrible things because males in this show have nothing else to do with their testosterone but be total assholes to each other.

So, San follows the player, but he can’t follow him into the imperial banquet. Jo Hee-bong, now playing a bellhop, is the one to refuse San entry.

Bookie Gong and his lackeys come to rescue their new family member, but they’re not there to dissuade him—Gong eyes a group of uniformed officers with interest. Ah, the old Mugged for Disguise/Dressing as the Enemy trope.

Cue San and Team Gong entering the banquet hotel in their fancy new disguises. The asshat player is inside and greasily introduces himself to Shin-young as TAKESHI, but at least he gets his comeuppance when Shin-young is only interested in seeing his teammate, Chi-ho.

San & Co. arrive in the hall in time for San to make moony eyes at Shin-young, who again fails to notice he exists. No one seems to notice much of anything as Takeshi grabs Shin-young by the wrist, still chafing that she’d ask him about Chi-ho when he’s the almighty team captain.

When this forceful tactic somehow doesn’t cause Shin-young to go weak in the knees, Takeshi raises a hand against her. He’s stopped by San, who takes a delightful “So what?” attitude in response to all of Takeshi’s blustering.

And when Takeshi demands to know who San thinks he is, San replies, “Me? I’m Kang San from Kyeongseong Imperial University.”

 
COMMENTS

Ah, love. This hour hit most of the right notes for me, and all of them if we’re just talking about San. He embodies all the qualities I love in a good hero (and I suppose all the qualities Shin-young listed for her perfect man)—he’s kind, though he’ll make a stand when necessary. He’s resolute in his beliefs, but he knows when to concede. He’s tough, yet vulnerable.

That vulnerable quality is what makes San the kind of character you can’t help but empathize with and feel for, especially in those moments where his childlike naivety and wonder shine through even though the world around him is doing its damnedest to beat him so hard he never gets back up. But he does again and again, and despite being a little hotheaded and righteous to a fault, he’s a good kid. Do Ji-han blew me out of the water with this first episode, and to say I’m excited to see more would be an understatement. Also, I really just want to give him a hug.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Shin-young left me feeling a little less enthused. I hope she’ll become more than just an object of adoration for both leads, because as of now she’s reminiscent of a prim and proper lady from an English period drama in her mannerisms, which can be an interesting dynamic when played off of a straight man (or woman) like Bong-soon. But for being a reporter, she’s really unobservant, isn’t she? Either that, or she’s grown up so privileged that plebeians aren’t worth noticing at all.

She wasn’t really a deal-breaker until she went to her father’s factory filled with suffering workers that she couldn’t even spare a glance for. I can buy that her father is terrible enough to ignore their plight for his personal gain, but I was curious to know whether she (1) willfully ignored them, (2) didn’t see that they were there, or (3) doesn’t care either way. None of those are especially great options, so I mean it when I say that I hope she’s got some growing to do over the course of this series, because we’ve got a whole lotta show left.

Otherwise, most of the characters we saw in this episode were terrible, hateful human beings. In that respect, Basketball is doing almost too good a job in bringing the kind of cultural oppression faced during the colonial years home on a personal level, and in doing so sets up a world where San must overcome the adversity he faces, just because someone’s gotta show ’em.

But still, it wouldn’t hurt to introduce a few more likable characters so that we’re not pinning everything on the scriptwriter’s resident punching bag, however badass at basketball he can be. Mostly I’m just worried for his first introduction to his hero, Min Chi-ho, because something tells me that because San has built up a very unrealistic image of him over the years, the truth will crush his hopeful-yet-jaded little soul.

And if I’m already up in arms about just one episode of San facing soul-crushing disappointments, I’m not really sure how I’ll survive twenty-three more. But I’m sure as hell going to try.

 
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I'm curious about this drama but unfortunately there's already 5 dramas on my watchlist. T.T

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Same here - this sounds good, but I think I will wait until at least one of my current dramas is over with in a couple weeks and then marathon the 4-6 episodes that are done to see how it is.

Now that Viki has paid membership for $4 with no ads, it is a lot easier to watch. I usually plug my laptop into my big screen TV and it was a hassle with the ads. Viki seems to be getting a lot more dramas that Drama Fever does not have. Now if GoodDrama.net would just offer a no-ads setup I could vegetate for hours :D

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Now if GoodDrama.net would just offer a no-ads setup I could vegetate for hours.

LOL! Seriously, that would be an ideal situation for me too.

It's really unfortunate that there are so many ads on Viki but being the poor person I am, I just try to bear through it. Enough to feed my drama addiction, lol. At least on Gooddrama, there are fewer ads...not like viki, every five or ten minutes.

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No adds for me on Gooddrama, had to enable addblock cause the adds kept on crashing my computer :( I so agree about no time. I really would like to watch this and think that I will, but already struggling to keep up with Mirae's Choice, Heirs (thinking of dropping it), Answer me 1994, Secret (can't get passed second episode) and J-drama Saikou no Rikon...not to mention marathoning Queen of Reversals.

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if you work out you could just bring your laptop to the gym and use the treadmill for an hour a day. has been helping me a lot with the 'no time' issue!

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addblock is your friend

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seriously.
not a single foolish poptart commercial.
adblock is amaze-balls.

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bwahahaha!

RE: not a single foolish poptart commercial.

oh gawd - I despise the PopT commercials with a passion....and the creepy cat food ads. All the women in the room on that commercial are seriously freaky-deeky.

Thanks for the laugh!
p.s. I paid the subscription for viki but not for dfever -- I remember them threatening Dramabeans during that awful show that I didn't even watch past episode level 7 (pun).

I won't forgive them for that - Dramabeans RULES ~ ♥

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Thank you for the great review!
I was so waiting for this drama to air (and I never thought it would be subbed that fast!) and watching the first 2 episodes, I can say it was worth the wait! I loved quite everything during those 2 hours : acting, story (I already loved the japanese occupation era described in Bridal Mask, and I usually like those underdog sories!), cinematography...
Awww how good it feels to find a good drama! Now I can't wait for next week!

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It's great that this show was chosen to be recaped :D

Also, thank you for recaping the documentary, it's really interesting to know more about the background of this show, and history within History.

And I so agree with you : Kwak PD we missed you.
Didn't watch runaway plan B, but Chuno and Conspiracy in the court totally blew me away.

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Woot! woot!, I knew you'd recap it. I lup joo . Thank you Heads and thank you viki for subbing it :).

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DO JI-HAN!!!! I'm checking out this drama for him. As HeadsNo2 said, he's a fantastic hero to root for (that's actually what I need when watching a drama-someone to root for wholeheartedly). I agree about Shin-young character, too. She was born (and grows up) with silver spoon, so it's kind of understandable that she seems to be too romantic (ya' know, hope about a dreamy hero as in a movie) and unobservant of other people's hardship. I also hope that her character will grow with more understanding of what real life is :)
Thanks for your recap! I'm watching ep 2 and planning to stick with Basketball :)

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I don't usually root for the hero right off the bat but this guy gives me every reason to in just one eps.

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Anybody know where I can watch an english subtitled version of the pre-show documentary? I'd love to learn more about the history. Viki has the series but not the documentary, unless it's not under the name "basketball."

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Viki has it. They put the pre-show documentary in the first 15 minutes of episode 1.

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Well. I was excited for the drama but honestly, I was rather bored. The only exciting moment was when Kang San joined and played at the gambling basketball court. Plus, I had some qualms about how silly some of the characters looked by their laughable attempts at acting cruel. Like the scene when the landlady kneeled down to San's mom's level and reprimanded with weightless words. I would've felt the injustice if the landlady had stood regally/arrogantly, full of disdain and disgust, throwing around harsh words, and threatening to kick mom to the curb without pay. Maybe even sprinkle in some physical abuse. But with the mildness she displayed, she seemed rather harmless so I was like, "Kang San's omoni, just stop crying already....she's not a tigress, only a kitty."

Similarly, the Japanese teacher seemed to be more blustering than completely austere and stern in front of the people he's scolding. He even spoke a bit gently in between and I thought I missed something.

So yeah...if recaps will be continued, I'll read ep 2's recap before deciding if I want to continue watching.

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I wasn't going to watch this but now...wow... am all pumped. thanks.

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Dear K-Drama Gods,

Are you trying to kill us? Too many good dramas all on at the same time = lack of productivity, underperforming at school/ work, and lack of sleep.

I was already overwhelmed with Mi Rae, Answer me 1994, Heirs (sort of) and Medical top Team - NOW THIS.

Thank goodness for dramabeans so that indecisive folks like me can keep up through recaps.

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Thank you for the review.

Def in my watching list, but so little time for so much interesting dramas!

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I wanted to watch this but time is not permitting.....

thanks for the recap :)

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I must admit that the acting is kinda meh to me. The lead girl's performance can be jarringly annoying. Haha..

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Hi Amber :) I agree that the acting is disappointing at various points.

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i kind of ship San with bongsoon. Probably because the maid's more interesting than her employer.

Okay, with regard to Shin Young at the factory, it makes less sense for her to pay attention to the factory workers than to pay attention to them. A person can't be everyone's friend, she might not realize that's not how things are done, or that just may be how much there was a class divide. We know she's not a snob since she's so chummy with her maid. So, I wouldn't get uptight at her not noticing people there. Anyway, maybe it'll all come up later and she'll be, "oh, that's why Communism is spreading." Or not.

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I've watched the first two episodes of this show and I must say that my feelings about it are mixed at best. I know that it must be for comedic effect, but I really do not like that Jo Heebong is playing diverse characters. It seems to lesson the quality of the production and it seems out of place. And while I do generally like our hero, I hate that the world of the drama seems to have set up everything against him. This was a terrible period in Korean history, but I wish that there would be more subtlety to the world and to the characters in particular. I do not want one-dimensional characters. I also do not want my emotions to be manipulated in such a blatant way. As for the lead actress, I am hoping that there is more to her beyond her being an object to be coveted. I want her to be more than a pretty face. The actress's acting in the first episode sort of bothered me but there is improvement by the second. I hope that the expectations I had for this show before it premiered will not be met with disappointment. I am not one to quit on a show and I will continue to hope for the best.

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I quite like the idea of a dual role in a Korean Drama and think it's great! I don't really think it's for comedic effect since one of those characters is clearly an ass, but it's cool and hasn't been done like this before. It reminds me of theater and it'll be cool to watch for those who enjoy the art of acting, too, I think.

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Hi canxi. Your comparison of the multiple roles for one actor to some theater productions is interesting. I just feel that at this point it seems disconnected with the show. But I will continue to watch because there is something that draws me to this drama.

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I guess it could be distracting in a way, but I wouldn't recommend letting it get to you.

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I will always be thankful to Dramabeans for putting Conspiracy in the court on my kdrama map. I loved Chuno too. So I'm on board.

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YAAAAAAAAAAAAY! I am so happy you're recapping this!!! I was so sad when I thought it wasn't getting recapped!

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yes, thank you Heads for recapping this! this looked most enticing from the trailers.

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Just wanted to ask, isn't the case with the 1939 athlete kind of talked about in "Gaksitaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal"???

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isn't that the angel club from Gaksital in the picture??

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Of course it would be the same club. They just use the same sets dramas use whenver they're filming a drama set in the Occupation (30-40's) & 70's eras.

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A 24 episode drama? Hmmmmmm.

Can I commit to this?

I'm not that much into historical stuff but it does look rather appealing........

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Couple of issues for me regarding Basketball. First, as everyone has already said, Lee Elliya's acting leaves much to be desired. I'm going to cut her some slack as I guess it's her first major role. IMHO, Wonder Girls’ Yeeun totally outshines her. Second, in a country that is known for fashion copies, why can't they get the period costumes right? Such a ridiculous mashed-up mess. Gaksital had the same issue. Costume designers, if you're doing a period drama, do your research. Will watch a few more episodes before I commit to the full run.

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Haha, well, I don't know how the attire really looked then but I certainly did enjoy how yummy Joo Won looked in his period costumes, hence no complaining whatsoever on my part. ;)

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I really wish that the costumes would be more period accurate. I cannot ignore how much they are not!

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The horrible costuming keeps pulling me out of an amazing drama. Lee Eliya's first appearance had a post World War 2 outfit. The evening wear was so wrong. F for the costume designer. I wish I could send you to the corner to reflect.

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Also the cars. Not sure what Shin Young's car is, but couldn't have been made earlier than the late 50's. Same with the red volvo in Ep.2 - that came out in 1956. If the drama doesn't make it obvious that it is some kind of fantasy piece, and in fact seems to want to impart a sense of historical credibility, the period-innacurate costumes and cars kind of mess it up for me.

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As a huge basketball and k-drama fan, I was excited to hear that two of my favorite viewing past-times would interact! But then, of course, came the actual basketball playing in the drama... They are just... so incredibly bad at basketball that I cannot take this drama seriously anymore after that scene with the scouts. Do Ji-Han carried/palmed the basketball on EVERY SINGLE dribble which is a violation of the rules... Not to mention, his form is laughably bad. And I mean not even junior high school kids in America shoot like that. I know that Korea isn't a big basketball country, but couldn't they at LEAST do SOME kind of basketball training/boot camp for a BASKETBALL drama??

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HA. I'm so glad someone pointed this out. Even I thought they were playing so horribly but I was like, eh, whatever, it's just a drama. But seriously, they did play like how my friends and I played in middle school (and we're girls): without rules and beating up other players to hog the ball, lmao.

I had to look away a bit whenever Kang San or the other guy ran around holding the ball (I think the basketball term is "walking")...according to my basketball-crazed brother, you can run around the court with the ball only while dribbling.

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The term is "traveling" :)

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Hm. Personally, i think rules of a basketball game in the 1940's south korea is probably the last thing to be nit-picky about in this drama.
I don't know for sure if they really played this way, but i think the whole point really is to show how radically different that system changed from then until now. I hardly think playing by the rules would apply during the emergence of basketball, which was relatively new during that age.
I do see what you mean though. Skill is the last thing on these people's minds. It's basketball-meets-football-meets wrestling. Actually, i do get a kick out of watching them play because they look like barbarians.
Civilization has evolved indefinitely.

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I was thinking "Fight Club Basketball." I don't think it has any rules.

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They're playing streetball right now, though. Less stucture and the rules of professional league basketball, don't really matter let's say. I think streetball is very different. It looks rougher and definitely not as clean as something you would see on the TV.

I like that Kang San is a streetballer right now because I can see that being a strength AND weakness for him when he joins the National team. People are going to look down on him for what you mentioned and he is going to have to learn to be professional and do all the NBA type stuff while still being himself. Just more hurdles for him on his journey and I can't wait to see how he jump shots (har har) over them!

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I agree I'd be equally miffed if I saw this happen to a sport I'm familiar with. But I'm going along with it, assuming the rules of 'mordern sport' basketball can't be applied to a rough setting like that.

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I don't even think the "modern" rules should be applied to the National team's play in the drama, either. There were a lot of things you could do then that you can't do now; that goes for any sport during this period, with the exception of baseball since it's "modern" rules era began in 1900.

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Thanks for picking this up to recap, Heads! Hopefully, this will stay good throughout it's run, given it's half preproduced. *crosses fingers*

I like that it's a very different beast from Gaksital in that the focus is more on the common people, not the revolutionaries. That being said, it looks like it's going to fall into the same black/white mold of Korean=good, Japanese=bad.

As others have noted, I found the acting a bit rough and overdone, but it got a bit better in ep 2. I really, really hope the characters get more fleshed out. I don't have a problem with Shin-young not noticing the factory worker's plight because it fits in with her privileged upbringing.

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Aw, I see much negativity in the comments. As for me, I'm totally pumped up for this, the first 2 episodes had their shaky moments, and the heroine needs a smack of reality before I can really root for her (and acting classes?). The inevitable confrontation between their views of life is something I cannot wait for!!!!!!!

The show can be weird/disjointed/superliminal at times, and most of the characters are one-note currently, but it's promising and I'm full of hope for this one.

Please please please don't disappoint. And thanks heads for the recap!!

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It's not complete negativity, lol! I also have hope and will keep my fingers crossed :)

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Personally I found the acting sub par. I mean considering gaksital just aired the other day I couldnt help but compare the two and in my eyes the cast here seem like newbies compared to gaksital. The story is solid and all and am hoping it all gets better cuz I've been anticipating it for days.
On another note, I just finished watching heirs' latest episode-ok am bored! Star writer or not this lady ain't impressing me this time round ;(

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The younger ones are basically newbies so I didn't expect to be blown away by the acting. I want this to be good, I'm so bored with dramaland this year.

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Totally agree with you about this new crop of dramas. Nothing to get me excited. Bring back the ghosts!

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For a drama named basketball there wasn't much basketball just whatever that was they were playing in the street. I thought I was seeing things when I kept seeing Jo Hee-bong all over the place, but I guess I wasn't, or we were all hallucinating.

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I am surprised at all the negative reviews of this show.
I personally found this first episode great and it needs more love. People are so hard to please these days!
I love the fact that i came in somewhat blind. Knew absolutely no one on the cast (love doing this), knew little about the history, and was curious, what with its connection to this director and the gaksital-esque feels.

I don't get where people are saying the acting is lackluster, aside from the girl playing the heroine, which might i add, is a newcomer(this being her debut project), as well as the actor playing Min Chi Ho. Do Ji Han is so nice to watch because he's one of those actors not fitting your conventional actor hottie. His eyes are beautiful by the way. Is it perhaps people are comparing Joo Won's vibrant portrayal of Kang-to to Ji Han's kang san? They're vastly different characters. I'm genuinely curious where the acting was meh -- it was never jarring to the point where it took me out of the moment.

Jo hee Bong is cracking me up playing 3 different characters (so far). I don't find it misplaced -- i find it light and funny. And just shows how good of an actor he is to play a jackass japanese officer to meek editor to bellhop.

I loved the idea of coming into a show where the cast was mainly unknowns because i love seeing new actors with great potential to break out. These days we're seeing the same faces over and over again, don't you think? I'd give it a few more episodes for all these actors to fully settle and get comfortable with their characters. So far our typical "modern-day" wannabe heroine is my least favorite, but i can learn to love her if she's more than just the object of our men's affection.

That courtyard basketball scene between Kang San and the big "tough" guy was so awesome, i was cheering so hard. It was my favorite scene this episode. The directing was pretty great too. I gotta hand it to this director, who always seems to make his action scenes so much more exciting.

There were some scenes that was too melo for my taste, but i see that show is trying to set up the hero to be at his worst and then eventually have him rise out of his impoverished life to make it to the popular 1948 Olympic team. It's definitely a true underdog story you wanna root for.
For that type of story alone (which is among one of my favorites), i'll be sticking around some more unless they start recycling conflicts (ahem, gaksital. Lookin' at you).

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Hi ilikemangos :) I love your name, by the way! Although I have criticisms of the show, I stated above that I have hope. I think that things will improve. I actually liked Do Jihan's acting and was not trying to compare his character to Joowon's. I agree that they are two different characters and I never once thought to compare them. And yes, I agree that Do Jihan has such beautiful eyes :) There is a sweetness and innocence to them. The story and concept are exciting. But I had to point out what disappointed me. I also think that the female lead's performance was better in the second episode.

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Finally you pick up a drama to recap. Just want to say thank you head for your recap. It maybe fresh breath for you and for your drama recap follower (blade and petal, shark) , we doesn't feel worry about rating because it's cable drama. Lol

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I don't know what to call this group. We are either hard to pleased, bored or cursed. All these dramas look promising in the beginning but we always get the middle finger in the end.

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*please

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This recap and the screencaps may be the best advertising for this drama, lol, because I am like, -fist pump- yeah! Let's watch this! and then reality sets in and I am like-need more hours in the day! I will watch it, but I think it has to get in line for now.

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haha his name is Kang-san? My Gaksital feels ;-;

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I can't wait to watch this. I'm impressed the drama is going to cover so much time--wow!--1939-1948? Crazy.

Also, sad to see many of you guys don't seem to know about streetball and how much of a difference there is between it and basketball. Just a heads up--their aren't any fouls unless someone calls a foul, lots of tricks (you're practically showing off), traveling is pretty much fine, pick-up games! Cmon, guys, it's SO much fun. I think I will be sad when it gets replaced by the cleaner and more polished professional version, lol.

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Do Ji Han <3

It's a sports drama, even if there is no space in my watch list Imma make some!!

Also, is this kid the most adorable hero ever or what? God, that smile :)

Thanks for the recap, glad to see it on the in progress bar down there!

Let the games begin!

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Awesome that it's off to a great start! I was eying this drama but the premise of anything to do with sports just...makes me shy away from (Heading to the Ground along with others...::sigh::). But def watching this!

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waaahhhhh... so many dramas, so little time. :(

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winnie since it is too many, better take k-drama off for a while to avoid greater frustration *kidding*

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Fantastic first episode. I'm already on San's side. I really hope he can overcome all of these hardships.

Thanks for the recap, Heads!

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I am surprised people are complaining about the "street" version of basketball not playing by the rules. It's not really basketball in my opinion. It's more like brawling with a basketball and hoop to help keep score. I just hope they don't beat up his pretty face!

I guess the prejudice may seem over the top, but I went to school in Alabama in the 60's and 70's and the way black people were treated then was pretty much the same.

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The story is good, Do Ji Han is freaking awesome as Kang San...and the other characters are meh. Chi Ho is a little on the arrogant side, but he seems like an interesting character enough, because seeing the poor sorts of bothers him. Points earn. Let's hope when they say rivals in love and basketball, includes a little bromance.

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Where was Do Ji Han before this drama? He is great as the underdog hero here, seeing his naivete being crushed slowly but surely. Gotta agree with you though that most of the other characters are not that well fleshed out yet. But I hope to learn more about Min Chi Ho and Shin Young

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He played a small but intense role in Incarnation of Money. Great to see him as a lead.

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One episode and I'm hooked on this drama alredy. I love almost everything there, the story, acting (and actors), directing, lighting, colors, costumes, occasional specks of humour. I can't wait to see Kang San's way to fame and better life, with the history of Korean-Japanese relationship in the background.

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I knew Do Ji Han would do well. I was not disappointed with this first ep at all.

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So far so good, but whoever is getting Shin-young's props is getting things that are from a much later period. The car Shin-young is driving looks like it's 1950's, not late 30's. Plus she is sporting some very full skirts. The full skirt, or "The New Look" came in fashion when Christian Dior designed it in 1947. It was a big deal because it used a lot of fabric, and fabric had been rationed during the war, so it seemed very decadent. Prior to that, dresses had a slim look.
Sorry to nitpick, but I notice these kinds of things!

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I love this ep except for the heroien not about her acting but her delivery lines. She speaks in moderns way. Huh.

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