Late Spring TV Report (2013)

SO MANY TV SHOWS, SO LITTLE TIME

It hasn’t been too long since my last TV rundown but there are so many new shows that it was about time.  Just a note about my American shows: I’m a bit behind on quite a few shows.  I noted them where possible but there are some shows where I’m even a month behind.  It’s been a busy, busy spring.  However, I’m more likely to sacrifice sleep for an addicting show rather than stay up for a mediocre one.

K-Dramas

NINE: NINE TIME TRAVELS (나인: 아홉 번의 시간 여행)

This drama is almost finished and I was curious to see what lessons the makers of Queen In Hyun’s Man have learned since their last time-travel drama.  While Lee Jin Wook and Jo Yun Hee’s chemistry is good, it certainly doesn’t sizzle as much as Ji Hyun Woo and Yoo In Na’s.  Having said that, I like that this drama outlines the cause and effects of time-traveling more clearly.  Even this past week alone, the writers keep the suspense alive by knowing how to make your heart feel like it’s going to burst with the most recent episode’s jaw-dropping cliffhanger.  Not sure how they’re gonna explain this one but I hope the answer isn’t an easy bandaid fix.

GU FAMILY BOOK (구가의서)

I’ll admit that I’m a bit behind on this drama.  I want to like this drama (I do!) but it’s very formulaic.  Have we reached this point already with supernatural fusion sageuks?  The dramas knows which notes it has to hit and they are playing by all the rules.  Lee Seung Gi and Suzy have good chemistry but nothing to write home about.  I’m more interested in General Lee Soon Shin’s plans for Choi Kang Chi (Lee Seung Gi).  However, I hate the drama’s one-note villain Jo Kwan Woong (Lee Sung Jae).  Nothing wrong with the way the actor is playing him, Lee Sung Jae is a great actor.  But Jo Kwan Woong bores me to tears.  It makes Choi Kang Chi’s heroic stance look a little less thrilling as I like to see villain as more of a 3D character rather than a caricature.  There’s no dun dun dun revelations here.  Jo Kwan Woong is gonna die.

MANDATE OF HEAVEN (천명 (天命))

On the other hand, I’m much more engrossed in Mandate of Heaven which is a traditional sageuk/political thriller.  I did initially criticize Im Seul Long who is playing Crown Prince Lee Ho (who later becomes King In Jong) but he’s getting better at playing the subtleties of his character.  I love the dynamic between Prince Lee Ho and his stepmother, Queen Mun Jeong (Park Ji Young).  While Prince Lee Ho initially did not have a good relationship with his stepmother, it was written that they grew quite close to each other.  Or did they?  The story in this drama posits that perhaps Queen Mun Jeong never warmed to Prince Lee Ho though she made him believe that she had.  Her two-faced nature and her aspirations for her own son to take the throne affects the lives of the little people, namely Choi Won (Lee Dong Wook).  This week I was taken by the passionate speech made by Chun Bon (Lee Jae Yong) to Prince Lee Ho warning him not to swayed so easily by the Queen.

ALL ABOUT MY ROMANCE (내 연애의 모든 것)

Another mediocre drama that follows all the rules.  However, this is when counterprogramming works.  Everything else I’m watching is pretty dramatic and requires me to think.  Reading hanmun, remembering various time-traveling timelines, knowing Korean history, trying to solve a murder, etc.  So it’s just nice to sit back and laugh at this drama.  This is my first Shin Ha Kyun drama (after only being familiar with him on the big screen) and I went from feeling totally indifferent to his greasy politician to totally crushing on his man-child.  (I have issues, I know.)  He’s matched well with Lee Min Jung and I even love their cell phone nicknames for each other.  The nicknames changed this week but they used to call each other World Pollution and Fire Extinguisher due to the fact that he’s just taking up space as a politician and well, she hit him with a fire extinguisher.  The drama may be mediocre but I love that it’s a little bit American President, a little bit City Hall and a little bit Best Love.  Also, Han Chae Ah is adorable and I’d like to see her in more comedies in the future.  Although her character is going to take a dark and twisty turn next week.  I’m not looking forward to the angst.  Can’t we have more scenes frolicking amongst the cherry blossoms?

TEN 2 (텐2)

Waited over a year for the conclusion of the green tape case and while I am satisfied at the story development, I’m a little sad as to what happened to the team.  It’s a necessary development though.  The pacing though has slowed down a bit.  Wondering if they are a little low on true to life cases as they got 3 more episodes this season.  Despite that, I still find the cases gripping.

K-Variety

BAREFOOT FRIENDS (맨발의 친구들)

You’d think with such a big cast who are seasoned variety personalities that this show will be exciting but it was such a letdown.  There’s so much that goes on in each episode but not enough thrills or laughs to create that variety magic.  I don’t think it is merely a case of less is more because there is also a language barrier that is slowing the pace of the show.  The magic of Kang Ho Dong seen on 1 Night 2 Days and Star King interacting with regular people is lost in a foreign country which was my biggest disappointment about the show.

OUR NEIGHBORHOOD VARIETY SPORTS (우리동네 예체능)

In a weird twist of fate, I had more faith in Barefoot Friends than I did with this sports show.  Only because I was unsure of the format.  Turns out this show had definitive format from the get-go and it is hilariously funny.  It has made a household name of Jo Dal Hwan.  (Who may you ask?)  He can currently be seen as the hunchback in Mandate of Heaven (although by his words, not for long!) and I was surprised to know he played the Han Dong Min’s manager in Queen In Hyun’s Man.  I love that we see a different side of celebrities.  Never knew that the lovable eunuch in The Moon That Embraces the Sun, Jung Eun Pyo, could play table tennis so well.  And I’m eager to see Clazziquai’s Alex skill level in the sport of bowling next week.

WE GOT MARRIED (우리 결혼 했어요)

I don’t know what it is.  It felt like the show was going to renew itself with Julien & Se Ah, Kwang Hee & Sun Hwa and yes, even Joon and Yeon Suh.  In the end, it was an uneven season.  Some episodes were hilarious and others just bleeeh.  Jin Woon and Joon Hee are just okay.  They have their moments.  I wasn’t sure how Jung Chi and Jung In would fare on the show and so far they are funnier than I expected them to be.  Especially Jo Jung Chi.  Tae Min and Na Eun… not sure how I feel about them yet.  They are a bit bland but perhaps it’s not fair to judge them since they just started.  I always find the initial awkward stage to be boring so I’m gonna give them some time.  It’s just that I have doubts that the present three couples don’t have that je ne sais quoi to carry the show.

1 NIGHT 2 DAYS (1박2일)

Surprisingly, I am loving Yoo Hae Jin on the show.  He’s bring a lot of laughter and energy.  As much as I liked Kim Seung Woo, he and Bird PD always looked exhausted.  Coincidentally, the new PD Lee Se Hee, brings a lot of new games and ideas to the show as well so I’ve been liking the overall flow of the current episodes.  He definitely stands his ground when needed in order to dish out the punishments.  Hopefully he’s completely acclimated to the show and will pick up the pace of the show even more.  The show really does need to improve it’s ratings.

INCARNATION (화신)

As I keep reminding my friend, the variety talk show not the drama.  Honestly, I don’t know what happened to this show in the last couple of weeks.  They usually pose an issue to viewers and have them provide an answer which the celebrities need to guess.  Now it’s a regular talk show.  I was quite annoyed when Lee Kyung Kyu came by with the cast of The Singing Contest (which ironically I want to see) to promote the movie.  They were there for two episodes and most of the first episode had the guests talking about this and that until they finally got into the survey questions.  I thought the survey questions is what made the show unique.  Yoon Jong Shin will be leaving the show due to his schedule but that neither breaks nor makes the show for me.  I am glad though that they did away with the awkward skits presenting the week’s issue but now all we have is Strong Heart but with a reduced number of guests.  What was the point of that?

DAD! WHERE ARE YOU GOING? (아빠! 어디가?)

Now that the initial cuteness of the show has worn off, how is the show now?  Still cute.  Lol.  I do like coming back week after week to see how these kids are growing up.  And you can clearly see how they’re changing and growing.  Kids don’t typically have that filter for their emotions so it’s a lot of fun and fascinating to see their raw reactions.  Sometimes it’s hilarious, other times it makes me go aww when they cry.  It’s quite different from watching adults or idols because know that they are there to entertain.  I like that the kids haven’t fully grasped that concept yet.  And yet, I also feel like we get to see a different side of these dads, not just as entertainers.  I love the rivalry between Kim Sung Joo and Sung Dong Il and while I initially ‘shipped Hoo and Ji Ah, now I’m leaning towards Min Gook and Ji Ah.  His protective nature in the chicken pen as they were getting eggs won me over.

REAL MEN (진짜 사나이)

What happens when you send a bunch of celebrities to the army?  Some of them have already did their stint in the army and I guess they must be a glutton for punishment because they’re willing to do it again.  And others are experiencing the army for the first time.  I wasn’t exactly sure of the format when they first started and I’m not sure how long they’re going to do this show.  But it appears that the group spends 5 days within each troop.  Does that mean they get to leave in between each stint?  Not sure but looks like the next troop will be harder on the boys.  It’s a real life look at life in the army and this service is why your male celebrities go missing off the entertainment-scene for about 2 years.

KIM BYUNG MAN’S LAWS OF THE JUNGLE (김병만의 정글의 법칙)

Where Barefoot Friends fails, this is a travel show that knows how to do it right.  In all fairness, Laws of the Jungle has a specific mission: Survive the jungle.  In this most recent trip to New Zealand, the group had to live like cavemen without any modern-day tools.  It’s an interesting challenge and I mostly watch because Kim Byung Man is impressive.  On the one hand you have Bear Grylls doing Man vs. Wild but he is a career military guy so he was taught those skills.  Kim Byung Man learns them on the go.  If I were ever stuck in the jungle, I would want to be stuck with Kim Byung Man.  He’ll catch food, build shelter, climb trees and make me ache with laughter.  So take that, Grylls.

RUNNING MAN (런닝맨)

The last few episodes weren’t that great.  I may have said before that the show’s strength lies in the guests but I need to add something else to that.  It’s also important that they make us die of laughter and/or constantly reinvent the games or challenges.  That can’t get stagnant.  I am looking forward this coming Sunday’s episode which will put the Running Man team against the Laws of the Jungle team.  Oooh, I don’t know who to root for.  And WHY the hell was Ricky on last week’s ep?  He should have been in the upcoming one.

American TV

THE FOLLOWING

Why didn’t I wait a couple episodes before writing my first impressions review?  Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) has a bad track record when it comes to protecting people.  Really, let’s not give Ryan a gun and just have him literally be the consultant.  Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) started out being a charismatic cult leader/murderer and turned out to be a whiny ass bitch.  Sorry, if I offended.  At one point, I so badly wanted Roderick to off Joe but nothing quite turned out as I hoped in this series.  It’s too bad; it started on a high note but spiraled out of control quickly thereafter.

BATES MOTEL

Another day, another serial killer drama.  If you’re gonna watch this series, watch for Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore’s performances.  They’re pretty on point with their characters.  I just didn’t like having the whole town “being in on it” as it diminishes the whole character of Norman Bates and who he becomes.

HANNIBAL

Out of all the new serial killer dramas this season, this one is my favorite.  Namely because of the title character.  Mads Mikkelsen bring his own talents to Dr. Hannibal Lecter that makes me forget about comparing it Anthony Hopkin’s version.  It’s interesting to watch Hannibal study Will (Hugh Dancy) and vice versa.  I keep asking, ‘Oh, did Will notice that?  And what about the way he said that?’  The show plays such mind games which doesn’t stop with the acting or the dialogue.  The sets often plays homages to Hitchcock and Kubrick (another The Shining bathroom scene made it’s way into this week’s episode, Sorbet) which also messes with my head.

NIKITA

Nikita (Maggie Q) and Alex’s (Lyndsy Fonseca) friendship has been tested a lot over the years but this year they’re the ones leading Division.  In that respect, I can understand where both Nikita and Alex are coming from but the betrayal is gonna cut deep.  I’m pretty behind on this series so I do need to catch up when I have the time but this season the show is a little less sexy thrill and a bit more sci-fi which makes it mediocre at best.

THE AMERICANS

It’s a well-written series but unlike the pilot the rest of the season is more slowly paced in the world of espionage.  There are so many close encounters with the FBI that I’m surprised Stan (Noah Emmerich) hasn’t picked up more on his neighbors.  On the other hand, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) have been on quite the rollercoaster ride this season with their relationship.  However, I am also behind on this series so I’m not sure how the season has closed yet.  I’m still in it for at least now and if the season ends with a thrilling cliffhanger, I’ll be back for more next season.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

Vampire Elena is sooo annoyiiiing.  After the high of last season’s unpredictable season finale, I’m dismayed with how this season turned out.  And in a recent turn of events, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder broke up in real life.  Duuuh, don’t know what was the point of keeping that secret because it was the worst kept secret.  Guess if there are any new Elena/Damon scenes, it just won’t sizzle as much.

PSYCH

So Psych had a great start, they had their 100th episode and I was really enjoying Shuliet the couple this season.  Shuliet just had to go on a break, didn’t it?  I know they’ll get back together but this really depressed me about the season when I was on such a high so hence why I’m two episodes behind.

GLEE

This one is tough.  I’m over a month behind on this series and perhaps it’s time for me to let go of this one.  I still find the stories compelling and I still sing along.  I don’t care that we are splitting our time like divorced parents between McKinley High and Nyada.  It’s just that I don’t care about any of the new characters or what happens to them.  Which lessens the impact of those compelling stories.

SMASH

Another series that’s splitting it’s time: Bombshell and the new show titled Hit List.  I kinda wanted more from the Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan) character but I’m finding myself being annoyed by that tired old stereotype of creative virtuoso trainwreck.  I’m glad that Kyle (Andy Mientus) cut him loose and I do want to know what happens to Jimmy but I’m not overly invested in it.  It’s because I love Sam Strickland (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and think he will be awesome taking over the lead role in Hit List.  On the Bombshell front, I am so happy to see that Julia (Debra Messing) didn’t break her promise to Scott (Jesse L. Martin).  Julia and Tom (Christian Borle) have been too comfortable leaning and relying on each other that I want to see what the flip side looks like.

THE GOOD WIFE

The show continues to churn out good episodes but I have to admit that the season finale was predictable.  Spoiler Alert! I just knew that there’s no way Cary (Matt Czuchry) wouldn’t get the support he needed from Alicia (Julianna Marguiles).  Or else, the next season would prove to be pretty fruitless for him.  As much as Cary is a great lawyer, he needs her.  Meet the new Will and Diane.

ORPHAN BLACK

I was going to file this under British series but technically since it’s a BBC America Original Program, it goes under here.  I tried to watch this clone-thriller but it just didn’t click with me.  Tatiana Maslany is a fabulous actress.  She’s playing so many different versions of her clone-self.  However the main character we’re following is Sarah Manning who took on the clone identity of Beth Childs.  (Confused yet?)  Sarah just wants enough cash so she can run away with her daughter.  The only problem is I don’t care enough about Sarah to care about her motives.  Two-bit hustler and everyone rags on her but to me, she gets what she deserves.  Which makes it hard for me to care about the show overall.

GRIMM

The show is still weird and exciting.  I like meeting the various new Wesen each week and it feels like the reoccurring characters of Grimm have now banded together to form their own Scooby Doo gang.  The odd man out still seems to be Juliette but now that she knows I’m hoping it’s for the best.  The thing that sucks about the show is that it is now airing on Tuesday.  Tuesdays are such a packed TV day for me and I so liked watching this show on my lazy Saturday mornings.  Next season, I really want to get into the mystery of this European royal family.  Can we please have Nick (David Guintoli) go to Europe to fight some Wesen there next?

SCANDAL

I’m totally engrossed in this show.  In a word, it’s pretty scandalous. Which makes it a lot of fun to watch.  I love watching Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) spin the media and have been loving Scott Foley as Jake Ballard.  Oooh, can’t wait to see Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and Jake face each other when Fitz finds out.  Also, I underestimated Mellie (Bellamy Young) a lot in the beginning but she’s made quite the turn this season.  Went from being a vapid cheerleader type to being cunning with the winning smile.  If Olivia is going to spin the media around her little finger, Mellie uses whatever is at her disposal.  The flip side of the story is that her children love her so much more than their father so I’ve feel like we’ve only had a one-sided glimpse of Mellie.  I’d like to see how things look from her perspective.

GREY’S ANATOMY

Really, I’ve just been going through the motions with this show.  I’m so far behind on the episodes because the show feels like it hasn’t progressed at all this year.  The show’s not terrible but it’s also not great.  It lies in that murky middle and I’m really just sticking around out of habit.

NEW GIRL

Some shows wait years before the OTPs get together but not this show.  It wasn’t too soon, it didn’t drag out.  It was the right time and even their first time together was… in a word, perfect.  It was the perfect combination of awkward, sweet and so we took the leap, now what?  I can’t wait for Schmidt vs. Shivrang at Cece’s upcoming wedding but I have to admit that I loved the introduction of Schmidt’s college girlfriend, Elizabeth.  Ooh, choices and I’m so undecided on this issue.

WAREHOUSE 13

They just returned for another season and my interest in the show has been waning since last year.  Verdict is still out on how this season will turn out but I did like how this season started.  It didn’t really have that jolt of direness which should have accompanied the we’ve-got-to-save-the-world-from-utter-destruction plot in the premiere and yet didn’t underplay it.  It was more subtle and I feel like this season will be more about Artie’s guilt and inner struggle.  I like that.

ELEMENTARY

Like I’ve said before, the episodes improved from the banality of the series premiere.  The show continues to be predictable in that the criminal always seem blatantly obvious to me .  That kinda sucks because it takes the mystery out of a mystery drama.  However, I have enjoyed the character development.  I am only two episodes behind on this series but they did take quite a long hiatus in between episodes.

MODERN FAMILY

Another show where I’m just sticking around out of habit.  Only two episodes behind now.  From week to week, the show still provides laughs and heartwarming commentary about American modern families.  Unfortunately, the show has driven around the block a few times and lost a little bit of that new car smell.

MAD MEN

The first two episodes were so boring.  It was all so very business as usual but a big twist came last Sunday and I can’t help feeling bad for Peggy (Elisabeth Moss).  It took me a long time to get to a place where I liked Peggy and that came when she decided to come out from underneath Don’s (Jon Hamm) shadow.  Now everything is up in the air and my feelings could go either way in regards to this latest development.  For now I’m intrigued as to how this will all turn out but hope it’s not a backward step for Peggy.  Also Peggy, why’d you have to go and kiss your boss, Ted?  I was hoping for something to happen between you and Stan.  I really liked the history there.  And forget the fact that she’s got a boyfriend.  He does nothing for me.

British TV

THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE

Just because the show features four smart women in the 50’s doesn’t mean the show is all gossip and gaiety.  The show is not afraid to have their characters explore the dark side of murder and rape as these women are the only ones to notice the patterns and solve the crime.  I also loved that the show explored some of the social issues that women faced in this era.  Thrilling and thought-provoking.

DOCTOR WHO

Loving the new companion, Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman).  I feel like unlike the other companions she’s not as infatuated with the Doctor from the get-go.  She’s interested in the journey but there’s also a bit of wariness when it comes to him.  Can he keep her safe?  Also unlike Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) where they were strictly friends, it feels like they left room for something more to develop in the future.  I wouldn’t mind seeing these two paired up in a something more scenario knowing full well that River Song (Alex Kingston) will return.

CALL THE MIDWIFE

Took me awhile to get through the first series, at no fault of the show but due to the fact that I watch too much TV, but I quickly finished the first series when I saw the second series airing in the US.  I think once you get past initial introductions, it easy to get addicted to show.  Having babies is so different today that calling a midwife to your home sounds so luxurious.  Of course, it wasn’t the case back in the 50’s.  Besides that, we also become familiar with the personal lives of these nurses and the nuns.  I can’t wait for Series 3.

MR SELFRIDGE

This miniseries is making its Masterpiece run here in the States.  I have to say that Mr Selfridge is so typically typical for any story about the rise of a working class tycoon.  Loving wife, mistress on the side, differences in class structure and new money versus old money, they’re all seen here.  But Jeremy Piven is so entertaining and after years of watching him as Ari Gold, I can’t help liking that he chose this project.  It’s a decent period piece and an easy to watch miniseries.

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