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[2019 Year in Review] Editors’ Picks

One of my favorite parts of the year in review is seeing which dramas would find champions among the Dramabeans’ staff. This year’s voting was tight, with some victors winning by the tightest of margins (think one-vote differences). Here are the dramas that edged out the competition to top the 2019 Editors’ Picks.

 

2019 Editors’ Picks

 

BEST DRAMA

When the Camellia Blooms

tipsymocha: Out of the year’s dramaland offerings, I would never have expected When the Camellia Blooms to have been the success story it was. A story about a young, single mother running an old-fashioned bar is not exactly a buzz-drawing plot, but this show surprised us all with its abundant supply of heart and comedy, endearing us to the nosy but ultimately well-meaning community of Ongsan. And though I adored the central romance involving an endlessly earnest Kang Haneul and the lovely Gong Hyo-jin, the relationships that moved me the most were among the women of this small town. There were some notable friendships forged, acceptance won, and redemption earned for our female characters, who were alternately hilarious, reliable, maddening, and lovable. Specifically, this show was a textbook of the many ways in which mothers fight for, nurture, and protect their children, whether it be against serial killers, social stigma, poverty, or even from their own past mistakes. And that’s what will stay with me long after I stop re-watching clips of Kang Haneul doing his gosh-darn best to court the lady of his dreams.

Honorable Mentions
Search Query: WWW

 

BEST DIRECTING

The Light in Your Eyes

tipsymocha: In a dramascape where attention spans grow ever shorter and an immediate impact is a prerequisite to ratings success, The Light in Your Eyes was an unexpected, daring experiment in delayed gratification, pulled off in large part due to director Kim Seok-yoon’s patient, steady hand.


The director showed us then that he had been holding back all series-long, jam-packing his final hours with the tragedy that life has to offer, sometimes in the words left unsaid, the actions left unacknowledged, or the lives left unlived (in more ways than mere death). But, in the end, director Kim reminds us that even the smallest doses of love and friendship can outweigh the bitterness to make life beautiful, and even possibly, dazzling.

Honorable Mentions
Hotel Del Luna
Be Melodramatic

 

BEST WRITING

Search Query: WWW

Laica: If there’s one show that represents the slow revolution in drama writing that’s taken place over the last few years, it’s Search. This show gave us three female characters in all their multifaceted glory and unapologetically centered them in the narrative. It allowed each woman to be an individual while having complex, dynamic relationships with each other, their work colleagues, and their respective romantic interests. Throughout the drama’s run, the pacing and dialogue were perfect with every episode having a distinct theme; yet they all fit into the overarching narrative. We knew these characters and they acted like real people, without ever becoming boring or predictable. What impressed me most about the writing was how it managed to be uniquely, subtly meta. We’ve all enjoyed dramaland’s winking subversions of classic drama tropes, but Search did something smarter: it built these reversals into the narrative, completely rewiring its audience’s expectations. So we saw a central love triangle between friends rather than enemies, and a female lead telling her boyfriend to stop tempting her with his low-cut shirts; we watched the logical fallout of a marriage of convenience between very compatible people. All played brilliantly, refreshingly straight–and it gave us the heroines we deserved all along.

Honorable Mentions
One Spring Night
Be Melodramatic

 

BEST COMEDY

My Fellow Citizens

Saya: You know it’s going to be fun when Choi Siwon signs up! When conman Yang Jung-gook falls in love with sweet, fierce Lee Yoo-young, only to find out that she’s a police officer, like, a minute after they tie the knot, it sets up the driving conflict of the show: keeping his secret or keeping his love. But it gets REALLY good when he accidentally becomes a national hero, which thrusts him into the public eye, and the crosshairs of neighborhood gangster boss-lady, Park Hoo-ja (Kim Min-jung), who forces him to run for assembly. Jung-gook is a consummate showman and an accomplished liar, and the show takes a satirical bent as it interrogates what little really separates the two professions. After all, what is a politician but a professional conman? It grabs the question by the throat and runs, and Jung-gook’s journey from slick fraudster to sincere politician is as funny and heartfelt as it gets.

Kim Min-jung is the dark horse of the show and an absolute runaway delight. She wants to be bad so bad, but she’s pretty bad at it–all huff with no puff in the most endearing way possible. The best thing about My Fellow Citizens is that it’s never a one-man (or indeed, one-woman) show, even though it could have been. It’s full of dry, sly humour, running jokes and unsubtle gags, but it’s brimming with feeling and that’s what makes these characters really stay with you.

Honorable Mentions
Special Labor Inspector Jo
Her Private Life

 

BEST ACTION/THRILLER DRAMA

Kingdom

abirdword: Cinematic, mysterious, and gory, the genre mashup Kingdom gave us viewers everything we could want and then some. It managed to thread the extended metaphor of hunger through its plot seamlessly, from the politicians to the masses and the walking dead, all while featuring compelling characters we wanted to see survive. The stellar cast and great writing did not disappoint and Joo Ji-hoon’s portrayal of the beleaguered, morally upright prince fighting for survival gave the audience a relatable hero to root for.

In just six episodes, the show produced so many unforgettable moments that were both visually stunning and horrifying: The soup! The doomed boat ride! The queen’s secret! I knew that I would love historical horror, and I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for season 2. Cliffhangers and seasons are still a rare occurrence in dramas, and I’m not sure we were prepared for Kingdom’s season finale and all the time we’d have to speculate on what’s next. With twists that turned up in the eleventh hour, we have so many new, unanswered questions, weakening loyalties, and a big battle awaiting. I’m excited for the zombies, but I’m also eager to get more of the court intrigue and class struggles that the first season did so well. Can’t help but give it two enthusiastic severed thumbs up (just not in the soup, please).

Honorable Mentions
Hell Is Other People

 

BEST HISTORICAL DRAMA

Nokdu Flower

quirkycase: Out of the several historical dramas that aired this year, Nokdu Flower was a clear standout. In fact, I’d say it’s a standout within the genre as a whole. This phenomenal drama centered around the Donghak Peasant Revolution of 1894 which, prior to this drama, I knew nothing about. At its core, this was an epic, moving tale of powerless people fighting for their right to exist and be treated humanely. Everything from the writing, directing, acting, OST and impactful historical backdrop came together to make this a truly unforgettable drama. By no means an easy watch–some of the battle scenes and acts of war were horrific and haunting–it is definitely a worthwhile one. The strong cast of interesting characters (on both sides of the fight) brought this impressive historical movement to life. I was riveted by their stories, both tragic and inspiring, and they’ve stayed with me long after the drama ended. If you’re looking for a well-made historical drama that focuses on something other than the typical Joseon period politics, Nokdu Flower is hard to beat.

Honorable Mentions
The Crowned Clown
My Country: The New Age

 

BEST ACTOR

Yeo Jin-gu (The Crowned Clown)

SailorJumun: For the first time, the best actor category came to a tie–Yeo Jin-gu and the twin brother I didn’t know he had. Way to go, you two! In all seriousness, stepping into dual roles for a drama is a Herculean task, one requiring intense emotion and versatility. And if you’ve been following Yeo Jin-gu since his child acting days (which, honestly, doesn’t feel that long ago), you know that he gives his all for his characters. He certainly did with The Crowned Clown hero Ha Sun and anti-hero Yi Heon. Yeo Jin-gu molded these doppelgangers into two very different yet similarly powerful kings. He made each one their own person, even with a slight flicker of the eye, and it was at turns quite haunting and moving. Even though I knew that they were both him, I was so into his performance that I was half-convinced otherwise. This unstable, almost monstrous King Yi Heon must have been some look-a-like the casting director just happened to find. To do that then switch back to the sweet, lovable Ha Sun, it seemed impossible for one actor to manage such a duality. But the best acting can trample the impossible.

Honorable Mentions
Kang Haneul, When the Camellia Blooms

 

BEST ACTRESS

IU (Hotel Del Luna)

dramallama: In the enchanted universe of Hotel del Luna, IU delivered a poignant performance as Jang Man-wol, who masked her deep sorrow behind her frivolous and capricious facade. Behind her obsession for extravagance was a history of scarcity; behind her cold erratic punishments was a sense of justice, and IU delicately layered in Man-wol’s mournful history throughout her performance. Despite Man-wol’s unsympathetic nature, IU evoked sympathy for her immortal character by embedding a loneliness and guilt for her past. If My Ajusshi confirmed IU’s penetrating depth of emotion, Hotel del Luna showcased her deep and wide emotional range, which became the centerpiece of the show. And she did it in style, with an eye-catching wardrobe that was incorporated seamlessly with her mood (and food) of the day. I was rooting for her redemption and forgiveness, her next iconic look, and her ability to love herself again.

Honorable Mentions
Lee Na-young, Romance is a Bonus Book
Jang Nara, VIP

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Jang Hyuk (My Country: The New Age)

quirkycase: Jang Hyuk’s Yi Bang-won is an example of a great character elevated by a fantastic performance and he stole the scene every time he was on screen. His interpretation of this fascinating historical figure captured perfectly the weight Yi Bang-won carried as he fought to build a new country. His portrayal of the intense king-to-be showed his strength and vulnerability in equal measure, emphasizing his humanity. For the sake of his father, he served as a weapon during the regime change only to be discarded and hated for the brutal acts he committed on the new king’s behalf. His controversial decisions often left him reviled and feared, but it was a price he was willing to pay to usher in a new era. Bang-won’s loneliness and longing for someone, especially his father, to offer even the slightest bit of understanding or acknowledgment of his sacrifices was palpable. I particularly loved his layered conversations with his father and found them more intense than many a battle scene. I know I won’t be forgetting the image of Jang Hyuk’s elegantly ruthless Yi Bang-won with his iconic fan anytime soon.

Honorable Mentions
Lee Dong-wook, Hell Is Other People

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Lee Jung-eun (When the Camellia Blooms)

selena: At the heart of When the Camellia Blooms was the tale of a mother who loved her daughter dearly. Lee Jung-eun took us on an emotional rollercoaster as the fierce mama bear of our female protagonist Dong-baek. When we first met Lee Jung-eun’s character, we believed what Dong-baek believed, that Jung-sook was a terrible mother in the throes of dementia. But something always seemed a bit off, and Jung-sook was something of an unknown quantity for a large chunk of Camellia’s run. We were wary of her when her actions didn’t seem to match her words, but our hearts ached when her history and sacrifices were revealed. To be able to evoke such opposite emotions from viewers is not an easy task, but Lee Jung-eun pulled it off effortlessly. Somehow, she could convey a menacing darkness but also a maternal warmth within the span of a few minutes, and in ways that didn’t feel incongruous. Every glance and movement made seemed meaningful–I found myself watching her carefully even if she wasn’t the main focus of a scene. Lee Jung-eun kept us on our toes all the way up until Jung-sook’s full story and true nature was revealed.

Honorable Mentions
Kim Min-jung, My Fellow Citizens
Jeon Hye-jin, Search Query: WWW

 

BEST ENSEMBLE

When the Camellia Blooms

TeriYaki: One of the marks of a well-crafted drama is a strong ensemble cast, and When the Camellia Blooms spared no effort in creating a cast full of characters who were three-dimensional. The drama starts with single mother who opens a bar in a small village called Ongsan. On the surface, it seemed like a sleepy little place, but just a peek underneath showed that the town was populated with a very colorful bunch of characters. From the lovely lead couple Dong-baek and Yong-shik, to the precocious Pil-gu, and the bright and bold ajumma squad, no character was too minor for the writer’s attention. Ongsan teemed with characters, each as interesting as the next, who felt like they could be people you knew.

It wasn’t just that each character was charming, the strength of this ensemble also came from the interplay and relationships between characters. Dong-baek had a difficult relationship with most of Ongsan’s ajummas, but as Dong-baek went from outsider to one of the crew, we saw her relationship with the ajumma squad change as well. As the drama’s story developed, we came to see the people of Ongsan epitomize the idea of community and the different shapes that community could take on. Every character was well-defined and superbly portrayed, making it impossible to ignore the depth and color they added to the story.

Honorable Mentions
Be Melodramatic
Extraordinary You

 

BEST ROMANCE

Her Private Life

tccolb: Although Her Private Life was standard rom-com fare in many respects, what made it truly stand out was the romance and relationship between the main characters played by Kim Jae-wook and Park Min-young. The chemistry between the two actors was magnetic and there were plenty of squee-worthy moments for fans like myself, to rewind and re-watch on repeat. I like to think of it as my reward after many years of suffering from Second Lead Syndrome for Kim Jae-wook. However, perhaps more importantly, it was refreshing to see an example of a healthy adult relationship that fans could realistically aspire to. As partners, the two characters treated each other as equals, and there was a surprising amount of maturity in the way they dealt with different issues and how they communicated with one another. I really appreciated how understanding and considerate they were of each other’s perspectives, humbly showing remorse for their own mistakes, willingly apologizing, and readily demonstrating forgiveness. It’s not often that we get to see this level of openness and honesty in dramaland relationships, but hopefully this sets the bar higher for future dramas to come.

Honorable Mentions
Romance is a Bonus Book
One Spring Night

 

BEST BROMANCE

My Country: The New Age

CandidClown: My Country: The New Age was meant to be a sweeping epic narrating Goryeo’s fall and the rise of the Joseon dynasty. And it was. But in truth, it was also the story of two friends, Seo Hwi and Nam Sun-ho. Played by Yang Se-jong and Woo Do-hwan, Hwi and Sun-ho gave us a bromance to beat-all, warming and shattering our poor hearts multiple times over its 16-episode run. Starting out as childhood friends, one was the true-born son of the country’s best swordsman and convicted traitor, while the other was an illegitimate son of a slave and nobleman. They lived in different worlds, and yet somehow, they fit together so perfectly that their eventual–but inevitable–falling out felt like true heartbreak.

As one of the rare dramas where the bromance outshone the romance, the plot and character arcs flowed so well because they were all shaped by this friendship. Yang Se-jong and Woo Do-hwan did an amazing job of imbibing their characters, giving some truly memorable performance. There was real magic in the chemistry between them and the relationship they brought to life. From best friends, to enemies, then reluctant allies, one could never truly abandon the other, even when it seemed like the world itself was pitting them against one another. These boys defied society, familial feuds, politics, and even betrayals from each other, remaining friends until the absolute bitterest of ends. They proved that a country is not a place, but the people who fill it. For the two of them, their country was their friendship, and they gave everything to protect it.

Honorable Mentions
That Psychometric Guy

 

BEST GIRLFRIENDS

Be Melodramatic

SailorJumun: The moment we dropped into the living room of Be Melodramatic, the girls and little bro deconstructing their current favorite drama, I knew we were about to experience a beautiful friendship. The girls were instant best buds in college and gradually became a family as they experienced their own good times and hard times. While the show followed three very different storylines–Jin-joo’s drama production, Eun-jung’s grieving process, and Han-joo’s solo parenting–we always returned to the comfort of that living room. And like their favorite dramas, they would talk about their day and deconstruct the heck out of everything, like crossing paths with an ex-boyfriend at work. They couldn’t be together 24/7, but those hours at home were all they needed to recharge and start anew. If someone needed advice, the girls were there; if someone needed a hug, the girls were there; if someone needed ramen at 3 a.m., hell yeah, the girls were there. Who wouldn’t want best friends/roommates like these in the spiraling days of their thirties?

Honorable Mentions
Her Private Life

 

BEST CHARACTER

Eun Dan-oh (Kim Hye-yoon, Extraordinary You)

missvictrix: The best and most memorable characters are usually the ones where you can’t tell where the actor ends and the character begins–and that is exactly the quality that Kim Hye-yoon brought to the wonderful role of Eun Dan-oh in Extraordinary You. I can’t imagine another young actress that could tuck her hair behind her ears and metaphorically stamp her foot in quite the same way. Like many, I fell in love with Eun Dan-oh from the very start. From her flabbergasted outrage that she wasn’t the heroine of her manhwa world, to her dogged determination to fight against her own storyline, what’s not to love about this feisty, take-charge heroine? But it wasn’t just Dan-oh’s spunk and adorability that made this character magical, for me, it was also because of what she represented. Rather than remain stuck in a story where she was sidelined as an extra (with the rather flat character of a terminally ill high school girl pining for the bad boy), Dan-oh was on a mission to be front and center of her own story. The journey for her character, and part of what made it so compelling, was that we got to watch her learn that rather than banging into others’ storylines, becoming more and more herself was the surest way to become a true heroine. *Sagak!*

Honorable Mentions
Kim Hye-ja (Han Ji-min, Kim Hye-ja), The Light in Your Eyes
Mo Seok-hee (Im Soo-hyang), Graceful Family

 

BEST VILLAIN

Seo Moon-jo (Lee Dong-wook, Hell Is Other People)

Sunny: To anyone who happened to catch Hell Is Other People this year, the image of Lee Dong-wook gleefully hacking into a horrified victim has been burned into their minds (and likely nightmares). Seo Moon-jo is a far cry from the type of characters that not only served as the foundation for Lee Dong-wook’s career, but solidified him as one of my favorite actors–but that’s what made his run in Hell Is Other People so satisfying. Lee Dong-wook is the epitome of a romantic male lead and seeing him as the antagonist, brutally attack the “good guys” of the show all while smiling complacently at the audience was so jarring that it gave me chills. The best part of which–there is never a reason given for Moon-jo psychopathy, he’s just crazy for the sake of it and Lee Dong-wook portrayed it so well that it makes you wonder…and that’s the scariest part of all.

Honorable Mentions
Cho Hak-joo (Ryu Seung-ryong), Kingdom
Park Hoo-ja (Kim Min-jung), My Fellow Citizens

 

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Melting Me Softly

missvictrix: Sometimes a drama sounds bad on paper, but is then made into something unique, interesting, and watchable. Sometimes, though, the drama is bad on paper AND in execution, and that’s exactly where Melting Me Softly landed. Winning for Biggest Disappointment is like making a drama wear the Cone of Shame, and I can’t think of a better recipient (sorry, Wookie). Normally when I’m watching a poor drama, I can find something to keep me watching, whether it’s a minor character I adore, or a scene that was staggeringly good. But Melting Me Softly didn’t even have this. As I watched week after week, I felt myself giving up hopes on it doing anything well. But it wasn’t as if the drama made some bad decisions midway and fell flat. Melting Me Softly was bad from the start, and even the first episode told us that it had chosen to tell the wrong story with the wrong tone. And then the wrongness just continued. Rather than tell a story about the emotional and psychological ramifications of being asleep for 20 years (which the cast could have done so well in a different drama), Melting Me Softly instead focused on misplaced romantic attraction, asinine corporate wiles, and core body temperature issues to create its story. The bitterest of disappointment is always about what could and should have been–and that, ladies and gents, is why we have our winner.

Honorable Mentions
Abyss

 

BEST REMAKE/ADAPTATION

Extraordinary You

LollyPip: I’ve always had a particular soft spot for remakes, and I’ve had the privilege of recapping several of them for Dramabeans. Extraordinary You has turned out to be one of my all-time favorite remakes, both for the fresh way it interpreted the source material, and because it was incredibly entertaining to see all of the familiar tropes we’re used to turned on their heads. The story-within-a-story poked fun at a beloved (and itself often remade) drama in a way that was ridiculous, yet expressed great respect for the original.

The overarching tale was a unique romance between two characters who had very little agency in their lives, yet they were still determined to take advantage of what they could control. Haru and Dan-oh’s story was tragic in a way that’s never been seen in a drama before–their love repeatedly led them to one another across several worlds, and inspired them to fight for the right to be together against an enemy that was both unseen, and unsympathetic to their heartbreak. Though their tale ended in the drama, I know that the original manhwa story is still ongoing. I’m eager to see the similarities and differences in the different mediums, and I’ll be following the manhwa faithfully.

Honorable Mentions
Designated Survivor: 60 Days
Tale of Nokdu

 
 
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I think Ji Jin-Hee for Designated Survivor: 60 Days should also get an honourable mention for best actor. Usually, the Korean adaptation of western shows is either extremely good like Life on Mars or extremely awkward.

To me, the designated survivor was one of the good ones. and the core of it was the struggle of a science professor thrust into the most powerful seat and the ensuing chaos. It's actually jin hee's performance as a fish out of water president in the first 2 episodes that pulled me in and the writing and the direction kept me into the last moment.

But I have to say Yeo Jin-gu topped the charts without any doubt, The crowned clown was onle of the best I have seen of his work.

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Designated Survivor is one of the few dramas I finished in 2019. A great ensemble piece that each actor brings on his/her A game. It makes you realise a good government is almost an impossible dream.

JJH is leading the charge with a truly believable performance as the idealist scientist-turned-reluctant-President. But it’s Son Seok Gu that made the show for me (see further comments in separate posting below).

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Yeay for Be Melodramatic!! Appropriate award for such a wonderful friendship.
Gonna have to go and continue watching the light in your eyes. May I have the same delayed gratification of watching such a wonderful drama as I had with Be Melodramatic.

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Those two were my favorite shows of the year. Go on with The light in your eyes. It's really worth it.

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I've barely watched any of the winners.

I've got to say for me the best actor and character (though I loved Dan-oh) was Jang Dong-yoon as Nokdu in Tale of Nokdu. It was seamless which can look easy, but I dont think it is. I dont think he missed a beat as that character.

Of course I only watched the first few eps of the Crowned Clown, but I found one performance much more riveting than the other, but maybe that was just the writing.

IU just rocked it.

Glad to see Lee Na-young get a mention. I know she is a famous actress but this was the first time I'd seen her and I hope to see her more often. She and Lee Jong Suk had great chemistry together that had a lived in feel, if that makes sense, that matched their characters' relationship. But I wouldn't mind seeing her paired with an older actor in another romcom.

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Yes, agree that Jang Dong Yoon as Nokdu was a knockout!

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I don't know. In Naver, it seems his performances got hype so much and receive so much love. I didn't expected such appreciation to him when the tale of nokdu started . I just like his acting style. He won KBS best actor in short drama and deservely so.He is still a new, and still has alot to learn. But but... His acting move me

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I'm glad he is getting the recognition. It was just such a delightful character. Though I hope he gets attention I kind of hope he doesnt get too hyped too fast.

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Yess.. I'm afraid he get hype so much to the point it will be bring a burden to him to put better project that put him in the limelight again, and pickier choosing project. I hope the hype won't die though

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if there was a scene stealer award i would definitely put down Son Seok Gu cause he steals every show he is in!

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Oh yes!! In Be Melodramatic, the character that he played was super weird and peculiar but it became adorable when it was acted by him 🥰🥰

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In Be Melo and Designated Survivor he does it all the time!!

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Totally, I only discovered him through Designated Survivor and had eyes for him only whenever he’s on the screen - with or without lines. He’s that good!!

A scene stealer for sure but not because of his look but the intensity he brings to each scene he’s part of.

Looking forward to seeing his next project.

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I discovered him in Sense8.
You should watch Matrimonial Chaos in case you haven't done. It's a fantastic drama.

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Thanks - it’s on my watch list although Bae Donna is in a different pairing, unlike in Sense8 when the two have the most interesting plot.

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He’s totally a scene stealer! I’m so glad he’s getting more attention. I had so much whiplash seeing him as the evil guy in Mother and then the aggravating cutie in Matrimonial Chaos

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Best Supporting Character, honourable mention:
Yi Bang Won’s fan

The best romance for me this year, of the dramas listed & mentioned, is still “One Spring Night” 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰 There’s just seemed so natural and so comfortable

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Oh, Yi Bang Won's fan.. definitely needs an award. Wow, Jang Hyuk’s was excellent with it.

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YAAAAAAAAAAS

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IKR? One spring bring me butterflies.. Though I haven't finished it. haha..

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Do it!! Finish it!!!! The finale & where they end up in their relationship by that time feels right and fitting for them & their situation 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻

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I will.. I just don't have time yet.

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😅😅😅😅

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Agreed on both counts!
OSN was the best romance of the year for me.

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Yesssssssss 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰

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So sad that my best drama is not even mentioned here : The Beautiful World, and my second favorite is At Eighteen. Alongside with Be Melodramatic, I really enjoy those three beautiful, well-written and meaningful dramas. I am so thankful to watch them live and revisit it by rewatching for more than once. Oh, I must say that Chocolate is also one beautiful well-written show (still half way though) that I really cherished. Happy New Year, everyone!

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At Eighteen was a lovely drama with great performances. Also, some great characters for such a large cast with everyone being very unique.

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At Eighteen - Be Melodramatic
Kim Hyang-Gi - Jeon Yeo-Bin

2 brilliant performances.

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Melty is that job I don't put on my resumé because I only stayed there for two weeks and really don't want to explain to my potential new boss why I left after only two weeks.

In addition to the bad writing, they also executed the show in a particularly jarring way filled with gaping holes. They glossed over important parts of the story in favor of a storyline about stalkerish behavior by the ex-boyfriend disguised as comedy(I'm assuming they were trying to make a funny. I didn't laugh). They interjected comedic bits right after or in the middle of serious moments which gave me serious whiplash. They made me unable to finish a Wookie drama. Ok that's on me because I did have a choice but I'm blaming them anyway.

The whole drama just left a bad taste in my mouth and will be one of those I pretend didn't happen for my own sanity(better luck next time Wookie).

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I stayed because I wanted to believe it couldn't be so bad, it would get better. Oh, how wrong I was...

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Melty is that job I don't put on my resumé because I only stayed there for two weeks ...

😂😂😂😂😂

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Trust us, its not on you. Thrashy genuinely was that bad.

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I got up to the bit where started making goo goo eyes at Candy for no reason except that she was young.

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Glad to see this.

But I would have thought Pegasus would be in there somewhere, at least as an honorable mention comedy (?)

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Pegasus - what a little gem. Kim Byung-Chul could have also been in the running for Best Character award. (P.s. also a shout out to Kingdom's zombies for Best Character award. They were stunning, chilling and became the zeitgeist that swallowed everything else)

It's hard to see these. For me, too many feel like people's favourite dramas were shoe horned into awards - instead of the category really creating a lens on the year. Yes I can see why people loved the dramas, but not in those categories.

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Agreed, @lordcobol! Pegasus was a superior comedy that consistently delivered guffaws and chuckles. Be Melodramatic was both poignant and hilarious. Her Private Life had its amusing, sweet moments but the inane plot twist killed the show for me.

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Controversial opinion ahead!

I can see why people saw MFC for comedy but for me that was mainly down to Kim Min-Jung as our gangster boss Park Hoo-Ja.

I would have given Pegasus Best Comedy but Kim Min-Jung (MFC) Best Actress - she was brilliant here.

Just because the role was not all pathos and "fate through the ages" does not diminish Kim Min-Jung's acting achievement in the role. Her comic timing was to die for and she dominated the drama. What made her role award worthy was that it was her portrayal that made her character so dominant...not the script. On paper her role was nowhere nearly as compelling.

The only other actress I saw this year who so dominated their role - to the point they could have been their own drama - was Jeon Yeo-Bin (Be Melo). Her's for me was best supporting (if we are not calling her the lead).

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Pegasus Market is the Best Comedy of all time for me. It managed to be smart, poignant AND funny. A real gem!

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I think I will have to see When the Camellia Blooms. I only read things about this drama.
I'm glad to see my favorite dramas are in the list: The light in your eyes, Be Melo and Search.

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When the Camellia Blooms was amazing. If you love slice of life dramas with a tinge of mystery- this is right up your alley. King Hanuel knocked it out of the park and truly shined 💕

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@eazal

Just to give a different take from @fencejumper:
I would suggest not to go in expecting a typical "slice of life" in that Japanese sense. I totally get how others may not see it as I do - so enjoy it in your own way.

WARNING - Stop reading if you just want to stay a happy beanie.
.................................

For me this drama has a large element of Jane Elliott's "Blue eyes–Brown eyes". Sure it is set in a small village, but so was "To Kill a Mockingbird. That setting is deliberate. The show never shied away from that duality of village life - the very thing that made it warm and nostalgic also had the flip side that made it so brutal to people it deemed outsiders.

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We have a saying in Spain: small town, big hell. I understand what you mean.

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I am really happy that Be Melodramatic got the Best Girlfriends and A LOT of honorable mentions. This show deserves so much more and I'm happy that it got what it deserves!

I agree with the Editor's Picks this year but I was surprised that we didn't have a Breakout Performance and Best Twist category. It's not like I'm saying Lee Jae-wook or Kim Rowoon deserves the breakout award or something...

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You have my vote for Lee Jae Wook 👌❤️ for Breakout Performance. WWW Search Query put him on my radar this year.

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He was so good in Search Query: WWW that I couldn't change the hashtag on my display name. I should probably change it to something new that involves our puppy for 2020.

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People, spoiling one major twist that only comes towards the finale of the show no less, is not cool. Not everyone has seen these shows, some may be reading to pick up on things they missed, like me.

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This is unfortunately one of those years where I disagreed with basically everything, but I'm happy that Dan-oh got Best Character and the Be Melodramatic ladies got Best Girlfriends. Those awards are well and truly deserved, in my opinion!

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This list is so similar to mine! So happy that When the Camellia Blooms, Be Melodramatic, Her Private Life, and Search:WWW get what they deserve. A bit sad that my other fav The Fiery Priest didnt get anything while I think this show give me most laugh throughout this year...

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Great picks! Wow can't believe When the Camellia Blooms won best drama! Glad its recognized for how amazing it is. Although maybe not everyone enjoyed it as much. I think Kang Ha-neul deserves a favourite character award more than an acting award. Got to watch Be Melodramatic, Search Query and Extraordinary You.

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On the last day of this year, let me award a few extra awards to the best drama of 2019.

Best Music Directing: BOKSOO BOKSOO BOKSOO!!!
Most Heart: BOKSOO BOKSOO BOKSOO!!!
Most Marshmallow: BOKSOO BOKSOO BOKSOO!!!
Most Wisdom by S. Crystal: BOKSOO BOKSOO BOKSOO!!!

Boksoo aside, I am really sad Sky Castle wasn't included this year and wasn't included last year.

Once more to end the year:
BOKSOO BOKSOO BOKSOO!!!

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Wait. Wait. Wait.

SKY Castle wasn't included last year?

Then WHY wasn't it included this year??

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I called it a year ago. That SKY Castle and Chidren of Nobody will be ignored and forgotten...

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Not by me!

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Not by me neither. I gave SKY Castle beans in The Bean Count 2018.

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I thought it must have been in last year's polls if it wasn't in this year's. How did this happen?

This is why ongoing shows should be saved for the following year.

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This was why we reinstated them for our polls. I guess Camellia probably is the best show of the year if you arbitrarily remove all the shows that were actually the best.

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Beanie Award polls? If so, SKY Castle was in last year's polls for BEST PPL and SUFFERING.

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@leetennant
This is the same mess every year.

At some point it probably needs a solution because one year I can see this becoming a dumpster fire of embarrassment, or it will just stop being really interesting to beanies.

Some thoughts and then working backwards - but hey what do I know so take it all with the huge grain of salt it deserves.

We all know from experience how K drama is full of bad endings so 1/2 finished dramas just shouldn't be in the running.
So its either:
An early cut off - but there are always so many end year great dramas
or
The awards are January - too late for many.

If its a cut off, then November needs to be a recap month for all the dramas that were on the threshold last year.

Lets be honest , if we don't really give a squat about production/technical qualities lets stop pretending and just focus on making categories that fit our knowledge.

Seriously with this group how is music and wardrobe not more of a serious thing, beyond outfits to die for. K drama is chock full of brilliant wardrobe and sound design as story telling

If writing and directing are to stay, lets talk about what actually makes great directing/writing. Also, DP is different to directing.

Awards should set the lens for dramas not favourite dramas/actors being shoehorned into awards that "sort of fit". There are already enough outlets that play that game.

I could imaging November theme of the month being all about Categories.
**What categories really sum up the year.
**What the categories are about/not about.
**Potential dramas/actors

I hope one day there is a solution because in the last couple of years, reading these is starting to give the feeling that it is just a sign or how little holds the community together. I love that we all see different things and I always want these to be about celebrating the breadth of beanie insight not isolating those who love other dramas.

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@leetennant

I know you have really thought about your list for Best. Would love to see your rankings for the year.

Just to be upfront - mine are.
1 - Kingdom
2 - Everything & Nothing
3 - Pegasus / Be Melo

Camilla, which I love, just couldn't hold it together after ep24. A 3wk extension is too much for any drama.

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it didnt get any awards or mentions at all. it wouldve been hard to judge there were only a few episodes out at that point.

But its literally one of the most solid dramas ever written and one of the very few id recommend to non kdrama watchers too.

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Beanie polls are just fan polls, there is nothing serious or official about them. The end year shows can easily be included in both last and current year. It shouldn't matter if I have counted the bean last year or not. We can afford to be generous with beans.

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Best Action for me is Vagabond
I praised Lee Seung Gi for his own breathtaking stunts...

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Well, I’m glad NOKDU FLOWER finally got the recognition it deserves on DB!

Also yay for Bang-won (with his Fan) and uri Stabby OTP! \^O^/

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Nokdu Flower was the best drama of 2019 for me. Glad that The Man with the Fan won in his category, same thing for the Stabby OTP.

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I think Jang Hyuk and Bang Won's fan should win the Best Actor category. He was stealing the show! 😋🤭😁

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Maybe Best Couple Award for Jang Hyuk as Bang Won and his Fan

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I think Vagabond must be mention on Best Action/Thriller.

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I had so much hype on Vagabond, and it ended up being a good show. But I do think that once the story left Morocco it slowed down a bit for me. But when it first premiered I was hooked, the first few episodes were so good. The second to last half was fun, and the ending well if S2 doesn't come, then what indeed?!

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For me best romance was "At Eighteen"!!

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I could not get through Camelia. I disagree with a lot of this list for that reason. However, I am happpy about Search Query and Be Melodramatic. I also want to give a silent shout out to the the actors who played great male characters Son Seok Gu(as is mentioned above), Jung Joon Won, Yoo Seung Ho, and Ong Seong Wu. Thanks for a great drama year Beanies, see you next decade, year, month, and day!!!!🤩😍😁

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I can only comment on:

- When the Camellia Blooms (best drama and best ensemble indeed, also took me by surprise).
- Her Private Life (best romance for sure, great and mature OTP).
- Be Melodramatic ( Yaay Girlfriends!)
- Melting Me Softly (did that really happen...? Ha.Ha.Ha)
- Kingdom ( truly SCARY, and objectively perfect in every way tbh, but not a complete drama, can't wait for s2)
______________________________________________
I'd like to add Touch Your Heart/ Reach for Sincerity> as a highlight of my drama year too!

Some of this year's drama I want to eventually get to:
- Pegasus Market
- The Lies Within
- Hell is Other People

HAPPY NEW DRAMA YEAR, Beanies!

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When Search Query: WWW was good it was VERY good. But it was undercut by the scenes between the too-perfect composer boyfriend and the neurotic, relationship-sabotaging heroine. That was a story that could have been told well if they had written it just a little bit more realistic. A few less magical boyfriend appearances on the street next to the heroine at exactly the right moment.

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I'm really sad that Tale of NokDu was almost totally ignored here. It was the one drama this year that I could barely wait for, week to week. When the Camellia Blooms was the one I watched when there was nothing left to watch that week. I gave up on the Crowned Clown and Kingdom after about 4 episodes and Her Private Life after about 8. (I liked the Secret Life of My Secretary much, much more than Her Private Life) Though I watched My Country, I got tired of all the fighting and wounds that should have cost a person his life, but only kept him down for 10 minutes. My Fellow Citizens was okay but not one I waited for each week. The Light in Your Eyes was certainly different, but not one that I would ever bother watching again. The Fiery Priest was fun. I thought Watcher was worth mentioning, too. The Subway Ghost was interesting as well. Hotel Del Luna was one I really enjoyed and will watch again. I do intend to try out some that are mentioned here with such enthusiasm such as Nokdu Flower and Search Query: WWW. Editors, I just think you should have had more categories so you could include more dramas to please the variety of beans here.

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After watching IU in 'Hotel Del Luna' I went back and rewatched 'My Mister' (thank you Viki for picking it up). If you haven't seen that series you do not know what a profoundly great actor IU actually is. 'Celebrity IU' entirely disappeared and in her place was taciturn temp worker Ji-an. And you believed it.

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Looks like I was just spoiled for The Light in Your Eyes 😕

Can I suggest to put a spoiler tag on that post for people who haven't seen it yet? You spoil something huge that supposedly happens in the last 2 episodes of the drama.

Other then that, good write-ups. I've not seen all the winners but for the ones I've seen I agree with a lot. Though I am surprised that Romance is a Bonus Book got an honorable mention for Best Romance because that romance felt like a dead fish in the drama.

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Can anyone who finished "The Light in Your Eyes" explain to me how if there is major twist in the drama, that it is not the writer but director?

Sure directorial decisions impact the show in lots of ways - but not how and when information is given out.

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That's... a good question. In this case I'd say it was the writer but after thinking about your question I'm not sure it can be separated from the direction. I remember He Is Psychometric where one of the big reveals was so telegraphed by the director from the first episode that it was eye rolling how long it took to get to it. The director practically put a big neon sign on his head with an arrow.

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I think this is an instance where the director and writer worked very well and in sync to keep the audience not only in the dark, but also not completely turned off by the seeming inconsistencies of the storytelling. It really was very well done.

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Thanks for that @leetennant.

Agreed, sometimes the line is blurred. However, the line is always there. The twist is the writer but there are time when the full impact is delivered by how the director delivers it. As you note, when the director overplays it we can but not see the negative potential of their hand.

If that was how the DB team saw it, it would have been nice to know what about the directorial choices that made it directorialy worthy that separated it from the writers vision.

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Usually the writer in K-dramas does get celebrated. One of the two writers for this drama also wrote "My wife is having an affair this week/Listen to love", which was a solid piece of work. Oh, it turns out the director was on that project too! So 'The light in your eyes' was a reunion for the writing/directing team!

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I'm so happy that I completely agree with 5 of the choices!

And another thing that makes me happy is that an actor of Jang Hyuk's calibre and level has taken a second lead twice, both times doing it magnificently, and without seeming even for one second beneath himself.

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I’m glad Her Private Life is on this list. It’s not the best but that was my feel good drama for 2019. Same love for Crash Landing on You.

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I would like to thank “The Academy” for the gutsy selection of Yeo Jin-goo as Best Actor for his performance in THE CROWNED CLOWN. A couple of things going against his selection would be the venue, a sageuk and when it aired. The last episode aired Mar. 4, 2019 so he could have been lost in the crowd. Thank you for not forgetting TCC.
I know I am repeating myself like a broken record (remember those) but TCC was my first YJG drama and I was in awe of his performance particularly his work in episodes 7 and 8. That has to be some of the finest work in young career.
That image above gives an idea of what he did in TCC. Congratulations Yeo Jin-goo!

Also at this point let me put in a word for TCC’s Eunuch Jo wonderfully played by character actor Jang Gwang. One of the most endearing things in the drama was the relationship between the “Clown” King and Eunuch Jo.

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This is a far legit list compare to big 3 awards winner list this year.

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Jang Hyuk's Yi Bang-won definitely deserved the award, he certainly stole the show despite the limited screentime.

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as much as bad Melting Me Softly was, Abyss is still the biggest disappointment of the year for me. Also, isn't it worse not to get any kind of recognition, even a bad recognition? *cough* tale of nokdu *cough* (P.S. I enjoyed Tale of Nokdu very much and was the one of the shows that I waited week after week.)

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While a lot of people felt this year was lackluster, personally, I loved this year's dramas more than last year's. 2018 had outstanding dramas like I'm Not a Robot and Thirty But Seventeen, but besides SKY Castle, which ended in 2019, those dramas are not in my all-time favorites list. While this year had some of my all-time favorite dramas like Be Melodramatic, and even if That Psychometric Guy and Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency were not objectively good, they gave me all the feels. I'm thankful That Psychometric Guy won Honorable Mention for BEST BROMANCE.

BEST DRAMA SPECIAL is Seventeen-Year-Old's Condition or Everything and Nothing. Yoon Chan-young and Park Si-eun are brilliant. This is my second all-time favorite drama special after Puberty Medley in 2013. High school dramas are my catnip.

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@panshel
Agreed. "Everything and Nothing" is brilliant.

So tightly conceived that even thought it just rolled over you so naturally - it packed so much power in those 2 episodes. It showed much larger dramas how it should be done.

P.S. "Everything and Nothing" such a fitting title.

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If I could only divide two categories - worst drama & biggest disappointment of the year - the former would go to Melt Me & latter would go to Radiant.
Show stealers - Kim Kwon, Lee Dahee & Lee Jae Wook
Best Writing - One Spring Night
Best Direction - Encounter
Best Actor - YJG for TCC (but even he couldn't make me sit through the 2nd half 😆)
Best Comedy - Perfume
Best Actress - IU for Persona

I didn't feel strongly enough about dramas or actors positively this year to have my picks of other categories.

If possible, I'd love to see a beanies or minions curated list of Underrated dramas of 2019. I feel like I didn't watch many good ones.

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I almost disagree with everything in this list...I was expecting to see yoon si yoon be praised for the perfect (I mean TRUELY PERFECT )acting and the TRUELY PERFECT character he played in the drama but nothing(I'm at least glad that the director saw the potential in him to play such a role although he had barley gotten the chance to do something like that before .I love you PD!) ....And not seeing any mention of moment at eighteen disappoints me so much ...this drama didn't get what it deserved and is going to be forgotten easily ...i'm so tired of people not understanding what I mean when I say this drama was a true work of art .... wish some one would see how great these two dramas where someday ....And also Watcher was to be praised but ...

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Oh ..And I totally forgot about Haechi and it's really amazing directing , the amazing villains ...And amazing actors ...specially the supporting ones

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Honorable Mentions: Since I'm watching it now. Best Scene Stealing Character: Veronica Park from The Secret Life of My Secretary

Romcom: The Secret Life of My Secretary
Basically for me, a rom-com that fits the mold but with a few tweaks. Cute and steamy chemistry and a plot focused on their emerging love help enliven this show. You care about the characters because they are sincere and genuine (important factors in a rom-com for me!).

Search WWW: Best Writing and Best Directing. I know some people were iffy on the Len flares lol, and the angles but I thought the show's directing freshened the show and made it look classy and cool.

Best Actor: Kang Ha Neul. He showed his skills here with a memorable role that in someone else's hands could've fallen short. He adds so much life to the show, and made me a huge fan! His comic timing is gold. Mr. Rustic Sexy indeed!

One Spring Night: I really liked the show overall, and the realism it had. The fiancee though was a piece of work ugh, he dragged a bit. That said I would say Han Ji Min and Jung Ha In would be my Best Couple Award. I liked that it acknowledged what it was to be a single dad in SK (I saw Asian Boss interview and it broke my heart).

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Save me 2 was not even mentioned?

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Biggest dissapointment: Vagabond.

For reasons. I have ranted too much about this drama.

Honorable mention: Memories of The Alhambra.

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@katakwasabi

555555+
"Honorable mention: Memories of The Alhambra."

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Best Drama : Extraordinary You, Be Melodramatic and Children of Nobody.
Best directing : PD of Extraordinary You. The way the manhwa world was portrayed was great with the effets between the Stage and the Shadow. I liked the fact that in 2019 there were a lot of female PD (The Crowned Clown, Love Alarm, Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency, The Lies Within).
Best writting : Be Melodramatic. The characters and the dialogues were great. Every people had a place in this story.
Best historical Drama : Nokdu Flower for the writting, My Country for the figthing scenes and The Crowned Clown for the beautiful scenes.
Best Actor : I agree with Yeo Jin Yoo. He was incredible in TCC.
Best Actress : I loved IU in the modern part of Hotel Del Luna but for the past, I never could see her as a badass warrior. So I would choose Kim Hye Yoon for Eun Dan Oh (EY) and Jun Yeo Bin for Lee Eun Jung (Be Melodramatic).
Best supporting actor : Jang Hyuk was great! I loved Kim Kyung Nam in Special Labor Inspector Jo. This actor always shines in his roles.
Best supporting actress : Lee Chung Ah in VIP and Go Min Shi in Secret Boutique.
Best Romance : One Spring Night, I really liked the real side of their story. Extraordinary You, they were almost normal students falling in love with each other : the nervousness, the excitation, the skinship, the way they assumed their feelings, etc. They were really cute.
Best bromance : My Country! They hurt so much my little heart :(
Best girlfriend : Be Melodramatic's girls friendship was really beautiful to watch. Search Query : WWW had a great friendship too. It was nice to see these characters becoming friend and support each other.
Best villain : The devil in When He Calls You Name, he was so funny :P
Best character : Yeah, Eun Dan Oh was the best!
Biggest disappointment : The Arthdal Chronicles and Vagabond. Those 2 shows were preproduced. They had time to write a good story and had the money to make it good but they both failed to use these advantages.
The most surprising : Everything and Nothing. I was really not expected this kind of story.

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I agree with everything Be Melo. These 3 actresses were amazing and I was surprised they weren't even given a special mention.

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*I like to think of it as my reward after many years of suffering from Second Lead Syndrome for Kim Jae-wook.*

I swear, this is the only show I cared about... It finally perfected my faith in k-drama romance and in male leads I would consider dating...

Yes I agree he was too perfect, but lord my love for KJW just grew and I would have fainted if these two people and their mature chemistry did not make best romance...

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Didn't Shin Hey Sun deserved to be mentioned somewhere ..

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Awesome picks!! My drama of the year was definitively When the Camellias Bloom too.
I would love to read an Editor's pick of the DECADE :)) an almost impossible idea since there are a LOT of dramas to choose from right?
Nevertheless it was in my opinion a very nice year spent in dramas and with dramabeans for me! Can’t wait to see what 2020 has for us!!

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Am I the only one who hated When the Camellia Blooms? I mean the female lead consistently feeling inferior about having a child alone (one spring night portrayed well better the stigma of the single parent in koreas society) or the drama doesn't show if the child father had a relationship. The couple was cute and beautiful, but it doesn't pay for me in the end.

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