Dear kfangurl, what makes a kdrama addicting enough that I want to rewatch at least 10 times?
I’m kinda in the middle of a tough transition period at the moment and I found myself going back to rewatching all my favourite dramas – Healer, My Love From Another Star, Because This Is My First Life, Fight For My Way and Suspicious Partner, but with the FF button when it came to the “evil chaebol” or “bad guy” bits. But when I decided to try a drama that I hadn’t watched but was on my list, I kept dropping them half way. What is it in the above dramas, which I believe you loved as well after reading your reviews (which were amazing btw), or any general drama that makes me come back to these again and again?
That’s a very interesting question indeed. Why do we keep going back to certain dramas? Sometimes a drama might be outstanding, but we might not have the desire to go back to it. And sometimes, a drama might not be worthy of an A-grade, yet, we can’t help but want to revisit it and experience it all over again. Quite mysterious!
I think that the answer to why that is, is understandably different for different people, since we are all unique in our preferences, tastes and experiences, but I do concede that there are certain factors that tend to draw people to revisit dramas, often again and again.
Edit: Since you mention that you’re going through a tough transition right now, I’ll also say that in times of transition, many things are often in a state of flux, and so we tend to grab on to things that are familiar, for comfort. I do think that this is a big reason why you’re reaching for dramas you’ve seen and loved, and not gravitating to the new dramas. With so much newness in your life already, more new things to get used to just doesn’t appeal. So, now the question is, why these dramas in particular appeal to you as you reach for something that you’ve already seen and loved.
I’ll be attempting to break it all down into 2 main sections, and I’ll be listing the various dramas that I or others have rewatched, or would rewatch. I hope that works!
I’m far from having all the answers, so as always, everyone, do feel free to chime in with your insights and sharing in the comments! 🙂
THE MORE COMMON CRACK FACTORS
This first section is for the more common reasons that I believe people are drawn to rewatch certain dramas. You’ll notice that some dramas are listed in more than one section, and that’s because I think they offer more than one crack factor. Generally speaking, I think that the more crack factors a drama possesses, the higher its overall rewatch appeal. That’s completely unscientific, of course – but you already knew that, right?
A great OTP
Since the majority of the dramas on our screens serve up romance as the main course, it’s no surprise, I think, that a great OTP is one of the most common factors that draws people to revisit a drama.
For me, a great OTP is one that shares sparky chemistry that feels raw and real. They are comfortable in their skins, and have an ease around each other such that cuddles, kisses and other skinship feels natural and organically grown. They’re in it like they mean it, and the lines are delivered with heart and with soul.
I might already know the story like the back of my hand, and I might even know some lines of dialogue by heart, but my heart will still skip a beat at the important OTP moments, because the OTP is so fantastic that they make every rewatch feel fresh and new again.
A swoony &/or compelling male lead
Since the drama-viewing demographic is largely female (no shade on the male viewers in our midst, we appreciate you!), a swoony male lead is often a big draw as well.
Sometimes the female lead might not be written in a way that is as appealing, or as likable, and sometimes the female lead is there mostly to be the foil to the male lead (coughMemories of the Alhambracough), which means that the OTP per se might not be as big of a draw as in the previous section. In these cases, I feel like a strongly written and delivered swoony male lead can do a lot to draw viewers back for a rewatch – or several.
Or, perhaps the show in question isn’t a romance but features a compelling protagonist (often male, though it feels like things are starting to shift, yay for that), and it feels worthwhile revisiting the show just to fangirl at his awesomeness.
Can’t lie; I can totally see myself tuning in to shows just to swoon all over again at a compelling, appealing male lead.
Sometimes a drama might not fall into the rewatch category on the strength of its overall merit, but because it has an amazingly awesome character that we love, we’d go back to that drama, just for the love of that character.
For example, even though I loved Search: WWW as a show, I wouldn’t quite rewatch it for the story. But I luff Cha Hyun (Lee Da Hee) so much, that I can see myself going back, just for another taste of her awesomeness.
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: Cheon Song Yi in You From Another Star, Yi Bang Won in Six Flying Dragons, Veronica Park in Secret Life Of My Secretary.
A great drama world
If a drama manages to create a great drama world, there’s a good chance that I’d be open to a rewatch of it, just because it gives me a chance to revisit that drama world.
A lot of the time, for me, this means a drama world that feels cozy and welcoming, where the characters feel like friends, so revisiting the drama makes me feel like I’m reuniting with old friends.
At other times, this can mean a drama world that is so well constructed that it feels like a whole new fully conceived real place, where rewatching the drama feels like you’re buying a ticket to visit a favorite travel destination. With period or retro dramas, this can feel like time travel, which is bonus.
Dramas I would rewatch to revisit a great drama world: Answer Me 1988, Prison Playbook, Goong, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Coffee Prince, Thirty But Seventeen, A Love So Beautiful, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, Life is Beautiful, Be Melodramatic.
Sometimes an actor is so fantastic in delivering their role that I feel I can go back to the show, whether the show is all-around amazing or not.
For example, I wouldn’t rewatch My Country on its own merit (it’s not quite the kind of story that appeals to my rewatching sensibilities), but Jang Hyuk is so arresting in it, that I would rewatch it just to experience his sublime delivery of Yi Bang Won, all over again.
Dramas I would rewatch for the amazing acting: Jang Hyuk in My Country, Chuno, Money Flower, Lee Sun Gyun and IU in My Mister, Hu Ge in Nirvana in Fire, Yoo Ah In and Kim Hee Ae in Secret Love Affair.
Sometimes, a drama comes along that really resonates with you; it showcases a storyline that somehow feels like an echo of your own life, or it echoes the experience of someone near and dear to you.
Often, this kind of thing makes that drama extra special in your heart, and you’d be more likely to give it a rewatch – or multiple rewatches. Sometimes, this can feel very cathartic and healing; sometimes, it just feels good to know that you’re understood and you’re not alone.
OTHER CRACK FACTORS
This set of crack factors aren’t as.. commonplace, I think, among the general drama viewership population, especially for those who consider themselves more casual viewers.
But, if these factors matter to you, then I think the more a show excels at any of these, the higher up it probably lands, on your rewatch list.
I’ve come to really treasure great writing in a drama; it really lifts the show to a whole other level, I feel. Usually, these shows are accompanied by great acting and directing too, which is bonus, but the writing deserves a spotlight all its own, because when it’s good, it makes a literal world of difference.
Things that I think are hallmarks of great writing include: nuanced, thoughtful characterization, careful plotting where there are few dropped threads, if any, organic, careful development of characters and relationships, meaningful exploration of themes, elegant use of metaphors and symbolism, and an ending that feels meaningful and well thought-out.
Yes, that’s a lot to ask, and yes, those gems exist. And they deserve all of the rewatches, and then some.
I think that some dramas are executed so well, that the execution is a masterpiece in its own right. These dramas deserve praise, recognition and all of the accolades for their thoughtful directing, amazing cinematography and intricate sets and costuming.
For example, I wouldn’t rewatch The Longest Day in Chang’an myself, but I have to admit that the execution in this drama is nothing short of spectacular. It’s so well done that it possesses a cinematic vibe, and every episode feels like a mini movie. Fans of the show would certainly be open to giving the show a rewatch or two, just to bask in its excellence a little extra, I think.
Music forms a big part of the drama experience, and good, well-applied background music truly does lift the watch experience. Often an otherwise fairly pedestrian scene can take on surreal heights, if it’s scored by the right soaring love ballad.
Dramaland generally does a very solid job with its background music, with few exceptions (coughSomething in the Raincough), so when a drama has music that stands out on its own merit, that is extra special indeed.
Dramas that I can see others rewatching: When the Devil Calls Your Name.
I feel like for most drama fans, some permutation of the above factors would combine to create a drama’s rewatch value. I’m guessing that if you picked the factors that are important to you from the list I created, and figured out which dramas checked the most boxes, that you’d probably end up with a list of dramas with strong personal rewatchability appeal.
With all that being said, because I believe that we should always enjoy our dramas (vs. overanalyzing them if that tires you out, or dragging yourself to a finish line if you hate a show), I think it’s safe to just follow your heart on this one. If you like it, rewatch it as many times as you fancy. Your secret’s safe with me. 😉
I hope that helps to answer your question!
1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!
2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!