Five drama recommendations… for when you want to go cheesy
by DB Staff
One could argue that K-dramas, on the whole, have a level of cheesiness that is… well, special. Maybe that’s what pulled you into dramas, or maybe it’s something that you had to slowly get used to. No matter which camp you’re in, this list of some of our favorite cheesy dramas will give you a crash course in how to cringe over a drama and yet love it all the way through — curling toes and all.
Boys Before Flowers (2009)
Is there a list of cheesy dramas that’s complete without Boys Before Flowers? The answer, of course, is no, because this classically so-bad-it’s-good drama was not only the gateway drama for thousands of future fans, but it was just generally a wonderful mess that was impossible to look away from. Even when you knew it was ridiculous. Or when it made you want to pull out your hair. Or when you almost did a spit-take over some of the lines or things the drama tried to get away with.
If you’re new to dramas, this one is an absolute essential for the archetypal characters and gobs of tropes — there is one here for everyone, surely. You can also put on your drama sleuth hat and suss out all the ways Boys Before Flowers impacted dramaland (and lots of actors’ careers). But also, it’s totally worth just watching this as a fan. Take off your analytical glasses, shelve the critique, and just sit back and bask in the absolutely cheesy goodness. From F4 to the perm that will never be forgotten to some of the best cringe around, this drama is one for the ages. –@missvictrix
Scholar Who Walks the Night (2015)
I feel like I should preface this by saying that vampire fiction in general isn’t usually my thing (though I apparently make an exception when Lee Soo-hyuk is involved — see also: Vampire Idol). However, not only did I: 1) choose to watch Scholar in the first place and 2) finish it, but 3) I also very much enjoyed doing so. Sometimes for the reasons it wanted me to, and sometimes for reasons it didn’t intend.
One of my favorite things about Lee Jun-ki as an actor is that he fully commits to his role, no matter how cringeworthy. In fact, he seems to genuinely love playing cheesy action hero types, which is why it’s so much fun to watch him play them. He’s clearly having a blast, so you have fun, too, even when the show itself isn’t the greatest. Then you put him with Lee Soo-hyuk, with both dialing the dramatics up to 11, and there’s just a lot of fun to be had all around.
That said, at times Scholar also managed to hit all the right notes for me emotionally, and I think that’s why it worked overall. When it was good, it was really good, and when it was bad, it was super fun to laugh at. Does it number among my favorite shows? Definitely not. But do I have fond memories of watching it? Absolutely!
My recommendation: watch it with a friend/sibling so you can snark your way through it. –@mistyisles
Cinderella and the Four Knights (2016)
If a drama contains a reverse harem romance, I automatically know that there is going to be a high cheese factor, and Cinderella and the Four Knights lives up to that blanket assumption. Plus, as if the title didn’t give it away, the drama’s story is modeled after the Cinderella fairy tale, and it takes that inspiration literally.
Our Candy heroine Eun Ha-won (Park So-dam) is a poor high school student with an evil step-mother and sister, and a fairy godmother-like rich ahjussi offers her a sweet deal in exchange for moving in with his three grandsons (and their handsome bodyguard). All she has to do is straighten them out and convince them to live harmoniously — which is easier said than done.
The three grandsons do not get along, and the only thing that they can agree on is how they do not want to be living together under the same roof. So Ha-won has got her work cut out for her, but like every Candy, she’s up for the challenge and has her eye on the prize. And, of course, this wouldn’t be a reverse harem romance without a romance full of the classic tropes that we all either hate to love or love to hate. Surprisingly, Ha-won doesn’t end up with the pompous a-hole (Ahn Jae-hyun), as dramaland has conditioned us to expect, and she instead has her happily ever after with the brooding black sheep of the family (Jung Il-woo). –@daebakgrits
My Secret Romance (2017)
If ever there were a guilty pleasure cheeseball romance, it was this one, and if ever there were a drama to make you appreciate Sung Hoon’s wheelhouse, it’s also this one. He plays the stereotypical sexy chaebol who likes to playfully tease the object of his affection, and no, there is no nuance added here — it’s just 100% exactly what it sounds like. After a one-night stand with our heroine (Song Ji-eun), he meets her again a few years later… as her boss. Because this is dramaland, and handsome men always boomerang back into your life.
Full of pretending-to-forget-you moments, second lead syndrome (thanks to Kim Jae-young, who does it perfectly), embarrassing mothers, unforgettable loves, mistaken sons, and many a catch-fall, this drama is… well, cracktastic. You’ll hate yourself for watching it — and you might even hate it — but you also won’t be sorry? At least that was my feeling when it ended. –@missvictrix
An Empress’s Dignity (2018)
I had an absolute ball watching this wonderfully campy and makjang drama. I love a drama that completely embraces its ridiculousness and goes all out. From the Rocky-esque training montage where Tae Hang-ho inexplicably turned into Choi Jin-hyuk, to royal halmeoni whipping off her wig and throwing binyeos (hairpins), I knew it was going to be a wild and fun ride.
As always, Jang Nara is great. But poor Choi Jin-hyuk kind of gets shafted here. He’s technically the male lead, but he steadily loses relevance as the story progresses. For me, this somehow added to the highly amusing chaos of it all. And then there’s the absolute scene-stealer Shin Sung-rok who goes from villain to kind of the main lead because why not?
There’s murder, intrigue, family drama, birth secrets, revenge plots, redemption arcs – this drama has it all. It may not always make sense, but I was always entertained. And sometimes, that’s all you need. –@quirkycase
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