Once upon a time, I used to categorize Jung Kyung Ho in my head as Dramaland’s go-to beta male, especially after seeing him in 2009’s Smile, You, where he was the sweetest beta male love interest to Lee Min Jung’s feisty broke chaebol.
(Twas a sweet and cute story, pity about the whopping 16-episode extension, which then resulted in lots ‘n lots of pointless and frustrating filler. Boo.)
Back then, I liked Jung Kyung Ho well enough, but mostly in a casual, almost cursory sort of way.
Compare that to today, when I would quite literally check out a show purely because Jung Kyung Ho is in it, y’know, because he is just so wonderful and brilliant and so good at what he does. *hearts in eyes* What an amazing evolution, eh?
So did I check out this show purely because Jung Kyung Ho is in it? Why, yes I did. Did I know what I was in for? No, can’t say I knew much at all, going in.
Did I eventually understand everything about this show, and its somewhat fantastical premise? I’m gonna hafta say, No, I do not.
But did I enjoy it all the way through anyway? Oh yessiree. I sure did. <3
STUFF TO KEEP IN MIND
So I literally knew next to nothing, getting into this show. I knew that Jung Kyung Ho was in it; that this also stars Park Sung Woong; that this was an adaptation of a successful UK series; that people were saying that this was good. And that was it.
So I’m here to help with just a couple of things to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of this one.
1. Show’s got a warm and fuzzy reputation for its budding relationships, but this one’s by OCN after all. So, y’know, there’s a fair bit of serial murders, blood and associated violence in it. In fact, the first half of episode 1 is kind of intense like that. Always good to be prepared.
2. There’s what I’ll call a fantasy bent to this show, with Jung Kyung Ho’s character Tae Joo seeming to be connected to two realities at once. Show is pretty great at the special effects connected to this, but, is ever vague in terms of what it all means.
I realized fairly quickly that the best way for me to enjoy this show, was to sit back and enjoy the ride, without trying too hard to figure it all out.
STUFF I ENJOYED
1. Overall handling and execution
Overall, I found that there many things I enjoyed about the handling and execution in this show. Here’s a quick list:
It feels nicely balanced
Perhaps the most important thing of all, for me, was the feeling that Show knew that the characters and their relationships were our main focus, and kept that in mind all the way through.
With dramas that feature crime, it’s always a challenge to keep that balance between making the cases robust and interesting enough, while at the same time giving the character and relationship journeys enough time in the spotlight.
I’m really pleased with how Life On Mars managed to keep this balance, and keep it quite beautifully, all the way through too.
Even though there are cases, those cases never take over our narrative. The cases are just interesting enough, and just long enough, to pique my interest.
And the presence of the cases is just strong enough, for me, to feel like it balances nicely with our key characters and their relationship development.
Case in point, the story of the murder in episode 4, which I found particularly sad and sobering.
First, the mom admitting to murder to protect her daughter, then the child rape that comes to light, then the poisoning by bleach, which the village chief’s daughter had used to poison her husband, and then her mother.
My goodness. It sent chills down my spine, just thinking of this character, who basically kills her husband, her father, and then attempts to kill her mother, in cold blood – for the sake of insurance money, which she squanders on the jerk who sold her the insurance.
It’s awful – and also, very gripping – stuff.
I liked that even though there is a great deal of focus on the case at hand, through it all, we continue to see the key character relationships continue to evolve and grow.
Through the process of working together on the case and butting heads with each other, and getting exasperated with each other, we see a slight but discernible shift in the amount of respect Tae Joo and Dong Chul (Park Sung Woong) have for each other.
It’s excellent stuff, and I rejoice all over again, at how Show does such a great job of not letting the cases take over the narrative.
It feels warm and kind of familiar
I seem to have a perpetual soft spot for all things nostalgic when it comes to dramas. You guys know I loved the Answer Me series (especially Answer Me 1988), and this show’s touch and sense of humor kind of reminds me of the Answer Me franchise.
The retro setting; the focus on a sense of community; the lo-tech way of getting things done; the rough-talking belying the marshmallow heart; the sometimes rude – but harmless – sense of humor.
All of these elements put together made me think that this show kinda-sorta feels like the Answer Me crew got together and decided to try their hand at retro crime, with a measure of possible time travel thrown in for funsies. Which I mean in the best possible way.
It’s very well-done – AND it feels like it is organically its own thing
The directing and cinematography is pretty excellent in my opinion, with snazzy angles in 2018, moody lighting in 1988, and magicky special effects for when one timeline touches the other.
On a more subtle note, the lighting is carefully differentiated, with 2018 using more bluish-tinged lighting, while everything in 1988 has a more sepia type of hue.
Over and above how polished and well thought-out everything looks, I’m even more impressed with how well this writer took a concept from the UK, and then blended it so well with events in Korean history, such that key events in Korean history, [MINOR SPOILER] like the environmental clean-up in episode 12 [END SPOILER], could turn out to be key to the entire mystery.
I haven’t seen the original UK series, but I don’t need to have seen the source material to be able to tell that this was a really well-done adaptation. Ten thumbs up for that, Show.
2. Jung Kyung Ho as Han Tae Joo
I know I already alluded to this in my opening paragraphs, but let me just say it again: Jung Kyung Ho is fantastic in this.
Tae Joo is a pretty reticent character from start to finish, even throughout his journey of development, and it’s testament to Jung Kyung Ho’s ability to communicate so well through his gaze and his micro-expressions, that I consistently felt in tune with Tae Joo’s emotional and mental landscape.
Without Tae Joo having to say very much at all, I often felt like he was communicating not just broad strokes of feeling, but faceted, nuanced shades of emotion, often shifting in slight but distinct degrees in a matter of moments, as Tae Joo’s mental gears clicked various things into place.
It’s nothing short of masterful, and I found him such a pleasure to watch. <3
One of the scenes that really sticks in my mind, in terms of showcasing Jung Kyung Ho’s amazing acting chops, is in episode 6.
Episode 6 is a complete rollercoaster of emotions for Tae Joo.
From his shock and grief at finding out that his dad (Jun Suk Ho) was wimpy and slimey, to Tae Joo coming around to what an awesome dad he was at the heart of it all, to Tae Joo’s horror as the memory clicks into place – and he realizes that his dad was involved in the nail polish murder he witnessed as a kid.
Jung Kyung Ho’s expression in that moment is so perfect, yet so hard to describe.
It’s horror, disbelief, denial and realization all mashed into one overwhelming wave, as it washes over his features in one long second.
His facial muscles barely move in that moment, but the stages of emotion invading him are so clear; it looks as if his eyes are going to pop out of their sockets from him trying to hold it all in.
All I could think in response was, MY WORD he is good. *more hearts in eyes*
3. Go Ah Sung as Ms. Yoon
I seriously loved Ms. Yoon and the treatment of her character – and I feel like Go Ah Sung did a wonderful job bringing Ms. Yoon to life.
At first glance, Ms. Yoon is the quiet mouse of a token female in the midst of a male-dominated team, and she is thoughtlessly given all the department’s mundane administrative girlfriday type things to do.
I love that she never complains about it, and does everything that is asked of her in her quietly efficient way. Yet, at the same time, she manages to demonstrate that she is so much more than what her colleagues first assume her to be.
I love that Ms. Yoon keeps on thinking about case details and analyzing things on her own; that shows how sincerely curious she is about the cases, and how genuinely hopeful she is, that she would be able to uncover some detail that might come in helpful for the team.
I love how smart and thoughtful she is, and I love the way she keeps thinking out of the box as well. Whenever she’s given a chance to do real police work, she always jumps at it with joy, even if it’s risky.
She takes such pleasure in her work, and I love it. So much.
She’s wayyy more valuable than the other detectives realize, and I loved the trajectory of Ms. Yoon blossoming, and taking on more real police work, and demonstrating what a sweet badass she could be.
I love that Ms. Yoon’s arc is basically about taking a woman who’s boxed in by societal norms, and giving her the opportunities to shine, that in turn put the spotlight on her talent and smarts, and give her the wings to fly.
It’s way more satisfying to watch this woman be empowered in spite of her circumstances, than it is to watch most kdrama female leads, and I loves it.
My favorite Ms. Yoon moments are the times that she goes undercover, because that is when she keeps flipping the lid off others’ expectations of her, by being a complete star.
I loved the time in episode 3 when she turned the tables on the guy who took her hostage, and then kicked his butt. That was awesome.
But my most favorite Ms. Yoon moment just might be the time in episode 5, when she goes undercover to help apprehend the creepy pharmacist.
I love that she threw herself in there and basically made it possible to nab the guy, who would’ve gotten away if not for her courage and selflessness.
Afterwards, I love that her explanation to him about why his actions were considered a crime, is not a technical one, but one that takes into account the wellbeing of the victims.
Girl’s got heart, and blooms so wonderfully when given a chance to fly. Guh, I love her. <3
Special shout-out: the burgeoning loveline between Tae Joo and Ms. Yoon
Unlike most kdramas, there is no front-and-center loveline in Life On Mars.
Instead, the loveline between Tae Joo and Ms. Yoon is a subtle thing, humming quietly in the background. I found that despite this loveline being so understated, I enjoyed it very much.
In particular, I loved that Tae Joo treats Ms. Yoon with respect.
Even while the rest of the team thinks of her simply as a convenient assistant, Tae Joo accords her with the courtesy of an equal; a police officer and colleague, rather than a beck-and-call girl.
It’s in the small things that he does; the way he chooses to address her as Officer Yoon instead of the Ms. Yoon that everyone else favors; the way he doesn’t ask her to make him coffee; the way he offers her coffee that he’s made instead.
The way he notices when she’s developing a hypothesis about a case; the way he asks questions, then pays attention and listens, when she explains her train of thought; the way he puts value on her ideas, instead of dismissing them.
It’s no wonder that Ms. Yoon melts and blossoms in the face of it all. And it’s no wonder too, that when the occasion calls for it, she pushes herself out of her comfort zone, in order to save Tae Joo.
On the other side of the fence, Ms. Yoon is the one who listens to Tae Joo when he’s talking crazy – and she doesn’t dismiss him as crazy either.
Instead, she listens and tries to understand, while sincerely offering her thoughts in response, even though she doesn’t fully understand where he’s coming from. It’s no wonder that Tae Joo grows a soft spot for her too.
It’s all very understated, and yet, so very sweet, that I couldn’t help but enjoy every shared scene these two had together.
4. The reluctant bromance between Tae Joo and Dong Chul
The burgeoning (very) reluctant bromance between Tae Joo and Dong Chul (Park Sung Woong) is truly one of my favorite things to watch, in this show.
First of all, Tae Joo and Dong Chul are as different as chalk and cheese.
While Tae Joo is reticent, analytical, and scientific, with a strong preference for doing things by the book, Dong Chul is loud, kind of crass, streetwise and proud of it, with a tendency to treat rules and guidelines as mere.. suggestions.
Second of all, to make things even more, er, exciting, Tae Joo and Dong Chul are equally obstinate and bull-headed. Ha.
I truly enjoyed watching these two traverse all the stages of this reluctant bromance, from outright dislike, to grudging respect, to trust, to solidarity, and eventually, a grudgingly affectionate brotherhood.
I couldn’t pick a favorite scene of these two, because I enjoyed every stage of their journey towards bromance, so here’s a bunch of highlights of their blossoming brotherhood instead.
E3. The way Tae Joo and Dong Chul face off in the hospital ward is exactly the turning point these two needed. They’re like 2 alpha dogs needing to fight it out, just to each gain respect for the other, in the process.
E5. The way Dong Chul princess-carries Tae Joo out to save him when he’s passed out from breathing in carbon monoxide, and then how he brings over food from his mother-in-law’s birthday celebration to Tae Joo’s house, is so full of Aw.
The bromance is reluctantly blooming between Dong Chul and Tae Joo. Also, these two are definitely giving each other respect in the course of their investigations, and I love that.
E7. Dong Chul taking a bullet for Tae Joo, and Tae Joo feeling sorry and grateful when he thinks Dong Chul died in the process – until Dong Chul wakes up grumbling. Aw, and, ha.
E8. Dong Chul mothering Tae Joo when he gets all scratched up during the fight with the thugs, is so cute. The other members of the team observing the moment, and looking decidedly weirded out, is so funny. Tee hee.
E9. Dong Chul crashing with Tae Joo because he got kicked out by his wife. It’s quite endearing how this friendship is growing, albeit reluctantly. I do love that Dong Chul looks out for Tae Joo, and even seeks out Oh Jung Man (Kim Tae Han) the day after Tae Joo is drugged.
I loved the bit where Dong Chul is so delighted when Tae Joo decides to go rogue, and joins him with relish.
He even admires Tae Joo’s detailed thinking, in terms of how to torture the suspect. And then when Tae Joo deduces how to pin Oh Jung Man down with evidence that he committed the murder, Dong Chul eyes him with a mother-hen kind of pride. It’s super cute.
It’s also really sweet that Dong Chul would drive Tae Joo home, even though he doesn’t need to crash at Tae Joo’s place that night. And leaving him a nekkid magazine too, for when things get difficult to bear, pfft.
E12. It was very gratifying to see Dong Chul take Tae Joo for his word and search for some random house with a cross on it, for literal hours, based on Tae Joo’s word alone.
E13. It’s heart-grabby stuff, that Dong Chul would turn to Tae Joo without hesitation, believing that Tae Joo would trust him and help him, when all the evidence is working against him and he’s being pinned for murder. Aw.
And when Tae Joo leaves him at home for the day, I do love the way Dong Chul grabs onto Tae Joo’s leg and whines at him to come home soon coz he gets lonely. So cute.
5. The team
Related to – and somewhat similar – to Tae Joo’s relationship trajectory with Dong Chul, is Tae Joo’s relationship with (and also, impact on) the team.
While Dong Chul and Ms. Yoon have more pronounced individual connections with Tae Joo, Detective Lee (Lee Yong Ki) and Maknae Nam Sik (Noh Jong Hyun) do not.
However, their gradual acceptance of Tae Joo was no less gratifying to watch, and Tae Joo’s eventual care for and loyalty to the team was completely moving and heart-grabby as well.
I grew to really enjoy watching the team members interact with one another, and eventually grow even more united, after absorbing Tae Joo into their midst.
Here are a couple of my favorite team-related moments in the show.
E2. I like that through butting heads on this case, Tae Joo is slowly gaining the respect and acceptance of the rest of the team, and vice versa.
E10. The way that Dong Chul leaps to his team’s defense, even in the face of something as serious as the death of a suspect while under interrogation, is pretty moving.
He’s basically putting his own neck on the line, even though he had nothing to do with the death of the suspect. It’s no wonder the team is so loyal to him.
E13. When Dong Chul gets backed into the worst corner, with evidence pointing towards him as being the one who murdered Chief Kim (Kim Young Pil), it’s heartwarming to see the team come together to investigate despite being technically scattered by their re-assignments.
They just want to help Dong Chul, and it’s sweet.
E14. I love the scene where the team gathers in Tae Joo’s house and eat food cooked by Ms. Yoon, under cover of night and torch light.
It’s so heartwarming to see them be so loyal and supportive of Dong Chul and of each other, and take the time to feed one another and just be together, in the midst of all this confusion and stress. <3
E14. Everything about Dong Chul’s case culminates in a screaming crux by the end of the episode, with Tae Joo being bombarded by all kinds of information, with so many voices asking him to do different things, and he has to choose.
And just like Ms. Yoon wisely advised, Tae Joo follows his heart, and runs towards his team – the people that he’s learned to trust. Ahh!!
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve felt more stumped nor conflicted before, by a drama finale.
I think your final reaction to the show would really depend on how you interpret the different realities that Tae Joo experiences in our story.
If you believe that 1988 is all a coma dream, and that his brief return to 2018 is reality, then he’s basically leaped off a building in reality, and either died or went into a coma, in order to choose his friends in 1988.
Which sounds completely depressing, because then he’s died or seriously hurt himself, for the sake of people who are technically his imaginary friends. That’s just too, too sad.
If you believe that 1988 is a coma dream, and that his brief return to 2018 is also a coma dream (since he said that he couldn’t feel a thing, when his hand was cut up and bloody), then he’s just moved coma dreams.
It’s still sad that in reality he’s still in a coma, but it’s comforting to think that while in his coma he’s found a way to be happy. And that still leaves things open, in that it’s still possible for Tae Joo to eventually wake up out of his coma and find a way to be happy in real life.
I guess the crux of it all, is whether Tae Joo is in a coma in reality – or if he died from the initial accident – and whether his brief return to 2018 was a return to reality or not.
Whichever way you slice it, there’s a bittersweet quality about this finale, even though we leave Tae Joo smiling and happy.
Personally, I thought of Tae Joo as being in a coma dream throughout my watch, and given that he said he couldn’t feel a thing during his brief return to 2018, I decided to believe that his late-show 2018 stint was him possibly slipping into a deeper coma.
And perhaps that’s why while he was in 2018, he stopped hearing all those voices from the hospital.
Which means that when I left Tae Joo at the end of my watch, I have it in my head that he’s physically still in a coma, with a possible new future ahead of him if/when he wakes up.
In the meantime, I’m taking comfort in the fact that he’s happy in his 1988 reality, hanging out with his 1988 friends.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Heart-bendy and purposefully vague, but really well done, and so wonderfully acted too. Absolutely worth the emotional investment.
FINAL GRADE: A-
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on YouTube here. If you’re geo-restricted, I’d suggest pointing your VPN towards Turkey, to access the show.
GETTING AROUND GEO-RESTRICTIONS
If you’re geo-restricted, a VPN service would help you get around that. Not only does it provide online safety, it also gives you access to lots of great geo-restricted content.
I personally use NordVPN. You can find my review of NordVPN here.
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So. This show. I can’t even. ITS SO GOOD.
On the Secret Life of my Secretary thread I said that I started to watch this for JKH and that I was enjoying it so far. Which is absolutely true. But I didn’t expect to get so swept into this show that I would binge-watch the last 3 episodes last night, sleeping at 1.30am when I have work the next day just because I couldn’t stop. It’s that good. Mind you, I’m usually quite disciplined and rarely stay up to binge multiple episodes of a show – especially not on a work day! And having said that I’m also not a super huge thriller type show of person – some of the dead bodies and violence made me squirm, in fact I found this show hard to watch in that it was so intense I needed a break after each episode, so I could only watch one episode a day. But yet I felt so compelled to come back to it – not because of the cliffhanger but because it was just so good.
I wont belabour what made it so good – I fully agree with your review and feel that every part (writing, directing, acting, cinematography, even music) were great. This is one of those shows that starts strong and stayed strong throughout, even till the ending. Just, so good. I love Office Yoon and I was so into her and Tae-joon’s little romance (perhaps more into it than some other rom-coms’ OTP!) and I love the bromance between Tae-joon, Dong-chul and how Tae-joon became part of the team. The relationship and character growth was so beautiful to watch.
One thing I really do like is how they incorporated real events into the storyline, for example the hostage taking and the sweep of vagrants pre-Olympics. And many of the storylines were rather dark – child sexual abuse – woah. But the whole thing was so well-done and well-written, I really can’t complain that it was dark.
Ending wise – I must say this is one of those rare shows that an open ending works. I was utterly confused and I don’t understand how it happened but I felt so fulfilled anyway, smiling from ear to ear when Tae-joon was so happy to be back with his 1988 pals. I agree that if you think about how it came about – either death or coma – it gets rather depressing but I’m just so happy he managed to be back with his friends having found a place for himself and peace within himself. I don’t need a season 2 because I’m quite happy how it ended – laughing with his friends and onto a better and brighter “future” (whatever that may be – dream or reality).
Wanted to end off by saying thanks once again to you – it’s really your review that drew me to watch this show. I remember reading your Year in 2018 wrap up and remember you recommended this so I decided to try it out when I wanted more Jung Kyung Ho. What a great show, so so so glad I watched it. <3 thank you once again!
Aw, I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, MC! <3 It says a lot that this show got you binge-watching the last stretch, even though you're usually much more disciplined! It's a rare thing indeed (for me, too!), so I'm sure it was worth the late night and any resulting brain fog..! 😝
Yes, I loved all the 1988 characters, and how Show teased out all the relationships. It felt so fulfilling, especially the bromance between Tae Joon and Dong Chul. 😍 And I loved Officer Yoon! What a rock star! 🤩 Yes, the ending was one that I didn't quite understand (though I think that's the intent), but that I found satisfying and moving anyway. That's skillz, and Show pulled it off so well. Like you, I was just happy that he was happy with his friends, never mind what the reality was – even though the shadow of the possible reality did lend a note of poignance and pathos to the ending. <3
It was!! Though I was a zombie the next day haha. It was surprisingly well done and heart felt despite its complicated premise, really due to the strength of the writing and acting from all the actors. Indeed it’s skills! I usually hate incomplete endings but this one felt so good and true to itself, love it so much.
Hope you’re doing good! I confess I couldn’t watch another intense show so now I’m on Touch Your Heart – as fluffy and cute a show as you can find 😂 I’m enjoying it and will read/ comment on your review when done!
I know what you mean, about not being in the mindspace for something intense! I find that my drama mood has turned towards wanting lighter fare, with this whole pandemic going on. For a while, I only wanted to watch something easy and fluffy, so I feel you! And I do think Touch Your Heart fits the bill perfectly! It’s light, yet warm and cozy and easy. Glad to hear you’re enjoying it and that it’s hitting the drama spot! 😀 I’m doing well, thank you my dear. I hope you are too! <3
I personally believed that 1988 was a coma dream, and then him returning to 2018 was a deeper dream, and then him jumping from the roof means he died from his coma. yikes, that’s depressing.
Ooh, yeah, when you put it that way, it does sound depressing! But, I guess that’s the beauty of this show’s open ending.. we make of the ending what we will, according to what makes sense to us. I’ll cling to my conclusion – possibly delusional, sure – that Tae Joo’s still alive. 😛😅
It’s interesting re 100 Days. I couldn’t stand Shopping King Louie at all. I lasted all of 15 mins plus some zoomed bits here and there re the first episode. So, I would take a peek at 100 days – both leads are doing a wonderful job with Nam Ji Hyun playing quite a fun and feisty role as the wife.
With Where Stars Land, some have said it’s like a comfort drama and will brighten your day. That’s true. I think Devilish Joy will depend on individual taste. It’s a story where you just go with it.
As for Bad Papa, Jang Hyun is turning in a really good performance. The highlights are the storylines between him and his daughter and his wife. The rest of it is, well, not worth it. I kept hoping it would turn for the better from the get go, however, it was not to be and I finally dropped it at the end of episode 14 (7).
Some movies you might want to track down that may help get you out of your drama rut, if you haven’t seen them already, are:
🎬 The Chinese Widow. A WW2 story based on true events. An American bomber pilot is hidden and
nursed back to health by a Chinese widow. Language is no barrier to affairs of the heart. Make sure the
tissues are handy: 8.5/10.
🎬 Revenge Girl. A Japanese film where a young woman enters politics to get her revenge on her former
boyfriend who is slated to be prime minister. So, her journey from a self centred existence to being a
better person. And yes, it has a happy ending: 8.5/10.
🎬 Two Thai films (their films are so much better than their dramas): Teachers Diary 2014 – just a lovely,
lovely film set on a lake in a remote location (10/10 from me, others would say 8.5/ – 9/10) and I Fine
Thank You Love You – a very fun romcom (9/10 from me, others about 8/10).
🎬 Love You You. A very good Chinese romcom. Stars Angelababy and Eddie Peng (he’s hilarious). Yes, it’s
2010, but I gave it 9/10. Most would say it’s about 8/10.
Thanks for the run-down, Sean! How interesting, that you didn’t take to Shopping King Louie, but really seem to enjoy 100 Days. Maybe I ought to check it out after all! I’ve started on Where Stars Land, and even though it’s early days yet (I’m just done with E2), I think I might end up enjoying this one after all. Based on general reports on Bad Papa, as well as your experience with it, I think I’ll wait until it’s done to see how robust the ending is reported to be. If it’s good, I’ll give it a try, to see if sticks. My first attempt was measly, I lasted maybe 7 minutes. 😛 But I was in a finicky drama mood, so that might turn out differently on my next try! 😉
Thanks for the tips on the movies! I’ve hunted down Love You You, and will check it out soonish! It sounds cute, and I’m quite in the mood for cute. In other news, I’ve been loving Beauty Inside, so if you’re up for another drama on your plate, it’s worth taking a look at, I think! 🙂
I am very taken with Where Stars Land. There are lots of other things going on within this show and they all seem to tie in. With the latest episode, I have called it the revenge of the sweet potato – very entertaining 😂
The Beauty Inside is marvellous. There are some episodes that are almost flawless, there is no love triangle and Seo Hyun Jin’s acting is superb.
Well, I have started watching Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter. It’s right out there, cute at the same time and fun. It’s fantasy done right 😸 🐾😸 (The daughter is a cat/tiger).
Then there is Fluttering Warning (Revenge). There have been lots of comments re low budget sets, past sins of the actors, come back drama, typical tropes etc. What I can say is that it’s good. Our two leads have a very adult relationship. They are quickly accepting of each other and have become good friends.
Ooh! That’s a pretty big deal, that Where Stars Land is lighting up your drama life so much! I love the sound of it, and I can’t wait to see what the revenge of the sweet potato is all about! 😀
I am LOVING Beauty Inside too! I’m just done E9 so I’m not caught up yet, but besides our leads, I’ve been very impressed by the cameos! So far, each one actually FEELS like it’s Seo Hyun Jin on the inside. Very impressive! 🙂
I’ve got Mama Fairy on my list, so your initial reaction sounds very promising! Fantasy done right is rare in dramaland, so I’m curious to see how this show does it.
I’m not drawn to the premise of Fluttering Warning, but I’m intrigued by your description, and your pronouncement that this one is good. I will keep an eye on it, before I decide whether to check it out. My drama hours are fewer than before, and I’m still figuring out my drama mood! 😅
Well, kfangurl, I have done it – finished the Kdrama version of LoM. My thoughts overall are very positive. This version is a fine adaptation of the BBC original. It kept me interested throughout and I really did enjoy how they portrayed things in 1988. For me, the stand out character was Miss Yoon underpinned by a wonderful performance from Ah Sung. I thought Kyung Ho was good as Tae Joo, but I did feel something was a bit lacking. As for Miss Yoon and Tae Joo together – I liked their relationship a lot. LoM took off for me around episode seven and then evened out during the latter episodes. However, the last two episodes were brilliant and Tae Joo was given a “definitive” ending compared to the BBC original.
The original is a must see because the way some of the stories are done makes you fall in love with the art of film making all over again. Some episodes have a High Noon flavour to them, with almost Salvador Dali like moments and a bit of Hitchcock thrown in for good measure. Then there is the camaraderie. Although it is good in the K version, in the original it’s at another level and when Sam saves the day re Ray, it is much more clear how Sam actually supported the team.
The K version does need a follow up series. If it happens, it will be interesting to see if they keep with Tae Joo or go down the Ashes to Ashes path 😎
Hi Sean! Apologies that this reply comes so late. RL showed up and I got sucked away from dramas and the blog for a good couple of weeks. 😛 Super glad to know that you enjoyed the K-version of LoM, especially considering the fact that you’re a huge fan of the original series! 😀 Yes, Miss Yoon was absolutely fantastic, and I thought Go Ah Sung did a wonderful job making her so special. <3 I personally loved Jung Kyung Ho as Tae Joo, but then, I haven't seen the original, and have no basis of comparison when it comes to this story's protagonist.
I'm quite curious about the original, given your high praise of it. I will definitely keep it in mind for when I'm in the mood to veer away from Asian dramas! And yes, I'd love to see a follow-up series for the K-version. I just want to spend more time with this gang of characters, they really got under my skin. 😍😍
It is always nice to hear from you kfangurl 😊 I’m about to pack the suitcase once more and head off to run another local government for the next six to nine months (which is why I enjoy so many Kdramas, and others, because they always have a comment on so much of the stuff I get involved with 🤔). There are so many enjoyable shows right now, and some of these are turning in a stellar performance on top of some of the great shows we have already seen this year. It is hard to imagine what might come next 🤗
Wow, 6-9 months is a pretty long time to be away from family! But I’m sure that you bring a lot of wisdom and value to the governments that you help, and so yay you! 🙂 Which are the shows that you’re enjoying this drama cycle, Sean? I’m kind of coming out of a bit of drama rut (nothing much appealed to me, for a while), and so I’m rather behind. I’m really enjoying Familiar Wife, and have started on Beauty Inside, which seems very promising right out of the gate, but I haven’t really gotten into any of the other new dramas yet.
I will go backwards and forwards from time to time and my wife and the youngest one will do the same.
I haven’t looked at Familiar Wife. It does seem to be popular. I like the sound of it, I just have my doubts around the time travel side of it.
The Beauty Inside is wonderful. Episode 7 is a wow and Seo Hyun Ji is back at her very best. It’s really different in that the relationship between Han Se Gye and Seo Do Jae keeps developing, thus avoiding the usual cycle of ups and downs. Also, the second leads are fabulous together. In fact, everyone’s fabulous.
Terius is superb. Full on, good old, fashioned entertainment and fun. 100 Days My Prince is nicely done. Yes, it’s cliched, but it is so well put together and hasn’t tanked like so many other similar stories. Where Stars Land is delightful. Apart from getting a very good look at the new T2 at Incheon Airport (and product placement 😎), the blend of veteran, seasoned and the newer actors works extremely well. The contrast between the leads rings very true for me and there’s a little bit of myth and mystery there too.
Then there is Devlish Joy which I had decided not to watch but someone out there made such passionate comments about it, I had to have a look. Well, it’s a beautiful story. Our leads, due to their height difference, are hilarious at times. There is a scene where she wants the laptop, but he just holds it above his head out of reach and says no. I’m not sure whether it will have a happy or sad ending though.
My Healing Love has potential re the family drama slot and then there is Ms Ma (I’m an Agatha Christie fan, so it’s right up my alley. Great cast). I won’t mention the ones I dropped (Bad Papa, Two Lives, One Heart) or those I’m not going to look at 😂😂😂
Wow, thanks for the rundown on all of those dramas, Sean! 😀 I’ve got Terius on my list, so it’s great to hear that it’s very good. I’ve heard mixed reactions to 100 Days My Prince, and one comparison I’ve heard (more than once) is that it’s basically the Joseon version of Shopping King Louis. I couldn’t make it through the initial eps of Louis so I’m a little doubtful that I will like 100 Days. But maybe still worth a try? 🙂 I tried a random scene in Where Stars Land and wasn’t feeling it, but a couple of folks – and now you too! – have said that it’s very good, so perhaps I should go back and give it another go. 🙂 Same with Devilish Joy. Tried a random scene, and wasn’t feeling it. I guess my drama rut mood is showing! 😆 I’m feeling more into dramas now in general, so perhaps I’ll have more success this time around!
I’m sad to hear you’ve dropped Bad Papa.. That was a show I was looking forward to, based on the premise. Plus, Jang Hyuk! Again, I’ve heard mixed reactions, and now not as many folks seem to be watching it. I tried the first 5 or 10 minutes, but decided I wasn’t in the mood and shelved it for later. I’m now prematurely disappointed, ha. But I’m still hopeful that I’ll change my mind once I get out of my drama rut properly! 😉
Bad Papa has a weird but hilarious vibe. Room 9 is very good so far but I don’t have a lot of faith for K writers being able to finish something so dark and specific unless it’s preproduced or prewritten. I can’t explain that but you may want to wait to see if they can pull this off and then decide to binge it if they can. I just find the fly by the seat of your pants K-thingy means this could go either way.
I might just do what you suggest with Room 9. I wasn’t sure about it either, despite the cast.
So far, very good. Fingers crossed.
Oh. And, of course, I’m watching Terrius, which makes no darn sense, but So Ji sub sotto face and kids means total enjoyment.
I’m waiting it out for Bad Papa and Room 9. I’ve heard that it could swing either way for Bad Papa as well, and since I wasn’t in the mood for it when I sampled a bit of E1, I think I’m better off waiting to see how the ending is received. I might give Terius a try, most folks seem to enjoy it – with the same caveat that it’s not strong on the sense-making, but good with the SJS funny. 😉
The show underestimates us. Example
SJS and two prison guards escape out of a prison escort van just before it explodes in order to fake SJS’s death. The super spy agency (NIS) believes this, even though they were following the van and no bodies or parts could’ve been uncovered in the van. Yet they continue to talk about SJS being dead from that explosion. Come on! I know it’s fluff, but even fluff needs to draw you into the tale they’re weaving.
I loved it Beez! That’s what makes this such an enjoyable show 😊 It’s good old fashioned super (over the top) spy stuff. It will be interesting to see how they end things this week 🤔
Yes, I love it but that’s because it’s So Ji sub. Throw kids in the mix and I’m a goner. lol
HAHA! That sounds like typical kdrama policing to me, unfortunately! 😆😆 I’m gonna need an absurdist lens for this one, methinks!
Terrius is fun, but it could be moreso with just a tad bit more attention to details, imo. I love a good spy thriller so if they had made me feel that portion was serious, I could appreciate SJS when he goes into spy mode down a dark hallway with his gun out. As it is, I feel no edge-of-my seat danger impending. I’m always waiting for the show to get back to SJS & the kids together.
A good thing about the show is (and I don’t think this is a spoiler), the neighborhood moms, including one house-husband, have a networking “club” (more like a neighborhood watch) that as they patrol and keep track of everyone’s business and any intruding outsiders, it operates better in some ways that the actual spies. 😁
Heh, that neighborhood watch sounds like a fun bit, especially if they outperform actual spies! 😆 I need to give Terius a proper chance. I poked at E1 while at the gym, but wasn’t feeling the few minutes that I saw, and promptly changed shows while on the exercise bike. 😛 But it sounds like it could be a fun show, with the right absurdist comedic lens on. 🙂
Oh, and then there is 12 Nights as well – mesmerising, perhaps something special in the making.
Thanks for the recommendation for 12 Nights; I have started it, and it does appear to be a special snowflake of a kdrama!
Yes, 12 Nights is different and tantalising. It struck me as moody and a bit arty at first, full of atmosphere. Framing the relationship of 2 individuals in search of themselves, in a deliberate ‘leave it to fate’ situation is a great hook. Can’t wait to see if they do leave it to chance, without ever exchanging contact information, in the build up to 12 nights of exchanges. Of course, what happens after the 12th night keeps us coming back until the end (or at least persuades us to catch the end!)
How they develop from having let go of one phase of their lives as they figure out how to embark on another, also gives food for thought.
I like the arty aspect that 12 nights has. The makers of this show have been quite clever how it’s used – the reflection if you will of the photo within the photo within the photo and so on. I have even enjoyed the other storylines and the little nudges those characters give each other.
Our leads are interesting in that, despite their mutual attraction to each other, they don’t really know how to make the most of it. As you say – will fate lend a hand, or will they actually figure it out? What needs to change as they let go of what they are to become what the should be?
I just think they are great together. And she is a wonderful dancer. I have seen her in roles where she is on the stage (as it turns out she has a strong theatrical background) and just leaves the others for dead.
We all want to see them find each other in the end. Well, I hope so anyway. If they stay on the arty path, anything is possible, and not necessarily what we want 😊
Oh! I do remember reading about 12 Nights.. it just slipped off my radar with all the different shows coming out. I need to check it out! Thanks for the tip! 🙂
this show is luv<3 that's it! per usual great review:)
Lol. Thanks for enjoying the review, bugs_bunny! 😀 And yes, this show really is <3 indeed. And Jung Kyung Ho! Jung Kyung Ho is 😍😍😍!
Woah!! Are you effing kidding?! There’s a Korean version of this? I LOVED the UK version of this show.
In writing class in film school we watched the original “Life on Mars” UK pilot, the failed American pilot, and the “successful” American pilot, back-to-back as a kind of case study in adaptation. (The UK version is by far the best of the three.)
There’s a moment in the American version when Sam first arrives in 1973 when he looks up and sees the WTC towers looming above him. It’s a very shocking “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment for both the character and the audience and as a New Yorker that moment hit me really hard. I think that moment resonates so strongly through the rest of the pilot that it makes it seem better than it is.
I have to track this version down and watch it — I hope there is a version with English subtitles out there….
Oh, wow, that sounds like an interesting exercise you had in film school, watching all 3 pilots back-to-back, and then comparing the differences! Since Life On Mars is so close to your heart, I do think you would enjoy checking out the K-version. I haven’t seen the UK original, but I’m told that the K-version managed some things possibly even better than the original, which is a big statement for such a well-loved show. I’d love to hear your take on it, when you’ve checked out the K-version! 🙂
PS: I hear that most of the usual official streaming sites don’t seem to have this show available. So, you could either check it out on Viu.com using a VPN, or you could also check out this site, if you’re willing to, er, visit the dark side. 😉 I hope that helps!
Dennis Castello, yes please do watch the Korean version if you can get your eyes on it. Absolutely a great watch. Maintains so much of the mood, characters and cases of the BBC original with a growth and character arc that ties the whole series together, even more than the BBC version did. Includes original cases as well and with a true Kdrama style and feel. The music is great too!!
I started this drama with low expectation but turns out to be better than I expected probably one of the best remakes i ever saw jung kyung ho is such a great actor first saw him in heartless city and really liked the ending like many people claim he committed suicide i don’t think he committed suicide and he never woke up because when he woke up from coma he recovered very quickly i know most dramas does that defying logic but still i think its a sign that he never woke up and he is still in his dream
But there are things that prove that he is imagining the old 80s he may imagined the whole thing because he saw those people in the past and he read the old case files and re-imagined it in a way tgat he has a better life and thrilling life he wanted and this drama has the most beautiful and haunting ending i ever saw he chose to live in the past even tho its a lie (Reminds me of infinite tsukuyomi)
In the entire show there was one thing that was creepy han tae Joo’s aunt crushing on him.
Thank you for another great review
Hi there Rajesh, thanks for enjoying this review! 🙂
Also, that’s a good point about Tae Joo’s recovery in 2018. Logically, he would’ve needed some serious rehabilitation, after being in such a deep coma for so long, and yet, we see him very quickly jumping into solving the case. So perhaps you’re right, that it wasn’t a real return to 2018. 🤔
I also am of the belief that his visit to 1988 was a coma dream. In particular, that scene where his dad got shot; it was replayed several times, and each time, it was slightly different, with his dad even calling out his name in the final replay. That, to me, was a clear sign that this was all a coma dream, and his mind was replaying the scene a little differently each time.
Yes, the ending is haunting whichever interpretation one chooses; a sign of a great story, excellently told. <3
I finished LoM some two weeks ago now, and I am still contemplating the ending.
I am of the Suicide School, because that’s the most straightforward reading of what the scenes showed. I am aware it was confirmed in Ashes to Ashes ( I read it, but haven’t watched the BBC series).
Instead of pondering the interpretations, my thoughts turned inwards and I was trying to decide if I hated or loved that Han Tae Joo committed suicide to dwell with the people he ‘met’ in 1988. I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that I actually loved this twist, and that all the people in the police station, his team, the bad guys and the cases, were just his deep subconscious working through the cold cases he read. I think I liked it because it validates the deep, productive and creative processes that take place in our subconscious. I myself have experienced these sudden insights because my brain was processing in the background while I did other things. There is also a similarity to insight dreams, the most famous of which is probably Kekule’s Benzene Ring dream. That the author chose to take this subconscious mechanism and explore it to its fullest, letting a detective solve a current day mystery via his subconscious, comatose state processing of cold cases was BRILLIANT.
That Han Tae Joo had to die after that, after having gone so deep into his subconscious, after his subconscious life became so real to him that he would rather leave the present behind – I found it tragic, but also realistic. It was a new way to write a bittersweet ending, and inasmuch as it was heart-rending, I also found it unforgettable.
So all in all, I enjoyed LoM. The warmth and heart of Serious Crimes Team 3 was balanced beautifully against the sad story of the clinically depressed detective.
Wow, Webby. Your take is so deep, and at the same time, so.. painfully heartbreaking. Yes, it’s completely brilliant, and also completely tragic. 💔😭😫 That ending does have an unforgettable quality about it; now I can’t get it out of my head. Thankfully, the writing is such that the viewer really can choose to make what they will, of what it all means, and Show would still make sense. So I can console myself that this is one possible ending rather than the only ending. 😭
I plan on watching this one so can read the post yet but some show got. ..
EXTENDED 16 EPISODES!
Most shows can’t handle 2 extra episodes! Wow. Mind blown.
YES. It sounds crazy, but it actually happened! Smile, You was originally slated for 30 eps, but everyone was so taken by it, and it was enjoying such good ratings, that the network extended it to 46 eps! Can you imagine the fix that put the poor writer in? Imagine having to suddenly extend your story by more than 50%, after you’ve already started telling the story! It’s no wonder the second half of the show was cycling in place with sudden parental objections, just trying to buy time. 🙈
ANYWAY. YES do watch Life On Mars, it’s excellent! 😀
CRAP! I said I’d start Life on Mars today but Viki nor OnDemandKorea have it that means my nemises DramaFever must have it so I’ll have to navigate the virus loaded clickbait illegit sites to watch it. *curses!* (I’m in my own personal war with DramaFever right now. I had to request a new credit card and I forgot to notify DF of the new card # so when my annual renewal came up, instead of auto renewing my $11.99 for the year, they couldn’t and notified me. I immediately updated my card info and their app didn’t seem to be taking it so I emailed DF and they said “Yes, we see it. It was updated. You’re fine.” But a few days later I received another automated notice that I was not renewed. I emailed DF again and they said “Yes but the system had a glitch after that and did not update it before your annual deadline so now it’s $149 that you must pay”. And no amount of my explaining that they sent me an email confirming that I did update before the actual date would budge them. They claimed they cannot go into the computer and change it manually. They’ve since sent me another automated email saying there’s a special discount going on so “come back for $49 a year”, and while I might have accepted that if they just announced a price hike across the board including past members (because I understand the K streaming game was changed when Kocowa entered the picture) , I would’ve thought this was not that bad a price but that was been before I felt they ganked me by not at least offering me that cheaper rate than the $149 when they knew I’d updated my card but THEIR system at fault. I still don’t understand how they could look at their system and say it’s updated, but then the system has a fast and now it’s not updated?
Sorry to rant. It’s just so inconvenient and I’m sticking to my guns despite it feels like cutting off my nose to spite my face.
Sometimes Beez you have to take a stand 😁
Gah, I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience with DramaFever, beez. That was sucky all the way around. How could they penalize you for a glitch in THEIR system?!? 😡😡😡
I don’t know if this will help you, but we have a legal streaming site called Viu, which is available in various countries. They carry Life On Mars, and it’s not an illegal clickbaity site. So possibly, if you use a VPN you’d be able to safely watch the show?
You can find Life On Mars on Viu here. And Viu’s Wiki page is here, which lists the various countries where it is available. I hope that helps! <3
Well, I was going to write “What’s a VPN?” but I’m not in one of the countries where Viu is available. But thanks for the links, anyway. I love how nice and considerate fellow Kdrama fans are!
Because I’m not techie enough to properly explain what a VPN is, I found this article for ya! 🙂 In layman’s terms, a VPN is a service that you can use, to alter how your IP address / location is perceived by the internet. So in theory, you should be able to use a VPN service to “trick” the Viu platform into “seeing” you as being in Singapore, for example (or any other country where Viu is available), and enable you to watch all of Viu’s content, just as if you were physically in the country itself. Free VPN services exist, but those would probably only give you enough bandwidth to do simple things like online shopping. To stream an entire series like Life On Mars, you’d likely need a paid VPN service. However, those are not expensive, and cost less than your average drama streaming subscription. I hope that helps! 🙂
Thank you! So much!
You’re very welcome, beez! 🙂 I hope it works out!
I’ve been waiting for this post! Wrote my own piece a while back. Yes! to everything you wrote. This was truly a remake done right. I loved the original BBC show (and was pretty active in the fandom, back in the day *g*), so I was kinda dreading the outcome of the Korean version. They could have throughly botched it up but thankfully went the other way. 🙂 In fact they did some things better than in the original. The cast was solid and I loved the main threesome. Miss Yoon was awesome, but then Go Ah Sung has been great in all the shows I’ve so far seen her in. She’s also a major player in ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’, btw.^^
I see that seankfletcher has already keyed you in to ending of the original series, or rather the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ take on what was going on. I didn’t like AtoA anywhere near as much as LoM and always thought that TPTB didn’t really know how to wrap up things to begin with, so they went with that solution. Besides, I have my own theory for the finale of LoM. 🙂
Aw, you schweet chingu, Timescout! <3 I feel honored that you were waiting for this post! 😀 I have to admit, I put off watching the finale for about 10 days, I just didn't feel ready to say goodbye. If I'd managed to watch the finale earlier, then maybe you wouldn't have had to wait so long! 😅
Go Ah Sung really was fantastic in this. She gave Ms. Yoon an entire personality, from the way she talked, to her little mannerisms.. I felt like Go Ah Sung must've spent a lot of time getting into character, and thinking about what this woman would be like, in every way, in order to give Ms. Yoon such a fully conceived personality. So good. 😍 I really must make time to check out Heard it Through the Grapevine!
Also. I am so very curious. What IS your theory about the finale of LoM, Timescout?!? Do tell! 😃😃
Go Ah Sung was wonderful in ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’! I feel she was just as meticulous in building up Seo Bom, her character in it. Well, the whole cast was grand in Grapevine. 🙂 Yes, do make time to watch it, I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed. The subs were kinda lacking but there was someone at the Grapeve thread @ Soompi forums doing proper spot translations, that gave loads of extra intel. I used to have it all on a file.
As for the theory, well… I’ll just copypaste it here from my own post. 😀 ” I suppose what most of the viewers objected to was Sam apparently killing himself, but I always saw his waking up from the coma as not real. It was just another aspect of the coma world, a sort of “half-way-house” to give him time to figure out where he really wanted to be. And he choose the reality he felt the most comfortable and happy in. It seems to me that the k-verson has the same idea. Despite of what Ashes to Ashes claims, I don’t see Sam’s (or Tae Joo’s) ‘leap of faith’ as a suicide but as the point he let go and his physical body finally died. His soul kept on living in whatever dimenson the “coma world” happens to be in. That’s my take and I’m sticking to it.”
Yes, I had problems with the subtitles in a way. They weren’t bad (not the way sometimes you feel the subber doesn’t understand English well and just reaches in a hat and picks words that are gibberish). I think the problem (the only problem) with Grapevine is needing extra clarification the way that sometimes Viki subbers will put “explainers” in parentheses. I totally understood the subtitles in Grapevine and they made sense. What didn’t make sense is trying to understand sometimes why characters did certain things. For example (NO spoilers) at first, I didn’t get the whole locked away so he (Lee joon) could study thing and thought it was punishment and an attempt to keep the newlyweds apart but since then, I know that is common even for less wealthy families. And the role of his tutor. If the tutor is so learned and sought after why wasn’t he given the respect by the dad but was rather treated the same as they treated the household staff? Was he a failed lawyer or something even though they knew he knew his stuff? That kind of thing that I’m sure is cultural. I never found anyone doing recaps or reviews of individual episodes that expounded on the confusing things. But the show is SO worth it even so. The humor is funny and feels sophisticated (no bathroom or fart jokes for the quick laugh). I think of this show in my head as “What Life is Really Like After When Candy (Cinderella) Marries Her Chaebeoul (Prince). Everything’s subtle. It’s not like the horrible screeching slapping mother-in-laws we’ve come to expect. These people are classy but it’s poor treatment at its best by making Go Ah sung know she’s not good enough and doesn’t fit in, even when she surpasses in her efforts to fulfill their requirements to fit in. But trust me the eventual route the story takes is very satisfying. A must watch.
Oh yes, there are times one might need someone properly atuned to the cultural specifics of Korea to shed a light to why certain things happen or why people act this or that way. I’ve watched kdramas long enough myself now that I sort of get most of it.
Thanks for the added endorsement of Heard It Through The Grapevine, beez! It really sounds like a must-watch show! 🙂 And yes, those cultural nuances are important to know. Happily, I’m no longer a kdrama noob, so I should be able to recognize and navigate at least most of the cultural quirks 😋
I consider myself a “Koreaboo”. I’m not sure the exact meaning but I think it’s a negative slang for somebody caught up in everything Hallyu. And I embrace it. Ha! I discovered Kdrama in 2014 because of an illness that put me flat on my back with nothing else to do. I’ve watched what most people would consider an inordinate amount of Kdramas in that time because, while I’m better than I was, I’m still limited and can no longer work. Everytime I run into something I don’t understand I research it so I feel pretty confidently familiar (at least I rarely run into this things anymore). But this is a bit different. I’ll be glad to see your review once you watch Grapevine. You’ll either be able to fill me in or have the same minor puzzlement. Maybe you’ll have the resources to find out. They were small enough not to ruin the show and I can’t remember specifics.
I actually kept notes of many colloquiallisms and old sayings and their meanings. Unfortunately, I dropped that phone in water and nothing was backed up to a cloud like I do now. 🙁
Aw, I’m sorry to hear of your health troubles, beez, but I’m glad to know that you’re doing better than you were in 2014. Hugs. I’m glad that you found a silver lining in kdramas – the dramaverse is a friendlier and happier place with you in it! <3
I have no idea how well I'll be able to unveil the cultural quirks in Grapevine, but I'll do what I can! 🙂
Thanks for the well wishes. I have met some of the best people because of Kdrama and the fact that no one that I know in real life watches (or understands why I watch), which drove me to the internet. 😊
Same here. I came online because no one around me in real life wanted to talk about dramas in the way that I wanted to talk about dramas. And I’ve met some of the loveliest people here. 🙂 Thank you for being one of them! <3
Awwwwww, shucks. 😊
I like it! 😎
Ah, thanks for sharing your take, Timescout! I saw your post when it came out, but I must’ve ninja-dodged past this coz I was far from finishing the show at the time, and didn’t want to accidentally collide with a spoiler. 😛 I like your theory (even though it means that Tae Joo died, sob).. at least he doesn’t actually commit suicide. But I can buy that the leap off the building in another coma dream, was the point at which he stopped holding on to his 2018 world, and that makes sense that that is when his physical body died. The silver lining to this, I suppose, is that his soul will always keep on living with his friends in 1988 – and beyond.
I’ve got Heard It Through The Grapevine stored away for Someday, but based on your description of how well Go Ah Sung develops her character in that, I think I need to bring forward Someday after all! 😉
LoM is certainly one of those shows you don’t want to spoil yourself for. As I’d already seen the original, I didn’t mind the occasional spoiler myself. ☺ Yup, that ending just made sense to me, it’s nothing at the end is written in stone, one can interpret it in more than one way.
Sheesh, that reply just escaped from me! 😁 I ment… “as nothing in the enging is written in stone”
Looking forward to your take on Grapevine. It did sort of make people write pages and pages. And discuss the plot and the motives of the characters.
Yes, that’s true, that nothing at the end is written in stone. The more I think about that, the more I have to credit the writers (original AND ones writing the adaptation).. that takes some brilliance, to be able to craft something that can be interpreted in multiple ways! 😲
Also! You truly always know which buttons to push when it comes to enticing me to try a new drama, Timescout! 😂 That thing about Grapevine making people write pages and pages? That absolutely intrigues me. 😉
It did! Grapevine had even me writing 9 posts about it, I think I mentioned that somewhere before. 😅 The first three are more or less non spoilery if you want to take a peek. I wasn’t the only blogger having a spree of waxing lyrical either, even the Soompi Forum thread has 200 pages. *g* Plus the drama is absolutely hilarious in places. There are scenes where I was in tears from laughing.
OHMYGOSH, NINE POSTS?!?? 😲😲 That’s really something! Ok, I will creep through your posts as I watch the episodes.. soonish! 😁 Cry-laughing sounds really promising indeed – I rarely ever laugh until I cry with a drama (tho I seem to do it fairly often in RL!), so I’m especially hopeful about that! 😉
Well, my sense of humor can be a bit “wonky” at times, so it’s quite possible you won’t find the scenes as funny as I did. 😁 Most of the funnies are more on the subtle side though and it gets even more so as the story progresses. I still couldn’t help but to be amused by some of the absurities presented. ☺
Ahaha! You’re making me curious! 😆 I wanna know if my sense of humor matches yours now! 😁 Also, subtle is good. I like subtle!!! (so I say, as I type all the exclamation points! 😂)
Ha, I’m kinda curious too now. 😉
Grapevine was described as black comedy and I think it’s pretty apt.
I will let you know how it goes! 😀 It’s weird. I used to laugh a lot more at my screen, and cry a lot less, years ago. But I find that lately, I cry more easily at my screen, but it’s not often that I find myself laughing at my screen anymore. How mysterious! 🤔
Would you mind telling me where I can find the discussions of Grapevine?
Here –> https://forums.soompi.com/en/topic/345033-drama-2015-heard-it-through-the-grapevine
The actual episode discussions start around page 11 which is when the drama started airing in Korea. It’s around page 140 when “baduy” starts posting and later on translating bits of dialog. I don’t know if “baduy” is Korean or just a Korean speaker and knowledgeable on the customs of the country, but he/she brought quite a bit insights into the thread. The subbers did their best, but especially towards the end when the language got kinda technical and harder to understand, there were more mistakes and even totally wrong translations. The Grapevine thread is 200 pages long, so it’ll probably take several days to wade through. 🙂 It’s a good read though.
I didn’t always agree with some of the posters but that’s my prerogative. It was a pretty civil thread, which is not always the case @ the Soompi Forums. I never posted there myself, mind. I was just a lurker.^^
Thanks, Timescout. I’ll check it out. Maybe it’s time for a rewatch because I also recently found recaps http://couch-kimchi.com/recaps-reviews/k-drama/heard-it-through-the-grapevine/
THAT DID IT! In general I have no connection to the Kdrama actresses and usually watch for the oppa’s and ahjusshi’s but Go Ah sung is one of my favorites and with your description of her role here in the comments, I’m going to start this today! (Then I’ll come back to read your review🙂)
She truly is fantastic in LoM, so I’m glad that comment bumped this show right to the top of your watch list, beez! 😀
I see John Simm is up for a LoM reboot https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-09-04/john-simm-life-on-mars-reboot-doctor-who/ In this article he mentions time travel 🤔
Thanks for the notice and link to the article, Sean Fletcher. I’d be interested in a LoM reboot if it ever happened. It’s intriguing that John Simm says LoM is time travel, but he may be using the phrase loosely, as a quick way to denote something of the kind of other-worldliness of the show. Maybe if we can even understand what it means, we can also call it an ‘alternate reality, time-warp, life-after-life’ show, which is a mouthful. 😉
I don’t imagine I could get to watch Strangers until it’s completed airing. But it’s likely a show I could get into as well.
Hello Growing Beautifully, yes that’s the way I do think John Simm is referring to things. He has also just completed a wonderful interview with the Independent where he talks about Strangers and throws in some funny comments about LoM as well. He is a brilliant actor. So, as soon as I see him headlining anything, I lock it in. Strangers looks like my cup,of tea!
Great review! I really enjoyed this one and it’s gotten me on a Jung Kyung Ho roll, I’m in luff ❤. I watched One More Happy Ending right after this and was extremely satisfied with his delivery in both roles.
I would totally be on board for a sequel if they ever decide to do one, especially since that last epilogue scene leaves it open to that idea. All the better if it means seeing our lovely 1988 team back in action!
Hi there charlayne! Thanks for enjoying the review! 🙂 I’m not at all surprised that this got you on a Jung Kyung Ho roll, he is just so wonderful to watch. 😍😍 He’s excellent in OMHE, though I didn’t think the show itself was that great. Have you seen Falling For Innocence (my review is here)? I thought that was better than OMHE. Also, if you haven’t seen it, I do recommend Heartless City (aka Cruel City)(my review here). It kind of noir, and the loveline is almost like an afterthought, and the writing is somewhat flawed, but OMIGOSH Jung Kyung Ho is SO mesmerizing in it! I personally felt this was his breakthrough role. Before Heartless City, I always thought of him as more the beta male type. But oh my, the badassery was smokin’! 😍😍
Yup I’ve seen Falling for Innocence, in fact it was my introduction to Jung Kyung Ho and I loved it, especially his swoony gazes. 😍
I will definitely check out Heartless City when I’m in the mood for noir because I’ll bet it would be worth it even just for Jung Kyung Ho’s performance!
Oh yes, Jung Kyung Ho’s swoony gazes are quite something indeed! 😍😍😍 Yes, do put Heartless City on your list! It’s quite rare for Dramaland to go noir, so this was quite a daring show, I thought. And it was very solid, in spite of its flaws. And you are so right, it was worth it for Jung Kyung Ho’s performance alone. My word. He gave me chills. 🤩🤩🤩
I would not even know who you guys are talking about if I hadn’t just watched Time Between Dog and Wolf last week.
Ah! I really enjoyed Time Between Dog and Wolf! 😀 Old-school and therefore a little dated in its production values, but such a good watch all the same! Glad you made time for it, beez! 🙂
He was pretty badass pre-heart transplant in “Falling for Innocence,” too. I think he’s the kind of actor who can transcend bad direction/writing (*Missing Nine* looking at you)
Such a great actor!
Now I real;y want to watch this…I hope it becomes available in the U.S. soon!
I agree; he is the kind of actor who is able to lift the writing to another level. Whether it’s bad writing, or already good writing, he takes it higher. 😍 I still won’t watch Missing Nine though.. I heard that was really quite bad. 😛
I hope you’ll get to watch this soon Blenny! Otherwise, I suggest using a VPN to watch it off Viu. It’s a legal streaming site; it’s just geo-restricted, but a decent VPN subscription will help you get around that. 🙂
Okay, I will stick my big toe in and have a look. I’m not so sure about knowing all kinds of cool things, but I seem to know a bit about nothing much 😋
A long time ago I studied to be an archaeologist, and along the way became a member of the Egypt Exploration Society. Anyway, some may argue that this Show has more of a Greek mythical twist. However, the basic premise is the journey through the afterlife and the challenges you face along the way until the final judgement 👣
I’m currently watching Mr Sunshine – Gee whiz, our lead couple share perhaps one of the best love stories of all time. Then there’s Life. Nearly dropped this three times before it started to be to my viewing satisfaction! A brilliant cast, just, well, it’s patchy. Time is surprisingly good as is Let Me Introduce Her (both are light romantic thrillers. Lee Mi Sook is playing a more chilled out villainess in the latter 😜). Then there is Your House Helper which I think is wonderful (in fact this show deals with some really difficult issues in a very gentle way). Voice 2 has taken a bit to settle down (not for the faint hearted). As for My ID is Gangnam Beauty – I lasted for one episode before dropping it, for a whole range of reasons. On the Cdrama front there is Bloody Romance. I like it.
A big toe sounds good! 😀 Also, wow that you studied to be an archaeologist! 😱 I always learn new and unexpected things about you! 😀 That’s a very interesting angle, that this story is basically the protagonist’s journey through the afterlife. I’m gonna have to chew on that a little bit, coz that would put a whole new spin on quite a lot of things. 🤔 So.. who are the people that he interacts with in this “afterlife reality”? Would they also be people working their way through the afterlife?
I’ve watched just the first few episodes of Mr. Sunshine, and it’s starting to settle for me quite well, I think. I hope I’ll continue to enjoy it. I’m being cautious because I wasn’t very taken with many of writer-nim’s previous works. 😛 I’ve got Life on my list because of the writer, but haven’t started on it yet. Good to know that it picks up! I am rather faint-hearted with my dramas (I chickened out of Live once I got to the bloody scene where the woman lost her tongue – eek), so I think Voice 2 isn’t for me either. 😛 I might check out My ID is Gangnam Beauty though. Curious question: what didn’t work for you, with that one? I saw some positive reactions on Twitter, which is why I was thinking of checking it out.
PS: I’m not surprised you’re enjoying Bloody Romance – it sounds like just the kind of quirky fantastical thing that would tickle your fancy! 😉
Yes, in Life on Mars, the people our protagonist interacts with are also others working their way through the afterlife. In essence they have forgotten how they got there and where they are going. Kang Dong Cheol is “aware” and acts as the guide if you like through the afterlife reality. So, if they ever do a sequel, it will be interesting to see how this whole premise is handled 🤔
With Mr Sunshine, the later episodes are breathtaking. The overall characterisation gets better and better. Kudo Hina is wonderful as the sword wielding hotel owner. There is a magnificent scene at the end of episode 11 where Kudo Hina is duelling with Ae Sin. So, sword vs rifle. Who wins – you will have to watch to find out. Dong Mae just goes to a whole new level and it’s hard to imagine anybody else playing Hui Seong. When they hand out the acting awards down the track, how they will end up choosing between the performances in My Mister and Mr Sunshine, I have no idea 😱
Life doesn’t really have many icky bits. It’s really about the relationships, ethics and courage of convictions. As for Live, I lasted one episode. I know a lot of people liked it, but it irritated me (gee, I’m not going too well am I? 🤨). Voice 2 started out tame compared to Voice which had some stellar moments and a monstrous bad guy. However, despite some of the grossness in Voice 2, it is sanitised to a large extent (left up to your imagination), whereas Voice was quite confronting.
With My ID is Gangam Beauty, it is popular and there is a lot of support for it. For me it started off really well. I’m a fan of Im Soo Hyang and she plays a good part, but she almost seems too old for the role. Also, Mi Rae’s journey through university wasn’t quite ringing true in terms of how she ends up doing certain things. I did check this out re the original story and I was right. Then there was her father not recognising her after the plastic surgery and the sleazy sophomores. I just didn’t feel compelled to go back in and have another look. So, I think you should at least check it out initially and take it from there😊
Although I wanted to be an archaeologist, that didn’t happen in the end, but I have a great interest in it still and keep myself across the current trends. I stumbled into other things and have never looked back. However, in dealing with a number of issues throughout my career it has been very handy regarding cultural issues and so on, both local and otherwise 😎
Gasp. I feel like my entire perception of the 1988 world is tilting on its axis, after this revelation. 🤯 Everyone is dead and working their way through the afterlife, except for Dong Chul, who is the guide?!? That DOES make the idea of a sequel very intriguing. As in, I have no idea how they would handle that angle. 😱 Still, I did come across some viewers of the K-version, who chose to believe that Tae Joo died in the initial accident, and that this was him in some sort of purgatory, which works with the idea of him working his way through the afterlife. Innnteresting. 🤔
You make Mr. Sunshine sound amazing – so I will keep on watching with a positive hope that I will see the same amazing that you see! 😀 Thanks for the insights into Life, Voice 2 and Gangnam Beauty. I will try out a few eps of Gangnam Beauty and see if it sticks, for me. 🙂
Also! Who would’ve thought that your studies in archeology would actually come in so handy, when you didn’t actually become an archeologist?!? 😆 I bet I’m not the only one who thinks that you always seem to know lots of cool and unexpected things! 😉
Yeah – it’s a great concept 😊 and thank you re your other comments ⭐️
Mr. Sunshine is the show that got me hooked on kdramas in the first place. As an American guy the over-the-top melodrama and (what I would consider) weird editing put me off at first, but the premise, and the production value, was just so brilliant that I could not stop watching. [This guy is a freakin’ US Marine Corps officer — Oorah! It’s hard to explain how much pride I feel seeing Lee Byung-hun in that uniform.]
My biggest frustration is that I have no one to talk to about these shows — lol!
I took a Korean buddy of mine out to dinner to grill him with questions but he doesn’t watch these shows and he doesn’t work in the TV biz so his response was basically, “dude, what’s wrong with you?” lol
Hello, Dennis! Welcome to the magical world of kdramas! I am loving Mr Sunshine as well, and the writer is one of my favorites. If you come over to the recaps of Mr. Sunshine at Dramabeans you’ll find a discussion/comments section where you can talk about the episode with other fans. I look forward to seeing you there! Mary (aka beantown)
P.S. This complements (but does not replace) the excellent summations of Fangurl!
Thanks, I’ll definitely check it out!
As you’ve discovered there’s a huge difference in a Korean and a Korean-American (unless the Korean American ‘s family has maintained close ties to Korea and/or travels/visits Korea fairly often. So an American-born Korean probably can’t help you. lol This is why most of us took to the internet – to find someone to discuss these shows with.
As to your interest in the military, might I suggest :
Descendants of the Sun – although this is more of a somewhat light romance but it’s by the same writer and production team as Mr. Sunshine. In between the dire circumstances of a fictional war in a divination country, it’s played for laughs.
Six Flying Dragons is an amazing show regarding the life of one of Korea’s kings and how he helped his father establish a new dynasty. I can only say trust me on this one.
To see summaries of what these sites are about, check out AsianWiki.com
i fell in love with Jung Kyung Ho after Prison Playbook, am so gonna watch this drama.
oh, actually now i’m watching Voice (better late than never :p) and i tried to search voice on your review list but couldn’t find it, didn’t you write about it? it’s Jang hyuk’s drama so i’m sure you already watch it right? 😀
Oh, I’m sure you’ll love Jung Kyung Ho in this show, then! 😀 He’s just wonderful. <3
Also.. I confess I never watched Voice coz I'd heard that it was pretty violent, and I don't often watch violent shows. 😛 I am a terrible fan. I don't always watch all of my bias' works, eek! 😝
Another wonderful review. So the challenge for me is whether I watch this version or not because in my view the UK original is one of the best shows ever made. From what I read elsewhere, as well further to the above by Growing Beautifully, it certainly does follow the premise of the original.
To answer the question you raise (as have many others) what was really going on, you would have to watch the ending to its sequel Ashes to Ashes (yes, the David Bowie theme continues). It is the most extraordinary, beautiful and original ending to any show I have ever seen. All I will say is, if you know your eqyptian mythology, the whole story makes perfect sense 😀
Aw, thanks for enjoying the review, Sean! 😀
I haven’t seen the original, but like you, I’ve read that it does follow the premise of the original. And I’ve also heard from another drama fan (besides Growing Beautifully), that the K-version does a couple of things better. That might be especially hard for you to believe, since you hold the original in such high regard.. But I do think you might enjoy taking a look at the K-version. Some remakes feel like complete copies of their source material, but in this case, because of how Korean it all feels, even with its use of historical details in its cases, I’d dare venture that this will feel fresh enough to be worth your time. 🙂
PS: I am sad that I know nothing about Egyptian mythology. You always seem to know all kinds of cool things Sean! 😉
I did have it in mind that I might pick up Ashes to Ashes. I’ve happily spoiled myself in knowing what it’s supposed to be about, but that does not detract from the enjoyment for me as long as the plot is solid and the relationships and characters evolve. I guess it’s just a matter of squeezing out some time to watch yet another series. 😎 Pity Sam won’t be in it though.
Yes, John Simm was brilliant as Sam. Keeley Hawes is the protagonist in Ashes to Ashes and I thought she did a great job. Philip Glenister though as Gene just goes on to steal the show over the three series and Daniel Mays plays a fine hand as the evil DCI (Satan!). Annie continues to be fab and Ray does evolve!
I agree in your estimation of the UK original — that show was like a bolt from the blue in its originality and quality writing. When I finished my first watch-thru of it, I immediately went back and watched it all again. I’ve only ever done that with one other show, Joe Ahearne’s vampire series, “Ultraviolet.”
I definitely agree that Ultraviolet is a very special show. In terms of the vampire genre, it took things to a whole new level. It had a great cast, with a story that did away the traditional mythology. Awesome!
Now that I’m all excited about it, is there some site that goes thru Roku that I’ll be able to watch it? Did I hear Netflix was going to air it? Maybe I was dreaming. Thanks.
Hm.. I hafta say I don’t know the answer to that question, Islander! 😛 I did a google search but couldn’t find information about whether Netflix is going to air it. I hope someone else on this page will be able to help you out with your question! And I hope you’ll be able to check this show out soon! 🙂
Netflix is currently playing Prison Playbook in the states…..I do not know about elsewhere!
Thanks for that Mary 🙂 Do you know whether Netflix has also got Life On Mars? 🙂
No, it does not! I used one of the free sites because it was not showing on any of my usual suspects (Viki, Dramafever, Netflix or Hulu). Btw, I loved Life on Mars!
I am very salty when it comes to Netflix subs…I feel they lose a lot of the nuance in translation.
Right now I can’t help but compare the language of Goblin to Mr Sunshine, I feel Mr Sunshine is the poorer for having Netflix.
Sigh. It’s true that subs are so important for international fans. It can make or break the watch experience. Nuanced subs are precious, but also quite rare these days. I feel like the Viki subbers do the best job because they are fan subbers with a real passion for the drama, versus paid subbers who are just doing their job. Time for everyone to learn Korean, perhaps? 😛
Also! Yay that you loved Life On Mars! 😀 It really is excellent. <3
No, it does not! I used one of the free sites because it was not showing on any of my usual suspects (Viki, Dramafever, Netflix or Hulu). Btw, I loved Life on Mars!
I am very salty when it comes to Netflix subs…I feel they lose a lot of the nuance in translation.
Right now I can’t help but compare the language of Goblin to Mr Sunshine, I feel Mr Sunshine is the poorer for it.
I have been watching Prison Playbook with Jung Kyung Ho as well, and I love him in it. Unfortunately, I have this imaginary policy of having to finish a show I’m watching with a particular actor before I start another one soI don’t get his characters confused. So, I haven’t been able to catch Life on Mars yet. But, I’ve heard only good things about it. I’m not surprised you enjoyed this one! I’m looking forward to the bromance the most in this. When I have a few hours to kill, because I’m thinking this will have to be a binge watch—to many cliffhangers otherwise!
Hey there Ally! 😀 Hi5, coz I actually have the same imaginary policy too! 😆 It makes perfect sense to me, because when I’m watching a drama, immersion is very important to me. I want to be able to believe that the actor IS the character, and seeing the actor in a different drama as a different character at the same time, just messes with my immersion, in principle. So I do actively avoid watching the same actor in a different show, just like you. There was only time I accidentally broke that rule, when my watch of Ojakgyo Brothers happened to overlap with my watch of Gaksital. I have to say, though, I was pleasantly surprised. I was blown away by Joo Won in both roles; on paper the 2 characters sounded similar: reticent police officers with hidden angst. But, in execution, they felt like 2 completely different people, and I had no immersion whiplash to speak of. That’s testament to Joo Won’s delivery, but I certainly still don’t actively overlap same-actor watches, despite that positive accidental experience! 😆
Glad you’re enjoying Prison Playbook – I loved that show as well. Just, so full of heart. <3 This one is a good one to save for later, for when you're done with Prison Playbook. 🙂
Oh I’m so glad you’ve watched Life on Mars and reviewed it and loved it as you do, because yes, this show really was that good. I feel the same way as you, about the same things and I was reading it all with a smile and many a nod.
This show made me watch the original BBC Series, just to know what it was like, how much was similar, … how I might like it. I made a comparison (posted elsewhere) and at the end of watching both versions of Life on Mars, I can say that for me, the better liked, warmer and more satisfying version was the Kdrama adaptation. The character growth, which was so important for this series, was evident and ever forward moving in this version. The relationship development too, blossomed so satisfactorily. Tae Joo’s personal trajectory and development were so well done (better done) in this Kdrama, and it gave him more moments of time spent with his family of the past, that made the loss of his father that much more poignant. Some of these bits, the BBC version did not quite have to the same degree or at all.
The BBC version was creepier in some aspects and maybe a mite funnier in the ‘fish out of water’ scenes of poor Sam Tyler, who forgot that his 1973 did not have the stuff of 2006.
Personally, after reading your review, and feeling all warm and happy about this show, I will give it an A+ It hit all the right spots. It gave us a great a crime and mystery solving show with procedural, rollicking good action and lovely human moments. I even like the open-ended ending where the audience gets to close it in any way that they feel works best for them.
It was a faithful adaptation of a great show. It kept the good and made them even better. Best of all, it also remained faithful to being re-set in Korea and accurate to the look and style of 1987. Loved it to bits! 😄
Aw, hi5 GB, that we feel so similarly about this show! 😀 And wow, that you were inspired to watch the original BBC series because of your watch! I haven’t seen the original myself, but I’ve heard good things about it. Character growth is a biggie for me, so it’s fantastic to hear that this version is actually more robust in that area! It’s so rare for a remake to match up to its source material, so it’s pretty amazing to hear folks comment that this remake is even better than the original, in some ways! I just had a Twitter conversation today, where @starmyung told me something similar; that she thought the K-version did certain things better, including the ending.
I thought it was brilliant how this was reworked to feel so organic and culturally relevant to Korea in the 80’s! That is testament to just how much tender loving care was put into the writing. Major kudos to writer-nim, I am in suitable awe. <3