Mistaken gender identity puts a struggling delivery woman (Yoon Eun Hye) in the path of a prodigal son of a chaebol (Gong Yoo). He hires her to work in his coffee shop with a host of pretty boys, and tv screens everywhere burst into hearts and flowers. Basically, the best drama ever.
Coffee with a generous helping of dreamy.
Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: ★★★★★
Only 만: ★★★★★
Choi Han Gyul (Gong Yoo) is called back to Korea by his grandmother to grow up, get married and learn about the family business. Han Gyul deals with the blind dates by hiring Ko Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) to pose as his gay lover. Little does Han Gyul know that Eun Chan is actually a woman. Han Gyul is charged by his grandmother with reviving a coffee house, and hires a bunch of pretty boys to serve, including Eun Chan. Feelings start to develop between Han Gyul and Eun Chan. Cue the super entertaining conflict and angst!
Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: So, what did you think when I first tried to get you to watch “Coffee Prince”, it being your first K-drama?
Only 만: The level of enthusiasm was high enough to make me suspicious.
중국어 캐나다: I was a little giddy. I was alone in the wilderness with my K-drama addiction, so I wasn’t sure if my enthusiasm for “Coffee Prince” was normal. And, perhaps, you were humouring me when I tried to inflict the series on you.
만: A little bit. But once I started watching seriously I was hooked. And then I passed on the addiction to others. You’ve brought us all over to the dark side.
중국어 캐나다: “Coffee Prince” is a good gateway drug to K-drama addiction.
만: Then you end up chasing that perfect high again and again.
중국어 캐나다: True. Now, back to “Coffee Prince”. I remember that you perked right up when Gong Yoo playing Han Gyul first showed up.
만: Hard not to. He was in a towel.
중국어 캐나다: I guess it was the body and not the hair because, the hair was not great.
만: I didn’t mind the hair; it suited him. But yes, it was the body.
중국어 캐나다: You couldn’t stand his clothing though.
만: No, but his clothes have improved by comparison to what I’ve seen since. See Lee Min Ho in “The Heirs”, for example.
중국어 캐나다: So, I was initially drawn to the gender bending, but then I saw how slutty Han Gyul’s cousin, Han Seong (Lee Sun Gyun) and his girlfriend Yoo Joo (Chae Jung Ahn) were, and I liked this particular K-drama even more. By the time I watched “Coffee Prince”, I knew how unbearably chaste K-dramas could be, so, when I use the term ‘slutty’, I mean it in the best possible way. Not to say that anything was particularly lewd in the show, by Western standards.
만: I had no idea how chaste K-dramas were, and in retrospect, “Coffee Prince” has proven to be one of the least chaste dramas I’ve seen.
중국어 캐나다: Less chaste, but very relaxed at the same time. There was something very mellow about the entire show.
만: I think that was one of the best things about it. The drama was never high-stakes, but you believed enough in the emotions of the characters to be sucked in.
중국어 캐나다: So, let’s discuss how awesome Gong Yoo was. When it came to his conflicted attraction towards another man, I can’t believe he managed to keep it from becoming melodramatic or embarrassing. I remember watching the beach scene, where Han Gyul finds himself trying out being physically intimate with Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye), who he still believes is a man. I was amazed at Gong Yoo’s level of commitment.
만: Actually, the one thing I had trouble buying was Eun Chan wimping out on confessing to Han Gyul that she’s a woman. In terms of the drama, I get why they dragged it out so long, but that was the only thing that strained my credulity. If Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun Hye had played it any less perfectly, it would have left a huge hole in the middle of the drama for me.
중국어 캐나다: Still, we must give credit to Yoon Eun Hye for creating the most believable tomboy in any gender-swapping K-drama.
만: Agreed; she was believable. My problem was more with the way it was written, to drag out the drama.
중국어 캐나다: The only part I would have edited out completely was the love triangle involving the mother, the butcher and the gross barista.
만: Mr. Hong (Kim Chang Wan)! I liked Mr. Hong, but I could have done without the fake love triangle.
중국어 캐나다: Yes, Mr. Hong by himself was fine. And, you can see why I was shocked to see Kim Jae Wook go from a wooden performance as the Japanese waffleman in “Coffee Prince” to the “gay of demonic charm” in Antique Bakery. I didn’t think he had it in him, considering how he could coast on his looks alone.
만: I watched it in the opposite order, so I was surprised by how wooden he was. His storyline was one I could have done without as well.
중국어 캐나다: Whatever, he was pretty wallpaper. Should we briefly touch on the cousin and his wayward girlfriend? My significant other hated Yoo Joo, and thought she was evil. I just thought she suffered from the indecision that is a luxury enjoyed by attractive, rich girls like her.
만: Well, she came off pretty horrible the first time I watched it, especially how she kept Han Gyul hanging around. But, in retrospect, this is a common enough trope in K-dramas, where a character will stay friends with another character who has feelings for them. I really didn’t like her the first time I watched it though.
중국어 캐나다: Staying friends with someone who clearly wants to take it to the next level, and not telling a guy that you’re actually a girl. K-dramas are understandable in the context of a high school full of hormones and life/death situations everyday. I understand why Eun Chan would not reveal her true gender because, if she got rejected, she would just roll over and die. Just die! I know you thought the extension dragged on, but the finale made it all worthwhile (SEX!). You can appreciate now how rare of a treat that is.
만: True. I haven’t seen that much sex since, except in “City Hall” and “Queen In Hyun’s Man”.
중국어 캐나다: It makes me wonder what has happened to the production team behind “Coffee Prince”. Why aren’t they producing more smut for my consumption? Obviously, this K-drama continues to hold a special place in our hearts. We continue to love Gong Yoo, and to a lesser extent, every one else who appeared in that series.
만: That said, I haven’t watched another drama with any of these actors since. Except for the character actors who keep popping up in unexpected places.
중국어 캐나다: I’ve tried watching Yoon Eun Hye shows, but she hasn’t made very good choices in the interim. The latest was “Marry Him If You Dare” and you can read my reaction in Drama Ratings.
만: Best thing and worst thing about “Coffee Prince”?
중국어 캐나다: Best thing about “Coffee Prince” was the commitment of the actors to an admittedly far-fetched scenario. The result is something heartwarming as opposed to heartburn inducing. The worst thing about “Coffee Prince” was that stupid musical performance the coffee shop employees gave. That was completely pointless and painful. The only good thing about that episode was Han Gyul incredulously asking his cousin if he enjoyed having Eun Chan act like his girlfriend. And, Han Seong admits, knowingly, that he does.
만: For me, the best thing about “Coffee Prince” was the depiction of the relationship between the two leads. It was by no stretch of the imagination realistic, but believable in the context of the show. Worst for me was the stupid trip to Italy to be a barista popping up at the last minute, an obvious time filler for the extended episode. I’d almost prefer if they’d done another concert.
중국어 캐나다: No, I really appreciated that two-year break. It meant that Eun Chan was given a chance to mature and be her own person. And, in the end, she still returned to Han Gyul. By the end, they were clearly equals. I love you, Gong Yoo.
만: I would have preferred that they integrate that development into the drama itself. But, I agree with your sentiment about Gong Yoo.