Drama Reactions & Reviews
2016 Year in Review, Part 4: Embracing the modern age
by | December 19, 2016 | 99 Comments

It’s funny how December has now become synonymous with our Year-End Extravaganza, and has all but replaced Christmas in my list of inescapable winter events for a good five years now. It’s made me appreciate the seasons more, since spring is the time to slack off, seeing as how all that hard work is now done. Then summer creeps in, and all I think about is that we’re one stage closer to winter. Fall usually brings about denial, where I convince myself that I’m totally not going to procrastinate this year and generally be more on top of things. Once winter rolls around, I simultaneously count the days and try to avoid looking at a calendar entirely, which never ever works. Lather, rinse, repeat.

At least dramas are the one constant we can count on to anchor us through the passage of time, making it easy to see that we’ve come quite a long way from the good old days. Dramas are pricier, fancier, fluffier, deeper, and more thought-provoking than ever before. Each year gives us new highs and lows, but most of all, each year gives us hope—hope that the high highs will set a new bar, and hope that the low lows will, if nothing else, serve as a lesson learned for an ever-growing industry.

And just as the industry is evolving, its audience is too. So in my attempt to not feel left behind, I decided to try distilling my thoughts about each drama into emoji form for the reader on the go. It’s only because I’m totally hip and cool like that—and besides, who doesn’t love options?


Signal OST – Kim Yuna – “The Road” [ Download ]

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It’s always so rewarding when a drama that didn’t come out of a test tube engineered for mainstream success reaches it anyway, even though we can’t exactly argue that Signal was an underdog. And it’s not to cast aspersions on romance-centric dramas like Descended From the Sun either, because that drama earned its popularity fair and square. It’s just nice when a drama that isn’t centered on family or romance becomes a bonafide hit, because that only spells out a better future for all of us who love and enjoy dramas.

There’s no denying that tvN has been on a roll lately, and that success seems to be directly tied to its willingness to branch out from the kind of bubbly content we used to associate with the network. Misaeng was definitely a landmark series for the once-fledgling cable network, and that seemed to pave the way for this year’s Signal, featuring a dark premise inspired by the real-life Hwaseong serial murders, which still remain unsolved to this day.

Premiering to strong numbers and ending in even stronger double-digits, Signal was a commercial and critical success, earning itself awards for best drama, actress, and screenplay at the 52nd Baeksang Arts Awards, culminating in no less than ten awards and fifteen nominations across the board. And each award couldn’t have been more deserved for a drama that was stellar on all fronts, with one of the best casts assembled in recent memory, and a production team to match.

And while the show would be nothing without the writing, which managed to weave a mystery tale between two separate time periods, it was really in the directing that the show shined. And the top-notch acting too, of course. It’s hard to pick just one great aspect of the show to focus on when there was so much greatness to be had, but with a story this complicated, an unsure directing hand could have easily ruined it. As it was, PD Kim Won-suk did a stellar job differentiating the two time periods by making a choice I’d never seen made before—instead of coloring the flashbacks with a generic filter or a fade-in, which would have been impossible with how much we traveled back and forth between the two, he actually just changed the aspect ratio of the shots taking place in the past.

It was slight, just enough for our eyes to recognize that something was different about the past scenes, but not enough to be distracting. And it was so seamless that we could have a split-screen situation going on between past and present and still be able to clearly discern who was in what period, which was beyond helpful for a premise centering around a walkie-talkie connecting a police lieutenant from the present to a detective in the past.

Signal was truly unique in the way it handled the human struggles happening between our two detectives, who knew and understood that their actions could have terrible consequences. This wasn’t a drama where time was a friend or enemy—it was almost a character of its own, as inevitable as it was malleable, even though changing it came at great cost. The moral dilemmas faced by the three central characters could not have been better portrayed by Lee Je-hoon, Kim Hye-soo, and Jo Jin-woong, the latter of which finally received the top billing he so rightfully deserved. Here’s hoping this dream team reassembles for a worthy sequel—or maybe something this good is best left on its own.

Distilled Thoughts: 📡 🏃 ⏱ = 👏 👏 👏



When the promo run for Jackpot started, featuring more “official” posters than you could shake a stick at, I couldn’t help but be interested when I saw that the same writer from Warrior Baek Dong-soo would be on board. That, and the fact that we were again getting two young stars and the amazing Choi Min-soo back on the small screen was enough to get me to commit to my first recapping project post-Six Flying Dragons—conveniently forgetting, of course, that the writer had only penned one drama between then and now: the completely forgettable Goddess of Fire Jung-yi.

Sure, I had some reservations about the gambling premise, since making sageuk dramas which revolve around niche ideas hasn’t ever seemed to work out too well before (see: Goddess of Fire [pottery], The King’s Face [physiognomy]), but funnily enough, gambling turned out to be the least of this drama’s problems. The reason why you can fall into so many potholes making a sageuk drama about something normally irrelevant is that you get a drama like Jackpot, which seemed to feel a need to incorporate gambling into all the major decisions made in the show, whether the idea worked or not.

More often than not, it didn’t. Looking back, what was probably the earliest warning sign that we’d be in for a wild ride was the drama’s torturous treatment of its hero, which went on for way too long. As an immortal infant, he was stabbed and thrown off a cliff. As an immortal young man, he had most of his bones broken (to the point where we had an unintentionally hilarious scene of him dragging himself on the ground using only his chin), was stabbed again, shot with an arrow, choked, tortured, stabbed a few more times, and finally, thrown off another cliff.

And that was just the punishment he endured in a single episode. Imagine that idea—that fate made the hero immortal until the time he was actually scheduled to die—dragged out through an entire series. Imagine a villain as equally immortal and nonsensical to the point of absurdity. Imagine a female lead who was so universally disliked by netizens that she disappeared from the series only to be brought back so that she could kill herself. Imagine all that stretched over twenty-four unnecessary episodes, and you get Jackpot.

It’s a shame for Jang Geun-seok, who just can’t seem to pick good projects lately. In his defense, Jackpot seemed like a good enough idea in theory, but it was in practice that it all fell apart. His character was everyone and no one at the same time, while his onscreen brother, Yeo Jin-gu (in his first and well-deserved adult role), seemed to have a slightly more defined sense of self. Still, both characters were at the mercy of an interminably messy script, which didn’t seem to understand action and consequence. Or flow. Or logic.

Distilled Thoughts: 🗡 🏹 🕳 ⚰ 🛌 🏋️ 🎰 🎲 = 😭 🔫


Mirror of the Witch

It’s been interesting to watch JTBC evolve as a cable network since its inception onto the drama scene, even though saying that makes me feel old, like get-off-my-lawn old. Remember when cable networks were new, and none of us knew what to expect from them even though we had to walk fifteen miles through the snow to watch them? I would say that those were the days, except it really feels like we’re living in the age of cable now, and that’s a feeling I wouldn’t trade for anything.

But to get the white-haired elephant out of the room, it’d be remiss not to mention that Mirror of the Witch was one of the three dramas this year that chose to pair a minor with a full grown adult—in this case, actress Kim Sae-ron was sixteen, compared to Yoon Shi-yoon’s thirty years on this earth. This is one of those touchy subjects that I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to feel about, even though I did find it odd that the same thing happened with three different shows on three different networks. That it seems like it became a pattern is strange in and of itself, though I can’t exactly blame the networks for wanting to tap into the fresh-faced talent available to them. But in the absence of actual wisdom and new light to shed on the subject, a web of mixed feelings is about all I have to offer.

I’ve always been a sucker for fantasy sageuk dramas, and it became clear early on that Mirror of the Witch had a design aesthetic that was a cut above the rest. The first episode was a tour de force of production design, directing, cinematography, special effects, and acting, along with a dark vibe that told us we weren’t watching our mother’s fantasy sageuk. (I don’t think fantasy sageuk existed when our mothers were watching, but you get it.) The story was engrossing, and Yoon Shi-yoon was beyond winning in his first post-army role, showing a more mature side of himself without losing that streak of innocence that makes all his characters so lovable and engaging.

The actual story at the heart of all the beautiful visuals, about a witch out to kill the cursed heroine she helped create, wasn’t necessarily suited to a twenty-episode format. While there were plenty of other plot threads going on—like the involvement of Yoon Shi-yoon’s character Heo Jun (based off the real-life historical figure, which I still find to be a bit of a weird choice) in the heroine’s quest to grant enough wishes to light enough candles to kill the wicked witch of the palace while simultaneously being thwarted by her adoptive father who was previously good, but died, only to be brought back to life and controlled by the evil witch’s black magic (phew)—it always ended up boiling down to the same conflict. The witch wanted the princess dead, and the princess needed to kill the witch in order to break her lifelong curse.

Things got pretty darn convoluted along the way, what with all the different players, black magic influences, and a king unable to make sound decisions. The story could’ve benefitted from a tighter episode count, because by the third resurrection of a character previously thought dead, we were getting dangerously close to just spinning our wheels. But even so, after all the episodes spent hoping for a happy resolution to our heroine’s decidedly unhappy life, we got an ending that seemed to completely miss the point. It still makes me sad to think about it, but at least we can’t accuse the show of circumventing its own fantastical rules. And for a drama that was so steeped in its own mythology and world-building, that counts for a lot.

Distilled Thoughts: 👩 🙏 👶 👶 🔮 👸 👫 💀 = 😁 🤔 👏


Beautiful Mind

I still don’t quite buy that Beautiful Mind was cut due to poor ratings, since even as of this writing, we’re seeing a good deal of shows living well below the five percent mark. So far, even the shows that have been severely underperforming have gotten a chance to finish their runs, so what was specific to this show that it couldn’t?

Without donning a tinfoil hat, we could point to the interruption caused by the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as one reason, and the fact that Beautiful Mind had more than its fair share of production woes before airing. In order to give it time to get itself together, KBS pushed its airdate by two weeks—which, at the time, did seem like a lot of trouble to go through for a show that would’ve been able to meet its original airdate had they not insisted on waiting for actress Park So-dam to finish shooting Cinderella and the Four Knights first.

But if we were to put that tinfoil hat on for a brief moment, the fact remains that KBS did make exceptions for the show, and it wasn’t like the Olympics came as any great surprise. (You had four years to plan for this!) I can’t shake the feeling that cutting the episode count was a passive act of revenge on the network’s part for jumping through so many hoops for a show that didn’t even deliver high numbers, considering that they had originally wanted to cut the sixteen episode order to an unprecedented twelve. Kim Tae-hee, the writer, personally fought for at least fourteen episodes, because she wanted to at least see the story finished properly.

And while we still have that tinfoil hat on, it’s worth noting that literally no one wanted to accept the job as lead actor for this show—not Kim Soo-hyun, not Yoo Ah-in, not Lee Jong-seok, and not even Choi Jin-hyuk (who admittedly gave me a “one of these things does not belong with the others” vibe in this list). The drama was first purported to be a loose adaptation of Frankenstein, and while that’s still seen floating around in the descriptions of the drama, if it was an adaptation of the famous novel, then my name is Frank.

One can’t help but wonder if all the bad press surrounding the rough start was a hindrance to the drama’s numbers, and it probably also didn’t help that its direct competition also happened to be the literally named Doctors, which, despite not having a plot, soared to unimaginable ratings heights. Beautiful Mind never stood a chance.

That being said, Beautiful Mind was a rare gem in a year full of ups and downs, and I’m glad that it at least established itself as a cult hit. Those who watched it became its firm defenders, with a defining performance by Jang Hyuk as a genius neurosurgeon with an actual medical inability to love. Or so that was the idea—the drama toyed with the idea of nature vs. nurture in a big way, spearheaded by a father figure who genuinely feared his son even as he taught him to recognize the mechanics of human emotion enough for our hero to crudely mimic them.

It was very much about otherness, of our natural fear of someone we perceive to be different, and in a meta way, it was an ironic take on how we accept certain heroes as being feelingless, misunderstood jerks, only to react with horror when it’s not a personality deficit, but an actual condition. Watching how everyone in the drama reacted to the truth of the hero’s “sociopathic” nature proved to be a strange moment of realization, since we’ve had dramas where heroes outright mistreat heroines out of love, and yet no one in-universe thinks twice about it.

Though it was never made absolutely clear whether our hero suffered from a condition or whether he’d just been raised to believe so, what mattered was his growth as a person, as he came to love the bubbly, bumbling cop that barged into his life. By no means was this drama perfect, but it was thoughtful in a very special way, and the directing elevated the show into something truly special. I still wish Yoon Hyun-min had been included in the A story, since he was relegated to the B story of unimportant hospital politics the entire show, but the day we see a doctor drama without hospital politics is the day hell freezes over.

Distilled Thoughts: 🏥 🗣 📉 💑 🕖 = 👌



Talk about a premise chock-full of great dramatic potential. Centering around a well-regarded actress ready to end her career, Wanted started in earnest when her only son was kidnapped and held for ransom. But not just any ransom—the actress, played by Kim Ah-joong, had to put on a reality show and follow the missions given by her son’s kidnapper in order to receive proof of life each week.

Sounds thrilling, right? It really was, especially in the beginning. Those first few episodes, with Kim Ah-joong searching for her son while being relentlessly followed by Uhm Tae-woong and his camera, turned the reality of being a star into a cruel, sick joke. The guerilla-style format of the reality show worked in our favor, since we were taken along as the actual show’s audience might be, and we could be there with her for every moment and every mission.

The problem came when those missions were too easily accomplished, even when they were centered around exposing corruption and thus dependent on those corrupt people to somehow confess to crimes they’d previously kept hidden—on live television, no less. As we lost the guerrilla format and fell into a more normal routine, the show began to lose its sparkle. The urgency was gone when the show became about Kim Ah-joong talking to the audience from the safe confines of a studio set every night, and we couldn’t exactly feel her heart-wrenching fear for her son’s safety when she could be so formal and restrained on screen.

That’s where Kim Ah-joong’s limitations came into play, though even now, I’m still struggling to pinpoint whether it was primarily a fault of the acting or the writing. We just missed so many opportunities that should’ve come easily with a premise like this, and were doomed once Uhm Tae-woong ended up restrained in the writer’s room when he could have—and should have—been following Kim Ah-joong around as she worked to complete her various missions. For most of the second half of the drama, I usually couldn’t help but scream, “Why isn’t anyone filming this?!”

I realize that’s kind of ironic, since it was being filmed for us, but we lost that connection of being both the audience for the show within the show as well as the show itself. It was a quick road to detachment after that, especially when the premise got stretched on long enough for its seams to not only show, but split wide open. The ultimate mastermind proved to just be on the revenge warpath because his wife died of a faulty product, so the entire point of the reality show was to eventually expose the company which made it. And I think that could’ve worked had the show used one of its more top billed cast members to fill that role, since the reveal would’ve packed a bigger punch that way.

But that’s all coulda, woulda, shoulda. In the end, Wanted turned out to be inoffensive entertainment that wasted the talents of its two male leads. Ji Hyun-woo was excellent as the principled detective who pitches in to help the production team find the missing child, and while Uhm Tae-woong could’ve been utilized to a much greater extent, he did well with what was given to him. This was also a show with some engaging side characters, from Park Hyo-joo as the writer who finds her humanity in the process, to Jun Hyo-sung, the young assistant who finds herself in way over her head. The bromance between Ji Hyun-woo and his partner Shin Jae-ha was definitely one of the highlights of the show, enough to where I’d be more than fine if they got their own spinoff. Hint, hint.

Distilled Thoughts: 🙅 👶 🔫 🎥 📺 ⏰ = 😕


W—Two Worlds

Part of the problem when going into a project with a well-respected writer is our expectation that they can capture lightning in a bottle again, so the bar was set pretty high for the premiere of W—Two Worlds, considering that it was helmed by writer Song Jae-jung (Queen In-hyun’s Man, Nine). The good news is that it delivered in a big way, with one of the most novel premises ever to hit the airwaves. And that, in an of itself, is worth plenty of praise.

Of course, the question then becomes whether we should reward big ideas just by virtue of their bigness, even if the story that follows isn’t exactly the most coherent. Should we reward the well-worn drama done exceptionally well, or the newcomer with grand ideas and somewhat messier execution? In the end, I guess the idea would be to have a drama that can be both at once (and that drama aired this year), but not every show can be Signal.

And you know what? That’s okay. I do wonder, looking back now, whether my feelings for W are mostly tempered because I never really fell headfirst into the show’s world. I liked watching it, and found some of the directorial choices top-notch, since the fantastical element of the show required nothing less than an assured hand behind the camera. It’s in the writing that the show seemed to falter, but it’s interesting that it took about twelve episodes before the seams really started to show. Even then, it wasn’t like we were witnessing a train wreck, but the effect was almost worse—the ideas we thought had a basis that hadn’t yet been revealed to us just turned out not to have much of a basis at all. Those reveals we thought were forthcoming didn’t come. Those answers we sought remained questions.

But it was in W’s portrayal of its villain that it lost one of the most promising and intriguing aspects it had going for it, at least for me. Up until No Face actually got a face, the drama seemed to be toying with some very meta ideas about how we, as audience members, consume entertainment. I liked the outlandish idea that our reactions could have real consequences for people we’d normally never consider people, and how we, as consumers, can be an unruly mob sometimes.

That’s an idea I thought was personified in No Face, especially when he was prone to repeating complaints the W audience (both the fictional and real ones) lobbed at the creators. The audience’s hunger seemed to drive him to continue to make his and Kang Chul’s story relevant, so for the longest while, it really seemed as though No Face was simply the embodiment of the demanding fans which had created him, that he was our expectations in character form—a faceless, nameless creature born of our own insatiable need for gratification. There really could have been something to say there, but then he got a face, turned cartoonishly evil (though I suppose one could argue that was his point), and any rules we thought existed became more like gentle guidelines. Still, props for originality.

Distilled Thoughts: 🏃 🚗 🔫 👱 📖 👰 ✍️ 💑 = ❓


Age of Youth

Sometimes we get lucky with writers who seem to be addicted to their work, and who consistently put out at least one drama a year. The downside is that not all of them may be winners, but we can usually take some comfort in the fact that they’ll get another chance in short order to prove our misgivings wrong. In an ideal world, anyway.

Such isn’t the case with writer Park Yeon-sun, who I’ve been obsessed with since she penned White Christmas, one of the greatest dramas of all time. And then followed it up with Wild Romance, one of the not-so-great dramas of all time. And after that, I didn’t think much of her except to miss her once a year when it was time to write reviews, since we saw neither hide nor hair of her since the year of our lord 2012.

But then Age of Youth happened, and it couldn’t have been any more a return to form for a writer who may just be the best at creating unique-yet-complimenting personalities in a decidedly ensemble cast. It may not have had the creepy factor of White Christmas, but Age of Youth seemed to very much be its sister, replacing a predominantly male cast with a group of five very different young women living in close quarters.

It may not have had a big twist to offer, or even a cast full of big stars. But what it had was heart, excellent (if smaller-scale) production values, and a cast chemistry that simply couldn’t be beat. For anyone who’s ever had a roommate, this drama may have hit a little close to home, but that’s where it excelled. Each cast member brought something unique and undeniable to their character, whether it was Han Ye-ri’s stifled suffering, Han Seung-yeon’s bright but deeply flawed attitude, Park Eun-bin’s wisdom beyond her years, Ryu Hwa-young’s inner tenderness despite her tough exterior, or Park Hye-soo’s innocence and inner strength.

Watching the girls grow in ways both small and large as they lived together and endured life’s problems together was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve felt watching a show this year, since it really did feel like we were watching people, not characters. I have to admit that while I went into this show thinking I’d love Han Ye-ri the most (I’ll never stop loving you, Six Flying Dragons), I came out with a new appreciation for Ryu Hwa-young, who managed to survive the sinking of the T-tanic in better shape than her bandmates. It could just be that the role was tailor-made for her, but there was just something about her grudging reluctance to be the mother hen she was clearly born to be that made her infinitely likable. At the point where you’re holding your roommate’s hair back while they puke their guts out, you’re their friend, whether you like it or not.

Distilled Thoughts: 👸 👩 💃🏽 👧 💆 🏡 = 💖 💖 💖


Cinderella and the Four Knights

This has been a year of hits and misses for everyone who jumped on the pre-production bandwagon, and Cinderella and the Four Knights falls somewhere in the middle. It’s easy to review the dramas that aspired to be something and maybe failed at it, because at least there’s glory in trying. It’s more difficult to discuss dramas which never tried to be more than they were, especially if they were only just okay at it.

Before 1% of Anything happened, I would’ve pointed to the fact that the show relied on a dated premise as being where the show might’ve misstepped on its journey to entertain. But if 1% showed us anything, it’s that dated can still feel fresh and new if treated properly, so that gives Cinderella slightly less of an excuse. To be fair, there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the show—it was dumb but watchable and made purely to be tween fluff, despite airing near midnight on tvN’s it’s-okay-if-you’re-already-asleep time slot.

Surprisingly enough, it did pretty okay for itself ratings-wise, considering that it was in such an odd time slot to begin with, and that it lacked massive star power. It had enough trouble finding a broadcaster in the first place, but it could’ve done much worse than tvN, which automatically lent it a legitimacy I’m not quite sure it earned. But again, I feel like that’s being harsh for a show that wasn’t trying to be the most cerebral hit of the year, and besides, it had Jungshin. Automatic win.

Joking aside (but it’s true that I developed a weird love for Jungshin after seeing him try his little heart out in the mess that was Sword and Flower), this show would’ve been fine if it made more of an effort to just be a fluff piece, rather than a real drama. It was when the second lead angst set in that it derailed in earnest, with Sohn Na-eunplaying that girl that all the boys like because the script told them to. Pretty but disorientingly bland, she achieved the rare feat of making Ahn Jae-hyun look better by comparison. What’s even more bizarre is that he managed to upstage Jung Il-woo in the beginning of the drama, though it didn’t help that Jung Il-woo’s character was an angsty, angry mess for what felt like way too long.

But for her part, Park So-dam put in a good performance as the Candy/Cinderella whose plucky personality makes her a prime candidate for her use by a wealthy grandfather to teach his wayward grandchildren a lesson. If it sounds a lot like 1% of Anything, it’s only because the premise itself is very old school, and both dramas definitely delved into what we loved about those old school dramas back in the day. But a case like this makes me think that we’ve moved on for a reason, and that the classic Candy tales aren’t enough to please a modern audience constantly searching for fresh stimuli. It’s not that they can’t be used at all—this is dramaland, after all—but if it’s going to be done, it’s got to be done well. Otherwise you get mildly entertaining but totally forgettable fare like Cinderella and the Four Knights, which isn’t the worst thing to happen, but audiences deserve better.

Distilled Thoughts: 👸 🏠 😁 😚 😤 😐 = 💤


Moonlight Drawn By Clouds

Even if Moonlight Drawn By Clouds had been a terrible drama in an alternate universe that wouldn’t be worth living in, it would’ve been remarkable if only for the unprecedented ratings jump it experienced between its first and second weeks, doubling its premiere ratings in one shot. And while numbers are something we can quantify about a show, the factors that went into the sudden surge in popularity are decidedly unquantifiable, and led to terms like “The Park Bo-gum Effect” and “Moonlight Syndrome” being created to try and figure out what on earth was going on.

And while I think crying phenomenon every time a show becomes massively popular might get old soon, it hasn’t yet, though I don’t know what to expect from dramas that will clearly look to replicate Moonlight’s success in the future. Strictly because what made it so good can’t just be boiled down to one or two things, but an amalgamation of all of them, and a kind of energy that seemed to infuse the whole production. It honestly felt like, at every turn, the production kept asking itself, “Is this delightful?” And if any part of it wasn’t, it wasn’t included.

Of course, that doesn’t include the necessary angst we had to go through, but we were rewarded for every tear shed. The general feel of the drama inexplicably reminded me a little of the heyday of objectively bad but immensely satisfying Japanese dramas like Hana Kimi, which filled each frame with a sort of manic, infectious happiness. I realize it’s one of the oddest comparisons to make, and one that might only be relevant to me, but the sheer enjoyability of Moonlight brought back those memories. It wasn’t manic, but it had an underlying feeling of goodwill and happiness that was hard to ignore—and that, for me, is what carried the show.

Okay, that and Park Bo-gum, who portrayed one of the best and most memorable characters of the year. He was levelheaded and uniquely cunning as Lee Yeong, a crown prince based off the real-life historical figure. But that’s where the similarities seemed to end, and admittedly, that took some getting over when we reached the end. I couldn’t quite decide whether I was satisfied or just a little dismayed by the historical shift, but I ultimately ended up satisfied. While there’s a part of me that wonders if we couldn’t have accomplished the same story with a fictional king (so as to not flout history so thoroughly), I also had to remember that this show was based off a novel of the same name, and was therefore bound to its rules. Besides, would we have been happier if Lee Yeong died as long as history was preserved?

I know everyone was all about Kwak Dong-yeon in his first “adult” role, and I couldn’t be any happier for his success. My first exposure to him was as a young he-who-shall-not-be-named in Age of Feeling, and I remember thinking that the drama would have been much better off had they just kept him on for the entire show, despite his age (of feeling). Similarly, Kim Yoo-jung belied her youth with a grounded performance as a eunuch in drag, and seems destined for a life of stardom—though I don’t think tons of mature roles will be forthcoming for a few years yet, since she still looks as young as she is.

But Jinyoung was the one who ended up stealing my heart, and you can imagine my surprise when I looked him up and discovered that he wasn’t a seasoned young actor, but an idol-turned-actor. I still have trouble reconciling that idea, since he always seemed so in his scenes, with this sort of quiet stoicism that hid a wealth of feelings beneath. I even admit to wishing that he’d get thrown at least one bone by the girl he silently dedicated himself to, but the main pairing was much too strong to endure interference by that point. Wait, is what I’m describing Second Lead Syndrome? It is, isn’t it? Why have I just realized this now?

Distilled Thoughts: 🌝 ✍️ ☁️ 👬 🔜 👫 👑 = 🏅


Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

I remember when we were all excited for the advent of pre-produced dramas, because after seeing the kind of trainwrecks live-shoot could produce, we thought that surely, surely, pre-produced dramas couldn’t possibly suffer from the same fate. They’d have the entire drama in their hands before the world saw it, they’d have written it with an ending already in mind, and the story told would undoubtedly be more complete than one being written on the same day it was to be shot. The actors would be more rested, the director would have time to plan his shots, there’d even be time to pitch and test ideas. How could you possibly go wrong?

Cue Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, which proved that a pre-produced drama can be just as bad as one haphazardly shot live. We could dedicate entire studies to everything that went wrong in this show and still come up short, because it wasn’t just one or two things. It was everything wrong at once, sometimes in varying levels of wrongness at any given time, with the odd smearing of soul-shattering potential that would never be realized.

There’s always a risk with adaptations, and sometimes, it just seems to be the luck of the draw as to whether they do well or not. While dramaland has had some great successes adapting webtoons, its history with adaptations from other countries has been a bit more storied, and I imagine that it was tough to adapt a megahit like Bu Bu Jing Xin (otherwise known as Scarlet Heart) to correspond with Korean history, rather than Chinese history. But in all actuality, that was one of the few things the drama got right—by transporting the story to the very beginning of the Goryeo dynasty, it worked that we had King Taejo with his many, many sons to play the nine(!) princes central to the story.

So it wasn’t a matter of the story itself being unadaptable, but that you’d need a strong writer to condense what was originally forty-five episodes of material into a much more palatable twenty, without sacrificing story clarity or logic. And that’s where writer Jo Joon-young didn’t come in, because despite Moon Lovers having an enormous budget of thirteen million dollars, they skimped out on a seasoned writer, instead going with one who hadn’t worked since 2009, and whose prior works weren’t even well-regarded hits.

But let’s say that the writing wasn’t nonsensical and self-negating at every turn, with some strange choices I’ll still never understand. We’d be left with the directing, which on its own wouldn’t be able to save a show, but boy, could it have helped. I really tried to put my reservations about PD Kim Kyu-tae aside for this drama, despite being strangely fascinated by the problematic downward spiral his work has taken since he finally branched out on his own (as opposed to being one of two directors on a given project). He had such great potential when he worked on A Love to Kill, and his unique style was seemingly at its peak with Padam Padam: The Sound of His and Her Heartbeats, one of the four Noh Hee-kyung dramas that would shape his career.

And weirdly enough, his style was somewhat more tolerable with writer Noh Hee-kyung’s projects, even though I wonder if that’s what led him to believe that his style could work on any drama. By the time we got to It’s Okay, It’s Love, his was a style that was so off-putting that it would actively make me angry, because so many of his problems could be solved by just not shoving his camera into the actors’ faces. The idea of cinematic affectation, of using your shots to actually convey narrative information to the audience (gasp!), was completely lost on him. And never was that more apparent than in Moon Lovers.

So often, the shots were just wrong for the scene, with jarring closeups that failed to give us context and awareness of the characters’ surroundings. It was nice to be able to see the shifting emotions in Lee Jun-ki’s beautiful face, but in period dramas especially, we want to see the lush surroundings, the sumptuous costumes, or sometimes, even the other characters in a scene. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, right?

But it was, which meant that two corners of the much-coveted Drama Trifecta were already missing. That left acting, which was a decidedly mixed bag. The lack of narrative focus made the excess of princes just that, but in a drama dependent on having the heroine be the audience’s eyes and ears into the strange world she found herself transported to, IU could not have been more woefully miscast. And the directing could not have been less helpful in that regard, since the endless closeups did the doe-eyed idol star no favors when her gamut of emotions seemed to encompass only shock and sadness.

If nothing else, Moon Lovers even proved that behind-the-scenes woes aren’t solely reserved for live-shoot dramas, as the production team began to scramble after a disappointing premiere week, leading them to haphazardly edit all the footage they had into different versions of the episodes they’d already sent out for international consumption. Which, in turn, led to a good deal of confusion over why so many of the choices were made. It’s unfortunate, since there was just so much untapped potential for something great here—and there was one episode in twenty that proved it—but all dramaland can do is learn from this, and all we can do is try to move on from it.

Distilled Thoughts: 💁 ⏰ 🛀 👁 👃 👄 🎥 = 🍷 🍷 🍷 ☹️


On the Way to the Airport

On the Way to the Airport OST – Sun Woo Jung Ah – “City Sunset” [ Download ]

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In a word, On the Way to the Airport was beautiful. The directing was lush, the overall tone of the drama thoughtful and intense, and while the storyline of two married people finding each other was relatively simple, it reached new depths with every episode.

And for all that, it was relatively unassuming, which is something I really came to love. It felt like the drama existed solely to tell its story, which came as a welcome reprieve from the shows that seem genetically engineered to hook you based on what audiences statistically go for, like there’s someone just crunching numbers behind the scenes in order to make sure the drama appeals to everyone at every moment.

As a repressed wife, mother, and careerwoman stuck in a baseline functional but essentially loveless marriage, Kim Haneul created a character who we could not only sympathize with, but even root for as she broke her marriage vows. Her relationship with the overly sweet and thoughtful Lee Sang-yoon worked because it felt so forbidden but so right at the same time. This was a drama constantly bristling with tension, where one well-timed look or one text could set off a flood of emotions, both in the characters and the audience. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t sit very still throughout the whole show, since I was prone to trying to talk the characters into just being together forever already.

Which is a bit weird for me, since I’m not the type to fangirl over the shows made to be fangirled over, and yet there I was, making a fool of myself for sixteen episodes. I wouldn’t change a moment of it though, since I love shows that can actually transport us into the midst of our characters’ lives, so that we feel every struggle as they do. The ups and downs of Su-ah and Do-woo’s relationship felt masterfully mapped out and based in reality, which owes a lot to the tempered directing hand and thoughtful writing. Some episodes could pass with few words spoken, with the story mostly being told through the use of music and long, lingering shots.

On the Way to the Airport was even good enough to make me forget how much I wanted Lee Sang-yoon and Shin Sung-rok to reunite on-screen for Liar Game 2. I still can’t believe we had both men on the same set, but that they barely interacted—though Shin Sung-rok seemed out of place in a role which required him to act normal for a change. He’s the one iffy spot of the show, even though I still love his weird face to pieces.

Distilled Thoughts: ✈️ 🏃 💏 = 👍🏼 👍🏼 👍🏼


The K2

Conspiracy in the Court and Chuno still stand as two of the best dramas ever made, but because Basketball was so phenomenally, incomprehensibly, soul-suckingly bad, I’ve understandably been a little gun-shy about PD Kwak Jung-hwan. And, to be honest, he’s another director whose career oddly fascinates me, since he went from unilateral greatness (Chuno) to general okayness (Runaway: Plan B), to the nightmare mentioned above (Basketball).

His body of work seemed to have taken a downward spiral from which there was no escape, and this year’s Neighborhood Hero, while not being one way or the other, didn’t serve as much of an indicator as to whether his newest project would be a return to form for a director who knows his way around action scenes. So I was nervously hopeful for The K2, thinking that it seemed like just the kind of drama PD Kwak would be good at. And secretly, I was hopeful that he’d come back with a bang, which would ideally mean a return to blockbuster sageuk territory in the future.

Ratings-wise, The K2 was a success for cable network tvN, garnering praise for its slick directing and action sequences. But it was that same success that ended up confusing me through most of the show’s run, because the story itself was unfocused, and the hero, while being played winningly by Ji Chang-wook, never felt like a lived-in human being, despite the endless flashbacks to his tragic past. I never got a sense for why he was doing most of the things he was doing, since the idea of his revenge was so ambiguous that it took sixteen episodes for him to act on it, when he could’ve just as easily done what he did in the first act for all the preparation it took.

Because of the shared writer, there were too many Yong-pal vibes for me to ever get too comfortable with the heroine who, like her counterpart last year, was relegated to being a helpless waif in a nightdress for far too many episodes. Her purpose became increasingly amorphous as the story seemed to roll on just fine without her—at first, she was being relegated to another country in order to hide the fact that she was a prominent politician’s daughter. Then, she was brought to live in her father’s house, but wasn’t allowed to leave. Anyone who knew of her existence seemed far too comfortable in the knowledge that they’d be murdered if she were to ever get out, even though we reached a point where literally everyone knew, though the threat of mass executions by a politician seeking to be president was still supposed to be taken seriously on our part.

For reasons made purposefully vague (and relying way too heavily on that random foreign photographer), she was then allowed more freedom in the story to move in and out of the house, with her identity eventually being revealed, and nobody being all that affected by it. Kind of makes you question why all the cloak-and-dagger stuff was necessary in the first place, but even if we did buy that it was, Anna always felt like she was struggling for relevance in a story that seemed very much as though it just wasn’t about her.

Perhaps, if played by a more engaging actress, Anna could have come off as more than just a girl who needed protection. But the writing just did the character zero favors, which likely didn’t help Yoon-ah put in a stronger performance, since it was difficult to tell whether the blandness of character came from the script, actress, or a little bit of both. It also didn’t help that she was greatly overshadowed by Song Yoon-ah, who not only stole the show, but dominated it.

I do wonder if the overall problem was a lack of restraint in the directing department, since Kim Gap-soo, a seasoned veteran, spent the entire show doing evil things openly and laughing maniacally, more cartoon than worthy adversary. Lee Jung-jin also equated villainy with what was usually unrealistic arrogance and an unceasing case of the giggles, even in the face of a bomb threat that his genius rear end apparently thought was a great idea. Tell me this: How does it make sense to drag a ginormous bomb to the doors of the supercomputer you want to steal? And then to not have an off switch for said bomb? Oh, Drama Villains. You still have much to learn.

Distilled Thoughts: 👩 💰 🏃 🖥 💣 💥 💑 = 😁 😬 😶 😐 😑


Woman With a Suitcase

This is one of those shows that worked by the seat of its pants, and yet another of this year’s shows with unnecessarily elongated titles. The suitcase in Woman With a Suitcase wasn’t even in the bulk of the drama, though I guess we should be grateful that the show didn’t constantly feel the need to mention it in a “See what we did there?” nod to the title.

Though I’m a bit hard-pressed to remember solid details about this show despite it ending only recently, I did enjoy the experience of watching it week to week. It never tried to be too deep, and the cases it tackled from episode to episode were engaging in the moment, but were ultimately fairly forgettable. This wasn’t the Punch of legal dramas, by any means. It was its younger, less focused half-sister, but with some endearing characters at its heart.

What did surprise me while watching was the show’s sense of humor, since I hadn’t been expecting it to deliver on laughs. But whether it was Choi Ji-woo calling Joo Jin-mo’s character name out for sounding like “Hamburger,” or the petty rivalry between the men for Geum-joo’s affections, there were a surprising amount of jokes that worked.

And overall, the show might’ve done better had it tried to stick more to humorous territory rather than trying to go more deep and thoughtful, since we ended up with a corporate corruption storyline that wa—…zzzzzzz. The drama kept hinting at deeper issues, but it ended up involving so many players, each representing this corrupt conglomerate or that corrupt law fir—…zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Then there was something about teenage sex trafficking and an illicit sex video. Come to think of it, porn was featured somewhere in there too, though in as PG a way as one can refer to it. People got imprisoned, stabbed, and shot—and after all of that, Geum-joo still didn’t know whether she liked the guy who literally went to prison in order to push her to become a lawyer and defend him. Aren’t lawyers supposed to be good at making decisions?

Distilled Thoughts: 🙋 💼 👱 📸 = 🙂


1% of Anything

Out of all the shows that managed to surprise us this year (either for good or for ill), 1% of Anything was, at least for me, the sleeper hit of the year. I can’t very well call it that in a general sense, since it mostly flew under the radar despite being well regarded by fans and critics. But it also wasn’t made to be a hit, having started out as a web drama before moving over to the Dramax network. Sound familiar? It shouldn’t, since that channel is relatively (and by that I mean completely) new to the scene. And technically, it wasn’t produced by them, but simply re-aired.

And that would explain why the episode titles were always one episode off, because the drama was restructured from its web drama format into one drama fans are more used to, with two episodes a week airing for a total of eight weeks. Where it deviated from that format was in episode length—instead of one hour episodes or whatever ungodly episode lengths tvN has been putting out lately, each episode was forty minutes or less. Let that sink in a little bit—forty minutes is barely a commitment for the usual drama fan. By comparison with everything else airing, it felt downright breezy.

That breeziness worked heavily in this drama’s favor, since we no longer had the mandatory two hours to fill each week. The plot had to keep moving, new problems had to be presented and resolved relatively quickly, and having forty minutes shaved off each week meant that we didn’t have the time to waste on filler. The chaebol politics were kept to a minimum, the frothing-at-the-mouth second lead female kept on a tight leash, and the noble idiocy came and went so fast that you could blink and miss it.

Instead of the regular romantic drama tropes dragging on for episodes on end, we got snappy developments, meaningful resolutions, and a leading couple whose chemistry was so aces that I’m still waiting for Dispatch to report that they’re actually dating. I’m still surprised that this show managed to do in sixteen short episodes what some dramas can’t do in twenty regular episodes, which was to sell us on the lead couple.

Ha Suk-jin and Jeon So-min were perfect in their roles, with the former being absolutely winning here as a spoiled chaebol with a heart of gold—and the fact that Jeon So-min played an elementary school teacher meant that she was perfectly equipped to handle the man-child she found herself saddled with. Their relationship may have started off with a contract, but watching the two warm up to each other and eventually fall in love was a delight. Despite the somewhat outlandish premise, the couple felt very grounded and oh-so-real, leaving me with a huge grin each week. I’d heartily recommend this drama to anyone just getting into the game, or for anyone who just needs a happy pill. (But seriously you two, get married in real life.)

Distilled Thoughts: 👩 ❤️ 👱 = 😍


This Week, My Wife Will Have an Affair

I wouldn’t have been able to predict that two of my favorite dramas this year would center around adultery, and yet, here we are. JTBC has certainly been on a roll this year, and they have my blessings if they want to keep producing more digestible twelve-episode shows, which thankfully leaves very little room for filler or pacing mishaps.

This Week, My Wife Will Have an Affair was one of many successful adaptations this year, being based off a Japanese series of roughly the same name (there are so many different English translations of this title that it’s honestly hard to keep track). Following a hardworking PD and his relationship with his emotionally distant wife, the drama encompassed a winning ensemble, each with their own stories about life and love to tell. The world felt lived-in, the characters like people you might actually know. Well, except for Kim Hee-won and Ye Ji-won, who portrayed both parts of a failing marriage due to incessant and clinically problematic cheating on the husband’s part.

While that storyline seemed to be there just for the kookiness factor, Lee Seon-kyun portrayed our eyes and ears into this strange little world of infinite pressure and societal responsibility. Inherently well-meaning but just a little clueless, his was a character you couldn’t help but like as he struggled to cope with what was eventually revealed to be his wife’s affair. Having few people to really turn to about it in real life, he instead took to the internet, and his subsequent interactions with his fans (as well as his antis) became the cornerstone on which the drama was based.

The internet forum idea gave This Week a sort of relevance and poignance I wasn’t quite expecting going in, since the community that rallied around Hyun-woo’s plight represented both the best and worst of humanity. And the show didn’t hesitate to sugarcoat how easily the tide of public opinion can turn, as well as the mob mentality that can form under the auspices of anonymity, for better or worse.

But in one of many great choices by both the writing and directing, we were also able to follow a select number of Hyun-woo’s fans through their lives and struggles, which brought home the realization that at the end of the day, what we do online can have far-reaching effects. But we saw that those effects could be positive, as the community brought an estranged husband and wife together over a common cause, bonded two women who would otherwise have every reason to hate each other, and even saved someone’s life.

I absolutely loved Lee Sang-yub as a secretly divorced emotional wreck, and his romance with BoA’s no-nonsense character was a treat to watch. The interactions and ensuing bits of dialogue, which were often as full of comedic gold as they were with touching truths, came off as surprisingly realistic. And while it was difficult to find common ground with Song Ji-hyo, who played the titular cheating wife and poster child for repression, she represented a much bigger problem specifically endemic to women—that need to be the perfect wife, perfect mother, and perfect careerwoman. Sometimes all at once.

Admittedly, seeing her fail in that endeavor was probably one of the most depressing aspects of the show, because as much as we’d like to believe that times have changed, they haven’t changed that much. And no matter how much progress we make, we can’t squeeze any more hours into the day, which is why I felt uniquely sad for her character. It’s no excuse for what she did, but it was nice that her husband came to realize what he’d been taking for granted when it came to her seemingly infinite well of patience. Every person has a breaking point, but it’s who’s there to pick you back up that really matters.

Distilled Thoughts: 📅 💃🏽 💑 🕵️ ✍️ 🙏 🖥 = 😁 👍🏼


Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this drama, because while I completely understand that there exists an audience medical dramas are tailor-made for, I can’t usually count myself among them. I’ll watch a medical drama if it seems to be about more than just medicine, like the introspective character study presented in Beautiful Mind, but if the show is literally called Doctors, I usually take that as my cue to let others enjoy the fun.

But Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim, wacky title and all, seemed to promise something a little bit different from the usual formula. The production team alone was a bizarre mixture, with the writer of makjang supersensation Baker King Kim Tak-gu and the director of History of the Salaryman, which may be one of the quirkiest, most original pieces of small screen entertainment ever. Having watched and loved many of their prior works for completely different reasons, I was curious to see how they’d end up working together, especially with a primarily makjang writer at the helm of a weekday primetime drama. (Not that she hasn’t handled those before, with Gu Family Book doing gangbusters in its time.)

So while only half the show has aired as of this writing and much can change with ten episodes remaining, so far, it’s running a fairly predictable path. I held high hopes for the quirkiness factor that seemed heavily prevalent in the show’s first few episodes, with our hero being transported to an abandoned-looking hospital out in the countryside populated with a very close-knit and decidedly odd population of doctors and staffers. But you can’t have a doctor drama without hospital politics, and we’re now in the midst of that phase. It’s a shame in a way, because for once, we weren’t dealing with The Only Hospital in Seoul, which meant that the politics were kept down to a minimum since the secluded hospital simply had other problems (like patients) to deal with.

And as the saying doesn’t go, if the hospital will not go to the politics, then the politics will go to the hospital. That was made clear in the most literal sense, when doctors from The Only Hospital in Seoul were transported to our tiny countryside hospital to wreak all sorts of dramatic havoc. Or so you’d think—so far, their intrusion hasn’t amounted to much more than some shady looks and spying, since all the strings are still being pulled by the director of The Only Hospital in Seoul, simply because he wants jurisdiction over a surgery the show tells us is Very Important.

That’s not the only overarching thread, but it seems to be the one that’s carrying most of the weight in stringing together the events of each episode into something bigger. We’ve still got Yoo Yeon-seok and Seo Hyun-jin as doctors with a storied past together, though it’s in the character of Seo-jung that I feel the writer is really exercising her makjang muscles. Her character suffers from PTSD that at first seemed to prevent her from doctoring properly (her previously injured hand sets to shaking when she gets flashbacks), and it was treated as a normal scenario when the hospital’s resident mother hen/nurse, Jin Kyung, had to try and talk her out of slashing her wrist. But she slashed it anyway, and aside from a temporary ban on treating patients because she tried to kill herself, she went back to her normal, albeit very entertaining, self.

Which isn’t to say that such a thing can’t happen, and I’ll give the show credit for not just brushing her suicide attempt under the rug, since it comes back to haunt her when the hospital politics start setting in. It’s just that her bouts of crazy come and go as needed, which is seemingly one of the things that Teacher Kim is working on fixing with a heavy dose of tough love. To that end, Han Seok-kyu is putting in a commendable performance as the curmudgeonly (romantic doctor) Teacher Kim, whose lessons are the furthest possible thing from being clear-cut. But, as the show seems to be teaching us, lessons hard-earned are the ones best remembered.

Distilled Thoughts: 🏥 🎭 = 😕


Oh My Geum-bi

I’ve seen half the show as of this writing, and were it not currently airing, I’m very sure I would have binge-watched the entirety of it in one night. It’s weird, because Oh My Geum-bi doesn’t seem like the kind of show that would turn into straight-up drama crack, and I wasn’t expecting it to, either. But I just love everything about it, and inevitably end up cursing the week I have to wait between episodes because I want to know what happens to these characters now, darn it.

Initially, the premise seemed incredibly manipulative, in the way that most dramas about Alzheimer’s, dementia, or cancer can sometimes be. But this time, we had a drama about a child suffering from dementia, with the promos making it clear even before the show aired that she was doomed to lose her memories. The drama itself goes into more sad specifics, detailing how she’ll lose the ability to speak, control her body, and eventually, her ability to breathe.

So with all that heaviness hanging over our heads, I thought that the drama would be an unenjoyable slog, with the creators only in it to squeeze tears out of us. And while I have no doubt that time will come, it’ll be earned at this point, because the show has done such a good job endearing its pipsqueak of a heroine to us. Not since Queen’s Classroom have I seen a show risk basing its story off a miniature cast, but Oh My Geum-bi takes it a step further by placing almost all its dramatic weight on Heo Jung-eun’s tiny, capable shoulders.

And boy, does that risk pay off. Heo Jung-eun is spellbinding as the plucky Geum-bi, who’s far too wise for her years, yet still beholden to the basic things children need, like acceptance at school and a family she can call her own. She’s infinitely smarter than the father who took her in just for a get out of jail free card, and the fact that she takes herself to her own doctor’s appointments and educates herself on her terminal condition is as amazing to watch as it is heartbreaking.

The fact that I’ve only seen Oh Ji-ho rise to the occasion in one drama, Chuno, still comes as a bitter pill to swallow, since it’s hard to reconcile my image of him from that drama with the image of him as an actor with severe limitations. He’s definitely the weak link here, but is saved by virtue of little Geum-bi’s love for him, immense character flaws and all.

The addition of Park Jin-hee’s character as the lonely but kind woman who takes both father and daughter in as strangers was another risky choice, but one that’s paying dividends with every passing episode. Both she and Hwi-chul are drawn together over their love for Geum-bi, who, in reality, is a stranger to both of them. But it’s not about blood ties anymore, or obligation. It’s about love, which is maybe one of the best messages a drama can have.

Distilled Thoughts: 👧 👨‍👩‍👧 ⏳ = 😭 💔 👏



Y’know, recapping dramas that jump the shark just wouldn’t be fun without you guys there to comment and make it all better. I’ve been privileged to be a part of this awesome community for half a decade now, so here’s to many, many more.


99 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Taeki's Parking Teacher

    Heaaads, what a review!!!!!!

    The emots used are so cute, but Bogum being slapped by the flag at the end got me laughing again… ahhahahah!

    Thank you!

  2. ck1Oz

    Oh HeadsNo2 I am laughing too much at the emoji for Scarlet Heart and W to comment. Just even thinking about it made me laugh some more.

    I agree 100% with the 1% of anything emoji.

    • 2.1 ck1Oz

      And ok wow, just spent 5 min reading about B1A4’s charitable donations. No I didn’t know Jinyoung wasn’t an actor. I never had a 2nd lead syndrome but didn’t even think he was an idol. He was just so suited for the role.

      You’re not suddenly going to make me admire him AFTER the drama are you?

    • 2.2 Divyrus

      I just finished marathoning 1% of anything overnight and that’s exactly how I feel – hearts in eyes!

      It took me back to my very first kdrama marathons – the old school romcoms which make me forget time just because am having too many butterflies.

      And oh my, how giddy the romance was. And the kisses, damn the kisses. And Ha Suk Jin’s eyes!

      I agree with Heads, where is that dispatch report!?

  3. HelloBeautiful

    Thanks for the review! (p.s I so love that Bogum’s gif)

    • 3.1 Karoku

      Where is the gif from anyways? im curious of what drama movie it is from. could you tell me?

      • 3.1.1 Purple Owl

        It’s from the outtakes for Moonlight, when the Prince saved Ra-on by the tree. It’s supposed to be epic but the bloopers show the flag hit him 😂

  4. Michykdrama

    This is the first gif I’ve seen on DB (admittedly I’ve not been around long) and I cannot tell you how happy you have made me (and some of us others who are cuckoo over Moonlight who I told immediately) that it’s of PBG in that classic flag-in-the-face-burst-out-laughing BTS scene. ❤️️

    And your write up of Beautiful Mind made my day as well. ❤️

    Thank you for your wonderful review Emoji style!

    To many more years of your reviews and recaps to come!


    • 4.1 Celine

      As much as I love that gif of Bogum’s funny BTS, a part of me wishes I never saw it. Why? I truly loved that moment of Yeong approaching Raon in Episode 6. It was beautifully shot and brimming feels. Now I cannot watch it without laughing even though Bogum’s face got this serious manly handsome hero face on. lmao

      • 4.1.1 Elle

        Lol whenever I rewatch that scene I see the distance he puts between the flag and himself so he doesn’t get hit in the face again.

        • Celine

          OMG True! and the angle was different in the final take that made the cut. In the gif above, he was dangerously close to the flag. LMAO I cannot remember which of the two PDs love flags in dramas. There’s one and he’s the one responsible for this scene.

  5. Ema

    Thank you for your hard work.
    Hope you will enjoy 2017.

  6. BlessingWind

    Bo gum’s gif is so cute. I am laughing along with him..

    This year, a LOT of shows started on a good note, making us to increase our expectations, but sadly, some dramas failed to deliver what we wanted and it fizzled out at the end or the halfway.

    My favourites this year is
    1. Signal
    2. Moonlight drawn by clouds
    3. Drinking Solo
    4. Goblin ( i am loving it too much as of now)
    5. Another Oh hae young
    6. Reply 1988
    7. Police Unit 38
    8. Dear My friends
    9. Marriage contract
    10. Lucky romance and shopping king louise

    If i were to explain a drama plot in a few words it will be

    • 6.1 Adal

      Drinking Solo introduced me to Shinee’s Key, and then to Shinee, and my life hasn’t been quite the same after that. My first foray into the world of K-pop. Who would have thought that anything could supplant my love for k-dramas?

      • 6.1.1 EZ

        shinee seems to have a gud year with dramas..

        Onew- DOTS (can’t get better rating wise)
        Key – Drinking solo (is he in hwarang too?)
        Minho – hwarang (let’ s see)
        Taemin – the only reason i know him is because he played hong seol in CITT parody of snl korea (which takes me to why is that fat chef always eating in every parody, then CITT and now goblin)

        • Kbfm

          No, Key is not in Hwarang. How I wish he picks another drama project soon.. He has knacks for acting!

          • EZ

            well 2016 sure introduced shinee, cnblue to me.. and probably is the only group whose all members i am aware of..

            ( ages ago when moorim’s ALIVE ost was launched, i guess searched VIXX.. but that was it)

            n don’t get the hype abt EXO

  7. Gem

    For me this year:
    Pre-production done right despite lack of budget or industry heavyweights: 1% of Anything
    Massive failure despite having budget, actors and source material: Moonlovers (Lee Joon Ki deserves an award for making this train-wreck tolerable, he alone carried the weight of the show, only him)

    • 7.1 kanz

      Other pre-production failures: Uncontrollably Fond, Entourage

  8. sunpelt

    Thanks for reviewing oh my Geumbi! Its nice to find other people who are watching this show together with me since this drama doesn’t seem to be that all popular internationally.
    With that, I can’t wait to see Heo Jung Eun all grown up and slaying our screens; its amazing how when her scenes in the drama are aired, she absolutely steals all the attention,I can’t focus on anything else but her.

    This year Signal, TTMWIHAA, Geumbi and WWAS were my absolute favourite dramas despite some major flaws in OMGB and WWAS, for some reason I always like to root for the underdog drama in the ratings.
    I have to say you’ve certainly sparked my growing interest in 1% of anything. Before this I thought the drama was such a tryhard, trying to remake the cult drama and was certain it would flopped but the recent months I’ve been hearing only great things about it. Plus no fillers and unnecessary plotlines too!! Damn I’m gonna find time to watch it after OMGB ends.

    • 8.1 DramaMama

      I am enjoying Oh My Geumbi also. So good and Heo Jung Eun is amazing. I worried that I would be ugly crying every episode but am happy that I am not – I am surprised to be laughing as much as I am.

    • 8.2 JessA

      I love Oh My Geum-bi! That little girl is doing amazing each week. I honestly just want to shake all of the adults and tell them to get it together and take care of this sweet girl.

    • 8.3 Aigoooo

      Ditto on Oh My Geum Bi. One of only 3 I am currently watching (WLFKBJ and Goblin being the others). HJE is an amazing child actress, even surpassing the acting of most of the adults in this drama. I hope one day she gets to play the daughter of Lee Seo Jin in a drama because she looks like his female mini-me (those eyes and DIMPLES).

  9. A

    That giiifffffff

    I can’t stop laughing!!! 😂

  10. 10 immawish

    Yeay! Finally an Oh My Geumbi Review! I always love this year-end reviews because all those different thoughts every writer has on every drama. And I could finally convince myself to binge-watch 1% of Anything for holiday!

    Anyway kudos Heads because All those emojis are 99.9999% accurate HAHA!

    • 10.1 deltadragon23

      You won’t regret watching 1% of anything!

  11. 11 Rose

    Happy half-a-decade ^o^// !

  12. 12 Celine

    Cool emojis, Heads! This year for me the winners are Signal, Moonlight, and W (first six episodes) and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your reviews of these shows. I did not watch Signal during its run, but I had a chance to get down to it in the past couple of months. Yes, it went on for months for me because I found it to be too heavy for my heart, so I had to stop and give my mind and heart a break from the cold cases. When will we see another show like this?

    Moonlight, on the other hand, was truly such a surprise. I did not intend to live watch it, but I ended up doing so and more. I looked forward to each episode and to see YeongOn couple’s cuteness. It truly delivered well on all fronts despite the familiar story. 2017 seems to have a lot of fusion sageuk lined up already and I am excited which one of them will capture me the way Moonlight did.

    Lastly, I will forever remember W as the top-notch drama that lasted 6 episodes only. What thrill it was and the rest can just be forgotten.

    Thanks Heads!

  13. 13 Gelai

    Thank you Heads. That was beautiful.

    As an avid viewer of any form of moving images from any kind of language, I always place production values and choices more so than characters and plots. So, I am grateful that your review tackles that aspect of the dramas you’ve watched

    I wasn’t interested in Moonlight before it aired, but the choices the director made were so worth the watch.

    Scarlet Heart, on the other hand, i was expecting epicness. And I was so proud of PD Kim Kyu-tae that I have remember his name more so than the director of Misaeng and Signal. I think it’s time I change that.

    I didn’t notice lower budget for Age of Youth, I have always thought that the production fits the character of our five leads. That is also a good directing choice. One of my favourite scene there was in Episode 2. One of the girls casually just remove her bra like a normal girl. And then that taxi driver in Episode 11. Those are bold choices.

    Signal is not my favorite crime thriller. But I will always remember Signal for the aspect ratio and all the props that are shown in having two different timeline. And just like Misaeng, PD Kim Won-suk’s name is written all over this drama. I will remember that name.

  14. 14 kellie

    Have I missed Neighborhood Lawyer in the year-end reviews? I don’t think it made the bean count list either.

    • 14.1 kles

      Oh yes, that was a drama I enjoyed. Kinda forgot about it by now, but I liked it during its run.

  15. 15 ET

    I am terrible at emojis. Can someone explain why Moon Lovers’ result is 3 wine glasses and an unhappy face? Does it mean that it’s so bad that one needs to drown her disappointment in drinking?

    In any case, I wholeheartedly agree with HeadsNo2’s evaluation of Moon Lovers. Among many missteps, they underestimated the challenge of adapting the novel.

    I am grinning at the shipping of Ha Suk Jin and Jeon So Min. Many who’ve watched the show can’t help it either. The chemistry was still palpable during the drama’s recent fan meeting. Viewers love the OTP so much that a fan meet was organized.

    • 15.1 DramaMama

      I am guessing your interpretation of the Moon Lovers emojis is correct. At least it was that way for me. On the nights it aired, I would grab a glass of wine and have a seat, wondering what episoed I would get – the rare awesome episode that managed to make sense and hit me emotionally, or the mess that made me laugh and shake my head, wondering how it all went so wrong.

      It is funny, in retrospect, how I felt bad for PBG and the Moonlight crowd because I was certain Moon Lovers was gonna blow Moonlight out of the water ratings-wise. Boy, was I wrong. And I couldn’t be happier for the Moonlight cast and crew. (and sadder for LJK and the Moon Lovers cast).

      • 15.1.1 Taeki's Parking Teacher

        Exactly what I felt too. I was so worried, that Moonlight being Bogum’s first saeguk and lead role, it might not get good rating due to competition with the highly-buzzed drama. What I hoped what that it wouldn’t be crushed to thoroughly.

        It turned it’s the other way round.

        • Kayak

          Just here to say your username made me almost guffaw in the middle of my jury duty assembly room. 🙂

        • EZ

          ya.. and that made him more famous than joonki..

          Although i love bo gum and consider him a fine actor. deserving of all accolades..

          I am not in the majority to find cloud drama exceptional. I think it benefited more from moon lovers being pathetic.. more pathetic than anything else ever released this year (and that beats me because it had all the ingredients to be epic. it so cud be epic)

          • ET

            If I had been representative of the Korean audience, the ratings would be the reverse.

            I actually watched Moon Lovers first then Moonlight, LOL. Moon Lovers often left me ranting and Moonlight always left a smile on my face. Watching in this order had a better effect on my nerves and mood.

      • 15.1.2 Gem

        I agree, highlight of the entire show as a whole was episode 11 for me, before that and after that I remember drinking a lot, writing a whole lot in comments thread and as a result of all of that alcohol fueled five stages of grief after each episode of varying intensity I can’t remember much at the end of the year of what exactly went on a show that had everything that could make it work but somehow royally screwed up.
        I think Ji Soo and Nam Joo Hyuk lucked out with solid projects following Moon Lovers. I wish we had something similar with Joon Gi in Korea but he is doing pretty great with International fans and I can’t wait for Resident Evil just for him.

        • ET

          Nam Joo Hyuk is knocking it out of the park in Weightlifting Fairy.

          I think the poor ratings of Moon Lovers had lesser impact on the younger actors than Lee Jun Ki. Having big following among international fans won’t get you good offers unless those markets are the ones which you can sell dramas at a high price. Even then, domestic ratings are still important for an actor.

    • 15.2 lunatic4kd

      The emojis of wine glasses following Moon Lovers was absolutely accurate for me too…in the same way that I will buy and settle down with a bag of popcorn and a soda when the lights go down in a movie theater, knowing I’m trapped in my seat for the entire run time, whether or not I want to be there. I, too, had two glasses of wine (and dinner) in front of my computer for Moon Lovers; hoping, hoping and knowing that the wine would complement the highs, if I felt them, and sympathize with the lows, as they came. The very worst part of that drama came for me in the blazingly brilliant episode 11 and d realizing what that ending scene of Lee Jun-ki holding his black cape open above a rain-drenched IU. I was shouting at my computer screen at that moment y and fist-pumpingly cheering, “YES!yes yes!! Just like this please. Give me more just like this!” I think the greatest sadness I experienced all year came from the total let-down following episode 11 that the brilliance never returned. On the other hand, my greatest joy from that drama has come in now watching Nam Joo-hyuk in Weightlifting Fairy and realizing what a lovely actor actor he reallyis.

  16. 16 saltofstones

    It’s a small miracle that Beautiful Mind ended up being a quality show despite all its behind-the-scenes and casting issues, filming around the clock and being shortened by 2 episodes. This drama managed to do so much with so many odds stacked firmly against it that I can’t help being bitter about its fate. I am sorry the cast and crew’s hard work didn’t pay off. And while subplots and characters had to be sacrificed, at least they were pushed aside a) in favor of one of the most memorable and intriguing characters in recent memory and b) forced by the network’s decision to have their episode count reduced. I have watched many poorly rated shows, but this was the first time I truly felt sorry for a show’s domestic reception. It really deserved better after jumping through so many hoops and still delivering.

    • 16.1 Adal

      And the saddest thing was that the cast and crew were unpaid for the drama since the ratings were so bad and the show got cancelled. It’s really a shame…

      • 16.1.1 Lady Jaye

        Wait, what??? That’s awful

      • 16.1.2 kanz

        Is it true? That must be really terrible for the cast and crew involved. No matter the ratings are, the cast and crew work as hard as in the higher-rated drama. And it’s their money too, their rights! Why KBS or production company denied them their own salary? Didn’t they get investment beforehand?

        Maybe for a star like Jang Hyuk it’s no problem since he can get another top billing in drama/film and walks out unscathed. But what about unknown actors and staffs?

        As long as I remember it’s not just Beautiful Mind that can’t pay the actors, Goddess of Fire and Faith also have similar issues.

    • 16.2 junny

      Yes, Beautiful Mind was a rare gem and I’m so glad I watched it. And I’m happy Heads reviewed it since not many DB recappers watched the drama. Totally agree with what’s been written and Heads’ emojis were spot on. Despite all the production woes and whatnot, the drama still ended relatively well and managed to tell the story it wanted to tell. Love how the cast and crew pulled together despite the odds, and we got an intriguing look into the workings of the human psyche. I have really liked the chemistry between Jang Hyuk and Park So-dam – they made the age gap thing work so well, and were so adorable together. Wi-Fi couple hwaiting!

  17. 17 Flightey Gazelles

    I’ve been looking forward to Heads’s reviews and happy it finally came. I love her sense of humor which can be dry and subtle but wonderful.

    I love the emojis!! The one for Jackpot ( or was it for K2? ) was downright hilarious with the viewer pointing a gun at his head!!! lol

    I was really looking forward to reading your thoughts Cheese In The Trap, my toxic lover who I still revisit and feel anguished over.

  18. 18 Akikisetsu

    My fave for 2016 would have to be Moonlight (NO. 1) and Age of Youth (a far second). Both dramas have their flaws, but the happy viewing experience I had more than made up for it. I still haven’t gotten out of MDBC happy pill, hence I still once in awhile check out my favorite scenes and BTS. Its interesting that it seems as if they were able to bottle up the happy on-set atmosphere, and viewers while watching were able to experience this happiness.

    P.S. And your right in saying that Kim Yoo Jung is destined for stardom and acclaim, but it seems that amongst the teen actresses she is the one who still has that cute and adorable aura (youngish and babyish), hence some limitations for a few years.

  19. 19 Peeps

    I am so angry at Oh JiHo. Because he is just TERRIBLE in such a good production. I’ve recapped one episode and binge watched the rest till ep 6 before I went overseas with sketchy internet and I just LOVED, LOVED Oh My GeumBi. Except Oh JiHo. Damn, his over the top shouts always takes me out of the moment and I just get so angry and irritated at him.

    • 19.1 les

      Is Geumbi worth watching DESPITE Oh Ji-Ho? I couldn’t get past episodes 1-2 because of him…..

      • 19.1.1 Peeps

        The writing flows with warmth and is peppered with moments of hilarity. But moments of vulnerability undercut it when you least expect it and the hurt and angst just comes across so well. It’s so human. Or at least, GeumBi is wise beyond her years but still so very child-like and innocent in so many ways.

        Heo JungEun is really nailing the role and everything just shows on her face – joy, delight, hurt, excitement, disappointment and even pain, when she has to choose when she doesn’t want to choose. She totally makes you feel for this child whom Time has his eyes on, a child who feels everything so intensely, thanks to the innocence of youth, and yet hides behind a mask to protect the feelings of a stranger she’s just told is her father. She is so powerful in the way she conveys those feelings… then come JiHo’s shouting and I’m like “You and your damned ass-ting”.

        For now, I’m still following it but where I was tolerating Oh JiHo before, now, I’m incredibly irritated with him thanks to the spectacular performance by Heo JungEun (buoyed by good writing and other actors).

        • Peeps

          Erm… I guess I mean… try a few more episodes?

      • 19.1.2 DramaMama

        @les – I think the show is worth watching, but if you couldn’t get past the first couple of episodes, it may not be for you. While there is a little less shouting from OJH (just a little), the adults don’t get any less frustrating. I just want to snatch GB away from them all, except she just loves them so much despite all of their flaws.

        • les

          Thanks! I guess I will watch a few more eps if I have tons of time… I’ve only tried one other Oh Ji-Ho drama (Couple or Trouble, I believe it was called) and couldn’t finish due to my dislike for both leads, not sure whether it was the writing or acting at the time

    • 19.2 jaded14yaoi

      I was just thinking this! I wanted to watch this show so bad when I heard about it, until they cast Oh Ji Ho. I’ve barely watched the first three episodes and I so want to watch it for little Geum Bi, but OJH is such a deterrent. I don’t even think he’s a terrible actor (he’s definitely not the worst), I just can’t watch him. I don’t know what it is.

    • 19.3 Enrique

      That’s your opinion honey! Have u seen him act in chuno.? You might changed your mind once you see it.

  20. 20 Loolu

    That PBG gif though. LOL!

  21. 21 kanz

    Massive thumb-ups to HeadsNo2!! You’re my favorite recapper! 👍👍

    Jackpot: Oh Heads, I feel for you when you recapping Jackpot. That’s exactly how I felt after watching Goddess of Fire, Jung Yi. After WBDS and GOF I cautiously approach that drama hoping the writer will be better this time around. Still the same, almost no improvement and with even worse female lead. I think part of the problem in Jackpot is that they always want to show something flashy, gambling, that could decide the nation’s and the hero’s fate but it didn’t or couldn’t deliver. The show feels so terribly underdeveloped and the pace didn’t help either.

    Moon Lovers: Yeah, certainly when you have 6 full months ahead of your airing time and 13 billion dollars of investment you’ll make better drama, right? Right now I’m still wondering what on earth did the production crew do in production and post-production to make this mess. And how about that 13 billion dollars investment? I’ve seen far grander sageuks and better costumes with less budget than that.

    The K2: “Tell me this: How does it make sense to drag a ginormous bomb to the doors of the supercomputer you want to steal? And then to not have an off switch for said bomb? Oh, Drama Villains. You still have much to learn.”
    Hahaha one of the non-sensical bomb-planting we’ve ever seen in dramas. Unless Choi Sung Won actually wants suicide bombing and destroy everything.. but that can’t happen either since he was also afraid of that bomb and run away from it.

  22. 22 SpringPearl

    Why haven’t most of the team dramabeans watched Jealousy Incarnate? That was truly an awesome show for the most part of it

    • 22.1 Kay

      I know right, it surprises me as well. It was pretty much my fav of 2016 🙁

    • 22.2 mary

      It was 3rd place in the bean count though. Beaten only by Signal and Oh Hae-young. It placed higher than W, the two Moons, and Legend (just naming some of the popular shows by comments). So it’s safe to assume that the recappers watched and liked it. Maybe the next reviews will talk about it?

    • 22.3 kanz

      Don’t worry there are still 5 or 6 recappers who haven’t written a review. There’s still hope for Jealousy Incarnate fans (me included)!

  23. 23 Agree

    Jackpot was terrible.. but I never missed your recaps Heads.. It was one of the most entertaining recaps & comments of the year for me…

    • 23.1 Rose

      You made me wanna read them xD And that’s exactly what I am gonna do NOW !

    • 23.2 kanz

      Right… the recaps and side commentary from Heads are truly a gem! Shows like Jackpot and Dr. Jin truly shine on Heads hilarious and witty recaps!

  24. 24 Imbuk

    Wonderfully written, Heads! 🙂 Loved your description of age of youth! Hope we get to read your recaps for many decades as well!

  25. 25 Ozzy

    Luv the gif. 😆

  26. 26 stuffed

    I just ❤💖💞 your review Heads! The use of the emojis are spot on and every word you used pretty much left me in awe of your writing skills.

    Thankfully I don’t really have a 2nd lead syndrome with Moonlight but the show makes me fall in love with Jinyoung. I don’t even know who he was before the show but now I’m obsessing over him especially after finding out that he writes songs!

    And my other favourite review of yours has got to be 👠 ✈ 👞 💑
    This show is a work of art and nothing less! It even makes me go out at night to enjoy the breeze or just stand at the balcony or by the window to enjoy the view. Too bad it’s not a crowd favourite

  27. 27 Even

    “The general feel of the drama inexplicably reminded me a little of the heyday of objectively bad but immensely satisfying Japanese dramas like Hana Kimi”

    … Why haven’t I ever watched Moonlight Drawn by Clouds? I mean, everything about it just seems like a show that I would absolutely love. Jinyoung(and the rest of B1A4) are my favorite idols ever, Kwak Dong Yeon has been a delight to watch ever since Puberty Medley, and it’s been obvious for a while that Kim Yoo Jung and Park Bo gum are great actors. Then we have the glowing reviews from just about everyone I trust…And now apparently there’s a slight Hana Kimi(<3 <3) vibe? Time to start this drama right now.

  28. 28 blnmom

    Oh, yeah, Jackpot. Your recaps… 😂😂😂

  29. 29 uyen_ah

    I love you Heads for bringing up Hana Kimi! <3 My favorite manga and Japanese drama of all time. I will forever wish the Korean remake was better. But thats besides the point…I loved MDBC so much as well and brought stardom to all the characters. I even started listening to B1A4 after being introduced to Jinyoung.

  30. 30 hasy

    Agreed with almost everything. It’s strange to see the evolution of drama-making but for me as a viewer, those young romances just don’t do it as much anymore.

  31. 31 Kayak

    Thanks for your entertaining reviews! But this is totally going to make me watch “Oh My Geum-Bi” isn’t it? Despite loving the child actress in MDBC and Park Jin-Hee in “The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry”, the plot seemed too sad.

    (Adds show to drama queue anyway).

  32. 32 pogo

    Heads, you’re the best. Also it’s kind of late in the day for this, but thank you for your crazy lightning-fast recaps of Scarlet Heart.

    That drama drove me around the bend all the time but in a weird way, it was addictive – which makes it even more of a shame that the writing and directing messed up as hard as they did.

  33. 33 AnotherFan

    Love your review! Good to have you guys around for our collective KDrama addiction

  34. 34 missjb

    i just want to say i disagree so much for people saying wild romance is a terrible drama. what so terrible about it? the acting definitely better than white christmas. must be director fault for make a good drama look bad

  35. 35 earthna

    I love you, Heads! I hope awesome dramas will come your way next year although the not so great dramas’ recaps were fun to read too. (Looking at you, Jackpot. Is Injwa dead yet?)

  36. 36 eva

    Thank you, Heads, for awesome reviews! They are always a pleasure to read:)

    Looking forward to another year of your recaps, through thick and thin.

  37. 37 PakalanaPikake

    Thanks, HeadsNo2, for your year-end wrap-up… and all your recapping throughout 2016.

    Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned been exposed to this year is to pay careful attention to the track records of writers and directors, and DB Distant Early Warnings of casting and production challenges before a show even starts filming. That said, I’m sometimes gloriously pig-headed enough to go ahead and watch precisely because of a favorite actor (i.e., Jang Hyuk in BEAUTIFUL MIND; Seo Hyun-jin in OH HAE-YOUNG AGAIN and ROMANTIC DOCTOR, TEACHER KIM). Regrettably, I have to count myself among the Beanies resorting to self-administered anesthesia for exactly that same reason (LJG in SCARRED HEART). There’s solace in knowing I’m in such august company.

    On the other hand, thanks to DB, I passed on a bunch of shows whose plot premises did not appeal to me, despite being hugely popular, and that’s okay. De gustibus.

    I’ll admit to being yet another viewer who thought MOON LIGHT was going to walk into the MOON LOVERS buzz saw. Happily, the show entranced me with its heart, production values, and solid cast of mature supporting actors when I was eventually able to play catch-up around episode 6. It bummed me out when MDBC faltered towards the end… but I love it anyway for all the ways in which it and its young cast members excelled. Plus its sets and costumes, like those of MIRROR OF THE WITCH, were beautiful to behold. 😉

    I’m not a big fan of remakes, and went out of my way to watch the original version of 1% OF ANYTHING. But now I think I’ll give the remake a go when I’m in need of a filler-free rom-com infusion, thanks to Heads’s considered opinion.

    Thanks, Heads, for calling ’em as you saw ’em… To the entire DB Staff and fellow Beanies, thanks for all the good company that has made 2016 a memorable year of live-watching for me.

  38. 38 Satsuki92

    Thanks for the emoji review! Couldn’t stop laughing and that ending gif of PBG was so adorable 😍

    I missed out on 2015’s kdrama offerings and was enticed to come back with Drinking Solo. Happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. This year was a year full of drama gems!

    Now if only Dispatch releases news about our dream couple HSJ and JSM….

  39. 39 UrsulaX

    Signal: Argh, I still need to finish this show.

    Mirror of the Witch: Wonderfully atmospheric stuff in the beginning, but the pace was too slow for me. I couldn’t finish it.

    Beautiful Mind: Terrible beginning, but the series improved exponentially after episode 6. I stuck around for the father-son relationship, but I liked the main couple by the end. I have a few issues with the way the drama handled the psychology/neuroscience. Psychopathy is usually determined by behavior, not brain scans, and children are not typically diagnosed as psychopaths for that reason (their behavior patterns change as they mature). The main character did not seem to exhibit the dysfunctional behavior attributed to psychopaths, either, but had he been realistically diagnosed, questions about his fitness as a doctor would be completely warranted. Beautiful Mind does raise some interesting questions about mental health diagnoses and brain scans in general, but I think modern medicine has clarified things the drama makes unrealistically vague for the sake of the plot.

    Wanted: Everything about this show was so over-the-top, including the acting, that I was surprised to learn the toxic humidifier subplot resembled a real lawsuit. (Then again, this was the year that repeatedly showed me reality could be stranger than the most far-fetched fiction).

    W-Two Worlds: I loved the meta stuff, too. It’s a pity this show didn’t do more with some of its better ideas.

    Age of Youth: Yes, there was something about Ryu Hwa-young’s character. She was my favorite, as well.

    Cinderella and the Four Knights: This was a guilty pleasure until it stopped being pleasurable for the exact reason the author mentioned: “that girl that all the boys like because the script told them to.”

    Moonlight Drawn by Clouds: Again, the author seems to be channeling my thoughts: I loved the first episodes, I had problems with the departure from history, and I wound up liking the second male lead the best, despite my initial enthusiasm for the main couple.

    Moon Lovers: I think episode 11 showed that sometimes there is a fine line between what make a series good or bad. Moon Lovers had some exceptional moments and was consistently entertaining (even at its worst), but it tried to do too much.

    1%: I saw one or two middle episodes and was completely charmed. I definitely need to watch this one in its entirety.

    Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: The eponymous Kim really makes this show, which I find peculiarly addictive. I like the brisk pace and the way the characters are frustrating and sympathetic at the same time. Kim explains the title: he’s the idealistic type of romantic, but I must admit I was initially expecting his character to be more of a Casanova. Maybe the Korean title is better than the English translation?

  40. 40 Celest

    Loved the commentary on Signal and 1%. 2016 was an interesting year, for every drama I thoroughly enjoyed there was one I had to drop because I couldn’t get into it. Tried so hard to like Descendants of the Sun, Scarlet Heart, Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, W, Oh Hae Young but I could not get into it.

    Instead, I end up loving Signal, 1%, Dear My Friends, My Wife Will Have An Affair

    Dammit Dispatch, where you at?! I need Jeon Seo Min and Ha Suk Jin to happen in real life.

  41. 41 Mangochic

    Thanks for the year-end review!
    This year has been good to me k-drama wise. I finally got to cure my 3-4 year k-drama drought (I got bored, lost interest, couldn’t even finish the ones I had started!!!!). I actually got tired of weak willed heroines that I turned to Chinese novel translations. Signal cured my k-drama drought and it is my favorite drama alongside 6 Flying Dragons and Nirvana on Fire (c-drama) this year. And I finally got my husband to sit down and watch a k-drama (liar game) with me after 6 years.

    I started watching Jackpot but I couldn’t get passed the first few episodes even though I love Choi Min Soo. I very quicly got tired of every decision been solved by gambling and from your review it seems like it was a good decision to drop it.

    I started Mirror of the Witch but wasn’t able to finish it. For some reason Yoon Shi Yoon’s deep voice seemed incongruous to me for a some reason with the show.

    After Signal I have been on a detective kick and I watched Bad Guys and Pied Piper (which isn’t as good as the former).

    I’m planning to watch Age of Youth and 1% of Anything and Moon Lovers (huge Lee Jun Ki fan).

  42. 42 es

    “Pretty but disorientingly bland, she achieved the rare feat of making Ahn Jae-hyun look better by comparison.”

    the SHADE. i LOVE it. HAHA. thanks for the review HeadsNo2!! i can’t believe it’s already been half a decade since you joined dramabeans?!?!?!? – i remember waaay back when you started recapping on dramabeans how much i enjoyed reading your writing (and still do ofc!), even if when i wasn’t even watching the drama. these emoji reviews are all so on point LOL. love the choice of ending gif.

  43. 43 Yaya

    Your review on 1% of Anything was dead-on for me. I loved it, but I almost missed it if it wasn’t for the What We’re Watching segment of the DB blog.

    I give 1% of Anything a big 😍😍😍😍 too!

  44. 44 pigtookie

    Interesting comparison of Moonlight to Hana Kimi. I passed on this drama because I wasn’t in the mood for another teen romance fluffy drama but I have a soft spot for HK despite its flaws. I might check out Moonlight and 1% of Anything after this review. Maybe Beautiful Mind too once I find the time for it.

  45. 45 coby

    Now I am watching Signal. I thought its my downloaded copy that has a problem.. hehe.. so its the aspect ratio.. Too bad I don’t have anybody to discuss it with.

    Emoji for 1% of anything/something says it all!

  46. 46 PLAYSTORE

    Totally agree on the ‘Beautiful Mind’ review. Well I was in that cult of its viewer since day 1. The show satisfied so many of my choices that I was pretty stupified when they said it’s gonna wrap up earlier. I still wonder how it could have shown many more sides of the story only if the production wasn’t murdered by those ‘No Face’ people.

    That being said I hope they paid the cast because last time I read even the payment wasn’t fully done. I’ll always cherish this one for sure.

  47. 47 nira

    Hi Heads,

    Why all the hate to ML??
    Yes it wasn’t perfect ( far from ) but still…

    LJK TOTALLY ROCKED THE PART of Wang-So and much to my surprise wasn’t the only thing i waited for in the show..

  48. 48 Belladonna

    This year seemed to be the best so far in delivering great dramas that no one expected. For me, shows like Marriage Contract, Shopping King Louis, 1% of Anything, My Wife Will Have an Affair this Week, and On the Way to the Airport all seemed to come out of nowhere and take me completely by surprise. And, frankly, I think the fact that I had no expectations before starting any of these (some I only starting watching out of boredom) really intensified the satisfaction I felt watching them.

  49. 49 agoodheart

    I was surprised by Ryu Hwa-young in Age of Youth, too. I didn’t really like the whole thing between her and T-ara, and the previous roles I saw of her seemed to mainly put emphasis on her body. It was kind of the same with her role in this show, but this one had so much more depth and she played it well to her strength. In the end, I liked Kang Yi-na the most.

  50. 50 Gidget


    Once again she’s a genius at word-smithing. That description of W-Two Worlds perfectly captured what I was thinking, but could never quite find a way to articulate.

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