The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Inner Workings: Practical Factors That Affect Onscreen Chemistry


I’m so, SO excited to announce this guest post, everyone! 😀

Today, our very own Jesse is taking the stage (page?), and he’ll be shedding light on some of the nuts and bolts of the workings of our beloved dramas. 

This post was born of a comment that Jesse had written in response to Beez, breaking down some of the practical variables that contribute to (or detract from) the chemistry that we see on our screens. I loved what he wrote, and asked if he’d be willing to expand that into a post for us, and he graciously said yes!

Granted, Jesse’s exposure has been in the US film industry and not in Korea, but from what I understand, the processes that he describes are also practiced in Korea, if not down to the minutiae, then in large part. I personally found his post illuminating and very educational, so I hope you’ll enjoy it too!




It’s a genuine pleasure to be able to share this space with all of you, and I’m thrilled at the opportunity to start a discussion about the intersection of two things near and dear to me: dramas and filmmaking.

I took on my first producing role at the age of nine when I attempted to cast the neighborhood kids in an adapted version of “Return of the Jedi,” and tried to wrangle their parents (and mine) into making or procuring the required costumes and props. Due to an overwhelming lack of enthusiasm from all parties, stifling budgetary constraints, and the absence of a suitable venue and working script, production quickly ground to a halt. But I knew what I wanted to do with my life!

I did some small community, church, and school plays growing up, but I got serious about theater my sophomore year in high school. I continued to frequent the stage through college, though I slowly began dabbling in video projects as my focus shifted to a more accessible medium. When I graduated I got an agent, and though the projects I got involved with didn’t exactly beef up my reel, they familiarized me with the production process.

I continued piecing together experience and education through various projects, and eventually my focus shifted from acting to directing. I was never drawn to Hollywood – neither the system or the lifestyle – which left me in a quandary for awhile. How do you pursue a career when you don’t want anything to do with the predominant industry?

It took me awhile to find the answer, but eventually I began pursuing filmmaking full-time. I was fortunate to get plugged into a small but formidable group of professionals in a market that facilitated commercial work as well as small independent films. I wrote, financed and directed a short film of my own, and while I consider it to be a mediocre product at best, the experience and relationships that came out of it were invaluable.

After that, I got involved with whatever I could in any way I could as long as it was paid work. I wrote scripts, spent time in front of the camera in featured roles and as background talent (extra), and was frequently hired for G&E (Grip & Electric) work. I bought some basic equipment and began teaching myself cinematography and sound design via fun little side projects in my free time. Those allowed me to familiarize myself with the editing process as well, and eventually I started providing that service for a gradually expanding list of clients.

Currently I’m a writer/producer (of sorts) and editor for a company in Indiana, doing freelance work on the side as time allows. The projects I’ve done aren’t anything close to the scope of Hollywood’s films and TV shows, but the principles and mechanics of productions are the same – just more money, more politics, and more people. My hope is to one day shift into directing full time, telling stories that entertain, edify and resonate with an audience.


Which brings me to dramas! 🙂

I distinctly recall the inciting thought that put me on the path to these fantastic shows. It was the fall of 2017. I was watching a slice-of-life anime that took place in a suburb, and I thought, “I wonder if the buildings really look like that in Japan?” My curiosity went far beyond that, of course; I had often wondered how much of what I saw in those stylized cartoons was a reflection of the people, values and culture there. But for some reason, my curiosity about the apartment buildings on a quiet street was what triggered my brain to seek out the answers.

The next thought was, “I wonder if there are Japanese sitcoms?”

That search lead me to “Good Morning Call” on Netflix, which was my gateway to the entire drama experience. I was immediately taken in by the relative innocence of the romance, the depth and scope of the stories, and the embellishment of small details like waiting with anxious anticipation for a text from that guy/gal who has recently enveloped your world.

It was quite literally unbelievable that a genre could resonate with me so strongly on so many levels. I remember thinking I had discovered a brand new niche and figured there were probably only a dozen or so shows out there – but I hoped more would be made soon!

Good gravy, I can’t believe I was that naive!

I was doing freelance at that time and had a lot of time off, so I would watch 12-16 hours a day for three to four days in a row. It soon became apparent that there were more than just a few shows out there, and after a kinda lukewarm experience, I decided I needed to seek out  quality reviews to make good decisions on which shows to invest my time in.

I found The Fangirl Verdict, read one of KFG’s reviews, and experienced the same euphoric feeling that I got when I discovered the dramas for the first time. I was entertained, engaged, and given the educated opinion I was looking for, but it was mixed with a thoughtful analysis I didn’t expect. These were reviews written by an expert I could trust! (D’aw.. you are too kind, thanks Jesse! ❤ ~kfangurl)

After reading several reviews and browsing the blog over the course of several days, I finally reached out and asked for a recommendation based on my fledgling experience. I don’t recall the exact exchange, but after a warm welcome to the drama world, KFG suggested several shows. First among them was “Healer.”

The rest, as they say, is.. a well-worn cliche that I’ll avoid restating here. But ya know what I mean. 🙂

I am grateful for the joy I’ve found in these shows, and the comfort I’ve found sharing that joy with the good folks here at The Fangirl Verdict. 🙂


Nothing sells an OTP like chemistry. If we’re going to believe a couple should be together after all the struggles, shenanigans, missteps, and twists the story can conjure up, we need to see frequent glimpses – promises – of what their relationship can become when it’s fully realized, and we need to feel the profound, unique attraction between them. Sadly, as many of us can attest, that attraction doesn’t always show up on our screens the way we’d hoped it would.

Sometimes chemistry flares up, flickers, and fades several times throughout a show’s run. Sometimes it doesn’t even make a cameo. Even more perplexing, an OTP may be electrified in one show but abysmal in another. Real life couples might light up the screen with their authenticity, or they could meander through the narrative with all the razzle-dazzle of pocket lint.

How is that possible? Where does chemistry come from and how can it be infused into a couple’s interactions?

Ironically, there is no formula for this kind of chemistry. It’s an intangible phenomenon that can’t be practiced or rehearsed, though it can be strengthened, weakened, or destroyed by external forces. It’s a hard concept to pin down and deconstruct, but I would suggest that chemistry manifests when the actors are comfortable in their roles, immersed in the moment, and true to the nature of their relationship.


As you may have surmised, this concept of chemistry exists outside of a purely romantic context. Comedy duos like Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Chris Farley and David Spade, and to a lesser degree Jackie Chan and Chris Rock, had notable chemistry that made their films fun to watch (if their brand of humor was your cup o’ tea, of course).

There is also chemistry between friends, and this genre is filled with some of the best examples I can think of. Though many folks mourned a lack of the OTP’s chemistry in “Descendants of the Sun” I enjoyed the heck out of watching Si-jin and Dae-young interact as long-time compadres and brothers in arms.

That’s a particularly noteworthy example, but the more I think about it, the harder-put I am to think of shows that don’t feature some really solid friendships, particularly amongst the leading lady and her gal pals. The same goes for familial chemistry – at least the families that aren’t inherently rotten to the core by virtue of being aligned with (or comprised of) the villains. There’s even chemistry that can exist between antagonists and protagonists. Take, for example, the dynamic between Ji-An and Kwang-il in “My Mister.” I’ll dig into that a little more in bit, but their scenes together were certainly compelling, feeding off each other in a clash of fire and ice.

The point is that while we typically think of chemistry as the romantic draw between two leads, it can inhabit virtually any relationship. We usually don’t credit it as “chemistry” though, instead using phrases like, “They play off each other well” or “They’re a lot of fun to watch together” to describe a lively and enthralling interaction. When we don’t see “chemistry” between the leads, it’s more accurate to say that there’s no perceptible love-based or romantic chemistry at work. Most of the time this is merely semantics ’cause we all know what “chemistry” is referring to, but as we dig into the influence of the writing process, that distinction will become relevant. Here’s to splitting hairs!


When I consider a show’s writing, I typically focus on dialogue, plot points, and the story as a whole. Those factors have a strong impact on my enjoyment, but they have virtually no effect whatsoever on the chemistry. I’d wager if we were to watch a drama without the subtitles, we would still be able to see romantic chemistry – or a lack thereof – between the leads. Heck, many of the most potent moments don’t have dialogue that fits the situation anyway.

Take the reconciliation scene between Se-hee and Ji-ho in “Because This is My First Life” for example.


Se-hee has just gently but suddenly pushed Ji-ho back onto the mattress and is leaning over her as she stares up at him with bated breath. A few tentative moments later, he finally asks, “Do you…need to eat more breakfast?” After taking a pause and a glance down at Se-hee’s tense body pressing against hers, Ji-ho slowly murmurs, “I don’t need to eat more…breakfast.”

I won’t ruin the moment with a crass interpretation, but the subtext and non-verbals make it abundantly clear that neither of them gave a flying fig about breakfast!


Even though the dialogue itself can’t bolster or squelch chemistry, a busy script cluttered with verbiage can certainly detract from it. Most of the memories I have of emotionally resonant moments involve very little action or dialogue. They are quiet times accentuated with pauses, glances that turn to gazes, slight shifts in posture, and gradual contact. Good writing peppers the script with pockets of enhanced emptiness so the space can be filled with connection and longing. If there’s too much action, or if the plot is so complicated that editors have to cut those moments short to fit in another scene, the perceived chemistry will suffer.

Sometimes the problem isn’t the quality of the connection, but how little we see of it. It can be challenging to work in functional scenes that also feed the OTP’s development over the course of 16+ hours, but sustained engagement is key to making the relationship hit us in the feels.


The impetus for this exploration into the nature of chemistry came from a thoughtful post KFG wrote, regarding which OTPs didn’t work for her. Many times a lack of chemistry was cited, and in other instances the relationship was off-putting or disturbing. (And some atrocities included both!) When characters are well-written and have a wholesome foundation, a lack of chemistry (romantic or otherwise) is indicative of acting or directing issues – both of which will be addressed shortly. If, however, the writer has crafted broken, disconnected, or even downright perverse characters, the chemistry may, in fact, exist, but it’s not the chemistry we want to see in an OTP.

To hone in on this concept, let’s take a gander at the aforementioned relationship between Ji-An and Kwang-il in “My Mister.”

[SPOILER] Their history is complicated. Kwang-il hates Ji-An for killing his father, yet pities her for what she’s endured, and, in some way, may in fact have an affinity for her, buried deep down. Underscoring all of that is a fluctuating measure of self-loathing. [END SPOILER]

The richness of the character allows Jang Ki-yong to comfortably insert himself into the role despite its contemptible overtones, and fully engage in the nature of his character’s relationship with Ji-An. IU enjoys the same depth of character, and is also able to settle into Ji-An and her connection to Kwang-il. There is chemistry present, facilitated by great character development and capable actors. But there is no love, no romance – and rightly so! This is a contentious, antagonistic relationship that is beautiful in execution but horrible in nature.

But what if Ji-An and Kwang-il were the OTP? (Shudder) The chemistry that makes their scenes work would technically still be there, but it wouldn’t be portraying the love we’d be expecting. Even if Kwang-il started showing random moments of kindness that Ji-An reacted positively to, the romance would never achieve any significant resonance because the characters are fundamentally opposed.

It’s easy to see the disconnect in this hypothetical example because we already know they aren’t the OTP, but for other relationships, the divide is more subtle.


Well Intended Love” was a show that made KFG’s list of failed OTPs, citing “middling chemistry” and an “ultra disturbing” connection. For all intents and purposes, the writer stunted the relational growth and made sustained romantic chemistry virtually impossible. The fact that we can see glimpses of it indicates that the actors had the capacity; they settled into their characters and stayed true to the nature of the relationship, but the relationship itself was too rife with actions and attitudes that didn’t align with romance. Lies and manipulation are not hallmarks of love. Infatuation? Perhaps. Desire? Certainly. Lust? Arguably. But not love.

Characters can be written as twisted, as long as the writer knows they are twisted and gradually straightens them out. But having a character apologize for doing something selfish or stupid isn’t the same as changing. Giving characters flaws fleshes them out and makes them more relatable, but embellishing those flaws and using them as a driving force will make it impossible to bring love to the foreground.

In the case of “Well Intended Love,” I would submit that the actors technically did have chemistry throughout, but because the writing made Yi Zhou a jerk that Xia Lin rightly had conflicted feelings for, there were only brief moments when that chemistry could actually come across as the romantic expression we expect from an OTP. In essence, the actors correctly connected as awkwardly as they should have, based on the way they were written. …Yay?

A more subtle example of self-destructive writing is found between Si-jin and Mo-yeon in “Descendants of the Sun.”


Mo-yeon genuinely loves Si-jin, but she also genuinely doesn’t want to be with him. It’s not a matter of getting her mind in line with her heart or overcoming some trite prejudice; she grapples with the fact that her beau could be killed on any given day due to the kind of work he does. There are plenty of police officers, fire fighters, and soldiers who have spouses, but for Mo-yeon, marrying a man she could lose permanently is a deal-breaker (until the third act, of course). It could have been written as an underlying tension, but instead it was made the primary obstacle keeping the leads apart.

The result is that in almost every scene, the dynamic is both adversarial and romantic. It goes back and forth once or twice, but most of the time the nature of their relationship is a muddy mess. Even if the actors were good enough to stay true to that nature for the duration, it’s too conflicting to come across with any earnestness. I believe the leads had chemistry (their real life relationship seems indicative of that), but with Mo-yeon’s irreconcilable hang-up baked into the relationship, the best they could manage was some kind of distant fickle friendship accentuated by random bursts of affection. How could that not be romantic? 😉


There is a reason why so many dramas contain amnesia, secrets, misunderstandings, childhood traumas and pseudo-pretenses: they are all legitimate, relatively innocent obstacles that maintain tension and distance between the two leads while allowing them to orbit around each other. Their love – hidden, unrealized, stifled, or guarded – is always there, unblemished and gradually revealed in greater measure with every interaction. The opposing forces come from outside, freeing the leads to express their love in glances, sighs, teases, feints, and retreats – all of which can translate into romantic chemistry if the actors and director can facilitate it. But when the points of contention are internal to one of the leads or the OTP itself, the love is either tainted or marginalized, leaving any chemistry bereft of romance.

Basically, actors can only work with what they’re given. Good writing can make it easier for them to connect to their characters, organically relate to each other within the context of the story, and have a clear conduit for chemistry of the romantic persuasion. Poor writing, on the other hand, cuts them off at the knees, limiting the depth of their chemistry.


In “I Need Romance 2012,” Ji-hoon was a fantastic guy who treated Yeol-mae with respect, affection, and unwavering support, yet he was ultimately relegated to the friend zone. We’re supposed to be okay with this because he was written to be an ideal match but not the perfect fit. Kim Ji-seok had good chemistry with Jung Yu-mi, but the relationship could only go as far as Yeol-mae’s heart allowed; it never reached the desperate depths of her love for Seok-hyun.

…Or at least, it wasn’t supposed to. INR2012 was one of my early dramas, and I remember really being cheesed off that Ji-hoon got screwed. My dissatisfaction indicates that for me, Ji-hoon and Yeol-mae were written in such a way that allowed them to achieve romantic chemistry during their interactions, and the only reason it didn’t “work” is because they weren’t billed as the OTP.  Ji-hoon wasn’t capped at “friend” the way he should have been. The writer could have given them great comedic chemistry, making him the fun guy who treated her well but never really nestled into her heart, but instead he was given all the makings of a viable romantic partner.

On the other hand, we have Eun-gi and Deok-mi’s relationship in “Her Private Life.” Eun-gi is firmly written as a brother from another mother. The two play off each other well enough, but their interactions never skewed towards romance. Eun-gi never had more than a fleeting moment that allowed Deok-mi to look at him “as a man,” so she (and therefore I) always saw their connection as platonic.

In stark contrast, Deok-mi and Ryan were equipped by the script with romantic chemistry as a couple, but Deok-mi’s frequent indulgences of infatuation with her idol tempered things a bit. I also remember more scenes of her being supportive and almost motherly to an emotionally-crippled and insecure Ryan, than her being the focus of his affection. Bonus points to the writer for allowing Eun-gi to be believable as a friend (and nothing more) but a penalty for hamstringing Deok-mi with a genuine adoration for, and fixation on, another man. Kudos to Park Min-young for being true to her character’s dual interests; alas, that her stellar talent made for a watered-down romance!

For a final example of how a writer can potentially subdue chemistry, take a look at “When the Weather is Fine.” Eun-seob is a rather melancholy character plagued by abandonment and loss. Usually the other half of the pairing would be a more upbeat, energetic soul that can help effect some change, keep the interactions lively, and drive the relationship forward (a la Park Min-young’s spunky, outgoing and strong-willed Young-shin to Ji Chang-wook’s introverted and anti-social Jung-hoo in “Healer“).

Chemistry is often drawn out by conflict, good-natured or otherwise, so having opposites attract goes a long way. But in “Weather,” Eun-seob is matched up with Hae-won (also played by Park Min-young), a dejected, embittered character who is also plagued by abandonment and loss. The couple’s progress is kinda like someone walking with two left shoes on. Yes, they can move forward, but it’s a lot slower and much more awkward than it would be, if they were wearing one of each shoe. I found the chemistry to be rather lackluster for the most part, not because of the acting or directing, but because the characters were on the exact same journey.


As with most things, perception of chemistry is subjective and, as KFG astutely points out, perspective is influenced by the lens through which we watch. The point is that writing characters into the roles they need to play is a delicate balance that often relies on very subtle details to either enable or disable romantic chemistry. Even seasoned talent will fail to throw sparks if their characters aren’t given tinder or flint to work with, which is why it’s crucial for the script to provide a purposed foundation that well-cast, well-directed actors can build upon.


Obviously the actors’ performances are where the proverbial rubber meets the road when it comes to splashing chemistry on the screen. Working with a good script that gives them a rich character and motivated relationship to explore, they have the capacity to enrapture an audience. But even assuming that our leads are seasoned, talented, and easy to get along with, there are numerous production hazards that can stymie or ruin their chemistry.

First off, to perform at their highest level, actors have to be focused in the moment. It’s a cliché, but if they aren’t fully present and engaged, there is no way to create and maintain a meaningful, tangible connection. Everyone can have off-days, but there are specific challenges film and TV actors have to deal with including little time for preparation, little energy, and too much emotional entanglement.


While stage actors get the luxury of having several weeks to go over lines and blocking with their co-stars, screen actors get a table read for an overview and maybe a one- to two-hour rehearsal at some point. Most of the time, the scene is blocked out and rehearsed a couple times on the day itself, right before the cameras roll. That’s all the official prep they get.

They are expected to explore their characters, run their lines, and craft their performances on their own before getting to the set. Not only does this limit the amount of time they have to get comfortable with their romantic counterparts as real people, but it means they don’t know what approaches the other actor will use, when they will pause, how they’ll react, or what their initial pacing will be.

These things can gradually coalesce with time and familiarity, but there isn’t always that luxury. How many of us have dropped a show within the first few episodes? Shows need to be on-point from the jump, and that means all the actors (particularly the leads) have to conjure up some pretty convincing performances and form strong connections, with very little time or opportunity to do so.

Even if the leads are able to get to know each other enough to feel comfortable in and out of character, the lack of prep time means they have a lot to deal with as the cameras are rolling. Hopefully they have their lines down pat, but they will still get notes about their performance from take to take, that they have to process and apply on their next attempt.

Some of those notes might make them self-conscious or confused, both of which chip away at their confidence and comfort levels. There’s also blocking (character movement and actions that are worked out by the directors and actors once they have a set to work with) that can either be relatively simple, or be so complex that it might as well be a dance. Add in awareness of camera placement, their position in relation to that placement, where their shadows are falling, whether they’re catching the light consistently, and any hazards or props they have to use or work around, and it’s easy to see how remaining attuned to their performance and co-star becomes quite the challenge. There’s a limit to how much even seasoned professionals can handle, particularly on the days when things are utterly chaotic.

Let’s take a look at a scenario.

Our leading lady walks on set, confident, relaxed, ready to go. She looks around for her counterpart so they can run the scene a couple times and get a feel what the give-and-take will be. But his character’s coming back from a scuffle with his beefy rival, so he’s still in make-up getting latex and corn syrup slapped on his face. Ugh. She hates the smell of latex. The kiss later on is gonna be brutal.

The AD (Assistant Director) approaches her, and she smiles at him until she notices he’s holding a couple of pieces of paper in his hands: re-writes. Crap. Her monologue has been tweaked because the producer decided it was too long. Now it’s broken into two parts, and the emotional apex she’d created for herself is gone. One of the lines is really close to what it was before, but the words are switched around so it’s just different enough to trip her up if she’s not careful. But before she can recalibrate, the director calls her over. They don’t have time to get all the planned interior shots tonight because they need to snag a pick-up of the park scene from a week ago while the weather is clear, so they’re combining two of the set-ups and using a dolly to follow her movement from the apartment entrance to the couch. She needs to walk in, hit her first mark just past the kitchen pillar, say a few lines, turn away from her busted-up beau and lean on the table just to the right of the camera so that she’s on the edge of frame for a rack focus. (A tear would be great if she can manage it.) A couple more lines, a pause, and then she needs to turn and walk towards the couch at just the right speed to allow the camera to keep her in profile until she hits her second mark just after the coffee table. Once there, she is to whirl back around and unleash her modified monologue…after figuring out how to hit the truncated beats so this big moment doesn’t come off flat, of course.

And if she misses her mark, leans into the table too much, walks too fast or too slow, misses her second mark, or screws up that darned line, she’s gotta do it all over again. But not to worry! Once her costar finishes his make-up, they’ll have at least five minutes to rehearse while the crew rushes to finish the lighting set-up.

Admittedly, that is a worst case scenario, but it is not out of the realm of feasibility. Having to keep all of that in mind – under pressure – and pull off a serviceable performance will be difficult; achieving the tense, earnest connection that will make the moment resonate will be a miracle.

It’s hard to be genuinely comfortable and focused in adverse conditions, and it is a credit to the actors that they are able to deliver a solid performance amidst the turmoil. However, they can fake “solid” – but they can’t fake chemistry. They have to slide into their characters, push aside the distractions, move within the flow of the scene, and concentrate on connecting with that person across from them. Not an easy task even if they are energized and functioning at maximum capacity…but many times they’re sucking fumes.


Corpses don’t have chemistry.

If you’ve ever seen a bride and groom immediately after their wedding reception, you know this to be true. As exuberantly in love as they are, they are also utterly drained, emotionally spent, and practically starving. You might catch a glimpse of their eternal love in a quick hand-squeeze, a faint smile, or contented sigh, but they aren’t permeating the air with amorous vibes.

Actors need both physical and emotional energy to make chemistry tangible to an audience. Physical energy is what everyone needs to do their jobs. Adequate sleep, breaks, good meals – these are all things actors (particularly those that aren’t in a union) sometimes have to do without. Days can be 10-16 hours long depending on the shooting schedule and how far behind the production team is. Many times, a key location isn’t available during normal hours, so filmmakers have to shoot in the wee hours of the morning. Start at 2am, go until 8am, strike the set, snag a nap, grab a quick lunch and be ready to shoot again at 1pm. Rinse and repeat. Enough days like that, and everyone’s energy starts to dwindle, and it becomes a concerted effort to stay upbeat and lively.

The crew doesn’t have to worry about it as much; they don’t need enthusiasm to affix a light, go up on stick, throw down some sandbags and wait for further direction. Actors have to stay sharp because they are stepping in front of a microscope; every little action is going to be seen and play into how their characters are perceived. Lethargic chemistry is technically still chemistry, but depending on the scene and context, it can be underwhelming.

Emotional energy is sustained by an actor’s love of the craft, complete immersion in a character (which forces a type of disconnect with their oft-beleaguered selves), and reciprocation from the actor opposite them. Actors revel in the exploration of everything a scene has to offer, and feed off each other’s enthusiasm. If you ever hear a performer say, “He’s giving me nothing to work with,” it means their costar isn’t reacting, or is simply absorbing the energy and not reciprocating it.

They need to see the expressions and believe the emotions as much as an audience does. If they are receiving nothing but indifference or a half-hearted performance, it’s going to suck all the vitality out of their interaction. Even if the actors like each other and are usually good together, if one of them is distracted or exhausted, it makes it nigh impossible to sustain any kind of emotional realism.

This is particularly true when doing solo or OTS (Over the Shoulder) shots, where one of the actors has their back to the camera. Oftentimes these are the crucial close-ups for the ones facing the camera, and they need to see their partner’s full range of reactions in order to go all in (and forget about the ginormous camera lens four feet away from them).

But typically, those close-ups come after the establishing, moving, and technical shots are done, which means the actors could easily have done the same beats and the same lines over forty times (provided there are no outtakes) before they get to the intimate framing. And they’ve been pouring themselves into every take because they never know which one is going to be used, so they are emotionally exhausted. They’ve teared up, composed the same trembling smile, looked away dejectedly, and been ‘surprised’ so much that it’s physically painful to conjure up any more authentic emotion. It’s hard enough mustering the gusto at that point when you’re the one facing the camera, but if your performance isn’t even going to be seen, you’ve gotta dig deep to give your costar the energy they need to shine.

The situation isn’t helped at all by stand-ins. Stand-ins are people who resemble the actors and are typically used in their stead while the crew is setting up lights and the DP (Director of Photography) is factoring the actor’s position, size and movement into the shot. But sometimes stand-ins are used when the actor’s face doesn’t need to be seen, like in the situation just discussed.

The camera is only gonna see the back of his or her head, part of the neck and a bit of a shoulder, so the actor steps out and the stand-in comes in, leaving the other actor to talk earnestly to a virtual stranger. This means we may not have seen chemistry in some scenes because only half of the OTP was actually there!

Granted, most professionals wouldn’t do their costars dirty like that, but it does happen. Sometimes it’s not under their control. The Second Unit may need to shoot a scene with one of the actors while the First Unit finishes the scene, and the actors don’t have a choice. Regardless of the why, it’s a crummy situation for an actor to be in, and it makes achieving chemistry either incredibly difficult or literally impossible.


Hey, hormones are chemicals too, folks. Actors are emotionally vulnerable in many scenes to make the moments genuine and touching. No matter how good they are, they can only be but so removed from what’s going on. They are touching, gazing, and flirting as extensions of themselves, and it’s easy to lose track of how far those extensions go.

Even costars who aren’t physically attracted to each other can have the water muddied by staged intimacy and begin to get (or think they’re getting) connected to one another. Confusion and emotional instability are not conducive to comfort, so gradual attraction isn’t necessarily great for character chemistry. Actors need to go into the scene knowing who their character is and what they want, but they also need to know who they are and what they’re doing as professionals.

It gets worse if one of them gets caught up in the moment, takes it too far, and says or does something to make the other actor decidedly uneasy. It could happen on set, during a meal, or during a rehearsal. Remember, long days means a plethora of time spent going through relatively strenuous ordeals. Bonds form, hormones rage, things slip out. (Words. I’m talking about words.) Trying to stay focused and relaxed on a set when someone has made an advance or held a kiss or embrace too long is not easy, and without emotional fluidity, the connection can only be superficial.

Even if both parties willingly decide to take their on-screen romance off-screen, there’s a whole new dynamic they have to work through as a couple and as actors. Shifting relational gears in real life isn’t terribly smooth, and any scene that requires romantic overtones is going to complicate that process – particularly if it needs to be reversed. Couples can’t freeze-frame their own off-screen relationships at an ideal moment; there will be ups and downs no matter how long they’ve been together, and while they can rise above that when the camera is rolling, it doesn’t mean they can always bring that chemistry with them. Comfort is a fickle, delicate state of being, and off-screen conflict can have an averse effect.


The director has both the writer’s capacity for subverting chemistry before the project begins, and the actor’s capacity for eroding the chemistry over time. Yet directors are rarely brought up in conversations about chemistry, and I think that’s because their roles are not always apparent. Make no mistake, they influence an OTP’s success just as much, if not more, than the actors and writers.


Arguably the most important job directors have is selecting the right actors for the roles; after studying the script and crafting a vision for the overall story, they are uniquely qualified for the task. Obviously talent and experience will be considerations, but the main goal is to find people who can comfortably inhabit the characters and can bring them to life as organically as possible.

Great actors are not right for every part because their own personalities will naturally align more with some roles than others. When casting for action, horror, or thriller, alignment is less of an issue because interpersonal engagements will be less important. But the dramas we enjoy here require character integrity to be on-point, which means the director should be choosing actors who require tweaks and fine-tuning to calibrate, instead of constant overhauls.

Given enough time and options, a good director can find the perfect actors for the OTP. Unfortunately, both elements are often in short supply, typically because of superficial – but not necessarily errant – decisions.

Studios and producers frequently require a top-tier actor to reduce financial risk and guarantee a return on investment. But not every A-lister will be interested, and others may not have the availability. The talent pool shrinks, and the result is that a well-known actor who is merely adequate for a particular role could be cast, guaranteeing the show will make money but also ensuring it will have a lot of detractors who don’t feel the OTP.

I have personally seen admissions on this very site of people deciding to watch a drama solely because of the dreamy gentleman playing the lead. …And they finish the drama for the same reason, despite disliking pretty much everything else about it! Nothing wrong with that of course, I’m just sayin’. 🙂

Some studios will push for an OTP from another successful show, neglecting to realize that a wayward script or drastically different character profiles could significantly alter how well the couple gels on screen. Aside from financially-driven restrictions, there’s contractual obligations, politics, and favors that can all hamstring directors and force them into compromises.

And of course, there’s a director’s own proclivities. There’re obvious no-nos like casting based on attraction, but even making a choice because of a healthy admiration for a specific actor can go horribly wrong. It’s not even a safe bet to cast actors with whom they’ve worked before. Characters are, or should be, unique enough that they require a tailored approach. There may be fifteen actors perfectly able to play a type, but the one who relates most truthfully to that specific role and relationship will have the best chance of bringing dynamite chemistry to the set.

The same principles and problems apply when corralling the top choices for each role together for a read. Some actors will only work on a project if they can choose who they play opposite of. Some actors work great together but their heights are too varied. Don’t laugh, it happens. If the pairing is too good to pass up, a director will choose workarounds (raised heels, apple boxes, making sure they’re never on the same level or are almost always sitting down, etc..,), but generally if the framing can’t accommodate the difference, one of them has to go. Sometimes a decision-maker simply doesn’t like how a couple looks together, or they think they look too much like the OTP from another show and want to distance themselves.

The long and short of it is that there are both legitimate and ridiculous reasons on which a studio or director would base casting, other than talent and chemistry. Sad but true. Those decisions may make the process easier and may guarantee a financially successful show, but they could come at the cost of a truly stellar OTP. Ideally though, the director will find a way to get the right actors together; the vast number of shows with heralded leads who present a compelling relationship can attest to overall success in that regard. Once that critical task is done, the director can focus on managing the talent.


A successful collaboration between directors and actors requires a lot of trust. The actor comes prepared with their own take on the character and how they’ll navigate a scene, but no matter how much work they’ve put in, the director has logged far more time figuring out the arcs, breaking down the beats and contemplating how they’ll factor into the overall story. In theory, the right casting, combined with good communication during pre-production meetings, should put everyone on the same page, but every day and every shot is different.

The actor’s interpretations and input are essential to a good performance, but they’re typically only working within the scope of that day, scene, or episode. Most of the time an episode is shot out of order, so actors have to rely on the director for the right context. The director is tasked with not only keeping track of the mood and key moments within the scene, but also maintaining the vision, tone and pacing for the duration; compromising that vision carries the risk of the project floundering and losing its way.

For those reasons, actors ultimately defer to the direction they are given, and have to believe that the director is guiding them with skill and competence. If there is a disconnect between how a director and actor see the scene evolving, it has to be worked out fast without damaging egos or ramping up tension. A skilled director can affirm an actor’s choice while also imparting a piece of the vision to help win them over. Performance notes can ruffle feathers as it is, let alone if they are contrary to what the actor believes is right for the moment.

As I said before, actors need to be focused, comfortable and connected in order to facilitate chemistry, and anything that shakes their confidence, alters a fundamental understanding of their character, or puts them at odds with the one calling the shots, is going to create problems. Good direction can make the (hopefully) small adjustments needed, while allowing the actors to stay immersed and keep the momentum going.

The director also needs to be able to handle being challenged without losing confidence or patience. If he allows himself to become insecure or angry, the whole set becomes tense, and actors pick up on that in a heartbeat. Not only that, but subsequent direction could then be laced with attitude or aggression that will in turn generate more conflict. The goal is to keep conflict inside the frame!

But of course, there’s the other side of it too. Just because a director has explored the characters at length doesn’t mean he or she understands what is needed to make the relationship work at all times.

The actors could be throwing sparks with their first take, but the director either gives an objectively bad note, steers them away from key elements that make their connection work, or guides them in a completely different direction. A wrong direction. In theory the director cast them based on their overlap with his or her own interpretation, but it’s very easy for that interpretation to be warped or changed during the stressful production process. Depending on the actor, that may very well take them out of alignment, generate confusion, and make their portrayal inconsistent. If the director doesn’t adhere to the vision established at the outset, the actor’s performances will suffer.

Even though the actor typically submits to direction, there should be a lot of respectful back-and-forth. Directors need to be as flexible as possible, and if nothing else, at least let the actor give the performance they feel is right. Many directors actually give the actors two takes without any notes to let them explore and try to find the right vibe. That shows open-mindedness, and nurtures the mutual respect and trust needed to get the actors in their zone.

Good directing is not about coddling, pampering, or demanding. It’s about imparting a vision, considering feedback, knowing what can and can’t be compromised, and maintaining trust and comfort with the talent.

If those things are done well, and there is chemistry to be gleaned, it will be brought out naturally through the process. If egos flare and trust crumbles, the nuts and bolts of a scene will be there, but the content will ring hollow. In some scenes, the difference won’t be noticeable, but in others, the vacuum will be obvious and the audience will disengage.


When you see that long credit scroll at the end of a show or movie, you realize just how collaborative these projects are. Every facet of a production is delivered to the screen by multiple sets of hands, including the presentation of the OTP. I won’t say there isn’t a certain mysterious element that defies explanation when it comes to why certain pairings work, but there are many tangible ways a couple’s connection can be supported or ruined by external influences.

The purpose here wasn’t to try and assign blame, but to give an understanding of how entwined and involved presumably separate aspects of production can be. Even something as seemingly intimate as chemistry – regardless of depth or type – is achieved only through the work and talent of several artists. Hopefully this will help you appreciate what works, analyze what doesn’t.. and articulate those thoughts in spirited discourse with others who share a love for drama. 😀

184 thoughts on “Inner Workings: Practical Factors That Affect Onscreen Chemistry

  1. Either the director/producers are brilliant “we’ll cast the pretty boy to get an automatic audience of his fans” or they’re overly pragmatic guys who can pull off intense conflict but directing romance just isn’t their thing. I imagine them being grizzled with big old stale cigars, not caring for romance genre but needing to create one so they watch a few famous romance scenes and think “that shouldn’t be so hard”. And so, without giving a proper build up, they milk a scene far too long until it seems strange to viewers, but they’re wondering why the romance in K2 didn’t go over well with audiences.
    They are missing what we talk about on this blog – the build up to those moments that turn what is otherwise drivel into SOMEthing. 😆


  2. Wow Jesse. May i command you for writing such a great piece. I thoroughly enjoy your insight of film making and it’s enough sneak peek to give me a greater appreciation of all the engines that work behind the scene. Thanks as well for Kfangurl for sharing the stage 🙂

    In all honesty, when my consumption was dominated by western TV, i never pay attention beyond the cast, acting and of course the quality of the writing. I was aware that director, producer, editor and so on play critical roles in generating our entertainment, but not enough to actually pay attention to appreciate their craft. Maybe because it is quite common for a western TV drama to have multiple directors (and even multiple writers) within the same season? With Kdrama, i feel a heighten sense of awareness on the style of a certain director or writer or combo director/writer. I make a point to follow the work of my now fave director/writer in the same way i would follow the work of my fave actor/actress. That never happen before for me.

    While I’m sure that western and kdrama share many fundamental principles in filmmaking, i wonder if you notice any siginificant difference between them?


  3. Personally, chemistry arises when the actors are excellent and their charisma quotient is balanced, and for the most part, but not always, the actors are into it, that is into their roles, the story, and working with one another. Direction is another factor. When we speak of My Mister, I cannot help but think about IU’s tough girl strut throughout the series, it gave her a quality that despite the entire mess of her life made her a perfect foil for Lee Sun-Kyun’s more stolid persona and vice versa. Their whole oppositional personality set allowed for the great soulfull awakening each had for the other without it being a likely romantic coupling whatsoever. Finally, while banter between two people can be effective if it raises the itch factor, if the dialogue is too locked up in such that it becomes nothing more than a schtick, and the whole relationship just a back and forth like that, then, ho hum. Actors and acting, intelligent direction, good writing, especially insofar as dialogue is concerned, and actual set chemistry among the players. That seems like the formula to me.


  4. @ beezrtp I have relatives in the U.S. and I have never heard of that. They were born and raised there (NY).

    I am talking about friends or siblings threatening to use violence or using it. I am not talking about a playful hit on the back.
    Good example are the parents in strong women do bong soo in which the wife always threatens the husband. Some goes for the main character in Weightlifting fairy…, fight my way, all the reply series, my sassy girl and soooo many more…


    • As I’m sure you are aware, there are many, many cultures in the U.S. that include race, religion, and even cultures that vary by the State you live in (different states have different laws, different traditions, and some states keep the cultures and bastardized languages of countries their ancestors migrated from. (Plus, I know many, many New Yorkers who would not find the behaviour we’re discussing strange at all.) So your family member’s experience isn’t a valid measure for all of America. In fact, when you first said that Germany is literal, I didn’t totally believe you because of my conversations with a person from Germany whose not literal at all but uses American slang and colloquialisms all the time. The only reason that I knew you were correct about all of Germany (in general) being literal is that after our conversation, I googled something like “What is a person being literal a sign of?” or something like that. (I wanted to be sure if what I’d always heard about it was scientific or just heresay/myth before I responded to you.) Once I did the search, (which confirmed it’s one of the things used to gauge intelligence, autism and aspergers) even though I did not include the word “German”, there were articles about Germans being strictly literal. But I knew, if an entire country is that way, it had to be a cultural thing and not an intelligence issue.

      The wife in Strong Woman Park Bong soo was a caricature for us to laugh at, but even if I saw a real life wife speaking that way to her husband, if he accepted it and there’s no real violence – if he felt ok with it, I would think it was funny. In fact couples here joke all the time in a disparaging way about their spouses and that’s not limited to any one culture. In fact, it’s very common and actually expected.
      As to Fight My Way, I only recall one scene that was disturbing – the way the girl’s father whipped Park Seo joon’s character with his belt. I don’t recall anything disturbing at all about the other series you named.
      But I get how things may have disturbed you, but I don’t understand why you can’t just filter it through “It’s a different culture from mine and I may never approve of it or think it’s funny” instead of throwing it into a category of its wrong or dysfunctional. There’s lots of stuff that seems weird, odd or even crazy that I see in Kdrama. I don’t judge it as if they should be doing things our way. And there’s lots of things that I think are waaaay better in Korean culture than all of American cultures.
      I’ll listen to whatever you have to say beyond this but I won’t add anything further and will just go with “we’ll have to agree to disagree” and just continue on with discussing out favorite (and not so favorite) Kdramas. Peace and luv. ✌ and ❤


      • Ignoring what I said about being human and individual culture and then you keep going about the culture crap…

        The wife in Strong Woman Park Bong soo was a caricature for us to laugh at, but even if I saw a real life wife speaking that way to her husband, if he accepted it and there’s no real violence – if he felt ok with it, I would think it was funny.
        In the show he didn’t like so it is domestic abuse.
        In my opinion you are very twisted and just accept everything. Good for you.
        I don’t even know why I bother with humans anymore….
        I have my peace.


        • As you called me out for insulting you and your country (which, I did not do), I’m calling you out on becoming personally insulting. Usually Kdrama fans don’t do that to each other. But oh well. You have a nice life.


          • It makes sense to attempt to get past misunderstandings or extreme differences of opinion with an online acquaintance. But then, if that doesn’t work, it definitely makes sense to step back.

            Although I haven’t read most of the exchanges, I’d agree that’s where you two are at right now. No worries! Just step back.


            • Yes you are right.
              I got a little riled up because it seemed like I had to accept everthing she said and only her opinion was right. And completely ignoring my point of view.
              Meeh doesn’t matter anymore…

              Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I forgot you mentioned “My Sassy Girl”. The point of that movie is – she was crazy. lol It’s not meant for anyone to admire or even like her behavior.


  5. A remarkable piece of writing Jesse! A truly and insightful pleasure compared to the million and one pages of reports and god knows what other things I have had to write during the last week and a bit.


  6. Hey Jesse – loved your analogy on Weather – two left shoes moving slowly! Loved the NIF screen shot. IMHO NIF is hands down the alpha and omega of dramas whether they be K or C dramas.


    • Thank you, @phl1rxd! I really wanted to make sure NIF got featured in this somehow; I know it’s at the top of KFG’s list as well with a similarly resounding assessment of its qualities. Alas, I have yet to see it, so I couldn’t reference it, but the candid cast shot made for an ideal visual. Hopefully I can find somewhere legit that streams it in the near future. Maybe Netflix will swap it for Weather… ;p


      • I don’t remember if there are subs (there should be), but a fairly legit version is on YouTube (of NiF). It’s usually there but sometimes I think due to rights and things comes and goes with region lock. Lemme find the link when I get to my computer.


        • rip sorry, currently region locked for me on youtube. but it’ll pop back lmao.


          • Hey @Julianne Lin –Thank you for the recommendation! They pulled the region lock nonsense on Viki too, which I find obnoxious (I’m pretty sure that’s where I started watching it a couple years ago). Ah well. First world problems. 😉 I guess I could try to find it on DVD, but my last purchase was of abysmal quality despite being an “official” release. I may just have to waft around YT in hopes of catching it at an opportune moment…


          • JL, I have good news and bad news on Nirvana In Fire. It is on Viki. Good news. It has been English dubbed. Bad news. There are NO good comments about this bubbling. I watched it with subtitles a few years ago and loved the drama. I wouldn’t go back and watch it bubbles. However, for someone who hasn’t ever seen the drama it may be with a try.


  7. Two things:

    1. For the first time, I’m watching two shows at once. I realize that’s common for most of you, but not us. However my wife didn’t want to watch The K2 — despite loving Healer — so I’m doing that one without her while she and I watch Kill Me Heal Me. (We’re a little over 1/2 through the 20 episodes s of KM-HM.)

    2. For the first time, I’m skimming through a show after deciding in advance which parts are worth my time. I don’t watch to watch all of The K2 and I don’t really care about the plot. So I read the storyline in advance and am watching 100% of any scene that features former Healer bad-ass Ji Chang-wook or the Chaebol-wife played so wonderfully by Song Yoon-ah. (Such an impressive actress!)

    And I have to say, this works for me. I knew to skip the Ramen kitchen scene, so I don’t have to struggle to forget that atrocity. And since I already know how the story plays out, right up to through the finale, I don’t need to waste my time on B-grade plot development just to keep up.

    I just watch the two actors whom I know I’ll be thinking about for months after the show is done. If only they ended up together, but alas, it was not meant to be. No OTP for you guys.


    • There’s less focus on The K2 character in the latter episodes but I would advise against skipping too much or you might miss the weird changing dynamic between the candidate and his wife. Even if they’re not your main interest, the show doesn’t have much else worth watching for in the later episodes.

      If you want your wife’s company for the rest of The K2, I suggest showing her this scene. I know it made sure I would be watching : (I have zero shame 😉)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Interestingly, last night I showed her the scene of the candidate’s wife being interviewed on live TV in the first episode to explain why I think that actress is so awesome. And now she wants to watch it with me.

        Since I already know how it ends, I understand what you’re saying about the tragedy of their relationship and I am indeed watching all of the scenes they are both in, or any scene where the candidate appears to be acting like a complex human being and not just a stock politician.

        The romantic/sexual tension between Healer guy and the candidate’s wife in the early part episodes is really quite awesome. Even though I know that’s not where the script will end up going, I’m re-writing it work out that way in my head. And since I’m glossing over the OTP scenes with the step-daughter, that should be easier to imagine than otherwise.


        • Yes, the mature actress is really amazing. I should be looking her up to see if any of her past projects look like something I’d like to watch.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Actress Song Yoon ah

          I didn’t realize but I’d seen her in a movie, Secret. She was younger and the focus is more on the husband even though the role she plays is intricate to the plot.

          The movie Arang sounds very interesting (and has Lee Dong wook as a bonus). I will definitely squeeze that in.

          @Jesse Gray – movie Masterpiece of Love sounds right up your alley as it deals with writers and filmmakers.

          Movie Jail Breakers sounds good even though she probably won’t get much screen time.

          -Drama My Beloved Sister – If my watchlist weren’t so big, I would add this to it but I don’t find the synopsis compelling enough to make it a “must see”.

          I won’t be watching these:
          _On Air (won’t watch this cause Kim Ha neul is the lead)
          -Mama (sounds super melo)
          -Assembly (politics – looks boring)
          – Secret Mother (I can cry for a 2-hour movie but I just can’t with these melo dramas)
          Her older dramas don’t have the synopses listed.

          Yay! She has a drama upcoming in July – Elegant Friends – that I’d already decided to watch because of one of my biases being in it. (Kim Sung oh -although his roles are never big enough for me. He’s always in supporting roles.)

          The fact that I looked up a female actresses past work may mean my shallowness is shrinking! Oh no. Could you guys (meaning males) on the blog be causing me to grow? I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ve been wallowing in my mud and loving it.🤔

          Liked by 1 person

          • I could have watched a whole 16 hours of the tension between those two! As actors they gave one another so much to ‘work with’. Leave the rest of the drama on the cutting room floor and give me a drama about The Relationship between those two. Remember the umbrella scene at the…I think it was the…funeral? Better than chocolate!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes. The Umbrella scene. But I felt like she was more invested than he was. He seemed to have made up his mind to use her “interest” for his goal.

              I also think of the car rescue scene as the beginning of it for her.

              Something interesting about JCW. He seems to generate great chemistry with almost everyone he works with (remember the dream sequence kiss with his “aged” girlfriend in Melting Me Softly?) And he’s nicknamed King of Kiss or something like that by the Korean Entertainment media. But I was surprised that not only did he have no chemistry with Yoonah (the young one), he also had zero chemistry with the actress who played the middle east interpreter. They had the most awkward kiss I’ve ever seen him have. When I think about it, I think back to something Gong Yoo said in an interview about being intimidated by working with foreign actresses. He said it’s different with Korean actresses because he looks at them as his colleagues. I’m just


          • Beez, I finished The K2 last night. Really impressive. I won’t write too much here, since I already posted a long comment on KFG’s Dropped Show review.

            But what strikes me most is that Ji Chang-wook’s Healer persona ended up not being the character who was explored in depth or who changed much over the course of the show. We got to see hints of Healer again, and I loved all those scenes. But he mostly served as a catalyst for the villains’ complex character arcs. It was the villains and the villain couple’s failed marriage that ended up being the writers’ emotional focus for the show.

            I suppose they made a half-hearted effort to give the OTP romance an equal focus, but they failed so badly I have to think their hearts weren’t really in it. Either that or “good guy romance” is just not where their talents lie. Ugh. Cringe-worthy.

            So in end, the Healer persona was the draw for many of us, but the nuanced exploration of the bad guys was what made it great.

            The female villain’s unrequited love for Ji Chang-wook and how that caused her to regret what kind of person she’d become was especially poignant. Plus, as you mentioned, how they handled her and her husband’s tragically failed marriage. Really moving stuff.


            • Either the director/producers are brilliant “we’ll cast the pretty boy to get an automatic audience of his fans” or they’re overly pragmatic guys who can pull off intense conflict but directing romance just isn’t their thing. I imagine them being grizzled with big old stale cigars, not caring for romance genre but needing to create one so they watch a few famous romance scenes and think “that shouldn’t be so hard”. And so, without giving a proper build up, they milk a scene far too long until it seems strange to viewers, but they’re wondering why the romance in K2 didn’t go over well with audiences.
              They are missing what we talk about on this blog – the build up to those moments that turn what is otherwise drivel into SOMEthing. 😆

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yeah. Exactly how I picture that planning session:

                “And then for the romance rubes, we’ll throw in some montages where Je He stares adoringly at Anna while she prances about in her night gown for five minutes. They’ll eat it up.”


              • Any yet . . . they nailed the poignancy of the female villain’s unrequited love for him.

                Disparities like that always make me wonder if different writers were put in charge of the one section versus the other. In which case, maybe the PD’s passed off the OTP to the less talented team because they too found it less interesting.


                • Weird that the system didn’t send me a notice of this post of yours.
                  But, that’s true. Which kind of affirms our speculation about using our boy as a pretty poster child. They may have thought “who’s going to tune in to watch a bitter and hateful middle-aged couple going at it.”

                  Haha! I love picturing our old grizzly producer counterparts.

                  Liked by 2 people

        • And what a shame it didn’t end up with more tension between the two of them. Note my comment to Beez.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I just saw the umbrella scene, with her thinking in her mind (paraphrased), “He came even though I didn’t call for him. This one is a not a dog that can be trained. He is a wolf.”

            Liked by 1 person

      • In any case, my point in posting that comment here was less about that one show than my epiphany that I can choose to watch a K-drama any way I please, including choosing an alternate OTP and selectively watching only the scenes that give me enough fodder to imagine it clearly.

        There have been a number of shows that we loved over all, but ended up bored or frustrated in the mid-stretch. Because we come for the romance and the other human interactions, whereas the writers often feel a need to also write for people who want other things.


        • Sixteen hour-long dramas present a unique problem/opportunity. Because that’s a lot of time to commit to a show that features both greatness and deeply annoying or boring flaws.

          So I’m exploring how to use them for what I seek, and not just commit to watching all or none of the TV show as broadcast. Or investing ten hours on a show and then dropping it.


          • Yes. It’s the dilemma we all face. That’s why sticking with my biases usually pays off for me because if the drama is a flop, at least I can enjoy that they’re on my screen. It’s a shame that there are some dramas that turn out to be truly great but had early episodes that just didn’t grab viewers. Because I was watching strictly for my bias, I’ve reaped the benefits of sticking with some shows that ended up being part of my top 10.

            Can you believe that despite international audiences all over the world, throughout Asia and the west, loving Healer, South Korean audiences didn’t care for it much? I have to think it was the backflashes to the parents (maybe) that lost them early on.


            • I didn’t know that about Healer. Huh. Unlike many of our favorites, it starts out very strong, so I’m surprised.


              • Me too. I still can’t figure it out. JCW has tons of fan meetings, based off his popularity with Healer, in other countries but not at home.

                Speaking of fan meetings. It’s something I find so weird. Nice, but weird. I think it only works because most K actors can sing well (some can at least carry a tune). Cause what else could they did for a couple of hours on stage? They sing, act out iconic scenes from their dramas with audiences participation, take a frw questions, and sing.

                But here’s what makes it weird to me – I can’t imagine Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Leonardo Dicaprio, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsley, or any other American tv or movie star having a “fan meet”. 😆

                Liked by 2 people

            • Yeah @Beez, I heard somewhere recently that “Healer” wasn’t really a hit in Korea, but gradually gained a following. That perplexes me quite a bit. The story didn’t necessarily revolve around the romance, but I thought it was perfectly paced to partner with the unfolding intrigue. I’m guessing there are plenty of non-romance dramas that are popular in Korea, so I can’t figure out a reason for the disconnect. Maybe it was the flashbacks…but even those weren’t terribly extensive. *Shrug* Some mysteries are beyond humanity’s grasp!

              Liked by 1 person

              • I wonder if another show was airing opposite Healer that might’ve kicked Healer out of the ruining for viewers?

                Liked by 1 person

                • @Beez — OOOOooooOOO!! Now THAT’S a theory I can get behind! Upstaged by a nefarious rival show that lured away all the viewers.


                  • I’m thinking that Ji Chang wook wasn’t a big draw at
                    Healer’s beginning. Although he was really good in Empress Ki but the real stars going into Empress Ki were Ha Ji won (title character) and Jin Joo mo. JCW also starred in Warrior Baek Dong soo which was really good IF you’re into martial arts (which I am) so even though the romance doesn’t get much focus (and the female half of that romance was portrayed by “wood” as kfangurl mentioned in her “bad OTP” post), the focus on good vs. evil, almost in a comic book style, made WBDS very enjoyable for me. Not a tight story by the end but, as I said, it worked for me for what it was.

                    But back to my point, if a show with a big star or good Witter was airing at the same time, then that could be why S. Korea’s audience didn’t time on for Healer. Even I didn’t watch it until afterwards when international audiences were raving about it. Even them I was reluctant because the name “Healer” was offputting for me. I thought it would be about a faith healer or something spiritual. And every synopsis I read just said something bland about a reporter. It was only when the bloggers at Dramabeans kept saying how Healer almost broke their site with the number of comments that I really said “let me see what this is all about”. And now it’s my favorite show of modern day shows (i.e. non historical).

                    But last night, after I mentioned this to you, I tried to Google what other shows ran against Healer in that same time slot but so far I’ve had no success.


                • @Beez — You may be onto something there. “Pinocchio” and “Punch” aired during the same months with ratings at 13.3% and 14.8% respectively (compared to “Healer”‘s 10.3%). Perhaps more importantly, both those shows came from SBS TV, which had enjoyed crazy high ratings from “You Who Came From the Star” (28.1%) that aired earlier in the year. So it’s possible SBS snagged a bunch of viewers with “Star” and then followed up with two solid shows that retained enough of the viewership to keep eyes off “Healer”.

                  “Punch” ran in the exact same time slot as “Healer” (Mon-Tues) but apparently started five minutes earlier. “Pinocchio” aired at the same time but later in the week. So the dial probably stayed on SBS, as it was cranking out lots of content at the time.


                  • @Jesse Gray! How did you find that info?! lol Can you provide me with a link? I’m always curious about ratings for shows that I’m watching after the fact, and I’d like to look up by how their ratings were and what shows aired against it. Please? Or just the title of the site will do?


                  • OMO! I got so excited, I forgot about the subject at hand. Punch starred Kim Rae-Won who was a big star. I’ve only seen a movie of his which was pretty cute (after you get over the “ugh” factor) – My Little Bride. The “ugh” is because his character is 26 (if I recall correctly) and the bride is still in high school when one of their parents insists on his death bed that they marry. It seems gross but it’s handled well as he doesn’t make any moves on her until she (graduates? Is older?) Darn it. I just realized I don’t remember how they pulled that off. I’ll have to rewatch the last 15 minutes now. Crap! (That’ll cut into my Drama watching time as I try to whittle away at my Monster list.) 😆


                  • Your comment caused me to read the synopses for Punch and Pinnochio. Punch is brain tumor melo – no thank you. I do remember a lot of hype around Pinnochio at the time , so even though the synopsis sounds weird, I’m going to give it a chance.


        • I totally get it. I’ll have to try that the next time I’m not feeling an OTP.


        • We finished Kill Me, Heal Me. Mostly excellent and it ended quite warmly, which is always nice.

          I say “mostly,” only because they dragged out the melo — with loud strings proclaiming “cry now, because this is a heavy moment ” — far too often in the later episodes and repeated certain melo flashbacks incessantly to fill up the time needed to get to 20 episodes.

          We also thought they cut some of the drama threads too abruptly — the chaebol family struggle for control and the fate of Ji Sung’s cousin and his confused “first love.” But the other moving stuff finished nicely.

          We loved the cast and the multiple personality disorder theme was used creatively. Not much recycled there!

          Very good OST theme song too — Jang Jae In’s Auditory Hallucination (feat. NaShow) — which blends rap with pop much more successfully than usual.

          Thanks for the recommendation, KFG and your added endorsement, Soumya108!


  8. Thank you for a great post, Jesse! I have zero knowledge about film-making so it was very interesting to read an insider’s take.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. For me, if an OTP works, is a combination of actors, script and directing. I also can connect better when there are in a believable romantic enviroment. OTP in Thrillers are a no-go for me. That is just sex since people are running on high adrenaline.
    A on-screen couple for me becomes an OTP when the relationship is based on mutal trust and you see them growing. And the heroine has to be allowed to have a backbone. I hate total ninny heroines but don’t mind when the hero becomes the damsel in distress *evilgrin*. Constant misunderstands and mistrust lets my ship sink with lightning speed. How should we believe that they can make that work out in “future”.

    There are a few actors and actresses who can even have chemistry with a brick wall as long the directing allows them. And I really like when the team allows actors and actresses a bit of freedom for their characters in that way. The chemistry between PMY and KJW was explosive bc of that. In the BTS you can see there is absolutely no awkwardness between them and it is so great they were allowed to show that. It is also great to see when actors and actresses are such buddies.
    In W (MBC) my OTP is great but there were scences when it totally felt like acting. The kiss in handcuffs was so fake, while the scene before was quite good. So I blamed the director for giving them a green light.

    You are right about the casting. I have seen actors who are great in playing flower vases or cool characters but totally lack when their character demands a wide range of facial and body expression. Others are playing cool heros to save the damsel in distress but they are so skinny that you want to call their mom to feed him properly first. Especially Chinese Drama does have that problem. It is so uncool when under the muscles all bones are sticking out or they are as much skinny like the actress. They are perfect for the scholar type but not the meaty hero when you see that costume is batted like hell. The stuntmen in action scences are always looking weird even though the directors try their best.
    I really dislike how Dramas are these days in this way. As long the actress or actor are looking very good and are popular they are set despite if they are good or even comfortable with each other. But I think that is alike with every business when the money dictates and the art doesn’t have a word in it.

    What I also think is a problem is the age of the actresses and actors. As long they play Youth characters they are good but when all those early 20’s must play older characters it shows. I wish they would cast more from the 30’s age range for younger ones instead of the opposite. I don’t say that all those Youngsters can’t act older characters but there are a lot of them who can’t but that is okay. Especially the Twens is a time where are we grow a lot when it comes to emotional maturity. I see alot of differences with actors in late 20’s an early 20’s. But probably I’m just alone with this opinion since I’m sure personal preference can cloud views.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is amazing!! Chemistry truly is an intriguing topic. I once watched a Netflix doco about how the main leads on Dirty Dancing hated each other even though they were applauded for having one of the best on-screen chemistry.

    And I’m glad you brought up the chemistry between Ji An and Il Kwang from My Mister!! The whole dynamic between the two gave me so much mixed feelings, especially since Il Kwang is played by Jang Ki Yong who I always saw as the “good guy”. Plus my own discomfort from getting excited at the glimpse of feelings and softness that he has for Ji An while also hating on him. 😂 I never thought even antagonistic relationships like these would have such strong (on-screen) chemistry. And yes, they do make for a GREAT watch,

    Liked by 1 person

    • No kidding? I didn’t know Grey and Swayze didn’t get along–that’s bizarre! I wasn’t the biggest fan of the film, but I totally bought into their connection. I guess unbridled rage serves well as passion when much of the chemistry manifests in dance. 🙂

      “My Mister” was actually the first thing I saw IU and Ki Yong in, and they did such a great job that they are now officially those characters in my head. It’s a great impression to come away with, although the afterimage is probably gonna make adjusting to them in other roles a bit of challenge. Ah well. Worth it!

      I remember being so torn up watching him violently shake Ji-An and drop her to the ground, but then doing a double take seeing almost a completely different character through the look on his face when she says, “You like me don’t you? That’s why you follow me around?” The combination of her apparent indifference to what was being done to her–her familiarity with it–and his shocked, almost mortified expression (as if he’d just been called out) just threw so many layers on the scene at one time.

      At that point we don’t really know what their history is, but it is clear there’s so much more to it than an outstanding debt.

      Happy to know you’re as intrigued by the nature of chemistry as I am!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah! It was an episode from Movies That Made Us. I haven’t seen the actual film cuz’ it’s too old but the doco itself was really interesting.

        Oh! Wow glad that My Mister was your introduction to those two! They’re amazing actors. My first two dramas with Jang Ki Yong was Go Back Couple and Search WWW, both of which cast as him a sweet, gentle love interest which was of course, a huge contrast to his character as Kwang Il. I wonder how you’ll take to him if you ever watch any of those!

        Yes it does!! It made me feel so conflicted for Kwang Il but also so angry for Ji An. The writing, acting and directing of those two characters is so masterful and layered!!

        If you haven’t seen Hotel Del Luna, IU is AMAZING in that too. Very different type of character but she really shows off her versatility as an actress. But, the chemistry was really lacking in HDL and personally, I’m blaming it on the male lead’s acting. Although I’ve heard he’s usually a pretty skilled actor. So not sure what happened there.

        Really looking forward to read more from you though!!


        • You aren’t missing anything with Dirty Dancing; I’d say it’s greatest contribution is the documentary that you were able to learn some stuff through.

          I am curious how I’ll adapt to seeing those two in different roles. They’re both good, so I’m sure they’ll be appearing in more shows to come. “My Mister” as a show set a pretty high bar though, so finding a project that lets them shine like that again could be a long time coming. I may put HDL on my list, but without a compelling OTP, my interest may wane. I’m in it for the love! 😉

          I’m sure there’ll be much more to discuss soon enough–hopefully with awe and enthusiastic endorsements. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  11. @Jesse Gray – so you ARE a writer!! I must have misunderstood. In any event, I learned some things from this insightful post.

    I would say though that Kdrama actors would think they’ve gone on a luxury vacation if they only had to film 16 hours a day. It’s been explained to me many times why S. Korea uses the “live shoot” system and while I understood the explanation, I don’t understand why any sane person or company would want to continue doing things this way. Heck, I still don’t understand the logic or reason why they do two episodes a week.🤷

    Liked by 2 people

    • @beezrtp, I apologize for for the miscommunication–I didn’t mean to mislead ya! 😉 I just meant that come Monday morning, I’ll be doing something other than writing to pay the bills. This is actually the first thing I’ve written (aside from little snippets of this and that) in a very long time, so by virtue of infrequency alone I don’t think of myself as a writer.

      I’m glad you learned some things from this post, and I confess I didn’t do a lot of research into filmmaking outside the US; I was hoping most–if not all–the principles were more/less universal, but I’m not surprised to hear that things are actually more strenuous on an SK set. I’ll need to look up “live shoot” and see what gist of it is.

      I remember seeing a production still at the end of one of the shows, and a principle actor was holding a boom mic–running sound–for a scene he wasn’t in. I loved the concept of fluidity of roles and everyone pitching in to get the job done. On a union shoot, you can’t ask someone from another department to hand you a roll of tape. There are clear, hard boundaries and you cross them at great peril. Having an actor move a sandbag out of the way would be unheard of, let alone have them standing in for the audio tech! Most sets I was on weren’t like that (thankfully) but I talked with a lot of fellas who’d worked on them. The pay is great, but there’s not the unity on set like there appears to be on these kinds of shows.

      …Then again if you’re spending over 16 hours a day with a group of people, the hardship alone would tend to bond everyone together. I’m sure working like that saves a ton of time and money, but I’m with you–I can’t understand how or why they’d push that hard. But apparently they can handle it. We have a lot of well-made (or at least mostly well-made) dramas to watch and they seem to be going strong. But who knows if there’s a breaking point coming up somewhere down the line?

      Liked by 1 person

      • lol Your description reminds me of a scene in Arthdal Chronicles (which I think is the biggest dollar-wise K production to date (but I could be wrong). It might’ve been surpassed recently.) But it did have more money in producing it than the average Kdrama. In any event, it takes place in ancient (as in not quite cave man) days and the scene is in a semi dark cave and we can see a ladder and somebody standing on it in modern clothes and shoes but their head is out of sight. It looked so strange on the setting. I don’t know if editing missed it or it was just “bunk it! We don’t have time to fix it. Keep it moving”. But that’s the problem with the live shoot. This also tells you how really good these actors are because many times they don’t have the luxury of take after take because there’s no time. So think of some of the great performances they got in 1 take! 👏 👏 👏

        Liked by 1 person

      • Live shooting means that production is ongoing while the episodes are airing, rather than having everything in the can before the premiere. I think in the West this is only used for soaps? It makes sense for long-running shows because they can be fine-tuned to the actors’ performance and the audience’s preferences, and anyway nobody will complete 70 hours worth of scripts in advance.

        But for the miniseries format, it just doesn’t make any sense. If the audience didn’t find the first episodes engaging, they won’t return no matter how much the later episodes are tweaked. All it achieves is ruining the drama’s integrity and disappointing those who liked the initial tone. And it leads to those famously extreme working hours (up to 20 hours a day), because of course they absolutely cannot afford delays. For example for A Piece of Your Mind, they were still filming scenes on the weekend when the finale was the next Tuesday. But I read that it also happened that some drama had just a 10 minute black hole in the middle of an episode, because the relevant reels did not arrive by the time it was airing…

        Liked by 2 people

        • Actually most shows in the US use the live shooting process–or at least a variation of it–if I’m understanding you correctly. They’ll start filming a month or so before the season starts so that they have two to three episodes ready for air (or close to it) right off the jump. Then the show is always in multiple phases of development until the season ends. But typically there’s a set schedule that allows for normal work days, and they always have weekends off (barring some kind of emergency re-shoots). Granted, the directors and other production folks may be doing planning on some of those weekends, but the actors definitely have the time off. It can be chaotic, but it’s controlled chaos, and the window between when an episode is shot and when it airs is usually about a month or so.

          The season arc is already developed before they begin shooting (with rare exceptions) so even if the scripts aren’t done for every episode, they know where the show is headed and build towards it. They may make adjustments to fix continuity or the loss of an actor, but they don’t usually do a course adjustment on the story itself. Even if an episode is poorly received, they’ve already shot the next two already, so they can’t really make an effective fix. Which is good. As you said, changing the narrative mid-stride rarely works out well for the story.

          So I don’t know why these dramas don’t give themselves that month buffer to start out with. It eliminates the risk of not having the footage in time for the edit, and there’s no last minute scramble that requires ridiculously long days. It also helps account for weather delays and other unforeseen issues that can crop up. They’re still shooting throughout the season and I know the editing has to be rather brisk, but it’s rarely frantic.

          I did a short stint on season 7 of Homeland (background talent) and there were some long days, so it can happen. But we still had weekends off, and the longest day was around 12-14 hours. There’s a substantial pay bump for anything over 10 hours though: 1.5x for 11-12 hours, 2x for 12-14 hours, and after 14 they double the day rate and I believe it’s 2x for every hour after that in addition. (I never went past 14, so I didn’t get that sweet sweet paycheck). That money adds up quick, so the production is aptly motivated to keep the days short and run a tight ship. 🙂

          I’m guessing they don’t have that same system overseas, so there’s no penalty for the long hours. Still. The live shooting the way they do it is a head-scratcher for sure.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks for the info about US filming! Of course it is reasonable that they don’t write and film up to 22 episodes in advance. I just made an assumption based on Firefly, which Fox did their best to ruin and then cancelled without airing all episodes, but the whole first season was already completed and the missing episodes became available on DVD later. And it went on to grow into a franchise and almost 20 years later it’s still a beloved cult classic… I wonder what those Fox execs are thinking about their decision now. 😛

            I think one of the big differences between live shooting in the US and Korea is the length of episodes airing each week. In the US, dramas are about 45 minutes long, one episode per week. In Korea, the norm is 2 episodes per week, at least 60 minutes each but often 70 or even more, which means 2-3 times as much material to film every week. It’s an insane workload… but then it is a country where crazy long work days are the norm. Thanks to that their economy skyrocketed, but they are paying a heavy price in mental health.

            Director Ahn Pan Seok (Secret Affair, Something in the Rain, One Spring Night) is very popular not only because of his talent, but because he doesn’t make his staff work more than 12 hours a day, so people can have like 7 hours of sleep daily which is seen as luxury in the industry… Here is an article about working conditions on a recent drama:

            Liked by 1 person

            • I loved Firefly! (Along with pretty much everyone else in the world, it seems, except the suits at Fox) As I recall, the air dates actually differed from the proper timeline sequence. After I bought the DVDs, I had to search for the proper ordering so I could see the story the way it was meant to be told. No clue what went on behind the scenes that lead to the poor handling–and subsequent dropping–of the show. Gail Berman, the president of entertainment at Fox at the time, said it was purely a numbers thing; it was expensive and it didn’t make enough to justify its existence. Not sure about the last part, but sci-fi is typically crazy expensive. Still, if TNG can get like a billion seasons, we should have at least gotten five for Firefly! (At least we got a movie….)

              That’s the problem with a show that resonates strongly with a small group of people, instead of merely being entertaining for many. The people that love it really love it, but if there’s no way for them to translate that love into money, that doesn’t keep the show breathing. I hope the cost of production can come down enough so that shows don’t have to make as much to be worthwhile; I’d personally rather have two shows that I can’t get enough of rather than a dozen shows that just let me shut off my brain.

              And thanks for linking the article–but holy cow, that’s depressing! 20 hour work day, a night in a sauna, and then back to work at 11am?! It’s a miracle these shows are even in focus with that kind of schedule.

              I’ll admit, as a fan, I love getting two episodes a week. But not when it comes at the cost of a sustainable living for the people making it. I’m glad to hear Pan Seok puts a hard stop at 12 hours; it still seems brutal, but considering the state of the industry, it’s actually really good.

              I talked with a guy who worked in the Production Department for “Minority Report” and he said Spielberg shut it down every day after eight working hours. I’m not sure if he did it on every film, but it’s nice to know someone is looking out for the crew. Hopefully people like Pan Seok will continue to change the MO of productions organically without the unions having to dig in. But at this point, the industry just needs help. 😦


              • I loved Firefly, but didn’t discover it until long after it had aired. Ditto for the original seasons of Arrested Development.

                Unless it’s presented in all caps — for example, anything HBO broadcasts in its prestige Sunday evening slot — I don’t tend to watch any show during its initial run.

                For that reason, it doesn’t surprise that the very best ones don’t catch on with the masses and only grow to wide acclaim in subsequent years. People like me are a niche audience.


                • Same here! Practically ever show I’ve seen is only because I bought it on DVD several years after it cooled off. Ironically the shows I watched as a kid (Transformers, GI Joe, Knight Rider, A-Team, etc..,) I haven’t really wanted to get on DVD. They were good for a time, but I don’t have enough nostalgia to make them watchable now. (The one notable exception being Pinky and the Brain, although that came out in my high school years, so I–and therefore it–were much more sophisticated. 😉 )

                  I haven’t had cable since 2002, and aside from football games in the fall, can’t say I miss it. Particularly now that there’s about six lifetimes of unwatched dramas awaiting!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Yeah no cable TV nor landline in this house either. Just high-speed Internet and cell phones.

                    We finally resisted their pressure to price-force us into a “triple play” package for all three.

                    So much is changing so fast. Did you read that monthly greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 17% globally due to COVID-19 shelter-in-place/social distancing? Apparently it can be done, if you just decide that it truly must happen.


                • Yeah. Fox did Firefly so wrong in its original run. I love Firefly with a passion and bought the series and movie dvds. But because of the way Fox demanded that the show create a different pilot than the one originally prepared, it threw off the story they would eventually end up telling. So much so that while I fell in love with the series later, Back then, I couldn’t get interested in the first episode. Show needed context to understand and to like that “first” episode. I’m putting first in quotation marks because it wasn’t the real first episode intended by the creators.


              • Because of the long hours, many Kdrama productions have had on-set accidents, fires, and actors involved in car crashes when away from the set. I still don’t know why they feel there must be 2 episodes a week. Instead of a 16-episode drama running for 8 weeks, why not do 1 episode a week and run for 16 weeks?
                Although if it’s like most things in life, me thinking it will result in more humane and safer working conditions probably won’t happen. When you give companies more time, they usually find a way to continue to squeeze more work out of everyone.


                • It’s true…although companies are just an extension of people. We get a raise, we get a new car or bigger house or a new wardrobe or a rotund cow. Businesses are geared to grow, so they are always trying to find ways to make that happen. When they realize a profit, that just means they can spend more money on the next one, but it doesn’t scale evenly so they have to cut costs. (Like someone getting a bigger house and forgetting that the increase in size means a higher property tax, probably a higher HOA fee, and a huge increase in heating and cooling bills.) Production companies/studios won’t ever mitigate their own growth–getting bigger is what the love to do. And it has its place. But that’s why they need people who just love making films/shows to step in and help find a balance. Artists need money and the industry needs artists. You’d think somehow that relationship would work better than it does. 😦


              • Unfortunately that is true that a show is a success if a lot of people like it a little, rather than a few people like it a lot. But trying to please the largest number of viewers leads to shows that are nothing but uninspired, lukewarm remixes of the proven cliches and formulas… This is why I like JTBC – the success of The World of the Married, SKY Castle or even Itaewon Class are good examples that taking risks might pay off well.

                I have a tendency for binge watching if I like a show, so even two episodes a week feels too little. But I certainly don’t want the people who make those shows get hurt in the process… which is why pre-produced shows would be perfect, then the episodes can be released in whatever schedule they choose, from once a week to dumping all at once Netflix style.

                That’s nice to hear about Spielberg, I’ll appreciate his work even more! Maybe it wasn’t strictly 8 hours on each movies, but if he cared for his people on one he probably didn’t require crazy hours on the others either.

                But as for Korea, I’m afraid it is a wider problem than just in the film industry, even kids are overworked. Have you watched SKY Castle? The middle school age girl has maths tutoring that is I think from 10pm to midnight… I certainly wouldn’t have had any brain capacity for studying by that time. And it is even worse for high schoolers, according to wikipedia there’s a saying that if a high school senior sleeps 3 hours a day they might get into the SKY universities, if they sleep more than 5 hours they won’t get into any university at all.


                • 3 hours of sleep?! I can appreciate a strong work ethic and commitment to success, but that level of work and stress is ultimately counterproductive. There was an author (forget the name now) who said that a nation’s virtues, when taken to excess, can become a liability. It’s referencing a culture’s tendencies and how there are strengths and weaknesses within all of them. There is much to be said for pursuing excellence and dedicating time to learning and growth. But this would seem to be skewing towards an excess of that pursuit.

                  I guess the long and short of it almost always boils down to moderation. As for the industry itself, it’ll be good to see an increase of risk-taking when it comes to crafting a narrative, as well as a focus on mitigating risks on the production end of things. Right now they got their risks in the wrong places! 🙂 but also 😦


  12. “I have personally seen admissions on this very site of people deciding to watch a drama solely because of the dreamy gentleman playing the lead…” quoting Jesse Gray

    I’ve heard wonderful things about My Mister but because I am “meh” about IU’s acting and really don’t care to watch Lee Sun-Kyun (aka The Voice) in anything so I just decided to let My Mister pass on by. But I just want to know one thing? Why nobody told me that My Mister has Jang Ki-Yong???!!!
    ✔Added to my watchlist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, how can you not want to hear Saruman speak Hangul?! Seriously, if you’ve ever watched LotR, put on an episode of “My Mister” and close your eyes. You’ll think Korea is part of Middle Earth. 😉

      Second, I would have told you about Jang Ki-Yong…but you didn’t tell me about epilogue scenes. So now we’re even! 🙂

      And if Ki-Yong gets you into “My Mister”, he has done you a great service. I know before you talked about shows getting too much of a reputation to live up to, and I can’t vouch for how you’ll process the show emotionally, but I think it has the potential to connect on that level. The elements may not be like “Woah!” but for me, it found a frequency that hadn’t been struck yet, and that was enough to make it memorable.

      Ki-Yong does do a terrific job in his role though!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Are you saying The Voice sounds like Saramun? 🤔


        • Indeed I am! Saruman was played by the great late Christopher Lee. Listen to a soundbite of him, particularly later in his career. I swear you will hear The Voice speaking perfect English! 😀


          • I just don’t like The Voice. I’m like that with American movies and shows too. I can see a trailer and think “that looks good” but then see John Cusack and nobody can budge me. I won’t watch it.

            I didn’t realize this until just this moment so, my watching is two sides to a coin. Just like I’ll watch my bias in anything. I absolutely refuse to watch any actors I don’t like no matter how good a movie/show is purported to be.

            Confession though, I did watch John Cusak in The Prince because Rain had a supporting role in the movie. It was an awful movie and I felt so sorry for Rain. The movie starred Bruce Willis as the villain and he was the definition of somebody phoning it in. It’s as if he thought “I’m not popular with audiences any more. My time has come. Better pick up any paychecks I can still get.” I don’t begrudge Bruve Willis doing that but meanwhile Rain couldn’t have known Bruce Willis was done over here and probably thought he’d hit the big time starring with such a big star. But it kind of blew his chance for being offered better projects because of that turd of a movie.
            And that right there is an example of my fan girling. I know that that’s what he wanted – to take over the west, the way he did Asia – so I wanted to see him succeed because he worked really hard for it. \_(ツ)_/¯ 

            Liked by 1 person

            • But…but John is America’s favorite son! He’s a national treasure! What could possibly have turned you against him with such steadfast animosity?!

              I’m sorry Rain got hosed by lackluster crapfest of a film. I didn’t even know the movie came out! Some actors do get another try after a flop, but there’s a bunch of factors involved that I don’t fully understand. It sucks too, because in general you’d think getting onto a US blockbuster with top-tier (presumably) talent would be a safe move.

              They say there’s the movie you write, the movie you shoot, and the movie you edit. I feel for actors, because even if the script they get is decent, and they’re like, “This is gonna be so awesome–it has such depth. I’m gonna get an Oscar for sure!”, it has two more phases to go through before the end, and small decisions can make a big difference.

              I’m really trying to think if there’s an actor I absolutely won’t watch. I remember disliking Timothy Olyphant for awhile because he only seemed to emote from the nose down; his eyebrows never moved, but his mouth did all kinds of crazy things. But then I saw him in Justified and he changed my mind.

              There are definitely actors I don’t care for in terms of the stupid stuff they say or do, but I consider them jesters for my amusement. As long as they perform well and entertain me, I just forget about their off-screen shenanigans.

              …Drat. I’m coming up dry. I guess I could join you in your dislike for Mr. Cusack since he’s not in any movie I really like (Con Air was “meh”, and though I own a copy of “Say Anything” I haven’t watched it yet) and I think he’s just about retired anyway.

              Painless solidarity!! 😀

              Liked by 1 person

              • Hahaha! I’m recruiting for my evil team!
                John Cusack – I don’t know why I don’t like him, I just don’t. lol Maybe I dislike him for the same reason that I love Nicholas Cage (in his older movies. He’s quite unwatchable now.) No reason that I can put my finger on.

                The funny thing is my daughter-in-law has the same nixes on the same actors that I do! And she’ll say it before I get a chance to voice my dislike so I know it’s not her just going along with me.


              • By the way, that is a perfectly good reason not to like Timothy Olyphant. Although you’ve made peace with him. I’ve disliked actors and actresses for a whole lot less. lol

                I’m also known for placing some actors and actresses into the “I can’t stand him/her” if they’re over hyped for something that, in my eyes, just isn’t true. For example I call Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jennifer Love Ugly. Back in his teenaged years, it used to make my son say “Ma!” He’d be so exasperated by me every time I’d say it.

                But Ms. Hewitt was so hyped up that I couldn’t stand her. Now if someone is truly gorgeous, I have no problem. In fact, I’d be trying to nag my son about his chores, but if I walked into the room and Catherine Zeta Jones’ commercial was on, I’d stop mid-nag and wait because I knew he wouldn’t hear a word I was saying and I’d have to repeat myself. I didn’t even get angry ’cause I could totally understand. He would be mesmerized in that moment so I’d patiently wait until the commercial was over to resume my nagging. 😆


                • Ah, those T-Mobile commercials! If the service hadn’t been so stink’in awful everywhere I lived, Catherine definitely coulda sold me on trying them again.

                  I understand what you’re saying about someone being overhyped, but I just keep thinking they themselves don’t have a lot of control over it. I mean, what if I made a movie, and everyone was like, “Jesse has the greatest chin in the world, no wonder he’s so good!” But then someone realizes I don’t technically have a chin and they start hate’in on me. What’d I do to deserve that?! I didn’t bill myself as the Chinful Wonder! I just did my job. 😦

                  But making that separation can be hard. Saturation these days is so easy, and there’s starting to be such a thing as “bad publicity”.

                  To your point though, I’ve never seen a JLH flick or show. …So yeah, I’ll never watch anything with her in it either! 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Hahahaha! Thanks Jesse Gray. You actually made me realize and rethink my attitude toward poor Jennifer Love Hewitt. I still won’t watch anything she’s in but I’ll be telling my son about this conversation. I’m grinning ear to ear. 😁

                    Liked by 2 people

    • You definitely need to watch My mister! It is one of the best shows that I have ever come across. It might be a bit dark but this show is actually a gem. I won’t recommend it to people who are starting with their K-drama journeys as it is not a fluffy rom-com but for others I definitely definitely recommend it. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    • Sorry for the off-topic question, but can I get a recommendation for a Jang Ki Yong drama? I have seen Mr. Mister already.

      Very good analysis of the dynamic between JKY and IU’s characters in Mr. Mister.


      • I’ve seen Kill It, and Come and Hug Me. Come and Hug Me was okay but you may like it better than I did because I’m a rom-com fan and usually steer away from melos.

        Kill It wanted to be something but, imo, bit off more than it could chew. Now, Come And Hug Me was a better script, better production all the way around but oh the sadness. Which is why if you forced me to choose between the two to rewatch, I’d choose Kill It.


        • Ah, what’s a fangirl to do? I prefer mystery/thrillers to melos and romcoms, but I admit that I started appreciating melos, romcoms, and slice of life stories because of kdramas. I am thinking about giving each of these dramas a try. If something clicks, I’ll keep going. If not, I still get to see JKY.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I just realized that I wrote Mr. Mister instead of My Mister. It must be quarantine-induced brain fog…


            • Goshdarnit, Snow Flower! I spent last twelve hours searching for this elusive “Mr. Mister” show to see the characters you were referencing! 😉


              • I guess I was mixing up My Mister and Mr. Sunshine, both are great dramas! I am also watching The King: Eternal Monarch, right after I finished the zombie epic Kingdom, so no wonder I am confused!

                Liked by 1 person

          • Snow Flower, Jang Ki Yong plays a very sweet young man in Go Back Couple, a heartfelt little show that I enjoyed very well. I thought Jang Ki Yong was very appealing in that, so if you’re on the market for more Jang Ki Yong, and don’t mind the idea of a do-over story, I’d recommend Go Back Couple! 🙂 The humor leans a bit petty and childish in the beginning, but Show mellows out really nicely, and Kim Mi Kyung is wonderful as Jang Na Ra’s mom, naturally. ❤


            • Kfangurl,

              I looked up Go Back Couple. Jang Na Ra, Kim Mi Kyung, AND Jang Ki Yong in the same drama? And only 12 episodes? And the crazy brother from The Light in Your Eyes? All I can say is “How did I miss this?”
              And it is available for streaming in my area!


  13. This. This is so good. This quite clearly and cleanly broke down why some OTPs feel honest and natural causing you the viewer to naturally root for them. Where as with other OTPs don’t. I’m talking about those ones that feel like the show as a whole is trying to “pull-one-over” on you through the unjustified use of “plot-hand-waving-magic” in order to make up for actually chemistry/relationship building to convince you into believing that this is natural —when you’re like —sure they’re both pretty and pretty people are nice to watch kissing… but… but something’s missing…?

    I also want to applaud you on your really great job of explaining why accidental (and non-accidental) second lead syndromes happen. Why certain characters/relationships seem to just get shelved and or become the antagonist… for no apparent plot reason other than we can’t have our lead (male or female) fall for them… and also we need more… contrived drama…? However, because of the honest chemistry between the characters it leaves you, the audience member frustrated and cheated (this often leads to me dropping the drama).

    This was such a great breakdown. I kept finger-snapping (like a crazy person) as I read this on my phone from the amount I agreed with everything. It caused me to sit here and think about the various OTPs that I never shipped and ones that I shipped hard and compare them to your breakdown of how we perceive on-screen chemistry —and down the line you were spot on. 👏👏👏 On screen chemistry is a formula —a wonderful blissful formula If done correctly. 😂

    I’m so sorry this was long and rambling (as most of my replies are)… this was just so brilliant.

    Liked by 4 people

    • @Naomi, thank for processing and engaging so much with the post! It’s really exciting to hear thoughts aligning with each other and having the application make sense for someone else too. The “finger-snapping like a crazy person” made for a great, affirming visual as well. 🙂 And please don’t apologize for ‘rambling’! I do it all the time here (as many can attest), and it usually means something got my train of thought going and I’m having a blast rolling with it. I see it as a passion through the fingertips, and I appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. 👍👍👍👏👏👏


  15. Awesome contribution, Sean! Besides the insights, you are a great writer, which is something I pay close attention to.

    So is it my contrarian nature that compels me to comment only on the one thing you got horribly, foolishly wrong? (big smile)

    In reference to Her Private Life, a show about a fangirl (Deok-mi) and her OTP partner (Ryan), you wrote:

    > but Deok-mi’s frequent indulgences of infatuation with her idol tempered things a bit. I also remember more scenes of her being supportive and almost motherly to an emotionally-crippled and insecure Ryan, than her being the focus of his affection. Bonus points to the writer for allowing Eun-gi [her adopted “brother”] to be believable as a friend (and nothing more) but a penalty for hamstringing Deok-mi with a genuine adoration for, and fixation on, another man. Kudos to Park Min-young for being true to her character’s dual interests; alas, that her stellar talent made for a watered-down romance!

    Ha. So sad that you are so wrong about this show!

    A crucial aspect of the chemistry in this OTP was that Ryan chose to love her as she was, including the fangirl side. He didn’t just tolerate her infatuation with her pop-singer idol or merely choose not to be feel jealous (over an intense yet ultimately contained fantasy with strict rules of behavior); he ADORED her for it.

    Many of the moments when his feelings for her were most clear were the ones where he secretly observed her fangirling and felt such pleasure seeing the joy it gave her.

    That’s not a flaw, my friend. It’s love with a capital L. And it was a huge part of what made that OTP work.

    But that’s cool. None of us can afford be right about everything. Because, heh, that would be so annoying!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hey @merij1, thank you for read, the compliment, and the counterpoint! Unfortunately, I actually agree with ya! 😀

      From Ryan’s side of things, the love and adoration was very clear; I doubt there was much Deok-mi could have done to derail that. Heck, I don’t think he did more than blink once or twice when he found out–even after he saw her shrine–er–apartment! I can appreciate the unconditional Love on his end. 🙂

      My hang-up (slight though it may be) was on Deok-mi’s side of the relationship. I understand that fangirling (is that a verb–did I use that right?) is not the same thing as desiring to actually be with someone–although admittedly I don’t fully comprehend the scope and boundaries inherent to the hobby/lifestyle. But even if it’s the equivalent of very very very enthusiastic sports fan, it’s still focused on a guy who isn’t our lead. The way she looks at him, the amount of time and energy spent doting and fantasizing and adoring–those are things that, for me, diminished the chemistry (by virtue of making it common). I was seeing the same looks and interest being given to her idol as was being given to Ryan. They physical intimacy wasn’t there, but in all the ways we can see where a character’s heart is, I was seeing a parallel. I know in my head the context is fangirl vs girlfriend, but what I’m seeing is the same treatment for both fellas.

      In other words, if you didn’t tell me who comprised the OTP, and you showed me a scene of Deok-mi with the idol, and then showed me a scene of her with Ryan (sans the physical intimacy), I don’t know that I would have been able to tell you which one she actually wanted to be with more.

      Now, Min-young may have given a more nuanced performance than I recall and actually given different looks to each. Maybe her non-verbals were varied slightly. And it could totally just be my inability to fully understand fangirling in the context of the show. Is it really as purely platonic as rooting for a sports team? Maybe my perception informed the way I saw her look at her idol (I should really learn his name, but I’m not gonna ’cause pbbbbtt!).

      As we are on a blog called “The Fangirl Verdict”, I think we have a subject matter expert in-house. 🙂 I’m definitely curious to hear about the nature of fangirling–as it applies to shows like these and how it may differ from what we saw in “Her Secret Life”.

      In any case, I’m feeling your love for the show and I’m glad it hit home with you. I didn’t dislike it at all, I just tried to figure out why the chemistry wasn’t registering for me the way I expected considering how good the leads were together.

      But if nothing else, in the interest of not being annoying, I will happily concede the point. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ha. I was kidding about “wrong,” so no need to defend nor concede your position.

        If there’s one thing I’ve learned reading people’s comments on this blog, it’s that so much of our perception of romantic chemistry is not only subjective, but intuitive at level we can’t explain. So if an OTP didn’t entirely work for you, that’s just a fact.

        To clarify this next part, you should know that I’m in my early sixties. Which to say, I’ve been around the block a few times.

        One thing I’ve learned is that love is not zero-sum game. At its worst, it can turn out that way in your mind and end up devastating your life, but not because you failed to secure your share of a limited supply. It’s because you and/or the other person didn’t take care of it.

        That fangirl’s love for her idol was a fangirl thing. Because boundaries. Definitely not a threat to her IRL guy nor a subtraction from the column of love she had available for him.

        Just from watching these shows with my wife, I can attest that amplifying your experience of romantic love can be a really good thing for a long-term relationship.

        And if there’s trust in that relationship, one party vicariously or otherwise experiencing a fantasized romantic love for someone she (or he) could absolutely never engage with in that way just adds to the Community Love Bank.

        Liked by 2 people

        • That’s actually encouraging for me, because I have at times wondered if what attracts me to these shows would dissipate when/if I find “the one”. Obviously there are many reasons to enjoy them, and being able to discuss them has value in and of itself, but I didn’t know if the underlying drive came from a wistful bent or if it was purely a love of the love.

          Your marriage is proof that it can indeed be the latter, and that not only can the shows still hold meaning for you as an individual, but can have a hand in enhancing the relationship.

          Much obliged! 😀

          Liked by 1 person

          • For me, personally, what draws me to Kdrama is the foreign culture that is so different in its settings, in its customs, yet the same when it comes to relationships (romantic, friendship, parental, child).

            So I’m laughing at the witty bantering most times because it reminds me of us (westerners, we say the exact same things to each other when we’re living or fighting) but I’m also learning about the cultural differences (because somebody just burned their fingers on a pot and immediately gripped their ear lobes; or they’re suddenly licking their finger and furiously rubbing their nose). 😆


            • typo: loving or fighting


            • My mom does the earlobe thing, so it comes at least as far west as middle Europe. 😀

              Liked by 1 person

            • Beez,

              That is exactly what draws me to kdramas as well. It is fascinating to observe a foreign culture (from the small screen) and learn about the differences but also the similarities with my own culture. The Reply series (and especially 1988) made me think about my own childhood, even though I probably missed a lot of cultural and timely references from the drama.


          • OMG! what an incredible post with so much information and insights. *claps* and *whistles*. I used to wonder what makes a show Chemistry work and what doesn’t. And I always came to a conclusion that it has to do with the actors and how well they execute their characters, But, oh boy you have cited si many reasons and I must say that I agree with you on so many points.

            But, what I have been wondering is that we have shows like just between lovers where both characters are suffering from PTSD and have somewhat same kind of character. But, still their chemistry was still likable but in when the weather is fine the chemistry just didn’t work that well.

            The writing felt more sloppy in that way…where the OTP relationship didn’t progress at all . Plus, socially inept people are Ok but for me Eun seob was a bit boring. I have seen shows where the male lead is quite cold and socially inept but when they fall in love their characters take a complete 360-degree turn. For example: the male lead in touch your heart , Ji chang wook in Healer, kim woo bin in Heirs and this change is so so interesting that it makes the chemistry even more likable and attractive.

            Liked by 3 people

            • Hey, soumya108–I appreciate the emphatic reception, and it’s great to hear that a lot of this lines up with your observations as well. 🙂

              I haven’t seen “Just Between Lovers”, so I could be way off, but I’m guessing the PTSD aspect generated some very raw explosive moments that carried a lot of emotional weight. People can bond very quickly through suffering, so depending on how the story was written out, there were various avenues that could have positioned the characters to have more powerful interactions. The more tangible and vibrant the emotions, the easier it is to connect with the. Trying to play off of melancholy can be like playing off of drowsiness if not done right; it’s much easier reacting to a breakdown.

              I think “Weather” was just so low-key in general that it was hard to have scenes with any pop. There wasn’t really any conflict per se; it was like watching a boxing match where Fighter A hits Fighter B, Fighter B looks dourly up at Fighter A and just kinda sits down. A punch was thrown, the guy went down, but it wasn’t a fight.

              Indifference. There was a lot of indifference, or at least that’s the way it came across. And no matter how you finesse it, there’s just not a lot you can get when it seems like no one really cares too much.

              I’m glad that you referenced “Touch Your Heart” and “Healer”– I enjoyed both those shows quite a lot myself (particularly “Healer”). And you’re right! Both those MLs took awhile to “get it”, to warm up, but once they did, they were all-in. Still awkward at times (which was fun to watch because they had the classic fish-out-of-water dynamic going on) but they came alive and pursued with innocent fervor that was reciprocated by the FLs.

              Liked by 2 people

              • I actually prefer leads who don’t “get it” at first to “love at first sight”. Love at first sight, is just reacting to the physical. That’s no big deal. In my youth through my 40’s, I’ve had marriage proposals and other nonsense upon first meeting guys. I’ve also lived through stalkers and other really, really bad behavior including a neighbor’s son breaking in my home and attempting to rape me (court trial and everything!) so I’m not impressed with what the physical appearance can cause people to think or do (when they’ve only just met you!).
                I much prefer the stories where couples aren’t aware they’re falling for each other until it dawns on them, often surprising them, that it’s happened.

                Liked by 1 person

            • I really wonder why so many people are raving about the chemistry in Weather. Park Min Young is one of the few kdrama actresses who kiss like they mean it, but that’s about the only positive I could say about the couple. I felt neither the sparks that make an OTP memorable, nor the warm intimacy that is the other way to stand out. And the way her inconsiderate behavior was painted as cute was a total turnoff for me. Another writer added to my permanent blacklist…


              • I watched when the weather is fine for my love for park min young. I enjoy watching her on screen and the reason why I was able to complete this show was solely because I am biased to her.

                Even though I didn’t liked her character in this show I kept going that things will get fine in the next episodes but it didn’t. Some things I enjoyed in the show was run seop’s little sister, the blog scribbles by the end and the highlights of the small town life. Other than that nothing was interesting.


                • It’s to Min-Young’s credit that she was believable in the role. I’d only seen her in upbeat, spunky roles in the three dramas before this. I bought into her somber persona, though, like you, I ultimately wasn’t feeling it that much.

                  I definitely agree that the little sister stole the show; she was a lot of fun and seamlessly portrayed. That actress is good, and I hope she continues to get work.

                  I was recently informed about the blogs at the end and was told they’re definitely worth watching. I totally missed ’em during my watch, which I need to remedy at some point in the near future. Right now I’ve got my hands full with RIABB though!


                • soumya108, I’ve got to say I agree with you. I felt HaeWon was very disrespectful of EunSeob. Most particularly when she secretly read his blogs…aka diary! And she did it more than once!!! So not good. I kept thinking…this girl will… when she gets her act together…so eventually rip this boy to shreds. She, for me, was written with more potential for change than he was. This quite, introspective, innocent boy will not be able or want to do any great changes to his basic personality. He’ll be ruled by this woman and be miserable. I also didn’t have any ‘feels’ about their chemistry. Was their attraction for each other a mutual recognition that each were needy at this point in their lives?


                  • Funny thing, on Soompi there was an article about things they loved/hated in Weather and I could not believe that they put reading the diary and giggling about it into the ‘loved it’ category. Like what the hell is wrong with people?… But for me, the OTP is not the real problem with Weather. No spoilers until kfangirl finishes with it, but no kdrama made me as angry as that show.


                    • Luna, it just made me so sad for him when she read the diary and that he was so blind to her as to think it was okay for her to do that. It appeared he was so naive as to only be embarrassed and not angry towards her for it. How uncaring of his feelings to giggle at what he’d written as he’d poured out his heart on the pages of the blog. Sad.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I didn’t think it was funny or commendable, but I was marginally relieved that Eun Seob’s feelings were finally getting some exposure (since Hae Won continuously failed to see through his thoroughly unconvincing redirects and denials). Unfortunately the diary was the first of many devices/plot lines that was bereft of a payoff. It was built up as a treasure trove of his innermost feelings, but was essentially dismissed by Hae Won and subsequently by the show.

                      …Granted, I’m skeptical that marshmallow references are ever going to melt a girl’s heart (even if she has one), but still! 😉


                  • The more I brood about the show the more shortcomings I come across. I just wonder how come the show had no iota of proper storytelling?? I was enjoying the initial episodes but as the show progressed I started to wonder what is happening?? There were scenes that I felt added no dimension to the story. For example the hospitalisation of the grandpa from the book club and then run seop telling hae won that his son has not returned for years. Then the story of eun seop uncle who came, took eun seob with him and then vanished.

                    I really have no clue where was the story going?? Also, I had one big question that hae won mother took the blame on her but I was quite conflicted on whether it was the right decision on her part?

                    She had a daughter(hae won) to look after but she decided to leave her alone and go to jail???? Was her act justified at any cost??? Was it ok for her to let hae won suffer alone without support of any of her parents???? I felt that action of her mom quite stupid!!

                    Liked by 1 person

              • I’m actually surprised to find the writer also penned the “Reply” series and “Prison Playbook”; I haven’t seen them, but they’ve come pretty highly recommended for the most part. Though I also heard those projects have a quirky sensibility and lean into the humor. Considering “Weather” has no real discernible humor that I recall, it seems the writer tried to branch out and do something more grounded. …Sometimes that works out, sometimes not. I’d probably give her another shot if her next offering gets back to her bread n’ butter. “I’ll Watch Your Show When the Script is Better”. 🙂


                • Oh it’s not by the same writer! The writers & director of the Reply series and Prison Playbook are currectly working on Hospital Playlist (it gets a lot of praise, but will probably end up as a multi-season show and I’m not sure if I’m up for that).
                  Weather was adapted from a book by a newbie scriptwriter. That was actually part of why I was interested, since I don’t really care for a lot of big name kdrama writers, while my favorite shows have been penned by newcomers, so I’m always ready to give a chance for new voices. But of course it won’t work out every time. 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • @Luna – Oh no! Not a second season! Nothing good ever comes of a second season in Kdramaland. Please say it isn’t so! Hospital Playlist is nice but ever so slow. That could be comforting but, at least for my poor brain, this show has too many characters barely introduced and not enough time with the main cast. Maybe it’s just because of my short-term memory issues. Maybe no one else is having difficulty with it. But I’m constantly going “who are these two new characters? Two more medical students? Or nurses? Or medical staff?

                    The many support characters are probably more realistic for a big hospital setting, but I’d rather see more of the actors that motivated my decision to watch Show in the first place.


                    • I’m not sure about it because I’m not watching the show myself (yet), but I think the writer or producer said in one of the promotional interviews that the show was set up to be 2 or 3 seasons (depending on ratings of course). That would explain why its current season is only 12 episodes. And a hospital setting could easily accomodate multi-season shows, we have lots of those in the West… But one of the things I really like about Korean dramas is that they are set up as one-off. As much as I wish I could stay forever in the world of a drama I fall in love with, I have seen too many shows completely lose their original charm after going on for multiple seasons.

                      LOL I know all about that confusion, I’m pretty bad at face recognization so I’m used to spending at least the first 2-3 episodes of a show just trying to remember who is who in the supporting cast. 🙂


                • Prison Playbook….a must watch. Excellent script…!!! Acting was great! Park HaeSoo and Jung KyungHo have that bromance going! The characters that inhabit that prison…yes, yes, CHEMISTRY!!!

                  And allow me to thank you for your informative article. Enjoyed reading it very much. And you are so right, with all you’ve said…we know it when we see it! So didn’t see it with ES and HW. Watching Piece of Your Mind now. Similar situation..two emotionally closed off people. But, I believe the sparks are going to fly soon.

                  Just a comment on ‘fangirling/fanboying’… I think it could be said it’s a cultural thing for Koreans. Very hard to explain because it is cultural. Beez got it right…her fangirling over her idol would not have threatened in any way her love for her Ryan Gold…and he was Gold! Love this actor. If, however, she became a 사생 (sasaeng) that’s a whole different level of obsession. She would be following him all day in taxis cabs and camping out at his home or dorm.

                  I did the fangirl thing when I went to Seoul to celebrate my 70th birthday on the floor of Korea University Tiger Stadium watching Kim Jae Joong in his first concert out of military service. But…I didn’t follow him to his home in a taxis. ^_^*

                  Liked by 4 people

                  • @Georgia Peach Prison Playbook is truly extraordinary, I ended up really enjoying it and for a show without any significant female character, that is an unparalelled achievement. 🙂

                    The OTP in A Piece of your Mind is everything that was lacking in Weather. So much respect and consideration, warmth and affection even without a lot of skinship. They will have each other’s back no matter what, but also give each other space to deal with their own traumas. And more than just the main couple, there are the beautiful found families these wounded and lost people make, in the boarding house or around Ha Won… For me, APOYM is a true ‘healing’ drama; it could have been a masterpiece, but even in its shortened form it is an underrated gem.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Luna, it just made me so sad for him when she read the diary and that he was so blind to her as to think it was okay for her to do that. It appeared he was so naive as to only be embarrassed and not angry towards her for it. How uncaring of his feelings to giggle at what he’d written as he’d poured out his heart on the pages of the blog. Sad.


                    • Luna…Happy you loved APOYM as much as I have. Seems everyone is on the verge of tears most of the time. The hurt over one person’s death is palatable and add to that our leads desire to find out the truth about his mother’s death. And our second leads guilt…what a melo. A melo so well acted you desire ‘healing’ for them all. I’m 10 episodes in and I’m so wanting everyone to have their conversation with JiSoo in the *box*. And love the ‘family’ as well.

                      Did you notice that the actress who is playing the boarding house tenant/emotionally fragile person because of her daughter’s death is the same actress who played the housekeeper in Bong JoonHo’s Parasite. Her name is Lee JeongEun. Another one of those amazing character actors you find gracing the screen in so many dramas.


                  • @Georgia Peach – you’re giving me ideas of how I can get away with being a sasaeng. I mean who would suspect me at my age? I like Kim Jae Joong too but more for his acting roles (he was the best thing in Dr. Jin) because I don’t follow kpop (except for Rain). But I’m sure a nice Korean boy wouldn’t have his security just chase me off. He’d probably help me and get me a glass of water if I just happened to get weak and short of breath as he’s coming out of his hotel room, now wouldn’t he? 😉


                    • Bees, for sure he would get us/you that water when we/you get all weak in the knees. I’ll tell, you I couldn’t hold his gaze. The sweet girls around me let him know it was my birthday and he came over to where I was in front of the stage. Honey, I was 16 all over again. He was so precious and congratulated me on my birthday and said the he was of the age now that he could be his fans son. I did some serious fangirling that night. Good to hear you enjoyed Dr Jin. That was my intro to what is now a household name around here…Kim Jae Joong 🤣 My family even ask me now what’s going on with him…seriously! BTW… went to see Kim Junsu on the musical theater stage the next day. Fangirled there too. JG may find out more that he wants to know about fangirling from the two of us..ole seasoned fan girls!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! [in the highest pitch possible] lol

                      When I saw Jaejoong in Dr. Jin, I remember thinking “who is this cutie pie?” And that’s saying something because when one off my biases is on screen, I don’t usually notice anyone else. But he stood out to me because, usually I think the saeguk headbands and gats (I think that’s what they call the nobleman’s headwear) are totally unbecoming. I don’t care who has it in, they can be Lee Min ho – nobody looks good in those hats. But Jaejoong’s good looks shone through. I also liked his performance in the movie The Jackal.

                      Kim Junsu was part of JYJ, right?


                    • I was squeeing about him talking to you at the concert 😉


                    • If you can believe this….cause I still can’t….someone caught it on video and it’s on YouTube! You don’t see me but he’s certainly talking to me! Aigoo! Daebok!


                    • GEORGIA PEACH as in JOJAH PEACCCH. Girl! If you don’t post that video in a comment…! Or at least text it to me…


                    • Yes, Junsu was part of JYJ. He no longer makes reference to that in his promotions. And he is still doing musical theater. JaeJoong is promoting quite successfully in Japan now. Try to find Triangle, if you’ve not seen it. I think it is JaeJ’s best performance. Please don’t watch Manhole. What a tragic drama for Jae and everyone else. Poor, poor screen writing…the screenwriter was fired mid way through and it went downhill from there. Jae looked good and did a fair job of acting. IU phoned in. She flare her eyes a lot. 😖. You talk about NO CHEMISTRY between actors…again… Tragic. The Y part of JYJ…Park Yuchun…is struggling to regain some respect among Knetizens. He was accused of sexual assault and cleared of those charges, however, last year he was prosecuted for drug use. Most of his fans feel he was self medicating…still it was a terrible crime in Korea. He has so much talent…otoke?

                      Can’t believe you don’t like Joseon hanbok. I agree not all actors look good in it, but when they do…they are spectacular in it. And yes, I’m talking about Lee Joon Gi.

                      Arang and the Magistrate is a good intro into the Kdrama world of sageuk, JG!


                  • @Georgia Peach – was it a good concert? Did he perform solo or was the group still together then?


                    • He was solo and since he’s my bias…of course it was an Amazing Show. The venue was small and a terrible snowy day so the crowd was small that first night. He commands the stage and has a very powerful voice. He did songs from his No.10 album and his standards as well. Junsu was wonderful as well when he came on stage all the air was removed from the room what with everyone taking such a deep breath.

                      Liked by 2 people

        • @merij1 – there’s only one LIKE button so LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE

          Liked by 1 person

      • Not merij1 nor a fangirling expert, and I apologise for gatecrashing, but here’s my 0.02. Deok-mi puts her idol on a pedestal. She never gets to interact with him in real life (until much later), and it is all one-sided. Her idol is who she imagines him to be – and him being a celebrity, has a façade to maintain. At times she even indulges in baby talk while “talking” to him. On the other hand, Deok-mi is able to interact with Ryan and sees him as a real person that she is able to get to know in depth. There is a lot of reciprocity in the relationship with Ryan that she could never have with her idol. I think it’s easy to tell which is the OTP because the way she looks at her idol is one of fantasy, but the way she looks at Ryan is one of love and understanding – I think the scene where Ryan comes looking for Deok-mi after a nightmare but doesn’t tell her why, and her expression when the realisation dawns is a good example. Later on when she realises who Shi-an (her idol) is, she never really attempts to get to know him beyond his idol façade or tells that she runs a fansite for him. The nuance, I think, is not so much in Park Min-young’s performance (she was not very nuanced), but more in the sum of actions with respect to both Shi-an and Ryan. Again, it is mostly facilitated by the script, for Ryan is the love interest and Shi-an just her hobby. That said, I think Park Min-young and Kim Jae-wook being very comfortable with each other behind the scenes helped give their on-screen chemistry a big boost.

        Liked by 6 people

        • Good points, junny. I also admired their communication. It was very open and trusting.

          One K-Drama trope I do fine without — or maybe it’s a legit cultural difference — is characters withholding critical intel from each other. I’m assuming the writers do that to prolong things to get to the full 16 hours of screen time. But it’s hardly a model for the rest of us. So I found this couple refreshing. (Aside from Ryan not revealing that he knew she was a fangirl.)


          • I agree–I find the withholding of information–or the outright lies that are somehow considered to be a good thing–to be irksome. Anytime anyone lies or keeps secrets to “protect” someone, it invariably backfires. (Deceit and hidden truths don’t bring about good results? Whaaaat??) But that pattern is all over the place–it’s practically a staple, even in American shows and films (sitcoms and rom-coms mostly). Two of the main tenets are:

            1. When there’s a misunderstanding, protest and deny but NEVER explain. Let the person walk or run away without clearing the air. Save the explanation for after the relationship crashes and burns.

            2. Reveal half truths so that your integrity and intentions can be questioned at the climax, but you can later be vindicated by revealing the whole truth. (Ie “You knew I was out with another woman all those nights…but what you didn’t know is that she is a realtor and I was earnestly seeking to find a house for you because I know how badly you want a home.”)

            I don’t recall, but I think it was somewhere on this blog it was mentioned that one of the highlights of the OTP in “Her Secret Life” was that none of the conflict comes from either character doing anything stupid or counterproductive to preserve the tension. That was sole reason I gave this a shot.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Well-done on the made-up example for your 2nd point. Made me chuckle.

              Does anyone else know: are the white lies and withheld info tropes just how TY writers delay resolution to build tension and/or to stretch stories to last 16 hours?

              Or is there an actual cultural phenom on this in South Korea?


              • I don’t know but I also question because the structure of the language where characters are talking and I’m going “who? who? who are you talking about?” I don’t know if it’s the translators or the actual language where someone’s states a sentence And it’s so vague – “She went went there to do that thing.”

                And it’s much farther along in the conversation before a person is named. So I’ve often wondered if they really talk like this in real life because if they do, then I can see where there could be lots of misunderstandings. I’d love for someone fluent in Korean to weigh in and let us know.


                • I don’t speak Korean, but from the little I know, it is a language that depends very much on context/implication. Sentences have a looser structure than in English, and they can omit a lot of words. There is a reason why Google translate struggles so much with it (often half a sentence is just -missing- because I guess the software couldn’t find the context), and even Naver’s specifically Korean-English translator doesn’t always return a coherent text.

                  One different and culturally significant thing is that they rarely use “my” – unless to emphasize that it’s mine not yours. But when they casually talk about “my mother”, “my house” or “my country”, the literal translation is “our mother”, “our house”, “our country”. That tells a lot about the value placed on individual vs. community, which in turn explains why drama characters (and real-life humans of course) worry so much about other people’s opinion.

                  Liked by 2 people

                • In Korean, the subject and object in a sentence can easily be omitted, thus giving rise to ambiguity, which dramas can milk for, well, drama. So for example, in English, “I love you” is subject-verb-object, in formal Korean, it would be subject-object-verb, literally, “I you love,” BUT in the casual day-to-day, both subject and object are omitted, to arrive at “saranghae..” Does that help to clear it up a little? 🙂

                  Liked by 2 people

                  • (Light bulb)

                    I was wondering why the subtitles went all the way across my screen when the character only uttered four syllables; they shorten the dickens out of their sentences! I appreciate the economy of words, but good golly that is astoundingly ambiguous!

                    Do they have conjugations that indicate the subject? Is “saranghae” the vanilla verb? I know in Spanish, “I dance” is a combination of “Yo”/I and “bailar”/dance, but “baliar” is conjugated into “bailo” to correspond with “yo”. So it would be, “Yo bailo”, but since the conjugation is indicative of the subject, they often shorten it to “Bailo”. Does any of that happen in Korean, or is the verb the same regardless, and you just have to use context to figure out what the heck it’s being applied to? The vagueness is great for drama, as you said, but I have to imagine in “normal” life, it could could create an unwelcome kerfuffle.

                    Either way, thank you for sharing that! I’ve had a devil of a time really picking up much of the language despite the number of shows I’ve watched; apparently part of my trouble it is due to quirky nuggets of structural shenanigans like this one!

                    (Incidentally, the vast number of conjugations and the exceptions to those conjugations used in conjunction with past participles and present imperfects, are what ultimately did me in after Spanish IV. No me gusta!)


                    • @Jesse Gray – I can’t answer all of your questions as I’m a beginner Korean learner. I’ll leave the more complicated stuff to kfangurl.

                      But, I will address why you can’t just pick it up from watching Kdramas. (At least must people can’t. I’ve heard of a very few.) Korean language has 7 levels. Words change form depending on the level. So an executive may say something to a subordinate and even if the subordinate repeats the same words back, they’ll sound different because the executive speaks in an informal manner but the subordinate replies in formal speech. Korean society is based on this rank structure (Confusionism). Not the same as class or caste system in modern day Korea but it remains in determining your speech. These levels of speech happen throughout their entire society, not based on wealth or class. It’s between parents and children; bosses and employees; seniors and juniors (by length of time) on a job or in school; elders and anyone younger than them.
                      So it might sound something like this in English based on the hierarchy:

                      Executive: Sit down. How ya doin’ ?
                      Subordinate: Sir, please, you have a seat first. I’m doing fine. How do you do, Sir?
                      (Which example is bit quite direct because we would reserve “How do you do?” for a first meeting but I chose that to show its more than just treating a weird like “doin'” and adding an “ing”. Would a foreign person pick up that “sit” and “seat” are the same form of the word amongst all the other words flying around quick? Not without a bit of instruction besides the tv program. And while they may do that in English with a lot of our words that have the full base there (“walk/walk-ing), it’s not that easy in Korean. The form of the word can change substantially from speaker to speaker depending on rank. So you’re listening for the same words in Korean because the subtitles tells you the subordinate just repeated the exact same words but maybe with a question mark indicating her repeating what the executive says in surprise. (Like when you repeat something but what you’re actually saying is “Really?” As in “The project fell apart.” “The project fell apart?!”) Yet you don’t hear the same words repeated in Korean when you rewind several times to listen closely because the speech levels are different.

                      It is listed as one of the hardest languages to learn. I made the mistake of signing up for Rosetta Stone. There Korean is a recently added language and its all “submersion” meaning no explanations or English is given at all. Because they haven’t perfected things, when I contacted them about inconsistencies and the app skipping lessons which caused me to come to a certain level and then realize “we haven’t covered this but it’s throwing stuff at me out the blue” that the app had glitches and was skipping lessons. It’s caused me no end of frustration. But they’re aware that it’s messed up so aren’t even charging me to continue. That’s nice and all, but I’d rather have an accurate and strong building base for learning. So I joined TTMIK (Talk to Me In Korean) this week.

                      Not that I ever plan on visiting Korea. I just want to be able to find clothes or do other things without my eyes being glued to the tv for subtitles.


                    • TYPO: I can “find” my clothes. 😆 It was supposed to be “FOLD” clothes. 😆 And any other chores or hobbies I could do without having to stop and rewind constantly because the minute my eyes leave the screen…


                    • As I’ve mentioned before, this is why I sometimes prefer watching via Viki instead of Netflix.

                      The regular “team” of people who write the subtitles for Viki make more English errors , but they go the extra yard to explain what a native Korean speaker would have noticed in that dialogue.

                      If a character switches levels of formality in a way that is significant, they explain that in parentheses.

                      They’ll also (at least attempt to) explain if the character’s choice of words was a pun in Korean, or if a reference was made to some historical event or cultural trivia that a Korean viewer would be expected to know.

                      Liked by 1 person

              • It is not just in South Korea but this pattern is followed in dramas in my country as well. K-dramas are time bound to. Omllete 16 episodes but here there us no time limit so the drama and hidden truths are dragged for around an year or two. Sounds crazy?????? But this is how dramas in India works.

                Now coming to our K-dramas keeping the information under the veils is fine but to keep the audience engaged is wholly dependent on how good the writing is. Some dramas start feeling tiresome and the development of the storyline doesn’t seem organic while some are able to manage the curiosity and interest factor and things feel organic rather than stretched.

                To be honest this type of story telling is quite rare on the Korean dramaland. By the end of the series you somehow know what will happen and the audience tend to lose interest.

                On a different note has any of you watched Les min Ho’s the king eternal monarch?? I am curious to know how people are liking it?? I was kinda enjoying the initial episodes but now I am finding it boring. How are you guys feeling about it?

                Liked by 1 person

                • I’m enjoying the King Eternal Monarch. My only fear is if it can’t deliver to bring all these dangling mysteries into a coherent story, then I’ll be disappointed. If it can, I’ll be elated.

                  The romance is a bit lacking but the story is interesting and I like the comedic beats, especially Woo Do-Hwan in his dual roles. I do think the Show has gotten much better now (starting around episode 8) because with so many characters and fantasy story elements, it took a while to establish what they have so far.


            • Or my personal peeve guaranteed to make me pull my hair out is the heroine is in danger so our hero makes her promise “not leave the house tonight” but doesn’t tell her she’s in danger and inevitably, something calls her away, and also because no one seems to know what to promise means…

              Liked by 2 people

        • @Jesse Gray – what Junny said! Ditto


        • Junny, thank you for explaining what I was trying to tell JG about fangirling. Her idol was her fantasy. And that’s what it’s all about. That’s why so many idols get into such deep deep trouble when that fantasy cover is blown if/when they do something ‘human’! Trouble to the extent their careers are completely ruined and they are banished into obscurity never to be heard from again….despite their talent!

          Liked by 3 people

      • There are different types of fan girling. I’ll use myself and my love for pop singer/actor Rain as an example. I ooo’ed and ahhh’ed and made what were slightly lude, but just under the bar of classy, comments on his USA fan page – which is set up very similar to Kfangirl’s site. By that, I mean that I’m not the sort of fan to go searching out new posts on his fan site but since it emails me whenever there’s a new post… lol. But I knew that his entire act of showing his abs on stage was to elicit that type of response so I didn’t feel guilty or like I was objectifying him. (Ok, so I probably was, but that’s what he wanted and how he makes his living. What??? So what???) Back to my story – So I enjoyed my time with the other fan girls. All in fun. (It’s kind of like in the 1980’s me and my girlfriends would go to male strip clubs. We were actually quite conservative by way of lifestyle. But male strip clubs were new and we just liked being able to do what men have been doing for-ev-er – yell “TAKE IT OFF!” 😆 Were we titillated – not at all. At least for me it has always about romance to get my blood flowing no matter how well sculpted the abs are. So our first visit to a strip club, me and my girlfriend swore each other to secrecy. “No one must know.” We didn’t know what to expect because this was when male strip clubs were brand new. We had such a blast that by the next week, we’d called every girlfriend we had to go with us. 😆

        Now back to Rain – he married the actress Kim Tae hee (Hi! Bye! Mama) a few years ago and the people holding that “One day Oppa will come for me” fantasy have vanished off the site. Whereas a few of us feel like we’re just happy to see him happy and starting his own family without the oppression of an agency or fans that say he can’t have a private life. We’ve cleaned up the comments to be respectful to his wife but still really appreciate him, more for what he was because his music career faltered while he did his military service. Kids and music are never stagnant. (Every now and again, I can’t resist a nudge-nudge, wink-wink joke.)

        Those of us still around are true fans. I don’t know if you have any musicians that you really, really appreciate their music? Not that I think you would necessarily fan-guy a musician but the feeling of where their music can, and has, transported you to. I used to be like that with Barbra Streisand. Luther Vandross. Currently it’s Park Hyo shin. (And I think those last two were/are gay *looks around and ducks* but their voices send me to a place that I fan girl them every bit as hard as I do any of my choco ab biases.

        In the drama Her Private Life, I definitely felt the difference in PMY’s love for Ryan Gold and her kpop idol. She just wanted her bias to be happy because his talent made her happy. She looked at him as a young puppy. (“Puppy” in this case is not of the canine persuasion but rather what we call still-got-milk-on-his-breath young sexy actors/idols.) 😆 There seemed to be a differences, too, in how she treated her idol in the first part of the show on comparison to how she treated him once she realized she and Ryan had something. She seemed to begin to treat him as a doted on younger sibling. If she were much older than him, he’d be looked at as a son (how I look at Rain. His kids are my virtual grandbabies). 😊

        Darn it, Jesse Gray! I don’t have the right words to explain it how it is! I need a Jesse Gray who gets it and could put it into words for me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I can’t believe you betrayed your girlfriends like that, Beez! You swore each other to secrecy about those strip clubs, kept the secret for all these years, and then out it comes all casual-like in the comments. ;p

          I have to disagree with you on one point: I don’t think you need a Jesse Gray to describe what you’re talking about. I think you did a fantastic job! You and merij1 (oh snap–I’m just now realizing that phonetically his name is “marriage 1”–I. am. slow) both have given me a really good understanding about fangirling and how it can function side-by-side with a relationship…for the most part. I think I have a modified view of the relationship in “Her Secret Life” now thanks to this understanding, and you’re right that Deok-mi’s treatment of her idol changed after she was locked in with Ryan. I never felt like she was cheating or anything, I just didn’t have a filter to put over my lens that colored her interactions and the nature of her interest. With said filter, it makes it easier to see a distinction, but the concept–at least how it’s portrayed in the show–still befuddles me a bit.

          I think the remaining hangup for me (admittedly getting off topic) is her level of fandom. It was, to my eyes, an obsession. It wasn’t as overtly detrimental as the “Oppa-will-come-for-me” type of fangirling, but it was, in essence, stalking. Making trophies out of water bottles that he’d touched, tracking his movements to take candid photos, plastering images on her walls, collecting pillows…I mean if she was a guy, she would have come across creepy as heck. There are plenty of stalkers who are content to admire the focus of their affection from afar, but their fixation is still unsettling. Show did an admirable job injecting cuteness into it, but if I think about it for too long, I start to feel a little uneasy. The only real difference I can point to is that she shared the photos and the results of her investigations with other like-minded fans, whereas a stalker usually keeps their actions a secret.

          Is this practice unique to women? There are fanboys as well, right? Are the allowances the same for them? I’m just trying to picture a woman who would be okay with her husband decorating their bedroom or study with pictures of his favorite actress in various poses and stages of dress, and then spending several hours each night facilitating discussions about her ethereal beauty, potential fluctuations in bra size, relationship status, and current location. Is one level okay when you’re single and then there’s a more moderate level that would be transitioned to after marriage? Are there lines that can’t be crossed in…uh…”fanning”?

          It seems to be a different ball o’ wax from the level of fangirling in your own experience, which sounds like the level of involvement and interest a die-hard sports fan would have of their favorite team. But, you did preface your comment by saying there are levels involved, so that makes sense.

          I did in fact have a singer/songwriter I was rather enamored with for a time: Amy Lee from Evanescence. I liked the songs themselves of course, but her voice was just so emotive. There were times when she sounded like she was crying–or crying out–through the lyrics. It was very beautiful to my ears, and her level of expression (as well as the meaning behind some of the songs) was raw, tangible, and, honestly, attractive. It wasn’t an attraction that bled into my vision, but I had a great deal of admiration for her. It doesn’t happen often–I don’t feel that way about pure singers; they have to write their own songs for me to feel that kind of draw.

          But anyway, I “really really” appreciated her music. 🙂 Never went to a concert, never really did more than buy her CD and check out what Wikipedia had to say about her background, but there was definitely a time when I would indulge in her music instead of simply listen to it.

          So in a way I can totally relate, and in a way I haven’t had the pleasure of that experience. I don’t know that I’ve ever been a fan of anyone in the true sense of the word. Maybe I just don’t have that extra gear I can kick into to take my appreciation to the next level.

          All I know is I can stop working on these ridiculously chiseled abs of mine, because apparently they aren’t the washboard of romance I was led to believe they are. 🙂


          • That sworn to secrecy flew out the window that same week 40 years ago as we gathered all our friends for the next outing. 😆

            About merij1’s name, I was just now thinking it was a play on Mary J, like the singer. But marriage 1 is probably it because the way he talks about his marriage is inspiring. Which is it merij1?

            I admit that Her Private Life exaggerated the fandom (I think. I hope). The truth is when I was a teen, I never got into the fan magazines that featured Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond every week but many of my friends did. As I got older, around 21, I did once ask a record store to let me have the 6 foot cut out of Peabo Bryson. But that didn’t last long (I forget what caused his head to crease and flop at the neck) 😆 but my love for his voice will never die. So from about 22 until I discovered Kdrama, I never flat out fan girled anyone to the extent of pictures or any extremes. I used to work with a very nice lady who followed Clay Aiken’s concerts and the management office at our job actually made her remove some of his pictures from around her desk (they were quite excessive. An eyesore really). She actually went into debt following his concerts from city to city and state to state until she couldn’t afford it any more.

            So now, my fangirling consists of gushing about my biases here on Kfangurl’s site, following Rain’s site which doesn’t post often anymore with the reduced number of fans. Do the tons of pictures on my phone of my biases count? I think what makes them not obsessive is I didn’t have to go and take these pictures or collect them. It’s as easy as a screen shot or download an image. If it required any real effort, then it might be borderline obsessive. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it! Ha!


            • Meri is my first name (an abbreviation of it that many people refer to me me) and J is the first letter of my last name.

              My world is divided into four groups: those who prefer to use my full first name (4 syllables long), those who call me Meri, those who call me Mer (the smallest tribe by far) and those who go with MJ.

              So now you know. But what is that odd icon I use? Hmm. I’ll only tell you if ask.


              • I’m asking. Although I hadn’t noticed because the system assigned mine and I assumed everyone else’s as well. I just blew up your icon and that’s Felix the Cat (maybe?) Why is he trapped under a spoon labeled salt?


                • Good eye! My step-child painted that. It’s the shoe polish box my father used his entire adult life, with a few props they placed on top for the composition.

                  So it reminds of that box I grew up with, as well as the super creative 25-year old I still live with.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  • How awesome. You’re remembering your dad and also the memory of a great gesture from your step child.

                    Can I ask why “salt” though?


                    • I’ve been using it for many years but I never thought to ask about the salt! They’re super intuitive, so they might not know themself. They’ve gone to bed already but I’ll ask in the morning. (Sorry for the pronoun complexity. They’re non-binary.)

                      Going to bed myself. Sleep well!


                    • Ok, I got the answer on the salt. Their assignment was to create a composition with three objects. But they forgot about it until it was time to go to school that morning. So they grabbed the first three objects within reach — the top of my dad’s shoe polish box, that Felix figurine and a packet of salt.

                      I’m so glad you asked, because knowing that makes me love it even more. Unfortunately an art teacher paid several hundred dollars for it at auction before I realized it was up for sale. So all I have is a high resolution photo of the painting.


                    • How awesome and awful! Sometimes the best creative muses come by accident (or necessity).


                    • I just re-read your comment. I’m confused. You say an art teacher bought “the painting”. But I thought the art piece was actually the three items themselves? I hope you still have your dad’s actual box?


                    • They were tasked with bringing three items to create a still life to paint.

                      One of the teachers at their art school liked the painting so much they bought it. However, yes, I do still have the box itself. And the Felix, for that matter!


                    • Ahhhh. I see. I was tired when I first read your comment. They created a painting of the items, not combining the items themselves into a piece of art. I thought you were saying the art teacher bought the items. I’m sooo glad you still have your dad’s box. ❤


              • Sweet! I was wrong again! 😀 …That’s probably the first faux epiphany I’ve had, at least in recent memory.

                Ah, this was the perfect scenario for you to say, “My friends call me ____…but you can call me ____”. 🙂

                Liked by 3 people

                • Glad to do my small part to keep you humble!

                  I tend to trust my intuition and I’m very good at sensing patterns. But I’ve definitely found it important not to over-trust it.

                  Specifically, I find I occasionally over-commit too soon to single pattern within the many possibilities and then choose to interpret all subsequent data from that end-point. Not relevant to your MeriJ epiphany, but perhaps to your broader experience. You actually sound a bit like a younger version of me. A bit like my son, in fact. You don’t by any chance live in New Orleans, do you? (Joking, since you already mentioned Indiana!)

                  Liked by 2 people

          • Oh yes! There’s definitely a double standard. I could talk about Tom Selleck being handsome but that shoe didn’t fit both ways! lol

            Liked by 1 person

          • @Jesse Gray – Oh noooooes! Not the abs! 😆

            Liked by 1 person

        • Beez, I got your back when it comes to Rain. He has matured well and any fan who really cares about his talent and his chocolate abs will wish him many happy days as an appa and a yubol. And as for Park HyoShin…❤️ to the moon and back. Sorry JaeJoong. I’m often accused of being a cougar, but I’m okay with that. These folk fill my days with pleasure. I’ve watched so many actors and actress mature into seasoned performers. Aka.. Seo Kang Joon when I first saw him on the variety show Roommates. And I’ve been proud of my choices and their their progress…me too…like a grandparent.

          Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow, this is so good. Thank you for your insight, Jesse! I would like to write after I retire from my day job in a few years, so this was more than enlightening! You can think of this on a book level as well, especially what you’ve written about relationships. Character-building is not just important, but interactions and chemistry too. The characters have to have completing reasons to be together. The “fate” that Kdramas employ may work in a culture where spiritualism trumps man-made circumstances, but we also need something that grounds them in the real world as well. Thanks again!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Wow a very interesting post 🙂 I have to say I love to look at the complexity of things but you are knocking it out of the park.

    I never watched a drama in which I thought the characters have no chemistry or not enough of it. There always was chemistry.
    I never tought the actors weren’t fit for a part or their acting wasn’t good enough to make it work.

    There are 2 things for me that make an OTP and their chemistry work. The writing of the scenes when they are together and the way the characters were written (personality).

    Sometimes characters just don’t fit well together. The writers often force something that is not meant to be. Even kind of abusive relationships at times.
    Writing scenes which are supposed to be romantic but aren’t. Is another problem. Maybe my take on romance is different from the korean perspective because I am European. But there are a lot of times in which i just shake my head and sigh….
    This also applies for friendship chemistry. What I see a lot these days is that they try to make an abusive friendship funny. Like you said the friendship in descendants of the sun is perfect and well written. But I see so many dramas in which one friend always threatens the other one with violance or similiar. “If you don’t shut up, I will kill you” I never in my entire life heard somebody say that to a friend. Or hitting each other is also popular in dramas but that is not friendship.

    But I really like that I finally have another opinion on the complexity of this.
    Thank you Jesse 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for giving it a read, @Larius24!

      You’re right, there are many dysfunctional relationships–friendships and otherwise–in many shows and films. With American productions, the abuse is more subtle. Friends don’t scold or hit each other, they just give each other really crappy advice and encourage them to do things that are self-destructive. It’s all under the guise of trying to get them to “loosen up” or “live a little”, but most of the time it means their “friend” ends up struggling or experiencing a set-back. Same with romance. Manipulation, guilt trips, co-dependency and selfishness can be more easily disguised, but they can still erode the relationship and make the dynamic awkward. There are…relational physics–laws of how what we do affects other people. When scripts try to bypass those rules for the sake of entertainment, something justifiably feels off. It can be laughed away or ignored, but I think it can have a measured impact on how we process the chemistry on-screen.

      However ya look at it, those unassuming, awkwardly formatted pages of a script have a much greater impact than they’re given credit for! 😀


      • Yes I agree. When I watch american shows I can still keep watching even if this kind of stuff happens because it is subtle.
        In korean dramas it is very obvious and hard to overlook. I dropped dramas because of those things. For example: Trying to make abuse funny is just questionable.
        Those things can not just as you said have an impact on the chemistry but it can also throw a whole drama of the rails.


    • @Larius24 – the words “shut up or I’ll kill you”, when spoken among friends who know that it’s not meant literally, is just an expression and indicator of how close the friends are because they know it means nothing (other than “quit talking”). But I’d say your disconnect from it is just culture clash. I’ve felt the same when a generation sprang up that call each other “slut!” and “b*t*h!” Always accompanied by an exclamation point. Thank goodness my generation was the one before that. I never allowed anyone to play around with me like that but for some groups of friends “it’s just talk”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes I know about that. The thing about that is we have a saying here which is: The tone makes the music which means the you say something is important. I would think it is acceptable when they say it in a normal, kind of joking voice but they are usually saying it in a very aggressive way. Usually accompanied by threatening gestures.

        And if that is “normal” for a group of friends I would just call these people antisocial


        • Not to be overly argumentative, but they’re not antisocial within their own group if that’s their culture. I might not be comfortable with friends calling me “b*t*h (there are some groups whose it is) because that’s not my culture even within American culture narrowed down to my state, my city, my race. But I’m perfectly fine with “shut up” or “shut the door”. Sometimes “shut up” doesn’t even mean “stop talking”. It can mean “Your praise is embarrassing me”. It can mean to someone singing “you’re doing that really well! Give me more!” When I watch Kdrama, I can even tell when the hits are hugs (especially those by Kmothers). In this instances several hits mean “I love you but you know our culture doesn’t do overly mushy, sweet stuff like hugs.” (The younger generations do hug their kids but the older parents in Kdramas act this way. And I’ve heard many Korean-Americans say that’s how their parents are too.)


          • You have a very weird few on things. Just because both parties are cool with it doesn’t mean it is acceptable. If two people beat the crap out of each other but are cool with it does society or do other people have to think it is acceptable? I don’t think so. We have standards/norms for a reason.
            The two meanings to a phrase might work in english as you gave an example with shut up but in german shut up just means shut up there is no other meaning. Everything here is very literal.


            • And I don’t judge your society/culture for being very literal. I’m just saying, perhaps we shouldn’t judge others’ culture by calling it “unacceptable”. It’s fine to say “that is unacceptable in my culture” but your statement “we have standards/norms for a reason” is ignoring that these are S. Korea’s norms. Again, with my example of friends who call each other b*t*ches. It’s not personally acceptable for me but I don’t have to associate with those people. Likewise, with Kdrama we’re not associating (or taking part in), nor do we have to watch what makes us uncomfortable.

              And yes, we have MMA where people beat each other to a pulp. And young men participate in Fight Clubs. I find it ridiculous and wouldn’t allow my children to participate, but if that’s what other adults want to consensually do…


              • Here is another example when People in certain countries make their kids marry at the age of 12 just because it is their culture, we have to accept it just because it is their culture even if it is ridiculous?

                And I wouldn’t call this culture. The age difference and the respect that follows that is culture in S. Korea.
                But people adressing each other as b*tches or similiar if that is considered culture that the human race is at its culturialist low point.

                Yes every county has their own standards but we also have universal ones. It is mostly called common sense


                • There are some who would judge a society on being, as you said, literal about everything. There are people who believe that taking everything literally shows a lack of intelligence. I’m not one of them but I said that to show you that it’s too easy to look at other cultures and judge without really understanding anything about those cultures. I personally believe that if I were raised in your country then I would must likely take everything literally too, if that’s the norm.

                  And we were not talking about child marriage – your original comment was that you don’t like when friends [playfully] hit each other or speak in slang that you consider rude or aggressive (I guess that’s why because you didn’t really say).


                  • True it is easy to judge. But I think culture and religion (for example) are man made which gets me to the question what of it is actually good and what is bad? I am always talking from the perspective of a human, we are all human that is what we have in common. So shouldn’t the human race in its entirety have norms and standards? That we all follow. Shouldn’t those norms be above each countrys’ culture?

                    Yes we were talking about that. But you were generalising in your last post. That we have to accept everything about another culture that is why I brought the child marriage example.

                    “There are people who believe that taking everything literally shows a lack of intelligence.” Never heard of those people. You can also interpret a lot of stuff into everything that is said. Does that make you smarter? Or are you just wasting time? Or do you just make everything complicated? Words have a meaning for a reason. That is why we have a dictionary.
                    And by subtly insutling my people you just proved that you are just as judgy as I seem to be.

                    I definitely get what you are saying but all culture have their good and bad parts. Shouldn’t we try to eradicate the bad parts? Trying to make everything better?
                    Am I so wrong about being against any kind of violence and a rude way of speaking? Do people admit it to their friends when they feel like they get treated badly? Most of them don’t. Because they still want to be part of something.
                    Do I have to like and support everthing about every culture? No I don’t. I have to life with it and accept it but I can still speak my mind about it.


                    • Larius24, I in no way meant to give insult to you or the people of your country. I am just trying to show you how being ignorant of a culture can cause harsh (and maybe mistaken) judgments. I truly do not feel that way myself about Germany, but it is true that in the U.S., if a person takes everything literally, that is either a sign of low intelligence or used to diagnose aspergers or autism. But since you’ve told me that your entire country is very literal (which I was ignorant until you told me so), then I’m sure that’s cultural and I am not saying lack of intelligence or mental challenges are the case. I’m saying some people would judge it that way because that’s how it is perceived in the U.S. That’s just the facts. I don’t judge other cultures that I’m not intricately familiar with.

                      If you can think of it, can you tell me the dramas and the situation because perhaps we’re talking about two different things? I’m talking about playfully hitting where no one is injured and playful bantering.


                  • New comment at the top


                    • I have relatives in the U.S. and I have never heard of that. They were born and raised there (NY).

                      I am talking about friends or siblings threatening to use violence or using it. I am not talking about a playful hit on the back.
                      Good example are the parents in strong women do bong soo in which the wife always threatens the husband. Some goes for the main character in Weightlifting fairy…, fight my way, all the reply series, my sassy girl and soooo many more…


  18. Thanks for writing such a fantastic post, Jesse!! 😀 It’s great even on 2nd and 3rd reading – so illuminating!! 🤩🤩 THANKYOUSOMUCH!! 🤗🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a pleasure and a terrific journey, KFG! I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to what you provide for us here, and for your guidance and patience through the process (not to mention the editing to fix the maligned verbiage 😉 ) I’m glad it came together well, and holds up to a second (let alone third?!) reading. I am awash with jubilation! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

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