Every so often, I like to pop a weekend drama on my drama plate, because the weekenders tend to lean simpler (though that’s not always the case), and those simpler dramas tend to make good drama nightcaps. Usually, they’re easy on the brain, aren’t so intense that they’d keep me up, but just interesting enough to make me want to keep on watching. The only downside is, most weekenders clock in at 50 episodes on average – a major deterrent if you’ve got limited drama hours to spend.
So when My Husband Oh Jak Doo showed up, I thought this fit the drama nightcap bill perfectly. Not only did it seem to fit the weekend drama simple sort of type, it also starred a pair of leads I liked individually, and it clocked in at only 24 episodes instead of 50. Pretty much a no-brainer win, yes?
..well, no, not really. This one ended up being better in concept than in execution, unfortunately, and I found myself dragging my feet to the finish line. Darn my completist streak for rearing its untimely head.
STUFF THAT SHOULD’VE WORKED FOR ME
Here’s a quick list of things that I ought to have enjoyed in this show, and very much so.
1. I love me a contract marriage set-up, and the associated forced proximity and growing feelings.
2. I think Kim Kang Woo is – sigh – so handsome, and here’s the Pure Pretty post to prove it.
3. I thought UEE was excellent – like, really excellent – in Marriage Contract, and I thought she’d be a shoo-in win in this.
STUFF THAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME
Unfortunately, all the things that ought to have worked for me, didn’t quite pan out the way I’d hoped. Here’s a quickish spotlight on how it really turned out.
1. UEE as Seung Joo
I’m sorry to say that I did not enjoy UEE in this role.
Seung Joo is introduced to us as a strong, independent woman surviving in a dog-eat-dog male-dominated industry, which is great, coz it’s not often that we have female leads who are strong, independent, professional women. The problem I had was, Seung Joo consistently came across as too loud and too angry. I tried to rationalize that this was all just Seung Joo’s facade; that she was living as hard and as loud as she could, to mask the frustration and loneliness she felt.
But, later in the show, even when Seung Joo is showing her more vulnerable side, I still felt like UEE was awkward in the skin of this character. In scenes where Seung Joo was blissfully happy with Jak Doo (Kim Kang Woo), that happy smile did not come across to me as real or organic.
Which basically led me to conclude that the issue was with UEE’s delivery. Somehow, this character seemed to feel awkward, on her.
As a side note, I seriously wish UEE’s wardrobe people would’ve dressed her in pants of a more flattering length. All the too-short pants looked weird on her, I thought.
2. The OTP
Perceived chemistry is a funny thing; sometimes everyone seems to be able to agree whether an OTP shows chemistry, and sometimes the reactions are mixed. It seemed to me that most folks thought Kim Kang Woo and UEE shared a good amount of chemistry. I, on the other hand, struggled to see that chemistry, throughout my watch of the show.
Whether they were bickering or getting along, I thought I felt an awkwardness between our leads. In particular, I felt like UEE’s expressions seemed a little forced. Case in point, this screenshot above, where the two of them are supposed to be in a happy place. His expression leans muted to me, but what bugged me more, were the hints of strain in UEE’s face. Maybe it’s just me, though, because lots of folks seemed to find these two very cute together. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t quite see what everyone else saw.
Also, just look at this screenshot of Seung Joo receiving kisses from her beloved, in the final episode. I say that that is most definitely not the face of someone who is comfortable being kissed by the kisser:
On the upside, there were several spots of OTP cute which I enjoyed reasonably well. I mean, the OTP didn’t blow my socks off or make me flail into a puddle of spazz, but, I wasn’t opposed to the cute. Said cute was way too naive-Disney-esque to be believable though. Just sayin’.
3. The expected weekender annoyances
There are a whole lot of secondary characters to provide annoyance, frustration and obstacles to our OTP. From Jak Doo’s clingy first love Eun Jo (Han Sun Hwa), to Seung Joo’s whiny colleague Jung Mi (Kim Bo Mi), to Seung Joo’s scheming sunbae Hong In Pyo (Jung Chan), I could always count on there being someone on hand to frustrate our OTP – and me, too, while they were at it.
None were quite as horrifyingly abominable as Seung Joo’s determinedly parasitic mother and brother (Park Jung Soo and Sul Jung Hwan) though. Every time these two came on my screen, particularly in the earlier episodes, I wanted to throw things.
On top of it all, Seung Joo starts receiving murder threats from the get-go as well. I guess in this drama world, bad things really do happen altogether.
Also. Because the supposed cuteness and light from our OTP wasn’t working as well as it should have, to balance out my watch, these negative elements felt like extra heavy downers. Especially when things got shrill and screechy, which happened a little – or a lot – more often than I would have liked.
(For the record, the 3 countryside halmonis were more in a neutral zone for me – I didn’t love them, but I didn’t hate them. But they did contribute a fair bit to the screech factor, and that’s why I’m mentioning them here.)
4. The long gayageum tangents
The entire premise of this show – that Jak Doo is actually a hidden gayageum master and Seung Joo needs to make a documentary about him – gives rise to a whole lot of politicking at the broadcasting station (yawn), and also, a whole lot of gayageum-related tangents (also yawn – sorry).
I could rationalize the protracted politicking as one of those drama annoyances that come with any drama of this ilk. But those gayageum tangents felt strangely like extended preachy cultural lessons that were shoved in there to make this all feel more “meaningful.” I appreciated learning a little more about the gayageum as an instrument, but I didn’t appreciate the preachy manner in which it was served up.
WHY I KEPT ON WATCHING
To be honest, a lot of the reason that I kept on watching, in spite of so many things not working for me, is the fact that I was watching this as a drama nightcap. With the lights off, my head on the pillow, and my brain getting ready to shut down, it was simply a lot easier to tolerate a drama that wasn’t great. As you might recall, this was the exact same way I managed to finish the mind-numbingly bad Goong S. That just proves how much bad drama I am able to swallow, if said drama is acting as my drama nightcap. Heh.
At the same time, Show did have a few brighter spots that helped it all go down easier. Here’s the quick list.
1. Kim Kang Woo as Jak Doo
Did I think that Kim Kang Woo was amazing in this? No. Frankly, I felt like his delivery in this role wasn’t his best. I just didn’t feel like he was super comfortable in Jak Doo’s skin, and on top of that, I thought the Satoori that Jak Doo spoke somehow didn’t sound as natural as it could’ve.
But, I did find Kim Kang Woo’s delivery relatively more natural than UEE’s, and that helped. Also, Kim Kang Woo cleans up real nice, and that helped too. I mean, lookie:
Mmm. So handsome. <3
2. Jung Sang Hoon as Eric Cho
I started out finding Eric a rather bemusing character with the odd tendency of spouting random English phrases, in a try-hard effort to up his cool factor.
Color me surprised when by the episode 8 mark, I actually started finding Eric rather endearing. [SPOILER] Mainly, that turnaround was powered by Eric growing a deep crush on Seung Joo, and being a complete dork about it. I liked that the more he saw of her strong personality, the more he fell for her. That little detail did a lot to endear him to me. I mean, instead of being intimidated or put off by her aggressive driving, he swoons. Ha. Gotta love that. [END SPOILER]
I grew to regard Eric as quite the hoot, with his curious mix of oddball earnest dork and egotistical nouveau riche. I also found his adoring wonder over Seung Joo the funniest thing. So when a whole lot was spiraling downwards in Show’s second half, Eric’s brand of oddball humor actually became a bright spark for me. Who woulda thunk it, eh?
3. The grudging friendship growing between Eric and Jak Doo [MINOR SPOILER]
In Show’s later stretch, Jak Doo moves into Eric’s house and forced proximity hijinks ensue. I found those mildly amusing. But what got me more, was that through all the bickering and tension, a genuine friendship eventually grows between the two men, by show’s end. This was legitimately one of my late-show highlights. I can honestly say I enjoyed the scenes between these two grudging friends more than I enjoyed the scenes featuring our OTP, in Show’s second half.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Not gonna lie; I was distinctly disengaged through Show’s later episodes, and I was eager to finish the finale and be done with it. I didn’t hate this show, but I have to admit that by Show’s second half, I wasn’t having a very good time of my watch either. Therefore, I was eager to see Show tie everything up in neat bows and send off our OTP in a cloud of cheery sunshine, a task which Show completed just as expected.
I rather like the compromise that our OTP (finally) arrives at, with them spending most of their time in the mountains and making regular trips into Seoul, with him working on his gayageums, and picking herbs, and picking on Eric’s gayageum progress (ha), and her working independently on documentaries focused on the countryside.
Yes, I thought it was really convenient that Seung Joo’s documentary idea won first prize. More than that, I thought it was even more convenient, that Seung Joo’s mom suddenly seemed so nice and supportive, all of a sudden. But, I have to admit that our OTP’s countryside wedding was very pretty indeed, and I couldn’t argue against all the warm and happy vibes that Show served up in its final hour. I think just this shot of Jak Doo taking his bride to the wedding on a bicycle, made this entire finale worthwhile, heh.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Cute concept, but the execution leans protracted and unwieldy.
FINAL GRADE: C+