The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Flash Review: EXO Next Door

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Remember when so many of you asked me what other short-format web drama might offer a fun, cracky watch similar to Noble, My Love?

Well, if you:

(a) are an EXO fan; or

(b) are into kpop in general; or

(c) are a tween/teen; or

(d) are some or all of the above,

…then EXO Next Door could be just what you’re looking for (although, if you are some or all of the above, you’d already know this by now, wouldn’t you? XD ). If you’re none of the above (like me), then, well, this could still be sorta cute. With some effort.

WHAT IS THIS?

If you’re anything like me, you’d probably have asked that question, on hearing the title.

Honestly, when I heard the title of this show being thrown about on Twitter last year, I’d immediately assumed (without bothering to poke around further) that this must’ve been some kind of variety show, where EXO lives together on camera. Or something like that.

While that’s not too far from what we get –  EXO plays themselves in this, after all – my initial assumption was so off the mark, heh.

In a similar vein to Twenty Years Old (20’s) where Lee Ki Kwang from BEAST plays himself, EXO Next Door is a fantasy drama where the EXO boys play versions of themselves in an alterna-drama-world. Cheerfully and unabashedly tropey, this one feels like a show that’s written for fangirls, by fangirls.

Which could be fun. Particularly if you’re a fangirl. 😉

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

So in order to enjoy this one (as much as possible, anyway), here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • This show is very tropey and highly predictable. Don’t expect award-worthy writing. Or any kind of good writing, for that matter.
  • The tone is cartoony and campy a lot of the time, so put on your manhwa sort of lens.
  • The boys are not actors, and uh.. it shows. It gets a bit cringeworthy at times.
  • Female lead Yeon Hee (Moon Ga Young) is clueless and ditzy to an extreme. Be prepared for the inevitable facepalming to come. Or be prepared to shrug it off and have it bounce off you like water off a duck’s back. I personally alternated between the two. 😛
  • Sometimes Show leans indulgent when it basks in how awesome it obviously thinks EXO is. But it’s par for the course, considering the target audience.
  • There’s a somewhat angsty slump in the middle stretch, but The Cute does come back.

STUFF I LIKED

It’s breezy

At an average of 15 minutes an episode (sometimes less, sometimes more), and with it’s light, cheery and somewhat nonsensical tone, Show’s an easy-breezy sort of watch, whether you know anything about EXO or not.

It’s mostly light and harmless, and quite a lot in the same sort of fluffy vein as Noble, My Love.

When it’s good, it’s very good

The good news is, when Show is good, it’s very good. The bad news is, it’s not consistently good. In fact, I’d rate the early episodes a solid A, the middle stretch a C-, and the final stretch a B.

At its best, Show has exactly the same kind of cracky fun flavor that Noble has, at its best. Show literally had me laughing out loud within the first 5 minutes, and that’s pretty darn impressive.

[SPOILER ALERT]

The way the show starts, with the whole moving-in-the-dead-of-night thing, and the EXO boys being mistaken for shady murderers with their secretive swagger and those face masks, made me giggle. And that flying pack of sanitary pads – HAHA. That was just too funny. XD

I also found it amusing when, in episode 2, the boys pretend to make out with one another, when they discover they’re being spied on. It’s such a knowing nod to fandoms and their obsession with intra-group romance.

[END SPOILER]

After a while, Show loses some of its fresh sparkle, but still manages to be sufficiently entertaining, with its cocktail of every fangirl fantasy involving EXO and various drama tropes, shaken together.

There’s an amusing spot of Dramatic Bromance

Sehun’s friendship with Yeon Hee’s brother Kwang Soo (Jang Yoo Sang) is played out Very Dramatically, and is rather amusing. Sometimes the humor works well, and sometimes it falls a little flat, but overall, I found this arc quite cute.

The PPL is actually pretty organic most of the time

Given that this is a web series sponsored by LINE about EXO, it’s a given that both LINE and EXO get showcased, on top of the story. To Show’s credit, most of the PPL is woven into the story in a pretty organic way.

Plugging EXO

Except for an early-episode, very indulgent flashback to a big showy EXO concert, I didn’t mind the rest of the EXO PPL much at all.

I rather liked the moments in the show where we see Chanyeol and Baekhyun jamming on the guitar trying out chord progressions and vocal licks together, and then stopping to talk. It feels like the spotlight on their musicality is more incidental than indulgent, and I found this way of interacting natural to their world.

Later in the show, when we are introduced to the rest of the EXO boys, with photoshoots and slo-mo bro-hugs, it’s totally fanservicey, but unlike the lingering shots of the concerts, this doesn’t feel indulgent. Or at least, it feels more like they’re indulging fans rather than reveling in their own awesome, and that helps.

On a side note, from a kpop noob perspective, my first thought, at seeing the whole group together was, “That’s a lot of members!” Heh. My first instinct was to feel relief that this web drama focuses mainly on 4 members (Chanyeol, D.O., Baekhyun and Sehun) instead of all 10. I’d be confused trying to keep ’em straight in my head. XD

Plugging LINE

Unlike The Secret Message, where I felt that Show was purposely keeping the characters apart so that they would be forced to communicate with each other solely on LINE, I thought the LINE PPL was woven into this narrative in a much better way.

First of all, the characters get to interact face to face a whole lot, which helps. In that sense, it felt like LINE was there to supplement their interactions, rather than take centerstage.

Additionally, with the majority of the EXO boys in other locations for most of the show, having the boys text or call one another on LINE was a nice way of weaving LINE into the story, without allowing LINE to be too intrusive.

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE

There are two major things that I didn’t like in this show.

One, that there’s a childhood backstory in this. And two, that the childhood backstory makes Chanyeol glower angrily. A lot.

The sad fact is, Chanyeol’s glowering is, bluntly put, quite terrible. He mostly looks like he wants to kill somebody, rather than like he’s angsting. Worse, the more he glowered, the more he reminded me of Kim Tan in Heirs. And you guys know how I hated Kim Tan in Heirs. (With a passion.)

Here’s a mild glower shot, just so you can get a quick taste.

The bangs, the thickly deep voice, and the fact that Chanyeol’s dressed in sweaters for most of the show, don’t help either, since those also reminded me of Kim Tan. I literally almost dropped this show, because I found Abrasive Chanyeol so painful to watch.

Thankfully, this show’s short episodes saved the day. As in, the glowering stretch didn’t take as long to end as it would’ve in a regular length drama, and the short episodes ensured that I didn’t have to tolerate the glower for too long at a go either.

Also, Show works to make up for Abrasive Chanyeol by then serving up Smiley Chanyeol afterwards:

The two extremes came off a bit caricature-y to me, but hey, Smiley Chanyeol was wayyy easier to watch than Abrasive Chanyeol, so there’s that.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

To Show’s credit, the finale is a pretty good one, and we end on a cheerful, optimistic sort of note that leaves a pleasant aftertaste.

Yes, some of the arcs in this show are really lame, but Show effectively brings out the upbeat message that the EXO boys are one big family, and that’s rather nice. Plus, I thought the boys coming to care for and protect their Incheon Gal was rather cute too.

When all’s said and done, I conclude that these boys should mostly stick to music. Except for maybe D.O., even though there were times in this show when he gave me serial killer vibes. 😛 Or maybe that’s just a spillover from seeing his extended cameo in I Remember You, heh.

In any case, I found this a fairly pleasant way to get a quick spot of drama while I was extra busy and had limited drama hours to spend, and get a pretty effective introduction to some of the members of EXO, while I was at it.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Cliched, uneven and predictable, but still averages out to be cute and feel-good for the most part.

FINAL GRADE: B-

TEASER:

MV:

Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

21 thoughts on “Flash Review: EXO Next Door

  1. Only discovered korean web dramas lately. Watched Aftermath. It reminded me of Death Game. The acting was nothing to write home about, and even though each ep was only about ten mins, i didn’t geel the urge to watch the next ep after finishing one. But it wasn’t bad.
    I’m watching secret message at the moment, which I’m enjouing more. It has better acting for one thing.

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    • Oh, I wonder how you’ll like Secret Message, Martin! It was too weird for me, but I know some viewers liked it. 🙂

      Yes, web dramas tend to feature less experienced actors (maybe it’s harder to get more experienced and therefore busier actors to commit?), so I know what you mean about the acting being nothing to write home about. Sometimes the acting’s not too bad (Lee Ki Kwang’s been in a couple of drama shorts and he’s not bad, even though he’s an idol actor), but it’s not often that we get good acting in little series like this.

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      • The secret message (web drama)
        7/10
        SPOILER

        Overall, I enjoyed this.I particularly liked the peformance of Ueno Juru. but the guy was good too. But unless I missed something, I thought it got bit silly in the last two eps. Surely all he had to do was text her, and say “I’ll meet you here”

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        • Glad you managed to enjoy it, Martin 🙂 I wanted to like it, but found it too weird for my taste. I did skip ahead to peep at the ending upon deciding to drop the show, and felt the missed meeting thing was bemusingly simplistic. So I totally get what you mean about how they should’ve just texted each other! XD

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  2. O kfangurl. …you brave soul. I heard this drama was so terrible, I couldn’t bring myself to watch. But here you come again to the rescue LOL. I am a fan of EXO especially Chanyeol and DO but I still don’t think I’ll be able to brave this web drama. But thanks for ur great review as usual.

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    • Tee hee. You cracked me up with your comment Shountae! XD I wouldn’t say this was terrible, since it did have some very good moments, but I definitely struggled with the middle stretch. Chanyeol is not a naturally talented actor, so if you’re a big Chanyeol fan, you might find it too painful to watch Oppa trying so hard with the acting and not succeeding too well at it. 😛 I do think the first episode is a lot of fun, though, so if you’d like to just have a quick taste of Show’s best, you could consider just watching E1. 🙂

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      • Omg I don’t think I could handle the secondhand embarrassment, I cringe sooo hard whenever my faves are making an unintentional fool of themselves. And Chanyeol would have 2 call me noona in any event ;-).

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        • Hee. So what if he has to call you Noona? That’s never stopped me from diving right in to spazz over a male lead, that’s for sure! 😉 I will say that Chanyeol doesn’t make me cringe until later in the show. So E1 is safe for your fangirl viewing, I believe. Of course, it’s no big loss it you don’t, but E1 did have me laughing out loud within its first 5 minutes, and not in irony either. 😉

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  3. I liked the way all the EXO dudes didn’t seem to take themselves so seriously. Being able to poke fun at yourself when you are as popular as EXO is–that’s showing some maturity. The couch/ window faux makeout scene in Episode 2 is epic.

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    • Hehe, yes, that faux makeout scene was funny! I thought it was very savvy of Show to give fandoms a taste of what they want, while poking knowing fun at how fans obsess over intra-group romance. Also, I definitely see what you mean about the boys not taking themselves too seriously. The script had them doing some pretty ridiculous things, and they went at it in an obviously gung-ho sort of way. Gotta give ’em credit for that! 🙂

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  4. I watched this a while back and while reading your review, realized how much I’d forgotten. It’s like k drama cotton candy; you know it taste good but provides nothing of nutritional value so best to partake just once in a while. Happily that’s about how often I’m into Idol web dramas. However, you can’t beat short!! Full Disclosure: Never heard an EXO song in my life so true fans no doubt have a different opinion.

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    • Hahaha!! I’m with you, Kat! I’m a persistent kpop noob (though I know more now than I used to!), and I have no real clue about EXO’s music. As a drama fan (vs a kpop fan), I found this a fun though uneven watch. Definitely not a memorable drama by any means, but not too terrible a pick for when you just want a short spot of fluff for the drama plate. 😉

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  5. Heheheheehe. It was just as you said. Even as a fan, I could groan and soar along. I really wish it were better written. D.O is better when given better material. His expressions sometimes go from scary to flat to cute. He does the kind of secretive knowing look well, and the happy kid well. Compared to It’s Okay That’s Love, this didn’t give his character as much depth. And I agree about Chanyeol, it was a little hard to swallow. After watching Showtime and seeing mostly bright and fun but some serious side, this was kind of weird and forced. Overall it was cute enough, although not entirely satisfying.

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    • Aw, I’m glad we agree on this show, lyricalpeach! I loved it when it was at its best, but cringed through big hefty chunks of it too. Thankfully, what’s big and hefty in this show’s world is actually only mere minutes of drama time, so that helped me get to the finish line pretty easily, lol. You’re so right, that D.O does the secretive knowing look well. Which was a problem sometimes, coz I kept thinking of him in his serial killer role in IRY, haha! XD I do wish this had stayed as cute as its first episode was (I loved E1!), but yeah, overall it was still pretty cute.

      PS: You’d be proud of me. I finished watching my first TW drama in a long time, and I love it a lot, in spite of its flaws. You can check out my quickish review here!

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  6. I watched the movie version of this, and it was so much more painful to watch than you described. Maybe because I didn’t have the luxury of breaks between 15-min episodes… I don’t even know why I persisted to the end, I’m not even an EXO fan. Most kpop stars annoy me no end, with the exception of BIGBANG. Others are just so… vanilla. Perhaps it’s the idealistic canned boy/girl band formula that just kills it for me. There is just no artistry in what they do, it’s just rote. BIGBANG stands out because they’re all highly artistic, write 90% of their songs, and they’re even successful solo artists. I can’t say the same about EXO, too plastic fantastic Ken doll-ish to be called real artists. EXO’s so-called “acting” in this drama was sooo cringeworthy, even serious scenes made me laugh out loud. Idk why they thought CY is good enough to play lead. I also saw a few minutes of “So I Married and Anti-Fan” in which CY is also the lead, I cringed so hard my face almost palsied. Don’t, just don’t.

    I saw DO in IRY, and I was so impressed that his tiny role here really disappointed me. They should have made him the lead, because even with such a small role, he managed to outshine CY. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming movie “Hyung”. Jo Jung Suk and DO! Yay!

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    • Hahaha! Your comment made me giggle, neve! 😂 Perhaps it was because you watched the movie version, so it just seemed like less of an investment, and that’s why you stuck it out to the end? Chanyeol really isn’t so great at the acting, so I think they should just let him stick to his day job with music and dancing.

      DO really does seem to have a flair for acting, from what I’ve seen. He was suitably creepy in IRY, and just that little bit off-kilter in It’s Okay It’s Love. Maybe he was too good, in fact, coz I found him a touch creepy in this too, even when he wasn’t supposed to be. I guess it’s a leftover sort of ripple effect of his previous roles? 😁

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      • I’m pretty sure it was temporary insanity. It felt like an out-of-body experience. Or maybe CY’s pretty face… He sucks as an actor, but dang that face is beautiful. DO’s too 😍😍

        Yes DO was so creepy in IRY! I haven’t seen It’s Okay It’s Love, I might check it out at some point, for DO! I just started Unforgettable, he’s the main lead, with Kim So Hyun as the female lead… Pretty good so far, but I can feel the melo coming. I’ll get tissues ready 😦

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        • DO’s part in It’s Okay It’s Love is on the smallish side, but he did excellent in it. It’s not a bad show either, I found it somewhat different and quirky, and not in a bad way. Worth checking out, when you’re in the mood for mildly quirky. 🙂

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  7. I hated kim tan too ☺

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