[PPL Round-up] Stress and tension
We’re busy wrapping up the year in dramas, with fun things like beans, top picks, and long-winded reviews on what 2019 was like in dramaland. It seems like a good time to catch up with our PPL, too! In our last PPL round-up, we reviewed the endless cold beverages that filled our summer dramas — what have we been seeing since then? Let’s take a look.
As I surveyed the PPL over the last few months, a strange new theme developed before my eyes: most of the products could be categorized around stress and tension. The PPL was either around tracking that stress, or reducing it. Suitable for the time of the year? A statement on the necessity of self-care? A metaphor for the medicinal effects of K-dramas? I’m good for all of these explanations.
Monitor thy vitals
Product: Smart health-tracking devices from Samsung, Fitbit, etc.
Desirability: Zilch, unless it comes with free wrist grabs
Two very different dramas relied heavily on health vitals and the tracking thereof: Melting Me Softly and Extraordinary You. In fact, the monitoring of body temperature and/or heart rate were so intrinsic to both of these stories that it’s hard to tell where the PPL ends and where the story begins. But isn’t that the best kind, after all?
In Melting Me Softly, Ji Chang-wook kindly bestowed a health-tracking watch upon Won Jin-ah, so she could keep tabs on her body temperature, which had to stay beneath a certain threshold — or death! We not only got a first-hand glimpse at the couple chemistry in this scene (okay, that’s still out for debate), but throughout the drama, loads of closeups of this handy Fitbit and its all-too-accurate readings.
There’s a similar product reliance in Extraordinary You, where Kim Hye-yoon’s Samsung watch and Samsung Health app monitor her heart rate 24/7. It’s an essential part of her character’s “set up” — but it’s also a brilliant bit of PPL, since over the course of the drama we see that watch consulted frequently, find it always adorning her wrist, and hey, it doesn’t even get in the way of all those wrist grabs.
A mid-day massage
Product: Massage chairs by Bodyfriend and others
Desirability: None, it still freaks me out
The expressions of physical stress and tension don’t stop with health monitors — in Secret Boutique, the infamous (and gigantic) massage chair creeped its way into many a scene and was featured in the fantastic office space of Kim Sun-ah’s character. However, it’s a little hard to concentrate on the gravity of a scene when it looks like the heroine is a) trapped in a giant eggshell, or b) about to be closed in a space capsule worthy of a VIXX music video.
I really dislike this massage chair, and just when I thought it couldn’t get more distracting, Secret Boutique went and turned the full massage mode on. This means when a conversation is winding down and the massage chair is turned up, the actor’s head is free to vibrate and shake all over the place. Creepy! Let’s keep full-on demos to a minimum going forward, eh, SBS?.
The chair was also thrown in as the seat of contemplation. As Kim Jae-young’s character contemplates the heavy set of circumstances around him, he sits moodily in the massage chair. Poor boy, he’s really trying to make it work and feel natural, and while the emotions are there — that chair is a damn distraction. This is worse than shower brooding.
Vacuuming is life
Product: Dyson vacuums
Desirability: Hi Santa
While some might use expensive massage chairs to melt their stress away, my own personal go-to is cleaning. Mopping, scrubbing the bathroom — sure, even vacuuming. I might not have the illustrious Dyson, but cleaning is still a pretty good stress-buster. The-drama-that-shall-not-be-named was bursting with PPL, and Ji Chang-wook and Won Jin-ah both found succor in some solitary moments of vacuuming.
Product: All things Samsung
Back in the day I remember seeing iPhones in K-dramas — can you imagine the infamy? Nowadays it is strictly 100% Samsung, and there is nothing subtle about it. New phone models, specs, and features are frequently embedded (err, shoved) into dramas for our personal information, and the last few months in dramaland are no exception.
The Samsung Note is where it’s at, though, and drama after drama, we got pink and rosy phones front and center. We also got heroines that found the stylus and note-taking feature to be most advantageous. I still think good old pen and paper are best, but who am I to argue with the drama gods?
All the coffee
Desirability: All the coffee, please
If you’re familiar with the PPL round-ups, you know none is complete without a quick coffee survey. Not only is coffee a delight IRL, but it is all over dramaland in hilarious ways. While I still saw a lot less Maxim Gold than I’m used to seeing, Nescafe’s surge continued. Thanks to overheating Ji Chang-wook, we were able to observe the machine’s excellent iced coffee mechanism.
Subway. That is all.
Product: Food-like substances
Desirability: I’m good, thanks
We can’t close this PPL round-up without a mention of Subway — the majority stakeholder, so to speak, in K-drama product placement. From the good to the bad to the ugly, Subway is a ubiquitous force, and I have seen more sandwiches eaten than I care to remember.
However, an early episode of VIP handled an aggressive bout of Subway PPL in a very fine fashion. While the product placement itself was as loud as any other (the three women leave the office for lunch, talk about how good the food is and munch away), it was also swallowed up by the wonderful tone of this drama.
At this point in the plot, Jang Nara’s heroine doesn’t know much about all the chaos that’s about to unfold in her relationships, but the drama’s strong direction takes a useless and typical Subway-eating scene, and packs on the foreshadowing and the subtleties, and I loved every minute of it.
Lastly, there was a panini-making scene in VIP that deserves a mention here. It was either the most humorous and human bit of PPL in a while, or the best-acted sandwich scene ever.
In the drama, Lee Jae-won and his two sons have to get along while his wife is MIA. Of course the house is a disaster, and meals are a bit… thrown together. Hence the panini machine, and the exhausted and disenchanted husband slapping sandwiches together for everyone. Lee Jae-won can be seriously amusing, and though this role leans a bit on the dark side, the dry humor in this panini machine scene was priceless.
It’s been a fun few months in drama PPL, and we’ve seen a nice range of products, scenarios, and cringe-worthy reappearances — we even explored the many ways our leading characters manage their stress.
This round-up represents only some of the PPL in the last few months, and I’m sure there’s much more to be unearthed. Did you see any recent product placement that made you eyeroll, made you curious, or made you do some impulse online shopping? With a plethora of winter dramas making their premieres over the next several weeks, I can’t wait to sit back and enjoy some new stories (and new PPL). Here’s to a new year of fantabulous dramas.
- VIP: Episodes 1-2 (Series Review)
- Extraordinary You: Episodes 1-2
- Melting Me Softly: Episodes 1-2 Open Thread
- Secret Boutique: Episodes 1-2 (Series review)
- Kim Sun-ah prepares for revenge in SBS noir Secret Boutique
- Kim Hye-yoon rebels against her storyline in Extraordinary You
- Temperatures are heating up for Ji Chang-wook, Won Jin-ah in tvN’s Melting Me Softly
- Promos for Jang Nara, Lee Sang-yoon in mystery office drama VIP