Team Dramabeans: What we’re watching
by DB Staff
So, what are we all watching this week?
What kept you reaching for more (or agonizing when there was no more), and what made you want to throw your remote through the screen? Time to weigh in…
Mr. Sunshine: My computer is frizting and life is particularly busy so I haven’t had time to catch anything new, although I’ve got a number of new shows added to my to-watch list. For now, I only have the mental space to continue with things I’ve already started, which is why I’m here with Mr. Sunshine, although I think I have to make peace now with the fact that despite liking parts of it, I just can’t seem to like it as a whole — mostly because it doesn’t feel like a whole to me, but rather a sum of parts. That said, the parts I do like: Ae-shin is a consistent badass, and I expect her to die gloriously in a way that makes me proud; the show isn’t softening Dong-mae’s harsh edges, which I appreciate because it makes him a challenging and super-compelling character that I know I can’t root for but do still care about; and the weird reluctant frenemy-ship developing between our three men is a dryly funny recurring bit. On the other hand: this PPL is the woooooorst.
Life: The creators of this show have somehow taken a modern-day hospital drama and given it the gravitas, tension, and suspense of a palace politics thriller (and I mean in a good way). I’m intrigued by how none of the characters is easy to read, and damn if I’m not completely uncertain about Jo Seung-woo, just as our doctors are — he seems evil one moment, and then he seems misunderstood the next. It’s a great thread of constant tension, because the politics of the storyline paint him as this money-grubbing villain, but then we see he’s actually cleaning up the dirtier sides of the hospital and providing much-needed advancements… and then the next moment he takes it too far and I’m back with the doctors. I find this an unusual show in that it almost sometimes feels like there’s no central plot (“Jo seung-woo arrives and shakes things up” is a description of events, but not really a premise) — I can’t imagine a show like this getting made in no-attention-span Hollywood. And while sometimes my attention falters, I do actually pay attention to the hospital machinations because they’re legit interesting, which I never thought I’d say.
Meteor Garden: This show has been a refreshing break in the past weeks, because it’s effervescent and super-fluffy and makes me relax at the end of the day (…whenever I can figure out when new episodes are out! The release schedule is not super transparent and that drives me nuts). I don’t know if it’s the best version of Boys Before Flowers in any single, particular aspect — I’ve preferred other versions for the heroine, the storyline, the emotional payoffs, the addictive factor — but it’s a really fun, low-stakes version that is perfect for when I want something cute that’s going to make me feel a lot of angst. It doesn’t get my emotions involved because it’s so light, but it does provide a nice stream of giddy couple moments worth a squee session on Twitter. And Dylan Wang as Daoming Si is really keeping me on the hook — he’s just so adorable, like an angry hedgehog who’s enjoying being tamed.
Witch’s Love: I totally didn’t start this for Hyun Woo. (Narrator: She did.) Okay, but it’s the most adorable thing I’m watching right now. Yoon So-hee plays Cho-hong, a twenty-something witch who runs a restaurant with her two witchy grandmas. Over their nightly dinner of truffles and Dom Perignon, Senior Gran regularly scolds Cho-hong for wasting magic on useless things like saving babies, shortcutting kitchen chores, and falling in love. That’s what humans do, and being human is tiring. Meanwhile, eighty-year-old “Junior” Gran is a retired gisaeng who says humans aren’t too bad… for having flings with. With a household like that, it’s no wonder Cho-hong is clueless when it comes to true love. Case in point: she’s pining over her money-grubbing Casanova boyfriend (bad) while repeatedly getting into petty fights with the coldly logical but secret marshmallow chaebol Ma Sung-tae (good). I just got to the part where Sung-tae proposes he move in with them in exchange for a 50% discount on their rent. The grannies reject it of course, but we all know what happens to rejected cohabitation contracts in dramaland, right? *cackles as she starts grinding ink for Grandma’s signpen*
Produce 48: I survived it. My first elimination episode. It’s not that bad even if I lost some of my favorites. Maybe the beanie warnings have braced me enough for it. Maybe I’m not that attached to anyone yet. In any case, I knew going in that this is more a popularity than a talent contest so I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of low-rankers move up based on their performance. I’m still side-eyeing some… uhm… talents at the top. But maybe this elimination proves that there’s hope of gaining votes if you work hard and perform well enough. (Or not. That’s dangerously optimistic! Quick, someone disillusion me again!) I still don’t understand how the format works so I hope the next episode is about song practices because I do enjoy watching the teams perform. Also to give my heart a bit of rest until the next elimination.
Life on Mars: I’m still catching up to this but Kwak Jung-wook is back! Wasn’t it just a couple months ago when we were wondering what he’s been up to while his School 2013 buddies Lee Ji-hoon and Lee Yi-kyung are slowly building up their resume? But back to the show, the unfortunate thing about Kwak Jung-wook is… I totally know he’s the bad guy. He is, isn’t he? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him not be shady before. I’m not sure if there will be another Big Bad after him, I just hope our whole 1988 gang survives because I’ve become so attached to them, even if they’re kinda not real. Or are they? No wonder Tae-joo has splitting headaches.
Life: Am I supposed to hate anyone in this show? Because I’m not. Jo Seung-woo is doing such a bad job of making me hate him when he jumps at strange noises and coolly orders his secretary to “improve hospital efficiency by 90%,” only to exchange confused looks with her at what that actually means. Haha! Also, I know Lee Dong-wook got a lot of flak for sticking out like a sore thumb acting-wise, but it’s the sound director I need to have a word with. What’s up with the nonstop epic score that makes every step and every door opening sound like An Important Moment? I know Jo Seung-woo smirking is important for my eyes, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t need background music to look like a sexy bastard. He just is.
Your House Helper: This has been the only drama to keep my interest these days, but I was disappointed with Episodes 21-22. I expected to feel more satisfaction when Da-young got her apology from Mr. Yoo, but I kept looking at the clock to see how much longer until the episodes’ end. That’s never a good sign. I was able to forgive the slow hour because Episodes 23-24 were considerably better once the story got around to So-mi’s backstory, plus Hye-joo’s roommate situation finally exploded on her. As usual, Ji-woon offered a calm perspective throughout, but time is running out for him to resolve his own painful past. I can’t believe this drama is so close to its conclusion! My hope is that everyone gets a chance to resolve their pasts so that they can move forward with courage and promise. This has been a sweet drama that hasn’t been afraid to confront difficult social topics, but in the end it is a romance. I’m anxious to see how all of the romantic connections will be resolved before we have to say farewell to the handsome “House Helper” and his friends.
Mr. Sunshine: Why does anything ever happen on this show? No one seems to meet on purpose and they all just run into each other randomly. It’s almost as funny as these characters’ surprising ability to recognize each other after decades apart. And I’m not sure whether it’s the weird controversy brewing in Korea forcing the director/writer duo to make last-minute changes, but the editing and narrative feels sloppy, for lack of a better word. Which I’m surprised at, since their previous work, while flawed, have never seemed to be anything but deliberate. I’m quickly losing faith that this story will live up to its full, epic, poignant potential, which is a little depressing, since I wanted the grand-scale visuals to be backed by a grand-scale story about the nameless righteous army. But now I’m starting to doubt this righteous army even exists in this story, save for the potter grandpa, gunner Jang, and tavern lady. C’mon, throw me a breadcrumb or something!
Life on Mars: I liked this show a lot more than I thought I would, because while I’m sure time-traveling detectives aren’t actually that large of a presence in dramaland, it certainly feels like we’ve had quite a few memorable time-bendy procedurals. I really enjoyed how much the show played up the ambiguity of whether Han Tae-joo had really traveled back in time, or whether it was all a dream, though it did put me in the weird position of cheering him on as he threw himself off a building. I’m such a sucker for ragtag Scooby gangs, and this particular gang of detectives, including one butt-kicking Officer Yoon, made my (and Tae-joo’s) heart warm. Also, Park Sung-woong could bromance the crap out of a rock as far as I’m concerned, the man is talented.
My ID is Gangnam Beauty: As a big fan of the webtoon, I have to say that Im Soo-hyang’s casting is spot-on. I like how close they stuck to the source material, but also adjusted enough to make it feel a little fresh. I’m so ready for the love triangle to rev up too, because Kwak Dong-yeon is being really swoony (he’s legal, right?) as the daddy long-legs TA, and while Cha Eun-woo is quite green here, I get such a kick out of his character cutting through Soo-ah’s bullshit.
Thirty But Seventeen: This show is adorable and has a certain nostalgic quality because it feels like a classic, old-school rom-com. I’m not completely sold on the hero, who’s a little too prickly still for my taste, but the nephew is so cutely dim and open about his feelings that it makes up for his grumpypuss uncle.
Life: Trust this writer and director to actually make me care about hospital politics. Boardroom drama has never been more exciting. I’m a little intrigued by the setup, because neither side of this conflict (doctors vs. management) are completely good or bad. I understand doctors feel like they have a noble calling in their jobs, but their holier-than-thou attitude is grating even to me, and the fact that medical accidents happen so often with such impunity is chilling. On the other hand, Jo Seung-woo is doing so well to give a human face to the business side of hospitals, and while he started out as a maybe villain, I can see him thawing little by little, which is so interesting to watch.