More K-Dramas

School 2015 (Who Are You?): I like the school franchise shows I’ve seen, and I wish I could find the older ones.  This one has some dark themes- school bullying, suicide, and an I don’t what dark mystery is yet to be revealed, as well as orphanned twins separated at birth and amnesia, and yet, it’s working.  It’s got the usual amount of cute and lots of high school tension and angst.  Now that it’s over, the ending was really flat, but cute.  And there was a distinct mystery that was not only never solved, it doesn’t even seem to be addressed. Unless I fell asleep at that key point, I would like to know what it was Eun Byul screamed about in the bathroom during the field trip.

Heard It Through the Grapevine: My second favorite of the season.  Oddly enough, it’s about teen-aged pregnancy, and I still love it.  They don’t glorify teen pregnancy, but in the first episode they do show a realistic approach to what happens when two hormonal teens are together, alone. Both teens love each other very much, but both admit they wish they’d had more self control.  But what’s done is done, and they both handle the aftermath well- and that’s the rest of the drama. It turns out she’s very a very poor family, and he is from a really super-rich and influential, and very, very old-fashioned, snooty family.  He knew she was poor, but he kept it a secret from her just how rich he was, because he was afraid she wouldn’t like him. It’s billed as a dark comedy, and with the first episode featuring this unplanned teen pregnancy (which she mostly endures alone), an attempted suicide, and some truly dreadful behavior on the part of his parents, I was scoffing at the idea they could make a comedy of this, but they actually do a good job of it.  There are a lot of pokes and stings toward the rich parents who think they are above the law (or humanity, when it comes to the poor), but also towards those among the lower classes who play toady to the rich.  I get bored with some of the details of the corporate and legal machinations, and I’ve read somewhere that this is a really difficult show to translate accurately because the script is very clever, biting, and satirical and so we who rely on English subtitles are missing some good stuff.  I like it- I like the scriptwriting (even in translation), I like the characters, and I like the actors. The corporate lawyer dad is played by the husband in My Husband Got a Family, and he’s really good.    The young father is played by an idol from some boy band, and he, too, is surprisingly good, really, everybody is a pleasure to watch.  I liked the ending- I liked it all, even though it was really openly subversive and anti-business and pro big government and all of that. It was fun.

Warm and Cozy, or Gatsby of Jeju Island: Kang Sora plays the lead female and I always love her.  Yoon Young Seok is the male lead (he’s the jerk in Werewolf Boy, and the heartachingly sweet second lead in Answer Me, 1994, and the foster brother in Gu-Family book).    This is just a warm, cozy, and very sweet romantic comedy set in Jeju island.  The lead couple are not at this point a ‘couple’ but they are both trying to run a new restaurant venture on Jeju island, and the end of each episode features the male lead describing how to make one of his recipes for you (in a way you could never, ever, actually duplicate, since he doesn’t give measurements or tell you all the ingredients, but it’s fun, none-the-less).  She’s a very poor orphan,  he’s the fabulously rich, charming, and spoiled baby of the family, but he’s cut off from his fortune by his oldest half sibling who just wants to teach him some responsibility.  In one of my favourite lines of his so far, he tells her that he’s a very, very sincere person who means everything he says when he says it, it’s just, he acknowledges ruefully, that the shelf-life on his sincerity is short.  I know people like that in real life, but unfortunately, they are not as adorable or as amusing as this character is, which is the thing about real life.

It’s a Hong sisters rom-com, so there’s also a storyline featuring the development of a romantic relationship between an older couple, and that’s adorable and sweet, too.  All cotten candy and cute so far, with perhaps a tiny edge from a back-story about just who the male lead’s father is (all three of the siblings in his family have different fathers, but his is the only unknown), and a blunt edge supplied by a boring character (played by a boring actress) who doesn’t want the male lead for herself, but won’t want anybody else to have him, either.   Oh, and Jin-young, who is in the idol group B1A4 plays a sidekick here.  He recently played the twin brothers in MNET’s Persevere, Goo Hae-ra, which I also enjoyed.

Missing, Noir M- My favorite of the group.  Rather dark, but amazing.  I started by falling in love with the opening credits. Production values are brilliant.  The actors are fantastic.  The stories are intriguing, well crafted, but dark. It’s a murder mystery show and somebody’s been watching Criminal Minds. It’s not so graphic, but it is darker than normal for a K-drama- but oh, so rich.   Big questions on the law being served, but that doesn’t always mean justice was served. Biggest drawback is that the translations and subtitles were really, really slow, and the ending was a little flat.  This is a common drawback in Korean dramas.  Well, to tell the truth, it is a common drawback in the majority of modern story-telling.

Let’s Eat, Season 2:  At first I didn’t enjoy this as much as season one, although the food was better.  But it grew on me.  It grew on me so much that I like it better than the first one.  I even came to like the them song (although still not as much as the them song for the first.).  A little bit of added amusement:  Du Joon, the lead male, is a member of the boy band Beast, and some of his band members had cameos, and there were several little lines mentioning Beast and the fan-girls.  Cute.  How do I know this background?  I mainly only care enough to read much on two Korean music groups and their members (Epik High and Big Bang), but I have some teen-aged friends on my fb wall who love lots and lots of K-Pop bands and they keep me posted.

I accidentally watched a few episodes of a variety show with them in it a year or two ago- I didn’t know (or care) who they were, but the variety show was a fun format with lots of those cultural surprises to unpack, the unintentional kind that those immersed in the culture don’t even know are there.

Obviously, it’s not remotely strictly a ‘reality’ show, but look at where the boys were sleeping while they were still young debuting artists. Can you imagine a company in America housing a group of rising stars like that?

The long faces, worries, and discussions over what to do since there’s a 13 year age gap between the boys and the maids is no doubt largely scripted, but it is also something that just doesn’t even make sense in an American context.

And look at where they sit in the living room- there aren’t even any chairs. This makes so much sense in a small living space, but it’s just almost never done in American, and really, we couldn’t do it. We haven’t been sitting on the floor all our lives so it’s uncomfortable, and many of us couldn’t even get up.

I like the ubiquitous clothes drying rack in the background, too, with shirts on hangers to dry.

Anyway- there’s a lot of that stuff in Let’s Eat, too- the deference the young have to pay the old, no matter how nosy and interfering the elderly seem to be. This is somewhat overstated on network television, which has cultural censors (a show was once fined for having a daughter-in-law character slap her horrible mother-in-law), but the very fact that it is so highly valued they have cultural censors to keep an eye on that kind of thing is fascinating to me.
I think one of the most interesting parts in Let’s Eat 2 for me was when DuJoon’s character is explaining how a particular soup came to be made, and it’s from the hard, hard times (not very long ago) when people were starving and having trouble finding enough food to eat- that’s true. It’s really what things were like, and I think it has a lot to do with why Korean dramas (and culture in general) places so much emphasis on food.

MASK;  – bickering chaebol family, doppelganger masquerading as dead rich girl,  arranged marriage with the couple slowly falling in love after the wedding, poor family, gangsters, debt, lead male with significant vulnerabilities, evil brother-in-law trying to mastermind a take-over, etc. This is a pot-boiler, and I love it.  Halfway through, I was hopelessly addicted, but I am not proud of that.

Secret Identity: undercover police agents at work in Korea, fighting crime, fighting criminals (literally, of course), putting bad guys away.  Miami Vice only in Seoul.  Okay, not quite Miami Vice, but I was never a Miami Vice fan.. Kim Bum, all grown up, leaner, meaner, and still with the laser eyes and camera sizzling charisma. I am a Kim Bum fan. If you’re not, skip this.



High Society: More chaebol shenanigans and a rich girl masquerades as a poor girl and her parents are awful, her sisters are awful, and her doting older brother dies, and so many cliches, but it’s Uee, and she’s kind of fun to watch.  I may not finish it, but I have started.  Updated- nah, I’m totally gonna finish this. (finished, enjoyed, but only because I’m an addict)

I Remember You: Serial killers, missing children, mystery man and genius profiler with the FBI, come back home to Korea.  Lead male is the same lead who was in High School, King of Savvy (Seo In Guk, who also played the lead in Reply, 1997- also called Answer Me, 1997).

Female lead is Jang Nara (Successful Story of a Bright Girl,  Baby Faced Beauty, School 2013 and the Korean remake of Fated to Love You.)

If you keep up with your K-drama characters, you know that means good actors who morph into their characters believably.

I think we’re going to be getting into some issues about nature vs nature, are some killers born or are they all made by their environment.  not to mention the inevitable love story. (Done, I liked it, but, um, creepy)

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