End of the Year TV Report (2014): Part 1

I realize I’m very late to the End of the Year review game.  Playing review catch up while keeping current with shows has overwhelmed me.  I still have two more reviews to get done before the week is out but I have enough under the belt to get down to business.  This year in K-Drama has been quite a rollercoaster with a series of terrible dramas to mediocre dramas to really great dramas.  When it was bad, it was really bad but when it was great it was really great.  Here are the dramas which completed its run in 2014.

The rating system goes:

Must Watch – And I would watch it all over again
Watch – Liked it
Just OK – Watchable but could have been better
If you’re bored – Just killing time watching my laundry’s rinse cycle
Pass – Don’t waste my time

COMPLETED K-DRAMAS

ANSWER ME 1994 – 응답하라 1994

It wasn’t as great as the first rendition of this 90’s reminiscent series and this series follows along similar plotlines but the characters are incredibly likable and I can’t help but loving all the 90’s references.

Verdict: Watch

PRETTY MAN – 예쁜 남자

While I wasn’t expecting much from this drama, I thought at the very least it would entertain.  Jang Geuk Suk’s Dok Go Ma Te starts off wacky but ends up being a drag.  Although Jang Geuk Suk attempted to remake his image as an actor through this role, I think he needs to take bigger risk with the types of roles he takes on.

Verdict: Pass

PRIME MINISTER AND I – 총리와 나

Despite my hesitation over this drama due to it being a SM C&C production, it’s a fun drama with decent story arc.  I think this is what convinced me to boost up my review score. However, the lack of romantic scenes and skinship opportunities misses the mark on what a K-Drama romcom is supposed to accomplish.

Verdict: If you’re bored

YOU FROM ANOTHER STAR – 별에서 온 그대

One of the first great dramas for this year, it’s a trendy drama that’s adorable, hilarious and emotional all in one package.  Months later, I’m still reenacting the memorable E.T. scene.  Jun Ji Hyun is positively wacky and really reminds us why she’s such a sought after actress.  Plus, she has great chemistry with Kim Soo Hyun.  What more do you need?

Verdict: Must Watch

MISS KOREA – 미스코리아

It’s the most underrated drama of the year.  This drama really raised the bar for Lee Yeon Hee as an actress.  Plus, it also brought Go Sung Hee into my sights as a new, up and coming actress.  It has a lot of heart and brings to light how women are depicted in media and society.  Definitely worth checking out if you have not seen the drama.

Verdict: Must Watch

INSPIRING GENERATION: THE BIRTH OF A DEVOTEE – 감격시대: 투신의탄생

A period drama taking place just before the Second World War.  The societal and territorial standings were constantly in flux at this time and we follow the story of Shin Jung Tae and his rise to become the people’s savior.  Unfortunately, Shin Jung Tae is played by Kim Hyun Joong and his acting has not improved much over the years.  Now, I think viewers will be less likely to watch him after the fallout of his scandal but there are some notable performances by Kim Sung Oh and Yoon Hyun Min.  So there’s that.

Verdict: Just OK

EMERGENCY COUPLE – 응급남녀

It’s a Choi Jin Hyuk and Song Ji Hyo vehicle.  What I was hoping for was a silly romcom that didn’t necessarily have to break the mold but be entertaining.  I wanted Doris Day and Rock Hudson; clearly, this couple is pretty and funny all in one package in order for them to pull it off.  However, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by the overplayed story arc combined with the forced ending.

Verdict: Just OK

FULL SUN – 태양은 가득히

I was really surprised by this revenge melodrama.  The story in and of itself is not all that interesting.  We’ve seen chaebol daughter’s family ruining the life of the underdog before.  Certainly, Kim Young Chul has played the foreboding father many times before.  However, the performances are strong in this one especially Jo Jin Woong.

Verdict: Watch

THREE DAYS – 쓰리데이즈

The drama starts off high octane but eventually falls flat.  The story repetitively uses the same twists again and again and utilizes too many expository flashbacks to explain them.  Frankly, that just undermines the intelligence of the viewer.  However, I did enjoy seeing Park Ha Sun take on a different type of image beyond sweet girl-next-door.

Verdict: If you’re bored

SECRET LOVE AFFAIR – 밀회

While Kim Hee Ae and Yoo Ah In have great chemistry in this melodrama, their affair is not the central focus of the plot.  The sociological factors that are played out in the drama and its effect on the relationship is definitely what makes this drama thought-provoking from the embezzlement scandal, to the badly behaving chaebols to the husband who is aware of his wife’s infidelity.  I wished the affair took more of a central role in the overall story but it’s merely a catalyst for Kim Hee Ae’s character finding freedom.

Verdict: Watch

POTATO STAR 2013QR3 – 감자별 2013QR3

Amusing sitcom from the people who brought us the High Kick series.  If you liked that sitcom, this show brings the same brand of wackiness mixed with heartfelt character developments.

Verdict: Just OK

BIG MAN – 빅맨

Kang Ji Hwan keeps playing these off-the-cuff underdogs while Choi Daniel keeps playing these smug types. Although, as the antagonist here, Choi Daniel’s smug demeanor seems to fit the job description so it’s not out of line.  I was extremely disappointed by Lee Da Hee’s So Mi Ra.  Her performance is lackluster and doesn’t add much to the drama.

Verdict: Pass

GAP DONG – 갑동이

The drama does tend to get a bit unnecessarily convoluted in the second half but the biggest takeaway is Lee Joon’s performance as a psychopath.  Although many MBLAQ fans are dismayed to hear that he’s decided to focus on his acting, his performance in this drama and the movie, Rough Play/An Actor is an Actor, proved to be a launching pad for his acting career.

Verdict: Just OK

YOU’RE ALL SURROUNDED – 너희들은 포위됐다

Trite plot but an incredibly likable cast.  That’s pretty much it.

Verdict: Just OK

TRIANGLE – 트라이앵글

Predictable story but both Kim Jae Joong and Im Shi Wan are showing that they are more than just idol actors.  I don’t know what’s been going on with Lee Bum Soo this year but I have not only been disappointed with his choice of dramas but he also looks bored playing the roles.  Hoping 2015 will be a better year for him.

Verdict: If you’re bored

TROT LOVERS – 트로트의 연인

I was honestly hoping I would get into trot music while watching this drama.  Except there’s barely any trot music in it.  Forget the predictable plot.  I only have two words for anyone who wants to watch this drama: Amnesia Twist.  Shin Sung Rok, Son Ho Joon and Shin Bo Ra were the only good things about the drama.  I’m sure it’s easy to find just of a montage of their fun scenes and that’s all I could recommend for this drama.

Verdict: Pass

FATED TO LOVE YOU – 운명처럼 널 사랑해

It’s another predictable romcom and while it’s got a typical Asian drama structure, the actors really own their performances.  Jang Hyuk is positively wacky but he’s also able to be convincing during the emotional heart wrenching scene.  While his character is ridiculous, when it is crucial to feel sympathetic towards their character, he’s great at not becoming the butt of the joke.  I also loved watching Kim Mi Young (Jang Na Ra) rise up from the meek, post-it (aka unmemorable) girl to a strong, confident woman.  We often don’t find characters like her who can be the same person but transforms as the story progresses.  It’s refreshing and the drama’s a lot of fun.

Verdict: Must Watch

JOSEON GUNMAN – 조선 총잡이

Lee Jun Ki certainly makes Park Yoon Kang look good in this drama.  Certainly, the drama wastes no money with its action scenes.  While the plot gets repetitive throughout its run, the political faction subplot was pretty fascinating towards its end.  Our main characters are progressive but they’re not willing to give up their moral in order to change society.  It puts them in quite a dilemma and I thought it was wise that the drama doesn’t put them entirely on one side of the issue or the other.

Verdict: Watch

IT’S OKAY, IT’S LOVE – 괜찮아, 사랑이야

There’s a lot to love about this drama.  Sometimes I tend to roll my eyes at the traditional K-Drama romcom plots because it feels too corny.  Hae Soo and Jae Yul’s romance felt modern and relatable.  While the drama prefaced itself with a disclaimer that the medical therapy depicted in the drama towards mental illness was dramatized to enhance the drama, I didn’t feel that it was completely exaggerated to make it unbelievable nor does it make the drama overly depressing.  The drama does an excellent job at keeping things light and dramatizing Jae Yul’s condition.  I liked how his condition isolated Jae Yul from the people around him but also reinforced why he needed that camaraderie as well.

Verdict: Must Watch

DISCOVERY OF LOVE – 연애의 발견

Airing simultaneously with It’s Okay, It’s Love, Discovery of Love was another drama that did a great job at depicting a modern relationship and provided a lot of interesting debate.  It provided a discussion of cheating and emotional cheating.  Is passion more important in a relationship over compatibility?  This kind of debate was really refreshing to see as the issue is usually black and white in K-Dramas.

Verdict: Must Watch

SURPLUS PRINCESS – 잉여공주

This drama was cut short of its full run due to poor ratings but there was still a lot of like about it.  A lot of the drama’s humor came from the short segment skits that were scattered throughout the drama and Jo Bo Ah’s chemistry with Ohn Joo Wan had me coming back week after week.  Plus, Song Jae Rim is not bad to look at.

Verdict: Just OK

THE THREE MUSKETEERS – 삼총사

The structure of this drama sticks close to the original work by Dumas and has really great pacing.  Yoo In Young is great in the femme fatale role.  I liked watching the romance blossom between the Prince and his Princess whose marriage was arranged.  Korean cable networks don’t really have a good track record with succeeding series runs but I’m hoping that Season 2 will prove me wrong.

Verdict: Watch

THE NIGHTWATCHMAN’S JOURNAL – 야경꾼 일지

Jung Il Woo looks bored.  Kim Sung Oh is so over-the-top.  Oh and did I mention that UKnow Yun Ho is in the drama?  ‘Nuff said.

Verdict: Pass

NAE IL’S CANTABILE/CANTABILE TOMORROW – 내일도 칸타빌레

Cute drama that really makes good use of well-known classical music to enhance the storytelling.  Not a unique story but definitely an enjoyable one with characters who have surprising depth.

Verdict: Just OK

SECRET DOOR – UIGWE MURDER CASE – 비밀의 문 – 의궤 살인 사건

Instead of incorporating the truth with fictional elements, the drama is just a work of fiction.  I was a little disappointed by how the story is structured overall but beyond that the performances are mostly fantastic.

Verdict: Watch

MISAENG/INCOMPLETE LIFE – 미생

This drama really caught me off-guard.  I didn’t know what to expect but hoped that the drama wouldn’t be depressing.  The cast is delightfully unique and the story is crafted so beautifully.  The objectives of badook or Go is weaved so well in this tale of office life and each episode generally leaves you with an uplifting moral.  Bought the manhwa series as an early Christmas present for myself and can’t wait to read them in the new year.

Verdict: Must Watch

BAD GUYS – 나쁜 녀석들

Dark and thrilling, the characters in this drama are so well-defined and fascinating.  I spent most of the series on the edge of my seat.

Verdict: Watch

MODERN FARMER – 모던파머*

Cute but predictable weekend drama.  Lee Hong Ki’s Lee Min Ki always has a scheme up his sleeve but his caricatural acting is what makes the drama work.  I was also impressed that Lee Honey could step outside of her comfort zone by playing a rural, unsophisticated single mom.  We’re typically used to seeing her glammed up.  I loved the incessant running gags that made the drama funny but the pacing of the stories does hold the drama back from being a complete winner.  Still, it was quite enjoyable.

Verdict: Watch

*Will update with links to review page.

_____________________________________________________

New category added for this year!  Mainly because I want recognize all of my favorite dramas but sometimes you just can’t fit them all in.

BEST K-DRAMA: DRAMA

MISAENG/INCOMPLETE LIFE – It was a last minute runner but hands down my favorite drama of the year.  From its beautiful cinematography to its diverse characters to relatable office situations, the drama offers so much to the viewer.  It takes the banal existence of everyday life and injects it with a boost of renewed hope.  It’s rare to see this type of story in K-Drama as there’s no real romance plotline, except if you count the relationship between Jang Geu Rae (Im Shi Wan) and Oh Sang Shik (Lee Sung Min).

BEST K-DRAMA: COMEDY

YOU FROM ANOTHER STAR – For a comedy, this was the drama that kept me in stitches.  I loved how Jun Ji Hyun is unafraid to ruin her image and commit to being over-the-top.  Also, at the heart of it, you have a romance that tugs at your heartstrings.  Combined with great catchphrases and memorable scenes, there really nothing more I could ask of a drama.  Thank you for thoroughly entertaining me.

BEST K-DRAMA PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR

JANG HYUK (FATED TO LOVE YOU – LEE GUN) – Jang Hyuk was really great at balancing the comedy and drama in this role.  When he’s funny, he’s completely ridiculous and goes overboard.  When we need to sympathize with him, he’s able to make us feel raw emotion for his character.  It’s precarious role to take on as it could come off completely hokey and we’d find it hard to take anything about him seriously and yet Jang Hyuk is able to make us laugh one minute and then burst into tears the next.

BEST K-DRAMA PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS

JUN JI HYUN (YOU FROM ANOTHER STAR – CHUN SONG YI) – Similar to Jang Hyuk, it’s not easy to be overly silly one minute and then have viewers take the character seriously in the next minute.  Despite the fact that Chun Song Yi is conceited, Jun Ji Hyun still manages to make her incredibly likable.  I like that Jun Ji Hyun is unafraid to take risks in the role she takes on and she looks like she has a great time doing it.

BEST K-DRAMA ENSEMBLE CAST

CAST OF IT’S OKAY, IT’S LOVE – I think what makes this drama special is the mix of characters and how they deal with the issue of mental illness.  They’re all kind of quirky in their own way and they felt like people I could be friends with.  I couldn’t single out one cast member over the other as it’s how they relate to each other that not only makes the drama sweet but entertaining.

BEST K-DRAMA OF THE YEAR

MISAENG/INCOMPLETE LIFE – The reason why I love this drama so much is mainly because of the people and the actors playing them.  The stereotypical people you find in an office setting is all depicted in this drama and it encapsulates the office world so well.  Their camaraderie and their depiction of distinctive and yet familiar relationship that makes this cast so unique.  On top of that, I truly loved watching the day-ins and day-outs at their job and how it is symbolized through badook or Go.  It’s quite unique that Jang Geu Rae references this particular game over chess because all the pieces of that game essentially comes from the same spot.  However, luck and strategy are both play a factor in winning that game.

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One thought on “End of the Year TV Report (2014): Part 1

  1. Thanks for the year.

    Valid Love, Miss korea and discovery of romance is gem for me. Punch is actually my heart right now

    Misaeng, Its Ok Its Love, Fated To Love You and SLA i have heard but didn’t watch yet. Other is just passed.

    Like

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