The Best Hit: Episodes 1-2
As if we aren’t already up to our eyeballs in dramas, this weekend KBS launched (or rather, re-launched) an additional Friday-Saturday drama time slot with The Best Hit, the new scripted drama helmed by variety PDs, chief producer Seo Soo-min of The Producers, and PD Yoo Ho-jin of 1 Night 2 Days.
The Best Hit was promoted as a hybrid variety-drama, but it turned out to not be very hybrid in format at all, and instead just played out like a regular ol’ drama. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t do anything fresh with format (say, the mockumentary style that The Producers attempted at the start), but it’s a funny, feel-good show full of showbiz inside jokes and lots of references to the ’90s. It feels loosely plotted, like a sitcom, so I’m adjusting my expectations for something closer to High Kick in feel.
The series is being split into two 35-minute episodes per broadcast, and Friday’s premiere episodes recorded underwhelming numbers for the network at 2.5% and 2.9%. I’m interested to see what it’ll mean for the rest of the dramas KBS has planned for this new weekend time slot, and whether they’ll get a chance to slowly grow an audience over time. Guess we’ll see.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
In a hall of mirrors, a young man covered in claw marks stares down his reflections, waiting to strike. In a parody of Bruce Lee’s famous scene from Enter the Dragon, he even starts narrating in Chinese that he’s thought about the one hit of his life, and whether he has it in him:
“Twenty-three. Everything that I thought would become clear is still hazy, and I don’t know where I should go or what I should do. The world is full of tests, and I must fight alone. Will I have that one hit in me? At the crucial moment… will I be able to throw that one hit?”
A masked man appears behind him, so he throws a punch, but it meets glass. And just as the masked man is about to strike, suddenly another Bruce Lee jumps into the fight and takes him down with a flying kick.
Ha, this Bruce Lee, from Game of Death, is fearless and confident, and the narrator says that he was able to throw that one hit when it counted.
We go back to 1993, which the narrator says was an era full of hope for the future, an age that belonged to the youth. Among the biggest pop stars of that generation, he says, was a group called Jay-2, and its star was singer-songwriter YOO HYUN-JAE (Yoon Shi-yoon). (The name Hyun-jae means “present,” as in past/present/future.)
The press montage tells us that Jay-2 was ahead of its time musically, and created a syndrome. The clip of them beating Seo Taiji and Boys at Gayo Top 10 cracks me up, and LOL, Jay-2 actually performed this on Music Bank to get the footage for the drama.
They also had a series of scandals that made headlines, including a romance between Hyun-jae and pop singer HONG BO-HEE (Yoon Son-ha), whose character is modeled after willowy ’90s teen idol Kang Su-ji.
Then came the sudden announcement that Jay-2 was breaking up, instigated by Hyun-jae leaving the group to go solo. Right after that, though, Hyun-jae disappeared without a trace, and his abandoned car was discovered by the river.
Fans left placards and flowers at the spot, hoping for his return. Bo-hee came sometime later and added her flowers to the pile. The narrator says, “And like that, Yoo Hyun-jae disappeared along with the ’90s.”
Fast-forward to 2017. A family gathers for a portrait, and we see some familiar faces, like former pop star Bo-hee, who is now a mom. Dad LEE KWANG-JAE (Cha Tae-hyun) is the last to join them, after taking a call outside about some overdue loan payments, which he blusters that he’ll rob a bank to repay if he has to.
The photographer (cameo by Go Chang-seok) has a hell of a time trying to direct the family members, as he discovers that Grandpa is not actually the grandpa, Mom and Dad aren’t married, and the little boy is in fact a little girl, and not their daughter.
Finally, the photographer addresses the grown son, whom he assumes isn’t their son either, but both Mom and Dad say that he is. This is LEE JI-HOON (Kim Min-jae), the Bruce Lee No. 1 in the opening sequence, and our narrator.
Dad Kwang-jae drops everyone else off and then offers to take Ji-hoon to his academy. Kwang-jae drives a beat-up minivan plastered with logos for World Agency, whose company slogan is supposed to be “The center of Hallyu reaching out to the world,” but one letter from “Hallyu” is missing and it reads: “The center of the lower class reaching out to the world.”
Kwang-jae is World Agency’s CEO, and the operation is so low-budget that he’s the road manager too, and he’s got his idol girl group riding in the back while he drops Ji-hoon off.
At a police civil service exam academy, a teacher gives a hackneyed speech about youth not being youth unless you’re in pain, and everyone shoots him eye-daggers save for one student, CHOI WOO-SEUNG (Lee Se-young), who sheds a tear in the first row. (Her name Woo-seung means “victory.”)
For some reason, she introduces herself as Lee Ji-hoon, and then deflates the teacher’s ego when she explains that she wasn’t crying because she was moved—she has a medical condition that makes her cry involuntarily. Pff.
After class, Ji-hoon waves her down and calls her Fake Ji-hoon, and she calls him Real Ji-hoon. She’s surprised to see him here, and we learn that she’s attending his classes under his name.
They have an arrangement where she gives him the tuition fees and takes the classes that his parents have already paid for. They bicker about who’s benefitting more from the arrangement, and she threatens to tattle on him.
As they walk, she nearly trips and takes a fall down the stairs, but Ji-hoon catches her by the arm just in time. Woo-seung gasps in relief that her precious coffee wasn’t spilled. She vows to pass the civil service exam this time, or else she might leap off a building.
He doesn’t find her joke funny, but she says that her circumstances are that dire—she really has to pass this time. He’s taken aback when she starts crying, but she explains the sudden onset of her tear duct illness, which she’s in no position to get surgery to fix.
As she heads back to class, Ji-hoon asks if things are going well with her boyfriend, which she confirms. The way he watches her wistfully makes me think he wishes he were that boyfriend.
He starts to send her a text to schedule a meal next time (he’s saved her number as “Victory Reaper”), but he doesn’t have the nerve to send it. The only texts Woo-seung receives are spam messages, and her boyfriend hasn’t even read her latest text. She wonders if he’s busy.
Ji-hoon backtracks all the way to his dad’s agency, and he makes sure to keep his face hidden as he hurries past. He rounds the corner and narrates that his father, who failed to properly live off the income of others, believes that a government job where you can live off of taxpayers is the best job out there.
But as Ji-hoon covers up his prim sweater vest with a black hoodie and face mask, he narrates that his dream is transient, not strong like his father wanted: He’s an idol trainee.
He comes out of the alley and approaches the fancy-looking Star Punch Entertainment building, and goes around to the back. Three fangirls (cameo by Kim Sook) run over to him screaming, thinking that he’s famous idol MJ, and are sorely disappointed to unmask him and realize that he’s a nobody.
Ji-hoon races down the hall, late for practice, and zooms past a long corridor with Star Punch’s most famous artists. The last among them is Jay-2.
Ji-hoon’s friend wonders if it isn’t time to just fess up to his father so he doesn’t have to keep lying about the civil service exam. But Ji-hoon remembers how Dad almost bit his head off the one time he brought up becoming an idol, and thinks there’s no way he’d approve.
Dad Kwang-jae must really be a terrible agency CEO, because he also runs the bakery next door to his agency (I’m guessing that bread foots the bill for music, and not the other way around).
Mom Bo-hee worries when she hears that an event canceled on their idol group, and she asks about the bank putting pressure on them for the building mortgage. She sighs that if everything with Hyun-jae hadn’t gone down the way it did… but Kwang-jae just gets angry at the mention of Hyun-jae.
She asks him to hang a nail for their family portrait, and Kwang-jae complies while muttering to himself that she’s still talking about a Hyun-jae (present) that’s in the past. He imagines Hyun-jae’s impish face on the head of the nail, and hammers it over and over.
Woo-seung studies so hard she’s almost late for work that night, and she races down the street while chomping down on a triangle kimbap, which she nearly drops and goes through acrobatics to save.
The next morning, Ji-hoon’s buddy and fellow trainee MC Drill snores on the floor beside Ji-hoon’s bed, but when Dad comes upstairs, he’s suddenly gone. Ji-hoon rouses from sleep and sees that his closet door is ajar, about to out his closet squatter, so he leaps up and backhugs Dad so he can kick the door closed.
Once Dad is gone, MC Drill falls out onto the floor and says that he just had a bad dream about falling from somewhere, and Ji-hoon says it wasn’t a dream. That just makes him nervous that he’ll fail (“fall from”) his debut test, and cries that he won’t fall this time, and sticks to Ji-hoon like a barnacle.
Woo-seung has a bizarre sleeping arrangement of her own, and comes out from under a cardboard box, having slept hunched over at her desk. She lives with her friend, who’s already a police officer, and generous enough to let her stay there while contributing no rent.
But it quickly becomes apparent that the friend is getting her money’s worth in other ways, as she asks Woo-seung to do all manner of chores around the house.
Dad stops Ji-hoon on his way out to give him juice, reciting another ode to the stability of a civil servant’s salary. Ji-hoon tries not to choke on his guilt and scurries off, and Dad notes proudly that Ji-hoon is growing up to resemble him more and more, which just makes Mom scoff sarcastically.
Ji-hoon rounds the corner and turns on the hip-hop swagger like always, except this time he pulls out his hoodie, and a pair of underwear and a rubber duckie come flying out. Wah-waaah.
He runs into the same fangirls who dismiss him quickly this time, and MC Drill runs up with a selfie stick and tells Ji-hoon to introduce himself to his live internet broadcast. Ji-hoon introduces himself shyly, and then smacks MC Drill when he learns that there are zero viewers watching.
Dance practice is grueling for the boys, and they’re further discouraged by the arrival of two new trainees who are in grade school and dance better than they do.
Bo-hee is lost in thought as she enjoys her morning coffee outside the bakery, and when Kwang-jae finally gets her attention, she says she’s been thinking about her comeback and the variety shows she wants to appear in. Haven’t given up the dream, I see. Kwang-jae says half-heartedly that he’ll look into it.
Ji-hoon is shocked to hear that their sunbae left for army without telling them, but the sunbae shows up to say goodbye after all. He says he’s been dropped by Star Punch and won’t be returning after army, and asks Ji-hoon why he wants to be an idol so badly when he graduated from Seoul University and could do anything with his life. Seoul University, really?
The sunbae calls him a straight arrow who seems like such a good, wholesome boy, but Ji-hoon seems to hear that as an insult, not a compliment.
The sunbae sighs that he became a trainee at eighteen and tried his best, but maybe trying hard wasn’t enough, since everyone else works hard too. It leaves Ji-hoon deep in thought about his future.
At the TV station, Kwang-jae chases down a PD (cameo by Park Hyuk-kwon of The Producers) to beg for Bo-hee’s variety guest spot. The PD calls her ancient history and nationally disliked because of her scandal with Yoo Hyun-jae. He tells Kwang-jae to find the missing Yoo Hyun-jae instead, and promises to make a special broadcast for him if he does.
Kwang-jae mutters at all the time he wasted being nice to that jerk, when Choi Hwa-jung happens to pass by on her way to her radio show, and he asks for a favor.
Bo-hee doesn’t seem enthused by the radio show, noting that her face is the better asset than her voice, heh, but Kwang-jae makes it sound like they’re doing the radio show a favor and gets her to agree.
Woo-seung uses earplugs to study at her night job at the noraebang front desk, but she’s interrupted that evening by a fight between two ajusshis (cameo by Kim Jun-ho of 1 Night 2 Days) who nearly come to blows over who gets to sing their favorite song. She grabs a mic and recites all the laws they’re about to break and their related fines, which puts a stop to the violence before it erupts.
Ji-hoon stops by to treat her to a midnight snack, and he hems and haws and then asks if she thinks he has zero appeal too. She confirms that he doesn’t (ouch), so he gets petty and fires back that she’s not very appealing either, as a girl who doesn’t even have aegyo or a glamorous figure. She knocks him on the head with a spoon for that.
When their udon arrives, they both stare at each other like they’re about to enter a death match, and then Woo-seung announces “Go!” Ji-hoon shovels noodles into his mouth so quickly that he has to spit them back out and cool his tongue, while Woo-seung calmly eats and polishes off her entire bowl and wins, like always.
Woo-seung ignores a call from someone saved as “causes colds,” which she explains is shorthand for someone who gives her mood swings. She answers anyway, and it’s her mother, who says that she broke up with her boyfriend.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
At home, Woo-seung’s roommate stumbles in drunk and asks why she’s home and not out with her boyfriend. She warns Woo-seung to treat him better or risk losing him, but Woo-seung says she’s with him because she knows his heart will never change.
The roommate plops down in bed and makes Woo-seung turn off all the lights, and now we see why she’s always falling asleep inside a cardboard box: Once all the lights are off, she crawls inside the box and studies with a flashlight attached to her forehead. Dude, you have GOT to move out.
Thoughts of her recent phone call with Mom go through her mind, where Mom suggested they go in on a room together. A flashback shows Mom telling little Woo-seung that she’s sick of men now and that she’d be changing her surname and schools for the last time. But Woo-seung says that second surname only lasted two years, calling her mom “that lying ajumma.”
Ji-hoon stays up late that night too, doing internet searches on various words for “talent,” and he lands on a video of ’90s idol Yoo Hyun-jae, calling him a naturally gifted talent. He watches old street dancing videos and Jay-2 music videos.
And that takes us to PARK YOUNG-JAE (Hong Kyung-min), the other member of Jay-2, who is now the successful CEO of Star Punch Entertainment. He does an interview and is annoyed when asked about his early idol fame being overshadowed by Yoo Hyun-jae’s genius. Lol, is he YG?
He lets her jump to the conclusion that he was the silent hidden producer of the group while Hyun-jae was the one in the spotlight.
Later, CEO Park puts a contract in his safe and takes out an old notebook that belonged to Hyun-jae. He smirks like an evil mastermind… and sloooowly sinks down in his broken office chair, ruining his mojo. Hahaha. He’s like an Austin Powers villain. CEO Park is keenly interested in the status of World Agency’s building, and asks his assistant about it.
Everyone else at World Agency runs down to the bakery to listen to Bo-hee’s live radio appearance, and Kwang-jae cheers her on nervously from the PD booth. DJ Choi Hwa-jung introduces her twenty-year comeback and then asks her to play a quiz, which happens to be on four-character idioms. Ack.
Judging from Kwang-jae’s wooden reaction, this is not going to go well. Bo-hee comes off sounding dumb and a little foulmouthed (by accident), and she hangs her head in embarrassment.
Ji-hoon struts up to Star Punch in his usual celebrity outfit, and the three usual fangirls heckle him on the way in. Except it’s not actually Ji-hoon this time—it’s their beloved MJ oppa, Star Punch’s biggest idol star.
MJ just wonders why in the world he’s being cursed at by fans, and asks his manager to check if he’s in the news or something, but he’s not.
Ji-hoon asks MC Drill to go clubbing with him tonight, and though MC Drill says the agency would kill them, he jumps in excitement at the thought.
Woo-seung spills a drink on herself at work and heads home to change her clothes, when she spies her roommate’s police uniform and remembers everyone telling her that she isn’t cute or a good girlfriend.
She can barely get herself to do it, but she puts on the uniform and records a cute video message, which she sends to her boyfriend.
Her roommate comes home unexpectedly, so Woo-seung hides under her cardboard box so she doesn’t get caught wearing her uniform. But aaah, it gets worse: Her boyfriend comes in with the roommate (cameo by Lee Kwang-soo).
He starts putting the moves on her roommate, the bastard, and Woo-seung has a perfect vantage point of the whole thing from the handle holes in her box. He declares that he loves her and they start making out.
Woo-seung fumes, and then is distracted by the sight of her boyfriend’s phone on the floor, remembering that she just sent him that video message. She reaches her hand out and manages to sneak the phone, but then she decides to start crawling towards the door, LOL, freaking everyone out.
They try to stop her so they can talk, but Woo-seung refuses to come out of the box and snaps at them to keep their distance. And then she proceeds to waddle her way toward the front door in the most painfully slow and awkward fashion.
Woo-seung sits on the corner trying to unlock Cheating Bastard’s phone when someone asks her to check a street camera, thinking she’s a cop. To make matters worse, two real cops stop her to ask where she’s stationed.
Meanwhile, Ji-hoon and MC Drill head to the club, and MC Drill drives away all the women with his super cheesy dancing. Ji-hoon gulps down a beer for courage and psyches himself up to just move to the beat and not think before letting his body react.
As he dances, he tells himself to throw his one hit and show everyone, convinced that they’re all looking at him. People are looking, but most are glancing his way in annoyance more than anything.
He works himself into a sweaty, I-am-the-star-of-a-music-video frenzy, stretching his arms out wide… and lands each hand on a neighboring boob. The two women on either side of him scream and take turns slapping him, and then he’s hauled away in the back of a police car. HA.
Woo-seung is questioned at the local police station for impersonating an officer, while Ahn Gil-kang cameos in the background as an angry gangster. Ji-hoon is brought to the same station, of course, and they both turn around and gape to see each other there.
To his mortification, the detective asks Ji-hoon, “So, why did you touch those women’s breasts?” Woo-seung covers her own chest and looks at him like he’s sleazy, and then he’s offended on top of being mortified.
Then it’s Woo-seung’s turn to be embarrassed, because her roommate and Cheating Bastard walk through the door, since the uniform belongs to her roommate. Cheating Bastard demands to get his phone back, and calls himself to prove that Woo-seung stole it.
He fishes it out of her pocket, so Woo-seung fights him for it, and in the mad scramble to try and delete the video, the phone lands in the middle of the room and plays her aegyo-filled message for everyone to see. Okay, she wins. THAT was the most mortifying thing ever.
It’s pretty much a terrible night all around, and Kwang-jae tries to coax Bo-hee out of her funk by saying that she did fine on the radio. Her mood stays dark though, and she just apologizes, saying that she’s always sorry to him for everything, starting with Hyun-jae.
The police questioning is done with, and though the officer tells Woo-seung that she has to take the uniform off, he gives her some clothes to change into. A moment later, Cheating Bastard leaves the precinct sporting a black eye, which makes me feel slightly better. I wonder who put it there.
Woo-seung calls her mom to go stay with her, but Mom hangs up on her before she can even ask, saying that she’s back together with her boyfriend. Sigh. Ji-hoon offers his place, which MC Drill vehemently opposes.
She says she’ll be fine at a local jjimjilbang, but Ji-hoon takes on a very oppa-ish tone and snaps at her to listen to him, and that she should be more afraid to sleep in a place like that alone.
He seems to realize that he’s overstepping his bounds and changes tack, saying that jjimjilbangs are expensive, and if she has that kind of money, she should just pay him so he can buy the new headphones he’s been wanting. Aw, you’re finding a way to make her not feel like a mooch. It works, and she heads home with them.
At Ji-hoon’s rooftop room, the little girl Mal-sook comes by to ask oppa for help on her homework, but no one’s home. She sees the lights come on and opens the door again, but this time it’s Yoo Hyun-jae on the other side.
They don’t see each other, but it’s like they’re playing peek-a-boo in two different worlds… in the same space. She keeps opening the door, which freaks Hyun-jae out, and he attributes it to the thunderstorm outside.
Hyun-jae heads back in, and though the DJ on the radio is still the same Choi Hwa-jung as in the present, this is 1993, as evidenced by the old computers and the baggy clothes. And the bangs, ohmygod, the bangs. Hyun-jae dries off from the rain and pauses to admire his own reflection, and then busts out some dance moves, hee.
His pager keeps ringing so he finally checks the series of angry messages from his agency CEO (Grandpa, aka Chairman Lee of World Agency), and a panicked one from his manager Kwang-jae, telling him that things are actually more complicated than they thought, and Hyun-jae needs to get out of there as soon as he checks this message.
Hyun-jae scoffs, not taking him seriously, but he ends up throwing a few things into his bag and heading out, though he drops his wallet in the process. The wind is so strong that his umbrella flips inside-out the moment he’s outside, but then suddenly the rain stops and it goes eerily quiet.
Overhead, a massive tornado-looking storm cloud starts gathering around the full moon. Hyun-jae starts toward the stairs when the door slams closed on him, unhinging a sign on the rooftop with Hyun-jae’s face plastered on it with the slogan “Yoo Hyun-jae opens the future!”
It falls and lands right on top of him, and he gasps that he nearly died. Death by your own idol poster would just be a sad way to go. Then the wind kicks back up, blowing him into the stairwell on top of his poster. He thinks again, “I almost died!”
He puts his hand down on the poster, which is all the weight it needs to tip forward… sending him careening down the stairs. He screeeeeams as he rides his own face all the way down the stairs like a sled, and the staircase goes from Vertigo to something out of an M.C. Escher painting, going on and on and on, with walls breaking away and coming back again. I know a wormhole when I see one!
He rides the seemingly endless stairs to the very bottom, where he pops out into the street, a big white light glowing behind him. He screams the whole way and then says for the third time, “I really almost died!”
He really needs to stop jinxing himself, because a moment later he nearly gets run over. It’s Ji-hoon’s car (which I’m pretty sure used to be Hyun-jae’s car), and the three friends get out and peer over Hyun-jae’s body.
Hyun-jae opens his eyes long enough to look at them, and Ji-hoon narrates, “That was my first meeting with my father, Yoo Hyun-jae.” Oh, we’re just gonna say it like that?
As Hyun-jae falls unconscious, we see that the watch on his wrist is the same one that Ji-hoon is wearing.
Back at the police station, while Woo-seung goes to change clothes, Ji-hoon overhears Cheating Bastard tell his new girlfriend that Woo-seung will forget him and be fine because she has no feelings.
Ji-hoon is still giving his police statement, and he insists on showing the detective how the dance went. He gets up and starts doing the routine, flinging his arms out wide, and then accidentally-on-purpose whirls around and lands a punch right in Cheating Bastard’s eye, knocking him to the ground in a drooling mess. Nicely done.
Ji-hoon pretends to be surprised, but betrays a sneaky smile.
Did someone watch Tunnel and think, I want to do the ’90s idol comedy version of this? Overall my impression is positive, given that I like our main characters by the end of the first two episodes, and found a lot of the situations funny. The plotting is very loose, which takes some getting used to, since the hour feels more like a series of vignettes where we just follow various characters around from one moment to the next (this may actually be something that I felt more acutely because I was recapping and having to string the scenes together, rather than sitting back and just enjoying). But I liked the slice-of-life aspect of it, and found that for the most part, I was engaged in the daily lives of all our struggling characters.
I do have to say that I felt the absence of Yoon Shi-yoon very acutely though, because as soon as he entered the story at the very end, my interest shot way up. I like the other characters, but he’s the natural sparkly talent—just like the character he’s playing—and there’s just a different energy when he’s the one driving the action onscreen. I see that Ji-hoon is the central character with the growth arc and of course we’re rooting for him, but Hyun-jae is the character I’d buy the movie ticket for, so to speak, and I hope they don’t plan to have him stay away for almost an hour of screen time ever again.
I didn’t like how Ji-hoon just announced that Hyun-jae was his father, since even if that was the obvious setup that we were meant to guess, there was a lot of narrative suspense that could’ve been mined from it if they’d held on to the secret a little longer. I mean, longer than the first day might’ve been nice. But the father-son hijinks will still be funny since they don’t know they’re father and son yet, and I anticipate an entertaining rivalry to form between them. The parental love triangle will be interesting too, since Mom and Kwang-jae seem questionably platonic but also like an old married couple in practice, and bio-dad Hyun-jae is her unforgotten, literally forever-young first love.
In any case, I like the outrageous setup of the time-traveling idol father and his idol trainee son meeting when they are the exact same age, and in such different positions in the same industry. It gives them a chance to have a friend relationship, which is just funny, and for Ji-hoon to maybe even be challenged and inspired towards his dream by his father, which would be a very heartwarming development. I have a feeling that the love triangle to beat will be the one between Ji-hoon and his two dads, which would make my day.
- Premiere Watch: My Sassy Girl, Seven Day Queen, Best Hit, Duel
- Yoon Shi-yoon shows off his idol genius in The Best Hit
- Cha Tae-hyun brings in several high-class cameos for The Best Hit
- Retro fun at the world’s hottest attic room in The Best Hit’s new posters
- ’90s idols and accidental kisses in KBS’s The Best Hit
- Lee Kwang-soo makes cameo appearance in The Best Hit
- Carefree twentysomethings of idol variety-drama The Best Hit
- Cha Tae-hyun joins variety drama The Best Hit as actor and director
- KBS variety drama The Best Hit casts Yoon Shi-yoon, Kim Min-jae