[2022 Year in Dramas] Ten bad dates: My year in K-drama romance
by Guest Beanie
Because romance is my favorite genre, I watched a lot of them in 2022. Rather than list the ones I liked — which would be a short list — I wanted to write about the ten which most disappointed me.
Yes, this a bittersweet focus — but as we all know, the course of love is never smooth, the end results of love can be heartbreaking, and love itself might even lead to the noisy gulping of human blood, as I learned from a bulgasal romance that I started but never finished. Still, I’ll be writing about metaphorical, not literal, bloody hearts. Please don’t be angry if I disrespect a drama you loved. Keep in mind in the romantic universe there are some dramas destined for certain viewers from childhood, while other viewers, like me, become bitter second male leads.
Here are ten 2022 K-dramas that left me crying over what might have been.
#1 Why Her?
The romance in this drama devolved into “Why Him?” then “Why?” then “Wh…?” then “?” I ran out of questions, and the show never provided any answers.
#2 Jinxed at First
The couple here was jinxed at first, and then the odds of my enjoying watching them went down even further, so I didn’t want to push my luck by continuing.
#3 Showtime Begins!
At one point in this drama, if the male lead was nice to the woman he loved, the ghosts would disappear, so it was either the romance or the ghosts, and he chose the ghosts. I also liked the ghosts better than the way the romance developed, so I put another show in that time.
#4 Forecasting Love and Weather
As I watched this drama unfold, an inverted narrative trough resulted in a deep low pressure in my head. My brain fog got so thick I couldn’t even see Park Min-young, so I shut it off to avoid collisions with the TV.
Forecasting Love and Weather exhausted me as well
#5 Cafe Minmandang
This was by far the worst scripted drama I completed. It was a badly plotted serial killer comedy with a charmless romance that involved a weirdly sadistic met-while-the-female-lead-was-in-childhood-and-the-male-lead-was-adult relationship. It ended with the loving prospect of dating while hunting body parts left by another serial killer.
#6 Twenty Five, Twenty One
This show was enormously popular because of some beautifully acted and filmed romantic scenes, but it hurt that the lengthy and deeply felt first romance shown throughout the drama proved to have virtually NO IMPACT on the female lead’s adult life. In fact, the show was a preview of the summer fantasy blockbuster, Alchemy of Souls, because the adult version of the female lead had obviously been soul-shifted. The much disliked ending wasn’t a surprise — it felt more like a result of the writer sneering at viewers throughout: “For some reason you kept expecting bittersweet memories of a youthful romance. Yeah, I fooled you — the romance you loved was pointless! So long, suckers!” (Also a preview of another show to come — see #10)
#7 Today’s Webtoon
I liked the insider look at the comics and webtoon industry, and this drama had the female lead played by the charismatic Kim Se-jung, who also starred in one of my few rom-com favorites this year, Business Proposal. Its male lead was sweet, if rather boring, whose only interesting trait was that the ghost of his dead sister appeared to him from time to time. (The ghost promptly disappeared when she discovered she had been killed, not by capitalistic exploitation, but by the white Truck of Boredom.) However, the romance itself was literally a waste of time, in that there was a fair amount of time put into it — but the male lead confessed, and absolutely nothing happened! The female lead didn’t accept, didn’t refuse, and she wasn’t shown to be ambivalent or leaning either way. It was just left hanging! Instead, they ended the drama with a moving episode, that is, literally a moving episode, where we got to watch the office carry their boxes out of the building. At least the conclusion was a romantic ode to efficient packing.
The most satisfying romantic scene in Today’s Webtoon
#8 Once Upon a Small Town
Take three of the most beautiful early 20s actors in K-dramas, put them in a bucolic rural setting with cute animals, set up a non-toxic love triangle, and what could go wrong? Well, nothing, really. But it was about as exciting to watch as a slow growing field of corn. After seeing this drama, I am worried about the state of romantic passion in young people today.
#9 Love in Contract
I know some people liked the male lead in this one, and it had a somewhat serious theme, exploring the way women have been commodified in marriage and relationships. But I didn’t care for the characters, and found no reason why the female lead liked the male lead except that he was a good, dependable customer. I looked up what the two male leads might have been paying the Park Min-young character, and it seems that the going rate for a high-class escort is about $800-1000 a night — although maybe they got a good customer discount. On the one hand, they were getting a woman of Park Min-young’s beauty and accomplishments for about $100,000 a year, which I guess is a good deal. (The male lead invested the most at $500,000, and got genuine love for it, showing the wealthy always get the best returns.) On the other hand, if I ever felt the need to pay for romantic companionship, I would instead seriously consider becoming a cloistered monk. And any Park Min-young drama that makes me contemplate celibacy has failed!
#10 Love is for Suckers
Okay, this is unfair (as are all my reviews), because I’ve been mainly fast-forwarding through this one, and as I write this, the show isn’t even over. But I already know it’s a disaster for me. The main problem is the drama’s attitude toward reality dating television. Instead of parody, or even probing criticism, the writers seem to think that these “reality” shows actually provide legitimate settings for the working out of relationships. Apparently no one on the show has heard what public service ads drilled into me in high school: “Friends don’t let friends appear on reality dating shows.”
Given the time I spent on these dramas, and the limited rewards I received — many didn’t even give me one meaningful kiss with the main couple! — whenever I’ve had too much soju, I start venting resentfully to my wife about K-drama romance writers. Why don’t they care about me, one of their most dedicated fans!? Am I not their type, because I don’t eat at Subway or drink instant coffee? Do they think I’m not sincere, because I reject the logic of noble idiocy? Maybe it’s time to transfer my loyalties to the horror genre. At least there I’ll get an emotional jolt, and see some zombies. After all, I too love brains in my K-drama female leads!
My general romantic mood watching this show