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Drama tasting notes [Year in Review, Part 9]

Like everyone else, it was a struggle narrowing down my selection to just five dramas. I thought it would be easy, since 2015 left me mostly disappointed when it came to dramas, so there were only a handful of dramas I really cared about to begin with. But I also had to go through the existential crisis of deciding which drama to keep and which one would be cut.

I agonized over letting go of Ex-Girlfriend Club, since it felt like I was betraying my self-declared label of Byun Yo-han’s Number One Fangirl (plus, it had the notable distinction of being the only rom-com I saw through to completion this year). I also had to say a painful “so long” to Seonam Girls’ High School Investigation Unit, which nearly made the list as one of my favorite dramas of year — not only because it pleased my inner Nancy Drew, but because it also dealt with some subjects that most mainstream dramas refuse to touch.

Instead, I decided that I wanted to address a couple of dramas that I began here but never fully recapped. I may have started out those shows with bright-eyed anticipation, but by the end of the show, my thoughts were decidedly different and I felt they deserved to have some “final” comments. The other three are the dramas that captured my heart, mind, soul, and full attention (no easy feat!), and are the ones that vie for “favorite” of 2015.

I went with a culinary theme because two of the dramas are predominately based around food, and also food is an important thread and/or occasional plot-point in the rest. Or maybe I was just hungry. Lesson learned: do not attempt to review dramas without snacks on hand.

 

Special #1: MASKED PROSECUTOR

Tasting notes: Burnt popcorn. A lingering acrid aroma, coupled with the annoying kernel husk still stuck between one’s teeth.

Of all the dramas this year that I most anticipated, Masked Prosecutor topped the list. It had everything I could possibly want: my favorite actress, finally returning to the small screen and reuniting with one of my favorite actors; a concept that sounded delightfully ridiculous in a “Lois & Clark” kind of way; a lead actor who I know could totally handle the delicate balance of serious action and goof-ball masked crime-fighter; and a script from the same writer who brought us Big Man, an action-thriller from 2014 that I thoroughly enjoyed.

But for a show that seemed to tick off all the boxes that would guarantee an instant hit, it failed miserably. Or maybe I was just the miserable one, suffering through it until the end as I clung to the wisps of my idealistic hope that somehow the show would start to turn itself around and not only become interesting again, but also make sense of itself. In the end, all I walked away from the show with was the irate sense that I was owed those sixteen hours of my life back — plus the desperate hope that Kim Sun-ah wouldn’t wait another three years to decide on her next drama. In fact, I don’t really remember much about the show after all these months beyond my deep frustration and rage at how needlessly convoluted-yet-boring the plot became, and how all the characters were one-note representations of what they could have been in the hands of skilled writer and director. (And I refuse to go back and refresh my memory — as much as I’d like to make this review as detailed as possible, it’s not worth risking my sanity.)

There was the potential for the drama to come around and become something better than it was. I really liked that it tackled sensitive social justice issues, and I did enjoy watching Joo Sang-wook juggle playing the goofy, “clueless” prosecutor versus his kick-ass masked hero. But it wasn’t enough to cut through the melodramatic underpinnings of unnecessary birth secrets and over-the-top evil villains and a dead-end script to nowhere.

I don’t know how a drama about a masked vigilante ended up so boring, but it did, and I have only the production team to blame because I know the actors did their best to wring out any sort of meaning from the script. In fact, if it weren’t for how much I love Kim Sun-ah, Joo Sang-wook, and Eom Ki-joon, I would have stopped watching when I stopped recapping. I should have listened to my usual drama advice — don’t keep watching a disaster of a show just because you love a specific actor. It will only end in bitterness and rage as you swear at the drama gods for wasting Kim Sun-ah’s dramaland comeback.

 

Special #2: MY BEAUTIFUL BRIDE

Tasting notes: A heaping plate of nachos with extra jalapeño. Multi-layered, with a kick.

Of all the action-thriller dramas I watched this year, this one was my favorite. The plot seems simple — an unassuming banker’s bride-to-be mysteriously goes missing and the police assume he killed her. But it’s how he fights to find her and get her back that’s so compelling, especially once we discover that she might not be who she seems. Coming from the writer of Heartless City, it should be no surprise that this drama had more than a few twists and turns.

One of my favorite things about the show was that everyone on the show was intelligent — the gangsters, the detectives, the “banker,” the “bride.” This was no bumbling affair that was only created to give us high-octane action that made no sense in context. There was purpose behind each scene, be it brutal menace or tender emotion, and whether it was a bloody fight or our lead character breaking down in hopeless tears, the cinematography beautifully captured each moment and gave it that emotional depth that can be so often lacking in other action shows. *cough*Masked Prosecutor*cough*

I can’t just gush about the script, characters and cinematography, though — the actors were excellent, too. Lee Shi-young portrayed the detective who had to decide whether or not the supposedly unassuming banker could be trusted as she tried to ferret out the true Big Bad, and Kim Mu-yeol was brilliant as the man desperate to get his fiancée back, no matter what it took (and not without a few secrets of his own). The supporting cast was full of familiar faces that gave life to the gangsters and other denizens of the country’s seedy underbelly (and the good guys, too, however few there may have been — considering that “good” was just a point on the spectrum between “ruthless killer” and “ruthless killer with purpose”). Also, one of my personal drama rules is that if it has Lee El, then it automatically gets an extra rating star. This show didn’t need her to boost it to a 10, but it definitely confirms that the “Lee El effect” is still strong.

I’m hesitant to delve too much into the details about this show because part of the watching experience is never knowing what will happen next. But if you liked Heartless City or just like action-thrillers in general, then My Beautiful Bride is definitely worth your time.

 

Special #3: LET’S EAT 2

Tasting notes: Cold leftovers. Still edible, but nothing like the original.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I loved the original series. As in, love-loved it. It was one of my ultimate favorite dramas of last year, so I was excited when they announced another season, but extremely wary when it was revealed that, except for Yoon Doo-joon, it wouldn’t be keeping the original cast. I wasn’t sure how the show would capture the magic of the original series without the heroine, who was the heart of the show for me, but I was willing to give it a shot.

Even taking aside my extreme prejudice for the original series, there was still a lot to enjoy about the second season. I really loved that the hero met his match in Seo Hyun-jin, since here was a girl who refused to listen to his rants about how to properly eat a dish by schooling him on her way to properly eat a dish, and then deciding to just ignore him altogether so she could enjoy her meal. She was delightful in that she wasn’t wooed by his salesman charm. She knew he was trouble and refused to be sucked in, not when she was getting her life on track — and besides, there was that cute guy at work who deserved her attention, who happened to be a fun foil to the foodie leads, as someone who didn’t understand the joy in eating.

But considering that the show never gave us a clear explanation as to why he broke up with his Season 1 heroine, it was a bitter pill to swallow when he fell in love with another heroine, and voilà, happy ending.

One of the other disappointments (and a shocking one that that) was the food. I was primed to clean out my fridge each week, just knowing the way this show could make me hungry, and yet so many of the foodie scenes were missing that joie de vivre that made the meals such a key and delicious part of the show. Perhaps it was partially due to the character’s guilt about eating, and her desperate attempt to not gain weight, so the binge felt like it had terrible consequences instead of being unfettered enjoyment. Whatever the reason, I rarely watched an episode that ultimately made me feel hungry, and considering that showcasing deliciousness is the primary point of the show, it’s just another reason why this show felt unsatisfying.

Still, the hero’s ceaseless charms meant that we got another haphazard family created from the lonely people surrounding him. I just wish the romance hadn’t been forced to become a main plot, and we could have instead enjoyed the cast as they platonically helped each other through the good times and the bad times — and, of course, ate yummy food.

 

Special #4: MIDNIGHT DINER

Tasting notes: Homemade chicken and dumpling stew. Satisfying on a cold winter’s night.

Korean adaptations are often a cause of worry and despair, especially if you love the source material and know that the glossy and gussied-up version can’t possibly compare. But here is an adaptation of Japanese drama Shinya Shokodu (which in turn was adapted from a manga) that not only manages to keep to the heart and soul of the original, but also adds its own enhancing-yet-complementary “flavor.”

The plot of the show was simple: There’s a small diner in the heart of Seoul that is only open from midnight to 7am, and there is no menu. The owner of the diner (who is only known as “Master”) will make anything you order. This led the way for people requesting favorite dishes from their childhood or regional dishes that were hard to find outside of the city.

There’s so much more to this show than just food, though — it was also all about the clientele. There were struggling musicians, bar owners, office workers, magicians, students who pulled all-nighters to study between jobs, exotic film directors, gangsters, detectives, couples in love, couples who would eventually fall in love, and couples who would discover they were no longer in love. The type of people who’d go to a diner in the middle of the night are, perhaps, not the average person you might encounter on the street, but their stories were universal. There was joy, sadness, discovery, loss, friendship, family, and love.

My summer of 2015 was one filled with action-thrillers (some good, some bad) and so it was pleasant to enjoy the slower pace of this show each week. It was like a breath of fresh air, delving into a human interest story for a half-hour at a time, curious to see what the Master would concoct next. The Master himself was an enigmatic hero as he quietly made the requested meals, however simple or complex, and served them to his guests without judgment. Portrayed by the fantastic Kim Seung-woo, the Master was the calm center of the show — everything rested on his shoulders as he played the spectator, psychologist, priest, cupid, and all around connector of people through food and experiences, both past and present.

Where Let’s Eat 2 disappointed with the portrayal of food, Midnight Diner made up for it tenfold. In fact, this was the kind of place I’m sure Let’s Eat’s hero would seek out and take pictures of empty bowls for his blog. It was the kind of cozy place where a foodie would feel at home next to the person who only sought the simple comfort food of his childhood, and for a couple of months this year, it felt like it was my home, too, as I longed to sit on one of the stools, catch up on all the gossip, and devour whatever delicious meal the Master had made uniquely for me.

 

Special #5: VALID LOVE

Tasting notes: An expertly prepared cappuccino. Rich bitterness brings an awakening.

This is what I would “officially” consider my favorite drama of 2015, and perhaps why so much of dramaland’s offerings felt so lackluster in comparison. There was a depth of emotional richness within this drama that spoke to my soul and I’m not sure I ever fully recovered. I had high expectations for this show, too, since it was by one of my favorite writers, Kim Do-woo, and it was with utter joy that I discovered that not only did she live up to those expectations, but thanks to some of the most beautiful cinematography I’ve seen all year, she actually exceeded them.

While a one-line summation of the plot could be “a married woman has an affair with a carpenter,” the reality is there was so much more to it than that. In fact, the so-called “affair” was really not the main theme of the drama. This was not about a love triangle: This was about a woman (as portrayed by Lee Shi-young), who was the primary person keeping her family together — a family that didn’t even want her around, but also didn’t know how to survive without her. She humbly accepted all the tasks given her: caretaker of her paralyzed sister-in-law, primary bread-winner, maid, cook, chauffeur, and the general force of good-will and peace throughout her in-laws’ home. Even if it was difficult, she maintained a positive attitude — this was the life she had decided she wanted since she was young, and while it might not be as joy-filled and easy as she thought, it was still her choice and her life. Why be bitter about it?

But once she she discovered the unsettling (and gruff) charms of the carpenter played by Lee Soo-hyuk and began to question her life and decisions. She realized that there could be a better life out there for her, one where she was appreciated and loved for who she was, not just tolerated for her services. That’s where the affair came in — it was her awakening. She was a woman who’d only ever loved one man, a man who perhaps treated her not as a wife and partner, but as a cog keeping the family going. Now there was another man who tingled her senses and opened her eyes to a new way of being loved. While the affair itself stayed mainly in the emotional side of things, there was still a kiss or two that could hint about “what might be” if she decided to give up the burden of her family-in-law and run away with her carpenter.

But family (with all its burdens), and the choices we make when we decide to stay or go, was what made this drama so compelling. It wasn’t just about her — it was about her family, and her husband’s family, and the carpenter’s family (or lack thereof). If anything, this show was about a woman who discovered how important she was to this family and their struggle to accept that they couldn’t just mindlessly rely on her, but they must choose to love her as much as she chose to love them. The most emotional pairing of the show was between the heroine and her paralyzed sister-in-law, and not only was it beautiful watching the cinematographic portrayal of how the sister-in-law expressed her inner thoughts despite being unable to speak, there was something deeply moving about how the one person who couldn’t speak was the one who so desperately longed to tell the heroine how much she truly mattered.

In the end, this drama wasn’t about a woman considering having an affair. It was about family — the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was about the toils and tribulations we go through to keep family intact despite disasters and heartache. It was about how no one is perfect and everyone is just trying to get through each day as best they can. Relationships are hard — they’re weird and messy and often there’s no right or wrong answer, just the best answer for that person at that point in time.

~~~~~

As you can see, a lot of the dramas I watched this year didn’t get recapped (or fully recapped) here on Dramabeans, and I felt duty-bound to at least make sure they got some of the spotlight. What you about you, fellow Beanies — any favorite dramas this year that you wish received more attention?

 
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Heard it Through the Grapevine was my favourite drama this year. It's exploration of social class and manipulative families was just superb. But not many seem to have watched it. Shame.

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Grapevine is one of the very few shows this year I thought rated more than 3.5 stars.

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I remember the drama that came right after HITTG was High Society, which also attempted to deal with class/rich vs poor issues.

If Grapevine was like watching a masterful ballet performance, High Society was like watching a clown pratfalling on stilts. Just so clumsy, trite and tired. And not even original.

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oh yes, Heard It Through the Grapevine was amazing. The fact that it's a thirty-episoder may put some people off, but I think the drama needed those to tell its story.

I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard at a drama while also feeling hideously nervous about what would happen to our protagonists. And it was unsparing on the issue of class and money and how it affects both the rich and the poor. That's not a feel-good watch, but it is a great one.

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"It’s exploration of social class and manipulative families was just superb."
Not to mention the unexpected moments of humor, wry wit, and in your face deadpan expressions, etc. Heard It Through the Grapevine is definitely in my top 5 for 2015.

"not a feel-good watch, but it is a great one."
And sometimes those are the dramas and movies you appreciate all the more.

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yeah, I was staggered by just how fantastic the entire extended cast were. Not one bum note among the lot, even from the rookie actors. And Go Ah-sung was everything I expected, and more - her character doesn't get to fall into the 'spunky girl with a good heart' mode of likeability, but she pulled it off flawlessly.

I also loved the portrayals of the married couples in this drama. It takes guts to centre your story on two terrible people in a marriage that's all about political alliance and teamwork. And they pulled it off! And this drama also featured the ultimate drama unicorn - a young couple who were already together and stayed together, and actually still had problems to work through. It was interesting to see the contrast between the two couples in that house.

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Love, love, love Heard It Through the Grapevine. For a 30+ episodes drama, it definitely was a much better produced and written drama than all the 20 episodes or less dramas that I've watched all year.

I have the same sentiments about Masked Prosecutor. It was frustratingly boring.

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Grapevine definitely deserves the "most innovative" drama award of 2015. Definitely in Best 5 of 2015.

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I'm glad you brought attention to a couple of my favorites from this year as well. I loved Heartless City and My Beautiful Bride lived up to those expectations. Truly a moving story.

And Valid Love was one that a lot of people avoided but it touched my heart so many times and I remember episodes where I just cried my whole way through.

Great review.

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Valid Love was indeed a beautiful and moving drama, and one of my all time top ten! I also found it had some of the funniest scenes I've seen in a Kdrama. Its tone reminds me a lot of Alone in Love which I believe was directed by the same PD.

Thank you, odilettante, for your review!

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Thanks for offering different dramas than the others! Valid Love - is it known by any other names? I haven't heard of it! I too loved My Beautiful Bride. Thanks so much.

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I am glad you picked Valid Love, not that I think it was the best, but it had great stuff about it. the overall feel and atmosphere made it so tangible, and I think Unni Hee Soo was the best, best visual representation of a character this year, and a great performance by Choi Yeo Jin. the drama knew how to use visuals - the settings, the props, the light, the angles, made sure that there is something to observe. I might not be able to accept the ending resolutions, even if that was the only way it could have ended, but it was tied together in a very human way. and of course Lee Soo Hyuk as this everyday guy, just a bloke working at his curious studio, I really bought into it - and hows glad am I that the show didnt turn his unique looks into a road show or make a number out of them. people with unusual faces can play normal blokes. the end.

now with the eating shows... I can never become a fan of watching people devour food. it looks ugly to me no matter what. sorry. I tried several times. not for me.

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I've only heard of 2 of these shows. You've definitely piqued my interest in watching Midnight Diner!

Merry Christmas!

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Midnight Diner is one of the few remakes that is just as good as the original (and i really enjoyed three seasons of the jdrama). i love Master and his customers, especially the regulars. the show is a relaxing breath of fresh air after so many heavy dramas and more often than not, you will find yourself smiling at the end of each episode.

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Ditto I want to check out Midnight Diner now and My Beautiful Bride because Heartless City hurt so good. I loved the show but had difficulty watching it because I couldn't stand how much crap was thrown at Doctor's Son so of course I had to watch it to make sure he ended up happy.

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Thank you for writing about Midnight Diner!!! I watched it wayyyy after it was finished running, and totally got sucked into its world. It reminded me of Cheers, and as one of the commentators in OTP said, except the topics discussed were much deeper. I loved it!

I also enjoyed Valid Love and glad you mentioned it. I didn't like the ending for the heroine though, I thought it really left much to be desired. I still listen to its OST a lot though, it speaks of the yearning portrayed so beautifully in the drama.

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I rant so much on masked prosecutor. Kim sun ah plz come back with something amazing. You owe us.

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Some of them I saw only a couple of episodes and lost interest .
After your review I'll try to watch 'My beautiful bride' if has similar stile like 'heartless city' (I loved that show , a bit brutal but clever writing ) .
Thanks

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For some reason, the first two just don't interest me at all. I had already half a mind to check out Let's Eat, having recently been won over by a certain Joseon King's eating.

I like the premise of Midnight Diner - it sounds like every other indie type film. I'll probably check it out at some point.

I'm still in two minds about Valid Love - it'll be good to see Lee Soo Hyuk in something else other than Scholar, but the narrative isn't my cup of tea, personally. But I'll bear it in mind.

Even if the dramas mostly aren't my thing, it's still really good to read about the rest to get another perspective. Thanks very much!

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Let's Eat 2 and Midnight Diner! Thank you odilettante...
As a foodie myself, I love watching food dramas and then be tortured during the food porn scene...
"Whatever the reason, I rarely watched an episode that ultimately made me feel hungry, and considering that showcasing deliciousness is the primary point of the show, it’s just another reason why this show felt unsatisfying."
Can't said better. Let's Eat season 1 made me hungry everytime I look at the food. That's maybe partly because Lee Soo Kyung's charms and the discovery of season 1. Season 2, not so much. But Let's Eat 2 has the edge of better plot development, better characters' development and funny/cute bickering of Goo Dae Young and Writer Baek (forget her character name) that leads to love. It feels more organic in season 2 than season 1. Regardless, I just love season 1 a bit more than season 2, but Let's Eat 2 won't be leftovers, probably a cold pizza? It's still delicious, but not as delicious as warm pizza... Hehehe

Midnight Diner: well, I haven't finished this one yet, but considering that each episode could stood out on their own, it doesn't matter if I watch 5 or 10 eps right? MD feels like humane drama. The show lingers on melancholy, memories, comfort food once we ate and all sorts of problems brought by the guests. It's not merely foodie show, in fact, it not JUST foodie drama, but more like slice-of-life drama happens in a midnight restaurant. Sometimes I wish Master is in real life too, so I can order anything when I crave something at night. LOL.

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That's the one thing I love about year end reviews: the discovery of new dramas. I already have My Beautiful Bride queued. Now I'll add Valid love and midnight diner as well. They sound just like my cup of tea :).

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Oo thank you for bringing my attention to My Beautiful Bride. I usually stay away from those genres, but your review makes me wanna watch it. I'm really glad you chose different dramas than the most known ones this yr.

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Glad that you have reviewed the lesser known dramas instead of those popular ones we already heard so much about. I love My beautiful bride!

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Thrilled to see love for Valid Love and My Beautiful Bride, my top dramas of the year.

Valid Love perhaps of all time. Deeply affecting and immersive. Gorgeously shot.

Thank you.

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Okay well maybe after Misaeng for all time, but up there. :)

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Ahhhhhhhhh, I loved Valid Love and Misaeng as well. So hard to choose favourites! :)

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YAY! Glad to see My Beautiful Bride mentioned here! It was most definitely my favorite thriller this year. It was so captivating. Exciting, swift-paced story. Lots of action.

I've been meaning to watch Midnight's Diner too.

Intriguing review on Valid Love. I never really took an interest in it, but now I'm a bit more curious.

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Thank you for including Valid Love, it was one of my favorites this year, and the relationship between the heroine and her sister-in-law was one of the most beautifully portrayed and moving relationships that drama land has seen!

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Yeaaaahh Midnight Diner finally got mentioned! Thank you Odillettente!
It was totally a warm soup best enjoyed on a cold rainy/snowy night! Pho beef soup! Yummmm

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Valid Love was beautiful but so human at times that it seemed almost painful to watch.
There is a poetic way of representing life that feels more crude than a raw documentary.

And once again, "Angry carpenter FOR THE WIN".

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Thanks @ odilettante for you reviews on these shows which I thought were almost forgotten.

I did enjoy Midnight Diner in a relaxed way. It was the being able to relax that made it more enjoyable. It also showed that in just half an hour, it was possible to draw out sufficient character and everyday conflict and emotion to identify with and to keep me engaged. And best of all, each 'story' got it's resolution after a fashion or even quite completely also all within that half hour. A satisfying watch.

I did not stay with Valid Love or My Beautiful Bride but I'm glad to know how they turned out from your review. I also could not continue Masked Prosecutor, although my hopes had not been as high as yours, they were definitely high enough to have been dashed when the bad mum melo kept kicking in.

I may actually want to try Let's Eat (first one) and not Let's Eat 2. I will have to keep the snack food away though... sitting and eating and sitting to watch is not conducive to health or figure!!!

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Valid Love really did make everything else seem kinda stale.
It's just one of those shows, truly. And it made perfect use of the whole cast even if I didn't like some of them most of the time (or all the time), haha. I loved the little world it created, it was good stuff.

Out of this list, I only watched that and My Beautiful Bride (which was also very compelling and really good! Kim Mu Yeol for more dramas, please!!).

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I haven't watched any of this dramas. I'm very picky for kdramas. My fave was Bubblegum this year. But after reading your description of Valid Love I mights give it try. I love something deeper then average kdramas

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I'm so glad someone mentioned My Beautiful Bride! it was one of my (many) favourite this year, i even feel like watching Mr. Banker in action again.

Happy holidays!

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Yes! Someone did watch Shinya Shokudo. It felt like a real slice-of-life drama. It was very simple, formulaic, but the stories were so beautiful. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Definitely reminiscent of slice-of-life anime/manga.

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I loved Cruel City to pieces so I'll have to check out My Beautiful Bride!

Valid Love sounds interesting but I kinda wanna know if she picks Gwi or not before I start it. (I would be rooting for him, I know, and if she stays with her husband, I would be disappointed.)

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My Beautiful Bride (aka My Beautiful Banker), another memorable gem of a drama by writer Yoo Sung-Yeol and a great follow-up to Cruel City (aka Heartless City).

"Valid Love...wanna know if she picks Gwi or not before I start..."

It's the journey that counts. The journey - sometimes its more rewarding than the destination, even when it comes to some destinations that are never quite reached.

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that´s not the point though. it is more about what people need from one another reciprocally, it is a very complex network.

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i started valid love thanks to this post. im on ep three. i'm gonna start a beautiful bride too. @)

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Valid love.. le sighhhhh.. not just for carpenter kim but also for unnie.. i love it very much but so painful to watch so i doubt im gonna rewatch it anytime soon

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Thank you, odilettante!! You list is surely intriguing since i didn't watch any if it.

Actually i kinda avoid watching food related drama no matter how much they get positive reviews (like Let's Eat). Living alone in a boarding house without any food-filled fridge ready to scarf down is mainly the reason ?Even watching 1n2d dinner time is already painful. But your description about Midnight Dinner pick my interest.

The funny thing is that, although i haven't checked the drama, i love Valid Love and Midnight Dinner soundtrack LOL. They are on repeat for quite sometime. More reason to check them i guess? ?

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Valid Love remains one of my favourites of all time. It's painful and real and I can't not watch it. It made me cry and think and look at family and love in different perspectives. I agree with your words Odilettante. Choices were made, no matter how unpopular, but they were made because they were the best at that moment in time. Watched it for Lee Soo Hyuk but ended up sucked into everyone's story. Few months later, I now respect the couple's decision.

Let's Eat 2: I decided to drop it after 2 episodes. I can't seem to love a distracting character.

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Re: Let's Eat 2, am I the only one who didn't have an issue with Gu Dae-young breaking up with the heroine of Season 1?

Let's Eat has always been slice-of-life anyway, and I could absolutely buy the breakup because neither romance is really about being or finding The One, it's always been about finding the person who's right for them at that point in time. I'd have been unable to buy the breakups if LE1 or 2 had been your usual melo or romcom, but that's never been their ballpark.

And I did like that Season 2 had a heroine with her own issues surrounding food. I'd have found it a little unrealistic to have two entire series with no characters worrying about their weight - it might have made for less orgasmic food shots, but it added a lot to her character.

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I like the overall story of Lets Eat but I did not mind the fact the pair broke up because I actually like the lawyer in the drama. i also felt that despite of Yong Du Joons figure knew that the lawyer liked the heroine for so long, somehow he was not so conflicted with his feeling much,,, but that does not mean that he should be the noble idiots like the Taek and JH in Answer 1989. I like the pairing of Lets Eat 2 better because I felt that they suite each other somehow and I enjoy watching Yong Du Joon struggle for trying not to fall for her, trying to avoid her etc,,, I felt his pains.

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Wow this was a great review. You wrote about dramas that had been under the radar and I wasn't initially planning to watch. Valid love seemed like a depressing watch so i decided to avoid it but now i'm a bit intrigued and I did NOT know that My Beautiful Bride was written by Heartless City's writer. My god, that goes straight to my watch list and i'm thoroughly excited.

Thank you, really.

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Midnight Diner. Sigh.

I loved that show. It was pitch perfect and even the stories that I was less invested in delivered.

Simple three camera set up, but there are images that stay with me.

The character development was lovely, the regulars slowly revealing themselves behind the one or two episode leads.

I loved the ending of each episode as everyone left for the night/day.

And I loved the soundtrack.

Sigh. Perfect show.

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Where have I been? For as much as I visit Dramabeans, I swear I had not heard of My Beautiful Bride. Then again, perhaps I did hear about it but I just don't remember. It sounds interesting though.

I have heard of Midnight Diner and good comments about it since it came out. I haven't watched it yet but it is certainly on the "to watch later" list!

Thanks for your reviews and recaps. Happy Holidays!

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You've never heard people talking about My beautiful banker in OT and stuff? People were so in love with Kim Mu-yeol, they called the show My beautiful Banker in db.

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It's discussed a lot in OT in DB <--My Beautiful Bride

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My Beautiful Bride was a hot topic since episode 1.

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Thanks much odilettante for this year end review. Your reviews of "My Beautiful Bride" and "Valid Love" piqued my interest. Thanks!
I saw and loved "Midnight Dinner". I liked its relaxed way of storytelling, perhaps due to Master, while showing us interesting Korean dishes...
Here's hoping to an awesome new drama year in 2016!!?

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Valid Love has a great setup. But unfortunately, it feel flat towards the end, and become less deep for me... It's not something I wish for... Too focus on love triangle at times and ignoring some aspect that would be awsome if they focus on that more. The female lead become less complicate and less interesting...

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Thank you for covering Valid Love and My Beautiful Bride, odilettante.

These 2 dramas were not the best, it had flaws, but just like Bubblegum, it touched my heart deeply. It made me think of family, life and the priority orders.. and also what ifs.

Thanks again, dearie, and Merry Christmas~~!!

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:)

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A Drama Smörgåsbord - nicely done Odilettante. Your thoughtful and insightful 2015 year end review will certainly help spur others to discover the lesser-known/under the radar dramas you mentioned here that are probably right up their alley and just as deserving of attention and adoration.

Let's Eat 2, Midnight Diner, and Japanese drama Shinya Shokodu were already on my to watch list.

Masked Prosecutor: You pretty much covered it all! I went against my better judgement and checked it out even though I knew I had a problem with writer Choi Jin-Won's last project - Big Man. After seeing how he wrapped up BM and handled the characters (especially the ones played by Daniel Choi and Jung So-Min), I was hesitant to even start Masked Prosecutor. After that motorcycle scene in episode 3 - dropped it like a hot potato. Refused to subject myself to the disappointment and WTF ahead..time is too precious and fleeting.

For whatever reason, he's able to secure awesome talents like Kim Sun-A, Daniel Choi, and Jung So-Min, but he lets the major coup slip through his fingers due to a very lackluster effort at keeping up the writing and weaving together a creative story until the very end.

Shifting gears...great excitement over the fact that you included both of Lee Si-Young's 2015 kdramas in your year end review.

My Beautiful Bride (aka My Beautiful Banker): Even though Kim Moo-Yul has been acting for some years (since 2007), for many of us he was a wonderful discovery in MBB. Wow! What a Ride!...An emotional journey and experience to remember. Great action scenes, intensity, and memories. The man to meet Kim Do-Hyung, an impeccable banker by day and one of the most impressive and unsuspecting action heroes by night. His level of intensity, exertion, and willingness to go to the ends of the earth to find his one and only love if he has too is a memorable and almost one-of-a-kind kdrama experience.

Totally impressed with Director Kim Cheol-Kyu's sleek and stylish directing, choreography of action scenes/sequences (the sight of KDH on a bicycle outmaneuvering all others), cinematography, and artful flashbacks (symbolic color palettes).

My Beautiful Bride OSTs to listen too:
“Stay” by Steelheart
“Days and Moons” by Elsa Kopf
“Eclipse” by Patrick Joseph

Valid Love: Able to appreciate the passionate feelings, fascination, and responses it evoked from viewers. The alien (Lee Soo-Hyuk as carpenter Kim Joon), the mackerel (Lee Si-Young as Kim Il-Ri), and the pollack (Uhm Tae-Woong as Jang Hee-Tae). Poetically beautiful and visually interesting, memorable scenes and captivating moments that alternate between being poignant, somewhat whimsical, somber, and realistic. And who could forget Jang Hee-Soo/Unni, the optical illusion of the spinning dancer/ballerina played by Choi Yeo-Jin. If you're a fan of Lee Soo-Hyuk - watch it for him, if not for anything else.

Valid Love OSTs to listen too:
"How Nice Would It...

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Continued...

Valid Love OSTs to listen too:
"How Nice Would It Be?" by Kang San E
"Time Hurts" by Jang Pil Soon

Two more engaging dramas deserving of time in the spotlight: Heard It Through The Grapevine and My Beloved Eun-Dong.

In-line for honorable mentions...Mask and Girl Who Sees Smells.
(Not every Kdrama can score an A+ but dramaland is full of solid B/C average performers that grab and capture the viewer's attention.)

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Expounding upon a couple of dramas from this year that I would like to see receive more attention in the year end reviews...

Heard It Through the Grapevine: "A black comedy that satirizes the presumptuous and materialistic ideas by the top upper class in Korea, who are indulged in imperialistic power and thrive on inherited wealth and lineage. Their reputation is suddenly turned upside down because their teenage son, Han In-sang, impregnates his girlfriend from an ordinary family, Seo Bom." ~From Wikipedia

Falling for Innocence (aka Falling for Min-Ho): 3-2-1 combo of Jung Kyoung-Ho, Kim So-Yeon, & Yoon Hyun-Min. Jung Kyung-Ho & Yoon Hyun-Min...you’ve spoiled me with your bromance in real-life and in Heartless City (aka Cruel City).

Mask: A coup in casting Soo-Ae, Ju Ji-Hoon, Yeon Jeong-Hun, & Yu In-Young as the leads. A drama with great OTP chemistry & 4 solid leads. All four actors played their part in elevating this drama despite the unevenness of the story-line sometimes and its flawed writing. High marks for the role reversal of the damsel in distress plight.

My Beloved Eun-Dong (aka Beloved Eun Dong): Leading man, Joo Jin-Mo as Ji Eun-Ho / Park Hyun-Soo. The romance between top star Ji Eun-Ho / Park Hyun-Soo and Seo Jung-Eun spans 20 years. Each version of the romance was compelling to watch, but the teen romance set a solid foundation. It starts when they are in their teens, picks back up 10 years later in their 20s, and then they find each other again in their 30s.

The Girl Who Sees Smells: Park Yoo-Chun doing gag comedy, Shin Se-Kyung Who knew you had it in you? Actually enjoying the character and having chemistry with your costar; Namgung Min's breakthrough role as villain Chef Kwon Jae-Hee.

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Yes, My Beautiful Bride' OST are super, they really give the vibe of the drama.

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“Stay” by Steelheart is still my favorite.

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yes, it shall always be My Beautiful Banker in my memory...
; )

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Thanks for Valid Love... I am now in Ep. 4... So far so good but I may not continue it after few episodes...
I could never watch "Lets Eat-2" because I cannot get over the fact that the lead actor is left the cute girl from the season one with the cutest dog... She was a loner and the break up might have done her more harm... I cannot simply root for a lead who 'swings' so I might leave Valid Love for the same reason even though I love both male actors in the drama...

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continue Valid Love at least for Unni´s sake.

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Thanks, odilettante, for your list. I've seen most, and I'm soooooooo very happy you choose some under-appreciated gems. I look forward to reading your recaps in 2016!

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Thank you for including one 0f the 3 dramas that I love this year. My Beautiful Bride, Grapevine and Punch.

My Beautiful Bride was a one man show. Much love to Kim Mu-yeol. I hope he'll stick around dramaland for another great project.

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I appreciate that you appreciated Late Dinner, but though it is a different drama it was not that good in the first 3 eisodes . I did not keep on watching.

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I am happy that you appreciate a good drama like valid love. But about the Midnight Dinner I think that it is not what it wished to be

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I was bored to death by Let's Eat 1 and couldn't make myself go throught the episodes. The heroine was not as appealing, and the plot seemed non-existent. I absolutely loved Let's Eat 2. I like that we weren't privy to everything as an observer. People break up all the time for different reasons, and sometimes only the 2 people in the relationship know the reason why.

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I am not happy with you Odillettante. I started watching "My Beautiful Bride" and I have not done any of my chores that need to be done and have forgone seeing family just so I can see what happens next. It is absolute crack. Thank-you for writing about It as a drama to watch. I am now going back to see what happens next.

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THAAAAAAAAAANK YOUuuu odilettante... for "My Beautiful Bride"!!!! WOW!!! I am at Episode 4 and I LOOOVVVEEE it!!!
I left "Valid Love" at Episode 10, not because it was bad or anything but I couldn't take the reality of it... I don't like when people cheat their partners but the story and the characters had depth. I can easily say that "Valid Love" is one of the best dramas of 2015, just not my cup of tea. Acting, screenplay and the narration is awesome! I wonder how the audience took it... Anybody?
About "My Beautiful Bride"... what can I say... this drama is my style! Very sleek...wonderfully acted...Felt like I was watching a film.

I've don't remember particularly seeing any of Kim Mu-yeol's work before in my 15 years of following Korean entertainment scene even though he looks familiar... He is awesome!!! Thank you odilettante for Kim Mu-yeol! <3

I was never really a fan of Lee Shi-young even though I respected her versatility as a human being but after watching both the dramas (Valid Love and My Beautiful Bride), I am amazed at her range in acting and she definitely is someone to watch out for!

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I really do not agree with a lot of things in this write up but I acknowledge that it's really difficult to explain the brilliance of valid love. I wouldn't even try. Too many subtle moments.

It's like a joke. If someone has to explain it, it loses it's kick.

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Only about 5-6 K-dramas that I really enjoyed this year w/ the most recent being the under-appreciated "The Three Musketeers" (too bad won't see the other planned seasons).

Know that there were a # of others that were regarded favorably but for one reason or another (melo or didn't really care for one of the leads) wasn't interested in watching - but had missed hearing about "Midnight Diner" which definitely perks my interest.

Also, reminded me to watch "Let's Eat 2" - so those 2 are on my "to watch" list, along w/ getting back to "6 Flying Dragons."

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What a great review, odilettante! Thank you!

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I have to say I thought Let's Eat 2 was wayyy better than the first season. The main romance felt more real. I love the dynamic between the two leads and the portrayal of their bickering friendship. I did enjoy watching Lee Soo-kyung and barasi in Let's Eat. However, overall, I much enjoyed the second season more. I wish there were more dramas out their so I could enjoy more of the adorable and funny Yoon Doo-joon (and that's after binge watching Let's Eat 1 and 2 within a couple of days after discovering him for the first time in Splish Splash Love). I don't want him doing another season though since I'd like to believe he ends up marrying Soo-ji, and eating and reading comic books for the rest of their bickering lives together. Could we just have another Splish Splash Love?

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I am so glad that you mentioned Midnight Diner in your reviews. I also found that to be a small treasure of a show and became invested in the regular patrons of that little place. Even the characters that came and went left a powerful impression on me.
I hope 2016 will bring us more of this kind of drama.

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