So today Stephanie posted on her blog Crazy for Kdrama a post titled Second-hand Crack. In it, she describes her experience re-watching Smile Dong Hae, and finding that it just wasn’t as cracktastic the second time around.
That really resonated with me, coz as some of you may know, I’ve been marathoning Beautiful Days for review, and that review’s been taking a while to actually get written.
The reason is pretty much the same as Stephanie’s experience with Smile Dong Hae. I’d loved Beautiful Days on my first watch, and had devoured it pretty quickly.
Fast forward several years, and now that I’m watching it for the second time, I still find it pretty engaging, but it’s just not as cracktastic as I had first found it.
Which begs the question: What exactly makes drama crack stay fresh / turn stale?
TYPE OF SHOW
There are certain types of shows that seem to fall into the obvious one-watch-only category. These shows rely heavily on plot developments and cliff-hangers to drive viewership, and people keep coming back, episode after episode, just to find out what happens next.
And sure, these shows are addictive and completely absorbing on the first watch, easily reaching the ranks of Drama Crack.
Once the heady first watch is over, however, these shows tend to lose much of their appeal on the re-watch, simply because we already know what’s going to happen, and there is no longer any element of surprise.
Mysteries, thrillers and melos all fall into this category, though I would argue that there are some exceptions (more on that later).
One prime example of a one-watch-only melo is Temptation of Wife (aka Cruel Temptation).
I watched this with my mother when it aired on local TV, and I got sucked into the pure makjang that the writers served up. I held my breath, gasped in shock, and shook my fist in anger with each new melodramatic plot point.
I mean, I knew in my head that this wasn’t very good writing, but I was hooked anyway.
But will I ever attempt to watch this again? Nope. Never.
Once is definitely more than enough, for me to sit through such extreme, eye-rolling makjang. I’m pretty sure that if I ever attempted to watch this again, that the makjang would have lost its draw.
On a slight tangent, a melo could also fall off the re-watch list due to excessive tears. It might be tearfully addictive on the first watch, but you may not want to go back to it coz it requires too much crying.
Other shows that fall into this category include: Pink Lipstick, Stairway to Heaven.
Then there are the shows which are genuinely heartwarming and enjoyable – maybe a little addictive, even – on the first watch, but which won’t stand up to a re-watch due to their length.
Fairly early in my kdrama-loving life, Likable Or Not (aka I Hate You, But It’s Fine) aired on local TV, and I got sucked into the warm family atmosphere which combined with OTP cuteness from Kim Ji Suk and Han Ji Hye to make for pretty addictive viewing.
I liked this show so much that I even went online to watch missed episodes with Chinese subs. Streaming at super slow speeds too, I might add. That’s how much I loved the show.
As much as I loved it, though, I can’t see myself watching all 172 episodes all over again. I have so many other things that I can do – and dramas that I can watch! – in 86 hours, that this show will never get bumped up high enough on the priorities list to warrant a re-watch.
Other shows that fall into this category include: Famous Princesses, Unstoppable High Kick, Be Strong Geum Soon.
Exceptions: Mystery / Thriller
There are some plot-heavy shows I wouldn’t mind re-watching, for a variety of reasons.
One reason is so that I can understand the plot developments better, now that I know where it’s heading.
All the little clues that the writers dropped earlier, which I might have missed on the first watch, now take on a whole new meaning on the second watch. Suddenly, a lot more things make sense, which is always cool.
Other possible reasons include more timeless things that the show might offer, like beautiful cinematography, great music, &/or likable characters that I don’t want to say good-bye to.
Vampire Prosecutor is one such show.
Sure, it’s a crime procedural, so I know the outcome of every crime, but on the re-watch, I’ll be able to understand all the little clues that the writers drop throughout the episodes, with regard to the overarching mystery and the Big Bad.
Every conversation will have added meaning, and I’m curious to see how it all adds up.
Plus, I love the team’s dynamics and relationships, and I’d love to watch their interactions and banter again. The slick cinematography is a bonus too.
Other shows that fall into this category include: Joseon X-Files, Tree With Deep Roots, City Hunter.
Despite my earlier pronouncement on Temptation of Wife, there are some melos that do stand up to multiple re-watches.
Winter Sonata is one such classic.
I’ve personally watched this show at least 4 times. Or was that 5?
Certainly, I already knew the story after the first watch, but what kept me coming back was the beautiful scenery, the lovely music and a charismatic Bae Yong Jun.
Last year, 5 years after I’d first watched Winter Sonata, I went back to it on a whim, just coz I was in the mood to watch the cute, early high school years. That’s all I was planning to watch, really. But I ended up re-watching the entire thing.
Not bad at all, for a melo.
Other shows that fall into this category include: Autumn In My Heart.
Exceptions: Long Shows
At 54 episodes, Dae Jang Geum (aka Jewel in the Palace) is definitely a long show.
Yet, my mother managed to watch this 4 times without tiring of it.
When I asked her why, she said that she enjoyed watching it for the insights into Korean culture, the cooking, the attention to detail, and the music.
She contrasted Dae Jang Geum with Jumong, which she absolutely will not re-watch.
She concedes that the story in Jumong was fairly interesting on the first watch, but contends that there’s nothing more to draw her back.
I haven’t watched Jumong myself, but according to my mother, the production values are low, the sets look cheap, the color palette is dull, there aren’t any cultural nuggets to take away, and she doesn’t find any of the actors all that interesting.
So there you go – cultural feast for the win 😉
Another long show that I personally have every intention of revisiting is Life Is Beautiful.
At 63 episodes, it’s even longer than Dae Jang Geum, and unlike Dae Jang Geum, it doesn’t boast a rich sageuk wardrobe nor intricate lessons in traditional food and culture.
What it does have, though, is a lovely harmonious tone, likable characters with enjoyable interactions, and a gorgeous, gorgeous Jeju backdrop. This all comes together to create a lovely world that I want to enter again and again.
To quote Ariel from The Little Mermaid:
Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world
Yep, some dramas create such a lovely world that I find it a great place to unwind after a day in the regular world.
Other shows that fall into this category include: Ojakgyo Brothers.
Type of Show: The Conclusion
While the type of show plays a big part in determining whether it can endure the test of a re-watch, it’s what the show has to offer – beyond the story – that keeps me coming back.
It could be history, culture, cinematography, characters, relationships, great acting or even a hot male lead.
If a plot-heavy or long show has a sizable amount to offer beyond the story in terms of these items, the Drama Crack title is likely to have greater longevity.
Which brings me to the rest of my theory regarding the durability of Drama Crack.
CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT
I always say that context is everything.
Context can make one person hate a show, another person love it, and yet another person indifferent towards it. But what makes up that context? That’s what I’m going to try to break down here.
A Sense of Perspective
Sometimes, a sense of perspective is all that’s needed to turn a show from cracktastic to craptastic & vice versa.
Cracktastic to Craptastic: Boys Over Flowers
This is one show that just did not hold up for me.
I watched this soon after it first aired in Korea, and along with all my friends and practically the rest of the k-universe, I relished it. I really did.
I was mesmerized by Kim Hyun Joong as Yoon Ji Hoo, and I thought his character was sooo romantic and sweet. I also thought the music was catchy. I was swept along by the BOF mania that captured the k-universe by storm.
A lady that I knew – an ahjumma in almost every way, complete with 4 kids – watched BOF 6 whole times.
Fast forward 3 years to 2012.
I attempted a re-watch of BOF on a whim and found that I hated it. Seriously.
Everything had lost its appeal. Kim Hyun Joong’s Yoon Ji Hoo no longer did anything for me. I didn’t find him attractive in the slightest, and the light brown long locks that I’d used to find charming on him now looked downright ugly.
I hadn’t enjoyed Gu Hye Sun too much on my first watch either, but on my second watch, I was outright irritated by her.
The music now sounded uninteresting at best, and jarring at worst. “Almost Para-daiiiise” became more and more painful to hear as the show wore on.
And the story. I could only shake my head at the story. It was ridiculous, made no sense whatsoever, and was a big hot mess.
I finished the whole re-watch, just to see if I continued to hate it. I did.
I hated it so much that I vowed never to put myself through such torture, ever again, and deleted the show from my collection.
Craptastic to Cracktastic: You’re Beautiful
Thankfully, the craptastic-cracktastic equation flows both ways, and there have been shows that I’ve hated on first watch, then loved on subsequent watches.
I know, you’re wondering why I would even give a show a second chance, if I’d hated it on first watch. On occasion, I do, and usually it’s because the show is well-loved by everyone else but me and I want to figure out what the fuss is about.
In the case of You’re Beautiful, that was exactly the reason.
I’d hated it on first watch. I’d felt that Park Shin Hye’s Go Mi Nam was too dopey & cutesy & her exaggerated character grated on me the most. I also didn’t quite like Jang Geun Suk’s prickly male lead.
At the time, I also didn’t know who the Hong sisters were, and all the campiness and meta jokes were lost on me.
I was befuddled over why everyone else liked this show when I’d found so much to dislike in it.
Fast forward 3 years, many more kdrama miles under my belt, & a greater appreciation for the style of the Hong sisters, and I FINALLY GEDDIT!!
When I decided to give the show another watch to see if I could understand the huge amount of love it enjoyed – BAM! – I fell in love.
I was amazed.
This time, I loved Jang Geun Suk’s delivery. He was completely committed to the character, and was at times hands-down brilliant in his delivery. SO. GOOD. I must have been blind before.
I also somehow found Park Shin Hye much more likable this time. I suppose I just got used to the idea that as an apprentice nun, she was just THAT innocent & naive.
Also, with a new-found appreciation for the style of the Hong sisters, I was able to find so many more things to like in this drama.
I also found Lee Hong Ki adorable and unreservedly committed to his character. I thought Jung Yong Hwa was stiff at times, but had some better moments.
Suddenly, I found it fresh & fun & completely engaging & absorbing. It felt like I was watching it for the very first time! I even stayed up till 3am watching this show. I kid you not.
Since that first re-watch, I’ve given it one more re-watch, and the Drama Crack stayed fresh. I loved it just as much on my 3rd watch as I had on my 2nd.
Now You’re Beautiful is on my list of All-Time Faves – what a turnaround, eh?
It’s amazing what a second chance and some perspective can do 😉
Besides perspective, there are a bunch of other factors that feed into my context of a show, and therefore influence the shelf-life of the show’s cracktastic-ness.
I appreciate great acting when I see it, and I find it a pleasure to watch an actor or actress deliver a layered, nuanced, sensitive performance.
It’s like watching art in motion, and I could watch hours of it, just to experience their awesomeness all over again.
I have a mental list of brilliant k-actors and k-actresses, and the corresponding dramas where they demonstrate their magic.
I love Jung Il Woo’s performance in The Return Of Iljimae, and I will watch this again just to see his subtle, restrained, yet completely faceted portrayal of Iljimae.
Other brilliant performances I’d re-watch multiple times include: Jo Jung Suk in The King 2 Hearts, Kim Soo Hyun in The Moon That Embraces The Sun, Hyun Bin in Secret Garden, Jung Woo Sung in Padam Padam, Lee Byung Hun in Beautiful Days.
I love it when an OTP has great chemistry, and I can overlook a lot if this factor is firmly in place.
Quite a lot of people didn’t enjoy Pasta because of the small story, but I unreservedly love – LOVE! – this show. I’ve watched this several times, and have recommended it to others, and I plan to watch this again – and then perhaps again.
A lot of my love has to do with the easy, charming chemistry between Lee Sun Gyun and Gong Hyo Jin. They are adorable together, and their interactions come across as totally natural and completely believable.
Other OTPs with great chemistry that I would re-watch indefinitely include: Lee Jun Ki and Shin Min Ah in Arang and the Magistrate, Seo In Guk and Jung Eun Ji in Answer Me, 1997, Ji Hyun Woo and Yoo In Na in Queen In-hyun’s Man.
Lots Of Cute & Funny
I enjoy a rom-com done right, where there’s lots of cute and a generous serving of funny. That’s the kind of stuff I don’t mind watching over and over. And over.
My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (Open Threads listed here) is pretty perfect at this. It’s got lots of cute bickering between Lee Seung Gi and Shin Min Ah, and there are literal laugh-out-loud moments peppering the show.
Despite the plethora of rom-coms that have descended on us over the years, there really aren’t that many that get it just right. When that magical combination appears, I lap it all up, then save it for a second serve.
A World To Escape To
Earlier, I talked about the show creating a world that we’d like to escape to. There, I was referring more to longer, family-centered shows where it is the harmonious, familial tone that we escape to.
Here, I’m referring to shorter shows with heightened realities that take us out of an everyday sort of world to an alternate universe, almost.
Playful Kiss is one such show that I enjoy escaping into. Sure, the acting and writing is pretty flawed, but it’s got such a nice ambience.
It’s got a light, youthful vibe and the manhwa-esque world is painted with a technicolor type of intensity that makes everything larger than life. The breezy, happy music permeates the show, and just makes everything feel so cheerful and carefree.
Everything is simple in this world, and simply resolved. The atmosphere is light, cute and fluffy, and I could linger in this world for hours at a time.
On my re-watch, I stayed up till 2:30am watching it, just coz I liked the feel of the show.
And yes, I would watch this again ^^
This picture says it all, doesn’t it? 😉 Yes, I would re-watch anything – even crap – if it means I get to see Gong Yoo on my screen.
Fangirl love goes a long, long way in determining the cracktastic-ness of a show.
If a show stars someone I love, I just want to see my someone be awesome. Which is why I am definitely re-watching Big, even though the world at large thinks it’s a terrible show. Coz it lets me see Gong Yoo being awesome on my screen. ♥
I’ve also re-watched One Fine Day – a terrible drama, all in all – just to swoon at Gong Yoo.
Thankfully, Gong Yoo’s other works have more going for them, so only Big and One Fine Day qualify to sit in this category.
Still, I’ve been known to re-watch other shows that I didn’t even like, purely out of fangirl love.
Before Gong Yoo, I used to be a total Park Shi Hoo fangirl. I didn’t really enjoy Prosecutor Princess as a show – I hated the OST and I didn’t like Kim So Yeon’s character in the show – but I watched the whole thing twice. All for Park Shi Hoo.
Fangirl love is formidable, I tell ya. It makes even the crappiest show surge up the re-watch list.
The Show Speaks To Me / Means Something To Me
Another powerful factor, is when the show speaks to me or means something special to me.
For example, if the heroine gets romanced in just the way I wish in my heart of hearts to be romanced, or the story echoes my real life, or I really identify with the character, or the character grows in the way that I wish to grow.
Or perhaps it was my first kdrama ever. Or it got me through a tough time in my life.
Goong fits the bill on so many of these counts.
Goong was my first kdrama ever, and watching it – and re-watching it – got me through a really tough period in my life.
I was nursing a broken heart and battling a personal crisis of major proportions when my sister brought home the box set, and as we sat down to watch it, it managed this weird paradox of transporting me into a different, fantasy world so that I could escape the pain in my real life, and yet at the same time, in that fantasy world, I came face to face with situations and character traits that resonated with my real life problems.
Joo Ji Hoon as Lee Shin was as cold, aloof and distant as my ex, and yet, as he grew and evolved through the course of the drama, my heart ached with hope (or more like fantasy, really) that perhaps the ex could evolve in a similar fashion.
I cried at those scenes, in part for the characters, but in equal part, for myself.
Watching it was cathartic on so many levels, and I love this drama unreservedly as a result. I’ve watched this at least 6 times, and I plan to keep re-watching it forever.
No other drama will ever touch this drama’s echelon of drama cracktastic-ness in my books.
I have a theory that the more a show meets these factors that I’ve detailed, the higher up it is likely to sit on an all-time favorites list.
Take Dream High, for instance.
It has an adorable cast, catchy music, a great underdog story, an enduring theme of not giving up on your dreams, and it transports me into an alternate kpop-centered high school universe.
I zoomed through the entire show in 4 days straight, and have re-watched it since. And I loved it just as much on the re-watch.
It is on my all-time favorites list, and I plan to re-watch it again at some point.
As for a show that has the best of many worlds, Coffee Prince comes to mind.
It’s got a world I want to escape to, is cute and funny, features likable characters who spark off one another in entertaining & heartwarming ways, and an OTP in Yoon Eun Hye and Gong Yoo who have fantastic chemistry.
Not only that, it features my one big k-love (Gong Yoo! ♥) and both he and Yoon Eun Hye deliver natural, believable performances.
Does it speak to me on any level? Aw yeah, definitely. Every time Gong Yoo’s Choi Han Gyul goes all smitten-faced over Yoon Eun Hye’s Go Eun Chan, my heart melts, and I dream of one day having someone look that way just thinking of me.
From experience, I’ve found that I am the most unpredictable change factor.
What used to appeal to me in the past may cease to be attractive as I grow and mature as an individual and as a viewer.
Save Your Last Dance For Me was a show that I used to love to bits.
I’d encountered it early in my kdrama-loving life, and was completely taken with the story, with the romance, with Ji Sung and Eugene, and with the music.
I watched it repeatedly, and swooned repeatedly at Ji Sung’s suave, charismatic character, and listened to the OST on repeat as well.
Somewhere along the way, though, I must have matured as a viewer, coz on a fairly recent re-watch, I enjoyed the show up to the mid-point, and then found myself fast-forwarding the episodes more than I was watching them.
I found the plot machinations boring and tiresome, where before, I’d been glued to my screen.
What had changed? Well, I had, basically.
With more exposure to different actors and dramas, my taste had evolved without my even noticing, and one day, a much loved drama unexpectedly ceased to appeal.
My word on that is, savor.
Savor every watch of a show coz you never know when you’ll reach that point, of outgrowing or wearing out a show.
Regardless of everything that I’ve said, mood is a definite factor.
If you’re in the right mood for it, a drama can totally hit the spot. If you’re not in the right mood for it, though, it feels off. And it leaves a weird taste in your mouth too.
Sometimes, I start to watch a perfectly decent drama but fail to feel engaged. I now find it best to shelve it for another time and another mood, rather than power through and end up being disappointed with an otherwise good show.
The first time I watched My Girl, I must not have been in the right mood for it, because I found it inane and lame. Some years later, on a whim, I re-watched it and ended up really enjoying it.
Nothing had really changed besides my mood.
So, never mind the multitude of theories about what makes a crack drama remain cracktastic; sometimes you just need to be in the right mood, is all 🙂
THE LAST WORD
I think the wisest bottom line is this: don’t rush through a drama just coz you want to guzzle it up.
If it’s great, go slow to savor it, coz you might never go back.
Otherwise, time is a great thing. If enough time has passed, a show can feel fresh – and all kinds of cracktastic and fantastic – all over again.
That’s what I think, anyway.
What about you? What makes your drama crack stay cracktastic, delicious and juicy? 🙂