javabeans: Sooooo, we’ve been wanting to bring back the “If You Like…” series of reviews, where we take a theme or motif and recommend other shows like it. We really liked the idea when we first brought it out…
girlfriday: But then we got tired. Mostly, it was just daunting because we wanted so much to be all-encompassing, and never leave out a drama.
javabeans: And as many shows as we’ve seen, there’s just no way we would be able to write about every single workplace romance drama, or makjang tearfest drama, or drama about heroes with good eyeliner.
girlfriday: Wait, I might still want to do the one about eyeliner.
javabeans: But then it occurred to us that we could cap our lists, instead of trying to name every single applicable title ever made.
girlfriday: Hence, the birth of Dramabeans Top 10. Because ten is a number we can handle.
javabeans: Plus, it sparked a wave of fun future list ideas to tackle, so we’ll roll those out in due course. We promise! I’m pretty sure we said that about If You Like, but we mean it this time! I feel good about this. Because Top 10 means Not Top 100.
girlfriday: For our first Top 10, we decided to start at the end—or more specifically, with endings.
javabeans: And for better or for worse (mostly just worse), drama endings have lacked a little something recently. I still haven’t seen the finale of Yong-pal, for instance. I know all about it, and I just can’t bring myself to sit through that.
girlfriday: I think you’re better off skipping it.
javabeans: But I have to finish it! I invested 17 whole hours already, and even loved 6 of them! I can’t NOT see the last one!
girlfriday: … And therein lies the perpetual problem that we face, time and again. To finish, or not to finish… that is the question.
javabeans: Would you rather preserve a pleasant memory despite harboring a gaping hole about the ending, or would you rather tarnish the whole experience so as to save your curiosity from expiring?
girlfriday: We’re here to help out! If you choose the gaping hole, feel free to stop reading here.
javabeans: However, if you choose the red pill, we’ve got a whole list for you below, so you can read up on the ending but not waste your hour.
girlfriday: Oh, and SPOILER ALERT, because of the obvious.
javabeans: These are in no particular order, if only because how do you measure the weight of one heartbreak against another? *sob*
javabeans: If American comic book-dom is perpetually confronted with the question “Who’s better, Superman or Batman?” then dramaland is equally confronted with the question… “Who’s better, Superman or Batman?” Because really, they sorta all fall into those archetypes. Just also wearing hanbok and manes o’ glory. Okay, with a fair dash of Robin Hood sprinkled in.
girlfriday: The most famous heroes in Korean folklore are all Robin Hoody types, really. There’s a whole lot of thievery goin’ on among the good guys, though it’s all to restore the balance and punish the corrupt, of course.
javabeans: Because they are all Robin Hood, we almost have to strip away that layer (mm, stripped hero layers) to do any comparing, since that’s just going to be a built-in trait. But who’s got the best cover? The niftiest tricks? Whose revenge cuts deepest?
girlfriday: Who’s got the best girlfriday? The flowiest hair?
javabeans: So many Things, so many other Things to compare them with.
Since I’ve had a lot of requests for drama recommendations following You’re Beautiful, I thought I’d put this up as its own post. I may be spotty with some of the other genres out there, but I’m ALL about the trendy drama! The following is a list of my recommendations (and some that are not recs but merely possibilities) for trendies that have a similar tone and vibe to You’re Beautiful.
I’m sure many of you have seen many (maybe even all) of the dramas on this list. But some others who haven’t racked up as many drama-watching hours may want a guide to help them navigate the many, many offerings out there.
First, we’ll start with the other the Hong Sisters dramas…
Scriptwriters Hong Mi-ran, Hong Jung-eun
With SBS’s You’re Beautiful ending this week, I thought I’d like to take a look at the brains behind its wonderfully addicting appeal. I’ve compiled the information below from various interviews over the past few years and highlighted some of their statements about their past dramas.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the Hong Sisters are a team of two sisters who have made a name for themselves in recent years in the kdrama world, notably in the romantic-comedy genre. In five years, they have penned five hit drama series — and while the last two did not break 20% ratings, they did succeed in stirring passionate fan response and creating buzz commensurate with the others. The dramas are:
What would happen if the descendants of Joseon-era Robin Hood-like hero Hong Gil Dong were alive today and secretly carrying on his legacy of punishing evildoers and helping the poor?
That’s the premise behind the new movie Hong Gil Dong’s Descendants [홍길동의 후예], and it stars Lee Beom-soo (On Air) as that descendant, We Got Married‘s Lee Shi-young as his love interest, and comedian Kim Su-ro (Our School ET) as his nemesis.
If you’ve seen the recent drama version of Hong Gil Dong, you know the basic premise of the story (even if the Hong sisters’ writing is prone to the overly exaggerated comic gag). What Hong Gil Dong’s Descendants does is reinvent the basic tale of a chivalrous bandit and place him in modern times, crossing the old folk legend with a dash of Clark Kent-ian Superman.
2007 was a rich year for drama-land. There was something for everyone, whether your tastes ran toward dark thrillers (Devil), intense dramas (White Tower), heart-warmers (Thank You), off-the-wall eccentrics (Mixed-up Investigative Agency), trendy fare (Coffee Prince), romantic comedies (Dal Ja’s Spring), and so on.
2008, on the other hand… not so much.
Every drama has its good and bad points, but it’s a lot easier to decide how you feel about one when those qualities are expressed in the extreme — i.e., very good, or very bad. When everything is a muddle in the middle, though, it’s harder to draw the lines.
That’s why in contrast to last year’s “Best” and “The Rest” designations, this year I don’t really distinguish “good” versus “bad” — or even “favorites” and “hated dramas” — and can only grade on a spectrum. I call that spectrum “MEH” with the extreme poles representing “generally watchable” and “generally unwatchable.” It’s just been that kind of year.
SONG OF THE DAY
Painter of the Wind OST – “색” (Color) by JOO [ Download ]
How should one convey bad news in writing? By creating a buffer first. Avoid traumatizing your audience with the bad news all at once, but instead cushion the blow so that you can maintain goodwill. That textbook approach (business communication, by the way) would be dandy if the crop of 2008 dramas I watched was anything like the stellar quality of 2007. But no, this was a harvest to make one downright grumpy.
This time last year, eight dramas vied to be in my Top 3. Even the ones that disappointed weren’t half bad and at least I finished them. Not this year. I picked up around twenty dramas and dropped at least fifteen. “Dropped” is putting it mildly. I ran from some of them like a kid fleeing an apparition: hands in the air and hair standing on end. As the year wore on, my patience wore thin and my grumpiness increased.
So, no, I can’t use the buffer approach when reviewing this year’s dramas. Hedging doesn’t work for this grumpy cookie. I will present to you the worst dramas first, followed by the so-so ones, and then the few gems of 2008. Even though the year was overcast and gloomy, the sun broke through the clouds occasionally and when it did the effect was glorious. Let’s get the bad news out of the way and we can enjoy the good stuff, shall we?
SONG OF THE DAY
[And thus begins the year-in-review series for 2008 dramas! This’ll be a four-part series, and I’m honored to have three lovely bloggers — Sevenses, thunderbolt, and Dahee_Fanel — offering up their reviews in addition to mine. Hope you enjoy! –javabeans]
Year in Review – 2008
– In which I practiced my ?? face a lot.
Well, I’m but a wee babe in dramaland compared to Sarah, thundie and Dahee – I really started watching kdrama in earnest in late 2007. *pause while everyone picks their jaws up from the floor*
Caveat: I don’t have a huge base from which to compare, so this is all in my own humble opinion. You don’t have to agree, and you are definitely welcome to discuss. (No trolling, though, or I will start waving the Baton of Baleetion.) First of all, I’d like to say that my watching dramas is purely for the sake of relaxation – I have enough stress and overwork from school already, plskthx. Therefore it’s rather unlikely for me to take a huge tearjearker and run with it, if you know what I mean.
(And the concept of tearjerkers in general just baffle me a little. Why make yourself unhappy? I do love Atonement to the itty bitty pieces of my fairly battered heart, though that’s neither here nor there.)
So, looking over at the ones I watched this year, I’m actually fairly monogamous about my dramas. (Yay for having schoolwork?) The one thing that kind of stood out in my memory of this year, however, is that mostly all of them tended to have many ‘bleh’ moments – including the ones I’d loved and watched like an obsessed thing.
SONG OF THE DAY
Alanis Morissette – “Orchid,” as it is currently my favourite song ever and I wanted to share it.
[ Download ]
Like MBC before it, KBS has also released its list of year-end acting award nominees.
And while Hong Gil Dong (above) wasn’t the most prominent drama featured among the contenders (that would have to be the daily drama Mom’s Dead Upset, which brought in a whopping four nominations just in the Daesang category), it’s the one I watched and enjoyed in what I thought was a rather lackluster list. (Also! Kang! Ji! Hwan!)
The (very long) list of KBS actors is topped by a subset of nine Daesang contenders, which includes the aforementioned crowd of Mom’s Dead Upset veterans as well as Song Il-kook in the sageuk Kingdom of the Wind, Kim Sang-kyung in the sageuk Great King Sejong, and Kang Ji-hwan in the fusion-sageuk Hong Gil Dong. (A big sageuk year, no?)
Choi Su-jong of “Dae Jo Young,” Kim Haneul of “On Air”
Nominees are out for the 2008 Korea Drama Festival awards, and the list is rather ho-hum. For example, the nominees for Best Drama are: Legend (MBC), Mom’s Dead Upset (KBS), Dae Jo Young (KBS), and Gourmet (SBS).
At first I was disappointed in the list of nominees, but then I thought back to the year and realized it’s just been a ho-hum year for dramas overall. Although, if we’re nominating Legend for Best Drama, which premiered over a year ago in September 2007, surely there are other series that have been overlooked.
The Korean Drama Festival runs from November 1 through 5 in Jinju; see the nominee list beyond the jump.