Just Bananas About: Week of 4/4/16

The three major networks all started their new dramas last Monday and so begins the ratings race.  I’ve checked in with all 3 and the jury is still out with what I’m going to stick with.  They’re all different lengths but because there are other dramas that I want to watch that will be premiering soon, I know that I don’t want to overwhelm myself.  What are your favorites?

Certainly, last week’s ratings winner was Jackpot/Daebak.  The drama takes creative licenses with the history of King Yeongjo’s rise to the throne.  Choi Bok Soon (Yoon Jin Seo) was originally married to a poor gambler, Baek Man Geum (Lee Moon Shik).  Despite the fact that they are poor, the discord in their marriage extends from the fact that Man Geum holds gambling to a higher regard than his wife.  Seeing this, Lee In Jwa (Jun Kwang Ryul) schemes for her to capture the eyes of King Sukjong (Choi Min Soo).

In order to have Bok Soon all to himself, King Sukjong decides to gamble with Man Geum.  However, the odds are in King Sukjong’s favor as the bets are rigged.  First, he lets Man Geum win and then he pretends that the odds are in his favor.  Afraid of losing all his money, Man Geum eventually pushes the envelope too far when he puts his wife up as a bargaining chip.  Man Geum obviously loses the bet but the whole point was to have Bok Soon see the incident so that she no longer harbors any feelings towards her husband.

Month later, she gives birth to a baby but rumors are rampant throughout the palace that the baby doesn’t belong to the king due to the timing.  Fearing that her baby will be assassinated, she seeks help from Kim Yi Soo (Song Jong Ho) to help swap her baby for a dead one and to hand the baby over to the biological father to keep him safe.  He brings the baby to Man Geum.  When he comes across a seer, the seer notes how his face looks like one that belongs to a king.  At first, Man Geum comes to believe that the baby is not his and gets rid of the baby but the seer makes him realize his misunderstanding.

It’s too late as Lee In Jwa (Jun Kwang Ryul) has become aware of the switcheroo and retrieved the baby for himself.  Lee In Jwa’s plan was to place Bok Soon near the king in order to obtain power for himself.  Now she has put that plan into jeopardy.  And he threatens to kill the baby, if she doesn’t do as he instructs.

The first episodes were epic and beautiful.  We learn that the baby eventually becomes Baek Dae Gil (Jang Geun Suk).  His half-brother, who hasn’t made his appearance in the drama yet, is Prince Yeoning (Yeo Jin Goo).  Prince Yeoning’s biological father is King Sukjong and I’m curious to see how Dae Gil asserts that he should be the next king.  In fact, this conflict between the two brothers is somewhat twisted from the true story.  When King Sukjong dies, it’s Crown Prince Yi Yun, Sukjong’s first son, that takes the throne.  It was believed that Sukjong wanted Prince Yeoning to succeed him but without a record of it, Yi Yun ascended first becoming King Gyeongjong.  It was only because of the discord between the political factions that King Gyeongjong is forced to step down and Prince Yeoning takes over, becoming King Yeongjo.  Already, I’m loving the themes of gambling that’s prevalent in the script and how it changes the fates of the characters.  Certainly, Choi Min Soo commands the screen in the first two episodes with his dark, offbeat acting so we shall soon see what kind of impression Jang Geun Suk and Yeo Jin Goo leaves when it’s their turn to head the lineup.

In second place of Monday’s premiere lineup, there’s Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul Ho starring Park Shin Yang and Kang Sora.  It’s from a webtoon series about Jo Deul Ho (Park Shin Yang), a disgraced former prosecutor who loses everything.  He rebuilds his life as a lawyer who defends the weak and becomes committed to justice.

Lee Eun Jo (Kang Sora) is a young lawyer who has her big break to win her first court case.  That is, until Jo Deul Ho sweeps in to take the lead on her case.  At first they don’t see eye to eye, she’s inexperienced while his outlandishness makes her think that he isn’t taking the case seriously.  Meanwhile, there are corrupt forces within the government and Jo Deul Ho’s old colleagues are not happy about the fact that he’s return to court.

Park Shin Yang is currently part of the tvN variety program called Actor School in which he teaches various celebrities, whether they’ve been criticized for their acting or looking for a way to become better at acting.  After watching that show, it’s kind of interesting to see Park Shin Yang at work as Jo Deul Ho.

He’s an outlandish character who also believes in justice.  Even though he’s faced hardships in his life that made him initially not care what happens, at the core of his being, he knows what’s right.  In the way, I can see him becoming the hero that the neighborhood needs.

There’s a great cast of wacky characters and the story seems straightforward enough.  However, I’ve seen Kang Sora play these type of plucky characters before so I’m hoping that there’s another layer in her character that we haven’t seen yet.  Certainly, she has a lot of play off of when it comes to playing opposite Park Shin Yang.

Finally, in third place there’s the revenge drama, Monster, starring Kang Ji Hwan and Sung Yuri.  I’m glad to see these two back together again.  Certainly, I loved them in Hong Kil Dong but I don’t feel as if that drama delivered all that it could when it came to their relationship.  This drama is about Lee Gook Chul (Lee Ki Kwang), a chaebol, who loses his parents and his eyesight after a car accident.  He learns that his uncle and aunt are scheming for his inheritance and he enlists the help of the one person that he trusts, Cha Jung Eun (Lee Yul Eum).

They don’t quite start off on the right foot as Jung Eun gives Gook Chul a hard time for being so mean to her sick brother.  She belatedly learns that he’s blind but it’s too late.  He uses his power to kick her brother out from the hospital and to fire her dad as the hospital’s security guard that his family owns.

However, when she applies to be his helper, he expects that she would use the fact that he’s blind to lie to him.  To his surprise, she does not and admits that they’ve met before.  He hires her but doesn’t make things easy on her.  It’s because that he can’t trust anyone else around him that he relies on her.

His corrupt family does everything they can in order to kill him but he uses his wit and his other heightened senses to escape harm.  Years later, he’s survived as a homeless man only to seek help from the very few people that he can rely on.

I’d say that the beginning was pretty soapy but what do you expect from a revenge drama?  A lot does happen in these two episodes but I’m okay with that because we skip through so much time.  I think Lee Ki Kwang does a decent job in convincing us that he’s a hurt boy that has trust issues as well as playing blind.  I’ve also enjoyed watching Lee Yul Eum in this drama so far and if you haven’t seen her before, I’d recommend watching her in The Village.

However, I can’t help but being a bit eager to see the adult kids taking over the roles.  This one is a 50 episode drama so we’ve got plenty of time to work out the revenge plot but that’s a long time to spend being dark and twisty.  What I like about Kang Ji Hwan, I think a lot of other people do as well, is when he’s playing up the comedy so I hope it doesn’t dwell in solely the revenge plotline.  Let’s work some romcom in there as well, pretty please.


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