Five drama recommendations… with the best found families
by DB Staff
The concept of the “found family” is something that dramaland has always embraced and expressed quite wonderfully. Done well, and you’re clutching your heart strings all the way through your drama; done poorly, and you still know what they were aiming for. One of the best things about the found family dynamic is that it can exist in any genre — so here are some of our favorite found families of dramaland, from the superheroes and soldiers to the bar owners and doctors.
In my opinion, found families are something that K-dramas in general do exceptionally well. I could point to many examples, but there’s one found family that always seems to pop into my head first whenever the topic is brought up. That, of course, is the team from Lookout. With a rogue cop (Lee Shi-young), a secretive priest (Shin Dong-wook), a bubbly hacker (Key), a surveillance specialist who literally never leaves her house (Kim Seul-gi), and an anonymous team leader, this vigilante crew is colorful, memorable, and masterfully acted as they fight against the so-called justice system that has failed them all. Not only do they operate like a well-oiled machine, but their shared passion and respective traumas bind them together into a tightly knit family who are willing to face their greatest fears to keep each other safe.
Every family has its… complicated member(s), and for Lookout, that person is Kim Young-kwang’s deliciously gray prosecutor, Do-han. In a show of standout characters and performances, his was the best character and performance of the bunch for me – followed closely by Key and Seul-gi, whose chemistry was so off-the-charts, you could feel it even when their characters had never so much as been in the same room together. Honestly, I don’t know that Lookout would quite make it on a shortlist of my favorite K-dramas of all time just based on the story alone. But because of the characters and their team dynamic, it will always hold a very, very special place in my heart.
Crash Landing on You (2019)
If you’re anything like me, just the thought of Crash Landing on You makes you clutch your heart and think of how wonderful the romance was, and how the drama’s setup did everything to make it even more so. (Not going to mention the DMZ goodbye scene. Nope. Not gonna.) Even though our wonderful hero and heroine (Hyun Bin and Sohn Ye-jin) are firmly lodged at the center of the story — and our hearts — Crash wouldn’t be Crash without the found family element that is our North Korean soldier “ducklings.” Indeed, that was a big part of the magic.
When our heroine is dropped (quite literally) into a scary scenario of political tension and life-threatening stakes, a squad of soldiers that couldn’t care less about a self-inflated South Korean heiress reluctantly agree to hide her. And that’s just the beginning, because what starts with antagonism, annoyance, and dislike between our heroine and the soliders, slowly unfolds into everything we love about the found family dynamic. They couldn’t be more different — or on more opposing sides of basically everything — but the affection that forms between them is truly heart-warming. Watching them come to rally around and support each other through thick and thin not only made this drama fun, but made it comforting and beautiful. –@missvictrix
Hospital Playlist (2020)
I absolutely adore Hospital Playlist, and a large part of this drama’s appeal (for me) is its portrayal of adult friendships. This slice-of-life story is centered on a group of five doctors in their late thirties who have been friends since med school, but — as is the case in the real world — life and careers have intervened and made it hard for them to hang out regularly. Until, that is, they’re all given the opportunity to work for the same hospital, and Seok-hyung (Kim Dae-myung), the most introverted among the friends, persuades the rest of them to revive their college band.
While all five of the main characters value this long-standing friendship, the idea of a “found family” is most important to Seok-hyung, who doesn’t have any strong interpersonal connections with anyone outside their close knit friend group — and his cantankerous mother. He claims to be a voluntary loner who doesn’t desire a romantic relationship, but he was the one who brought the band back together in order to see his friends more often, revealing that he’s the most reliant on this found family of his. It’s a feeling I find extremely relatable the closer I inch to my forties and my friends pair off and start their own nuclear families, and perhaps that’s why I identify the most with Seok-hyung even though he isn’t my favorite character on the show. Luckily, like Seok-hyung, my friends and I have our own “band” (i.e. hobby) that we use as an excuse to meet up regularly. –@daebakgrits
Itaewon Class (2020)
At its base, Itaewon Class is a traditional revenge story, with all the elements of a classic, multi-generational vendetta. What gives this story heart is its contemporary cast of characters that break from tradition both in who they are and how they ultimately define family. Many revenge stories center on an underdog hero — that’s part of what makes them satisfying. Here, we get a whole band of motley misfits, coming together to run a pub, who journey from broken beginnings to grow their business, their self-confidence, and their connections to each other.
Park Seo-joon plays Sae-ro-yi, a kid imprisoned for being poor and standing up to powerful people. When he comes out of prison, his plan to become a successful restaurateur involves hiring people he knows to help him get started — people like him who need the second chance (or maybe even the first) that society won’t allow them. On one side, the show is a social commentary about discrimination. On the other, it illustrates the steel bonds that form between people with strong convictions, cast outside the bounds of societal norms. I rooted for these characters from start to finish, as I watched them support each other, fight for each other, and even fight with each other — just like any family. –@dramaddictally
The Uncanny Counter (2021)
I love a good found family of misfits, so this was one of my favorite aspects of The Uncanny Counter. Here we have a group of “counters” — people who have supernatural abilities that allow them to hunt evil spirits and restore souls to their rightful place in the great beyond. And during the day, they run a noodle shop. When high school student So Moon finds himself with new counter abilities, he’s brought into the fold and the Unni’s Noodles family.
One thing I liked about this found family is how each of these very different people – Yoo Joon-sang as a brash ex-cop, Kim Se-jung as a cool yet somewhat prickly young woman, Yeom Hye-ran as the mother hen, and Jo Byung-kyu as the sweet and clueless teenaged newbie – are bound together due to their unique situation. Even if they could talk about their special night job, no one else could relate, so they only have each other to lean on.
Given the inherent danger of fightin’ evil, they have to trust each other if they want to survive. But they don’t just rely on each other in a fight – they prove to be a family in every sense of the word, supporting and caring for each other in their daily lives too. They may bicker and disagree, but they always have each other’s backs. So if you enjoy found families full of tracksuit-wearing, noodle-shop-running superheroes who vanquish evil spirits, The Uncanny Counter is a fun ride. –@quirkycase
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