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Stocking stuffers for the drama addict [Year in Review, Part 2]

If you’re anything like me, then you’re probably wondering to yourself, How is it December already? It really does feel like this year flew past in the blink of an eye, and I’m already up to my eyes in holiday cards that have yet to be sent out. So if you’ve been procrastinating on that Christmas shopping like I do every year, and have found yourself in a rut about what to get for that special someone, then don’t you worry—I’ve got you covered this year.

You see, I’ve compiled a list of stocking stuffer ideas for all the different genres in dramaland, so I’m sure you’ll find something on this list that will be perfect for any kind of drama-loving recipient. See, I did all the hard work for you!

 
SONG OF THE DAY

Lee Tae-min – “발걸음 (Footsteps)” for the Prime Minister and I OST [ Download ]

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FOR THE ROMANTIC

Prime Minister and I

There’s no better way to start off the year than with a man experienced in love—why he has three kids to show for it. Being married to the second most powerful man in the country is bound to come with its own struggles and expectations to portray oneself as a dignified wife. But that would be the furthest thing to describe Da-jung, who came and rocked this ship.

Prime Minister and I taught us that it was possible to revive old-school drama tropes, injecting new life into contract marriages and cohabitation hijinks. As for the coupling, I’d initially worried that the real-life age gap would be an issue, and one that would leave me feeling uncomfortable (a twenty-year difference), but the show managed to prove me wrong right from the get-go. And once the romance got started, boy did it—who knew that reading from a book would be so sexy?

I’ll admit that the raw appeal had everything to do with Lee Beom-soo, who carried Yul off the page and into my heart. His character development alone is what makes this show a worthy watch, starting from his strict parenting ways to simply learning how to be a father to his kids. Indeed, it was the family aspect in this show with three adorable kids (and their patriotic names) that made this show an even more delightful gem. Keeping a familial focus was ultimately what made this drama shine, because what good is political success when your kids don’t ever get to see you and know you as Dad?

And that change had everything to do with the new member of the household. This was the first project that left me with the impression that Yoon-ah could hold her own and next to a veteran actor. What I loved most about our leading couple was that their love story was one bred of mutual respect, consideration, and gratitude for one another, qualities you don’t often get to see in dramaland.

It’s a pity then that what started off as a sizzling-hot and meaningful romance quickly spiraled downwards when the dramatic contractions of the Past stepped into the picture. Not only did our leading couple suffer, but so did the newish family unit, much to my grumbling. But despite the lukewarm ending, Yul remains as one character who warms my heart and makes it aflutter at the same time.

Stocking Stuffer: A copy of One Thousand and One Nights to fall asleep to every night with one’s Scheherazade.

 

You From Another Star

It just occurred to me that by the time of this writing, You From Another Star would have premiered just over a year ago. How time surely flies. For a show that sparked buzz well into 2014, inspired numerous catchphrases, and revived Jeon Ji-hyun’s career, I actually recall very little of it. I do, however, vividly remember that I enjoyed watching it at the time and followed along with the easter eggs of meta-humor.

I admit that I was skeptical of the paranormal take prior to the show’s premiere, but as it turns out, the alien falling in love characterization is no different than any other story of a supernatural falling for a human. I thoroughly enjoyed his stubbornness in tradition which made the ageless extra-terrestrial speak like a cranky old coot. His decades-long friendship with a colleague was one of the most heart-warming moments of the show, as well as the small but hilarious E.T. exchanges with the movie star’s little brother.

I’m sure I’m not the only when I say that I’d been looking forward to seeing Kim Soo-hyun and Jeon Ji-hyun paired together onscreen ever since they both appeared in the movie The Thieves. So it should come as no surprise that their chemistry here is electrifying and entertaining, if that screencap above didn’t tell you that already. Nothing screams sexual tension like the health risk of swapping spit for our resident Do Manager, and nothing is quite as satisfying to see him think to himself, Augh, the hell with it, and kiss the one he loves anyway.

Stocking Stuffer: A telescope to stargaze at night together along with some chocolate milk. Only one blanket, though. Sawwry.

 

Fated To Love You

If politicians and aliens aren’t your type of suitor, then never fear—there’s always your standard rom-com chaebol who touts a long lineage of men who are all spitting images of one another. So you’ll never have to worry about what your son will look like when he gets older. Just watch out for the genetic disease that could claim his life at a relatively early age, as it did with his ancestors.

The best way to approach Fated To Love You would be to draw a line right down the middle—while the first half is what the best rom-com fairytales are made of, the second half is like a lethargic snail dragging itself to the finish line. You can blame Gun for setting the unbelievably high bar for suitors everywhere when it comes to the wooing and romance department. Because how can you not love a man who tells a woman he barely knows that she’s worth something and has something to offer in this world?

In a way, Fated is Jang Hyuk’s one-man show, and his full commitment to the over-the-top absurdity in Gun’s character is what made me love him all the more. It was evident that the actor was having so much fun with the role, and his enjoyment became our amusement. But that isn’t to say that his leading lady faded into the background. Jang Nara breathed life into our meek heroine and made us want to root for her as she built up her self-confidence and identity. And let me tell you that when these two were together, you could practically see sparks fly before your eyes, and I ate up every cavity-inducing sweet second of it.

It’s practically criminal that the second half fell into such a deep and dark melancholy well it had so much trouble recovering from. Because there was so much emphasis on our main couple, it was as if nothing else mattered when they weren’t together. And while every couple goes through bumps in the road, none were as head-scratching and frustrating to sit through than with this show. When we were once again rewarded with happy unicorns and rainbows, the scar may have disappeared but the inner pain still remained like crazy glue.

Stocking Stuffer: A care package filled with a Post-It, a heart-shaped lollipop, and a lucky chip. Romantic suitor not included.

 

Marriage Not Dating

Even though I finished Marriage Not Dating not too long ago, my brain still associates its bright, vivid colors, silly characters, and a refreshingly breezy tone with summer.

I initially tuned in to watch Yeon Woo-jin spearhead his first drama as the romantic hero—for years, I’d wondered why such a talented actor would be relegated to second lead roles (Arang and the Magistrate, When A Man Loves), but better late than never I say. And for the next sixteen hours, we watched him as the young, successful doctor who defied his family’s wishes (well, his mother’s) of him getting hitched by introducing them to a woman they would surely dislike.

Little did he know that no one would be more well-suited for him than our heroine (Han Groo), a loud and nosy, yet well-meaning woman who wanted nothing more than to get married. I enjoyed watching these two on my screen, as their bickering relationship blossomed into romance. Then second lead Jung Jin-woon was also a worthy contender for her heart in his own right as someone who could make a girl feel pretty special.

As cute as these three were, other character relationships on the secondary and tertiary levels were far more difficult to sit through—some were silly, yet entertaining whereas others were wildly unreasonable. As for the show itself, I initially welcomed the expectation of the cold open vs. reality within the hour format, but that clever directing and use of writing quickly turned into wariness and irritation when the opening deceived our eyes.

Still, it’s the overall humor within Marriage Not Dating that will have me reach for this show on a rainy day. I can always count on this rom-com to make me giggle and uplift my spirits, which puts it in good standing in my book.

Stocking Stuffer: 10 boxes of fried chicken each time to catch a glimpse of your crush.

 

FOR THE HISTORY BUFF

Empress Ki

Empress Ki will always remain in my memory as the first 50 (or so) episode sageuk I’ve ever watched from start to finish. My previously track record is riddled with lengthy historicals I eventually dropped somewhere by the midway point, mostly due to a show’s long-running broadcast period (Dong Yi) or losing a maliciously evil character I loved to watch onscreen (Queen Seon-deok). So for all of you who watch those 100+ episode daily dramas, I tip my hat to you. That’s serious commitment right there.

So what pulled me into this show was the backdrop of a rich and fantastical world filled with intriguing characters dressed in colorful attire and regalia. My eyes were initially drawn in, and soon I found myself immersed in a story of one Goryeo-born woman (Ha Ji-won) ascending to power and kicking a few butts along the way. Fearless, cunning, and ambitious, Seung-nyang could command the attention of a few good man or the entire court. Oh, and she’d leave a few of your rulers in the dust with her accurate shot.

One quality I was pleasantly surprised by was just how funny this series was; its tiny notes of humor often had me in stitches. What’s more is that the laughs stuck around for a good long while, so when the drama pushed its narrative to the extreme when the young and playful emperor who feared power spiraled into madness (and… still feared power) and we were left to guess what member of court wanted to oust Seung-nyang out of the palace this week, the show fell into the compulsive watch category. I kept pushing that “Play Next” button, because hell if this show was crazy, I needed to know what happened next, goddamnit.

While the romance between our heroine and her two men was prominent, I found myself more invested in the allies she built around her, the loyal men who would do practically anything in the name of their allegiance to her. Furthermore, I enjoyed watching Seung-nyang outsmart her enemies, left impressed by the reveal each and every time. And half the fun was following the behind-the-scenes Instagram posts taken from the drama set. So while Ki could be outlandish and outrageous at times, particularly in the latter course of its run, I can’t deny that it was one helluva ride.

Stocking Stuffer: A quiver of baby arrows to take out any enemy in your path to badassery.

 

Three Musketeers

No matter how many times the tale of the Three Musketeers is retold, I always seem to enjoy the end product. So when tvN sought to turn this classic Dumas tale into a fusion sageuk set in Joseon times, my first thought was, Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before?

We were promised a swashbuckling adventure, but what I didn’t expect was its cheeky humor, usually delivered in a droll tone by Lee Jin-wook. I can’t say that I always caught the joke, since, like the other characters in this dramaverse, I often had no idea whether he was being serious or not. Thankfully, there were plenty of other kinds of comic relief moments and meta-references (like the modern day Kpop songs as background music played on the gayageum) to keep us entertained as well.

As for the story itself, Three Musketeers is a respectable example of an adaptation while incorporating unique elements to set itself apart. There were times when certain plot points were recycled or didn’t accurately reflect palace customs for the times—the former resulted in a few characters that long overstayed their welcome and the latter in character decisions and behavior that wouldn’t readily happen in court. Yet there were more details that the show sought to get right than be wrong, like actors speaking in the Manchu language or making action sequences look pretty darn cool.

For a show that touted a high production value, the Three Musketeers world felt surprisingly constrained, especially in the latter course of the show’s run. Perhaps the lack of bombastic success cable network tvN ultimately had a hand in cutting the show’s budget. It’s also a pity that while I liked all of our Musketeers in turn, they spent so little time together that it almost felt like the Musketeers title was merely nominal. But let’s look on the bright side: Jung Yong-hwa can handle historicals shows now. I’d say that’s a win.

Stocking Stuffer: A new horse that will cut your travel time to Hanyang in half.

 

FOR THE REVENGE-SEEKER

Full Sun

Full Sun OST – “죄 (Sin)” sung by V.O.S. [ Download ]

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To be quite honest, I still hold fond memories of Full Sun, a traditional melodrama of one wronged hero seeking vengeance against those who framed him and ruined his life, only to fall prey to one thing: love. What can I say? The heart wants it wants.

Our hero in Se-ro is the very definition of an average guy who found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. And while what follows may be similar to your everyday revenge drama, it’s the acting that sets this one apart from the others. Be it playfulness, restraint, rage, or sorrow, Yoon Kye-sang kept knocking it out of the park in each episode; I daresay the actor has one of the most expressive eyes in all of dramaland. Not to say his fellow actors didn’t pull their weight—in truth, his hyung and frenemy in Kang-jae (Jo Jin-woong) may be one of my favorite characters this year. A constant enigma for the majority of the series, you never quite knew where his loyalties lay, and his confrontations with our hero was both heart-tugging and heart-wrenching at the same time.

As for the romance, I recall that because of numerous tragic and awful events in our hero’s life, I ardently wished for his happiness. Thus I ended up paying far more attention to their growing love story rather than watching a convoluted revenge plan unfold against a baddie who somehow could destroy entire corporations by opening up his secret vault, but couldn’t track down the one guy he framed. I also enjoyed that our heroine in Young-won (Han Ji-hye) wasn’t a wallflower once the truth came to light.

Even when the show hit abysmal ratings and even set records in that camp (think in the 2-3% range), I appreciated that the actors never let up in their performances to the very bitter end. And if the ending is any indication, there really can be a silver lining beyond the clouds.

Stocking Stuffer: A silver bracelet from your first love or a revolver for when things go south or a whistle to confess your feelings. I recommend the whistle.

 

Golden Cross

When I heard the premise for Golden Cross—a hero seeking justice and revenge against a hush-hush organization that destroyed his family only to stumble upon a larger conspiracy at play—I was all in. Kim Kang-woo in a story that sounds dramatic, suspenseful, and venge-tastic? Yes, please, and thank you.

There was promise at the start, because there was something so human about our hero desperately trying to break through an intangible brick wall of corruption and elite power. His sense of righteousness seemed to hold little weight in a world where money talks, and I so wanted to see him beat his enemies and ultimately have justice prevail. Although the small developments each week kept me engaged at the time, I quickly found myself getting impatient waiting for the World’s Slowest Revenge to finally get rarin’ to go.

It wouldn’t be until the show’s third act that Golden Cross would pick up the pace. The opinion on the narrative twist is split depending on who you ask, but you can count me among those in favor. It was at that point that we could see the full range in our cast’s acting capabilities, and also the moment when it became evident that perhaps the show didn’t have enough story to occupy 20 episodes after all.

What a pity then for the resident baddies in this dramaverse as well. I’d never been so unafraid of a secret organization that controls so much of the nation’s trade and economy and yet does so little. Their presence remained mostly elusive, and the two members we actually did see were unimpressive and ineffectual, although oddly amusing in the times they would run around like headless chickens. One would think that an elusive organization would pick better recruits to carry out their evildoings.

But what Golden Cross never forgot was to drive home the influence of power, greed, and corruption in the nature of man. The conviction in these desires can test and sometimes change one’s character, or simply expose their weak willpower and resolve.

Stocking Stuffer: A Golden Cross entry card because it gives you access up a restricted elevator, and… er, yeah, that’s about it.

 

Triangle

Every time I think of Triangle, the first thing that pops into my mind is how I wished to put this show out of its own misery while it was still on the airwaves. There was never a need for this show to be 24 episodes, let alone the 26 it ended up getting.

You can say that I have a lot of pity for Triangle because while the narrative was a slow burn in the first dozen or so episodes, the drama was certainly building up and exploring the lives of our three Jang brothers. Each of them had an objective, be it a dream to become a world poker champion or to achieve vengeance or just to win a girl’s heart. I waited in angst at how the brothers would target and attack one another without knowing the truth about the literal shared blood flowing in their veins. The drama called for much patience, and I was willing to give it—as long as it meant getting a meaningful brotherly reunion and perhaps a joint effort in a revenge scheme later on.

The thinly-stretched narrative that could barely tell its own story suffered even more once the two-episode extension was announced. Both story arcs and characters were altered to fit the change—sometimes allowing some actors like Jaejoong to triumphantly rise to the occasion and keep the show afloat, along with his no-nonsense love interest Baek Jin-hee (the two shared a delightful, everyday kind of romance). Conversely, it also flattened the performances of veteran actors like Lee Beom-soo and his love interest, the new Doctors Without Borders Shin-hye (Oh Yeon-seo), with whom he shared the oddest, lifeless kind of relationship.

And for a show that was originally intended to be three brothers hell-bent on revenge, we were shown different groups of characters in countless conference room sequences vocalizing each step of the scamming process instead. Even our ineffectual baddies were too lazy to deal with the brothers themselves, outsourcing their constant death threats to whomever they wished to off in the moment.

In retrospect, it’s a bit sad to hear that the production team had different intentions for the show and its character developments at the outset, only to later change its narrative course mostly due to external factors. Indeed Triangle wasn’t without its compelling moments, and yet, it could have been such an epic tale if it was able to tell the story it wanted to tell.

Stocking Stuffer: A copy of the DSM-V for the psychiatrist/girlfriend/drinking buddy/hypnotherapist/detective-for-a-day you know.

 

FOR THE WANNABE DOCTOR

Doctor Stranger

Even over half a year later, no show this year has been a bizarre a watch as Doctor Stranger. Its attempt at every-genre-but-the-kitchen-sink should have been my first clue, but surely a spy-medical-melodrama-romance-action-political could stand its own ground if executed well, right?

And by all counts, the series certainly achieved that at first, successfully making us question the already blurred boundaries of medical ethics when it came to saving a life. Our hero was dragged into the darkest of places, caught in a virtually impossible moral dilemma. His life in the North hinted at the horrific reality that would make anyone go mad, let alone jaded about life. So it was jarring to jump to a time where he was already well-adjusted to life south of the 38th parallel and working at the nation’s best hospital, where he clearly knew more than any of the medical professionals there.

His genius, however, turned out to be at-will at best, as our hero tapped into his almost-superpower whenever the script called to save whichever patient was on the table. I wouldn’t be able to name all the maddening medical and ethical decisions that were made over the course of the show, but in the times when the medical component was done right, they were compelling and noteworthy.

It was evident that our hero had a one-track mindset when it came to finding the love of his life, which was both romantic and exasperating. Everything else faded from view when it came to Jae-hee, be it food and sleep to dying patients. The suspicious circumstances of her disappearance was a big mystery, especially when a doppelganger drove our hero (and myself) completely batty. It was enough for our hero to engage in a never-ending hamster wheel of an all-too important surgical competition against his metaphor-loving rival orchestrated by big wigs who changed the rules at their whim.

Still, I could see that Lee Jong-seok invested himself into Hoon’s character at all times, frizzy perm notwithstanding. His performance was a standout, but perhaps that’s also because it often felt like he was the only one in the bunch with a human heart and a working brain. And while they say that history tends to repeat itself, it’s honestly a totally surreal experience to watch past events play out in the present the exact same way. Maybe the show wanted to remind us of what we might have forgotten. Or maybe it was its version of literally book-ending an absurdly ridiculous watch. And I, for one, am okay with never knowing that answer.

Stocking Stuffer: A 500 won coin to pay for the surgery to erase this drama from memory.

 

It’s Okay, It’s Love

If I were to describe It’s Okay, It’s Love to someone who has never seen it before (which, chances are, might be very slim by now), I’d tell them this: that this show was the attempt at romantic comedy that also sought to shed light upon a controversial topic wrapped up in very pretty packaging.

And it is so very pretty. We probably have PD Kim Kyu-tae to thank for that, since the camera flattered anyone on the other end of the lens. So you can say that It’s Okay, It’s Love is a treat for the eyes. Furthermore, the show offered more lighthearted fare compared to the director and writer duo’s previous melodramatic projects (That Winter, The Wind Blows, Padam, Padam)—whenever it wasn’t tackling more serious issues of mental health, that is.

Speaking of which, I know that it would be difficult for any one show to fully break down the stigma that surrounds psychological issues and mental illnesses in Korea. And yet, I can say that It’s Okay, It’s Love did an effective job of having its characters speak openly about each other’s emotional and psychological struggles rather than ignoring them like an elephant in the room. To that end, I wish that the show explored a wider range of psychological subject matter rather than just restricting itself to a Freudian school of thought, since the scope of psychological topics is so varied.

As for the show itself, I felt more like a voyeur than a viewer, watching characters engage in behaviors and habits I couldn’t find a connection with. Between our leading couple, the writing made it far easier to resonate with our writer hero Jae-yeol, whose raw vulnerability could be felt through a commanding performance by Jo In-sung. I wish I could say the same of our heroine in Hae-soo, who to her credit, is a better psychiatrist than Triangle’s Shin-hye. Writer Noh Hee-kyung’s heroines are usually the weaker link in a pairing when it comes to fleshed-out characters, and I’d probably like Hae-soo’s character a lot less if it was anyone else but Gong Hyo-jin, who did her best to try and make her likable, bless her heart.

If I had one last wish for this show, it’s that I wish that It’s Okay had fully committed to its more serious scenes, rather than pull back at the last moment. I understood that the show didn’t want to be serious and dreary all the time, and yet it came across as the show being too fearful of going all the way. There are those who didn’t mind the cheerful insertions, but I always found the drama to be a better watch whenever it fully committed to its poignant and undoubtedly compelling moments.

But if I have to watch another hero battling multiple personalities again and come thhhiiiss close to dating his shrink again, it’ll be too soon— … wait a minute.

Stocking Stuffer: A handful of tomatoes to throw at each other because it’s fun. Or something.

 

FOR THE GOOD OL’ FISTICUFFS

Age of Feeling

Age of Feeling OST – “길 (The Road) “ sung by Rhosy [ Download ]

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I can only remember Age of Feeling in broad strokes, in that I recall a hero who jumped trains, got into brawls for money (or love or brotherhood or sometimes just plain bad luck), but I had no idea what he actually wanted out of life. You might be wondering to yourself how someone could watch 24 episodes of a show questioning what Jung-tae’s goals in life are, and let me tell you that twenty-four hours later, I still don’t know what those are.

In truth, the drama had a promising start, pulling its viewers into a dark and turbulent time period that was simply fascinating. Yet I should have known that the drama was coming apart at the seams when some of my favorite characters mysteriously disappeared off-screen (and sometimes re-appeared) and this end goal of leading a gang and overtaking a city dwindled into a hero being dragged around like a rag doll between various gangs who all wanted a piece of him. And somehow everyone in this dramaverse knew more about our hero’s father than Jung-tae himself.

At its best, this drama gave us some awesome fighting sequences and tension-filled character relationships; even with the writer switch midway through the series, there was a short-lived upswing in the narrative. And yet at its worst, getting through the hour felt like grinding teeth, in constant frustration and confusion at the ever-looming question of what, and more importantly, why anything anyone wanted was important. That main concern superseded other logical details, which seemed minor in comparison—like how people could magically cross country borders in seemingly short periods of time or how quickly people could master new fighting skills.

Not all was lost, however, because while the show cut down its cast list significantly, Age of Feeling still introduced us to awesome characters who were literally too cool for school (see: Aoki (Yoon Hyun-min), Mo Il-hwa (Song Jae-rim), and Jae-hwa (Kim Sung-oh). Their appearances often outweighed the negatives, and their minor roles are still memorable to this day—these were the guys that inspired a generation.

Stocking Stuffer: A hat you might only wear once. For the poster shoot. And maybe the finale.

 

Bad Guys

It’s a great feeling when a show you looked forward to for months delivers on your expectations and more. Bad Guys had my heart from the start, because how much more badass can you get than a rugged detective that recruits three jailbirds to take on even more dangerous criminals out there?

Let me start by saying that this show is not for the squeamish—the violence and gore factor are sometimes on par with other OCN shows of similar genres. Still, I wouldn’t let that deter you from watching this show because Bad Guys is rooted in a dark world, filled with flawed characters you’ll want to root for each week. Each of these guys have their own dark stories to tell, and have their own skillsets to bring to the table. And if you can believe it, they make a pretty good team… whenever they’re not at each other’s throats.

With just 11 episodes at its disposal, what this show never wasted was time, as it kept the story moving steadily with each passing episode. In fact, I was impressed at how much ground would be covered in just one episode, and at how there always seemed to be more to discover. It was apparent that the overall mystery had to be well-thought-out or risk sacrificing the execution, not that the drama had anything to worry about with weeks or months of buffer time between filming and airdate. And yet for a narrative that incorporated so many minuscule details so cleverly into the case of the week, the integral clues for the overarching mystery felt clunky and misleading in comparison. I began to doubt what I was being shown on my screen, second-guessing myself on things that I believed to be true.

But Bad Guys was never afraid to take on mature content in its crime cases, and have its characters seriously question the integrity of the law they supposedly abide by. If there’s anything that this show has taught me is that I should never judge a book by its cover. Trying to make the world a better place is a lot easier said than done, and here’s to hoping that this show gets future chances to take a stab at it.

Stocking Stuffer: Gold brass knuckles, because that’s the only thing missing from this fighter’s utility belt.

 

FOR THE THRILL-SEEKER

God’s Gift

Oh God’s Gift, what you could’ve been. If there’s one lesson that this drama has taught me is that even the best of shows can ultimately disappoint. Even now, I mourn at the loss of my sixteen hours I devoted to this show.

But before this review turns into a gloomfest, God’s Gift did manage to do a lot of things right: a riveting murder mystery at the start, along with a desperate mother who would do anything to recover her child and hunt down the one who ripped little Saet-byul away from her family forever. Once the paranormal elements came into the picture and the story grew more complex, it quickly became apparent that not everything was what they seemed. And while Fate can be a bitch sometimes, the series drilled in the lesson that human interference can only go so far—that some events in life that are meant to take place will find a way to happen.

That truth was both intriguing and frustrating at times, because then the twists had you thinking that perhaps humans did have control over their own fates, only to learn that that wasn’t always the case. Still, the hellish experience also proved to be an eye-opening one for Saet-byul’s mother, from which she learned truths not only about her family but also about herself. She and the best damn ajusshi out there (Jo Seung-woo) made a pitch-perfect team together, and their synchronous partnership is what still makes me pump my fist into the air to this day.

It’s a real damn shame that all it took was the final spurt to kick God’s Gift from its high pedestal. While it doesn’t take away from Lee Bo-young’s chilling performance in this role and the awesomeness that is Jo Seung-woo, AND that I sort-of-maybe understand the logic behind the ending in my head, there’s still a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Bah humbug.

Stocking Stuffer: Take this lump of coal and think about what you’ve done.

 

Liar Game

Ooh, Liar Game. How you defied my expectations of what an adaptation could be, and have set a high bar for adaptations to come. I was fortunate enough to have seen the Japanese version years ago, but I still wanted to come in with fresh eyes and treat this drama as a separate entity.

It would be easy to sift through the differences between the two live-action shows, but I’m of the belief that whether a drama is an original tale or an adaptation, it still needs to be an effective standalone show. Because if not, what would be the point? So in the case of Liar Game, I hoped that it would both preserve core elements that made fans love it in the first place as well as provide a fresh take that would best appease its current target demographic. And to that end, the show certainly succeeded in both objectives, though the opinion on the degree of the execution is divided depending on the viewer.

For myself, there was much more to appreciate than to voice complaint about. I loved that the setting of the Game was a reality show, which allowed the opportunity to scrutinize the behind-the-scenes machinations of the industry. Effective writing was what made the characters that inhabited this world so dark and alluring, like our human lie detector (and watchdog) Ha Woo-jin and the best damn villain this year in Kang Do-young.

Yet at the same time, it was the writing itself that exposed its own weaknesses. The games came with confusing rules that weren’t properly explained in a backdrop of even longer expositions. A part of me wish I could say that this was what allowed loopholes in the rounds, and yet I wouldn’t be entirely sure if something was a loophole or not because the rules were lost on me half the time.

Even then, the directing drew back to let the story play out, enhancing rather than obstructing the narrative to allow for a suspenseful and hella entertaining experience. Rarely does a show effectively tie up its loose ends and leave things open-ended for the unknown future, but that’s exactly what Liar Game did. Bravo, and encore.

Stocking Stuffer: Chestnuts roasted on a hellish spitfire.

 

CURRENTLY AIRING

Modern Farmer

Aww, I really adore Modern Farmer. I’ll admit that I was highly skeptical at first because the show could really go either way—super zany and fun or highly irritating and obnoxious. And boy am I glad it’s the former.

It almost seems like the show’s mantra on humor is: Go big or go home. Admittedly, some of the crude toilet humor gets a pained expression out of me, but the overall silliness of the drama usually keeps me laughing throughout the hour. As a show that I can watch with half a brain, it’s plenty entertaining even if the story doesn’t develop that much from week to week. The reference humor is fun to point out, although as of now, nothing quite beats the callback to Age of Feeling for me.

What you may not expect from a wacky show like Modern Farmer is the heart it carries for such a small town. Each of our former idol boys hold different kinds of relationships with the villagers who take great pride in what they sow and reap; just watching how much work it takes to grow food makes me that more appreciative of the food we eat every day.

There are still a few more episodes until Modern Farmer wraps up at the time of this writing, but if it continues to deliver the emotional beats that stir my heart like they do now, then this drama really can become the Little Show That Could.

Stocking Stuffer: Cabbages… wait a minute. Okay, I got it—a cookbook of cabbage-related recipes. Hold the almonds, please.

 

Mr. Back

There’s something both familiar and charming about Mr. Back that has me looking forward to it every week. With so much talk and even more drama title switcharoos prior to its premiere, I was optimistically wary, and I’m so glad to chalk this show up as a pleasant surprise.

The show truly has Shin Ha-kyun to thank for becoming a hit in Korea; he does a superb job here of portraying both a Scrooge-like old man and an enthusiastic, youthful hero whose speech mannerisms and preferences are well beyond his years (looks-wise, anyway). The mythology behind the age-reversal is believable with set rules, even if those same rules are mostly shrouded in mystery. Furthermore, the paranormal element is adorably tied to the romance—let’s say it involves a meteorite and the only way for our hero to feel better is if the heroine is around.

While the story is fairly straightforward and the conflicts are conventional, it’s the character relationships that truly reign supreme. Even though our leading couple is pretty damn adorable together, it’s the estranged father-son relationship that tugs at my heart each week. Lee Joon does a fantastic job of playing a misunderstood rebellious child who just wanted to spend more time with Dad and make him proud. His character can be dim at times, but his well-meaning heart speaks volumes, and I get this urge to reach into my screen and give him a hug.

Not to say that our heroine doesn’t pull her weight. As always Jang Nara brings an extra lovable sweetness to a character that could be easily dull on paper. I love that Ha-soo wears her heart on her sleeve and isn’t afraid to tell her old-fashioned boyfriend that she’s upset because he didn’t text her back quickly enough. But then smiles when his messages are full of typos, anyway. What man would travel the Milky Way to get to the brightest star in his sky?

Stocking Stuffer: An analogue watch with a trade-in coupon for the latest PPL smartphone on the market.

♥ ♦ ♥ ♦ ♥ ♦ ♥ ♦ ♥ ♦ ♥ ♦ ♥

THANKS TO:

First and foremost, to javabeans and girlfriday, who, for some reason, still let me ramble on year to year and feed my obsession for all things Korean entertainment-related. I’m grateful each and every day to be a part of this community, and I never forget that it’s all because they gave me a chance three years ago. Here’s to all the sleepless nights and the dark circles to prove it!

Also to HeadsNo2, who provides continuous encouragement and unconditional friendship. We survived another year together, and I’m sure that there will be plenty more joyous and wonderful years to come!

Last but not least, to each and every one of the Dramabeans readers, because believe you me when I say that I wouldn’t have made it to the end of 2014 if it weren’t for your dedication, patience, and the words you leave in the comment threads, or the tweets you send. This year has been a wild and fun ride with you all, and let’s make the next one count!

 
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First of all, ♥. But I think Liar Game's chestnuts would be way too big for the average stocking.

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Thank you... For your hard work an great reviews...

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Agreed with each and every word you said about Bad Guys. The other dramas were fine, but honestly, Bad Guys was the awesomest drama of the year. (And yes, I know awesomest is not a word. But it should be.) Thanks for the review!

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Oh, now I want to read it, but I haven't watched the show yet and I don't want to be spoilered :(

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Watch it ASAP! You will not regret it! :)

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Thank you Gummi. For your great recaps. You brought me out of lurkdom with your truly amazing (and gushingly happy) reviews of FTLY (act 1).
And I'm so impressed by your continuous recaps of Running Man.

I know recapping isn't easy, so once again, Thanks so much for all the hard work <3

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Yes, Gummi…heart felt thanks from me too. Especially on the…wait, is it going for the 5th year for the recap of RM? Thank you so very kamsa.

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Which reminds me, I still haven't watched the last episode of Prime Minister and I. I thought it aired last year. HAHA. Thanks so much gummi! We really appreciate all your recaps and all of you are awesome for finishing dramas that I myself would've already dropped. Merry Christmas!

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Thanks gummimochi!!
Shoutouts for you who review Empress Ki and Full Sun.. Bless your heart! Only few DB readers seem to watch the 2 shows...

Empress Ki: Your review may be the most positive one I ever encountered and the most positive when it comes to Seung Nyang. Seung Nyang and Baby Emperor all the way for my favorite OTP this year! Team TaNyang!
Same with you, it was the first 50 eps drama I've ever finished and I'm not sure if I want to watch one again. But EK makes impressive job to keep me glued, mainly because JCW! Even though the show went to crazyville in the 2/3 of the drama, I won't regret watching it. Instead, I really like to re-watch certain eps and scenes, esp the funny ones... LOL

Full Sun: Yoon Kye Sang! It's my first time watching him in anything and this guy deserves so much love. And for everyone, I highly recommend Full Sun as go-to revenge melodrama story. The story and the acting are really good! It's such a shame that the ratings really poor for this little gem.

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Check him out in 'who are you'. You'll thank me later:)

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that's when he popped onto my radar. but i've only seen his travel video to turkey after Who Are You... had to see his dimples again.

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Yes, I'd like to watch him in Who Are You.. Thank you!

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Ooh Go Ara is in that drama too!! I'll try Who are You sometime :) (Though lots of results on google showing up are from the 2013 Who are You show lol)

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Who Are You is good, really:) Unfortunately I cannot stand too much melo, so I had to give up on Full Sun. I tried, though, just because Yoon Kye Sang was in it.

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i did! i did! loved them both!
; )

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Empress Ki got me hooked too! I marathoned all 51 eps in like a week. I love rewatching the sceneswhere SN suffers (heh) or when she's being badass.
My OTP was SN-taltal though!

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i love empress ki too, the most interesting to me is Wang yo journey from prince who like to play around in ep 1 then grow become the wise king, love Wang yo so much, this role make me love Joo jin mo

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I don't suppose that few on DB watched Empress Ki. It was no thread for it so those who watched had no place to talk about it here. I didn't have the heart to watch the last 2 eps., and pretended it ended when the
Goryeo King went back to his country.

I loved Ha JW, but yes, Ji JW's performance as his char went from silly prince to seasoned king was a wonder to behold, and I'm a fan now. Loving him to death currently as Healer.

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Gummimochi's review is the most positive about Seung Nyang? Really? I always thought most people love her character, especially since HJW plays her.

And for some reason, I could never get on the Emperor ship. xD I just disliked how he was so weak-willed and I didn't feel like he matched with SN. At first I was rooting for Wang Yoo, but by the middle I was all for SN/TalTal LOL. I just wish the ending played out differently though...

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I looked forward to your year-end review and thanks for a blast!

There should be an award for frenemy of the year .... Yoon Kye Sang and Jo Jin Woong. Jo Jin Woong is awesome!

And another award for ahjusshi of the year ... Cho Seung Woo!

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Aww thanks gummimochi!

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Im loving Modern Farmer:)

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I really couldn't agree more with your comments! It's been an okay year for kdramas, but I've enjoyed it nonetheless :D

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Another reviews, it seems your taste is similar to mine.. I watched almost all dramas on your list... hehe

PMAI: Couldn't agree more. LBS is so awesome as PM Kwon Yul! Let's forget the ending and enjoy 1001 Nights book!

YFAS: Do Min Joon might be our most favourite alien on earth.. hehe

FTLY: Fated To Love Gun

Doctor Stranger: What did i watch? Why I spent 20hours of my life into this drama? Why Park Hoon why?

IOIL: I enjoy the romcom, not so much the doctoral procedure and the family tragedy stuff.

God's Gift: If we forget ep 16 entirely it could be a good drama. Not the best, but enjoyable thriller with fantastic chemistry between LBY and JSW.

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Gunmi's taste is similar to mine, as well. I find myself reading most, if not all of her recaps because I 'm attracted to the dramas she covers and I've watched and liked, most of the dramas she reviewed on her list.

Thanks Gummimonchi for your hard work recapping this year. Fighting! And Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you!

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My favorite shows this year were Empress Ki,one one my most favorite drama and indeed was very invested without missing any episode of the long run live...all of them shined...Marriage Not Dating,HihSchool King Of Savvy,and Bad Guys that recently ended

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me too, empress ki n the three musketeers make me addicted to watch the next episode soon

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Pinocchio and Liar Game were the two standard kdramas of the year, and amongst the greatest of all time.

The others either suck or only apply to a small and certain niche of people.

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No.

Age of Feeling and Surplus Princess are THE BEST DRAMAS OF 2014.

All dramas that don't have Song Jae-rim either suck or only apply to a small and certain niche of people.

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You used science to arrive at this judgement. I can tell.
And math.
How can you possibly be wrong?

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Another Song Jae Rim fan?(the OTHER being me). Okay I'm not so much a fan of Song Jae Rim but fan of Song Jae Rim PLUS Kim So Eun! <3

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I am Song Jae Rim fan.

Yes.

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Your name says what your comment truly is

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yeah I'm sure "hunter" applies to my comment too...

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Mary's answer was Rim, therefore, your argument is invalid.

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Thanks, gummi~

I ♥ you and your stocking stuffers. The one I'll keep for myself is the 500 won coin to pay to erase Dr. Stranger from my brain. It still saddens me that a show like Dr. Stranger did relatively well in the ratings and became so popular in China, while poor little Full Sun/Beyond the Clouds totally tanked.

Thanks for all your hard work and dedication~ Dramabeans wouldn't be the same without you!

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gummi! *hugs*

I hate that I can't watch without subs, because then I can't squee in time with you! T_____T

Thanks for the fun recaps (and for RM too). Hope you have an even better 2015!

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Damn I forgot to squee at your special mention of Mo Il-hwa because of that sweet note at the end of your post. ^___________^

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I am glad to see your posts. Dramabeans might not be a physical place, but is a beautiful family. Thanks for your efforts.

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"Hold the almonds"

Perfect.

Thank you for the reviews! I still have to see the end of Bad Guys so I'm holding off on reading that one but this was a great refresher for me of the past year.

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I squinted through that part too! Haha~

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I wasn't a big fan of It’s Okay, It’s Love

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Full Sun, Liar Game, and Bad Guys, are the three on this list I finished. (Well, I haven't read BG's episode 11 recap yet, as I post this.) And each were good in their own way. I loved them.

I've heard a lot of things about Empress Ki, most of it good, so maybe I'll give it a watch.

Thanks for the all the mini-reviews, Gummimochi! Keep up the good work!

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Thanks Gunmi, you covered most, if not all of my favorite dramas this year including low rated forgettables like Full Sun which was a really good show despite its dismal ratings, and Triangle; hyped up dramas like Inspiring Generation, Dr. Stranger and The Prime Minister and I, that didn't really deliver; mega hit You From A Star; prime time darlings like Fated to Love You, and It's OK It's Love; and cable favorites like The Three Musketeers, Bad Guys, Marriage not Dating, and Liar Game. I think I must have watched all the dramas on this list with the exception of Empress Ki, Golden Cross, and God's gift.

Overall 2014 wasn't a bad year for dramas, with some hits and misses, the same as every other year. It did produce some gems of dramas that I will treasure for a lifetime.

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Thanks gummimochi, for your stocking stuffers! I especially liked your write-up on It's Okay, It's Love. I felt the same voyeur/viewer conflict, and agree that it could have pushed the serious envelope a bit more without fear of scaring away viewers.

Is anyone going to review Secret Love Affair? I'm mid-way through it and am a bit embarrassed by how much I like it so far... Should I, given it's subject matter? The wider-angled takes are more movie-like (than drama), the performances intense, and the soundtrack immerses you into that world so fully, so that you start interpreting silences just like you imagine the actors are.

Since I haven't finished watching, I'm really hoping this doesn't go the way most dramas on adultery go...mainly proceeding with violent post-consummation discovery by hair-grabbing hysterical second leads, long spirals downward into wells of guilt, and the fizzling off into disgrace. Please please say it isn't so!

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Keep watching. Definitely in my top 3 for 2014.

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Whatever my fears may be, I'll still be watching. : )

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I watched it to the end, and I'm not ashamed to say it had a higher rating personally than many others I watched. :-)

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Go and finish it. You can trust the whole team. And once you finished it, go and check out this wonderful blog:

http://pianoconversations.wordpress.com/

Hands down the best show of 2014.

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Just read your comment in part 1 and added a few more links.

(My comment is still awaiting moderation at the moment.)

Btw no harm in being repetetive about SLA. There are many others just like you! ;) :D

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I just finished watching episode 10, and it's KILLING me... How is it that a small stolen moment on a sofa can be soooooooo incredibly romantic and tragic at the same time? I'm embarrassed to be rooting for them, but ohmygod what a masterfully subtle performance. Those soft glances of Song-Jae just killed me.

I typically get into this cringing paralytic mode in almost all dramas/novels about illicit affairs, just about when their worlds come crashing down...but my fear this time is in WAY greater proportions. I've resolved to pace myself, fingers determinedly crossed, and--like you suggest, Newbie--place my faith in the team to deliver the (ugly?) resolution in a non-characteristic, balanced, liberating way.

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You're right. You have to savor this show like a good wine. Don't hurry. But please imagine the torture during live watch. We had NO choice, but HAD to wait. During the wait we re-watched every episode endless times and always found something new to analyze or interpret.

It was tough and painful and oh so sweet at the same time. No other show ever managed to get my interest (and heart and brain) like this one. So many subtle things you could miss in the blink of an eye.

I suddenly feel the urge to re-watch it. :D

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I agree with Newbie. I was obsessed to the point of Shazamming the music, just so I could listen to it during the week between the episodes. It definitely expanded my classical listening, way past Rachmaninoff. :-)

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I just checked 'Shazamming' out in the Urban Dictionary. Oooookay..... ;)

Beanfan - Would love to read your reaction to the last episode and the whole show once you finished it. Maybe over at Miss Koala's ep 16 recap?

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Okay, yes!! I'm brimming over with the need to talk about this show, about the last episode, about the first episode (which I rewatched last night, as soon as I finished the show and watched the ending again)... Where is Miss Koala's site??

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Great! Miss Koala is Koalasplayground. The link to her recaps is among the links I gave you in part 1. :) But I'm sure, if you just google Miss Koala and SLA recaps you'll find the way, too. :)

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Newbie -

In re: 21.2.1.1.3

Returning to this thread and seeing your comment, I also looked up that word in Urban Dictionary. After alternately laughing my butt off and blushing, I decided to correct my entry.

What I mean was using the music search app "Shazam" to find the music used for the background sound during SLA. I don't know if they have it where you are. A similar one is "SoundHound"; you activate it while a song is playing, and the app 'listens' and attempts to match the song to its music banks.

Despite the sensual thread that ran through the entire production of the show, in my case, Urban Dictionary is flat out wrong. Sorry for any misunderstanding. :-D

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Thanks for the link! I'll be sure to visit the blog when I finish the series, which will be soon, though I'm deliberately slowing myself down now. You mentioned adding links...in Part 1?

Thx again!

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You're welcome.

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Yes keep watching SLA. You won't regret it!

Keep hearing good things about Empress Ki and Liar Game. Will have to check those out.

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Oh, and btw, your writeup on Empress Ki has convinced me to watch it again. : ) I'm only hoping it isn't the sort of drama where the heroine wins every struggle all the time, without fail.

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Oh you don't have to worry about that... without giving away too much of the storyline, she's not quite Little Miss Perfect Nyangie all the time.

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You have to watch it... The villains and heroes/heroine all have time to shine. The heroine is also not your usual heroine.. hehe
Highly recommended for anyone. My best friend marathoned in 2 days and instantly fall in love even when she doesn't like sageuk.

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That's a lot of episodes to marathon in 2 days... did he/she finish?

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I believe it is almost impossible to watch 50 hours in two days. But maybe Kantz' friend accomplished that impossible feat! :)

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Yes, yes.. Hard to accomplish such a feat unless the friend hit fast forward thru much of it. I hadn't realized it was quite so long.

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Gummi - I watched most of the ones you did. Luckily not any of God's Gift and only 5 or so of Dr. Stranger and only a peek at KHJ Fight Club till it was Shanghaied. Waiting for subs to finish BG so I haven't read your words on that one yet.

Agree with your assessments. I stopped Baek, but will go back with it's all done.

As far as 2015, I hope we get more chances for our pretty boys to show some grit. More Bad Boys and Gapdongs and Ten. Love the ones that keep me on the edge of my seat.

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You are wonderful, gummi. I didn't realize how similar we are in our drama preferences until now but you've covered almost every single drama I've watched this year. Love the stocking stuffers!

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oooh. now I have some good dramas to check out :> with all the love that Marriage Not Dating gets, this goes on my watchlist. thank you gummi for your review and recaps, especially for Bad Guys, which always tide us over while waiting for subtitles. May you always have the strength and humor to write awesomely :)

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Thanks!

discovery of love please!!

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Am I the only one who thought Doctor Stranger was so-bad-it's-good? Like I watched it to the end just for how hilariously out there it was. I guess it helped that I roped a friend into it (before it became apparent it was terrible) so we were laughing together.

And okay, let's be honest, I think I just really like Lee Jong-seok.

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Mmyeah I'm guilty of this too. From about Episode 10 or onwards I just kind of mindlessly sat there laughing as the show flailed about in its own ridiculousness. What an experience.

But I will take gummi's 500 won coin to surgically remove the entire experience from my memory.

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lol yes. I feel bad because it was my friend's first kdrama too, she didn't even know, she was just like "wow kdramas are so crazy"...

Lesson learned, vet dramas before recommending them >.> Now I'm making her watch City Hunter and Pinocchio.

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I thought the bride of the century is worth mentioning too. Both leads were great and the plot was interesting

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I recapped BotC just for LHK and the little white kitten. LOL.

Not really, but, yes, I thought the plot did pretty well until the last couple of WTH plot changes, and the lukewarm ending.

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I think of Bride of the Century as a deliciously sugar-coated junk food. It's addictive pleasure , but hardly nutritious or memorable.

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Yeah Triangle.......Jaejoong was really good (and why was his kiss with Baek Jin Hee not nominated for Best Kiss in end of year db polls? She kissed him back!!) ....but it was supposed to be a story of 3 brothers and instead became a story of random villain nonsense and casino plotting. Lee Beom Soo and Im Shi Wan were wasted talents.

Dr Stranger.......who cares about a drama that by the end was just endless Surgery Olympics? And all for the most expressionless girl in either of the two Koreas....thank god Lee Jong Seok, Kang Sora and Park Hae Jin found better dramas to star in so soon because I do not want to remember this as their work of 2014 even though they did well enough in their roles. Misaeng/Pinocchio/Bad Guys >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> this.

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Amen to them finding better dramas to star in and to erasing the stench of Dr. Stranger!

Kang Sora (Misaeng) :)
Lee Jong Seok (Pinocchio) :)
Park Hae Jin (Bad Guys) :)

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I love how exactly the people (LJS, PHJ, KSR) who deserved to have better projects for 2014, got them.

(and how Park Hae-jin and Kang Sora moved at basically lightning speed to book their next jobs while DS was still on, they knew it was a stinker........but even then, they managed to not suddenly require a load of time off in the middle of a live shoot, unlike a certain far less talented costar they had in DS)

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It's the holidays and I would normally just let this unnecessary jabbing slide, but seeing that it's you again, the same person who swore off that actors shouldn't capitalize offers in front of them immediately, it just makes me wonder after all, that the double-standard isn't because of the actors' gender, but, you simply don't like JSY. See, it's very fortunate that PHJ and KSR had offers which were appropriately spaced out, unlike JSY who had to take the the best of the opportunity presented to her when another actor backs out of a production in the most inoppurtune of times, which incidentally puts a stranglehold in her own schedule just as well. She replaced PMY, KSR, and HEJ respectively when they backed out, and it's by no coincidence that dramas overlapped, because each one had to secure their cast immediately, hence, her need to shoot concurrently during the last leg of her current ones.

Imagine if both Misaeng and Bad Guys were immediately offered to both KSR and PHJ during their filming of Dr. Stranger, and reevaluate why you're dissing JSY for something that she is hardly at fault of.

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So what if she doesn't like JSY for having poor acting skills and poor professionalism? JSY fans really do the most, you think other actresses never get offers that clash with their running dramas? Or that JSY is the only 20s actress in Korea, so it's "helping" the networks by doing replacements....ridiculous.

But the difference is that the others are professional and turn it down or manage their schedules better, there is "capitalising" and then there is leaving a drama in live shoot, which is an action that even hurt the career of much bigger stars (and she didnt even say the reason many netizens speculate on why JSY is allowed to repeatedly get away with this kind of behaviour).Or do you think she bears no responsibility for her schedules so should just be allowed to do whatever she wants with no criticism? Others work with the live shoot too but don't do things like this.

Also park Hae jin and KSR were in fact offered their dramas during DS filming, the news is here. They accepted their roles before it ended but even then never tried leaving DS to film or work on their new dramas before the end, because they at least have professionalism even if they were not DS leads. (sorry my English is not so good but I hope I was understood)

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@pigsnout

Overlapping shooting is not an uncommon practice, and in fact, you could see it in k-ent all the time. I've seen the same actors appear in dramas/variety shows that air simultaneously all the time. But nobody gets riled up because of the fact that these actors do it, because they were successful in managing their schedule in between commitments. The only thing that I could fault JSY (and that is a stretch because it doesn't matter how much control you think an actor has with their own schedules, the truth of the matter is it's their agencies who manages that, that's what they get paid for) is that she was unable to properly communicate the delay between SBS and KBS, at the time Dr. Stranger was shooting.

There was an *agreed* (and by agreed I mean both SBS and KBS agreed at a set of time to which each production would have JSY with them at those miniscule 2-3 days of *overlap* between two shows) upon schedule through which no fault of JSY, has not been upheld, when a delay happened on SBS's side necessitating her to stay overseas much longer. I fault her for failing to communicate this properly with KBS, and I fault her and her stupid publicist for making stupid excuses for it. However, on the grand scheme of this blown-out overlap brouhaha, I honestly find JSY hardly at fault still. And I say this with utmost sincerity as a detached observer.

Now going back to PHJ and KSR, it is VERY fortunate that the offers came and the NEED to shoot didn't come IMMEDIATELY during their shooting of DS. The hypothetical question remains: how would you react if the same offer were extended to both PHJ and KSR under the same circumstances that JSY had?

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@Unholy - I make no secret of the fact that I think she is a subpar actress and unprofessional with this repeated drama-hopping, and that applies to her no matter the time of year. Too bad if you're offended.

The way you paint it, she is entitled to all the lead roles she is offered, and somehow the poor helpless thing has NO CHOICE but to take them all because she is apparently the only actress in Korea, no matter how they risk clashing with her other projects, or how poorly it reflects on her as an actress that she can't stay the course of a drama to complete a role (and as for the 'replacement'....she's not doing charity work by "helping out" KBS or SBS, it's her own career). Her agency is a single person agency with just her, and has been known to blatantly lie about these matters before. I guess I'm just very sceptical of the idea her fans paint, that poor put-upon Jin Se-yeon bears no responsibility for her professional decisions, especially in this kind of setup.

And before you start on the whole "but other stars appear in multiple dramas at the same time too!" excuse, might I point out these are usually supporting players, who get a small fraction of the screen time (and nowhere near the money/prestige) that she would get as a drama's lead actress, and are required on set for much shorter times. I have never known of another lead actor, of either gender, deciding to hop off one show because of an offer from another drama the way JSY routinely does.

So the answer to your question of what I would expect Park Hae-jin and Kang Sora to do if the offers for Misaeng and Bad Guys came in the middle of DS filming is: act like professionals and finish the work they are currently doing, for the time that they are supposed to do it. I would be disappointed in them if they did otherwise.

And idk if this is news to you, but most actors do exactly that - JSY is not the only actress to end up with clashing offers or scheduling conflicts but unlike her, other young actors actually behave honorably and turn them down, or manage them better. Shim Eun-kyung initially rejected the role of k-Nodame because it clashed with her filming a movie, only accepting after the movie shoot was postponed and the role offered to her a second time. Lee Yubi turned down a role in School 2013 so she could complete work on Nice Guy, and she had only a small role in Nice Guy. Jung So-min initially turned down a movie this year because she had to complete work on Big Man. All three were relatively young/rookie actresses, turning down gigs that could have been very high-profile for them. I don't buy it for a second that professionalism is a luxury for JSY, not when other rookie actresses do better than her on that front.

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The compulsion for accepting the offer, as far as Dr. Stranger and JSY is concerned, is to me, contextual and unique for every case, that I'm apprehensive to compare it with other similarly young and rising stars and their decisions to decline accepting their own offers. As I've explained already above, the overlap is hardly an overlap considering it was only 2-3 days worth, and that said "conflict" with schedule is an avoidable incident, had SBS kept the promise on their end. I'm not aware of the details of the "conflicts" in schedule between the other stars that you have mentioned, but for the sake of argument, the said "conflicts" are perhaps less amenable and might require the actors to shoot for extended period between shows, which nullifies any chance of them accepting, if at all consider it. JSY's Dr. Stranger case only required her a few days off an otherwise already ending commitment, in which both production have found accord, to let her shoot. Unfortunately, it didn't play out the way it was intended. Does this make JSY or her company any less culpable? No, it's unprofessional to have failed meeting their commitments, and it's equally abhorring the manner that her PR decided to make excuses for it. It is NOT unprofessional nor unethical, however, that JSY decided to accept Dr. Stranger, under the premise she is only required to shoot 2-3 days away from IG, especially when both production found no objections with it either. That's a fair deal if you ask me.

PS: I also do not put too much credence when actors state "conflicts of schedule" as reasons to decline offers. That is like the universally polite way of declining in k-ent. In fact it's been rehashed so many times, that you sometimes wonder if all these productions are inept in calculating days before making an offer. Surely, they don't just make blind calls to actors with complete ignorance of their current commitments.

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And for other actors doing "comparative" actions such as JSY--Lee Dong Wok comes to mind. FORTUNATELY for him, the offer for Iron Man came right after Hotel King finished, but just like JSY, he had to do double duty to shoot a drama that would have otherwise delayed filming without securing its cast. And Lee Dong Wook was also filming a reality show in Roommates during that time too, and is still filming it right now. So in essence he had 2 commitments going on the duration of his filming for Hotel King and jumped right back with Iron Man, all the while filming for Roommates. I don't doubt now that he might have actual supernatural powers to pull off such act.

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@Unholy [email protected] just gave you 3 names of young actresses who put professional obligations to their dramas before their own greed for better projects and did not inconvenience their running dramas, and you choose to cherry pick what to believe and say JSY "context" makes it ok for her to do what she does and she has no responsibility for it, because it's all her agency or sbs or someone else's fault? and the other actresses according to you turned down their projects for other reasons and not just because maybe they want to complete one commitment before moving to another and actually had schedulung conflicts? This is not the first time she did it or even the second, it's the THIRD. What about her "context" makes it ok for her to be under the "compulsion" to take these overlapping jobs and even ones needing forwign shoots, in the middle of another? When she has a history of doing this in the middle of live shoots, when even 2-3 days off is crucial?

Your Lee Dong Wook example is not even accurate btw. Hotel King finished on 27 July, his casting in Iron Man wasn't announced till 8August here, and he doesn't appear much on roommate.......netizens speculated if he had a gambling problem to be working that much, but even he never overlapped his dramas. It's not "luck" as you claim. JSY is just a bad actress who does not even have the grace to try not to mess up her drama schedules, even people like Suzy who are much busier than her and equally bad at acting, don't do things like this.

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Here's another really busy actress hopping between dramas:

Shin So Yul

Sweet Secret: 2014-Nov-11 to present (lead)
Dodohara: 2014-Oct-27 to 2014-Nov-24 (lead)
Yoona's Street: 2014-May-19 to 2014-Nov-11

Talk about overlapping. No problem though.

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Oh wait I found another one.

Kim Ga Eun

Abiding Love Dandelion: 2014-Aug-25 to present (lead, 100 episodes daily drama)
Joseon Gunman: 2014-Jun-25 to 2014-Sep-04
Vampire Flower: 2014-Jul-02 (lead, 6 episode mobile drama)

Just like Shin So Yul she has a hundred episode DAILY drama. I would actually dare say that these actresses are perhaps BUSIER than more established actress that you have mentioned. You know, being small name actress and all, they have to work harder. These young girl right here even have Inspiring Generation earlier this year, but I didn't include it just because it ended airing April and perhaps not hardcore enough for you people with schedule fetish.

And do not UNDERESTIMATE side character gigs, because just like the main cast, these people had to be on standby for days on end to film their parts. And since they are SIDE characters, production prioritizes the main cast's scenes first. We could go on forever with this. Just because you are only aware of established popular actors and actors represented by big agencies, doesn't negate the existence of numerous actors with overlapping projects, who probably cannot afford to be choosy to begin with.

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@pigsnout @pogo

Even our favorite Shin Sung Rok is guilty of charge for hopping between dramas:

King's Face: 2014-Nov-19 to present
Liar Game: 2014-Oct-20 to 2014-Nov-25

But hey, it's SSR, who gives a damn?

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Jang Shin Young

Empire of Gold: 2013-Jul-01 to 2013-Sep-17 (lead)
Thorn Flower: 2013-Feb-04 to 2013-Aug-01 (lead, daily drama)

I'm on a roll.

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Jin Se Yeon
My Daughter My Flower: Nov 14 2011 to May 18 2012
Bridal Mask: May 30 2012 to Sep 62012*
Five Fingers: Aug 12 2012 to Nov 25 2012 (Ham Eun Jung dropped of the show Aug, 21 2012)*
Inspiring Generation: Jan 15 2013 to Apr 3 2014
Dr. Stranger: May 5 2014 to Jul 8 2014

Lee Dong Wook
Hotel King: Apr, 5 2014 to Jul, 27 2014
Blade Man: Sep, 10 2014 to Nov, 13 2014

From just a simple observation of the above dates, one can come up with a simple conclusion that the ONLY time there was an overlap in show times were sometime between August 23 2012 (when she began filming for FF) to Sep 6 2012 as far as JSY is concerned. So while I can deduce why you're claiming of JSY having been *overlapping* schedules for the *third* time, historically speaking, the only time it ever did overlap was between BM and FF. Comparatively, there has been roughly a month apart between IG and DrS, just as there was roughly a month from the moment LDW accepted the offer for BM (Aug 8) and its airing. Fortunately for LDW there were no hiccups on his transition unlike JSY's.

I've only been acquainted with JSY just recently and not personally knowledgeable of the news that surrounds her, but after further digging at google, I've yet to see a legitimate account of JSY not meeting her professional responsibilities during her filming of BM and FF--the only time when her schedule actually overlapped--so I'm very skeptical with these exaggerated claims with regards to her professionalism and sensationalised She casted on another drama, like immediately after? This is the THIRD time! How dare she!? knee-jerk reactions. Make no mistake however, I do believe that she should avoid tightly casting in dramas that are so poorly spaced like she has been doing. I just don't think that it's a basis for questioning her professionalism.

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I knew this would happen...lol!
Whenever JSY appears on this blog, @pogo @unholy..you two will surely be there, the first one being the oppressor, the latter...a supporter..haha!!! Anyway, I've been in and out of hell while watching Dr. Stranger, and my head still aches whenever I think about that gruesome experience in soompi thread.>.< I literally forgot what peace of mind really means after joining that forum..
Goodluck on JSY's future career!!!nyahaha!!!

P.S..a little [email protected] and @unholy..apart from JSY, there's another actress that you might want to talk to...and thankfully...I think you BOTH love her...

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Thanks for all reviews.

i am watching Empress Ki and Prime minister and I.

honestly. i love both dramas bcos both are really so good.

wow! Actress Yoona and Actress Ha Ji won are great at acting they are two of the Best young actresses.

i love their dramas and roles. perfect actresses.

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hehe HJW is not that young. she's 36 this year!

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Your thank you at the end is really sweet. Thank you for all the recaps and hours of work you put in to help create such a wonderful community for us all!

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Ughhh, I loved Full Sun so much. I hope all the actors feel super proud of their work in that drama because I thought it was fantastic. I'm looking to re-watch it soon.

I'm also re-watching Marriage Not Dating. Up to the last episode and it's just as wonderful the second time around. Even more so. I still re-wind to watch things over.

Other I enjoyed from this list: Golden Cross (though, I still kind of feel Lee Shi Youn's character really got the short end of the stick T__T), Triangle (yes, shorter would have been better and wish it focused on the 3 brothers more or sooner), Fated to Love You (really loved this remake), Liar Game (a fitting remake and adaptation in it's own right, really fleshed out the characters–I enjoyed that), It's Okay, It's Love (I love Jo In Sung and Gong Hyo Jin separately and together!), and God's Gift (leave that husband!)

I never did finish Empress Ki. Ehh...I'm not feeling much motivation to, lol. But Tal Tal!

And I want to check out Bad Boys and Mr. Back! Modern Farmer as well!

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I love this review! Awesome "stocking-stuffers" format.

God's Gift T______T Can we call the drama writers like in Reply 1997 and ask for an alternate ending?

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Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to you Gummimochi!
Thanks so much for another year of your delightful recaps and end of the year-in-review commentary.

[Part 2] 2014 Dramas + Famous Christmas Songs =

You From Another Star
♬ Kissin' By The Mistletoe
♬ Merry Christmas, Darling
♬ Santa Claus Is Watching You

Fated to Love You
♬ I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
♬ Christmas Just Ain't Christmas Without The One You Love
♬ You're All I Want For Christmas

Marriage Not Dating
♪ May You Always
♪ What Christmas Means To Me
♪ You're My Christmas Present

Age of Feeling &#9644 "...introduced us to awesome characters who were literally too cool for school (see: Aoki (Yoon Hyun-min), Mo Il-hwa (Song Jae-rim), and Jae-hwa (Kim Sung-oh). Their appearances often outweighed the negatives, and their minor roles are still memorable to this day..."

♩ Someday At Christmas
♩ All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

Three Musketeers
♬ Dominick, The Italian Christmas Donkey
♬ Do You Hear What I Hear
♬ Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy
♬ Wonderful Christmastime

Golden Cross
♫ Baby It's Cold Outside
♫ Blue Christmas
♫ Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Prime Minisiter & I
Bah Humbug!
♪ One Christmas Eve Long Ago
♪ Pretty Paper

Doctor Stranger
A Lump of Coal!
♩ Christmas Dragnet
♩ Nuttin' For Christmas

Bad Guys
♫ Monster's Holiday
♫ Parade of The Wooden Soldiers

God's Gift - 14 Days
♫ All I Want for Christmas Is You
♫ Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
♫ Please Come Home for Christmas

Modern Farmer
♬ A Marshmellow World
♬ Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
♬ This Christmas

Mr. Back
♩ Frosty The Snowman
♩ Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
♩ I Believe in Father Christmas

Stocking Stuffer Wish List (To Watch):
Full Sun
It's Okay, It's Love
Liar Game

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Favorites from your list:
You From Another Star
Fated to Love You

A Fun Watch:
Marriage Not Dating
Modern Farmer
Three Musketeers (Delighted about the compliments for Jung Yong-Hwa)

Awesome Characters/Intriguing Story:
Bad Guys
God's Gift - 14 Days (Set the bar this year with the most gut-wrenching premiere episodes.)
Golden Cross

Characters over Content:
Age of Feeling [Episodes 1 - 10 were the best. Continued to watch the latter episodes simply for Aoki (Yoon Hyun-min), Mo Il-hwa (Song Jae-rim), and Jae-hwa (Kim Sung-oh).]

Dropped:
Mr. Back
Prime Minister & I

Run for the Hills & Don't Look Back:
Doctor Stranger

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Thanks so much Gummimochi, what an enjoyable write up to read! <3 <3 <3

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Marriage Not Dating, The Three Musketeers, and Liar Game are my favorite for each category.

YFAS did a great job with Jun Ji Hyun as a lead, but the best couple should goes to Han Groo and Yeo Wo Jin for their role eventhough their names not big as Jun Ji Hyun and Kim So Hyun.

I love IOIL, but idk i can't finish watching this drama. I stopped in episode 10. but they should get the award for best ost.

TTM! wussh, i love every single thing in this drama, too bad if they decide to not continue produce TTM season 2. and yes, Jung Yong Hwa really improve, a lot, for his character.

Liar Game! i love the game and of course Lee Sang Yeon the professor.

hope 2015 can be better with k-drama

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<Hae-soo

Well, I liked Hae-soo. A lot. She was real and relatable.

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Where is pinocchio ???

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I looove you list!

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Thank you to the entire Dramabeans team for introducing the kdrama and culture to my world. Your recaps and humor have been quite enjoyable! Many thanks and best wishes!

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Is there going to be another review?

Where are Let's Eat, SLA, HSKS, Pinocchio and Plus 9? :)

Let's Eat and HSKS were in my top 3 this year, they were not perfect but very charming, light and breeze.

I dropped SLA on ep because I could not stand the female lead but I know many people liked it a lot.

I disliked Plus 9 even though I watched all the way and I hate Pinocchio, which I know I'll finish too, but they also deserve a comment even if it will probably be praise and I will disagree. :)

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Thank u for the summary of dramas. Fully agree on Fated to Love You. Look forward to more recaps :)

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Thank you gummimochi for another wonderful review.

I was one of those viewers who, thanks to your great recaps and everyone else's positive comments, jumped into the Full Sun experience. ....... I joined in late, but I watched all the episodes and liked the drama.

While I watched and enjoyed several of the dramas you mentioned, It's Okay, It's Love is probably my favorite. ..... Was it perfect? Of course not. But that the topics/issues mentioned made their way to television in Korea were a triumph worthy of being celebrated. ....... Add to this the superb acting of Jo In-sung and Gong Hyo-jin, showing us characters who were among many things, wounded, hurt, vulnerable, scared and often annoying ...... what you end up with is one awesome drama-viewing experience.

Thank you for all you do and have a great holiday season! See you in 2015!

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hahaha. like you, I thoroughly enjoyed my love from another star but for the life of me I can't now remember what it was about. all I remember is cringing most of the time when the alien shed tears while bawling his brains out. that actor should not even be allowed a tiny sniffle onscreen. eewwww...

after was it the 20th episode we tuned out fated to love you. started off with a bang and ended with a painful whimper. and the fact that the lead actor borrowed his performance from the lead actor in the greatest love was a great turn off.

it's okay that's love..stopped watching after the 3rd episode. really bad. no chemistry between the lead stars. and for some reason the lead actor annoyed the hell out of me. great to look at as eye candy though. took himself too seriously. he annoyed me too in the winter the wind blows. stopped watching that after the first episode. so dramatique it hurts the teeth!

will check out the rest in this list. thanks for the recap!

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Thank you, Gummimochi, for your recaps!

God's Gift -- you're absolutely right, I want a refund too!!! -.- I was heavily invested in the story (and Captain Awesome Dong-chan!) that the ending left a bitter taste in my mouth. After all that, I was left with a murderous rage -- wanting all the baddies to get their due, while having Soo-hyun, Dong-chan and Saet-byul to live happily ever after...I mean, wasn't that the point of giving them 14 days?!? But nooo. That was not the way the writer was gonna go with this, and I was mightily disappointed to say the least. The "I need to fulfill the fate so I gotta die instead" at the final minutes of the ep was so absolutely totally pointless and infuriatingly the worst ending of the year, hands down.

Empress Ki -- I went in intrigued with the story and kickass Sung-nyang, and actually stuck through with this the whole way through - first sageuk since Horse Doctor. That being said, it underwhelmed at the end and the majority of the plot dealt with wimpy Emperor (who at least, by the end, actually opened his eyes and saw the traitorousness of Gol-ta but made the tantrum-like decision to off his rival in love) and the treacherous dealings of Tanashiri and co. I'll remember it more for the very pretty and vivid colored costumery, though.

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Doctor Stranger <3 <3 <3

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Thanks Gumi! Your my favorite writer here in DB! I simply love all your recaps and review, straight to my heart. I had fun in watching not of the series buts I can't help myself leavinh Empress Ki in the first quarter of the series, I don't know it really annoys me finding out who is her love interest. Lol!
But the best recap I have read so far for me is FTLY! Hehehe call me bias but I love every bits and peices of it! Even Gun decided to be a martyr hero in the process. I'm still rooting for the couple!
And by the way running man will be my forever most favorite variety series in KLand, thanks to you!
Have a merry christmas and a happ new year!

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thank you gumimochi for your dramas (especialy FTLY) and running man recaps... wish u a happy new year! ^^

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Thank you Gummi, without you, javabeans, girlfriday and HeadsNo 2, I wouldn't knw which dramas to watch. Seriously the production quantity is boggling. I give thumbs up to FTLY and its Okay its love. These 2 remains my favorites for the year.

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gumimochi ~

Thank you for your hard work. The DB crew is the best.

Yay for Full Sun, a good drama.

Looking forward to next year's dramas and recaps.

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