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[In Defense Of] 20th Century Boy and Girl: When you don’t want to ride a roller coaster

By Ally

The idea of roller coasters thrill me, and I’ll even ride them every now and then. But in all honesty, I’m really not into that feeling of getting your gut pulled out of your throat, that sense of impending doom, begging for it to end. How many of us have been sucked into a K-drama and found ourselves on an emotional roller coaster, suffering from whiplash from one episode to another? Sure, it may be fun for a while, but you can’t live your life on a roller coaster. Sometimes, I would rather go on the carousel, something familiar, where I can enjoy the scenery. These are times when I appreciate a quiet K-drama.

20th Century Boy and Girl is the perfect drama when you don’t want to spend the last bit of your energy in emotional turmoil. It’s the one where you can unwind to when your day has enough drama to fill your melodramatic cup, or maybe another K-drama has dehydrated your tear ducts.

The friends to lovers trope is strong, the families are less dysfunctional than your average K-drama, and there’s a great girl gang supporting our heroine every step of the way. It’s a drama that reminds me of why I fell in love with K-dramas in the first place—the innocence, the slow burn of realizing one’s feelings, and then realizing that the one you love loves you back, and you live happily ever after!

The first episode when Ji-won (Kim Ji-suk) sees Jin-jin (Han Ye-seul) float down the stairs in the hotel, he is mesmerized, and so was I with how tenderly he looks at her. There’s no flash and dash with this—it’s slow and deliberate, very much how a relationship would actually play out. Some people were frustrated at how long it took the main couple to pick up steam, but when they did, it was well worth it.

I really enjoyed them finding each other again, how respectful he was with her fame, and never pushed himself on her. He never even used her popularity to his advantage (which his former idol stepbrother did, but in a sympathetic way). He was just there for her, and really only had one episode when he wasn’t, the one when she was poisoned by a rabid anti-fan and ended up at the hospital. But she immediately confronted him (within the next episode, which is as immediate as any K-drama I’ve ever watched). There was no drawn out misunderstanding.

This OTP was so believable as friends; I loved seeing them that way. I can see how friends can make great lovers if it comes to that—alas, that never happened to me. This show used forced proximity to strengthen their friendship and didn’t make it awkward or embarrassing. I really appreciated this. After all, they are in their mid-thirties, and we’re all adults here.

Furthermore, their chemistry was on fire when they did finally admit more romantic feelings for each other. I appreciated that the heroine was the first to say how upset she was that he seemed fine with the whole arrangement when she wasn’t, far from it. She didn’t make him guess her feelings. It was just the permission he needed to swoop in and plant that passionate kiss.

The supporting cast was so nice in this, literally. No one is vengeful, vindictive, or horrible (not when you have the paparazzi to meet these plot points). Even our second lead is basically just there to make the heroine surer of her feelings for the first, and he’s not really that invested in her to the point of making us uncomfortable for the lead. EVER. And there’s no bratty girl vying for our first lead’s affection either. How angst-free can you get? I loved it.

Jin-jin’s mother was a favorite and she is how every mother should be—ultra supportive of her daughter and son, cooks amazing food, and has her own quiet way with her husband, but we know she really runs the household. I found myself enjoying her dialogue with everyone, and if there was any crying, it was because I felt her love for her children through those words. It also helps that Kim Mi-kyung plays any mother (even brash, near-abusive ones) with grace and sympathy.

Then there’s the bromance between the two stepbrothers “seeing” the same girl, one for a K-variety show and the other as a friend. These two guys are so caring towards each other and their half-sister. I felt like Anthony (Lee Sang-woo) was my brother: quiet, introspective, possibly sub-clinically depressed, but a great guy, and he never pulled the drama down. Their patchwork family was probably the healthiest of all, even with all the tragedy that beset it initially.

And how admirable was the friendship between all the Bongo friends? The girlfriends who lost the only boy in the group, who stayed together all those years. And when he came back, they all accepted him like no time had passed. Then when the two friends finally cornered Ji-won and asked him directly what his feelings were toward Jin-jin, they already knew like they did 20 years ago, even though he was denying it. They were supportive of Jin-jin throughout her life, trials with the paparazzi, and even her family. And she was supportive of them as well. Jin-jin was just a thoughtful character in general. This was so refreshing to see. I’d be friends with any of them.

This show isn’t a screaming roller coaster; it’s a carousel ride while holding hands with your first love, with all the butterflies you get sitting next to them. And I would trade whiplash for butterflies most any day!

P.S. I could probably truncate this whole essay into one sentence that would get you to watch it: Anticipating Kim Ji-suk’s half a dozen kiss scenes is worth every episode! Ta-ta for now!

 
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*insert that gif of people giving a standing ovation*
This show was so warm to watch, like a cup of hot cocoa on a rainy night that warms you from the inside out.
I likened this drama to a passenger you meet on a long distance flight with whom you strike up a conversation. You share stories back and forth and you leave them feeling like you've made a lifelong friend even if you never see them again.

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Thank you! And you’re exactly right, just like riding on a plane with a stranger who you feel so comfortable with, you end up sharing your whole life story, and they do too. And maybe you’ll just meet again on another trip. Copacetic is another word I would use to describe this drama. The world feels like a better place after watching it.

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Thanks for this! Running off to watch it now!

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*dusts off hands* Well, it looks like my work here is complete! Enjoy!

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Wow, I think you said it better than I ever did! Such a sweet, warm, comfortable show. It proved that you don't need the "flash and dash" to tell a great story.

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I really enjoy all your recaps and more than thrilled you are recapping Radio Romance! I’m flattered and honored! I may have stolen a couple screen caps from your recap of this! 😜

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Ahhhh! Thank you again, DB, for making a girl’s evening! I could rewatch this show now, I’ve convinced myself! And the magic of editors, you made it even more convincing! Kamsahimida!

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Thanks Ally. Nice read and very well written and was exactly what i feel except i do not know how to put into words. It was one of my fave drama for last year and highly recommended. So much love there and best of all no backstabbing thingy

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Congratulations on another essay, @ally-le!

The show is indeed as relaxed and non-makjang as you can get. The biggest conflict came from Jin-jin's elder sister who'd run away from home, with the reality show rules adding a dollop of tension as well. Compared to the histrionics one often encounters in Kdrama romances, these are small potatoes.

I have to beg to disagree about the absence of a bratty girl vying for Ji-won's affection. Little sister is a green-eyed monster who covets Anthony's affection, too. LOL. ;-)

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I loved that little sister. I like that actress and last saw her in Man Living in our House, also playing a scene-stealing younger sister. I have a good doctor friend who has a really high pitched voice like she does. It throws you off at first, but then it’s so endearing. Love it.

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I didn't place her when I saw her at first. Then I was kind of creeped out to realize she'd been stalking Ko Nan-gil. LOL!

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Wow....I am so touched by your writing. I think my heart fluttered a little....Thanks so much. I stopped halfway and I am embarrassed about it. Will definitely complete it. Thanks once again....

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Was it the kiss? Tell me it was the kiss. Those kisses were seriously so-hot-no-one-should-be-watching-but-we-ALL-are make-out sessions!

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Great write-up, Ally! Your carousel analogy is perfect.

This heartwarming drama was a lovely treat for me after a long day's work. Pretty much everyone was likable or at least never aggravating. The lead couple was precious and they had a sweet chemistry.

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Exactly, low angst, lovely acting, and just enough drama without being melodramatic. Isn’t that why we watch these?

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Hi @Ally. Even before I read your post, hey, hey... Thank you soooo much for writing a defense. I LOVE.... I LOVED I WILL ALWAYS LOVE this show!!!!!
It is another one that doesn't need any defense, but the other beanies who havent watched it, pay attention. You can still binge it slowly in these cold days, with a hot cup of chocolate. It will make you feel good and have hope that there are still good and nice people in the world!!! 😀😍😉
Now, off to read!

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I had to share this with everyone—it was so sad how many people didn’t watch this show. I’m glad I picked it up after it aired and could binge it with my husband. He loved it too and couldn’t understand why it was criminally under-rated.

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Well, I was one the few who watch it while airing. Ohh, how it made me feel good!!! I would watch even without subs!!! LOL!!!

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I liked this show too and I think your analogy 'this show isn’t a screaming roller coaster; it’s a carousel ride' is just perfect.

As I was watching it, I kept expecting the typical roller coaster whip-lash plot turns but I was quietly satisfied when they didn't come. Who knew that nice people doing nice things could be this interesting.

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Currently on episode 15 - its an easy, light breezy drama, its cute and sweet but dont think it doesnt have heart, i definitely had a good cry after 'christmas in august'..

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Those first episodes ripped my heart out—but it was patched up nicely by the end.

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Oh yes. Christmas in August was awesome. I appreciate so much a show where children are loved. Loved and healthy children become lovely healthy adults. That is why I killed this show so much. It was full of normal and healthy people. (Not perfect, but good company). I just loved them!

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Thanks for the recommendation @ally-le Sometimes this is just the sort of thing I need!

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Beware of @ally-le, as she pushes two dramas to us (and convincingly at that!) with her lovely writing and perfect analogies. Haha!

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This was really unintentional. I did an older drama and thought that it probably wouldn’t make the cut, so turned in this one (a more recent drama) the day that one was posted, just before it posted! Also, I saw that only dozen or so comments were on the last episode and knew that no one watched this, even though it was quite a nice drama, and it needs some love, especially since Kim Ji-Suk actually won an MDC award for it.

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I feel like I sounded ungrateful with my original comment. I love how you defended both dramas! And I love how you write! As for this drama, this is the push that I needed to finally get on it. I totally wanted to watch this one as it aired but was too focused on BTLIOF to give it notice. I'm so excited for everything that you've pointed out and thank you for reminding me to just dig into this one!

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Oh, no you didn't sound ungrateful, I understood your intent! I’m actually very flattered. I was the same getting sucked into the vortex that was BTLIOF. I knew I would like this one too, But time only allows for so much to be able to still function in the real world!

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I think the OST also played a role in the gentle, breezy mood. When the show was over, I was still humming it to myself and it carried all the warm feelings from the drama.

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Standing Egg has the best song on the OST, Ordinary Day. I have this on my playlist now and it’s a favorite! Unfortunately, I didn’t find the rest of the OST very memorable, easy listening, just not memorable.

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I didn't think about it, just found myself humming this one: MeloMance – A Day Not Too Far Ahead | 20th Century Boy and Girl OST PART 6 . It fits the mood of the drama so well.

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Melomance has interesting songs. More syncopation than others groups I think. I really like their OST on BTLIOF as well!

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Yes, it's very much in the same style - jazzy, breezy, warm, light.

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I downloaded the song on Spotify!

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I loved this series, especially after recapping a couple of action shows that were way too depressing (Save Me) or confusing (Duel). I worried a little when the scandal that Jin Jin was kissing someone other than Anthony during their fake honeymoon was about to leak out that it would go overboard on that kind of drama and Jin Jin would be overtaken by that scandal, but it was just enough conflict and sweet. I just finished it last week, so this post seemed timed for me! Just when I needed to share some of the love of the show.

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That is perfect timing! Now, I’m curious, do you actually recap shows or are you talking about reading DB recaps?

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I recap 3-4 shows a year for Dramafever. It's more of a group recap effort, usually about 3 people who recap and review informally together.

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Wow! Where can I read your recaps?

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This was my most recent club- I filled in for a couple of weeks for a clubber who had to drop out. There are links to all my previous clubs near the bottom. I'd like to do more, but more of an academic/fan tone.

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Thank you! Temperature of love was a drama I had to drop, unfortunately. Which was sad because I love the actors that were playing the leads.

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yess!!! i loved this show for the same reason, though I couldn't have expressed it so well. The carousel allegory is perfect. And I love how, because it wasn't a roller coaster, I got to feel more invested in each character (major and minor). Such a warm, lovely show!

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You’re right, I loved everyone in this, except for the slimy tabloid reporter, I hated him.

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I've been on the fence about continuing this drama - watched the first few episodes when it was airing - and now I'm convinced. I must watch it. Thanks @ally-le ! ^^ I remember the (OT?) posts about you watching this as well! ^^

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Yes! You must! I’m glad to be able to convince you, lawyer-nim!

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To be fair, I'm pretty easy when it comes to dramas. However, if I was a Judge, I'd be won over by the arguments presented in this defense. ^^

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Reading this was so soothing as it sounds like the drama was too...great writing entry!

I watched the first 2 eps of this drama when it was airing on the Kocowa 24 hr pass but then I didn't watch any more...I should pick it up again

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Great write up. I loved this drama and watched it live. Kim Ji Suk finally getting his lead role and doing an awesome job at it.

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hey;; thanks for this article and guess who spent all day watching this drama and think it was AMAZEBALLS haha. tbh i'm someone who will avoid 'light', simple premise dramas like a plague but when I read your article i just got interested and i'm searching for kdramas to unwind anw (not the heavy ones) thus i decided to watch this and it was one of the best kdrama decision ever lol. it was cute and warm and the chemistry of the leads are amazinggg, i personally love Han Ye Seul the best in this drama i think. so thank you for the recc!

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I liked this show so much! Not just the main characters but the lovelorn chubby flight attendant friend and her handsome-as-a-child suitor, the bratty brother and his crazy hair and the lawyer who loved drinking culture but couldn't hold an ounce of soju. And the two managers and her stylist - So many rich characterizations!

I adore your analogy of the roller coaster and the carousel. I really needed a carousel ride and was so grateful when 20th Century came along. It had the added thrill of starting in a HK hotel where I used to stay (eeeek!). I couldn't wait for new episodes every week.

An excellent essay, congratulations and thanks for convincing so many new Beanies to watch ❤️

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If I had more words, I would have gushed about the side characters as well! Thank you for mentioning them! I would die to stay at that hotel! It looks amazing. And thank you. It was my pleasure to do so.

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Thank you for writing this! When this show came out I had put it on hold after episode 1. At the time, there was a bunch of dramas that came out and caught my attention more. Your defense has convinced me to pick it up back up and I'm already on the 4th episode! Now back to watching!!

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