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The new Monday-Tuesday lineup: First impressions

As I’ve been saying recently (I sound like a broken record, I know), today saw the rare circumstance of four new drama series all premiering on the same night. There’s a lot of interest to see which one(s) will emerge victorious, but so far there’s no clear winner, as the numbers came out more or less even.

I usually use TNS Media numbers, which put God of Study on top with a 15.1%, followed closely by Jejoongwon with 14.9%, then Pasta with 12.2%. However, AGB Nielsen numbers (which are usually pretty similar) flip the top two, giving Jejoongwon the edge with 15.1%, then God of Study and Pasta almost even at 13.4% and 13.3%, respectively. In the earlier hour, Wish Upon a Star brought in 11%, which was a 1% increase from the premiere of its predecessor, Angel’s Temptation.

I had a hard time deciding which drama to see (and possibly recap) first, and I know I won’t be able to recap them all even if I wanted to. So rather than pick one arbitrarily, I managed to watch all four premiere episodes, and have come up with my first impressions on each.

 

GOD OF STUDY (KBS)

I fired up God of Study first, thinking it would be the easiest to watch and recap. I wasn’t necessarily excited about this drama, but I was curious to see how it would handle the high school setting and obvious Boys Before Flowers comparisons.

Kim Su-ro is a lawyer who is brought in to Byungmun High School to consult with its board chair. The school is affiliated with the Byungmun corporation, whose future is shaky at present, meaning that the school may be shut down. Kim Su-ro’s lawyer character has painful memories of being a student at the school and would like nothing more than to help that happen. Bae Doo-na is a well-meaning English teacher who fears that closing the school would be disaster for these kids, who are already faring so poorly.

Surprisingly, my first thought was that I was bored. The setup wasn’t particularly striking, with the rowdy kids sleeping through classes and showing a general disinterest in learning. I thought Bae Doo-na — acknowledged as one of the top actresses of her generation — overacted. And I was disappointed to have been told Yoo Seung-ho would be this badass rebel, only to see that his goodness is pretty apparent on the surface. (Not that I wanted him to be a horrible person, but it seemed like the character wasn’t at all what we’d been told to expect. I did like his acting and he has a lot of presence — and it’s nice to see him playing something other than a king! — so there is that.)

However, this drama grew on me a lot over the hour, and perhaps I have my own expectations to blame for the initial surprise. Nobody said this was going to be Boys Before Flowers Redux — it was my assumption based on the descriptions, the casting of Kim Su-ro (who does comedy so well), the hip teen cast, and the KBS ties. But this is nothing at all like Boys Before Flowers — it’s not even a comedy. I was expecting light trendy stuff, and instead what we get is much more serious in tone. It actually reminded me a lot of American teen dramas — not over-the-top Gossip Girl or campy One Tree Hill but more toned-down, straight drama fare. I’ve thought that it’s too bad there weren’t more shows like those lower-budget youth dramas (such as those produced by EBS or aired outside of prime time), but upgraded with higher production values. So this fulfills that wish.

The narrative heaviness turned me off at first, but as we got to know more of the characters, I warmed to it. I do think they’re laying on the serious drama vibe too thick (especially with Kim Su-ro) and there are scenes that drag. Part of the slowness of the episode is because it takes some time to establish each of the characters, and we’ve got a good number of them — five students, plus the adults. What I hope this drama does is take realistic characters and bring them together with good chemistry, because the story itself is low-key and simple. We aren’t going to get exciting location shoots, super-dramatic plot twists, or over-the-top villains like in Boys Before Flowers, so the fate of the show rests on the relationship dynamics. Thankfully, most of the cast can act pretty well.

I’m not hooked on God of Study and I think it’s the slowest of the four to settle into its groove, but there’s something interesting about the vibe that has me intrigued.

 

PASTA (MBC)

Pasta surprised me by being better than I’d expected. (Granted, I didn’t really know what to expect.) The restaurant setting has drawn a lot of pre-show comparisons to other food-themed series like My Name Is Kim Sam-soon, Gourmet, and Coffee Prince, but that’s pretty flimsy basis for comparison.

Gong Hyo-jin is exceedingly cute as an assistant in the kitchen, but what’s even better is that she has great chemistry with Lee Seon-kyun. They have one of the more adorable meet-cutes I’ve seen in a while, and I won’t ruin the fun by giving it away, but let’s just say that the situation is amusing but it’s their banter that makes the scene sizzle. The credit for that has got to go to Lee Seon-kyun (as he does most of the bantering), and GODDAMN he has never been so sexy. Y’all know that I have loved this man for a while now, but even so, this is the most charismatic I’ve ever seen him. Wow.

Even before the premiere, he was drawing a lot of comparisons to “Kang-mae,” aka Kim Myung-min in Beethoven Virus. But I’ll beg to differ. Kang-mae was entertainingly caustic, but Lee Seon-kyun’s character isn’t mean 100% of the time. He can change from volatile and scary to very suave. He knows how to be charming — he just doesn’t use that charm while he’s working in the kitchen. The dismay when he realizes that the girl he’s been flirting with is his employee is hilarious, and it affords us the chance to see him go hot-and-cold with her.

Pasta has a brisk, refreshing pace and a light tone that is amusing without being jokey. There’s humor, but it’s not a drama that hinges on comedy like a Hong Sisters piece.

The two leads are fabulous together, and the music is also great; the soundtrack sounds somewhat Coffee Prince-like, but less twee. Maybe more indie-rock than indie-pop. Of all the shows, Pasta is the one that won me over most. I’ll be watching the next episode for sure.

 

JEJOONGWON (SBS)

Jejoongwon is a very competent, well-produced, beautiful-to-look-at historical drama that will probably do well. It stars Park Yong-woo as a young man from a dirt-poor background who works as a butcher. One day, he is delivering beef to a fancy party, where one of the partygoers collapses. A famed Japanese doctor is in attendance and brings out his medical kit to sew up the guest’s open wound, and Park Yong-woo is transfixed. He has heard of this growing Western medicine movement and thinks it’s exciting.

His beloved mother is ailing (of consumption, it looks like), and his uneducated father spends their hard-earned money on a shaman to chase away the ghosts. He, however, insists on taking her to the hospital for modern treatment, but doesn’t have enough to pay the bills and is forced to take desperate measures to find enough money. Throughout the episode, we see him coming up against societal prejudices because of his low status, which will likely become a major theme.

Meanwhile, Yeon Jung-hoon is a nobleman’s son with a growing interest in Western medicine, who spends study time poring over anatomy texts. He has a flirtatious relationship with Han Hye-jin, the daughter of a powerful nobleman who cultivates relationships with Westerners.

Jejoongwon has a nice, pleasantly airy feel in its lighter moments and the acting is solid from both leading men. (Unfortunately, I have a bit of a mental block with Han Hye-jin, who bothers me here. It’s nothing to do with her acting; it’s her vibe that sometimes irks me.) The scenes with the aristocracy feel lighter than what we’d expect of the writer of White Tower, but we’re still only in the first episode.

I enjoyed this premiere and found it easy to watch, but rather unchallenging on the whole. There are aspects about this drama that really appeal to me, such as the juxtaposition of Western and classical Korean elements in this time of rapid change (we start in 1884). However, I sorta feel like I’ve seen this conflict played out dozens of times before — Park Yong-woo will end up being the medical genius with a gift for surgery, despite his humble beginnings. Yeon Jung-hoon has everything going for him — education, wealth, background — and he is skilled, but not brilliant. Naturally, the two will both fall for Han Hye-jin.

Jejoongwon will probably be a solid choice to watch, but I’m not diving in yet because there are so many offerings coming to us at once. I’m in the mood for something fresh, or challenging — hopefully both. Jejoongwon may have to wait until the schedule clears…

 

WISH UPON A STAR (SBS)

Frankly, Wish Upon a Star was my least-anticipated of the bunch because nothing really stood out about it. It’s built on a standard romantic conflict (klutzy girl melts icy heart of mean, hottie professional man) and the actors, while likable, are known more for their looks than their talent.

I was surprised the most, then, with Wish Upon a Star‘s bright, cheerful tone and particularly with leading lady Choi Jung-won. She has gotten criticism in the past for being just another pretty face, but she’s cute in this — maybe she should have done more romantic comedies.

Choi’s Pal-gang character is the eldest of a brood of adopted kids that her soft-hearted parents, who are still ridiculously in love, have taken in. She is frivolous and silly, and harbors a crush on the company’s lawyer (Kim Ji-hoon). She’s determined to make him fall for her, and then she’ll marry him and live happily ever after! She doesn’t care that he’s known to be a heartless bastard, as his younger brother (Shin Dong-wook) cheerfully warns.

I suspect that Pal-gang character may be a love-her-or-hate-her type; she can be pretty foolish and selfish. I happen to find her appealing — plus, you know she’s going to be in for a rude awakening soon — but as with many romantic comedies, if you don’t like the lead couple, you probably won’t like the drama as a whole. As for Kim Ji-hoon, I like that he’s actually cold rather than misunderstood, and he’s pretty sexy here.

One the things I’m wary about is that there’s a subplot that I suspect will take up more time than it should and drag down the breeziness of Pal-gang’s plotlines. It features a power struggle to claim a company’s ruling rights — an elderly chaebol chairman intends to use all his money to build a large free hospital, and asks Pal-gang’s good-hearted father to run it. However, the chairman’s long-suffering son feels like he deserves to run the company, and may have something to do with the car crash that kills Pal-gang’s parents.

This is also not going to be a challenging drama, and because I have seen this plot done so many times before, this drama’s appeal will rest on the characters’ charm. This is the most aggressively comedic drama of the four, and also probably the most conventional. It feels like a good-natured family show, but with a faster pace. It could go either way, in my book, so I’ll keep an eye on it to see if it stays fun or gets bogged down with the nefarious plot.

 
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Starting on Jejoongwon right now. I think there's something about SBS sageuks, fusion or normal, that isn't innately appealing to me. Just a color palette thing for me, maybe?

Story seems pleasant so far. Was kinda hoping for a Painter in the Wind/CSI-style breakdown of some medical technique.

"But this is nothing at all like Boys Before Flowers — it’s not even a comedy."

If it's really like Dragon Zakura, it won't be. DZ wasn't a big hit in Japan or anything -- it's just a show where every episode presents valuable lessons and there's a little bit of "slice of life" going on with the kids.

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I am excited to start the year with new dramas!!!

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ooo... Thanks so much for this. This helped me finally decide which dramas I'm going to stick to for now. Definitely Pasta and Wish Upon a Star. The hotness factor of the stars has probably a lot to do with it!! hehe... Man, I'm superfical! ^_^

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There are fresh and challenging dramas?

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Wow, Sarah you've started off the New Year at full speed! :D

I've only seen Pasta so far, but HOLY COW, Lee Seon Kyun is Smexy with a capital "S" in this one. He's charismatic and mucho suave (but not in a slimy Rico Suave way). I love his smirking and flirtatiousness. Plus, he and Gong Hyo Jin have sizzling chemistry.
And I lurved the music, too.
It's a win-win! :D

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i'm also very excited about pasta. the leads are amazing, and even the supporting actors who typically (in dramas like this) overact and try to get cheap laughs really know how to balance humor with reality. :)

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i really like God of Study, i hope you do recap on that series!! ^^

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kudos for you to managing to watch all 4 of these premieres and doing short write ups on your impressions!

i only watched god of study & pasta. god of study, i was pretty unimpressed, but i think i had expected it to be great from the very beginning, and i can give it another episode or so to get the story going!

LEE HYUNWOO (the kid with the green headphones) caught my eye a lot more than yoo seungho did, even with so much less screen time! huh. he seemed more... natural?

as for pasta, OMG the chemistry it's like SCHZNANNG! why is gong hyojin so pretty? i love her voice. why is lee seonkyun SO DAMN HOT?! i already LOVE the soundtrack too.. and there wasn't much of alex or honey lee but i already don't like alex's character. he is just NEUKKI (greasy) to the max, and i don't know why he gives that feel now, since i LOVE him outside this drama, both on variety shows and in musical settings. huh.

just 1 question about god of study.. i don't understand why kang sukho (?)/kim sooro's character suddenly made the decision to fight to keep the school open? it was during that conversation with the other lawyer but with professional lawer-y talk my korean fails me *_*

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Pasta looks really fun. Ok, adding that to my must-list for 2010 :)

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Just finished watching Pasta ep1, and I'm loving it. Fast paced and fun.The two leads look very good together.

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oh and as for pasta-- i'm worried at how they're gonna handle lee seonkyun's character in terms of his refusal to have women working in his kitchen...... this could be an opportunity to make a really powerful statement..... hopefully something i agree with!

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I think I'll start watching Pasta..
I don't really interest in God of Study although I love Dragon Zakura..

anyway,,thanks,JB!

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From the start, i was planning on watching Pasta, so right now think i will stick with that.

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Yay. so you think Pasta is interesting!
I was going to download it last night but my connection was tricking with me.
Anyway...definitely will watch it!

The other drama I'm considering is God of Study - I like Kim Su Ro a lot, as an actor or he himself in Family Outing.

The best thing is! WithS2 will sub Pasta....so I won't be worry about bad subtitle, right!!!

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I wasn't sure about pasta. But I am a sucker for banter. I will definitely be checking it out!

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4 different dramas in one night, with analysis?! JB hits 2010 running...

what to watch what to watch.... I feel paralyzed by indecision...

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I had a feeling Lee Hyun Woo would be stealing the spotlight from all the Yoo Seung Ho craze. At least I was right for #8, okdubu. :)

I used to loooove Lee Sun Kyoon during his White Tower days, but now... he's just another male actor to me. He's definitely better than the average plastic face that all the netizens go gaga over, but not exactly so spectacular anymore. I don't know what happened. Maybe overexposure? Or participation in too many dramas I didn't connect with? Maybe Pasta will bring me back to him, but Korean romcoms aren't exactly my favorite. I'm still waiting for a smart comedy instead of just another trendy drama.

I haven't watched any of them yet, but I'll be checking into Jejoongwon and God of Study

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wow!~
thnx for the short analysis on the 4 dramas!~
i hab only watched god of study~ and i believe it's quite good!
there's this feeling that u can learn alot from this drama!~ whilst also gettin entertained! the cast also acts realli well!~

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"Reputable Family" may turn out to be the most underrated Drama of this New Years season, saw two episodes and it is actually real good, "God of Study" is holding its ground to the J-version. "God of Study", "Wish upon a Star", " Pasta", "Jejoongwon", I like them in this particular order so far!!!!!!

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I was curious about Pasta, so thank you for this JB!

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thanks JB....this helped me so much in deciding which drama to watch first this year. i definitely going to watch pasta and wish upon a star. it really sounds interesting...
but, i think i will watch god of study too later on. just because i really like kim su ro since i saw him in family outing...:)

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Jejongwoon sounded interesting, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to stick with it. Honestly, I've been waiting for Pasta, so as soon as that's subbed, I can't wait to watch it. Wish Upon a Star is a maybe, but I'm not too sure about it since I didn't like the male lead that much in Love Marriage, but maybe seeing him in a different role (personality wise) will change my mind. God of Study didn't really interest me because the plot seems dull and I've tried to watch so many dramas like that and failed. I might check out Dragon Zakura first and then try God of Study, just because I like to compare

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dragon zakura wasnt amazing-amazing, but was worthwhile to watch bcause of Abe Hiroshi. yamapi was like an added eye-candy. but it does have its moments of brilliance. i actually use some of the learning.studying methods i got from the dorama.

i hope God of Study can do the same. im gonna try watching this and Pasta since im a gong hyojin fan. ive seen almost everything she did so i cant miss this!

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wow I can't believe you watched all that in one day! Thank you so much for giving us your first impressions. I haven't started any of them and am not sure if I even want to start them, though Pasta is appealing to me more after this. I WANT to want to attempt Wish Upon a Star because the storyline sounds cute, but then i'm not sure if I will like 20 episodes of the drama. It sounds like something I would watch if it was a movie or mini-drama.

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I'm going to watch Jaejongwoon. I really love all the concepts there. sageuk, medical, an era when western & eastern collide, and yes, even the 'poor but genius and rich but not brilliant'. i've seen that before, but still not enough for my craving. maybe because i still havent finished my master, so i loooooooooooovveeeeeee something that can inspire my study <3

i'm a bit picky on bubbly/cutesy main lead, but i do too love romantic comedy. so i'm going to give it a try and see how its going.

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@ #23
Seriously? The study methods work? Beautiful justification for watching j-drama/k-drama! May I ask which methods they were?

Wow, 4 hours of drama is...crazy!! :D

AH I want to watch all 4 dramas, but school just started today. Was Pasta food-centric, btw? or relationship-centric?

And I want to see Yoo Seung Ho, for no reason. And he's younger than me. EH.

Shin Dong Wook was soooo cute in Soulmates. AAGH.

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Thanks DB! That's an amazing effort!

It must be me, but I don't find any of the series interesting enough to watch yet. Perhaps Pasta?

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i've been planning to watch all the dramas except "wish upon a star"
though more looking forward to pasta than anything.
the fact that this drama is called "pasta" ought to get me...I looooove PASTA!! For realz.

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So many debuts today and then on Wednesday is Chuno's debut! Woot! Woot! ^_^

So far I'm digging Wish Upon a Star and Pasta. I was hesitant to watch WUAS at first because I didn't like Choi Jungwon. Was pleasantly surprised though. It also helps that the show has a hot set of brothers Kim Jihoon + Shin Dongwook...Hehe. Pasta was just too cute! Gong Hyojin is a gem! Loved her since Ruler of your own world. Her chemistry with Lee Seonkyun alone is worth watching. I have mixed feelings for God of Study and Jejoongwon. But what a great start for 2010!

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After watching DZ I don't expect God of study to be a comedy. But I've yet to watch it before I comment further. I've been captivated by Yoo Seung- ho since his performance in Sad Love Song.
I'm looking forward to watch Han Hye Jin & Yoon Jung Hoon perform in Jejungwoon. Han Hye Jin is pretty & she acts well too.

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yeah, Pasta is delicious. I mean it's good!

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@8: agree with you about LEE HYUNWOO, i haven't watch God of study yet but He does catch my eyes. He did well in Queen Seoduk.

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Oh my - love the tracking shots (the one where the lead character's carrying a bunch of stuff and he's walking through the village -- the camera follows behind him, and so you see all the passerbies and the mix of West and East) the director did with Jejoongwoon. Lovely stuff. There's some angsty bits, but this is a warm episode with a real sense of place. Just nicely done.

@Amg1,

"“Reputable Family” may turn out to be the most underrated Drama of this New Years season,"

Yeah, I'm kinda waiting on this one when it comes out translated on KBS World. The government put a lot of money into it; propaganda or not, it should look spiffy.

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"GODDAMN he has never been so sexy"
OK, i'm sold!! :P
i'm going to check the raw videos tonight...
and i'll be waiting for tGoS to be played on KBSW...
as for Jejongwon, I'm going to wait for some more episodes to get me interested, and not so much interested for WUaS...

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i watched all of the premieres except jejoongwon. I'm not the biggest fan of dramas with school settings except Hardtack Teacher, and that was due to Gong Yoo. LOL that drama had Gong Hyojin in it. Anyways, I wouldn't put God of Study on the top of my list, even for Yoo Seungho.
Pasta was nice, the other girl actors besides Gong Hyojin were annoying but I think that's how their characters were written. I don't really like Honey Lee and Alex's acting, but they're relatively new to the field so let's let them slide for now. I really love the two leads, like everyone has already said their chemistry is off the charts. I bet Lee Seonkyun got tired of yelling. I want more "food porn"!!! :P
Wish upon a star was strangely very appealing to me. I love Choi Jungwon and Shin Dongwook, and I find Kim Jihoon nice to look at. But, what is up with everyone's hair?!??! Hopefully, this drama won't lead me on too much. Yes, I do find the underlying plot annoying as well :)

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pasta for sure.... cheer

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How did you do it, JB: 4 premiers on one day?! Thanks so much for this first take. It does help me make the choice and confirms my original choice: Pasta.

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omg, so many dramas, so little time..sigh

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I've just started watching Pasta...and it's so good. Way better than I expected...when I first read the synopsis, I wasn't too thrilled about the plot...but the first episode has definitely gotten me hooked!!! I love the witty conversations, especially from LSK.

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watched both pasta and god of study, both intrigues me the most but pasta is delightful, it got the kim sam soon atmosphere and i fell in love with it. I've actually predicted i will like pasta the most but god of study isn't bad too. LSK is like the korean version of Gordon Ramsay from hell's kitchen but he's so much better since i hate the f**s vulgar words i heard from Gordon Ramsay....

I wasn't expecting GOS to be a comedy at all, it sounds like a slice of life for me and i like that genre.

It reminds me of GTO the jdrama where it always excites me by its scenes of the teacher leading the students, makes me root for them as always... YSH is charismatic, this is my first seeing Kim Suro's acting and i'm pleasantly impressed. BDN, i know what to expect for her, she can't really do comedies well without overacting but she's tolerable because i like her.. i prefer her serious roles.. The student girl Go Ah Sung, it's my first seeing this girl and she didn't look attractive at all in the still pictures but she's very natural imo, not the pretty type but she grew on me, not sure about the other students yet but i'm sure they'll grow on me too. Can't wait for ep2 of pasta and GOS

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oh thanks JB! now im leaning more into Pasta than God of Study. i was kinda excited beacause i love sooro but i love light hearted comedy drama so..i guess i'll start with Pasta. We'll see how God of Study progress maybe i'll check it out later ahahah

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Most of Lord Of Study's viewers said that the first episode was kinda boring, and the pace was kinda slow. I dunno though, but I still want to continue to watch this drama. I'm not really sure if they'll ever succeed to incorporate Dragon Zakura's essence plot with this one. But I guess by the time the storyline have made some progress, it's definitely something that worth to watch.

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sounds good! if i have time, i'll watch wish upon a star and pasta. thx jb!

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please do a recap on wish upon a star, jejoongwon, and pasta...please...haha!! I am so excited with the new dramas because I haven't watched any for a while.. I'll be very excited if you do but if you can't, it's still okay.. you're still the best!! thanks javabeans!!!

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AHHH

Can't make up my mind on which to watch.

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make pasta recap, pleaseeeeeeeeeeee ^^ i think it's better than the others.

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seems that all 4 are not bad... o.O
i originally plan to watch pasta than go of study.
from what you say,i may watched the other 2 too.....

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Just saw Pasta and I think it's not bad for starters. Not really digging the girl cos there is pretty much zilch in emotive range from her at the moment. But Lee Seon Kyun is brilliant as usual. So I'm looking forward to episode two.

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Pasta! Definitely Pasta! I've always been interested to watch it. I hope somebody subs and uploads the eps.

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As always Javabeans thanks for your insight. Happy New Year! I cannot wait to watch PASTA!

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