Y’know, I will always think fondly of the year 2012.
It was a pretty great drama year, serving up a good number of shows that I truly enjoyed, like Arang and the Magistrate, The King 2 Hearts, Gaksital, and Padam Padam, among many others. On top of that, 2012 was also the year I decided to try my hand at the whole drama blogging thing – and hey, look at where we are now, eh?
But. There is one thing that I kinda hold against 2012.. coz 2012 is the year that time travel took over the dramaverse. Suddenly, it felt like time travel was everywhere. Queen In-hyun’s Man, Rooftop Prince, Faith, Dr. Jin, and even Operation Proposal all got in on the time travel action in 2012, with varying degrees of success. Let me just say that there’s nothing inherently wrong with using time travel as a concept, but honestly, it now kinda feels like time travel has become the Trend That Will Not Die.
For the record, I’m not hating on The Best Hit. In fact, I even rather enjoyed this show. It’s just that the whole time travel thing here feels particularly gratuitous – almost pointless, even. I personally feel that this show didn’t need the time travel conceit, to tell the slice-of-life, found-family story it wanted to tell. In fact, Show might’ve been better off just picking one time period and staying there. A pretty novel concept these days, I know. 😉
The Best Hit OST – 젊은 날의 Sky
A QUICK OVERVIEW
While I say that I rather enjoyed this show, the breakdown is a little uneven. Show was sometimes good at stuff, but only at times. Show also started out well in some areas, only to lose its grip on those same areas in its later episodes.
Here’s my best attempt to break it all down (in a hopefully somewhat concise manner), starting with the stuff that I found worked for me, at least for the majority of Show’s run.
STUFF I LIKED
Yoon Si Yoon as Hyun Jae
Without a doubt, Yoon Si Yoon was the highlight of this show, for me. Yoon Si Yoon’s got a really solid screen presence, and every time he showed up on my screen, I felt like he filled it right up. Often, I also felt like everything – and everyone – else in the frame just paled in comparison.
Hyun Jae’s often written to bring the laughs, so Yoon Si Yoon’s excellent comic timing is put to thorough use in this show. I enjoyed many a laugh, thanks to Yoon Si Yoon’s on-point delivery of the intended funny. At the same time, though, I did feel like when the dial on Hyun Jae’s exuberance was turned up to high, that it got a little too manic for my taste.
My favorite version of Yoon Si Yoon is when he’s not being manic, so my top Hyun Jae moments are all the more restrained, poignant ones. Happily, Show does serve up a fair amount of broody Hyun Jae, a fact that pleased me very much. Coz that’s when the Yoon Si Yoon hot appeared as well, heh.
In my head, Hyun Jae is like someone’s annoying kid brother who won’t stop kidding around, and is generally just this cheery, asexual presence – but that same annoying kid brother also has sudden flashes of hotness, and when he turns on his broody gaze, I involuntarily feel my insides tingle. That kinda messes with my mind – but in a good way. 😉
[SPOILERS] I very much liked restrained Yoon Jae in episodes 23 & 24, when he was all sad and despondent because he was trying not to like Woo Seung (Lee Se Young). His poignant, quiet gazes said so much; I loved it.
One particular scene in episode 28 stands out in my mind. It’s the scene on the rooftop, when Hyun Jae waits for Woo Seung. I found it a lovely scene because it was so full of pathos. When Hyun Jae’s not being manic, he’s got a very steady, warm sort of presence that I really enjoy, and that was on full display here. Just the way he stood there, behind Woo Seung, and put his hand on her arm to let her know he was there, was such heart-melty goodness. <3 [END SPOILERS]
The idea of found family
This one was an unexpected highlight for me, simply because I had no idea going into this show, who these characters were, and how they were related to one another. All I knew about this drama, before I dived in, was that a big pop star from the 90s would time travel to the present. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that the idea of found families was such a strong theme in this show.
First, we have Gwang Jae (Cha Tae Hyun), who’s basically collected a mixed bag of people and made an entire household out of them. What I found most moving about this arrangement, is that even though Gwang Jae comes across as quite a lonely guy who yearns for a family of his own, it becomes clear that he took in these people so that he could help them, and not the other way around. It wasn’t for his own sake that he did this; it was for theirs.
And so it was such a heartwarming thing, to witness this hodge-podge bunch of people actually become a proper family over the course of our story.
Second, we also have Gwang Jae’s “son” Ji Hoon (Kim Min Jae) secretly collecting his own mixed bag of people and housing them in his rooftop apartment upstairs. I thought that was very endearing, that Ji Hoon would unconsciously follow in Gwang Jae’s footsteps, even though they weren’t blood-related. And I also found it sweet to witness this other bunch of almost random strangers come to know, accept, and even like one another, over the course of our story.
In the end, we get two found families, for the price of one. Not too shabby at all, I say.
Gwang Jae’s love for Bo Hee
In complete keeping with the kind of underdog character that Gwang Jae is, his loveline with Bo Hee (Yoon Son Ha) was also the underdog romance that took me by surprise.
For much of the show, Gwang Jae keeps his one-sided love for Bo Hee a secret, and simply loves and cares for her from a distance, while his own heart keeps on sucking it up and steeling itself to never be requited.
Ordinarily, this isn’t quite the kind of love story that I’m drawn to, but there were definitely moments when I found myself genuinely moved by Gwang Jae’s love for Bo Hee.
[SPOILERS] In episodes 17 & 18, in order to help with the household finances, Bo Hee decides to approach Young Jae (Hong Kyung Min) for a contract with his company. Gwang Jae, who has a whole lot of emotional baggage to pick with Young Jae, gets all riled up at the news.
We see Gwang Jae literally running over to Star Punch Entertainment, but instead of picking a fight with Young Jae like I’d expected, he pleads with tears in his eyes for Young Jae to take good care of Bo Hoo. What a profound way to turn the situation on its head, I thought. Gwang Jae went over there, laid down his pride and earnestly asked for something that would benefit Bo Hee, and Bo Hee alone. He would gain nothing, but he pleaded anyway, because he loved her. Wow.
And then in episode 19, we see Gwang Jae take a moment to consider the ring he’d bought for Bo Hee, before he tucks it away in a drawer to possibly never see the light of day again, as he tells himself that what he has is enough. Augh. I found the scene so very poignant. I could feel the wistful sacrifice in him, as he put away his own hopes for a relationship with Bo Hee, for the sake of her hopes for a revived career.
Gwang Jae’s love for Bo Hee was giving, selfless, and deep, and I found myself quite affected by it. [END SPOILERS]
All the poignant bits
As you would’ve probably guessed by now, it was Show’s poignant touches that I gravitated towards the most.
Show works hard to serve up the Funny, but peppered in between the lighter scenes, are quiet moments of pathos. Much more than the funny, these moments were the ones that kept me coming back to this show.
Here’s a quick list of highlights, of when I found Show distinctly touching and affecting.
E7-8. Hyun Jae goes to the lake and looks for clues about his disappearance. While there, he fingers a broken picture frame with a photo of him inside. There’s a sadness in the moment that lands well, even though it all happens in the midst of bickering scenes between him and Woo Seung.
E7-8. Bo Hee’s desperation to do well also has a ring of poignance to it; the wistfulness of lost opportunities, the defeat of lost youth.
E21-22. The scene of Hyun Jae and Woo Seung quietly eating in the restaurant where Woo Seung had had her last meal with her dad, is so full of quiet emotion. She fights tears with every bite, while he quietly gives her the space to feel those emotions.
E29-30. Grandpa’s (Lee Duk Hwa) dementia truly is heart-tugging. And that scene where he talked with his deceased daughter made me choke up a little. It feels like a gift that the disease is giving him; the opportunity to talk with his daughter again, after having the heavy feelings and guilt hang over him all these years after her death.
STUFF THAT ADDED UP TO NEUTRAL
Unfortunately, I found Show’s success in certain areas kinda patchy. Sometimes, Show was really good at some of this stuff, and I was legit impressed. Unfortunately, Show wasn’t able to keep it up, and slid into underwhelming territory in those same areas; something that made me genuinely sad. Overall, I’d say it all kinda balances out into neutral, when you size it up together.
The intended funny
At its funny best, Show was just campy enough without going overboard, and was laugh-out-loud hilarious to boot. That’s something I don’t take lightly, since by and large, I find that my sense of funny often doesn’t align with most kdramas’ sense of funny. Imagine my happy surprise, to find myself literally having to pause an episode, just to laugh it out.
Here’re a few of my favorite funny moments in this show:
E3-4. That running gag of all the accidental kissing between Hyun Jae and Woo Seung is very funny. Better yet, all the accidental kisses are built up enough to actually feel plausible, under the circumstances.
E3-4. Hyun Jae’s fish-out-of-water woes are also funny. His attempt at using a stranger’s “handphone” is quite hilarious, with him actually putting the guy’s hand up to his ear, thinking that technology had advanced so much that people’s hands now functioned as phones as well. Hahaha. Hyun Jae attempting to make conversation with Woo Seung’s cellphone is funny too.
E3-4. The whole sequence of Hyun Jae trying to get out of the hospital “undercover” was laugh-out-loud funny. The cameo by Jang Hyuk was a fun bonus too.
E5-6. I found the Goblin Grim Reaper gag very funny; it was so well built-up, and Show’s internal logic fully supported the joke as well. Everyone getting glimpses of Hyun Jae and thinking they were hallucinating or seeing ghosts was hilarious too.
On the downside, there were also a good number of times that I found Show very unfunny. I’d like to say that this only surfaced in later episodes, but much as I found the Intended Funny amusing in earlier episodes, the not-so-funny also reared its head in Show’s early stretch.
Here’re a few examples of when the Intended Funny just didn’t land so well, for me.
E3-4. I found Drill pretty annoying, from the get-go. He’s positioned as funny, but I found him irritating and petulant instead. I did get less annoyed with him in Show’s later stretch, but I found him particularly trying in the early episodes.
E5-6. I cringed through Woo Seung’s tummy-ache trauma during her test; it was so hard to watch. I just don’t share Korea’s affection for toilet humor, and probably never will.
E15-18. MJ (Cha Eun Woo) is supposed to be funny, with his weak one-liners, but.. I didn’t find him funny. His brand of dorkiness didn’t land endearingly with me, and I found him lame instead of amusing.
E17-18. I’m wasn’t very taken with Mal Sook’s (Lee Han Seo) short-lived romance with her oppa, even though I could tell that Show was positioning it as an amusing side arc.
E27-28. The whole repeated use of the word “drill” while Drill got all twitchy coz his name was being bandied around so much, was not funny to me at all. To make it worse, Show just wouldn’t let it go, and kept going at it. Sometimes, a lame joke can get funny from the repetition after it’s hammered home over and over again. This just wasn’t one of those times.
Sadly, the good funny is mostly confined to Show’s earlier episodes, so by Show’s end, it became easy to forget that Show was once hit-it-outta-the-park hilarious.
The pacing in this show is rather uneven as well.
In Show’s earlier episodes, the pacing felt much tighter and more well-balanced. [SPOILER] By the end of episode 8, we’ve spent a fair amount of time with Hyun Jae’s fish out of water hijinks, and his bickering relationship with his new, disgruntled housemates. It does feel like the story needs a little something to take everything to the next level, and that’s when Gwang Jae comes face to face with Hyun Jae. This feels like just the kick in the pants our narrative needs, and I liked feeling that Show was confidently taking everything to the next level. [END SPOILER]
By Show’s middle to late episodes, though, our story shifted into a slice-of-life mode. Watching this show, I felt like I was living everyday life with these characters. I found that both a plus and a minus. On the upside, it can be quite nice, to not feel like we’re rushing somewhere for the sake of the story. On the downside, sometimes it felt like the story wasn’t moving anywhere. Like, at all. Ever.
The half-hour episodes also didn’t do our story any favors. With so little general forward movement in our story, there were times when the half-hour episode felt almost pointless, because it felt like not enough happened in it.
By the second half of the show, I felt distinctly less engaged with our story than at first. Show just wasn’t as surprising as in the beginning, and the relative slow movement on both the plot and relationship fronts wasn’t helping matters.
The main loveline
There were definitely moments in this loveline that I found sweet &/or cute, but I have to admit that I was never fully on board with this romance.
Maybe it’s coz it was weird for Hyun Jae to be his own son’s love rival, but I think that’s just a small part of it. I think there are 2 bigger reasons why I wasn’t feeling this loveline.
First of all, I don’t feel there’s strong chemistry between Yoon Si Yoon and Lee Se Young. I can’t place my finger on it exactly, but to me, it always felt like there was something missing in their interactions; a certain X-factor that would’ve made their connection pop, if only it was there.
The other thing is, while this romance is positioned to be both cutesy and swoony, I felt the balance leaned heavily in favor of the cutesy, and that didn’t appeal to me very much, especially when the cutesy got dialed up so that it dipped its toes into the manic zone. Manic cutesy just isn’t my kind of thing, I guess. The OTP kisses were well-delivered though, so that’s an upside. 😉
More upside moments:
E25-26. I liked the confession scene a lot. It feels so honest. Hyun Jae is so thoughtful, quiet and matter-of-fact about it, just telling Woo Seung how he feels, with a slight smile on his lips. He gives off an understated intensity in this scene which I really dig.
E25-26. Hyun Jae pasting dorky photos of himself all over Woo Seung’s new apartment, and cleaning the apartment for her, is really sweet. I loved the idea of Woo Seung finding photos of Hyun Jae all over her apartment, strategically chosen to match each little nook.
E27-28. I like the little detail, that both Hyun Jae and Woo Seung get reminded of each other in all the little everyday things; triangular gimbap; someone playing on his handphone; someone studying; someone working a part-time job. It’s very true to life, and sweetly poignant, in an understated sort of way that I liked a lot.
STUFF I DIDN’T CARE FOR SO MUCH
The trainee idol stuff
You guys know I’ve never been big into kpop. That could a big reason why I never felt super engaged with the idol trainee part of our story. It’s just not my thing, I guess. Every time we were shown scenes of Ji Hoon and Drill rehearsing, I found myself starting to lose interest.
Of course, that could be just me.
Lack of time travel logic – and sometimes other logic too
Show is never very strong on its time travel logic. On top of that, there were other occasions when Show’s regular logic also presented some weak links. Here’s a quick look at both.
The time travel stuff
In the beginning stretch of the show, I didn’t care too much that Show was being mysterious about the entire time travel device, because I was too busy enjoying the good stuff in Show’s earlier stretch, and I had a positive hope that Show would clear up those mysteries in its own time.
Unfortunately, as the episodes went by, my confidence in Show’s ability to answer those time-travel related questions dwindled steadily.
[SPOILERS] We don’t know why there’s another Hyun Jae left in the past after our Hyun Jae has traveled to the present, or how that even works. We don’t know why it was 1993 Hyun Jae who time traveled to 2017 and not 1994 Hyun Jae. We don’t know what 1994 Hyun Jae got up to, in the year that he disappeared. We also don’t know how there can be a clone of Hyun Jae’s personal notebook, and how the two notebooks are connected. Like, if our Hyun Jae decided to burn his notebook, for example, would the other notebook in Young Jae’s possession also disappear? [END SPOILERS]
Show doesn’t ever address those questions. Which disappoints me, because despite my dissipating interest in Show’s later episodes, one of the reasons I’d kept on watching, was because I was curious to see how the pieces all fit together. Makes me feel kinda cheated in the end, despite my already lowered expectations.
A related tangent
Y’know, the other day I was talking to DDee (when we met up for waffles & ice cream, woot!) about people who work out just to look buff, and those who work out to be able to function. My point was, if you’re going to work out, don’t do it just to look good; do it properly, so that when called upon, your muscles stand up to the test and can do stuff. I mean, I love Kim Woo Bin, but when he guested on Running Man with Choi Jin Hyuk for Heirs, it was clear that Woob had been working out for form but not function. When put to the test, Woob crumpled fast, while Choi Jin Hyuk out-performed him, and easily too.
SAME THING with the time travel. If you’re going to have time travel in your story, then do it properly; invest the time to create a robust device and logic to support it. Otherwise, it doesn’t hold up and ends up being laughable instead of impressive.
The other stuff
Although not as big of an offender, there were times when I questioned Show’s regular (ie, not time-travel related) logic.
[SPOILERS] In episodes 27 & 28, we see Young Jae go to great lengths to get his hands on the $2 million that Hyun Jae had hidden, back in the day. I didn’t understand this. I mean, Young Jae is an established businessman with a big management company. Surely $2 million isn’t that much to him, that he’d cancel MJ’s contract in order to get it? After all, MJ’s a big artist in his company, who’d surely bring in way more than $2 million. I thought that was weird.
In episodes 29 & 30, we see Hyun Jae preparing to leave, to protect everyone in 2017. It’s poignant to see him wrapping things up with each of his friends, but the omurice thing made no sense to me. First of all, it had always been Woo Seung who’d cooked for them, and the only time we’d seen omurice in the show was when she’d made it. So her request for Hyun Jae to cook omurice for her, feels out of the blue, and shoved in there just so that Hyun Jae could be shown leaving her a plate of omurice before he quietly left in the night. But, there’s a problem with this. It’s a tiny one-room apartment where the kitchen facilities are right there at the foot of her bed. How the heck could he have made omurice without waking Woo Seung? [END SPOILERS]
These aren’t huge deals per se, sure. But I did feel that these lapses in logic took the wind outta Show’s sails a fair bit. A lot of the poignance was sucked out of the moment for me, when I realized it actually didn’t make sense.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
As with the rest of the show, I have somewhat mixed feelings about Show’s final hour.
The time travel stuff
I liked Hyun Jae’s return to the past, because we finally get some answers about what happened that fateful day in 1994. Given that we’ve been fed crumbs of information about the mysterious year that passed between Hyun Jae’s initial time-travel to the future, and Past Hyun Jae’s eventual disappearance in 1994, I was eager to see how Show would tie it all together in the end.
It was pretty cool to see the two Hyun Jaes sitting together side by side, mainly because of how trippy I found it to see two Yoon Si Yoons in a single frame. It was also nice to see 1994 Hyun Jae emotionally invested in what happens to the people he cares about, in the future.
I did find it a little weird to see that 1993/2017 Hyun Jae was so different from his 1994 self. They literally felt like two different people, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing since I can rationalize that living in 2017 had shaped 1993 Hyun Jae in a big way.
Through it all, Show never does explain why there are two Hyun Jaes to begin with. The entire question of how there could be another Hyun Jae left to live that year from 1993 to 1994, when Hyun Jae had traveled to the future, is completely ignored, and that does niggle at me.
Other things that niggled at me this hour, is how the heck Korea has so many twin typhoons to allow Hyun Jae to do all that time traveling back and forth? And, if 1993 Hyun Jae started to fade from his 2017 photograph when 1994 Hyun Jae was in danger of dying, then how does it work, that 1993 Hyun Jae can come to 2017 to live the rest of his life, while 1994 Hyun Jae presumably dies in the past because there wasn’t a cure yet, for the Mysterious Disease he suffered from?
Essentially, there is a lot about the time travel that doesn’t add up, and I reluctantly conclude that Show probably doesn’t know the answers to these questions either.
The other stuff
Other than the time travel issues, I thought the relationships were wrapped up pretty nicely.
First, the stuff that I felt relatively neutral about.
I was never much into the trainee/debut angle of our story, and I found all the performance-related stuff this hour extra cringey (those terrible pastel pink suits on Ji Hoon and Drill!), but I was happy for Ji Hoon and Drill, that they finally get their big break doing what they love.
In terms of the OTP, I’ve only been moderately on board with Hyun Jae’s loveline with Woo Seung, so while I had no complaints about the OTP reunion, I wasn’t overly excited about it either. On the one hand, Yoon Si Yoon delivers the kisses with a sensual touch that I dig. On the other hand, I found the manic cutesy laid on too thick for my taste, for a lot of this couple’s interactions this hour. That didn’t appeal to me a whole lot.
What I did enjoy, was the fact that Hyun Jae, Woo Seung, Ji Hoon and Drill could now sit together and genuinely enjoy one another’s company. That’s a big milestone, considering how much these four used to be at a whole bunch of crisscrossing loggerheads with one another. This time, there is only good natured teasing among our foursome, and lots of smiles and laughter. I liked that a lot.
I also very much liked that Gwang Jae is now asking Hyun Jae to stay and grow old together with him. What a turnaround, considering that not so long ago, Gwang Jae had adamantly forced Hyun Jae down those stairs all day, in a determined (and disturbingly dangerous) bid to get him out of 2017 and back to 1993.
One of my big highlights this hour, is that Gwang Jae’s little hodge-podge household is now a legit family, with Gwang Jae finally married to his dream girl. I found it very sweet that Mal Sook has even been added to his family register, and is now learning to address Bo Hee as Mom. Aw.
What I found most satisfying, was seeing Hyun Jae move back into the rooftop apartment, and redecorate it to resemble its 1993 self. The difference this time, is that he’s also including mementoes from 2017, like the sticker picture of him and Woo Seung. To my eyes, it’s the perfect note for Show to leave us on; meshing the past and the present, and demonstrating to us that Hyun Jae – who had previously found it hard to fit in, in either timeline, and who never had a proper place to stay while in 2017 – is now properly home again.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A decidedly uneven watch, but when Show was good, its strong points shone extra bright.
FINAL GRADE: B-
And as a bonus, here’s Say It by J2