Drama Reactions & Reviews
Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice [Year in Review, Part 4]
by | December 20, 2013 | 132 Comments

It’s that time of year, for Show to trade in all its good deeds and gold stars for a spot on Santa’s list. Have you been naughty, nice, or something in between? If there’s any constant in dramaland, it’s that you can never underestimate the sneak-attack of a naughty finale, or the surprise resilience of a drama that lingers in your heart long after the dust has settled. It’s why Santa makes his list at the end of the year, because there’s nothing like time (and a little eggnog) to bring things into focus. So here’s my list of this year’s dramas, for better or worse, till 2014 do we part.

Time to polish off those shining character breakthroughs and brush the gaping plot holes under the rug. Final inspection, coming on through!


Busker Busker – “잘할 걸 (I Should’ve Been Good)” [ Download ]

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Jeon Woo-chi

Naughty or Nice: Not nearly naughty enough for an impish wizard.

Jeon Woo-chi has me torn, in that it ultimately proved to be a silly but lighthearted, entertaining version of the famous wizard’s tale, and yet part of me loves the character enough to be sad that a mediocre telling of it even exists. Despite loving Cha Tae-hyun, I can’t help but feel that his casting limited the character and kept him firmly in after-school cartoon territory. The show was as funny as it wanted to be, but it was also unintentionally funny when it tried to be serious. Thank goodness it was aiming to be funny more often than not, because the reverse would’ve been a disaster.

As a hero’s tale it had a fun Clark Kent/Superman dynamic for the main character, who got to be two very different people in public and private spheres. That was probably my favorite thing about the show, and a case where Cha Tae-hyun was worth his salt in comic chops alone. Secret identity hijinks are never not fun.

Sadly the drama does very little to make its world believable, and in the case of a fantasy sageuk with a super-powered wizard as your hero, you can’t skimp on creating a believable canvas for your audience to invest in. I’ll go to whatever fantasyland you create, but you have to pave the road and color in the trees and throw in some music video wind. You gotta help me along here. The writing failed to set up a world of magic and whimsy, and instead just assumed it was fine to take Jeon Woo-chi’s fame for granted, and threw us into the action with zero setup. I don’t know why beginning in the beginning is a difficult concept, but there you have it. It didn’t help that the directing fell short on a basic visual level, committing to effects it couldn’t actually produce onscreen. The end result was seeing the slapdash coloring job with the outlines showing underneath—I see what you were going for, but also all the shortcuts you took to get there.

An argument could be made for the CG budget (or lack thereof) to be the show’s crippling affliction, but honestly I believe that a good writer and a good director should know how to change its story and scale to match its limitations. I could’ve easily handed in big effects for some quiet episodes that focused on character development over plot, or gave the heroine a chance to live up to her badass potential, which she never fully got to do. At the end of the day I’d still call it an enjoyable comedy and a feel-good hero story, but there is a decided lack of magic in this magical tale.


School 2013

Naughty or Nice: Nice. Sometimes bad boys make the best nice boys, once they do a little growing up.

It always says something to me when I come around to do the year-end review and I can hardly remember dramas that ended just a month or two ago, or in this case the reverse—when a drama has enough staying power to be memorable a year later. School 2013 marked the revival of the ’90s franchise that focused on the contemporary day-to-day problems of high school students and launched dozens of acting careers for some of film and television’s most wanted. The reboot was a bit of an experiment, but I think overall a successful one. And while the we’re-going-to-shed-a-light-on-the-real-problems aspect of the show often veered into didactic territory, still it managed to stay true to form as an engaging, realistic portrayal of teen angst.

The heart of the show was the bromance between Lee Jong-seok and Kim Woo-bin, who made the reconciliation between two ex-best-friend gangsters the reason to tune into the drama. They infused a childhood friendship with as much heartache and longing as any first love, and emotionally anchored what would’ve otherwise been a solid but forgettable episodic drama. It’s kind of funny if you step back from it—their falling out was given the dramatic weight of two mob bosses who had spent twenty years apart—but the emotional intensity worked for them because it was played as the pure teen angst of two friends who had little else to hold onto in life except each other.

In some sense School can only be called a competent drama, since it did nothing special visually and had a lot of excess in the writing that needed to be trimmed back. But it wore its earnestness on its sleeve, and for that I can forgive a lot. In retrospect the drama stands out because it didn’t have the usual lovelines, nobody had quick fixes for all of life’s woes, and Fate never had a hand in any of the proceedings. It was just a simple story about growing up, making it through your day, and maybe changing the course of your life just one small choice at a time. It wasn’t a happy drama, in that these kids’ problems were often bleak, but it remained a hopeful one that always balanced the sobering realism with a dash of optimism. Maybe one person really can make a difference; maybe you can’t change the past but you can build a future; oh, and ramyun is best shared.


Flower Boy Next Door

Naughty or Nice: Spying on your neighbors isn’t naughty. Nope. Not one bit.

I was keen on Flower Boy Next Door for giving us a quirky match-up between a shut-in heroine who experiences the world by proxy and her ebullient hero with boundary issues. You certainly couldn’t call it the average dramaland pairing, and I especially liked the idea of a wallflower as a central character.

I love that the drama was drawn with the texture of urban isolation, with a cast of characters who all lived a door, a hall, or a street down from one another, giving them access to peer in on each other’s daily routines and invent narratives in their heads, while in reality keeping themselves firmly isolated, always alone. Change requires the arrival of a strange, bouncy, talkative boy who lacks the cultural cues to take a hint, and he sort of blows through the building like a tornado of friendliness. Cute, but destructive. The main couple turned out to be a really sweet one that not only made for funny neighbor antics, but also some poignant character development. When you get two characters changing each other for the better in a constant push-and-pull, the development feels much more organic and earned, and I enjoyed their personal growth immensely.

I only wish that the story had remained more focused, because it did a lot of senseless stalling and then invented really lame reasons for the couple to run away from each other and push each other away, basically hoisting very inorganic stakes on a relationship that didn’t even require that kind of dramatic conflict to be interesting. In fact it took away what was interesting about them in the first place, and turned a unique couple into a hackneyed drama formula. The supporting cast of oddball neighbors does a lot to infuse laughter and heart into the show, especially when they start to form their own de facto family, but it wasn’t quite enough to mend the fact that the central story had strayed to uninspired territory. The characters and the world remain memorable but the story evaporates, in the end dulling the overall picture.


Level 7 Civil Servant

Naughty or Nice: Naughty. Or I’m lying to you and you’re going to get ALL of the presents this Christmas. No you’re not. I was lying just then.

Illustration by ziggystardust

‘Nuff said.

I was trying to fill up my swiss-cheese memory of Level 7 Civil Servant to write a review, but then I came across this awesome drawing, and realized I could never sum up the show better.

Sometimes I actually do forget the contents of this drama, not even because I’d choose to if I could, but because it morphed into a meta blog thing, and the drama itself has faded away from my memory, replaced with stick figures and this one really awesome drawing of a medium-speed bunny slope chase that still makes me giggle. By and large the drama itself shouldn’t have been such a disaster, especially given that it was based on a zippy, successful movie that provided a handy blueprint. How hard could it be? we thought. Famous last words.

I wasn’t sold on the casting, but there was no reason that Joo-won and Choi Kang-hee couldn’t prove me wrong and fire up the romance with their chemistry. No? Okay, then at least give me a story to get invested in. But I’m not sure the show was all that interested in telling a logical story, as if it were optional. It stuck solely to comical setups and kooky laughs, but without anything relatable, thoughtful, or emotionally engaging to anchor them, the drama eventually just devolved into a pageant of buffoonery. But bygones—I got all these pretty illustrations out of the deal, and incidentally forgot most of your plot in the process. It’s okay. I’m pretty sure you didn’t have one to begin with.


Gu Family Book

Naughty or Nice: Nice, with underlying anger management issues.

Oh, Gu Family Book. You’re kind of like the runt of the 2013 litter—not quite right, a little dumb, but cute and pitiful, and probably all the cuter because of how pitiful you are. To its credit, there’s a lot about this show that keeps it a light, charming watch and I had fun with it. As a fantasy sageuk it takes care to create a visually interesting world full of magic, mythical creatures, and legends. It was the origin story of a hero (you know how I love those) and it was funny, at times romantic, and sometimes it even succeeded in going to an epic place once in a while. Where its troubles begin is in its everything-but-the-kitchen sink method of trying to do it all but not quite getting there with any one thing. You know what they say about the jack of all trades.

The story opened with a segment on the backstory of the hero’s parents, which was beautifully tragic and romantic. On the upside, it was just the thing to suck us into the world. On the downside, once we got to the main story that didn’t live up to its prologue, we were left wishing we could go back. Part of the drama’s woes is a problem with pacing, some of it due to casting, and some of it is just the fact that the story’s most interesting questions and characters just got sidelined and then forgotten, victims to the live-shoot one and all. And then of course there’s the ending, which, BAH.

Had the drama taken its own mythology more seriously and spent some of its plentiful (some might even call excessive) 24 episodes to take our hero from hot-blooded rebel with gumiho identity issues into a real hero of the people, it could’ve been enough for me to overlook everything else. Instead we spent entire chunks of story time on schemes that ultimately didn’t matter, and the hero’s central conflict got reduced to mommy and daddy issues. To be fair, they were seriously messed up mommy and daddy issues, but we spent all this time waiting for him to grow up and go on his quest, only to literally spend the whole drama waiting.

Suzy is adorably sweet and likable, but this role really showed her limitations as a leading actress. I was just grateful that the heroine was written on the page to be spunky and defiant, which in the very least gave her some dimension by default. I found myself more emotionally invested in Lee Yubi’s character, not only because she was so much more capable of emotional vulnerability and range, but because her story was actually more gripping. It was a terrible waste to throw her storyline aside as an afterthought, and even more so for her brother, Yoo Yeon-seok. They delivered heartfelt performances for characters that ultimately fell by the wayside, which was the biggest tragedy of all. But hey, points for reinventing gumiho lore, for giving us Gumiho Daddy Choi Jin-hyuk and Gumiho Baby Lee Seung-gi, and for being copacetic enough not to take yourself too seriously.



Naughty or Nice: Bad to the bone~ B-b-b-b-bad~

Monstar was a pleasant, often sweet, sometimes even moving watch. I mean, high school romance and song—what’s not to love? But it never quite gelled for me, namely because I didn’t buy into the stakes. Musical face-offs can have plenty of narrative heft if we’re made to believe that they’re game-changers, but very little in this high school musical drama was story-driven, and I often felt like we were setting up scenes for the witty song remakes with no thought to the larger picture. Were we rebellious misfits taking a stand for the little guy? Were we just sticking it to the cool kids? (Who, by the way, were the lamest cool kids in the history of time. The orchestra? Really?) I never quite understood the motivation or the significance behind events that the show kept insisting were Totally Important, Okay, which was only compounded by the latter half of the story being even more tangential than the first.

The quirky heroine was delightful and easy to root for, and I liked her odd-couple pairing with the haughty idol. But there was little fire for a teenage romance, and I didn’t know if I should blame the acting, the writing, or both. I wanted heady adorable first love, musical interludes and all, and it seemed like a wasted opportunity to me that they had the excuse to have an angsty teen love square where it’s totally acceptable to sing about your feelings and pile on the cheese, only to leave it underdeveloped. Perhaps it wanted to subvert expectations just to be different (something I can see this drama actively choosing to do) and got lost on the follow-through. The problem is that you have to move the story along to back up the emotion behind the music, otherwise then it’s just a concert, not a drama.

The supporting cast of misfits was great and often garnered more empathy than the main characters. For their sake I really wanted the efforts of their band to amount to something, but sadly there wasn’t a whole lot of resolution in store for them, or for anyone for that matter. Granted, the songs were appealing on their own merits, and in early episodes even provided some truly poignant moments. Much of the show was feel-good featherweight stuff that you could watch with very little emotional investment. But I’d rather care any day of the week, win or lose.



Naughty or Nice: Too fishy to be nice, too watered-down to be naughty.

I’m pretty sure Shark put me off of revenge melos for a good long while. Sometimes one revenge thwarted is enough to make you swear them off forever, or okay, at least until the next one entices me with its promises of dark thrills and outsmartypants anti-heroes. It’s just nothing short of deflating when you go into a drama expecting a mastermind to keep you on your toes and get served a cold fish instead.

I wanted him to be so dark as to make me question right and wrong, to leave me impressed but shuddering, to make me wonder if his ends really justified the means. But the drama was more interested in making its lead a tragic character, and instead of making me feel murky for rooting for him, it muddied his characterization so that he was neither good nor bad. He was just plain vanilla. And I have zero feelings about vanilla.

The drama itself had a great ambiance and even made me care about its backstory. In fact the opening episodes are probably the best part of the show, which is sad since that’s like saying the free bread is the best part of the meal. But it was an engaging teenage romance against a tragic background, and I watched the adult characters’ reunion with bated breath because of them.

The thing that confuses me about Shark is that it chose very clearly to give its hero a singular purpose (revenge, naturally) that kept him from engaging with the rest of the world, including the woman he loved and the sister he’d die to protect. So then you’d think that in exchange for stripping him of everything else, he’d get to go on one very satisfying vengeance tear. Instead he sort of moped about it, swore that he’d never look back and only live for revenge, and then moped about it some more. I spent the whole drama eagerly waiting for the good part where the hero does bad things, but he was so tortured about it that he didn’t do much of anything at all. And when he finally did spring into action, there were no more surprises left to pull out of the hat. What’s the point in building up a mystery if all roads lead to the obvious?


Dating Agency Cyrano

Naughty or Nice: Nice. But somebody told me to say that to you.

On a basic level this is a movie adaptation that got translated to episodic format fairly well, though it’s as much a vehicle for Lee Jong-hyuk’s charisma as it is anything. The downside was that there wasn’t much romantic chemistry, so while he was appealing as the 21st-century Cupid who engineered romance for others, when it came to his romance—the one we should care about—the drama fell short in a significant way.

I actually found the lead pairing to be really cute and likable, but the story did very little to bolster their romance. They remained underdeveloped as characters, and then to top it off, the drama waited about forever and a half to get to its central conceit—that of Cyrano playing matchmaker for the woman he loves to be with another man. You need longing to set us up for that tragic irony, even if you’re going to reverse it later for the rom-com version.

But the drama staunchly decided its hero was going to be so cynical about love that he spent the whole series just denying his feelings altogether, effectively pushing the main romance to the back of the bus while the couple of the week took up all the room. They played on the Cyrano theme for the leads in a cursory way eventually, but I still wasn’t made to feel the stakes in any of it. What a waste of a classic premise.

I did thoroughly enjoy the agency aspect of the show, which was an entertaining way to bring in fun cameos and be a sounding board for each of the characters to express their thoughts on love, or pepper the matchmaking choices with bits of personal character. The show also took care to give a full range of the agency’s effects too, from the fun of watching them play Fate to stage a meet-cute, to the graver consequences of actually changing the course of someone’s life and being party to a lie. Had the show found a way to weave in its central romance effectively from the start, it would’ve made for a great one-two punch.


I Hear Your Voice

Naughty or Nice: Is a basket of puppies snuggling under a rainbow nice?

Sohn Seung-yeon – “너의 목소리가 들려 (I Hear Your Voice)” [ Download ]

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Every year there’s usually at least one drama that gets me squarely in the heart, enough for me to love it unequivocally, warts and all. I Hear Your Voice was my favorite drama of the year, thanks to a bizarre marriage of serial killer thrills, courtroom drama, and noona romance. I never said the recipe was sensical, did I? Besides being addictively paced and set up for emotional payoff, it was a world filled with characters who were consistent, flawed, and lovable.

Lee Bo-young’s uppity public defender heroine was hands-down my favorite character all year. She was sassy, smart, petty, immature, full of herself in every way, but so beautifully vulnerable and hilariously outspoken. Throw in a mind-reading super-powered noona-killer played by Lee Jong-seok, and you pretty much had me at hello. I loved all the reversals in their setup. The boy with superpowers was powerless in the real world. The girl he had put on a pedestal his whole life was just about the farthest thing from the defender of justice and truth he had made her out to be. He was a kid with an old soul. She was a grown-up who had never grown up.

There was a zippiness to the pace that owed a great deal to one very simple concept: throw a serial killer on their asses and start biting your nails. It wasn’t complex, but damn if it didn’t work remarkably well. Narratively it had the brute force of an avalanche—not subtle, but you’re just going to run at breakneck speed to get out of harm’s way. The constant threat of danger did wonders to throw our couple together, heighten the tension, and give their romance life-and-death stakes. Of course, a lot of what we gain from that momentum does get bogged down by a lot of courtroom drama, as the heroine’s cases provide the episodic mini-arcs throughout the show. Most of the time they’re just setup for character development, in which case they aren’t as tedious, but the Sesame Street law is by far the show’s weakest link.

But the romance and the character development make up for it in spades, especially when the relationship manages to be everything from heartbreaking, sweet, funny, self-sacrificing, heroic, to just plain romantic. On the downside I now harbor the highly unrealistic expectation that if I grow up to be like Jang Hye-sung, the universe will reward me with a mind-reading noona-killer of my very own. This is I think not quite the take-away message the drama was going for. In the simplest terms, it’s a feel-good drama populated with winning characters that has something uplifting to say about sticking up for the underdog, doing the right thing, and fighting to protect the ones you love. I mean, how could I not love you?


Empire of Gold

Naughty or Nice: Naughty in all the right ways.

Empire of Gold wasn’t an instant hit with me despite having a pretty eventful premiere episode, but I stuck with it primarily because of my faith in The Chaser’s writer. I’m glad I did because it was certainly worth the watch, though to make the obvious comparison, it ultimately lacked the heart and the unflinching idealism in the face of darkness that gives The Chaser the edge. Empire was aiming to do a very different thing—show the true face of money, power, and greed from within the belly of the beast—and it made sense that there would be no room for a hero with a bleeding heart in this dog-eat-dog world. Still, I was a little sad about it. I like my bleeding heart heroes.

Instead, Empire’s world is populated with the devil, the devil’s cousin, and the devil who rose up out of the ninth circle to try and become the king of hell. And I’ll tell you what—it’s fascinating. The entire drama is one long extended power play among people vying for the emperor’s throne, or rather the coveted chairman’s seat at the head of the biggest chaebol conglomerate in the country. It’s a world where decisions made at the breakfast table shake the economy of an entire nation, where family order is like the mob but scarier, and where mutually assured destruction is the lifeblood of securing your seat at the table. And as an allegory for the division of haves and have-nots and how money corrupts indiscriminately, it’s downright chilling.

Go Soo brings in a commanding performance as the underdog who rises up from poverty to contend with the titans, who is convinced that if he walks into hell and takes it over, he can turn it into heaven. But we watch as he goes from bright-eyed bushy-tailed beginnings (a company he names Eden, to make the metaphor complete), and sinks further and further into the abyss until we’re not entirely sure if he’s going to win it all or just get swallowed whole. Sohn Hyun-joo is frighteningly good as the family’s black sheep and Lee Yo-won finally met a character that benefitted from her cold reserved delivery. (I can’t call her great, but it’s a case where her style fits her character, at least far better than in any other drama I’ve seen her in.) She plays the sole capable daughter who inherits the company over her greedy siblings, and has to fight to guard what was entrusted to her. She gets the classic Godfather moments, where she gets handed the keys to the kingdom because she’s favored and the power corrupts her day by day. Her character arc was my favorite, despite being less dynamic on the surface.

These three characters spend the entire drama switching alliances in an ever-shifting game of one-upmanship, and we in turn spend the whole drama rooting for one, and then the other, and then again switching sides. Move for move the drama is cold and calculating; no one is ever fully in the right, and almost everyone will surely go to hell, jail, and probably both, but you find yourself caring because it’s written with a deft hand, and the drama never strays from the singular goal—the war for that chairman’s seat—that drives our main characters.

My major gripe with the show is that it is almost entirely comprised of expository dialogue spoken from one armchair to the other. That is, nothing happens onscreen other than people discussing the consequences of what happened offscreen. Given that the story is about business dealings in the chess game of corporate takeovers, there might not be a wide array of choices for how to deliver this narrative information. On the one hand, the writer still manages it brilliantly. On the other, it might possibly be the most boring way to film a drama ever. It’s basically a stage play in 24 acts, and at some point you start to wonder exactly how many mini wars we have to fight to get to THE war, how many conversations we can have about it, and how the delivery of plot would come to a screeching halt if all the secretaries in this universe suddenly died. Still, there is something to be said for a coolly satisfying game of chess, and when each move is worth tens of billions of dollars, the temperature does start to rise.


Two Weeks

Naughty or Nice: Newly nice. Reformed naughty is all the rage this year.

Two Weeks holds up as one of the most solid dramas of the year, though it does break my heart that it falls shy of being exceptional. The man-on-the-run action thriller really took advantage of its condensed-time premise, speeding along with promises of payback, justice, and redemption, delivering on all counts. Plus, daddy-daughter cuteness! It was a kinetic experience that was so well crafted and effectively directed that it really did feel like being taken for a ride. I gasped at the turns and my stomach lurched with every drop as if the hero’s survival was tied to my own. It was certainly tied to my blood pressure, in the very least.

Lee Jun-ki began the series as a man who thought so little of himself that he wasted his life away as a sad degenerate, and my favorite thing about the drama is how dark it was willing to go with its hero at the outset. His self-loathing was palpable, and warranted, and it gave his character such dimension. We watched him go from that to framed murder suspect purely on the run for his survival, to a man fighting for his redemption and daring to hope for a second chance at life. And the gradual unfolding of his past romance with Park Ha-sun that widened the gap between past happiness and present sorrow as we went along was a really nice touch.

The danger with setting your hero up to dodge danger for two weeks straight is that you do start to put a strain on realism. For a story that had such a strong gust of momentum behind it, it didn’t need to rely on coincidence as much as it did. I wanted more effort and direct reward for our hero, not coincidence and luck. And despite being a big proponent of the hero being an everyman, there were times I just really really wanted him to get smart faster. His emotional breakdowns were compelling, but then at some point I remember thinking that I wish he’d stop crying and start outsmarting. And he did; it just would’ve been nice to get there sooner. The villains were a letdown too, mostly because we went in expecting an intricate plan o’ mischief from the baddies, but it was far too simple to be impressive. On the upside they were frightening people who killed without remorse, so the survival instinct was always rarin’ to go.

What I really love about condensed-time thrillers is the narrative enjoyment you can mine from very tiny events, like finding a power tool to saw off your handcuffs, switching disguises to move amongst people undetected, and catching a chicken with your bare hands just to eat. There’s just a minute-by-minute real-time thrill in putting us there with our hero, wheels turning as we try to figure out how to get out of this new mess. In that, the show really lived up to its potential, and the miles we came in character development by the end of the ride was such a satisfying reward for the cold sweat it induced week after week.


Master’s Sun

Naughty or Nice: Nice to the touch.

Master’s Sun is a great reminder that winning chemistry is nothing to take for granted in dramaland. Romantic comedies in particular have a clear ceiling on how good they can possibly be if that sizzle is missing, and this drama in turn showed just how well a good sizzle could cover for a show’s weaknesses in other areas. The foray into horror rom-com was a fun genre mash-up that provided some great setups (She sees ghosts except when she’s touching his body? What genius is this?) and some missteps (My dead first love stole this necklace and zzzzzzz….) but overall it was the couple that kept things afloat.

I really think the Hong Sisters hit the jackpot with Gong Hyo-jin, who has now been their leading lady in two dramas, and should just be their marquee heroine. She’s of course fantastic with the funny, but she also grounds the crazy with down-to-earth, heartfelt emotion so that no matter what zany hijinks are going on, I’m always with her. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook comedic roles, but she turned in one of my favorite performances of the year. So Ji-sub got the more interesting character who was everything from hilarious, childish, to just plain wacky, but he played the hell out of the role and made it memorable. They were so lovable together that hardly anything else mattered, which is a good thing since the plot often felt like it was stretched far too thin.

In some ways the ghost-of-the-week episodic structure worked to fill the story with new adventures and more importantly new metaphors in the process. Where would a Hong Sisters drama be without the wordplay gained from things that sound like other things? The downside for me was that I didn’t really care enough to get emotionally invested in ghosts who were just dropping by for a quickie. When the ghost’s story served as the impetus for our leads to work out some of their own romantic entanglements, it was at least clever and amusing; when it tried to carry emotional heft, it fell flat. That includes the hero’s first love ghost and attendant partners in crime, who rank pretty high up on this year’s scale of most ineffectual villains.

As is often the case with Hong Sisters dramas, the final act left a lot to be desired, especially when it became clear late in the game that the couple no longer had any real conflict keeping them apart. But apart they had to be regardless, which set us up for a few head-scratching moments of, But whyyyy? I wish Chun-hee’s character and the heroine’s coma backstory had been true contenders from the start, because I found her time spent out of body to be one of the most interesting story points. Too bad it was more of an afterthought than anything. Master’s Sun may not have done everything right by a long shot, but it got romance right, making the hugs, kisses, and electrifying touches add up to more than just the sum of its (totally swoony) parts.


Unemployed Romance

Naughty or Nice: It’s hard to be nice when you’re broke.

I was looking forward to the small cable rom-com Unemployed Romance, expecting a breezy ten episodes with an underdog heroine and a classic bickering romance. In many ways it is exactly that, with an endearing lead couple in Lee Young-ah and Namgoong Min. But there was something decidedly missing from this drama, and I couldn’t help feeling that it had been paced all wrong, and was at every turn wasting the precious ten hours it had been given.

The series decided on an unconventional approach, splitting episode arcs into Heroine, Hero, and Reunion. So for the first third of the drama, we never even meet the hero of our story. It was the strangest choice, and I remember watching the early episodes wondering why the guy on all the posters wasn’t in the drama. Then we switched gears entirely to introduce the hero, who turned out to be an interesting character after all. We backtracked all the way to college when their romance had begun, and then eventually caught up to the present day when they meet again.

The problem is, by the time we FINALLY get to their reunion in the present, two-thirds of the show is already gone. I felt like the bulk of what I had been waiting to see was shafted for setup, backstory, rinse, repeat. And worse yet, the crux of their falling out hinged on a simple misunderstanding, which just required each being told the truth. Talk about a flimsy conflict.

I liked the very real mundane concerns over making rent when you’re between jobs, of fretting over choosing a career path to make your parents happy, the inferiority complex that develops as your friends succeed around you, and the fear that your unconventional path is no longer cute when you’re thirty and broke. The characters are grounded and likable, and the romance is fun. I just wish I could take a woodchipper to the story order, piece it back together upside-down and backwards, and leave out all the useless parts. I might only end up with four episodes, but sometimes less really is more.



Naughty or Nice: Pssh, being nice is for people too poor to own shopping malls from which to pick their own presents, bitches.

Heirs strikes me as a drama that got made solely on its one-liner premise, and no one bothered (or dared) to ask, …And then what? I’m fairly certain that an eighteen-year-old defying his parents to win their approval to date a girl is pretty much the textbook definition of …So what?, and yet here we are twenty episodes later and that’s the entirety of what happens, give or take a detour to California (but we don’t like to talk about that as a thing that really happened). Granted, not every drama needs to be pointed, and Heirs is easy to enjoy and certainly easy on the eyes. I just wish there had been more substance to help hold it up against an ounce of scrutiny.

On first glance the story seems to be rich with conflict—an illegitimate chaebol heir who is exiled from his rightful place in the kingdom, a poor hardworking Candy for him to traverse the chasm of the class divide to love, a high school filled with sharks, and a family tree laced with thorns. Hell, just being eighteen ought to be plenty. It was nothing new, but I at least expected it to deliver the most obvious version of that tale to satisfaction. But as the drama went on, it became increasingly evident that it was not built from a foundation of character and story, but backwards from a set of drama poses it wanted to strike. Backhugs, tearful separations leading to long walks, in-your-face frenemy wars—these were the things driving this train, and the other stuff like character development was a footnote. I feel like I walked away from this show with a catalogue of hugs, handholds, and fisticuffs, and no memory of what made anyone want to do any of those things.

I can’t even talk about the world’s most simplistic corporate takeover plot without laughing, but I wouldn’t have even cared if there had been a point to any of it—if there was something the drama wanted to say about the class divide other than the idea that poverty is possibly a contagious virus that people should be vaccinated for. How about the idea that the only way to beat your tyrannical father at his own sick game is to take his power and repurpose it, or refuse to inherit his throne altogether, or something other than just stand there and cry until he changes his mind?

The romance was one I wanted to root for from the start, but the drama actually managed to take away reasons they should be together, which is frustrating to say the least. I just don’t find being followed, bullied, tripped, yanked, or kissed into submission romantic. Go figure. It was enough of a turn-off to make me disengage emotionally from the show altogether; yes, stronger than even the power of Lee Min-ho and Kim Woo-bin combined. Who knew such a thing was even possible?


Mi-rae’s Choice

Naughty or Nice: Naughty… no, nice… eh, I couldn’t decide.

Me: Wait, so that’s the end? But… who’d Mi-rae end up with?

Show: It’s Mi-rae’s choice whom she wants to be with!

Me: Yup, it sure is! Who’d she choose?

Show: That’s not important! It’s up to her, see?

Me: Yes. Yes, it’s always been up to her. I see that. So who’d she choose?

Show: Stop forcing your choice on her!

Me: I wasn’t!

Show: I know you were, secretly!

Me: I am not! I will honor her choice, really.

Show: No you won’t. If I tell you, you’ll just be mad, or javabeans will.

Me: But… you said it’s Mi-rae’s choice, so what does it matter if we’re mad? Mi-rae won’t even know! She’s fictional!


Me: But, I thought you said it’s her choice. You’re making this about you.

Show: Am not.

Me: Are too.

Show: Stop your trickery. I see what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to take away her power to choose.

Me: What? No. Mi-rae’s choice is her own.

Show: Yes, yes it is.

Me: So what did she choose?

Show: That’s up to her.

Me: *facepalm*


Answer Me 1994

Naughty or Nice: It starts with an N and rhymes with “potty,” but don’t assume you know what the answer is, because this sentence is like baseball and there could always be a twist you totally weren’t expecting in the ninth inni—

I really didn’t expect sweet throwback youth drama Answer Me 1994 to become the most polarizing drama of the year. The series itself is by all accounts exactly what we expected from the college follow-up to Answer Me 1997’s high school drama. It’s just that the love triangle has created some kind of vortex on the internet whereby a person’s worth is judged by what ship they’re on. Can’t we all just get along? To writer Lee Woo-jung’s credit, it’s because her shows, whether drama or variety, are all addictively good. There’s no denying that, and hell, most days I’m the leader of that fan parade. I feel like the fanwars for this show are getting to the point that everything is read with a defensive kneejerk reaction, so I’m going to preface this all by saying that I love Oppa, I love Chilbongie, and I’ve loved writer Lee Woo-jung for way longer than I ever loved either of them.

But to her detriment, I think this time around she fixated on the idea that everything, and I mean everything had to be a mystery, to near-tunnel-vision effect. The whole structure of the who’s-the-husband guessing game took precedence over all else, and in exchange for moments of narrative surprise, she sacrificed clarity and trust. Does she write fantastically nuanced characters? Yes. Is there such a thing as conflating subtlety and obfuscation for the sake of withholding for the big gotcha moment? Hell yes. The thing is, she does both, so she deserves praise for the one thing, and squarely earns her flak for the other.

The show likes to play a game of what I like to call setup-withhold-twist. Oppa was set up to be the first perfect would-be suitor who spent the opening episodes earning all our love. And then we weren’t allowed to know Oppa’s feelings, not yet, so they were withheld from us not by virtue of character, but plot necessity. Then Chilbongie enters the game, and while Oppa is sitting on his hands, Chilbongie steps up with his classic romantic hero moments designed to elicit swoons. Swoon we did. But once he served his purpose to lock and load the love triangle, he got shelved too. I’m mad that he got shipped off to Japan, but I’m equally mad that Oppa was forced to sit on his ass. It’s not a Chilbongie/Oppa thing. It’s an execution thing. It’s a structural choice to put Oppa on ice while Chilbongie gets his moment in the sun, and the same when Chilbongie gets sent abroad while Oppa springs into action, after the world’s longest unmotivated delay. Both sides end up dissatisfied to some degree because the characters are slaves to the mystery, and the mystery is king.

The problem isn’t that they’re both great guys. I mean, when has that ever been a drama’s problem? It lies in the fact that the show has chosen the gotcha over motivating our characters and letting us in, which is a shame since what makes this franchise so rich is its nuanced character development. I still love the world and the characters, but I feel like each of them (Na-jung, Binggeure, all) took turns having their development sacrificed to the god of withholding, which can’t possibly be blamed on running out of time (hour-and-thirty-minute episodes = no excuses).

The thing is, this show does so much other stuff so well that it doesn’t kill my love completely. It just has the unfortunate effect of making everything else recede to the background, even though what I like most about this franchise has always been found family, palpable warmth, and the sudden ambush of emotion that comes from an unexpectedly small, mundane moment. That stuff is still aces, and why I’ll probably be able to look back on this show with affection long after the so-called mystery is put to bed. Because once it’s done it’ll cease to matter, and then maybe we’ll be able to remember the show the way it remembers the ’90s—with earnest fondness and loving care. And a pair of rose-colored glasses couldn’t hurt.



And that’s 2013 in dramaland for me. Thanks again to our recap minions gummimochi and HeadsNo2 for working so hard to deliver entertaining and insightful recaps all year ’round, and to javabeans for letting me ride shotgun in our crazymobile.

While the dramas may come and go, it’s always nice to know that the Dramabeans family is in it together for every swoon, fistpump, and WTF twist that may come our way. Thanks for lurking, ranting, reading, and raving with us all year, and for making this giant living room couch a vibrant, inviting place for one and all.

Stay tuned for more year-end goodies with Editors’ Picks, coming soon!


132 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. tebz10

    Damn. The ghost of Mirae’s Choice is still haunting me.

    • 1.1 tebz10

      Also, Level 7 Civil Servant! I want to erase this drama from my memory. Those drawings, though, are hilarious!

      • 1.1.1 rickybits

        glad I gave up on that drama and Mirae’s choice as well. Loved GF’s Empire of Gold review, and agreed with her as well, other than the expository speech part, which I absolutely loved and adored.

  2. snow_white

    Hahahaha @ Mi Rae’s Choice 😀

  3. Vg

    Mi-rae’s choice .. Lol !!!!

  4. Mrs.Jang Guem Suk

    Hagahahahaha I love the mirae choice one that was super funny LOL but on a serious note who did she choose??????

    • 4.1 August

      Park Se-Joo!

      MHIYD Episode 16 Finale Recap August December 6th, 2013 at 5:07 PM August December 6th, 2013 at 5:08 PM August December 6th, 2013 at 5:10 PM

      Friday 12/06/13 Open Thread #320 – Post #37 August December 8th, 2013 at 1:46 AM August December 11th, 2013 at 8:05 AM Carole McDonnell December 13th, 2013 at 4:27 PM August December 14th, 2013 at 1:02 PM

      I hope this helps. 🙂

      • 4.1.1 August


        In Episode 13:
        Future Mi-Rae tells Oppa that he should get married and have kids now so she might see her niece or nephew when she returns to the future.

        Episode 16:
        Oppa is happily married with a pregnant wife (carrying their second child). Mi-Rae holds his child Gun in her arms. Oppa remarks “Others would think he’s your baby.”

        “Epilogue. In the future, Ajumma Mi-rae digs up the box that Present Mi-Rae told her about and gave her the key to. She flips through the pictures that document..life in reverse from a young man to his teenage years to his childhood to Mi-rae holding him close as a toddler.”—Gummimochi

        First and foremost Se-Joo was a photographer/filmmaker. The background of the picture with the child and Mi-Rae smiling look similar to Miranda’s/Se-Joo’s office at YBS. All of those pictures captured the essence of a person (family) and their joyful memories with each other. It reminded me of the time Se-Joo filmed Mi-Rae at the Amusement park that day and when he walked past the restaurant and longingly stared at the family having dinner wishing it for himself.

        One of the pictures in the Pandora’s Box of the older child has him holding a photographer’s case and wearing what looks like a leather jacket.

        One of the pictures shows the child at the beach smiling. (Most likely a reference to Jeju – Se-Joo’s favorite destination/vacation retreat and where he first met Mi-Rae.)

        Mi-rae picks Se-Joo. [She kept the ring…she told Se-Joo that after meeting him, she’s only been receiving and wants to do something for him too…she wants to become someone who can give something back to him…she wants to work on herself and become a better person…”If you still haven’t changed your mind later…will you give it to me then?” The chances of running into each other 3 years later.]

        Heeding Future Mi-Rae’s advice/warnings, Present Mi-Rae persevered as she struggled to make a career change and became a successful writer and novelist. Her future estrangement from Oppa was prevented, their relationship was repaired and stronger, his health issues were no longer hidden but brought out in the open. For a husband, Mi-Rae chose Se-Joo.

        Reflecting back on everything in MHIYD, it seems that Mi-Rae chose differently in all areas of her life thanks to the meddling of Future Mi-Rae.

        • August

          Parallels & Symbolism

          Episode 12:
          Voiceover of Mi-rae “Tis the season for people to dream of a miracle: that past friends will return or lovers who will call in after a long while. “A feeling that all miracles will come true that day. To hope that this year’s Christmas will be the happiest one yet.”

          Preparation for Christmas Eve Date with Kim Shin (spraying perfume in front of the mirror)

          Early Merry Christmas Wish at the Amusement Park/Last Minute Business Dinner with Park Se-Joo (spraying perfume in front of the mirror)

          Episode 16:
          Mi-Rae’s Voiceover: “When its Christmas, people dream of miracles. The return of old friends who have left…And a call from a lover you have lost touch with…It’s a day when all the miracles of the world seem possible. Christmas didn’t always bring us those miracles. But we dream again this year. That this will be the best Christmas of our lives.

          In the bookstore passing by Kim Shin three (3) times.

          In the bookstore passing by Park Se-Joo once (1)

          The camera shows Mi-Rae exiting then turning around to reenter the bookstore through the revolving door. The camera shows Se-Joo entering the bookstore through the revolving door as well and lingers on Se-Joo towards the end of Mi-Rae’s voiceover.

          Kim Shin was forewarned by Future Mi-Rae and Present Mi-Rae but he still chose to sign the contract with NTN, report on the faulty humidifier story, and incur the debt as a consequence/result. He was not forced to leave YBS, far from it, he was offered his dream job and timeslot (9pm Anchor). The only choice he made differently in this timeline was to distance himself from and cease pursuing Mi-Rae.

          Also the Present Kim Shin learned from Visitor Kim Shin that although he did not marry Mi-Rae, he still had journalistic/career success in the industry. His major regret all these years was about not speaking out in truth about the humidifier story. He did not say that he had regrets about not marrying Mi-Rae when Present Kim Shin asked about her in Visitor Kim Shin timeline.

          Se-Joo was nowhere in site – out of the country. Mi-Rae and Kim Shin had all the time in the world to interact with each other…even in secret like they previously did.

          Fate implies no choice. Destiny is changeable by the individual.

          Kim Shin was fated to meet her in all timelines.

          Park Se-Joo was her destiny in this timeline.

    • 4.2 Rashell

      Ummm…that’s Mi Rae’s Choice. No one knows but Mi Rae. Really.

      • 4.2.1 ...

        That ending… I still feel like I wasted 16hours of my life for nothing

  5. noernov

    I love the fight between u and the show mirae’s choice,so true 😉

  6. aya

    I love your review Girlfriday! Exactly my thought on the dramas too.. you are like my soulmate ^_^

    • 6.1 tadaaflo

      I agree mostly with girlfriday review. But i was shocked reading the title. I thought its santa’s review. Lol… Cant wait fr that..

  7. owl

    Heirs: “Pssh, being nice is for people too poor to own shopping malls from which to pick their own presents, bitches.” Girlfriday, you’re too funny. Thanks for the super review.

    Loved the runaround-in-circles conversation with the SHOW.

    Editor’s Choice up next, wow, can’t wait.

    • 7.1 August


      “Pssh, being nice is for people too poor to own shopping malls from which to pick their own presents, bitches.”–GirlFriday

      I know right – hilarious. 🙂

      Fun memories/Flashback to “Clueless”. . . I’m picturing Cher Horowitz saying this to Dionne Davenport.

      All I hear are Valley Girl, LA, or Jersey Girl accents!

  8. Musines

    Thanks Girlfriday! You make me laff. I agree and agree and agree some more!

  9. Smile134

    I love you, girlfriday <3 <3 <3
    You review almost all the drama that I watched. Of all those I watched this year, School 2013 and Two weeks come closest to my heart ('cause I need someone to root for when watching a drama, and Nam-soon, Heung-soo and Tae-san are really those I root for wholeheartly). Reply 2014 also comes close at first, but it lost me in these recent weeks. Shark & Mirae's choice are probably the ones that disappointed me the most this year.

  10. 10 Jolie

    I still haven’t watched IHYV. Too afraid during the airing that puppy was going to die. Now I have to go back and catch it.

    • 10.1 Mrs.Jang Guem Suk

      I’m srry wat show is IHVY I tried but its no computing LOL

      • 10.1.1 Rashell

        I Hear Your Voice

    • 10.2 Fab

      It’s awesome, do watch it!!

  11. 11 Nicole

    Thanks for your review, girlfriday!

    I initially wasn’t interested at all in I Hear Your Voice just because I’m not the biggest noona romance fan (and Lee Jong-seok looks too feminine for me), but after reading these relatively great reviews on it, I’m thinking of checking it out.

    Can’t wait to see the editors’ picks~

    • 11.1 ilikemangos

      Some of us weren’t noona-romance fans, and i wouldn’t call myself the biggest lee jong seok fan either, but this show does offer us much more than just the romance angle. It ended up being one of my surprise favorites this year because of the low buzz/interest when it first premiered. It’s definitely good. Enjoy! 🙂

  12. 12 Yee

    THANK YOU! DB is so NICE! Loving all the mini recaps especially Mi-rae’s Choice & HEIRS! LOL!

  13. 13 kate

    Thanks for the review GF 😀

    I seriously don’t know where to ask this, so I’m sorry but I’ll ask here. My American guy friend is so bored, he’s willing to watch a Korean drama thank to me bragging about them lol I don’t know what to recommend to him. I don’t think he’ll like that much romance in it nor makjang. What drama should I recommend? I was thinking White Christmas, Story of a Man, Vampire Prosecuter, Nine, and City Hunter, but I’m not sure. He likes most genres though. Help me haha I mostly watch romcoms 😉

    • 13.1 Gizmo

      How about Girl K? Mini series with great action and execution all around. With only 3 episodes you can’t go wrong! 🙂

      Other titles at the top of my head are Gaksital, Joseon X-files, Dream High, Runaway Plan B, and Two weeks.

      • 13.1.1 Big Bear

        Your recommending RUNAWAY PLAN B caught my attention!!! I could not agree with you more on your suggestion. If I were to encourage an average American guy the first Korean drama, that would be it. Why? because it has all the ingredients of an action flick a la James Bond, filmed in locations around Asia: Japan, Filipines, Macau, China, and other places, and it has two leading Korean actors who are talented and very appealing, Rain and Lee Na Young; and excellent performances by Lee Jung Jin and Daniel Henney, and a supporting cast of all beautiful and elegant men and women.

      • 13.1.2 rearwindow

        Girl K is a great idea as an intro into the kdrama world without a lot of the makjang trappings of longer kdramas. I’d also consider King 2 Hearts for action, heart, and political intrigue. I watched City Hunter with my guy, and while he quickly became hooked on the action parts of it, he got REALLY frustrated with the romance in that, though only after he got hooked enough into the plot to finish it. I think the romance kinda spun its wheels about midway through. Fortunately, there was enough redeeming about the revenge plot that I didn’t mind too much.

        I’ve heard great things about Story of a Man as well.

    • 13.2 ilikemangos

      Those are definitely some good choices you’ve named there.
      I’ll name some more that perhaps might appeal to a guy: Cruel City, Gaksital, The Chaser, Conspiracy of Court, Chuno, Joseon X files, Shut Up Flower Boy Band, Two Weeks, Tree with Deep roots.
      Granted, all of these have romance in them (being a k-drama it’s inevitable), but i’m sure he wouldn’t mind as long as it’s not the driving force.
      Also, since it’s his first k-drama i’d probably choose a non-sageuk, something fast-paced and addictive.

      • 13.2.1 ilikemangos

        I’d go with city hunter for his first. It’s got mainstream popularity and is easy to watch. But still keeps you on edge. It’s the one that most my [non-drama addict] friends know, aside from hits like BOF/You’re Beautiful.

        • savanna

          I’ll go for city hunter!
          It has the thing you “expect” when you watch kdramas… then it blows you away. Plus it wasn’t bad AND it was LMH best performance I’ll say. Prosecutor was great too; like I actually liked him as a second lead. Or maybe I’m just bias cause city hunter was my first kdrama LOL

          • sm

            OHMYGOD, city hunter was my first drama too!
            I’m glad it was, if i watched something like boys over flowers, i wouldn’t watch anu more kdrama.

    • 13.3 PollyRose

      My personal pick would be Story of a Man. I don’t usually go for revenge stories (like you most of what I watch are rom-com’s) but this was so well done. The hero is flawed, but smart, adaptable, and grows throughout, and the villain is nuanced, intelligent, and played in ways that make him truly frightening at times. Pit these two against each other, add in an ensemble of fleshed out and engaging secondary characters, a director who clearly knows how to make the most of every shot and utilizes small moments and subtlety, and a writer who knew the story they wanted to tell and DID, and you have a drama that is constantly moving, makes you think, and never lets you as a viewer or the characters get too comfortable or complacent.

      There’s more I could say, but honestly the best thing is to watch or at the very least read Javabeans’ amazing recaps. Though I’m pretty sure her recaps will make you want to see exactly what she describes and then go back to read her commentary. I often had to, not only to read her insights, but to see if there was anything I missed 🙂 It’s just a well told, acted, and directed story that I think goes beyond being a fantastic K-drama, to being a fantastic drama period.

      • 13.3.1 Kiara

        Agreed with Story of a Man, and I’ll add The Chaser, Cruel City and Two Weeks. I wouldn’t recommend Sageuks for someone new to K drama. It would be better with recaps or historical background.

    • 13.4 Mrs.Jang Guem Suk

      Nice guy or Plan B awesome shows guys would like or East of Eden (if u do that 1 start in the middle) hmmm LOL soo many shows last 1 Shark if u guy friend into stuff like that 😃

    • 13.5 August

      Your friend might like the 2009 action kdrama IRIS I starring Lee Byung-Hun and Kim Tae-Hee.

    • 13.6 bluesky

      As I know, according to my 2 male chingus who loves/watched KD, both of them dislikes Runaway Plan B..errr…including me TBH..

      For action they loves Iris, Two Weeks, City Hunter, Ahjussi[film]…

      Rom Com : Protect The Boss, My Lovely SamSoon, A Gentleman’s Dignity

      Fantasy : Nine, Rooftop Prince, I Hear Your Voice, Secret Garden, My Girlfriend is A Gumiho, 49 Days

      Medical : Heart

      Melodramas : Midas, I Miss You, A Moment to Remember [film]

      Still trying to convince them watching sageuk next time 😀

    • 13.7 M4R7

      try with Bad Guy

  14. 14 bgr

    THANK YOU for the recaps! may not hv watched all the dramas but definately followed the recaps!

    Merry X’mas and may all recappers and readers hv a wonderfully blessed 2014!

  15. 15 PollyRose

    Jang Hye Sung was my absolute favorite character of the year as well, from a drama that did what very few others managed: stayed consistent.

    I’ve loved a lot of dramas this year and had many high moments with them, particularly in the beginning as something about them just won my heart and made me hope (specifically FBND, Monstar, Master’s Sun, and Answer Me), but each, while I still look on with fondness, cooled for me as the drama went on in varying degrees. There is still much love, but these are dramas I’ve dated, but maybe not the ones I want to marry. They still rank as some of my most enjoyed dramas though 🙂

    For me, the ones that owned my heart and made me breathless week after week, flaws and all, the whole way through were IHYV and Two Weeks. I won’t (and can’t) say they were perfect, but something about them took me past the honeymoon stage of rainbows and “Nothing could possibly ruin this love, it is perfection” to deeper love that saw the flaws, but knew the ultimate value and believed in it to overcome and grow.

    Thank you so much for all of the recaps, news, and hilarious commentary on all things K-drama. You guys are the best (that’s right Lee Soon Shin, they’ve taken over your title and they fully deserve it)!

    • 15.1 ilikemangos

      yeah. consistency is so hard to find nowadays, isnt it?
      it’s different to start off low and make improvements along each episode, but those two shows you mentioned started off well and ended well. solid throughout. IHYV slowed down in pacing (inevitable due to extension), but the writing didn’t falter.

    • 15.2 Big Bear

      Completely agree with you PollyRose. As to Two Weeks, it was written by the same author of the Best Drama winner of 2013 Korea Drama Awards, My Daughter Seo Young, possibly one of the best dramas of all times. Not a bad follow-up in a completely different genre.

  16. 16 jhu

    aww. girlfriday, you rock!

    thanks for the lovely set of reviews. loved all of them. especially Level 7 Civil Servant and Mirae’s Choice which…lol. sorry you had to go through the ordeal that both were.

    can’t wait to read more of you in the coming year.

    merry christmas!

  17. 17 August

    Thanks GirlFriday for the Naughty or Nice Year In Review Recap!

    • 17.1 August

      I dropped Level 7 Civil Servant before it reached the midway point like a hot potato and never looked back or felt compelled to finish it!

      However, I enjoyed viewing all of the artwork submitted to Dramabeans for L7CS.

      • 17.1.1 John

        Level 7, that was one episode and out. The stick figure recaps were epic though.

    • 17.2 August

      Gold Stars:

      Two Weeks – Jang Tae San (Lee Jun-Ki) and Seo Soo Jin (Lee Chae Mi) deserve the best father/daughter duo or nomination in the category for best chemistry. It is never too late to stop just existing and to start living a meaningful life.
      “. . .one of the most solid dramas of the year, though it does break my heart that it falls shy of being exceptional. The man-on-the-run action thriller really took advantage of its condensed-time premise, speeding along with promises of payback, justice, and redemption, delivering on all counts.”—GirlFriday

      School 2013 – Bromance between Go Nam-Soon (Lee Jong-Seok) and Park Heung-Soo (Kim Woo-Bin); onscreen teaming of Jang Na Ra and Choi Daniel again. I appreciated the fact that story/plot was devoid of romance among the teenagers and focused solely on their schooling and daily struggles with life itself.

      Monstar – Yoon Sul Chan (Yong Joon Hyung), Min Se Yi (Ha Yun Soo), and Jung Sun Woo (Kang Ha Neul)
      Main and supporting cast of characters, bromance, teenage angst, teenage romance/love square, first love, music, and identity.

      Flower Boy Next Door – Enrique Geum & Go Dok Mi
      “. . .a quirky match-up between a shut-in heroine who experiences the world by proxy and her ebullient hero with boundary issues… The main couple turned out to be a really sweet one that not only made for funny neighbor antics, but also some poignant character development. When you get two characters changing each other for the better in a constant push-and-pull, the development feels much more organic and earned, and I enjoyed their personal growth immensely.”—GirlFriday

      Master’s Sun – chemistry of So Ji-sub and Gong Hyo-Jin

      I Hear Your Voice – Lee Bo-Young and Lee Jong-Seok
      It had almost everything – villian, 1st/2nd lead triangle, first love, arrogant/jerky behavior, frenemies, comedy, action, birth secret, amnesia, timejump, backstory with child actors, suspense, murder, romance, workplace, “Sesame Street Law,” incompetent cops, and etc. What could possibly be missing you ask – why an airport scene! 🙂

      Good Deeds:

      Dating Agency Cyrano – Lee Jong-Hyuk

      Unemployed Romance – Lee Young-Ah and Namgoong Min
      I liked that it tried something different with the episode arcs dedicated toward the individual perspective (point of view) of Im Seung Hee and Kim Jong Dae. Unemployment can be a struggle as well as constantly experiencing hardships during the course of earning a degree/pursuing studies in higher education

      Naughty & Nice:

      Heirs – Lee Min-Ho, Kim Woo-Bin, Kim Mi Kyung, Kim Sung Ryung, Choi Jin Hyuk, and Kang Ha Neul.
      Bromance, Mother Duo, Sibling (Brother) Relationship, Comedy, and Weight of the Crown. Several of the characters are enjoyable, some are frustrating, heartfelt moments occur, and there are scenes that grab your attention and are hard to resist or turn away from.

      Mirae’s Choice (AKA Marry Him If You Dare) – Yoon Eun Hye and Jung Yong Hwa.
      Nice change of pace with the Chaebol character and romantic lead/rival Park Se-Joo. I enjoyed the OTP Na Mi-Rae and Park Se-Joo.

      Empire of Gold (AKA The Golden Empire) – “. . .show the true face of money, power, and greed from within the belly of the beast…The entire drama is one long extended power play among people vying for the emperor’s throne, or rather the coveted chairman’s seat at the head of the biggest chaebol conglomerate in the country. It’s a world where decisions made at the…

      • 17.2.1 August

        Empire of Gold (AKA The Golden Empire) – “. . . It’s a world where decisions made at the breakfast table shake the economy of an entire nation, where family order is like the mob but scarier, and where mutually assured destruction is the lifeblood of securing your seat at the table. And as an allegory for the division of haves and have-nots and how money corrupts indiscriminately, it’s downright chilling.”—GirlFriday

        Gu Family Book – Gumiho Daddy (Choi Jin-hyuk) and Gumiho Baby (Lee Seung-Gi)
        Choi Jin-hyuk only appeared in Episodes 1 – 2 & 12 – 22.

        Something in Between:
        Shark (AKA Don’t Look Back : The Legend of Orpheus) – Kim Nam Gil and Son Ye Jin

        Deserves A Lump of Coal:
        Level 7 Civil Servant (AKA 7th Grade Civil Servant) – Joo Won had good comedic timing.

        To Watch List:
        Answer Me 1994

  18. 18 Mrs.Jang Guem Suk

    Free bread is the best part of the meal LOL

  19. 19 erl

    My exact sentiments about Mi-rae’s Choice. LOL! I barely finished watching the show. Awesome review girlfriday. 🙂

  20. 20 lindsay

    I’m going to get a lot of hate for this but was I Hear Your Voice really that good? I looked forward to watching it and they definitely had chemistry, but I just couldn’t get over how bad she was at her job. She was a terrible lawyer! Maybe since I’m a law student and from a family of lawyers, but I couldn’t fully enjoy the show. I always get caught up in little details like this and I wonder if plots that involve lawyers (and often police officers) are simply that and just plots or if maybe it is a cultural thing and I really don’t understand about Korean law. Being a defense attorney is like how Cha Kwan Woo started out: fighting for your client regardless of how you feel. And when she interfered with the twins (twice!) and got mad at Attorney Cha for taking the cases he did, I just couldn’t enjoy it. I know: totally not what we were supposed to fixate on. Big fan of the actors and their relationships though.

    • 20.1 Amiga

      I couldn’t finish IHYV either. I couldn’t deal with a adult woman romantically involved with high schooler. It was just too icky.

    • 20.2 ilikemangos

      Yeah.. it’s probably not a drama i’d recommend for lawyers, or lawyers in the making.
      i know Koala couldn’t enjoy it for the same reason you didn’t.
      Also for the same reason i don’t recommend doctors watch medical k-dramas. it becomes hard to enjoy a show overall if you get caught up in the missteps of the details and facts.
      It was the show’s weakest point, but most of us overlooked it for the rom-com/fantasy/thriller aspect. It really was a show with a mesh up of different genres that somehow just worked.
      The fact that alot of it revolves around the lawyering should do a disservice to the show but it made up for it with all those other stuff we actually cared about.

      • 20.2.1 liz

        the thing is everyone hated on lawyer Cha for doing his job! I’m a law student and I was annoyed, and ended up not enjoying so much because of the way HS acted.

        Plus Koala didn’t enjoy the drama because she can’t stand the main guy .

        • pogo

          It required MAJOR suspension of disbelief that he wouldn’t have been knocked out of contention for that case for serious conflict of interest – I mean, dating the daughter of the victim/being her friend? Seriously. But this drama suffered from a serious case of stupid on all the legal stuff.

          • Big Bear

            Are you a lawyer, and if yes are you practicing law in the U.S. FYI, practice of law could very different in other jurisdictions. For example, the fact that the jury confers with the panel of judges is allowed in Korea, apparently in certain major cases like felonies, and is not allowed in the U.S. and other western countries. The prisoner’s dilemma with the twins was one of the best treatment that I have seen on TV or movie anywhere in the world, and I am a huge fan of Law & Order. For those who talk without knowing, in some small municipal jurisdictions, there is only one judge and one prosecutor and one public defender who handle most of the caseload. Not being a legal series per se, the drama did the best it could dealing with the legal aspects. For all of you who are trying to fault this show because of how it deals with the legals issues and the noona romance, you are completely missing the point and essence of the drama, please go and re-read the excellent reviews or recaps of Girlfriday and Javabeans; they encapsulate the essence of IHYV like nobody could, like professional critics. I do not agree with them all the time but at least they do their homework and do a superb job when commenting. f the caseload, even in the U.S., like in the case of IHYV, where the courthouse was a satellite office and not the Central courthouse in Seoul.

          • Big Bear

            Are you a lawyer, and if yes are you practicing law in the U.S. FYI, practice of law could be very different in other jurisdictions. For example, In Korea, the jury confers with the panel of judges for certain major cases like felonies, and this is not allowed in the U.S. and other western countries. The prisoner’s dilemma with the twins was one of the best treatments that I have seen on TV or movie anywhere in the world, and I am a huge fan of Law & Order. For those who talk without knowing, in some small municipal jurisdictions, there is only one judge and one prosecutor and one public defender who handle most of the caseload, like the case here in IHYV where the courthouse was a satellite division of the Central Courthouse in Seoul. Not being a legal series per se, the drama did the best it could in dealing with the legal aspects. For all of you who are trying to fault this show because of how it handles the legal aspects and the noona romance, you are completely missing the point and essence of the drama, please go and re-read the excellent reviews or recaps of IHYV by Girlfriday and Javabeans ; they encapsulate the essence of IHYV like nobody could, like professional critics. I do not agree with them all the time but at least they do their homework and do a superb job when commenting.

          • pogo

            @Big Bear – I’ve said it elsehere in this thread, but I am indeed a lawyer. Thanks for the very patronising attempt to devalue what the actual legal students and professionals in here are saying, borne of real-life experience. We’re well aware of the differences in legal systems, but I don’t know of any country where, say, a lawyer is allowed to change pleadings on a whim during court proceedings just because they change their mind on the guilt/innocence of the accused! I get that this is done for dramatic effect, but for someone who’s studied law anywhere, this stuff really sticks out.

            fyi, I practice law in an Asian country, and if you bothered reading the comments, I’ve noted that the legal procedural aspects are not the focus and I love the show anyway. Please stop giving the rest of us fans a bad name by being unable to take some justified criticism of the show for its depiction of a setting it chose to use.

        • ilikemangos

          Yeah, that too. She mentioned having a Lee Jong Seok allergy in addition to the lawyering aspects.

    • 20.3 Sakura

      I’m also a law student but that didn’t stop me from loving the show in the least bit. I just fast forwarded all the court scenes and read all I had to know about them from gf’s recaps!

    • 20.4 Windsun33

      I liked the show, but the main reason I only would rate it 6/10 is because of the total incompetence portrayed of the cops and the courts. It just had too many holes in it, especially on the legal and trial side.

    • 20.5 pogo

      I am a lawyer, and I loved the show for its character writing and relationships, NOT for the legal setting! Though it did help that the legal nitty-gritties were not the focus of the story, I do admit to dozing off a couple of times during courtroom scenes, and the bribing of a witness/making up arguments and changing your stance on the spot did annoy me, thank god this wasn’t a proper ‘legal’ drama per se.

    • 20.6 Ace

      Not completely sold on it. I actually liked it when I was watching (though a little less than Cruel City which aired at the same time). I could handle the missteps in the legal stuff, but I didn’t feel any happy-ever-after for the noona romance. It lacked that spark I was looking for in my OTPs. Also, this is the year I got perverse that the shows that got too much rave reviews made me love it less and those that got too much hate made me love ’em more. 😉

      • 20.6.1 Dody

        lol, I agree .. I don’t really get the hype about that show I was going to drop it many time but I was watching it hoping that something might hook me into it .. but never happened! after I finished it I was like it’s a show I’m sure gonna forget! it’s good but not unforgettable….
        I don’t really feel the noona romance at ALL, may be that’s one of the weak links to me in this show, and I didn’t feel the OTP that much, tried but failed….

        “Cruel city” was really really good, though the romance wasn’t the main point in that drama but I really felt them more than the noona romance in IHYV, though I felt CC being ridiculous in the last few episodes as everybody is being undercover but nothing is flawless, I enjoyed the action though I’m not that into this genre but that drama is an exception to me it was enough seeing JKH in black suit .. lol
        and about the ending I watched that drama knowing that everyone gonna die in the end though I hate those kind of endings but I can accept it in this drama with all the gangsters and drug dealers!

        at the end as an action and thriller drama I’m all for CC and for the fantasy genre I’m gonna go with “Nine” this one used it very well 😀

  21. 21 Eh?

    “Where would a Hong Sisters drama be without the wordplay gained from things that sound like other things?”

    Where indeed.

  22. 22 ziggystardust

    Omo, you used my lame 7th Level stick figure drawing again. I actually “hee hee”d outloud, since I’d forgotten all about it. 😛

    I can’t quite decide what was my favorite drama of 2013, though I was definitely fond of School 2013, Flower Boy Next Door, and Master’s Sun (and still plan to watch a few others like Heartless City and I Hear Your Voice).

    I feel like we got several very pretty shows (I mean for real, check out that camera on That Winter, The Wind Blows… which incidentally I dropped), but I watched less that got me in the heart like last year (a la Shut Up, Queen In Hyeon’s Man, King 2 Hearts, etc). Which could be my fault for just not watching the right ones?

    But as dramas go, I’m more for the emotion AND eye candy than eye candy alone..

  23. 23 coffeenlucia

    does Man from the Stars count? It so, it’ll probably be my favorite soon (after IHYV)

    Gong Hyo Jin + So Ji Sub’s chemistry was awesome in MS

    • 23.1 Kiara

      I think it’ll count for next year. I hope we’ll still remember it by next Dec lol.

      • 23.1.1 ilikemangos

        Unfortunately it’s been common for shows airing early in the year to be forgotten since it’s not so fresh in our minds anymore.

  24. 24 madhatter

    IHYV is the drama of 2013 for me, and probably one of the top five on my All Time list. It has flaws, sure, even big ones, but it also has the biggest heart, and the easiest to get behind. Some see the main couple lacking romantic chemistry, but to me their platonic love for each other is even better. A lasting relationship needs more than sexual tension, and HyeSung & SooHa have all it take.

    The other thing that I like is the warm-hearted treatment of all characters, even villain or random Grandpa on the street. A truly Feel Good drama.

    Girl Friday and Beanies, the ride got much better with your recaps and comments so thanks for that, and have a happy holiday!

  25. 25 Thursdaynexxt

    Level 7 Civil Servant (aka Grade 7 Civil Servants pretending to be spies and tossing around guns like toys): those stick figures were the loveliest and most memorable part of the L7CS viewing experience.

    Thanks heaps for the reprise!

    Master’s Sun: “(My dead first love stole this necklace and zzzzzzz” – ROFL 😀

    Completely agree, this was a drama where my love for the little moments exceeded my love for the show as a whole. Basically, all the scenes without Joo Joong-won and Tae Gong-shil in the same room were kinda so-so (with the exception of Sec. Kim).

    It had the cutest bed scenes I’ve seen this year, and I loved the scenes where GS was possessed by everything from a seductive French dancer to a Siberian Husky!

    Thanks for the recaps and review, girlfriday!!

    • 25.1 readlead

      “….. and I loved the scenes where GS was possessed by everything from a seductive French dancer to a Siberian Husky!”

      ME TOO!!! 😀 that two scene from ep 4 and ep 17 plus a crying scene from ep 12 and ep 16, all those scenes for me, make GHJ’s onnie deserve to win daesang…

      well, at least she deserves to get nomination of daesang since she has already won 3 times top excellent actress awards consecutively, so it’s the time for her to get nomination of daesang… 🙂

      • 25.1.1 Thursdaynexxt

        Amen to that, readlead!!

    • 25.2 pogo

      It had the cutest bed scenes I’ve seen this year

      It really says something about how great their chemistry was, that even a drama this heavy on skinship left me feeling like they needed to be touching MORE. And the possession scenes, especially in the final episode, cracked me up.

      • 25.2.1 Thursdaynexxt

        Yep, I love the matter-of-fact, deadpan way that Joong-won handles her when she’s not quite herself! The fact that he can straight away tell that it’s not her – that’s also quite a turn-on 😀

        On second thought, looking back, we didn’t actually get a lot of bed scenes this year (from the dramas I watched, anyhow). I feel like we were promised plenty of romance in the plot of several Shows That Shall Not Be Named, but it fell short in the delivery department.

        Oh well, at least we’re now getting a surfeit of shower scenes in You From Another Star. It’s the business end of December already, but better late than never!

        • pogo

          The fact that he can straight away tell that it’s not her – that’s also quite a turn-on

          Oh, that it is. There’s a lot of indirect stuff in Master’s Sun that is a real turn-on – from the amount of hand shots (every bit as hot as shower scenes here, considering who the hands belong to and how often he touches GHJ) to the smaller touches (like him reaching out one finger to touch her hair/not-quite trace the curve of her ear in ep 15) to just the way they look at each other, and the personal space invasions – from the time he steps out from behind his desk to growl at her for telling him to have a son in ep 10, to the cute fit of jealousy over Chun-hee in ep 17, ha.

          But what I love most is how much Joong-won and Gong-shil’s romance subverted the typical alpha male/Candy thing. She puts herself first, and instead of wristgrabbing, we got major amounts of handholding 🙂 (I especially love that of the wristgrabs, one turned into a handhold by the time he’d circled his desk to come around to her side – so much squee!)

          I wish I loved Kim Soo-hyun more, I know his character is supposed to be a cold alien but right now it’s Jeon Ji-hyun who has my heart in YFAS. She’s a great heroine to close out the year with, especially after the underwhelming Candy who preceded her in the timeslot.

          • Thursdaynexxt

            Hehe, loved those MS scenes too … I’m trying verrrry hard not to get sucked into re-watching Master’s Sun this hols, in order to get on top of my to-be-watched dramas list!

            Re YFAS: I was concerned about the cold alien bit, too! He seemed a bit too cold, and barely even saw her as a woman, so I was wondering how on earth the romance bit was gonna happen, despite his fixation on the 15-year-old incarnation of Song-yi. Hopefully we’re getting some progress around Ep 4!

  26. 26 Kiara

    ziggystardust – PEW PEW For The Win lol. Those were the days.

    Thank you GF for giving 2 Weeks some loving.

  27. 27 Sajen

    My sides hurt from laughing at the Mi-rae’s Choice review.

  28. 28 Dramafan100

    I am so glad you had two of my favorite shows as nice.

    School 2013 and I hear your voice. They made me a fan of Lee Jong Suk and I am so very glad they are in your list.

  29. 29 Suzi Q

    Some of the dramas had me scratching my head (ie. Shark, Mirae’s Choice) whereas this year’s favorite was IHYV for me.

    Thank you for your recaps! Be naughty! Save Santa a trip! Happy Holidays! looking forward to new dramas and recaps next year…

  30. 30 readlead

    OMG GF!!! That Mirae’s choice is really truly totally cracked me up!!! hahahahaha 😀 tough I dont watch mirae’s choice, I still like YEH, her personality is really good, sadly, she keep getting un-lucky project, and I think mirae’s choice is the worst (?) perhaps soon she will find better drama, wish all the best for her.

    As one of biggest lover and most fanatic fan of master’s sun, I do like reading your review about Master’s sun, most agree about GHJ’s perfomance as tae gong shil is also one of my most favorite acting perfomances this year! <3

    and as one of viewers of monstar, I am agree with all you said about monstar, that's how I felt too about it 🙂

    thank you very much GF for very enjoyable reviews, now cant wait for last review, "EDITOR'S PICKS"

    all dramabeans's writers, FIGHTING!!!!!

    • 30.1 Thursdaynexxt

      So true – YEH picked a truly tragic melo and a supposed quirky rom-com, and still couldn’t manage to get lucky in the ratings department.

      Hope we see her (and all her long-suffering cast-mates) in new 2014 dramas soon!

  31. 31 Turkish Rose

    Master’s Sun….sigh…the greatest drama of all time for me as well as the most incredible chemistry I’ve seen 🙂

  32. 32 redfox

    yeah what you said about I Hear Your Voice giving you these expectations to find a puppy like that. hahaha. now every time you approach a drama you have to have a detector that you aim at the screen, asking like the ouija board: will this ruin my expectations for life? and if yes, better stay away.
    (but secretly you still watch and still dream…)

    as for me, I dont care about any relationships so it wouldnt ruin me.

  33. 33 lookingup

    While sizing up this year’s ups and down, I wanna bring up some significant events that deserve a big thumbs up:

    ☝The Great Dramabeans Nation Uprising (during L7CS):
    fed up, we stood up and made ourselves heard
    ☝JB and GF dreaming up and teaming up to create a “Why Do Dramas Do That” write up, right up our alley
    ☝DB Meetups! Beanies and staff met up, caught up, ate up, and drank up

    Let’s give it up for JB, GF, HNo2, GM and our wonderful community! Up with DB peeps! *applauds*

  34. 34 Sakura

    I’m reading this while listening to Santa Clause is Coming to Town playing as background in a restaurant! How apt!

  35. 35 Aleena

    Best year end review yet :’) I hear your voice and School 2013 were my fave dramas of the year too.

  36. 36 ai

    Oh, my, girlfriday, I love your dialogue with Show about Mirae’s Choice. What a lunatic Show, turn your logic that way…:)
    Can’t it just tell you who’s she end up with as simple as that…I’m dying to know too…

  37. 37 kDkiddo

    You guys are our family always !

  38. 38 shoesrgreatrite

    Reply 1994 owned my heart and soul. I was raving and ranting on soompi forums. Going back and forth between oppa and chilbong….until they started dragging the mystery. Shipping bong-ie off. Cutting short on character development on bingurie and hak chan. Etc etc. JUST for that mystery element. AGHHHHH!!! IT KILLS ME that reply 1994 can be GOOD if writer-nim didn’t put so much time on that “OOOH GOTTA PRESERVE THE HUSBAND MYSTERY ELEMENT” I just finished rewatching reply 1997 the other day and felt all sad that what could or should have been THE greatest show of the year, got bogged down by needless conversations and that “mystery” element. Not to mention that show dragged at 1hr30 mins. Ughh…Amen to your comments on that show. Amen.

  39. 39 shoesrgreatrite

    Reply 1994 owned my heart and soul. I was raving and ranting on soompi forums. Going back and forth between oppa and chilbong….until they started dragging the mystery. Shipping bong-ie off. Cutting short on character development on bingurie and hak chan. Etc etc. JUST for that mystery element. AGHHHHH!!! IT KILLS ME that reply 1994 can be GOOD if writer-nim didn’t put so much time on that “OOOH GOTTA PRESERVE THE HUSBAND MYSTERY ELEMENT” I just finished rewatching reply 1997 the other day and felt all sad that what could or should have been THE greatest show of the year, got bogged down by needless conversations and that “mystery” element. Not to mention that show dragged at 1hr30 mins. Ughh…Amen to your comments on that show. Amen. Sorry for ranting about R94 hahaha….but seriously, Two Weeks, I Hear Your Voice and School 2013 (PUPPYYYYY AND WOO BIN GAHH GREATEST BROMANCE IN DRAMA HISTORY ^^) left a mark in my heart. Until this day I can still remember the part where puppy was in the rain and noona came back for him

    • 39.1 pogo

      1994 is suffering from the same problem that plagued 1997, only worse because it has 21 too-long episodes to drag out, versus 16 – it is too long!

  40. 40 damianna

    haha. mi rae’s choice had me regretted spending time watching it. it’s a no-ending in my opinion.

    unemployed romance. before watching i was thinking, ‘why does this only had 10 eps?’, half-way watching ‘there’s only 10 eps, but you’re filling them with this. seriously show?’. in the end i was hoping that it was a 4 ep drama special instead like gf said.

    i loved master’s sun (oh the chemistry!), school 2013 (this noona dies!), i hear your voice (i want to be the noona!) two weeks (stay with the prosecutor!) and nine (please come back lee jin wook!).

  41. 41 coby

    Lol at Mirae’s Choice!

  42. 42 Windsun33

    Mi Rae’s Choice And some other stuff, sung to the tune of I Fought The Law.

    That chaebol kid is a hot son
    I fought the show and the show won
    I fought the show and the show won
    I needed men cause I had none
    I fought the show and the show won
    I fought the show and the show won

    I miss my perm and I feel so bad
    I guess my hair is done
    Well he’s they’re best guys that I’ve ever had
    I fought the show and the show won
    I fought the show and the show won

    .. etc. http://youtu.be/I0sI6eFarFE

    • 42.1 Thursdaynexxt

      ooohhh, seriously crying with laughter right now 😀

      It’s a catchy tune, and hey, sounds like there’s room for a few more verses…!

      Btw, I’m tempted to leave a comment on YT saying “Mirae’s Choice brought me here…”. How weird would that be?!

      (Another song that comes to mind is: “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To”! especially the chorus bit!)

      • 42.1.1 Windsun33

        Yeah, I could have done more, but it was 4AM in the morning and got stuck at the next chorus, so I gave up because my brain had locked up.

  43. 43 pogo

    Thank you, girlfriday! I should also thank you for nearly causing my death via laugh-choking on my tea, thanks to the reviews for Mi-rae’s choice and Heirs (that opening blurb…)

    Of this entire lot, I was madly in love with School 2013 (my babies, come and let noona cook for you, you need fattening while you cuddle! Also this is the show that led to my discovering LJS and KWB), FBND (that last-minute extraneous conflict was silly but somehow the opening 11 episodes and the characters are strong enough to make me love it anyway), IHYV (the noona-romance to convert noona romance naysayers, even with its clownish ‘law’ antics. Also Lee Bo-young was so great).

    And of course Master’s Sun (that OTP, MY HEART! If the show was a souffle, they were the thing keeping it from falling mostly flat.). I totally agree with your assessment of Gong Hyo-jin too, half of why I enjoyed So Ji-sub so much was because he was acting with her. Taeyang might not have been as flashy a role as Joong-won, or even previous Hong sisters heroines like Miho, Go Mi-nam etc., but I do think she’s more believable and less of a caricature than many of their previous heroines. And of course, it brought us the revelation that So Ji-sub is insanely enjoyable in rom-com and his hands are too sexy to be allowed, especially when they’re on her (I still remember the moment from the still you have for the review, my heart actually skipped several beats when he pulled her hand off his face only to place it over his heart).

    • 43.1 pogo

      oh, and I love Two Weeks to death, but I do agree that it started out with the potential to be truly great – as in, epic, genre-defining, cult-hit great – and ended up merely very good. Still, it is good. And this and School 2013 will always be dramas I love for placing non-romantic relationships at their heart, and doing it so well- bromance in S2013, the cutest ever daddy-daughter pairing here.

    • 43.2 pogo

      oh, and re: GFB, this:

      They delivered heartfelt performances for characters that ultimately fell by the wayside, which was the biggest tragedy of all.

      I’m glad to see those two actors getting some love for a job done excellently, Lee Yubi and Choi Jin-hyuk are the main reasons why I don’t regret investing emotionally in that show at the beginning (and also Yoo Yoon-seok). Also, since we got Chilbongie out of YYS after this, is it too much to hope for that CJH and LYB get equally good roles after this? Especially her – she impressed the hell out of me but needs another role/lead status, stat.

      • 43.2.1 pogo

        oh, and another thing GFB suffered from, which ultimately led to its crappy ending: – shaky worldbuilding.

        That was evident almost from episode 2, but when your only way of dropping info about your world is via Exposition Monk (and it is never made clear why he gets to set/communicate the rules), all the pretty shots and blue lights in the world won’t make up for it.

  44. 44 CFLH

    this may seem out of the blue…but where’s kaedejun?

  45. 45 Yasmin

    It starts with an N and rhymes with “potty”

    I dont know why I laughed when I read that. Mainly because reading “potty” and “naughty” in my (english) accent they do not rhyme at all lol. Sometimes I forget that we all come from different places!

    Great review as always..it really is Christmas when these end of year reviews come out!

  46. 46 koreandramalover / kay

    Hahahaha!!! Girlfriday!!

    I died laughing at your dialogue between you and Show on Mirae’s Choice!! Hahaha!!!

    It perfectly reflected my total exasperation with Mirae’s Choice’s ending!!! Hahahaha!!! I am still dying…of laughter…hahahaha!!

    Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to pen down your thoughts on the dramas because I absolutely agree with everything you said about the dramas that I have watched and allowed me the chance to know a lot about the dramas that I did not get to watch – and helped me to decide if I should watch them or not.

    Thank you so much for your witty and hilarious comments, thoughts and feelings that always make me laugh my head off!

    Hope you and Javabeans will enjoy the festive period and stay healthy and be happy always!

    God bless!

  47. 47 John


    Thank you for all the hard work.

    I’ll have to check out Empire of Gold.
    The stick figure recap for Level 7 is precious.

  48. 48 korfan

    Thank you for this review, girlfriday!

    Although I didn’t watch Mirae’s Choice, I do have to say that your conversation with SHOW is hilarious!

    The stick figures! …… *laughing*

    IHYV, Master’s Sun, Empire of Gold, Two Weeks …… I enjoyed them also!

    Once again, thank you for this and all you do!

  49. 49 messy

    honestly i love ihyv a lot… maybe 100% i couldn’t believe that my issue about age gap just puff into tiny pieces. the story is amazing its one of the best dramas that i ever watched. I’m telling you that i watch asian dramas for almost a decade. it seems so fresh and pure, and how soo ha look at hye sung it seems so true, like he was really head over heals. i know that the law part is the weakest of this series but it doesn’t hurt the show. the good synergy of each character compliment the story it self. so for those who still havibg second thoughts on watching this, try it you will surely be on cloudnine after 1 hour of watching.

  50. 50 Enz

    How you felt about monstar is how i feel about school 2013. I just could not connect at all with the students and the angst seemed way overblown.

    I certainly could not appreciate LJS nor KWB in school but was really surprised at the depth of LJS’s work in IHYV. And KWB was good in Heirs, although i felt his eyebrows overacted in the beginning.

    The end of the year hopefully brings us the crack dramas we were waiting all year for.

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