End of the Year TV Report (2015): Part 1

I am just getting it in under the wire but here I am to recap the year in K-Dramas. It’s been quite a year and while I’ve ‘shipped a lot of couples, I don’t feel I’ve gushed about as many K-Dramas compared to last year. Still, it was a pretty great year and here are the dramas that have completed its run in 2015.

The rating system:

Must Watch – Re-watchability factor
Watch – Pretty good
Just OK – It is what I say it is, just ok
If you’re bored – Killing time until a better drama comes along
Pass – Ugh, kill me now

COMPLETED K-DRAMAS

HEART TO HEART – 하트 투 하트

As it was the trend in K-Dramas to feature heroes and heroines with mental issues, this drama was an interesting character study. I loved watching the various characters and learning how they coped with their disorder. The cast is great and the soundtrack by Tearliner really makes the drama shine. The really disappointing thing about the drama are the adults in this drama and how their lying destroyed the lives of so many people. Sure, you were meant to feel the tragedy of the situation but it was hard for me to forgive the adults.

Verdict: Watch

SPY – 스파이

It’s a North Korean vs. South Korean typical spy thriller. However, the performances, especially that of Kim Jae Joong, is so fantastic that it’s a nice thrill ride to sit back and watch. For those who were fans of Go Sung Hee in Miss Korea, it’s a nice follow up to that drama that I forgive her for being in The Night Watchman; and for those who are fans of Answer Me 1988, keep an eye out Hyeri’s irritable older sister, Ryu Hye Young.

Verdict: Watch

SUNAM GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL DETECTIVES – 선암여고 탐정담

As much as this is a tween drama, the cast is excellent. I love it when I see a fresh face and tell that they’re gonna be stars. It almost seems like Hyeri’s audition for this drama is due to the cute aegyo she showed on the female edition of Real Men. She depicts that quirky version of herself here. Adding to that, this is the first drama for Stephanie Lee. Sometimes model-turn-actresses tend to play more reserved characters but it’s worth watching her airhead-like character in this drama and then see the 180 degree performance she gives on Yong Pal. The drama feels like several Nancy Drew novels woven together but the storylines covers some timely and relatable teenage situations.

Verdict: Watch

KILL ME, HEAL ME – 킬미, 힐미

As predictable as the drama was, Ji Sung gives 7 convincing performances as a guy suffering from dissociative identity disorder. Combined with Hwang Jung Eum and Park Seo Joon, it’s quite a fun cast to watch, especially when all 3 of them are in the same scene together.

Verdict: Watch

HYDE, JEKYLL, ME – 하이드, 지킬, 나

 

While the end of last year trend happened to be characters with mental issues, I suppose 2015 continued that trend, except they had multiple personalities. This was Hyun Bin’s first drama since he’s returned from the army and the drama has a classic fairy tale quality to it. Unfortunately, combined with the fact that I found Han Ji Min boring and the themes represented in the plot seem to feel like Secret Garden over again, I was highly disappointed by it.

Verdict: Pass

BLOOD – 블러드

You’d think I would have learned my lesson when it comes to Gu Hye Sun. As much as I enjoyed watching her playing an arrogant character, the drama doesn’t deliver on many fronts. The story is so repetitive because it doesn’t have the courage to raise the stakes. So when Ahn Jae Hyun’s Park Ji Sang is escapes death when he’s in the clutches of Ji Jin Hee’s Lee Jae Wook for the umpteenth time, I’ve already checked out of the drama.

Verdict: Pass

SUPER DADDY YEOL – 슈퍼대디 열

At the heart of the drama, it’s about an immature guy who matures by being father. Who better to play that person than Lee Dong Gun? As contrived as the story might be, this family drama has a great blend of comedy and heartfelt moments.

Verdict: Just OK

THE GIRL WHO SEES SMELLS/SENSORY COUPLE – 냄새를 보는 소녀

I still cringe slightly every time I see or hear the title. However, this trendy drama does deliver on all things that fangirls want in a K-Drama. Quirkiness, cute and bubbly characters, chemistry between the leads, and a catchy soundtrack. Sure, I found the stand-up comedy bits puzzling and there were a number of plotholes in the murder case but it was easy to overlook as I was entertained by everything else.

Verdict: Watch

MISSING NOIR M – 실종느와르 M

This drama has to be one of the most underrated dramas of 2015. OCN has a reputation of male-focused, crime dramas and if you like Ten, this is another great one to watch. The drama does a great job of taking us down one path but then switching the narrative so we could see the same thing from an entirely different point of view. There are also some great guest appearances such as Kang Ha Neul and Son Soo Hyun and it pays to watch until the very end.

Verdict: Must Watch

HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE – 풍문으로 들었소

Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl pregnant. Girl meets her in-laws and then goes into labor. You know, it’s a classic love story. The drama is a black comedy about social and economic status and family. The entire cast gives fantastic performances and gives a real message about morals at the end of the day.

Verdict: Must Watch

EX-GIRLFRIEND CLUB – 구여친클럽

As much as I love Song Ji Hyo and the concept of this drama seemed funny, it seemed like the writers really didn’t know where to takes its story beyond the original concept. As viewers we’re kind of lead in circles and I’m grateful that the drama was only 12 episodes long. Having said that, Lee Yoon Ji gives a marvelous, albeit frightening performance as the ex who has obsessive tendencies. Also, I was surprised to learn that Musician Jo Jung Chi (aka Jung In’s husband) isn’t a half-bad actor.

Verdict: If you’re bored

PRODUCER – 프로듀사

This trendy drama gives us an inside look behind-the-scenes to our favorite variety shows. As if the awesome cast isn’t enough, the show also delivers on their many, many cameos. I think where the drama falters is in the romance department. At least on screen, the romance plotline wraps up too platonically. Would it have hurt to give us a kiss instead of just hugging it out? And yet, I’m so fond of the cast that I’m okay with how it all turned out.

Verdict: Must Watch

AGREEABLY WARM – 맨도롱 또똣

This Hong Sisters’ drama took me on a rollercoaster ride and not in a good way. You feel like one half of a relationship in which you’re constantly being duped and toyed with. In fact, that’s what Yoo Yun Suk’s character does to Kang Sora all throughout the drama. It’s not a good feeling.

Verdict: Pass

ORANGE MARMALADE – 오렌지 마말레이드

As much as Blood let me down earlier this year, I wanted to believe there would be another vampire drama that would entertain me. While Orange Marmalade does play things on the safe side in terms of the storyline, the clear-cut 3 act structure does a great job in relaying the story. Although the drama feels juvenile, Yeo Jin Goo and Kim Seol Hyun have decent chemistry to deliver the emotional elements felt between the characters.

Verdict: Just OK

HIGH SOCIETY – 상류사회

Chaebols versus the middle class. Love versus greed. On one level, High Society is a soapy love story but the characters approach the reality of being different classes and falling in love in such a logical way that it’s hard not relate with their thought process and then swept up by the emotions of falling in love with someone you can’t be with. Add complicated family situations and the sexy Sung Joon and adorable Park Hyung Shik to the mix, you can’t help but be engrossed by the drama. Plus, Uee and Im Ji Yeon play characters who are plucky, strong and relatable and it’s delightful to see how they win their man.

Verdict: Must Watch

OH MY GHOST – 오 나의 귀신님

Park Bo Young is simply delightful playing both the listless Na Bong Sun and the quirky ghost, Shin Soon Ae (Kim Seul Gi), inhabiting Na Bong Sun’s body. Add a cup of Jo Jung Seok and a dash a mystery, you got the perfect recipe for a summer romcom drama.

Verdict: Must Watch

SCHOLAR WHO WALKS THE NIGHT – 밤을 걷는 선비

I’m not sure what it is with fusion sageuks lately but they’ve been quite disappointing. The plotlines never seem to lead anywhere and the female characters are largely overlooked in the story. Hoping we’ll get fusion sageuks in the new year that expands on the genre because lately, they’ve been repetitive or the conclusion have been largely unsatisfying. There’s no point in getting a pretty cast and shooting beautiful cinematography if there isn’t a compelling enough story to back it up.

Verdict: Pass

LAST – 라스트

I was drawn to this drama because of the trailer but it’s quite an interesting tale about the urban underworld. It does take a little patience as the first few episodes did have me bored a bit but the drama does pay off. The only thing that’s really unfortunate about the drama is the female lead, Seo Ye Ji. She doesn’t really add to the story nor is her character all that interesting and she doesn’t have any chemistry with Yoon Kye Sang.

Verdict: Watch

THE ECCENTRIC DAUGHTER-IN-LAW – 별난 며느리

Although I didn’t watch any sitcoms this year, this is probably the closest thing to a K-Drama sitcom that I did watch. The plot may have been trite and the characters were very much caricatures but as far as frivolous plots go, I was entertained by it.

Verdict: If you’re bored

HWAJUNG/SPLENDID POLITICS – 화정 (華政)

Though the story veers vastly from actual history, the tumultuous period during the reigns of Gwanghaegun (Cha Seung Won), King Injo (Kim Jae Won) and King Hyojong (Lee Min Ho) are covered through the eyes of Princess Jungmyung (Lee Yeon Hee). It’s an epic drama written in a very traditional way but it’s the supporting cast that really carries the tension felt in the drama.

Verdict: Just OK

YONG PAL – 용팔이

As intrigued as might have been early on in the drama, that feeling does not endure until the end of the drama. As I’ve said earlier, one person to watch in this drama is Stephanie Lee with her sassiness but other than that, the shifting revenge plotlines leaves the viewer frustrated and exhausted.

Verdict: If you’re bored

TWENTY AGAIN – 두번째 스무살

As predictable as the plot may be, Choi Ji Woo’s Ha No Ra makes the drama worth watching. It’s through her that we can relate as why she’s made the choices that she had in her life and understand why she goes on a soul search for a new dream.

Verdict: Watch

SHE WAS PRETTY – 그녀는 예뻤다

Spawning off from the incredible chemistry that Hwang Jung Eum and Park Seo Joon had on Kill Me, Heal Me, this time around they are the OTP. Add the hilariously funny and sweet Choi Si Won and the BFF we all want, Go Joon Hee, we got a perfect cast. I do wish the story covered more of Ji Sung Joon’s (Park Seo Joon) insecurities as I think the focus was imbalanced with Kim Hye Jin’s (Hwang Jung Eum) outwardly appearance but still, the drama will always have a warm place in my heart.

Verdict: Must Watch

D-DAY – 디 데이

The world that this drama creates that the characters in it all feel realistic. This drama represents a what-if situation. What if Seoul faced an earthquake of this magnitude? How would everyone respond? The answer can be frightening and heroic at the same time.

Verdict: Must Watch

THE VILLAGE: ACHIARA’S SECRET – 마을: 아치아라의 비밀

I came looking for horror drama but what I found was a mystery/thriller. It’s a drama about a small-town and all the secrets and lies that surround them. With each new episode, it reveals a sensational secret and I was surprised at how the drama was able to capture my attention throughout its run.

Verdict: Just OK

BECAUSE IT’S THE FIRST TIME – 처음이라서

It’s OnStyle’s first attempt at a scripted series. They are incredibly lucky to get a great cast but the plot dumbs it down for the audience. It’s frustrating to watch Yoon Tae Oh (Choi Min Ho) push and pull the two love interests in his life but the drama is only 8 episodes long so it’s not a big commitment to make.

Verdict: If you’re bored

SPLASH SPLASH LOVE – 퐁당퐁당 LOVE

It’s a 10 episode web drama that was also combined and condensed into a 2 episode drama for television broadcast. Kim Seul Gi and Yoon Doo Joon is charming and delightful. I suppose you’d consider to be a fusion sageuk but the drama delivers all the essential elements you look for in a historical fiction/romcom genre. As much as the plot is predictable, it moves so fast that there’s no time to be disappointed. I loved it so much that I must have watched this drama several times already.

Verdict: Must Watch

_____________________________________________________

If I could give Chunkeemonkee Awards for the best of the best for 2015, I would give it to these dramas and people.

BEST K-DRAMA: DRAMA

HIGH SOCIETY – I thought I was the type to not be into soapy dramas and yet, maybe I am. However, what endeared me to this drama were the characters. They were complicated and relatable. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that sometimes when watching dramas you wonder what the hell the characters are thinking. In High Society, you get to hear their thought process and reasoning, despite the fact that they are discussing matters of the heart. So when they make the choices that they make, you understand where they are coming from.

BEST K-DRAMA: COMEDY

HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE – Perhaps it’s the year of chaebol dramas. I think what was so unique about this drama was the over-the-top performances that was comical and sad at the same time. As much as it plays off like a makjang drama, the human drama of what it means to be a family shines at the core of the story. It’s not a completely happy ending but it’s a satisfying and realistic one.

BEST K-DRAMA PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR

JI SUNG (KILL ME, HEAL ME – CHA DO HYUN/SHIN SE GE/PERRY PARK/AHN YO SUB/AHN YO NA/NANA/MYSTERIOUS X) – How could I not go with Ji Sung this year? He played 7 different characters that felt complete and multi-layered in one drama. In a sea of mediocre dramas and performances, it’s no wonder that I still remember him and this drama even though it ran early this year.

BEST K-DRAMA PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS

HWANG JUNG EUM (KILL ME, HEAL ME/SHE WAS PRETTY – OH RI JIN/KIM HYE JIN) – It just happened to be Hwang Jung Eum’s year. It’s hard enough to be casted in one trendy drama but two in the same year? While she may not be everyone’s cup of tea, due to her high-pitched screeching, I just think that’s just the nature of the quirky acting. In some ways, I think that’s just something that makes her stand apart from the standard beautiful actress with the sweet voice. She’s not afraid to “uglify” herself for a role whether it’s how her makeup is done or how annoying she sounds. And I use that term loosely. It’s now okay to see a loud, quirky and sassy woman as the romantic heroine in the K-Drama.

BEST K-DRAMA ENSEMBLE CAST

PRODUCER – If it weren’t for the cast and the cameos, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the drama as much. On some level, we know who these people are as celebrities and it’s hilarious when they flip our expectations of their personalities. The cast does a great job in showing us their hopes and dreams within the world of television and doing with humor, wit and heart.

BEST K-DRAMA OF THE YEAR

HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE – As much as this drama is a family drama featuring a chaebol family and lower income family, the drama is a fascinating study in sociology. What adds to the story is that the cast is fantastic. Sure, Yoo Joon Sang, Yoo Ho Jung, Jang Hyun Sung and Yoon Bok In are seasoned actors and I’ve mentioned how Lee Joon gets better with every new project he’s in. However, Go Ah Sung is a newcomer for me and she does a great job in playing Seo Bom and going up against the wits of the corrupt people at the company, dealing with the mother-in-law and the household servants. While Han Jung Ho (Yoo Joon Sang) and Choi Yun Hee (Yoo Ho Jung) may feel that they entitled and hold a superiority complex, what’s so satisfying about the drama is that the other beat them at their own game through their wits. For anyone who has used the affluenza defense, take that.

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2 thoughts on “End of the Year TV Report (2015): Part 1

  1. it is rare to see a drama blogger didn’t mention healer.

    A good review overall, for me best drama of 2015 is nirvana on fire. A truly masterpiece and korean drama will be punch. As for High Society, i read mix reviews about it some said it was a poor drama without content some said not. I think it is based on the expectation.

    Like

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