Love, Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다 and Only 만
Plus, some of our favourite K-drama moments:
49 Days (49일)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ The K-drama that started my addiction. My face was permanently soaked in tears during the final episodes. In retrospect, the pacing was a bit slow, and the ending felt taped on and unnecessary.
Ando Lloyd ～A.I. knows LOVE ?～ (安堂ロイド～A.I. knows LOVE ?～) (J-drama)
Only: ★★.5 If you can put reality aside entirely, you may enjoy watching this show about androids from the future and how feelings trump technology. For me, the total absence of logic didn’t bother me so much as the cloying soundtrack. Otherwise, the actors were engaging, if completely ridiculous.
Angel Eyes (엔젤아이즈)
Only: DNF I tried, I really did, but I couldn’t take the endless weeping.
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF Heeding the warnings of Only, I fast forwarded through every scene that did not feature Lee Sang Yoon, and his amazing dimples. Still, it was a lot of work trying to sort through all the weeping. On the plus side, Ku Hye Sun was less annoying than she was in “Boys Over Flowers”.
Arang and the Magistrate (아랑사또전)
Only: ★★★★.5 A mystery fantasy saeguk that really hit the mark, with great characters, excellent world-building, and a fantastic male lead in Lee Joon Gi. My only quibble came when Shin Min Ah’s Arang went from the main driver of the action to doing almost nothing in the third act; otherwise, this show sucked me in completely. I especially enjoyed Yoo Seung Ho and Park Joon Gyu’s double act as the Jade Emperor and the King of the Underworld; like the Statler and Waldorf of the afterlife.
Atelier (アンダーウェア) (J-drama)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ An earnest and sentimental look into the trials and tribulations of a Tokyo lingerie boutique that is surprisingly devoid of sexuality. It was refreshing to watch the cute lead female (Mirei Kiritani) problem solve independently though her last minute eureka moments became farcical.
Babyfaced Beauty (동안미녀)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 In the beginning, the female lead (played by Jang Na Ra) was the victim of too many assholes, including her immediate family. But, once Daniel Choi decided to become her adorable boyfriend, the cuteness of the couple made my head explode.
Bad Guy (나쁜 남자)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ An addictive tale of revenge that loses momentum then goes bat shit crazy in the last three episodes. Maybe, Kim Nam Gil’s sudden army enlistment threw the entire production into a panic, and they decided to simply give up.
Bad Guys (나쁜 녀석들)
Only: ★★★ Good production values, well-directed, and the story moves forward at a fast clip. Unfortunately, I was never hooked, because the show never sold me on its basic premise.
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★.5 Thanks to the power of Gong Yoo, I lapped up this prolonged tale of angst and noble idiocy with a dim female lead, and a crazy, single minded teenager as the second female lead. The show gets credit for creating a realistic noona scenario with the male lead acting as erratic as an actual teenager, and the female lead struggling to cater to his mood swings.
Blade Man (아이언맨)
Only: DNF I was surprised to find I enjoyed “Blade Man” when it first started, despite the stupid premise and Lee Dong Wook’s overacting. It started to go downhill towards the middle, and by the time I stopped watching at episode 14, what had started out as an intriguingly bizarre combination of gothic horror and romantic comedy had devolved to a run-of-the-mill family melodrama. Han Jung Soo as Secretary Go was a highlight.
BORDER (ボーダー) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★.5 An interesting drama about a dedicated cop who starts to see dead people after being shot in the head. I liked the supernatural premise, and the supporting characters were great, though I found the soundtrack a little jarring.
Only: ★★★.5 For a change, it was nice to watch a female-driven show about something other than relationships. Amami Yuki stars as a cop leading a group of misfits in a newly created violent crimes unit. Most of the other characters rarely rise above stereotype, but it doesn’t matter, because she’s so much fun to watch.
Boys Over Flowers (꽃보다 남자)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF I tried on two separate occasions to watch this fan favourite, but could not make it past Episode 9. The series aired in early 2009, but has the video quality of something rummaged from a 1980s archive. As the female lead, Ku Hye Sun’s acting is gratingly over the top, seemingly intent on modelling her teenage character after a prepubescent child. Lee Min Ho fares better as the leader of the top clique in his exclusive high school, but it is hard to understand how this wooden performance launched his career. The attacks by the rich kids on the female lead are sadistic, and the wish fulfillment to compensate for the ill treatment reaches Twilight level. Painful to watch throughout my abbreviated experience of the series.
Bride of the Century (백년의 신부)
Only: ★★ “Bride of the Century” played on every trope I hate, including a rich man falling for a kind and domestically inclined poor woman; repeated noble breakups; a time skip; two evil moms; and a random late-stage disappearance. All this, and the most convoluted plot ever too! That said, it gets points for the fact that I couldn’t stop myself from watching it.
Bring It On, Ghost (싸우자 귀신아)
Only: ★★★ “Bring It On, Ghost” is entertaining brain candy, with fun characters, a cute lead couple, and supernatural hijinks. Just don’t think too hard about the epic holes in the plot, or the fact that Kim So Hyun is underage.
Bromance (愛上哥們) (TW-drama)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF Technically, I finished the series, but only after fast forwarding through large portions of the show. I was compelled to carry on watching by my desire to see how long they would continue the deception and faux homo eroticism. By the end, the pandering failed to keep my interest, and I had lost patience with the entire scenario and the family drama.
Bubblegum (풍선껌) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★.5 The selfishness of the mother character and how it affected everyone caused undue frustration. Worst of all, when I wasn’t frustrated, I was bored by the universal and prolonged moping. Without a doubt, Lee Dong Wook and Jung Ryeo Won had great chemistry. Unfortunately, when “Bubblegum” was good, it was very mellow, which just did not balance out the misery.
Only: ★★.5 I started “Bubblegum” with the mistaken impression that it was going to be a sweet, light-hearted show. In fact, all of the sweetness and fun that I expected was in the first two and the last two episodes, and the rest of it was pretty heavy going. The show never managed to make me care about Sun Young, so I had no sympathy for all the drama caused by her unreasonable demands, and then her illness. And I could have done without the resulting noble idiocy.
Cinderella and Four Knights (신데렐라와 네 명의 기사) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 Amazing chemistry between Park So Dam and Jung Il Woo, Ahn Jae Hyun’s playboy, and lots of kissing were the best things about this Kdrama. Too bad about the killjoy second female lead, and the weak excuses to keep the lead couple apart.
Only: ★★★ The actors’ charm made up for a lot of problems in this show, including lackadaisical plotting and lame characterization. Too bad it couldn’t make up for the weak direction, too.
City Hall (시티홀)
Only: ★★★ What started out as a comedy with romance between mature characters and some political intrigue was brought down by Kim Sun Ah’s annoying heroine and the descent into melodrama in the last few episodes. If you can handle her screechy voice and don’t mind the non-stop waterworks, have at it; it’s not bad otherwise. Tip: Cha Seung Won gets mightily slapped upside the head in episode 4, also the funniest one in the series.
City Hunter (시티헌터)
Only: ★★★ I’m not usually a fan of elaborate revenge plots (I’m all for efficiency), but this one gets points for being heartfelt without being too sappy and having a whole lot of fighting scenes. That said, it lost points for some pointless twists and turns towards the end, the repetitive noble breakups, and for being way too elaborate. I can’t say I’d ever watch it again, except maybe for the random WTFs in Lee Min Ho’s wardrobe like the lacy shirt, or the short double-breasted jacket with white buttons, or the black-and-white leopard print pants, or the fishnet shirt, or …
Clinic on the Sea (海の上の診療所) (J-drama)
Only: ★★ This show works well as an extended advertisement for visiting the islands of the Seto Inland Sea in Japan. As for the rest? I enjoyed the disappearing slipper gag.
Cunning Single Lady (앙큼한 돌싱녀)
Only: ★★.5 An okay romantic comedy that left me feeling a bit flat. I never cared that much about the characters, and found the random inclusion of darker moments jarring with the light-hearted tone.
Dal Ja’s Spring (달자의 봄)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ The series started out strong with good chemistry between a spunky heroine (Chae Rim) and an unlikely male lead (Lee Minki). Unfortunately, the reveal of the male lead’s actual background brought about a drag in the plot that made the series very difficult to finish. It took me months to bring myself to view the final three episodes.
Dias Police: Ihou Keisatsu (ディアスポリス-異邦警察) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★ Shota Matsuda plays a mysterious, seedy cop for an alternate government for undocumented migrants in Tokyo. Equal parts comedy and thriller, “Dias Police: Ihou Keisatsu” is entertaining and grimly stylish. Skip it if you’re squeamish, or if you’d rather not watch a drama that uses the plight of undocumented migrants as little more than an excuse for a dark setting.
Discovery of Romance (연애의 발견)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF From the same writer as the “I Need Romance” series, I should have known better. Eight episodes in and there was no change in the leads nor the way they interacted with each other. Because I could not imagine much progression in the remaining eight episodes, I decided to abandon the series.
Divorce Lawyer in Love (혼변호사는 연애중)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF What started as a silly story of hate turning to love became mired in divorce case intrigue. Episode 11 was the breaking point with multiple characters acting like assholes beyond reason just for the sake of creating drama.
Doctor Stranger (닥터 이방인) || DramaFever Drama Club episode recaps
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★ The storyline became bogged down by a never-ending, and ultimately pointless competition, which put the lives of patients at risk. Lee Jong Suk plays a passive hero who fades into the background in the latter part of the series, despite showing promise in the comedic scenes.
Dream High (드림하이)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ Teenage dramas are just not my thing, but this series was pretty entertaining with a supposed peek into the talent factory masquerading as a performing arts high school. I was completely caught off guard by the choice of the female lead between the two male leads.
Drinking Solo (혼술남녀;)
Only: ★★★ The male lead was a huge jerk for most of the show, and the female lead never got past nice but hapless. Despite that, this slice-of-life show was funny and warm-hearted, with an entertaining glimpse into the life of civil service exam hopefuls. I could have done without all the lectures about how great it is to drink by yourself, though.
Emergency Couple (응급남녀) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★ A medical drama about combative exes that did not have an excess of doctoring nor bickering. The small, inappropriate details made this series delightful: Chang Min’s post-elevator erection, Chang Min taking a shower while thinking of Cheon Soo, Jin Hee’s attempt to seduce Chang Min with rose clenched in teeth, etc. The final two episodes were disappointing after 19 episodes of a solid romantic comedy.
Only: ★★★★ A fun and engaging show with a great ensemble cast, and the best second leads ever. It lost the plot in the last two episodes, but the story was already over by then; just watch to episode 19 and pretend the rest didn’t happen. Also, keep an eye out along the way for the cutest baby to ever appear on a K-drama.
Ex-Girlfriend Club (구여친클럽) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 Amazing chemistry between Byun Yo Han and Song Ji Hyo is squandered by aimless writing, and a fixation on the preproduction of a movie. Fantastic comedic moments and Byun Yo Han’s charm kept the show above average.
Only: ★★★ Byun Yo Han, Song Ji Hyo and some classic moments kept this series from losing the plot. More coherent writing and better characterization would have worked wonders.
Only: DNF I was never that absorbed in this time-travelling drama with Lee Min Ho as a stoic Goryeo-era guard captain, and Kim Hee Sun as a plastic surgeon trapped in the past, so when it started dragging in the middle, I time-travelled to the last episode to find I hadn’t missed much. The loony villains were occasionally fun, and the fight scenes were entertaining, but I would have preferred a stronger setup with more insight into the characters rather than the repetitive story line that took up much of the middle section.
Fall in Love with Soon Jung (순정에 반하다)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 I completely lost the plot when it came to the business story line, but I was consistently entertained by Jung Kyung Ho as the obnoxious lead, his chemistry with his sidekick, the creepy yet pitiful antagonist, and the belligerent female cop. Too bad the female lead, played by Kim So Yeon was so uninteresting.
Fated to Love You (운명처럼 널 사랑해) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 The series started with a fast pace and a super entertaining yet complex male lead in Jang Hyuk’s Lee Gun. Sadly, it became bogged down by disease and noble idiocy. Jang Na Ra’s Mi Young improved considerably by the end, but the mood never returned to the giddy heights of the beginning.
Only: ★★★.5 “Fated to Love You” featured memorable comedy sequences, a great male lead in Jang Hyuk, a fun ensemble cast, and a lot of heart. Too bad the middle section fell prey to my least favourite drama tropes, and some obvious mistakes by the writer. Just keep your eye on Secretary Tak and some great meta-jokes to get you to the end.
First Shop of Coffee Prince (커피프린스 1호점) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★★ Common trope of a girl masquerading as a boy, but Yoon Eun Hye is the most believable tomboy I’ve seen in a K-drama. Gong Yoo commits fully to what might otherwise be an embarrassing pseudo homoerotic storyline. Finally, there is not only kissing and skinship, but actual sex between characters. One of my favourites; I love Gong Yoo.
Only: ★★★★★ My first and still my favourite. What can I say? It has it all: A great pairing between Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun Hye, a stellar cast of supporting characters, and a gender-bending premise that was, for once, believable. It suffered a bit from being extended but the charm more than makes up for it.
Flower Boy Ramen Shop (꽃미남 라면가게) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 Noona romance with a lead female who is a tad too cartoonish, but Jung Il Woo does both ridiculous and intense well enough to carry the series. Plus, the second male lead (Lee Ki Woo) has a fantastic post-shower scene.
Only: ★★★ Watchable fluff. The pairing between Jung Il Woo and Lee Chung Ah is neither here nor there but the comedy’s cute, as are the titular group of flower boys running the ramen shop. And let us not forget Lee Ki Woo in a towel.
Goblin (쓸쓸하고 찬란하神-도깨비) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 The production values were high from beginning to end so everything and everyone looked fantastic. Gong Yoo was amazingly charming as Shin, and he lulled me into complacency when the story dragged. I have to commend Kim Go Eun for making an underage candy like Eun Tak so appealing, but I wish we had gotten to the 28 year old version of her character in the series sooner.
Only: ★★★ The best part of “Goblin” was the interaction between the two male leads, but only because the writer gave the female leads nothing to do, and only came back to the story when she ran out of comedic filler. The show only deserves two stars, but Gong Yoo looked really good, so it gets a third.
Greatest Love (최고의 사랑)
Only: ★★★.5 Cha Seung Won’s Dokko Jin might be the looniest character to ever grace a romantic comedy, what with the conversations with potatoes, the narcissism and the lack of brain-to-mouth filter. Too far over the top for my taste, but fun to watch nonetheless.
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF Between the untempered crazy of Dokko Jin (Cha Seung Won) and the universal mistreatment of Gong Hyo Jin, I couldn’t endure any more.
Hana Yori Dango (花より男子) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★ The first season by itself was cracktastic and would easily get four stars. Unfortunately, everything past that point is a mixed bag, mostly coasting on the appeal of the characters, and the repetitive storyline of Makino giving up, then struggling back. Feel free to watch the first season, and pretend it ends there; I won’t judge you.
Hanzawa Naoki (半沢直樹) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★★ I watched this show out of curiosity at the insanely high ratings, and burned through it in a couple of days. It has its flaws, particularly in the overuse of inspirational speeches, but you’ll never be bored with this propulsive drama. Which is incredible considering the story is about banking.
Only: ★★★.5 Despite its many faults, “Healer” is an engaging action romance, with a great lead couple. It never drags, the tone stays consistent, and it doesn’t fall prey to the usual tropes to keep the couple apart. Weak fight scenes, lame villains, inconsistent background details, a couple of plot holes, and some patently unrealistic use of computers are my main quibbles (though Kim Mi Kyung as hacker ahjumma is awesome).
Heard It Through the Grapevine (풍문으로 들었소)
Only: ★★★★.5 You could argue that it was slow and it ended without fanfare, and yet, I really enjoyed my time with this show. It was well-directed, well-shot, and featuring an amazing cast that nailed both the emotional and comedic beats. I guarantee you’ve never seen a K-drama like this, and I applaud director Ahn Pan Seok for his consistent vision.
Heart to Heart (하트 투 하트) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 The show had a breezy charm featuring great acting, especially by Chung Jung Myung, and palpable chemistry between him and Choi Kang Hee. These strengths were undermined by the writer’s decision to descend into unnecessary melodrama.
Only: ★★★.5 “Heart to Heart” had some genuinely funny moments, great performances, and a fantastic lead couple. I really would have preferred if they stuck to a romance between two unconnected characters rather than the mess of fate, families and angst that we ended up with.
Heartless City (무정도시)
Only: ★★★.5 “Heartless City” is an addictive, stylish crime noir that kept me guessing until the end. The fight scenes are decent, and for a change the villains are genuinely villainous, but I never cared that much about any of the characters. Choi Moo Sung as Safari was a standout.
Heartstrings (넌 내게 반했어)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ The main draw of this series was Jung Yong Hwa playing possibly the best high school boyfriend in any K-drama I’ve seen. Even when confronted with scandalous rumours about his girlfriend, there was no strife involving mistrust between the couple – a common source of conflict that I detest.
Heirs (왕관을 쓰려는자, 그무게를 견뎌라-상속자들) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ Snappy dialogue, and a very entertaining second male lead in Young Do (Kim Woo Bin), but bogged down by wet napkin of a female lead, played by Park Shin Hye.
Only: ★★ If not for Kim Woo Bin’s Young Do, I probably would have abandoned this series within the first few episodes. No story to speak of, no chemistry between the leads, a perpetually weeping heroine, and Lee Min Ho in a parade of sweaters that would have put Heathcliff Huxtable to shame. Just forward through it until Kim Woo Bin pops up.
Hungry! (ハングリー!) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★★★★ Food porn + hot guys = best drama ever. (Well, if you exclude the random, back-and-forth plot driven by characters who seemingly turn on a dime, the overdose of sentimental speeches about food, the entirely uninteresting love polygon, and the drag of the last few episodes. Oh, and the overly cheery goofball lead female. In reality, more like: ★★ or ★★.5, depending on how much you like looking at attractive men cooking. Me, I like it a lot, hence my original rating.)
I Do, I Do (아이두 아이두)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ The frequent complaint about this drama is that the female lead is too harsh, but this is only in the face of the two suitors who are unrealistically nice and persistent. I appreciated that Kim Sun Ah’s heroine stood up for herself instead of playing the victim, and though bitchy at times, she always chose to be fair. Sadly, even with a standard run of 16 episodes, the final three dragged.
I Hear Your Voice (너의 목소리가 들려) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★ Cracktastic is the best way to describe this series. Despite long and illogical court scenes, this series kept me coming back for more. The female lead (Lee Bo Young) is unapologetically prickly and antisocial. Her chemistry with the inappropriately young male lead (Lee Jong Suk) is believable enough to bridge the gap. Borrowing a term from Only, my head exploded into hearts during the kissing scenes.
Only: ★★★.5 Lee Bo Young is great as a cynical, abrasive lawyer in this noona romcom/courtroom drama/thriller. Well matched with Lee Jong Suk, she carries this drama past the interminable and patently ridiculous courtroom scenes.
I Need Romance 2012 (로맨스가 필요해 2)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF The male lead (Lee Jin Wook) is incapable of saying “I love you” to his girlfriend (Jung Yu Mi), then leads said girlfriend on for years, through five breakups, with mixed messages. It is only when his ex-girlfriend moves on to a more supportive boyfriend that the asshole acknowledges his love for her. I decided to leave this emotionally abusive relationship after Episode 9.
I Need Romance 3 (로맨스가 필요해 3) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★ The series has the male lead (Sung Joon) focus solely on the redemption of a thoroughly unlikable female lead (Kim So Yeon), and forces the viewer to suffer through 14 episodes of her psychopathic tendencies. By the time she connects with her emotions, the romance between the leads felt icky, so there was no payoff.
Only: ★ The cuteness of Sung Joon couldn’t save this mess of a show, with an emotionally disconnected and bitchy female lead (Kim So Yeon), and a male lead whose dedication to her seems almost saintly by the end. The pacing was terrible and the writing weak; if this show had been six episodes long, it might have worked. As it is, it’s painful to watch.
I Remember You / Hello Monster (너를 기억해) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★ This police procedural developed multi-layered characters, offered a compelling main story line, and featured possibly the best fight scenes in K-dramas. Plus, Seo In Guk and Jang Na Ra were unbelievably good looking, which somewhat compensated for the withering romance.
Only: ★★★.5 Great characters, competent story-telling, and a director with an eye for visuals made this show a treat. Sadly, it fell prey to a messy ending, but it was worth the effort along the way.
It’s Okay, it’s Love (괜찮아, 사랑이야) || series review
Only: ★★★★ A very good-looking drama with decent pacing, interesting characters, and a lead couple whose chemistry is off the charts. As frustrating as her character was, I particularly enjoyed Gong Hyo Jin as the contrary and selfish Ji Hae Soo. This drama has its flaws, particularly in how it played fast and loose with mental illness and psychiatry as a profession, but for a change it addressed both in a way that was neither stigmatizing, nor pedantic.
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★ A sexy drama about adults who are likable without pandering to the usual Kdrama tropes. The depiction of mental illness is not perfect, but considerably more respectful and nuanced than the usual. Even as the story became increasingly solemn, it never became sentimental, though a sprinkling of lighthearted moments would have been appreciated.
Kazoku No Uta (家族のうた) (J-drama)
Only: ★★ Apparently, this series was cut short due to low ratings, but I was so mesmerized by Odagiri Joe’s asymmetrical haircut that I can barely tell you what happened. Plus, I liked that the main character was a self-involved, faded rock star, so I was completely uninterested in the redemption narrative. Good soundtrack of old school rock, if that’s your thing.
King of Dramas (드라마의 제왕)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★ A perplexing example of a solid drama that really bored me to tears. Female lead (Jung Ryeo Won) was appealing in a realistic way, which made it hard to see how she was going to end up with either of the psychotic male leads (Kim Myung Min and Choi Siwon).
King of High School Savvy (고교처세왕) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★★ Fantastic comedy, a believable noona romance, and a lack of unnecessary drama made “King of High School Savvy” highly entertaining and very satisfying from beginning to end. Seo In Guk plays a convincing and charming teenager, while Lee Ha Na’s awkward weirdo grew on me by making all the right decisions. The supporting cast is strong, and the camera shots are unconventional, but not obtrusive.
Only: ★★★★★ A bad premise of a high school hockey star who pretends to be his older brother, is overcome by a combination of great writing, directing, acting, and some of the best comedy I’ve seen in a K-drama. Seo In Guk is fantastic as Lee Min Suk, and I defy you not to love every character by the end of this drama.
The King 2 Hearts (더킹투허츠)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF Admittedly, I am not a fan of alternate reality contemporary monarchy dramas, having given up on “Princess Hours” early in its run. However, I was able to watch this series, because the focus was on the clash between North and South Korean representatives forced to cooperate in a military competition. Ha Ji Won plays a North Korean Special Forces Officer, and chooses to exert her femininity by adopting a weird, high pitched, sing song voice. Lee Seung Gi’s spoiled brat of a prince was amusing enough, but, when he is forced to take on the mantle of king, I predicted that the fun times were over. I decided to cut my losses, and stop at Episode 8.
Kodoku no Gurume (孤独のグルメ), Seasons 1-5 (J-drama)
Only: ★★★★.5 “Kodoku no Gurume” consists entirely of Inogashira Goro (Yutaka Matsushige) travelling around Tokyo by himself and stuffing his face with home-style cooking from small eateries. I loved it, but I will concede it’s not for everybody; there is no plot and the only dramatic tension arises from Goro’s struggles with what to eat. The best part is that the restaurants are all real.
Only: ★★★ “Last” was fun as long as Jang Tae Ho and his gang of homeless guys had a mission to carry out. The fun got squeezed out when it went back to being a by-the-numbers revenge drama.
Last Cinderella (ラスト シンデレラ) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★ I figured I’d try a J-drama for a change of pace and this one was a decent intro. It featured some scandalous relationships, a 15 year age gap, a frequently shirtless male lead, and a story I didn’t have to think too hard to get. Plus it was short! Perfect brain candy, if entirely predictable.
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★ Sakura (Ryoko Shinohara) picked the wrong man, and that ruined the series for me. I mean, she had comfortable yet entertaining conversations with Tachibana (Naohito Fujiki), but is rendered speechless and ridiculous around Hiroto (Haruma Miura). Who do you think she should be with?! I didn’t care for the side stories involving the slutty friend and the married friend, either.
Let’s Eat (식샤를 합시다) || episode recaps || series review || “Let’s Eat” Checklist & Food Gallery
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ It was a blur of eating and beautifully lit, delicious food. Otherwise, there were brief forays into a thriller subplot, a last minute attempt at romance, and a lot of light comedy to tide the viewers over until the next orgasmic dining scene. It was not a boring series, but it lacked any substance to make it anything more than a nice, light snack.
Only: ★★★.5 If I were to rate “Let’s Eat” based solely on the food and eating scenes, it would get five stars. Based on the rest, well, there is no plot, the romance comes out of nowhere and the random inclusion of a creepy subplot took too much time away from the eating. That said, it’s light-hearted and fun, and the leads are entertaining. The dog wins hands down for the best character on the show.
Let’s Eat 2 (식샤를 합시다 2) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ The second season was a whirlwind of angst and masterful food porn. I did not like how forced the love triangle felt, though the second male lead, played by Kwon Yool, was a viable choice. I give credit to the actors for convincing me in the end that Dae Young and Soo Ji belong together.
Only: ★★★ The food porn in this season was stellar, and I enjoyed the amount of variety they tried to pack into it. Kwon Yool, Yoon Doo Joon, and Seo Hyun Jin held up the story as the writing became increasingly overwrought.
Level 7 Civil Servant (7급공무원)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★ I think there was one good episode in the entire series, and it centred on the hilarious meeting between the male leads and the female lead’s parents. Every time the storyline returned to espionage, I worried for the safety of South Korea in the hands of the most inept secret agents ever.
Liar Game (라이어 게임) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★ Riveting plot twists made this quick 12 episode series lots of fun. It was hard to connect emotionally with the two note characters, though Shin Sung Rok’s maniacal villain was genuinely creepy. The most unfortunate part was the finale, which was anticlimactic and featured a horrifically bad makeover for Lee Sang Yoon.
Only: ★★★★ A fast-paced, tightly plotted series with minimal characterization, that keeps the tension on high until the last episode. Unfortunately, the last episode drops the ball in spectacular fashion, but leaves us with the promise of redemption in a second season.
Liar Game Season 1 (ライアーゲーム)(J-drama)
Only: ★★★.5 Excellent pacing keeps you riveted to this over-the-top series that only suffered from too many pauses for extended evil laughter. The characterization was as minimal as in the Korean series, but the two leads were better formed and more entertaining. Sadly, the villain was a bit on the lame side, and you have to suffer through a replay of the entire season in the last episode to get to the conclusion.
Lie to Me (내게 거짓말을 해봐)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★ I finished this series based solely on the attractiveness of the two leads (Yoon Eun Hye and Kang Ji Hwan), and the best kissing scenes in any K-drama I’ve seen. Otherwise, the premise is off-putting and made everyone involved look superficial and duplicitous.
Love Rain (사랑비)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★ So protracted and boring. I enjoy watching Jang Geun Suk, and he was the only reason I finished this slow motion tale of angst.
Madam Cutie on Duty (師奶MADAM) (HK-drama) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ An HK-drama with all the conventions of the genre. The bickering between the leads was consistently amusing enough to get me to the end, but the many side character plot lines were mere stopgaps until the next scene featuring the lead couple.
Madame Antoine (마담 앙트완) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ The focus on two unlikable leads turned “Madame Antoine” into a frustrating, but surprisingly entertaining train wreck. The show had comedic moments that were genuinely funny. It is a shame that more interesting story lines concerning family history fell by the wayside.
Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi (まほろ駅前番外地) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★★ An offbeat comedy about two guys running a “benriya”, a kind of odd-job service. Each half-hour episode brings in a new customer with a new request, ranging from finding the owner of a kinky wax figure, to subbing in as pro-wrestlers. Most of the stories are entertaining, but not as much fun as the relationship between Tada (Eita), the benriya owner, and Gyoten (Matsuda Ryuhei), his stray freeloader.
Man Living in My House (우리집에 사는 남자)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★ An epic lack of communication between all the characters, even by Kdrama standards, and an unhealthy fixation on land made this show frustrating and confusing. On the plus side, Kim Young Kwang really stepped up in his first romantic lead role. Soo Ae’s character was refreshingly blunt and could have ably handled problems if anyone bothered to communicate them to her. Lee Soo Hyuk was wasted.
Marry Him If You Dare (미래의 선택)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF The premise of a woman travelling back in time to present day in order to prevent herself from marrying the wrong man was promising. Nine episodes into the series, I could not see dead eyed Lee Dong Gun as a viable love interest for female lead, Yoon Eun Hye, I was fed up with the meddling of the future version of the female lead (Choi Myung Gil), and I could not get past Yoon Eun Hye’s frizzy, orange hair. I’m told that the hair improves in Episode 10, but it was too little, too late.
Mask (가면) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 The first half of “Mask” was insanely addictive with brisk pacing, and a female lead who became an independent problem solver. If only the lead couple had been allowed to kiss more or have more excuses to get naked with each other.
Only: ★★★.5 Like “Dynasty” meets Vertigo on crack. Sadly, both Joo Ji Hoon’s shirtlessness and the otherwise excellent pacing tapered off in the second half. Yeon Jeong Hun and Yu In Young made a great pair as a villainous couple at war with each other.
Master’s Sun (주군의 태양)
Only: ★★★.5 A clever fantasy premise, with a really great pairing in Gong Hyo Jin and So Ji Sub. It drags at the end when the writers start using every trick in the book to keep this couple apart but otherwise, it had me hooked.
Me Too, Flower! (나도 꽃)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ Lee Ji Ah does a fantastic job playing an unusual K-drama heroine who is believably angry and depressed. Her chemistry with Yoon Shi Yoon electrifies the moments of intimacy as well as their fights. Unfortunately, there were too many of the latter thanks to the crazy and out-of-control second female lead.
Misaeng (미생) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★ The woes of the Korean corporate worker hold universal appeal in this office drama. Its strength can be found in its cast of characters though the individual brooding could have been replaced with some more social interaction and emotion.
Only: ★★★★ A well-directed and ambitious show about the plight of the modern Korean office worker. It lost steam towards the end, making for a rushed ending, but the well-executed comedy and heart kept me coming back for more.
Miss Korea (미스코리아)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF I finished Episode 13 with every intention of watching the following week, but I can’t bring myself to continue with this dour drama. I liked the female lead, and was surprised and intrigued by the grittier plot lines. Yet, the odds are constantly stacked against the protagonists, and they never catch a break. They stubbornly keep fighting multiple adversaries, because they have no choice. Fortunately, I do.
Only: ★★ I finished the show, but I can’t say it was with any great enthusiasm. What started out promising turned into a relentless slog of depressing setbacks until Episode 17 when it was suddenly sunshine and roses again. That said, Lee Mi Sook as salon owner Ma Ae Ri was awesome, and I could happily listen to Lee Sun Gyun’s voice for hours.
Moonlight Drawn by Clouds (구르미 그린 달빛)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF I had reservations to start, thanks to the underage female lead. Turns out that Kim Yoo Jung was one of the best things about this show. Male lead, Park Bo Gum is cute, but he appears confused by his inconsistent character. The political intrigue is tedious.
My Love Eun Dong (사랑하는 은동아)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF An extremely drawn out story of repeatedly thwarted love. The young adult version of the lead couple was considerably more interesting than the main leads. Unfortunately, while they were very attractive, Joo Jin Mo and Kim Sa Rang had no sexual chemistry. I finished this series, but only by skimming screen caps.
My Love From The Stars (별에서 온 그대) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 Gianna Jun carries the series with her epic drunk acting, and leaves just about every other character in the dust. As a result, the comedy is golden, the romance is sweet, and the sci-fi is weak. A stronger lead actor to serve as Gianna Jun’s straight man would have brought the series to the next level.
Only: ★★★.5 I would have preferred it if this show had explored its own concept more fully (i.e. that the main character is an alien) rather than using it as a convenient plot device. Gianna Jun’s mercurial Cheon Song Yi carried the show past the draggy middle and the logical inconsistency, and I would watch it again for her (and the gorgeous clothes).
My Lovely Sam Soon (내 이름은 김삼순)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF Dear K-drama fans, please don’t lynch me. I found this hit series unbearable, and as a result, I stopped three episodes short of the finale. I understand that it is a drama trope to have opposites attract, but I could not suspend my disbelief that a young and attractive chaebol (Hyun Bin) could become enamoured with an undignified and unintelligent fishwife (Kim Sun-ah). The awkward acting and English dialogue of second lead, Daniel Henney, only made the experience worse.
Nail Shop Paris (네일샵 파리스)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★.5 I am more forgiving of crazy than incompetent, so I quite enjoyed this 10 episode mishmash of faux homo-eroticism, flower boys, gumiho, and problem of the week. The acting was universally anemic with the exception of second male lead, Song Jae Rim. An unorthodox resolution of the love triangle was a bonus.
Neighborhood Hero (동네의 영웅) || episodic screencaps of Lee Soo Hyuk
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF Other than watching Lee Soo Hyuk acting against type, I did not pay much attention to the rest of this series. From what little I saw, the drama seemed drawn out, and the lead male made me vomit a little in my mouth.
Only: Lee Soo Hyuk playing a doofus with a heart of gold was the only draw of this show, and he was surprisingly cute and convincing as Chan Gyu. Just don’t ask me anything about the rest of this show.
Nobunaga Concerto (信長協奏曲) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★.5 “Nobunaga Concerto” feels a lot like the anime it’s adapted from, a cheerful mashup of history lesson, fish-out-of-water comedy, brutal battles, sentimental friendships, and no semblance of realism whatsoever. It’s not boring, though like many J-dramas, it suffers from an overabundance of inspirational speeches. Tip: the series was followed by a movie, so you have to watch both to get to the end. If you can’t be bothered, just read the Wikipedia page on Oda Nobunaga.
Nobunaga no Chef (信長のシェフ) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★.5 It’s a history lesson disguised as a time travel drama with food porn thrown in. And yet, somehow, this mishmash is ridiculous enough to work. Entertaining, informative and delicious; just don’t expect anything to make sense.
Oh Hae Young Again (또 오해영) || episodic recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada ★★ The lead couple had a charm in their early squabbling, but their utter lack of chemistry killed the show for me, since Hae Young’s romance with Do Kyung was a big part of the show. The entire supernatural element felt pasted on and unnecessary.
Only: ★★ It was nice to see a cast of female characters who transcended their stereotypes, but I had trouble accepting the romance at any point. Hae Young’s descent into hot mess was uncomfortable to watch, but not as much as watching her be saved by love.
Oh My Ghost (오 나의 귀신님) || episodic recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 A great cast of characters though midway through the series, the show fell victim to its scenario. I was not entirely convinced of the romantic dynamic between Sun Woo and Bong Sun. Im Joo Hwan was amazingly convincing playing both sides of policeman, Sung Jae.
Only: ★★★★.5 I enjoyed the way the show navigated all aspects of its story so skillfully. The acting was also fantastic, especially Park Bo Young doing double duty as Soon Ae and Bong Sun. There were real consequences of Soon Ae’s and, ultimately, Bong Sun’s deception, and I appreciated that the show had the guts to go there.
Oh My Venus (오 마이 비너스)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF We had issues with the premise to begin with, knowing that we would be subjected to a healthy helping of fat shaming. Still, I had hoped that So Ji Sub and Shin Mi Na would make up for the short comings; they did not. The romance felt forced in spite of some initial chemistry, So Ji Sub’s doctor/personal trainer/chaebol character was overkill, and worst of all, I was bored. I could not bring myself to finish episode 9.
One Fine Day (어느 멋진 날)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★.5 Don’t watch this drama unless you love Gong Yoo. It looks terrible, and manages to make everyone look unattractive. The multiple cases of faux incest were bizarre enough to keep my interest. Sung Yu Ri plays the female lead as strangely asexual so she had no chemistry with either Gong Yoo nor Nam Goong Min.
One More Happy Ending (한번 더 해피엔딩) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★.5 Silly me for expecting the initial fun and frivolity of Jang Na Ra and Jung Kyung Ho to last. Instead, we got unnecessary drama and useless characters. This show just sucked the goodwill out of me.
Only: ★.5 There were any number of fantastic scenarios for a pair of actors who are as great at comedy as Jang Na Ra and Jung Kyung Ho, and we ended up recycling boring tropes instead.
One Percent of Something (1%의 어떤것 ) (2016)|| series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★ I loved this cable drama, because it was succinct, and as a result, it focused on the romance, rather than trying to fill time with melodrama. Best of all, the couple acted like real adults who are hot for each other rather than chaste robots. The kiss scenes and chemistry between Ha Seok Jin and Jeon So Min were top notch.
Only: ★★★.5 The lead couple was so great together that I was able to get past the silly premise, and the fact that this show repeatedly cast insane jealousy as proof of love (hot tip: if a guy tells you he doesn’t want you talking to other guys ever, run for the hills). It helped that the episodes were short and fast-paced, and that the kisses were amazing.
One Sunny Day (좋은 날) (Web drama) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★.5 Attractive visuals with an appealing female lead played by Kim Ji Won. Unfortunately, I was so bored that the entire series felt like a waste of time.
Only: ★★ “One Sunny Day” felt distinctly like a time-filler drama: it was easy to watch, and never needed my full attention. Please don’t kill me, So Ji Sub fans, because I’m one of you, and it still felt like he phoned in his performance.
Orange Marmalade (오렌지 마말레이드)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★ The overwrought emotions were somewhat entertaining and the teenage sexuality was unexpected. Unfortunately, these were trumped by an inexplicable changeover mid-series from a contemporary teen drama to the Joseon era, universally anemic acting, and a slow and repetitive plot.
Ouroboros (ウロボロス) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★.5 A gripping, if slightly bonkers revenge plot that careens to a tear-filled ending. I was never bored, but as with most revenge plots, the story was extremely convoluted. Regardless, I enjoyed it.
Padam Padam… The Sound of His and Her Heartbeats (빠담빠담…. 그와 그녀의 심장박동소리 )
Only: DNF I gave up midway through episode 13 when I realized I was only watching to satisfy my morbid curiosity as to what insanity the writer was going to throw at us next. That, and Jung Woo Sung and Kim Bum’s abs.
Persevere, Gu Hae Ra (칠전팔기 구해라)
Only: ★★.5 Plotting was not its strength, but the comedy, the engaging cast, and Kwak Si Yang’s epic cuteness kept me hooked on this show. Unfortunately, the overblown love triangle, the lengthy noble idiocy, and the ridiculous villains took this show past the point of pain. Shim Hyung Tak was priceless as Tae Poong.
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 Kudos to the writers for not dragging out plot developments, and to Park Shin Hye for finally kissing like an adult. Unfortunately, she and Lee Jong Suk did not have the spark to take this solid drama to the next level.
Pretty Man (예쁜남자)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★ Jang Geun Suk was so pretty, but the conquering of 10 women in order to become a financial success storyline felt like a chore. Jang Geun Suk’s chemistry with female lead, IU was equivalent to the relationship between a brother and his adoring kid sister. As a result, the transition to romance seemed to come out of nowhere.
Pride and Prejudice (오만과 편견)
Only: ★★ Apparently, I’m a sucker for Choi Jin Hyuk when he looks cute, because I watched the entirety of this show despite losing track of what the mystery was more than once. The direction was clunky and the writing was a mess; even with the extension, we were left with an unsatisfying ending to a convoluted story.
Proposal Daisakusen (プロポーズ大作戦) (J-drama)
Only: ★★.5 Yamashita Tomohisa’s acting as the regretful Iwase Ken was oddly charming, despite being only occasionally convincing. I could say that for the rest of this drama too, now that I think of it: Not convincing, but oddly charming. If you watch it, skip to the end of the two-hour special; it’s mostly filler.
Prosecutor Princess (검사 프린세스)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 A vacuous rookie lawyer (Kim So Yeon) with zero compassion for the clients she serves undergoes a transformation after experiencing misfortune and heartbreak. Park Si Hoo is the perfect foil as the too-good-to-be-true lawyer who also undergoes a change of heart. Genuinely touching.
Protect The Boss (보스를 지켜라)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ Such a fun and attractive couple: Ji Sung plays a lazy and immature chaebol, while Choi Kang Hee plays a spunky underachiever who reluctantly serves as his secretary. The biggest disappointment is that the male lead failed to grow enough to deserve the female lead. A surprising lack of redemption in a K-drama.
Queen In-Hyun’s Man (인현왕후의 남자)
Only: ★★★★.5 It’s a saeguk and a trendy all in one! A court official from the Joseon era travels forward in time to meet an actress playing the deposed queen he’s sworn to defend. Great chemistry between Yoo In Na and Ji Hyun Woo and a well-written story with tight plotting made for a satisfying romance that sucked me in.
Que Sera Sera (케 세라 세라)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★ A claustrophobic yet highly watchable series about unhealthy relationships. The four main characters are so miserable.
Rich Man, Poor Woman (リッチマン、プアウーマン) (J-drama)
Only: ★★ Oguri Shun plays Hyuga Toru, the eccentric CEO of a tech company who gets thrown together with an enthusiastic, kind-hearted woman (Ishihara Satomi) who teaches him how to love… or something. I had trouble buying the romantic angle, because she was crazy annoying, as was the song that played over practically every scene.
River’s Edge Okawabata Detective Agency (リバースエッジ 大川端探偵社) (J-drama)
Only: ★★★★ This show had probably the best soundtrack of any drama I’ve watched (fair warning: it’s not pop), and frequently featured Joe Odagiri’s nonplussed face. I would have watched for these two things alone, but thankfully it turned out to be entertaining. An offbeat look at the city’s outcasts and rejects, it nonetheless had a strong sentimental streak which made it easy watching. Plus, it was funny.
Rock N’ Road (A咖的路) (TW-drama)
Only: ★★ This show was really only good when it wasn’t trying to be dramatic or funny, since both the comedy and the tears seemed forced. By the end, the writers were throwing every random plotline into the mix, and I lost track of why I was watching.
Rooftop Prince (옥탑방 왕세자)
Only: ★★.5 Park Yoochun was oddly appealing as a goofy time traveler from the Joseon Era (emphasis on the odd), but the time travel was the most believable part of the show.
Roommate Season 1 (룸메이트) (Variety/Reality)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ Admittedly, I laugh until I cry at moments of this show, because the celebrities are so earnest and surprisingly agreeable to showing how freakish they are. Unfortunately, each episode can vary from 50 minutes to two hours long, and the longer episodes contain a lot of filler and contrived scenarios. My favourite roommates were tired and hungry Lee Dong Wook, den mother, Shin Sung Woo, possible idiot/variety show genius, Seo Kang Joon (aka Kang Dash Man).
Scholar Who Walks the Night (밤을 걷는 선비)
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF The best things about this drama were Lee Soo Hyuk’s vampy villain, and Lee Joon Ki’s overacting. The worst part was that the story hinged on finding a missing plan written by a human on how to destroy the vampire villain; as if the vampire hero has no insight into the matter, or the plan is the only possible strategy. The lead couple had a sinister adult and spunky child dynamic that was unappealing.
School 2013 (학교 2013)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ The bromance that launched a thousand Tumblr sites. Lee Jong Suk and Kim Woo Bin created intensity between them that made any heterosexual romance on the show impossible. Nothing could compete with the fighting and crying between the two frenemies.
Second to Last Love (끝에서 두번째 사랑 )
Only: ★★★ A slice of life drama with an older lead pairing. The leads were pretty charming and the take on relationships was refreshing, but the show went on too long, and could have used a bit more oomph.
Secret Garden (시크릿 가든) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ A favourite amongst most K-drama fans. I enjoyed the body swapping, and the weirdness of male lead, Hyun Bin, but the transformation of the female lead (Ha Ji Won) from kick ass stunt woman to weepy wall flower was a deal breaker. Yoon Sang Hyun as the faded pop star cousin was fantastic.
Only: ★★★ Hyun Bin’s Kim Joo Won was such an entertainingly arrogant weirdo that I kept watching in spite of myself, the evil mom and totally illogical body swap notwithstanding. I wish this writer could produce a female character to match her oddball male characters, because I was left to choose between Yoon Seul (Kim Sa Rang), who decides to get revenge rather than talk to her boyfriend, and Gil Ra Im (Ha Ji Won), a dim but sincere stuntwoman who can’t stop apologizing.
Secret Love Affair (밀회) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 Thanks to a satisfying finale, and amazingly entertaining secondary characters, “Secret Love Affair” overcomes mid-series frustration, and cinematography the colour of poo. Kim Hee Ae and Yoo Ah In create a lot of chemistry that easily trumps the notorious age gap, but more of the passion demonstrated at the end peppered throughout the series would have been appreciated.
Only: ★★★.5 “Secret Love Affair” defies easy categorization, and throws every genre convention out the window. A little more light would have worked wonders, as well as a bit less of the angst and more of the “love” part of the love affair. If you can bear with the frustrating middle section, the end is highly satisfying. The music, mostly classical, is a standout from the usual generic drama score.
Shining Inheritance (찬란한 유산)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 A Dickensian heroine, played by Han Hyo Joo, who manages not to be annoying nor saccharine versus the selfish and snobbish chaebol, played by Lee Seung Gi, who only adds to her long list of problems. A surprisingly affecting story of redemption.
Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂) Season 1 (J-drama)
Only: ★★★★.5 Centred around a restaurant that’s only open at night, “Shinya Shokudo” explores moments in the lives of its patrons, under the watchful eye of the “Master” who serves up the food. The pace feels unhurried, the mood is quiet, and the food is simple but satisfying. Like a Jim Jarmusch movie, but sappier.
Shopping King Louis (쇼핑왕 루이)
Only: ★★.5 This show stands as a warning for fans who demand nothing but cute scenes between the leads, because it consisted of little else. It was enjoyable, but really lost the plot towards the end.
Shut Up Flower Boy Band (닥치고 꽃미남밴드)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 Obvious fan service fodder for girls and noonas about a band of pretty boy delinquents. The rocking out is laughable, and yet, I really enjoyed the band’s songs: “I’m looking at you” and “Wake Up”. The ending was surprisingly mature and satisfying.
Signal (시그널) || episode recaps || series review
Only: ★★★★ “Signal” is a well-shot and genuinely suspenseful thriller with great acting and a coherent visual style. It’s marred by a weirdly breathless performance from Lee Je Hoon and a messy ending tacked on to bait a second season, but you won’t regret watching this show.
Soulmate (소울메이트) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★ A cringe worthy parade of stereotypes and battles of the sexes. Too much of the series was focused on the breakup of the relationships, leaving little time for the viewers to enjoy the lead couple together.
Only: ★★.5 “Sex and the City” on a budget. Despite the comedy aspect petering out, I enjoyed the latter part of the series more than the beginning, because the main characters seemed more like people, and interacted more naturally. Ryohei’s bad outfits were the highlight of the series.
Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (힘쎈여자 도봉순) || episode recaps || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: Watching
Sungkyunkwan Scandal (성균관 스캔들)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★ If you can get past your incredulity that anyone could mistake Park Min Young for a man, this drama has much to offer: consistent characters, great chemistry between the four leads, and good pacing until the inevitable drag in the final few episodes. There was a sauciness that I did not expect from a sageuk, and though it was not consistent, the female lead was capable of saving herself with her wits, and in one case, her fists.
Surplus Princess (잉여공주)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★.5 The rare treat of a female lead who aggressively pursues the object of her affections, and a supportive female friend with her own storyline, are wasted in a plot line that failed to progress until the cable network very suddenly cut the series down from 14 to 10 episodes. It is all the more disappointing, because the series started out cute and with a healthy helping of food porn.
That Winter, the Wind Blows (그 겨울, 바람이 분다)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★.5 I was riveted by how beautiful both the visuals and the leads were, and the trainwreck premise of faux incest that carried on until nearly the end of the series. I never liked any of the characters, but I was never bored.
Triangle (트라이앵글) || DramaFever Drama Club episode recaps
Only: ★.5 “Triangle” delivered on the emotional front, but failed spectacularly at consistency, pacing, and logic. Characters and storylines appeared and disappeared, entire episodes were wasted time, and the finale was painful to watch, since all dramatic tension had fizzled away by then. Jaejoong turns in a good performance, but almost every other actor is wasted.
Trot Lovers (트로트의 연인)
Only: ★.5 “Trot Lovers” wasted what became a cute lead couple by throwing in every drama trope it could think of, including amnesia, repeated noble idiocy, evil moms, a crazy second female lead, and surprise cancer. By the time it careened to its happy ending, I had lost all interest in watching Choi Chun Hee (Jung Eun Ji) bravely suffering, or Jang Joon Hyung (Ji Hyun Woo) purposely acting like an ass and then feeling bad about it. I give it an extra half star for Son Ho Joon, who was highly entertaining as Tae Song.
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★.5 A prolonged and leisurely story of angst brought about by multiple incidences of inappropriate attraction. Admittedly, watching one character openly pursue the estranged wife of his friend/housemate/co-worker, and a growing attraction between an 18 year old and her 34 year old stepbrother, had a freak show appeal. However, the entertainment wore thin as it became apparent that the default status of practically every character was moping.
Only: ★★★.5 Leaving aside the complete snarl they made of the time travel aspect (don’t even get me started on the ending), there was much to love in “Tunnel”: Great performances, a fun dynamic between the three leads, and one crazy cliffhanger after another. The lack of internal logic really bothered me, though.
Twenty Again (두번째 스무살) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ The best things about this drama were the personal growth of the female lead, Ha No Ra (Choi Ji Woo), Lee Sang Yoon’s dimples, and Choi Won Young’s narcissistic intellectual. The worst things were the inane story line involving No Ra’s son and his girlfriend, and the unconvincing romance between No Ra and male lead, Hyun Suk. The drama left me feeling kind of numb towards the end.
Only: ★★★ Watching Ha No Ra grow as a person was the best part of the show, but it was undercut by Hyun Suk’s constant background manipulation. My positive feelings were squandered by the last few episodes, which felt random and messy.
Two Weeks (투윅스)
Only: ★★ My opinion of this show has improved over time, but it’s still a poorly conceived action melodrama. The story frequently depends on not only the characters but the viewers being idiots, and I could make a drinking game from Lee Joon Gi’s weeping scenes, over-the-top reactions and jaw clenching. I did enjoy how the hero’s redemption is reflected in the silkiness of his hair; frizzy at the beginning, by the end, it’s shining with health.
Unkind Women ( 착하지 않은 여자들)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★★ This 24 episode soap remained highly watchable throughout thanks to entertainingly bitchy interactions that tended to be comedic, and a large cast of characters that you care about. The strongest plot lines involved relationships between the female characters, though I wish the romantic story lines did not become such an afterthought.
Unpretty Rapstar (언프리티 랩스타) Season 2 (Variety/Reality)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★.5 This was a guilty pleasure, because the appropriation of black culture was cringe inducing, but contestants became as compelling as drama characters. When they went head to head against male counterparts from “Show Me the Money”, it was starkly obvious that the female rappers were lacking in skills and signature style, but definitely superior when it came to charisma and showmanship.
W: Two Worlds (더블유)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ This Kdrama started out with an interesting premise and constant action. Lee Jong Suk and Han Hyo Joo provided lots of eye candy and good comedy. Unfortunately, the story became increasingly convoluted, and the romance fell by the wayside.
Only: ★★★ A neat premise, appealing characters and a fast pace fell prey to a messy storyline and an increasingly hapless female lead who drove the action in the first half and did little but cry in the second half.
Warm and Cozy (맨도롱 또똣) || series review
Only: ★ The promise of an easy-going romance was destroyed by an incoherent story and half-formed, unappealing characters. The last episode made clear how little the two leads were given to work with, when they belatedly demonstrated that they could have generated some chemistry between them. Unfortunately for the series, it was too little, too late.
Junggugeo Kaenada: DNF The female lead tries her best, the male lead acts like a childish jerk, the second female lead acts like a psychopath, and the second male lead’s attractiveness increased; this scenario just kept repeating itself. By episode 8, I had enough.
What’s Up Fox? (여우야 뭐하니)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ Woman in her early thirties accidentally has a one night stand with her best friend’s kid brother. A lurid premise that still results in a believable couple with realistic concerns about the future of their relationship.
We Got Married (우리 결혼했어요) Global Edition Season 1 (Variety/Reality)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★.5 Two Korean pop stars/actors pretend to be married to a Japanese and a Taiwanese actress. Lee Hongki and Fuji Mina benefit greatly from her fluency in Korean, and have some genuine chemistry. Ok Taecyeon and Gui Gui get by on rough English, and end up having a relationship reminiscent of a harried older brother and his cheerful younger sister. The brides seem more genuinely emotionally invested than the grooms.
We Got Married (우리 결혼했어요) Global Edition Season 2 (Variety/Reality)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★ This season was even more inane than Season 1 with scenarios seemingly pulled out of the production reject pile. Key of the boy band, SHINee is paired with Japanese model, Arisa. Though Key is fluent in Japanese, there is only so much one can talk about with a 19 year old child bride. Heechul of boy band, Super Junior, makes halfhearted attempts at lechery with Puff of Taiwanese girl band, Dream Girls. Unfortunately for us, Puff refuses to play along.
You’re All Surrounded (너희들은 포위됐다) || series review
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★ Big stars and a big budget made no difference for a series that started wacky then grinded down into a slow motion crime intrigue. Painful police incompetence and illogical plot twists added to the torture.
Only: ★★ The first few episodes and the last two episodes were fun, but the middle suffered from a stalled plot, uninteresting leads, and an idiot’s view of police work. A waste of a good performance by Cha Seung Won and an excellent opening sequence.
You’re Beautiful (미남이시네요)
Junggugeo Kaenada: ★★★ It is best to approach this series as a fairy tale since the characters and situations are completely unbelievable. Only in a fantasy world can Park Shin Hye play a nun who passes as her twin brother to get into an idol band. But, she soon serves as the perfect counterpart to the equally ridiculous scowling lead singer, played by Jang Geun Suk. Jung Yong Hwa and Lee Hong Ki complete the group as the world’s nicest idol band mates.