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Touch: Episodes 1-2 (Review)

Channel A’s Touch premiered last week, I actually liked this drama more than I am willing to admit. Truth be told, I think that the K-pop industry backdrop is perfect for some really great dramas. But, not only are they few and far between, but the ones that exist never seem to go deep enough for me. So, when Touch and its idol world was announced, I was intrigued. It’s also a small show from a small cable channel (so to speak), and that always piques my interest.

 
Judging a drama by its premiere week is pretty risky, especially when a drama spends its entire first episode on setup and backstory. But, with one episode of backstory, and one episode in the “present day” setting, we’ve got a pretty good feel for this drama and where it might go. And the backdrop of makeup, skincare, idols, and celebrities has me shamelessly hooked.

When the drama opens, we meet CHA JUNG-HYUK (a very handsome Joo Sang-wook), a highly sought-after celebrity makeup artist at the peek of his career. He’s rather petty and pompous, but there’s no doubt he’s an artist. When we first meet him, he’s on a plane back to Seoul, horrified by the skin condition of a girl on the plane. He cringes at her makeup choices, and immediately (and rudely) tells her what kind of makeup and techniques she needs to use instead.

In true K-beauty spirit, though, it’s about her skin’s condition first — he criticizes her poor sleep habits, bad diet, and tells her to use a sheet mask to hydrate before she dares to put makeup on. This setting of skincare and self-care runs through the drama, and I enjoyed how the drama depicts Jung-hyuk as able to tell what happened to someone the day before merely by looking at their skin. A literal face reader, perhaps?

This guy knows everything and is universally worshipped in the industry, but he meets his match in our heroine, HAN SOO-YEON (Kim Bora). She’s been an idol trainee for over ten years and when we meet her, she’s a part of an idol competition that’s akin to real-life Produce 101. Jung-hyuk is personally doing the makeup for one of the idol contestants, and we’re led to believe this is like a god descending to earth to assist a mere mortal.

Of all the contestants in the program, he chooses Soo-yeon’s face to adorn with his art. But that’s where it all goes wrong. Though the transformation is amazing, Soo-yeon is uncomfortable and secretly re-does the makeup herself. This is the ultimate insult, and Jung-hyuk is beyond furious. I understand their butting heads is an essential part of the story, but he’s a grown man, and I found his pettiness and fury both annoying and immature. However, such is the case for many a K-drama lead hero early in the plot.

Just when Soo-yeon’s finally made it and is about to debut, she (and her career) are sacrificed to save the star and money-maker of her agency, KANG DO-JIN (Lee Tae-hwan) from a scandal. They’ve been friends for ages, and have an adorable rapport, but when Soo-yeon is kicked out of the agency in shame, she returns home and cuts ties with everyone.

It’s not until a year later that she’s rallied herself, and has decided to pursue a career in makeup. This path takes her to a blind audition at Cha Beauty, Jung-hyuk’s super successful and posh company. Soo-yeon is highly talented and might even be a bit visionary — the executives recognize her skills right away, but Jung-hyuk is a grudge-holding sort of man, and he barely agrees to take her onboard in their new round of assistants.

Cha Beauty is like high school, and though you’d think Soo-yeon would be a little more resilient to “mean girls” and bullying after ten years as a trainee — I don’t know, I find her a little mousy when I’d expect her to be tougher. But this very well may be part of her journey.

The setting of Cha Beauty is really the best thing about this show. There’s high-stakes makeup sessions, celebrities popping in and out for skincare and dolling up — and the artistry (and artistic temperaments) that are intrinsic to the industry. Even after just one episode in this setting, I want more!

New assistants are assigned to Cha Beauty teams, and no one chooses Soo-yeon (it’s much like getting picked last to play dodgeball in middle school). By default (and storytelling necessity), Soo-yeon winds up on the best team.

That team is comprised of Jung-hyuk himself, and his two assistants. The first is SOHN HONG-SUK (Ahn Dong-yeob), who’s honest and sweet and is the guileless sunbae she needs. The second is the cold but talented LEE HYUN-JOON (Sohn Woo-hyun) who is so drop-dead gorgeous I hope he plays a bigger part in this story (even if it’s just for my benefit).

The setup around the team and their dynamics is strong. Throw in a pictorial competition with a nemesis company, and the VIP treatment of the celebrities, and Touch is already cooking up a really fun dynamic between its many characters, their talents, and the hierarchy at Cha Beauty.

Where things get problematic is in the approaching love line between Soo-yeon and Jung-hyuk. If this wasn’t written into the drama summary, I don’t think I would have expected the drama to try to create any romance between these two characters at all. Their dynamic is typical: ego-driven CEO versus gifted candy. While I guess in dramaland that defaults to romance, I would like this story so much more if it left them as boss and mentee.

Touch has already created space for many a love line with all the young, more age-appropriate characters we’ve met, and I’m not exactly looking forward to seeing the show sacrifice that for the standard OTP setup of CEO + Candy. Maybe it’s a lie and they won’t?

As for chemistry, they’ve got none so far. The most we’ve had to connect them as more than opponents is the fact that Soo-yeon saw Jung-hyuk naked. Yes, you read that right. She gets to work early, and explores the gorgeous headquarters. For some reason she thinks it’s normal to walk into a room within a room that’s labeled “Shower Room.” The door is unlocked… and I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

This is a pretty standard drama trick, and for comedy/increased hostility between the two, I can accept it — but as a sort of sexual awakening for Soo-yeon? No thanks. I’d rather see her with Do-jin — and speaking of, he’s already queued up to be the second lead of heartbreak.

Lee Tae-hwan is either great (Pride and Prejudice), or not-so-great, (What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim), but I love him here as Do-jin. He’s perfect for the self-centered idol-actor who expects the world to revolve around him, but is also a teddy bear when it comes to the people he cares about.

Our characters in Touch might be all-too-familiar stereotypes, but they’re also rather well-drawn. So, even if I can predict what they’ll do in their cookie cutter roles, I’m also highly entertained and invested in their character development. Touch sucked me in fast, and that’s got to mean something, right?

Finding tropes in a drama’s premise is like finding sand in the desert. What’s fun, though, and what makes it a ride worth taking, is the fun we have with those tropes along the way. I’ll definitely be tuning in to Touch’s second week just to see how Soo-yeon is saved from firing on her first day, and how many more faux pas she can make before the day is through.

Here’s to hoping Touch continues to lead with its fresh setting and well-established characters. If the characterization remains as strong as it’s started, I might just be able to believe that our leads’ comic antagonism will blossom into romance.

 
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Interesting story about the beauty of the stars, watching two episodes is fun. Joo Sang Wook acted well, believing that he is a makeup artist. And Kim Bo Ra is very natural

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I too like it, overdone tropes and all. They aren't trying to hide the fact that it is a kdrama.

And as I said in What We're Watching, we need cosmeticaps from someone who knows what they are talking about.

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"we need cosmeticaps from someone who knows what they are talking about."

The male lead's makeup is Certified Ugly I say this as a Makeup Expert AKA someone who wears the crap on a regular basis

Nornally I'd say "People can do makeup however they want there's no wrong way express yourself!!!" but this dude showed in the first 3 minutes of the show that he loves giving women unsolicited advice on How To Look Attractive To The Man so I have no qualms in giving it back to him

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He was peak "Actually" man in those first few minutes.

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Even reading that scene made me ragey.

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OK I actually liked this way more than I was expecting to. All aboard the SLS train!

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This whole thing sounds like my personal hell if my personal hell wasn't already the upcoming Kim Eun-sook drama with Kim Go Eun and Lee Minho.

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This seems a bit icky and I still don't get why people won't call this kind of thing an ahjussi romance.

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Can you imagine the screams if this was a Noona romance with a 20 year age difference?

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Was their one with Park Seo Joon?

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I didn't realize she's 19 years older than PSJ. Also, I have no idea.

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Witch's Romance but she wasn't his boss kk

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Yeah she was his boss though. He was a part-timer and her telling him that she was going to fire him all the time was a running joke.

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She was? I had completely forgotten that, to me he was just a neighbor, I never finished that drama.

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@lixie
Well, she kind of was and wasn't. He was a professional part timer (is that a thing?) and there was some issue with his business and the magazine she worked for. And he was hired for a short period as her assistant or something?

The point is that despite her technically being his boss there wasn't a serious power disparity. He was there short term, she was forced to employ him when she didn't want to and she had no control over his future career.

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@leetennant
Well, that was almost a powerless boss, that makes it ok.
It's not the age gap itself that I find possibly weird, is when the age gap doesn't get addressed or when there is a power imbalance that also doesn't get explored. So cold boss vs assistant plus age gap doesn't seem like a good recipe.

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Yup, and Witch's Romance was a actually a really good drama.

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Also @okiejune there's no systemic industry problem of forcing young male actors into love lines with much older female actors so the idea that just because Witch's Romance or Secret Love Affair exists does not negate the underlying issue here.

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@leetennant - agreed - please consider my comment just a general statement on my enjoyment of the drama, I'm not weighing in on any issues.

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@okiejune
Oh, of course. No problem.
I personally liked about half of Witch's Romance but found it had a lot of issues in its back half. The first half is still loads of fun though.

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I saw this turn up, I saw who the two leads were, I saw their ages, and I was utterly icked out.

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AND they were in the same drama, Glamorous Temptation, ages ago! She was still playing the child counterpart of Cha Ye-ryun (Joo Sang-wook's wife now) who was involved in a love triangle with Joo Sang-wook's character while Nam Joo Hyuk acted as his childhood counterpart. They are literally (at least) one generation apart. Lol.

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Oh double-ick

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I...I'm so done with this type of thing.

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That's what i thought at first that's why i was hesitant to watch but when I started it i'm glad i didn't skip it. They all acted well and it was a refreshing drama. Kim Bora is 25.

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I recently re-re-rewatched 'My Ajusshi (Mister)' and after this last viewing I finally came down on the side of it being an 'ajusshi romance' with more than double the age difference. Which doesn't hold a candle to the film 'A Muse' (Eungyo) which was a romance between a 17 year old and a 70 year old. A role sort'a reprised by the same actress for Goblin.

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I disagree about My Ahjussi I'll leave it at that.

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I said this elsewhere, but I'll just throw it in here.

I think people are going to see what they want to see. And some people feel the need to have romance even when a drama obviously doesn't have it, doesn't need it, and is about so much more than a simple love line.

Why viewers cannot accept, or be entertained, or moved by friendship between a man and a woman, is mystifying and limiting.

It's misogynistic to be honest.

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@egads
I'll admit I saw romantic elements in My Ahjussi. I never saw him as being paternalistic, though I did see him as being a friend or even a mentor.
Actually the paternalistic element bothers me because she is an adult, though young, and he has a child. If he wants to be a dad he could bring his child home.....but that is my personal having a disappearing dad issues coming out.

For a show that has a great platonic friendship is Hart of Dixie. Cress William's as Lavon Hayes is amazing in the best friend role.

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@bcampbell1662, I really enjoyed Hart of Dixie, and you're right Lavon Hayes was a great role.

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My first 3 viewings of the series I didn't see it either. But on the 4th viewing...

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May I ask if that realization ruined the show for you?

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Replying to @mike, and @bob again, since they had the same experience after a few rewatches. Did this make you like the series any less?

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Just out of curiosity, why is that upcoming drama a personal hell for you?

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The key words in her sentence to identify the main source of her hell are Kim Eun-sook drama.

I believe that Kim Go-eun and Lee Min-ho just make the hell that much more torturous. I think, if I'm remembering correctly, that these are not favorite actors of Dame Judi.

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Egads is correct. That whole drama announcement was one long unfolding list of things that I don't like. I don't watch Kim Eun-sook dramas anyway but the announcement of the leads just put the icing on the cake.

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You are me and I am you. Although Kim Go Eun doesn't bother me nearly as much as the other two. I hear/read either of their names and NOPE all the way out.

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Honestly @kafiyah-bello when they announced Kim Go-eun I was relieved. Not one actor involved in this is one I care about. Yay! No conflicted feelings a la Hotel de la del something Luna.

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I love how different everyone's taste is. I saw Kim Go eun and Woo Do hwan in historical fantasy with a probable big budget and I was excited, lol.

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I won’t even hate watch it. Not even that

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I'm not gonna touch this.

Okay, I lied. I watched eight minutes. That was eight minutes too many.

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Stop! Hammer time...

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If only we could put gifs in the comment section.

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I think I might sneak TOUCH in. I haven’t delved too deep into the review to avoid spoilers.
Some reasons:
1. Little Channel A gave us the fine drama TWELVE NIGHTS at the end of 2018. There were probably more beanies than native Koreans who watched. The highest rating it got was for episode 2 at 0.608%. TOUCH bested that with an episode 1 rating of 0.847%;
2. It is available subbed on Viki. Thank you Viki;
3. I enjoyed Joo Sang-work in the TENS and GRAND PRINCE and it will be nice to see him in a lighter role;
3. PRIDE and PREJUDICE made me a Lee Tae-hwan fan and I have not seen him since W: TWO WORLDS APART; and
4. 16 episodes.

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Watch it it's worth it. I'm liking Lee Tae Hwan here. Joo Sang Wook and Bora acted well. Drama is refeshing

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Thanks for the mini-review.

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I didn't enjoy the first two episodes too much. Fell asleep towards the end of both. Not feeling the lead's chemistry either. Will continue for the glamour too! :P Lets see if the next few episodes get better!
Did she redo her makeup or did she just wipe off the makeup? I thought it looked a lot worse like that.

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I enjoyed the drama until I realized that they would go for romance. This would have worked great if they left it as mentor-mentee relationship. And having them both together learn from each other would have been a great set up. Instead, we got a shower peak scene.
I would have rather seen a romance with Do-Jin. His character growth would be a lot more interesting. Ah, well.
I like her so far. So will watch may be a few more episodes until it goes romance heavy.

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I think if the leads had a mentor/mentee relationship instead of a romantic one I'd watch this.

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In 2013 King of Dramas the Lead man and Boss was in his 40s and the Girl was late 20 Or early 30s. There was not all these pearl clutching and derision then That I can Recall. Wonder why the change?

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The first few episodes of Touch were much better than I expected. I only started watching because of Kim Bo-ra (I really liked her in Sky Castle) but the plot and set-up is actually somewhat interesting. I'm not very keen on the romance though.

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At first I was hesitant to watch this drama I like Joo Sangwook but when I see that he will be pairing up with Kim Bora my though is no it won't be a good pair because of their age gap. But since its him i said ok i will give it a try and now I love it can't wait for next episode. Joo Sang Wook have this charm if he do romcom. I'm liking Lee Tae Hwan character too.

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"can't wait for next episode" -- same here!

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I know Koreans are obsessed with beauty, but I can't do a show where In the first ten minutes women are only prized for being beautiful, not even for their bare faces but have to have make-up on. #womenarebeautifulwithoutmake-up #womenarenotobjects It's a sad contrast when I just watched the women-centric episode of War of Prosecuters.

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Once you get beyond episode 2 it starts to resemble your standard K-drama fare, except instead of everyone working in a computer game design firm (there are lots of those in K-dramas) you're working someplace else. The series telegraphed its punch on Viki, though, by describing the male lead as 'unemployed and drowning in debt'. Uh, he isn't YET!

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Doskonały artykuł, generalnie to ma sens, jednak w
niektórych kwestiach bym się kłóciła. Na pewno ten blog może liczyć
na uznanie. Z pewnością tu wrócę.

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