End of the Year TV Report (2012): Part 1

So it’s that time of the year again to do a wrap of all that has been scrutinized over the course of 2012.  Below is a list of all the K-Dramas that have completed this year.  You’ll notice that some of the dramas started in 2011 but it finishes in 2012.  It’s  a little unseemly when I compile this TV Report to see what a TV addict I am but if you’re a TV addict too, let’s indulge in this year’s triumphs and mock the failures.

If you weren’t here for last year’s report, the rating system is as follows:

Must Watch – Need I say more?
Watch – It’s a decent drama ride that delivers.
Just OK – 50/50
If you’re bored – If you’ve got the time and the patience, but otherwise I’d say pass.
Pass – Made me roll my eyes so much that I don’t have the patience to play nice.

Also, I’m going to pick my favorite dramas and performances of the year which will be listed at the very bottom.  Please comment with your favorites and why.

COMPLETED K-DRAMAS

TEN (텐)

A well-made cop drama done in that American/British gritty style.  I can’t believe we were left with a nail-biting cliffhanger and a year later we are still waiting.  Bring it back!

Verdict: Must Watch

WHAT’S UP (왓츠업)

It took awhile for this drama to finally get airtime.  I’m glad it finally did air because this drama delivers in ways where The Musical clearly missed its mark.  I wish there were more performances in the drama but I know it doesn’t have quite the budget that Glee has.  Hands down, the best performance goes to Jo Jung Seok whose Grease number not related to the story but is done with great flair.

Verdict: Watch

PADAM PADAM (빠담빠담)

Yang Kang Chil (Jung Woo Sung) is temporarily released from jail.  He’s serving time in jail for a murder he didn’t commit and he aims to begin his life again by proving his innocence.  By chance, he meets a veterinarian, Jung Ji Na (Han Ji Min), and with a rocky start, a romance blooms but discover that their pasts are entwined.  The drama is part mellow, part supernatural.  There is a higher power at work here as our hero gets several do-overs in his life.  The supernatural aspects really drew me into the drama but it felt like the writer didn’t know how to resolve it and the drama grows stagnant towards the end.

Verdict: Just OK

TAKE CARE OF US, CAPTAIN (부탁해요, 캡틴)

Another Gu Hye Sun vehicle that is poorly executed.  Ji Jin Hee’s talent as an actor was grossly undermined and I seriously had the case of 2nd lead syndrome for Lee Chun Hee’s character.  Except that he deserved so much better than Gu Hye Sun’s  Han Da Jin.  Also, her awkwardness makes me feel awkward and I end up watching the drama with my shoulders up to my ears.

Verdict: Pass

HISTORY OF THE SALARYMAN (샐러리맨 초한지)

This drama’s title certainly didn’t draw me in.  It’s the weird promos and posters that got me curious.  The drama is take on Jin Si Hwang from Chinese history except it’s set in modern times and in the business world.  It’s a creative way to retell this story with a cast of wacky characters lead by Yoo Bang (Lee Bum Soo).  Plus, it’s the drama that made me view Jung Ryu Won in an entirely different (and positive) light.

Verdict: MUST Watch

THE MOON THAT EMBRACES THE SUN (해를 품은 달)

Honestly, I felt the drama was a little overrated but very, very well acted.  The younger cast really draws you into the drama and the love story was kinda sweet.  There are a lot supporting characters in this drama and I was a little amiss that the writer didn’t fully develop some of them because there is a point in the drama where it gets repetitive and slow.  However, it’s a solid ride.

Verdict: Watch

WILD ROMANCE (난폭한 로맨스)

It’s a pretty, wacky drama and calling it wild is putting it mildly.  The drama has a strong start and Lee Dong Wook and Lee Si Young have some volatile chemistry.  The build-up of the stalker mystery initially perks my interest but the subsequent resolution made me feel that the writer went batshit crazy.

Verdict: If you’re bored

OPERATION PROPOSAL (프로포즈 대작전)

The drama repeatedly makes you feel like you’re back at square one with the character.  When Kang Baek Ho (Yoo Seung Ho) goes back in time to undo some of the wrongs he’s made in his life, we learn that at a later point in the past (sorry, I know the time jargon can be confusing) Baek Ho still comes off as cold and uncaring.  While he changes the situation for the time being, he’s unable to change himself and I kept wondering why Han Yi Seul (Park Eun Bin) deserved him.  The ending kinda wraps up with a nice twist that’s unexpected but I spent most of the drama being frustrated with our main character.  Also, I wasn’t thrilled with Park Eun Bin’s acting.

Verdict: If you’re bored

TWELVE MEN IN A YEAR (일년에 열두남자)

Now, I know this has been said before but this show is really like a Korean version of Sex and the City as there are several leading men that’s featured episodically as Na Mi Roo (Yoon Jin Seo) dates around and writes her date/sex column.  The drama doesn’t always stay in the comedy territory and I like that it can go dark as it creates a more well-rounded picture of dating in modern times but the series rushes to wrap things up quickly at the end.  Also a disappointment as Mi Roo doesn’t quite get to date the 12 men which was a bit of a disappointment for me but Park Tan Ya’s (Go Joon Hee) storyline wraps up with a really nice arc.

Verdict: Watch

HERO (히어로)

It’s a flashy, action-adventure drama about a spoiled rich boy who ends up with superpowers after an accident.  Set in a futuristic Korea, this series reminds me of Batman except they take a long time for our hero to really step up to that hero plate and realize how corrupted his father is even though the evidence is all there in front of his face.

Verdict: Just OK

FASHION KING (패션왕)

You come into a drama with the expectation that it’s gonna be bad so you prepare for it but then it goes way beyond your expectations and is superbly bad.  This is one of those dramas.  I came to watch Yoo Ah In and to see Lee Je Hoon in his drama debut.  I swear, these actors aren’t bad actors, they just chose a bad project.

Verdict: Pass

THE KING 2 HEARTS (더킹 투하츠)

I came to this drama without any expectations.  I didn’t really take Lee Seung Gi as a serious actor but rather I liked him as a variety show personality.  I like Ha Ji Won but she always plays that tough badass girl type.  While I fell in love with Jo Jung Seok previously in What’s Up, I know this drama opened the doors to a wider audience for him.  This drama isn’t the romcom fare that you think it’ll be because the political intrigue weighs heavily on the drama and Lee Seung Gi is great at illustrating how a little boy becomes an influential king.

Verdict: Must Watch

ROOFTOP PRINCE (옥탑방 왕세자)

This drama started off very strong.  It was funny, it was heartwarming, the supernatural aspect was interesting and the mystery kept me curious but about two-thirds of the way through there’s an emotional disconnect with the drama and its direction.  I’ll admit that that was a huge letdown for me.  I’m torn whether to completely pan the drama or whether to say that if you’ve got the time then maybe give it a try because the ending really did make me angry.  However knowing that ahead of time and if you’re prepared for it, it might be worth giving a try if you’re really bored and curious.

Verdict: If you’re bored/Pass

MARRIAGE PLOT (결혼의 꼼수)

The start is wacky and the leads have some really great chemistry.  While the ending wraps up in a nice, neat bow, there is enough heart and comedic moments here that keep you going.  It’s a like a good summer romance novel, not too complicated but delivers the goods.

Verdict: Watch

QUEEN IN HYUN’S MAN (인현왕후의 남자)

Queen In Hyun’s Man aired around the same time as Rooftop Prince and it’s got a lot of similar plotlines as the latter.  However, you can almost view it as a melo-er version than Rooftop Prince.  It went for a more slow burning romance between Kim Boong Do (Ji Hyun Woo) and Choi Hee Jin (Yoo In Na).  But it also had other elements working through it as Boong Do (Ji Hyun Woo) sought to figure out how he’s able to time travel and how to reinstate the real Queen In Hyun in his time.  The leading actors ooze chemistry and it helps that this was the drama that brought the two stars together in real life.  People had mixed feelings about the ending and while the ending was a little trite I accepted it as there was a consistency in the emotional ride of the drama.  Unlike the other one.

Verdict: Watch

A GENTLEMAN’S DIGNITY (신사의 품격)

Aww, be still my teenage heart.  If anything I liked seeing the bromance and this drama reminded me of Coupling because you see both the male and female perspective on dating.  Plus, most of these characters are older and somewhat settled in their life.  They know what they want to do career-wise and just figuring out the dating portion of it.

Verdict: Must Watch

THE CHASER (추적자)

After the disappointing run of Fashion King, I happened to catch the preview of this drama.  While I wasn’t in the mood for watching a melo-revenged plot drama, the well-edited trailer with a cast of fantastic, veteran actors peaked my interest.  I’m glad that I gave it a chance as the political thriller provided a thought-provoking rollercoaster ride about the state of our society.

Verdict: Must Watch

GAKSITAL/BRIDAL MASK (각시탈)

Based off the manhwa, this drama is about the birth of a hero during the time when Japan occupied Korea.  First off, I like that the drama doesn’t completely make a villain out of the Japanese people.  It’s just not that black and white in this drama and war isn’t always black and white.  There are Japanese characters that have a love for the Korean people and Korean people who are willing to be corrupted or would rather join forces with the stronger side.  I don’t know if it’s because the source material a manhwa but there are many graphic novel like elements that don’t quite work when translated to the screen.  The special effects makeup, stunt men and the exaggerated personalities of some of the supporting characters are among the top 3 problems of the drama.  However, what the drama does well is the development and emotional arc of some of the main characters which carries you through the series.

Verdict: Watch

I DO, I DO (아이두 아이두)

I love Kim Sun Ah but a lot of her dramas tend to follow the same trajectory because her characters tend to be somewhat similar to each other.  However, as the alpha female she gets to show a different side of herself while showing the thoughts and situations a career woman can face with an unexpected pregnancy.

Verdict: Watch

BIG (빅)

Sometime I end up shooting myself in the foot for expecting too much from the people I love.  I love the Hong sisters but this drama didn’t feel like a Hong sisters drama which let a lot of their fans down, including me.  The drama features too many characters, too many storylines that you don’t really have the time to dedicate the depth they deserve.  Plus, it also felt like the Hong sisters really had a lack of vision on how to wrap up the supernatural elements and mystery surrounding the Kang Kyung Joon and Seo Yoon Jae.  However, I didn’t feel too strongly disappointed about this drama because I had a distraction in The Chaser.

Verdict: If you’re bored

ANSWER ME 1997 (응답하라 1997)

I see a lot of myself and my friends in the characters of this drama during our high school days.  The situations, the music, the clothes and the tech made me relate to this drama but it is hilariously funny, got heartwarming characters that made me giddy about this drama.

Verdict: MUST Watch – seriously you haven’t watched this drama yet?

HAEUNDAE LOVERS (해운대 연인들)

It’s a cute, light summer fare of a drama.  Kim Kang Woo is unexpectedly hilarious and I’d like to see what he’s like doing different genres as he was mostly in dramatic roles previously.  There’s not much depth but there’s enough laughs and chemistry between the leads to keep you watching.

Verdict: Just OK

ARANG AND THE MAGISTRATE (아랑사또전)

Such a cute, supernatural drama.  Not many Korean dramas have been able to do well with this genre and there have been so many supernatural K-Dramas this year.  However, the producers were able to take this old Korean fable and make it their own.

Verdict: Must Watch

FAITH (신의)

I think the biggest worry going into this drama for me was the age gap between the leads.  The thing both Lee Min Ho and Kim Hee Sun do is allay those fears by using their acting skills to close the gap.  As for their love story, I wish we had more.  Instead, I felt the burning desire between King Gong Min (Ryu Duk Hwan) and Queen No Guk (Park Se Young).  Though the drama is essentially a sageuk, the writers play by the rules when it comes the supernatural aspects concerning time and space.  There are also some powerful performances by guest stars.

Verdict: Watch

VAMPIRE PROSECUTOR 2 (뱀파이어 검사2)

This season lacked the zeal of the first season.  The cases were interesting enough but the main problem was that writers didn’t really develop enough of the overarching storyline side by side with episode’s case.  So while we see glimpses of L’s backstory, we don’t get to the heart of the story until halfway through the season.  However, I would return if they decided to come back for another season.  I just hope the drama doesn’t take a backward step in regards to Yoo Jung In’s character development.

Verdict: Just OK

NO SUCH THING AS NICE GUY (세상 어디에도 없는 착한남자)

A mellow drama that I didn’t expect to stick with all the way through but I wanted to see if Song Joong Ki could do something different.  He certainly broadened his acting horizons.  He’s the number one reason to watch this drama.  The other elements in the drama aren’t all that unique and the ending does leave something to be desired.

Verdict: Just OK

OOHLALA SPOUSES (울랄라 부부)

It was a body swapping comedy that ended up not being a body swapping comedy.  The drama loses focus halfway through and it seems like the writer experienced a body swap in the last two episodes because it goes completely soap operish/makjang/illogical.  I mean, UTTER MAYHEM.

Verdict: Pass

UGLY CAKE (못난이 송편)

It’s a decent after-school special about bullying.  Considering how conservative Korean television is I can’t really expect it to take the bullying issue as far as it could go but it wraps things up neatly in a bow which is sure to make teenagers roll their eyes more than anything else.

Verdict: If you’re bored

COMPLETED K-SITCOMS

HIGH KICK 3: THE REVENGE OF THE SHORT-LEGGED (하이킥3!:짧은 다리의 역습)

It’s often hard to keep up with a long running series and to come into one that’s in its 3rd cycle.  The comedy is cheesy but there were some nice plot developments and heartwarming moments that made this sitcom worthwhile.  If you haven’t watched the sitcom, the 뿌잉뿌잉 (Bbooing-Bbooing) catchphrase comes from here.

Verdict: Just OK

VAMPIRE IDOL (뱀파이어 아이돌)

The cheesiness was way-over-the-top at the start but it slowly began to find its footing and pacing towards the end.  Too bad the ratings weren’t there to keep it going.  If anyone is interested in giving it a try, there are many familiar faces here.

Verdict: If you’re bored

I NEED A FAIRY (선녀가 필요해)

Cha In Pyo was my gateway drug into the world that is K-Dramas with his first project.  My mom kept mentioning that he attended Rutgers University in Jersey so not only did he feel somewhat Korean-American but it was like he’s from my ‘hood, the East Coast.  So there’s loyalty there.  He’s been in a lot of dramatic roles over the course of his career and I, too, was curious to see if he could do the comedy.  He is hil-a-ri-ous in the first few episodes.  The sitcom is decent enough but the show doesn’t stay consistent until the end.  One of the main actors disappears from the show, the sitcom makes way for more emotional storylines rather balancing the drama with the comedy and a couple of the love pairings are never realized.

Verdict: If you’re bored

_____________________________________________________

Obviously, I’m fully aware that I can only pick a winner from the dramas that I’ve watched but it’s a pretty damn long list.  If there’s a drama that I haven’t seen but you feel is a winner in your book, the comments arena is your arena to make your voice heard.

I’ve split my awards selection into several categories.  The envelope, please.  And the first ever, Ahh-Musings award goes to…

BEST K-DRAMA: DRAMA

THE KING 2 HEARTS – The drama defied my expectations.  There are so many Korean dramas and movies that try to depict how the South feels about North Korean and vice versa.  This is one drama that updates that conversation.  In addition to the romantic comedy storyline, we have a protagonist that’s has his finger on the proverbial big, red button.  Everything he says or does is scrutinized and if interpreted incorrectly, a nuclear war could be on his hands.  To watch Lee Jae Ha grow from an immature kid and yet use his boyish charm to navigate those waters is brilliantly played off of Lee Seung Gi’s charm.

BEST K-DRAMA: COMEDY

ANSWER ME 1997 – A generation has spoken and 1997 replied back.  It’s written with a lot of warmth and wit but what makes this drama work so well is the ensemble cast.  I don’t think there was anyone here that I hated.  I sympathized with each of the character’s motives and although my ideas about the outcome conflicted with theirs, I still wanted the best for each of them.

BEST K-DRAMA PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR

SON HYUN JOO (THE CHASER – BAEK HONG SUK) – Son Hyun Joo gives such a powerful and emotional performance as a father distraught with the loss of his family.  Week after week, I’d come back and support his plight to get revenge despite how bleak that downward path was.  He just does not break out of that distraught character and I can only imagine how exhausting that must have been.  When he cried, I broke down and cried.  Oh my god, he’s my male version of Gong Hyo Jin.

BEST K-DRAMA PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS

JUNG EUN JI (ANSWER ME 1997 – SUNG SHI WON) – Partly because I loved this drama but partly because this is Jung Eun Ji’s debut into the acting world.  To take the lead and play it well, that’s no easy feat.  I know I’ve dissed enough idols about their performances.  She can do the drama and what’s even harder, she can do the comedy.  While she’s currently on the stage doing Legally Blonde: The Musical, I can’t wait to see what else is in her drama future.

BEST K-DRAMA OF THE YEAR

HISTORY OF A SALARYMAN – I still love, love, love this drama for its creative storytelling, wacky characters and Yoo Bang.  Ooooh, Yoo Bang.  He made Yeo Chi realize her moral compass while misdirecting the corporate elites into thinking he’s either completely insane or totally retarded and then blindsiding them with a dose of genius.  Yoo Bang Corporate Justice was where it was at this year.

Coming up, currently airing K-Dramas and K-Variety Shows.

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One thought on “End of the Year TV Report (2012): Part 1

  1. What a great review. Can’t wait for the part 2. It’s great that you managed to be short and pertinent when commenting on these dramas and I like your rating system. I’m going to post my own end of the year review soon, but mine is much more confusing and longer.
    I also love that you’ve watched shows from so many genres. And that you watched shows about which I haven’t heard much, like TEN. Definitely going to give that show a chance now.

    Bbooing-Bbooing came from High Kick? Really? I had no idea.

    Like

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