Some time ago, a remark by long-time friend of the blog Beez got me thinking.
Basically, we were talking about how I’d dropped The K2, despite Show serving up a whole lotta shirtless via a gloriously nekkid fight scene. Beez then said, and I quote, “Wow. Kfangurl, I think the K-Bloom is off the rose for you.”
Essentially, Beez felt that even though the OTP in The K2 had been uninspiring, that Ji Chang Wook‘s chemistry with second female lead Song Yoon Ah had been so sparky and sizzling, that if that hadn’t been enough to hold my attention, then, well, I must not be as taken with kdramas – or perhaps dramas in general – anymore.
This got me thinking about my evolution as a drama viewer, and what’s captured me each step of the way, and I thought you guys might perhaps find this interesting or relatable, and so here we are.
THE FOUR STAGES OF DRAMA VIEWER EVOLUTION
Basically, I feel like there are four distinct stages of viewer evolution.
Of course, this is purely based on my own experience, combined with anecdotal evidence from observing other drama viewers, so it’s not very scientific at all. But.. you might find some of the stages familiar, in which case, you’d be totally adding to the credibility of my theory..! 😀
How long a viewer stays in each stage varies between individuals, with some flitting through stages very quickly, and others spending much longer periods of time in each stage.
That being said, this doesn’t apply to all drama viewers.
I certainly know of individuals who’ve skipped a stage or two, because of their personal contexts and preferences, and that’s completely fine too. These 4 stages are just what I observe many drama fans – myself included! – tend to go through.
(Should I call this.. Fangurl Theory..? 😆)
STAGE 1: Everything’s so shiny!
In Stage 1, everything is new, shiny and interesting, and so, like the drama ducklings that we are, we quickly and happily glom onto everything that crosses our line of vision.
The food, fashion, culture, and language is fascinating and we very quickly develop an appetite for more. Depending on what the first drama was that stole our hearts, we often want more of the same as well.
So, if our first drama was a romcom, we’d want more of that. If our first drama was a sageuk, we’d often want more of that. We quickly associate drama tropes with feels, and we chomp it all up, often in multiple large servings of back-to-back(-to-back) episodes.
We also tend to develop big affection for the first actors who steal our hearts in our first dramas, and actively seek out other dramas in which they’ve acted, so that we can inhale more of their personal brand of awesome. This, as we quickly learn, often reaps mixed results.
Whether our love for our Stage 1 dramas fades or endures over time really depends. Some dramas age well, and others.. not so well.
Dramas I loved in Stage 1 and still love: Goong, Save Your Last Dance For Me.
Dramas I loved in Stage 1 that I now find meh: Playful Kiss, Witch Yoo Hee, Secret Garden.
STAGE 2: I would watch (AND rewatch!) anything for Oppa!
Remember when I said that once we develop a big affection for an actor or actors, we tend to actively seek out their dramas, and often with mixed results?
Yeah, Stage 2 is when we not only seek those dramas out, but watch – and even rewatch – terrible dramas, all because our favorite actors are in it.
At this stage, this is not hardship. It’s dedication. Loyalty. I could, quite literally, watch anything for Oppa.
I’ve watched some turkeys for the sake of an actor that I liked, and I’ve even rewatched some turkeys – while knowing full well that they were turkeys – all for the sake for Oppa.
Let me confess right here, that I watched the terrible One Fine Day twice, all for the love of Gong Yoo. I made it through Heirs out of love for Kim Woo Bin.
And back in the day, when I thought Park Shi Hoo was cool (I know, such a faint and bemusing memory now), I watched Prosecutor Princess twice, despite not actually liking the show much at all.
There was a time when my fangirl dedication was stronngg. And I call that Stage 2. 😉
STAGE 3: When Oppa isn’t enough anymore
Granted, not everyone arrives at this stage, but I did, hence my discovery of the existence of Stage 3.
Stage 3 is when you realize that Oppa just isn’t enough anymore. You just can’t bring yourself to watch a bad show just to support Oppa.
My personal turning point into Stage 3 happened with Uncontrollably Fond. I thought that I could watch anything for Woob.
After all, I’d survived Heirs and lived to tell the tale, right? But, while watching Uncontrollably Fond, I realized that I was hating every. single. episode. It felt like SUCH a drag to watch the show, even though there was plenty of Woob in each episode.
I found that my Woob loyalty was taking a hit with each new episode that I watched, and in the end, I found myself dropping out because Show had drained me of so much Woob loyalty, that I just couldn’t muster up the resolve to watch even another 5 minutes of the show.
And, afterwards, I realized that my Woob loyalty was so thoroughly drained, that since then, I’ve taken years to rebuild just a small section of it. 😛
Looking back, I feel like if I’d just read my symptoms early and not forced the issue, I could’ve preserved at least most of my Woob loyalty.
Since this terrible experience, I’ve been quicker (and smarter) about dropping out of shows that are not working for me, and this helps me to preserve my affection for Show’s lead actors.
This is largely why I dropped The K2 (for Ji Chang Wook), and also why I dropped High End Crush (for Jung Il Woo) as well. See? I drop the shows out of love..! 😂
STAGE 4: When dramas aren’t enough anymore?
Stage 4 is the perplexing stage where we’re not sure whether the dramas themselves are enough anymore. Granted, not everyone arrives at this stage, but it exists, and I thought it would only be fair to include it.
Some drama fans have a lifelong love affair with dramas, while for others, it’s a love affair that lasts but a season. Said season can be short, or can last years.
Basically, at some point, we start asking ourselves if, in Beez’s words, the K-bloom off the rose?
Personally, after having watched dramas in a focused fashion for 14 years now, I have to admit that I ask myself this question, from time to time. For the last few years, I’ve experienced a bit of a drama rut each year, lasting about a month at a time.
During that time, I have little to no interest in dramas, and I find myself doing anything – watching YouTube videos, browsing Twitter – rather than watching dramas.
Happily, I’ve emerged out of each drama rut with a renewed and refreshed interest in dramas, and have come back kicking, raring and ready to enjoy the best that Dramaland has to offer.
But there are also drama fans who don’t make the same comeback, and some then leave Dramaland forever (sniffle), keeping only the fond memories.
I think the important thing to keep in mind, is to do what makes you happy.
Maybe dramas aren’t making you happy right now, and that’s ok. Some fans take long breaks and find themselves back in Dramaland after a couple of years. That’s ok too. Some fans find new passions in other areas and might never find themselves back in Dramaland. That’s also ok.
Ultimately, we all came to dramas because dramas made our lives happier and more interesting.
And if we keep that as our focus – to always do what’s best for us personally – we can’t and won’t go too wrong, regardless of where we land, with our dramas. 🙂
I was browsing through and noted Merij1 commented that you enjoyed complicated characters. Then I would strongly recommend:
1) The Time Between Dog & Wolf – you can really see Lee Joon Gi prowes as actor here…but try to get through the 1st – 2nd eps. You get bromance as well. But the romance is quite low key
2) Remember You – Another intricate characters and love the siblings love however twisted it is, again romance is low key.
3) Beutiful Mind – made me a fan of Jang Hyuk. The drama’s epis got cut….when the romance was getting to be interesting but overall excellent characters and plot.
4) Love Me If You Dare – interesting plots, leads and romance, a Chinese drama
Hi there, thanks for the suggestions, Joker! 🙂 I did very much enjoy Time Between Dog and Wolf, back in the day. That was low budget, but very engaging, and yes, LJK definitely got to show a great deal of range! I didn’t end up enjoying Love Me If You Dare.. there were too many logic stretches for me. I do still have Remember You and Beautiful Mind on my list, so hopefully I will enjoy those shows as much as you have! 🙂
@kfangurl – Beautiful Mind! Please please watch it before you watch anything else about psychopaths! Cause Jang Hyuk did it first! He’s absolutely amazing here (as well). He keeps you off kilter.
I agree 100% with Beez on this one 😉
Yeah, Sean. I’m watching Lee Joon ki’s new show and while he’s good – and who knows, maybe he’ll end up killin’ the role once the show has more episodes under its belt – but Jang Hyuk brought all that just-under-the-skin subtle emotion (or non-emotion in this case).
So far Lee Joon ki has not scared me at all in the new show whether it turns out he is or isn’t a serial killer (in fact I’ve been annoyed at the suspenseful music and I’m like “We all know that’s him in that hooded rain coat cause you just showed us his face in the previous scene so get that suspenseful music outta here and move on with the scene”); but in Beautiful Minds, there were times you just didn’t know where or what that character was about to do and it left you chilled and in worried anticipation.
Thanks for the tip, Beez!! I will keep it in mind! <3
I forgot you never wrote a review for Secret Garden. We just finished it. A little longer than necessary (20 Eps) but we loved all the actors and enjoyed seeing seeing we knew from other shows:
Hyun Bin — lead from Crashing Landing on You (plus a cameo by CLOY’s Son Ye-jin)
Ha Ji-won — whom we knew as the female lead from Chocolate
Yoon Sang-hyun — I Can Hear Your Voice’s nice-guy public defender
Kim Sa-rang — a new actress for us
Yoo In-na — My Love from the Star, supporting-actress-for-life frenemy
Old-timers don’t need those references, but whatever.
Anyhow, Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-won were great. Their acting chops became especially clear when they had to imitate each other for several episodes, which both of them totally nailed Ha Ji-won, in particular. And Yoon Sang-hyun was especially endearing as a not-so-talented and possibly over-the-hill Korean Wave singer.
The older era chauvinism was not annoying as we’d expected, since Hyun Bin was made to look ridiculous for it. Very good show!
@merij1: I really liked Secret Garden too and like you, I thought the cast was exceptional and the chemistry between Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-Won amazing. I think I mentioned it elsewhere but I found Ha Ji-won so believable as a stuntwoman, her physicality, her walk (this was the first time I saw her in a drama so I didn’t know what to expect). I also really liked the second couple, Kim Sa-rang ( a former Miss Korea) and Yoon Sang-Hyun, especially Sang-Hyun. I liked how the show poked fun at itself when Sang-Hyun tells the audience at his concert he’s happy to see them in attendance since this was also the night the last episode of the popular show, Secret Garden, was airing and they chose to come see him. Also, I think Kim Sa-Rang tells Sang-Hyun at one point that people are looking at her, not him, since she’s prettier than a Miss Korea.
Have you seen Goblin yet? It’s very highly rated by many viewers, claimed to be among the best Kdramas of all time. I just finished it a few days ago and while it was okay/good, I didn’t think it was a top tier show.
I have a question: is the only way to like a post through WordPress? I really don’t need/want to open an account.
She was a former Miss Korea? I think they made a joking reference to that as well.
We haven’t seen Goblin. Right now we’re deciding whether to watch A Piece of Your Mind. We saw the first episode last night and I really enjoyed the feel of it, but my wife is worried it will add to the sadness she’s already dealing with as a health care worker in the era of COVID-19. So we’ll see.
I’m pretty sure you need a WordPress account to “like” comments. I created one and use it only for this blog, so it’s not like there’s an inconvenience. It’s free, right?
@Geo – I looked and commented for years without a WordPress account but eventually it made me open one (no idea why). If it’s not a new thing that they make everyone open an account, I used to “like” comments all the time through the email notifications. If you’re not receiving the emails, then you just need to check the box that requests to be notified of new comments. That tiny box is always located under the comment box. Then you’ll receive emails and you can hit the “like” button on the email. You can also hit “reply” from within the email (that’s why I never run out of a way to respond the way it does in the web site). Be prepared, if you do hit the “receive notices” box you’ll receive every comment made in that particular thread after that. But note of you’re in a review/topic that you’ve never commented in, you won’t receive any comments until you check the notifications box while commenting on that thread.
I hope that made sense.
@beezrtp: Thanks for the info. I’m pretty new to all this and not too interested in doing all the research so it’s good to have fellow travellers guide me. In other words, I’m lazy,lol.
j3ffc and Beez were talking about how few shows end with a great finale.
We’ve seen a few recently that did. But amusingly, when I look at my list of watched shows, I can’t remember which ones they were! Secret Love Affair, for sure. And, of course, everyone’s perennial fave, Something in the Rain/Pretty Noona Who… (Best final three Eps ever!)
Since these are the details I tend to notice, I realize I need to start keeping a list of how shows handle certain things:
1. How quickly before it engages us at the start (balancing that with necessary background set-up, including how unhappy or unlikable the leads are prior to the OTP or complex character history that has no emotional context for us at first)
2 a. How they maintain/resolve tension to keep us engaged. Is it a single source of dramatic tension that evolves slowly and resolves at the end, or a series of new problems/opportunities that get resolved prior to the next one being introduced?
a. For romance shows, the writers’ choices on how quickly it becomes mutual (Ep 4 vs. 15 out of 16!) or before one confesses but the other’s not ready — and if that happens early, what they do with that relationship for the rest of the show.
3. The rhythm of the pacing — how it rises and falls over the 16 or so Eps. For example, the big fail with Something in the Rain (yes I was joking above!) was that it felt like they hadn’t mapped the pacing in advance and then felt a need to introduce extreme new tension too close to the end to resolve convincingly.
4. The last 2 episodes and the final one in particular. It’s great to end well, but K-dramas don’t seem to have that down, do they?
Chocolate is an example I often mention where the penultimate Ep resolved the major OTP arc extraordinarily well but then couldn’t figure out what to do with the final Ep. (So they introduced some never-really-explained obstacle to the OTP and then just as allowed it to be resolved.) This was a show where the one person was in love from the get-go, recognizing the guy as her first true love from childhood, but he failed to catch up, much less recognize her from their “significant shared childhood experience” until an amazing romantic epiphany at the end of the 2nd-to-last episode. It was the most well-done romantic epiphany we’ve seen yet, with all manner of detail held in reserve all season long to then bring into play at the end. But then the writers didn’t know what to do with that last hour! Go figure!
Orson Welles famously said ““If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” I like your analysis vis a vis timing and pacing, as the evergreen problem with romantic comedy in all of its forms is how to keep the couple apart until, well, you shouldn’t, and the proper introduction of tension is a key to doing it successfully. For me, it comes down to a gut feeling as to whether the happiness has been earned as opposed to ordained (either by “fate” or, more prosaically, by the writer). A think the K-drama world has made it harder on itself by so rarely allowing real surprise in who ends up with whom.
As per Welles above, some of my favorite endings are in the slice-of-life shows where the format allows you to simply stop your story. This is not always shared among commenters, though, who point out loose ends – which surely exist. Years ago, I saw Kurt Vonnegut give a talk on exactly this point (he hated “Cinderella” because it was manipulative but loved “Hamlet” where events were uncertain – “just like real life”). Which is another not-subtle plug for “Be Melodramatic.”
I think you are spot on that the pacing often makes it hard for the writers to wrap things up at the end and all are left twiddling our thumbs for the last hour. I can think of an interesting case outside of K-drama where this was handled in an interesting way. Along with a lot of folks around here, I was a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the fourth season of that show, the ostensible plot was wrapped up in the penultimate episode, leaving a show to go. They used this for one of the oddest shows ever for that show, totally devoted to dreams, deeper show mythology, and in retrospect laying out the groundwork for the rest of the series. It was more of a tone poem than a plotted show. Lots of people hated it and some of us loved it, but it was Not Boring.
Thanks again for your insights.
While I am a sucker for a happy ending, especially with rom-coms (they are just an escape from real life after all), there are quite a few shows that don’t have happy endings that I do feel had great endings whether tragic or open-ended. I won’t name them here because there’s nothing worse, in my opinion, then spoiling the ending of a book or show.
Absolutely! Both on the point that a satisfying ending need not be a happy one and also that it’s challenging to talk about them w/o spoilage.
Ambiguity is definitely underrated in the modern era. Ditto for delayed gratification.
My sons and I watched all six seasons of Lost, one of the ultimate “mystery box” shows. For me, not knowing the answers to that show’s puzzles was far much more exhilarating that having them eventually answered.
While the ambiguity was still in play, everything seemed possible. It was gloriously wide open to the magic of my imagination. As mysteries were solved, the magic passed Often satisfyingly, but passed nonetheless.
That was another show, btw, that became (in)famous in the long run mostly for how disappointingly it ended.
Most of which doesn’t apply to K-Drama romance, other that to say: I’m totally ok with an open-ended finish. And I’ll take that lack of resolution any day over a lame finish that attempts to close all the loops but does so badly.
hahaha! Merij1 that sounds like WORK! I’m sure you’ve described what Kfangurl does. I watch to chill and be lazy! lol. But you can keep track of all that and then when those dramas come up, I can pick your brain if Kfangurl didn’t cover the ones we might watch in the future. 😆
Exactly! My wife is always noting (complaining?) that my brain never stops processing. “Always with the thinking.”
So notes help keep all that stuff in my head from getting too messy.
Just for clarity, I think the concern over less than optimal endings apply mainly to good shows, the viewer has been on a nice journey and is looking for a smooth landing; if you don’t care for the show, I suspect the ending will not make a difference.
I think the problem lies with the defined length of the show, usually 16 episodes. A movie doesn’t have this problem, it has to focus on the main plot and start, develop and carry it to a conclusion in about 2 hours. With 16 episodes and with writing often done and re-done on the fly, sub-plots are introduced to “stretch” the show but often with all the different storylines, there’s an abruptness usually to the final episode as the main storyline is completed (sometimes even that is abrupt) but sub-plots are left hanging. On the other hand, without secondary plotlines, the show can come to a finality before or early in the final episode, now resulting in meaningless meandering and flashbacks, often presented as philosophical observations.
Having said all this, the sub-optimal endings do not necessarily detract too much from the quality of the show if it has been well done to that point. But when the show ends smoothly like CLOY, it’s a gift.
You’re right that secondary plotlines are sometime there to stretch/fill out the show and also for the purpose of allowing the main leads get some much needed rest from the hectic shooting schedule that can begin at 5am and end at 2 or 3am and right back at it at 5am.
> Just for clarity, I think the concern over less than optimal endings apply mainly to good shows
@ Geo: When Beez teased me for analyzing shows instead of just enjoying them, I almost added that I’m far more likely to think about why shows that I enjoy end up failing for some reason. Because those failures takes me out of the blissful joy of immersion.
When the show is perfect, my wife and I just let it wash over us.
I definitely related to a lot here. I’m somewhere between stage 3 and 4. My longest kdrama rut was after watching Nirvana in Fire because that seriously put a damper on basically everything. I think I was away for like a year and now I’m back. I’m still quite choosy with what I watch and I definitely drop stuff once I realize I’m not having it. I rewatched Father is Strange and absolutely loved it so I’m going through my old stuff and rewatching them. Especially the ones I can barely remember haha.
I was always watching a drama but now I am kind of tired of kdramas, no one catched my attention anymore so I moved to Cdramas and is working out and i’m loving. I think the answer for the stage 3 is to change the country that you watch the dramasfrom, It from time to time and after that come back to the orininal ones that you loved.
* Stage 4
I love this post so much. It totally describes my transition. Boys Over Flowers was my first K drama and I just loved it so much. Since it was my first exposure, the concept of chaebol and the focus on food, seeing men cry, all the over the top emotions felt so shiny. Now I feel embarrassed knowing how much I loved it at one point.
I will say for me there is another stage between stage 3 and stage 4 and that is when you expand your drama horizons. I remember I watched Heirs in my stage 3 and could not finish it, and just wanted to watch something less toxic. I remember that one of your highly rated drama is Chinese drama is named A Love So Beautiful. I ended up by mistake watching A little thing called first love (also C drama) which I found very cute and endearing. And then when I realized my mistake, I watched A love so beautiful which I also loved. The point is when Korean dramas were not clicking, I decided to look into other Asian market including China and Taiwan and found some really cute gems in them. It also has the same first stage feel of shiny-ness when you notice new cultural things but are less likely to be carried away in watching shows that do not click.
Hi there SZ10!! 😀 So glad that you enjoyed this post! <3 And I feel you, I've enjoyed dramas in the past that I now feel embarrassed by too! You're not alone! 😆😆
Your hack for getting out of Stage 4 is an excellent one, and I've used it too, to get out of drama ruts. It's great that there're so many other drama pastures to choose from! 😀 I personally have only been dabbling in C, TW and J dramas when I need a bit of a change, and even then, there's already so much to explore! 🙂
PS: YAY that you enjoyed A Love So Beautiful! I found that a very endearing little show indeed! <3
Love your analysis of the stages of KDrama addiction. I would say I am at Stage 3. I am now more careful of my time and drop more dramas. I am viewing more CDramas lately after I research the actors, review the story and check the number of episodes first to see if it appeals to me.
I also started searching for older KDramas. If anyone has any really good older dramas (90s – to 2009) please let me know and thanks.
Great post! I would love to see an article on your favorite supporting actors|actresses. There are so many that pop up in our drama world all the time, and while they are not the leads, their work is great none-the-less.
For older K Dramas, I recommend:
Beautiful Days (2001)
My Name Is Kim Sam Soon/My Lovely Sam Soon (2004)
Que Sera Sera (2007)
Hi Table122000! Out of the four listed above I have not seen Sandglass or Beautiful Days. Going to look for them now – thanks so much!
Hi phl! <3 Always great to see ya! 😀 Glad you think the stages make sense! I think Stage 3 is where most long-term drama fans stabilize.. I find myself mostly in Stage 3, with small detours into Stage 4, and then back again. 😉 And I do think taking detours into other country's dramas, and delving into older dramas, can freshen up the drama experience. I do that a lot too! 😀
Thinking of older kdramas, I think that you'd enjoy All About Eve. It's enjoyable and not tropey, and I thought Jang Dong Gun was very appealing in it. 🙂 Hotelier is very good too. Ah, and since you enjoy OSTs, I do think you might enjoy checking out Winter Sonata. The music in that is very well done, and applied very effectively to help facilitate the storytelling. And I personally have a soft spot for Save Your Last Dance For Me, coz of Ji Sung. It's retro melo all the way through, with double amnesia to boot. And Ji Sung is young and earnest and quite swoony in it. 😉
Thanks for your suggestion on a post on supporting actors! I will put some thought into it, I promise! 😀
Thanks Fangurl – I have heard a lot about All About Eve. In fact it is queued up on my Viki watch list – I guess it might be time to take a peek. It is probably your only A rated drama I have yet to see as I have followed your list pretty religiously (just still stuck on episode 3 of Bridal Mask LOL). I did see Winter Sonata and cried buckets.
I am definitely going to find Save the Last Dance for Me! Look at Ji Sung – he was, and still is, absolutely adorable! Interesting to note that he met his wife while filming this. I plan to start this asap. Just in time as I have paused Winter Begonia as it is getting too sad and it is hard to watch because I know what is coming. Sigh…such a gorgeous drama but as a general rule I shy away from war films as they are too sad.
I might be off by the year here or there but these are the older dramas that come to mind:
My Name is Kim Samsoon (often referred to as “the rom-com that started it all”)
Autumn in My Heart (classic, melo)
A Love to Kill (melo)
Arang and the Magistrate
Couple or Trouble (rom-com, almost a direct remake of the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell movie but they change it up a bit toward the later episodes)
Damo: The Legendary Police Woman (saeguk, Ha Ji-Won gets to show off her stunt skills)
Delightful Girl Choon (Chun) Hyang (this is a modern take on an infamous Korean folktale)
Full House (rom-com, also one of the first dramas to break through internationally)
Iris (actin packed spies and secret agents, boasts actor Lee Byung heon who has starred in quite a few American movies)
Sorry, I Love You (classic melo)
Sandglass (I haven’t finished it but it’s THE Classic touted for 56% of household watching when it aired. I think it’s harder for me because I’m not familiar with the historic event it’s based around)
Sunkyunkwan Scandal (fusion saeguk)
I tried not to list any dramas that have been discussed a lot already in this particular thread.
Hey Beez! Yay – thank you so much for this great list! You are so kind for taking the time to put together this for me and I really appreciate it.
Sandglass sounds great and I plan to definitely watch this. Out of the drama listed above I have not seen numbers 3, 6,7,8, or 9 which I have added to my list. Also, I really loved Couple or Trouble! Since you are a Rain fan I am guessing that you have already seen The Unit – a show he hosted? If not check it out although you were probably on top of it and watched it when it aired LOL.
I found a youtube channel – Korean Classic Film – with classic Korean movies and some of them are subbed so I jump over there every once in a while. Pretty standard fare but every once in a while I find a familiar face. These old movies are treasures of Korean cinema.
Stay safe Beez and thanks again!
You’re most welcome, phl1rxd
The Unit – you know it! In fact if I weren’t a lazy fan, I’d figure out how to petition to have him as a judge in some of these American dance competition shows. So You Think You Can Dance was one he would’ve been great on. I used to hit the mute button when it was time for 3 of the 4 judges to speak. 😖
At the time that I watched Couple or Trouble, I felt as long as they were using the basic script from Overboard, they missed a prime opportunity to make the heroine more likeable (let’s face it – she was a brat). But right where the American film had her take up for the kids with their teacher, the story diverges at that point. Looking back, I think it may be that Confucius respect that if she did that, wouldn’t endear her to Korean audiences. But then again, if I recall correctly, SPOILER she divorced her husband for Oh Ji ho and that was an uncommon storyline to go with so why they choose not to go with the teacher scene is a mystery to me.🤷
I’ll be checking out the Youtube channel. Thanks!
We need a new show! For those familiar with our taste, what do you recommend? I’ll list all the ones we’ve seen thus far, as well as several that various of you recommended to me recently.
A few shows we were encouraged to consider, in no particular order:
My Love From Another Star
Shopping King Louie
When The Camilla Blooms
One Percent Of Something
It’s Okay, That’s Love
Fight My Way
The Last Princess (film)
Shows we’ve already seen, in the order we watched them and our grades:
Romance Is a Bonus Book – A+
A Thousand Goodnights (very sweet Tawainese show) – A
One Spring Night – A+
Something in the Rain/Pretty Noona Who… (A+ for first 1/2, C- for last 1/3)
Crash Landing on You – A+
Another Miss Oh – A-
Chocolate – A
Healer – A+
Coffee Prince – A+
My Holo Love – B-
Familiar Wife – B+
Radiant – AKA Dazzling – hard for us to rate since it’s so heavy
Kill Me Heal Me – A
Her Private Life – A
The K2 (hard to rate – mashup of great and awful, so maybe a B- on average)
Secret Love Affair – A+
I Hear Your Voice – A
I think you should try next: My Love From Another Star 😊
Agreed! Love from Another Star is an absolute essential, and from your list and grades, I think you’ll love it. Haven’t seen all that many from your list, but my second vote would be for Camelllia.
Another strong vote for My Love…I just finished viewing it, concurrently with Healer, and I would rate both extremely highly. I’m into Secret Garden, a Hyun Bin vehicle from 10 years ago, and that’s also going very well.
I second that! A true classic.
Sean or anyone else! What the actual? We’ve now watched 12 one-hour episodes of My Love From Another Star.
Twelve hours of an unlikable and un-charismatic young man being rude to a woman who loves him. Yes I realize he loves her too inside, but his actual behavior toward her is utterly vile and thoughtless. This goes well beyond “Mr. Darcy” coldness.
On top of that, he’s possible the dumbest lead we’ve seen yet, passively failing to take any action whatsoever to address the threat of the killer brother, revealing his super-powers to him without cause, trusting a serial killer psychopath by giving up the evidence that would convict him in court in return for his word (!!) not to murder the female lead for what she knows later on, much less the dozens of other people he will obviously continue to kill in the years ahead.
For the last ten episodes I’ve been assuring my wife that it will get better soon, but I fear this may be the show that breaks K-drama for us for a while.
So I’m curious. Does it get any better prior to episode 21? We’ just finished the episode where he reveals he’s an alien in the empty museum late at night and tries to terrify her into thinking he may become violent and harm her.
Oh dear merij – time for an intervention! It’s always interesting the reaction we have. Yes, the story does change up from here on in. Our alien visitor begins to realise he has a lot to learn in order to be “human.” My wife watched this show with great interest and was very taken with how it ended. In fact, she was concerned that things might not turn out for the better in the closing stages.She seemed happy with my explanation re the imagery and symbolism.
That being said, I’m sorry if Star does not turn out to be a pleasant experience for both of you. I would hate to think it puts such a dampener on things for you. There are plenty of other kdramas right now well worth getting into that have good, affable, male leads that will get you back on track 😊
OK, I just read recaps for the remaining episodes and can see that this is one of those cases where “the darkest hour is just before dawn.” In terms of what we were fed up with, the next episode is mixed, but it’s all good after that, not counting additional displays of that lame “hero stupidity in the face of evil” trope.
So we’ll finish it and I’m sure we’ll love it and that we’ll cry our hearts out at the end.
But I still say the unpleasant phase of our young alien’s behavior was much too drawn out to be enjoyable. Prolonging that aspect of the show does not justify the stretch from 16 to 21 episodes.
As a K-drama newbie, I’d never heard of Jun Ji-hyun. But now that I’ve looked her up, I realize how huge a star she is; that her fame derived almost entirely from feature films — starting with My Sassy Girl — plus countless glamour shoots for commercials; and that this was the first TV show she’d appeared in 14 years as well as the only one she’d appeared in since becoming a star 11-12 years prior.
So I can see why they wanted to squeeze every last drop from that commercial opportunity. But it’s still flawed show-writing, imho!
Hi MeriJ, gosh, I’m sorry to hear that My Love From Another Star is not going well for you and your wife! 😬 I just revisited my review, and I definitely liked Min Joon a lot, by the time I hit E12. I wonder if you might find it useful, to take a peek at the review? In particular, I think it might be helpful for you take a look at the section on Do Min Joon, including the spoiler section – at least until the E11 remarks (the one that comes after are E14 remarks). It might help to give some perspective to Min Joon’s way of expressing his care. 😅
Hi KFG: I didn’t realize you had reviewed My Love From Another Star until I saw this comment so I went back and found your review under another name. I have to read your review more closely but I feel pretty much the same as you about the show though probably not as strong. I actually thought the chemistry between the leads was amazing and they were both very good but Jun Ji-Hyun was amazing.
A suggestion: perhaps list the alternative names for any show where they would fit alphabetically in your list and refer back to the name where your review is placed.
Hi Geo, thanks so much for your suggestion; I’ve just updated my review lists with the various alternative titles I could think of, so it should be much more user-friendly now! 😀 I might’ve missed out some, so if you spot another instance of a show not being listed by its alternative title, do let me know, and I’ll fix it. 🙂 You can browse the newly spruced-up Full List here! 😀
Hi KFG: Thanks for updating the list of shows to show alternative names. It’s helpful to latecomers to Kdramas who don’t know as much and who rely on your blog in sifting through the huge number of shows. Much appreciated.
Poor Merij1 and family! This sounds like it is not a good fit for you two. I did check for number of episodes as this drama was remade into Thai, Filipino, and Indonesian versions as well as the K version (which has 21 episodes). So I am assuming that you are watching the K version which is supposed to be considered the best of the lot.
Some dramas, no matter how much everyone else loves them, are simply not for a good fit for others. I watched 3 different versions of the Untamed as well as tried the book and dropped every single one. Go figure – but just not for me.
I tried hard to remember this as it has been a few years since I watched it a second time. I still enjoyed it although not as much as the first time. I just jumped onto Viki at episode 12 and FF around and it brought back a few memories. He does become more human (he is an alien and struggles with human emotions and just making that statement makes me laugh) as the drama unfolds and it has a beautiful ending because I do remember that.
I would say it is time to drop back and punt and start a new drama. I have had dramas make me so mad I thought about stopping drama watching altogether. Please do not drop your drama watching. You would be missed too much around here!
@merij1: Your reaction to My Love…is interesting but confirms that human beings are indeed different. But if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t and maybe time to move on. On your questions:
1. As others have said, the hero does become more in tune with his emotions as the show goes on. He is hesitant to be involved with JJH since he has to leave in 3 months and it takes him some time to come to the realization that anytime is precious and should be valued.
2. He can’t use his powers to kill anyone so that limits what he can do about the villain, he can only defend. Plus he has seen the futility in the past of interfering in human affairs.
3. I don’t think he gives up the evidence though I too found the show is confusing on that point, it appears his powers are significantly reduced when the car hits him so he is unable to avoid the car and the driver takes the USB drive from his hand.
I wouldn’t drop Kdramas too quickly, I started and dropped quite a few shows on Netflix when they couldn’t meet the standards of the first couple of shows I viewed but I’ve persisted and being rewarded, recognizing that no matter what the source, I know the ratio of good to mediocre or bad shows is never what one would like.
Thank you all for the responses. I’m running to a dentist appmt (!!!) so a longer response will have to wait.
But for now I will say only that I feel very supported. I will read KFG’s review and will probably also look for a DramaBeans recap of the coming episodes to decide if we need to skip a few.
Thing is, we’ve already watched the equivalent of six full length feature films of this guy NOT growing or learning from his mistakes. At all. While the female lead has grown on us a lot. We love her. It’s a bit much.
And yes, all jerks have a back-story about how they got that way. But if they don’t change, I’m sorry, they’re still jerks and life is still short.
I feel obligated to respond since I also urged watching of MLFAS. I wasn’t that big a fan of DMJ either, but I absolutely loved Jun Ji-hyun in her role, which is probably a career high for her. I had first watched Legend of the Blue Sea, which receives mixed reviews but I thought she was great in it (it was the second drama I watched) and that’s what brought me to Star. Even went back to see her in her breakout role in the movie My Sassy Girl, which is generally beloved but I didn’t like her character as much as many do. I am in the minority again in thinking that the ending of Star is Exactly O.K.
Finally, major props to you on getting through 12 episodes of a drama in like, what, a week?! I’m lucky to get through 12 hours of dramas in a month….
I am now doing the finances analysis necessary to get the Disney World Domination Channel because I absolutely have to watch Hamilton….happy watching whatever you end up on.
Hey Jeff. We’ve been watching two episodes almost every night. So 12 Eps in a week is exactly on par for us!
We took a break to watch the final season of Vida on the Starz network, but mostly we’ve been doing K-drama for the last year.
FYI, we did finish this show and I posted my thoughts on it at kfangurl’s review page:
@merij1 – I honestly can’t remember much about My Love from Another Star BUT… I told you to watch Descendants of the Sun if you wanted to – for sure – keep your wife invested. \_(ツ)_/¯ (Sorry, but I live for “I told you so”) lol
Ha, Beez. As if I didn’t already know that about you! To be honest, I thought DotS was a Sageuk, which my other half is not into. But a modern historical drama is fine, so I’ll take a look.
Also to be clear, we don’t prefer either the male or female lead to be light and fluffy. I actually enjoy difficult people, both in dramaland and IRL. I just don’t care for jerks, especially men who treat women shabbily and continue to do so long after the grace period for them to evolve has passed.
What this feels like is a cynical ploy by the writers to stretch out the episode count.
DOTS is totally fictional. No historic content but I found it makes me feel the way old Hollywood movies used to only better because back then a movie was only epically romantic (From Here to Eternity); epically tragic (Daisy Clover, Suddenly Last Summer, The Sun Also Rises); totally rom-com (anything with Sandra Dee or Doris Day) or all action-adventure (Indiana Jones serials). But for me, DOTS has all of that. I know it’s weird to combine all those genres and at first, I couldn’t reconcile myself to it. I still like my rom-coms to be light and fluffy without a case of cancer thrown in for good measure. But DOTS… even the cheesy corny stuff pays off later which I think is the criticism it got from Kfangurl that it felt like events got strung together just for the purpose of that payoff later. But I’m rewatching the Korean version now and I would not cut any of the scenes except maybe episode 1 which makes our hero seem quite arrogant but once you watch to about episode 4 you’re already going there’s no way for him not to be a tad bit arrogant. 😉
Did you see this post and the links within it?
No, what I see is a skeleton template for a new blog, with no info other than an initial introductory post from July 13, 2019. Great quote by Oscar Wilde, however!
@merik1 – sorry to send you on a wild goose chase. And thank you for being the first to comment on “my blog”😁 😆 😂
Unfortunately I don’t know what to do with it. 😆 I hit “reply” but it wasn’t exactly clear how to do so as the text box was filled with your comment instead of blank for me to respond. I thought about deleting the text in the box to respond to you but then thought “what if he doesn’t have a WordPress account? Where the heck would the message go and would he ever see it?” So in the end, I’m responding here with thanks that at least something finally happened on that account which at some point, after YEARS of frequenting blogs likes this one, WordPress would not let me comment until I signed up for an account. Go figure.
OMGoodness! I just got notice that you’re following me! *touched* 😢😂
I do have WordPress but have no received no notifications from your so-called blog. Haha.
Oops. Ignore that link that goes to my WordPress page, which I don’t even know how to get there on my own, only when a mistake like that one takes me there.
I tested these links this time. I’m only pouring them here because I feel like you must have missed them because I do describe the OTP’s personalities and occupations. And one of my posts has a link to the poster for the series
My personal “slice of life” favorite – Five Children
I won’t repeat all the other shows I’ve been tooting cause I’m sure everyone’s tired of me constantly saying “you must watch these…” 😆
But Five Children (although it’s long at 54 episodes) – the main characters (the OTP) are middle-aged and it’s never a dull moment.
Part of what draws me to this show is never in my Kdrama life have I seen a character like the female lead. In most Kdramas, if someone older is talking and unfairly degrading and reproaching a character, they usually just fold and take it. But this female lead manages to be respectful but still does not take any guff!
SPOILER SCENE – in the 2nd episode, her ex-husband refuses to make his child support payment so while they’re talking, she teaches over and grabs his car keys to hold his car hostage until he pays up! END SPOILER 😆
Synopsis – Of course that scene sets off ex-hubby’s new wife and mother-in-law to create complications for our hard working heroine who has three kids and little hope for romance or remarriage. 😉
It’s a goody 😊
Ugh! I have to add this to my list now you describe this Beez. It sounds great. Note – some days I look in fear at that list LOL!
I think it’s time for ANOTHER rewatch myself!
My Love from Another Star is very good! As a sageuk fan, I am biased in favor of Sungkyunkwan Scandal. It is one of those rare lighthearted sageuks that just sparkles. Warning: Second Lead Syndrome very likely to occur!
I finished School 2013 recently and liked it. Another excellent high school drama is At Eighteen.
I haven’t run them by my gal yet, but Love From Another Star is likely our next.
Then, maybe Secret Garden (despite misgiving others have expressed about how well the gender behavior has aged.)
I’ve tried to sell School 2013 and Sungkungkwan Scandal without luck thus far. She’s mostly interested in romance, not bromance. But I haven’t given up, if you have anything to say about that!
These three came up on another thread as when I mentioned my interest in shows that look behind the scenes at how K-drama is made.
+ Fantastic — SeanF recommended this one, in part because the female lead writes K-drama
+ Be Melodramatic — KFG likes this one a lot and besides good relationships, it too casts light on how these shows are written and produced
+ King of Dramas – KFG mentioned this as well, noting that it’s more over-the-top and presents a darker/satirical but still informative view on how the K-drama sausage is made.*
* That’s a reference to the joke in various professions, include dirty politics, that “we don’t talk about how we make the sausage.”
Another friend (not active here) suggested these:
+ City Hunter
+ My Lovely Kim Sam Soon
+ My Mister
+ The Best Hit
Plus ones with her fave oppa Lee Joon Ki:
+ Two Weeks
+ The Scholar Who Walks the Night
+ Fly, Daddy, Fly (film)
And lastly, Method (film) featuring a queer romance between an older and younger man where the lines start to bleed between their roles in a stage play vs. IRL.
A lot of us here have also put the stamp of approval on My Lovely Samsoon but we referred to it by its other name – My Name is Kim Samsoon. It’s the one that I said often has this phrase after its title: “The one that started it all”. It’s also said that it was inspired by Bridget Jones’ Diary.
By the way, it’s an early starring role for Hyin Bin, the actor is Crash Landing on You.
A very strong second for Be Melodramatic: refreshing, even innovative. When it’s funny, it’s really funny but the serious moments are earned and heartfelt. And the drama-within-a-drama motif is inspired.
SKK Scandal has romance and bromance in it. At Eighteen is a high school drama centered on a lovely romance.
Secret Love Affair is a very sophisticated romance set in the world of classical music.
Kim Soo Hyun (My Love from Another Star) has a new drama, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, that looks like a very promising romance about healing.
Oops, I forgot you have already seen Secret Love Affair!
Fated to Love You is an excellent romance between an eccentric guy and a shy girl. One of my favorite kdrama kisses is in it. Plus, Jang Hyuk and Jang NaRa are brilliant!
Another excellent healing romance is 30 but 17 (Still 17). Shin Hye Sun and Yang Se Jong are adorable.
Fated to Love You! ❤ But I do think you can get the most enjoyment out of it if you watch Jang Hyuk’s past works up to Chuno first because of all the meta and references to it.
The chasing of the ring is a nod to Bright Girl’s Success. Chuno’s theme song. Darn it, I can’t remember the rest but I clocked quite a few at the time that I watched it.
Could you narrow that down a bit? And bear in mind that I will never be a “completist” on Jang Hyuk and that my gal is only interested in romance or romance+ shows?
Here are the ones I have to choose from, not counting Chuno/Slave Hunters at Amazon Prime:
I don’t see a lot of his older work there (therefore there’s no way these titles could’ve been referenced in Fated to Live You). But I’m sure you all are tired of hearing me say “you must must MUST watch Tree with Deep Roots and Chuno!(The Slavehunters)” which are both on that list.
Shine or Go Crazy is not referenced in Fated to Love You because it was made after, but it’s good and it’s a romance SPOILER but the ending might sour your wife as it is constrained by history so there is no happily ever after for the OTP. Shine or Go Crazy had the misfortune of audiences loving it and that’s all the more reason why most people hated the ending, including me.
Thank You is a good romance too.
It is, definitely but Merij1 had asked me to narrow it down by which shows are referenced in some way in Fated to Love You. Do you recall, Snow Flower, which other ones there are beside Bright Girl’s Success and Chuno?
Let me correct that about Fated to Love You. It is very enjoyable even if you don’t get the references. I just found it so much more enjoyable when I rewatched it years later, knowing the references.
Beez, I think Tazza was another JH show referenced in Fated to Love You. I have not seen it, but some viewers made online comments about it.
Tazza and Daemong are the only two of his works I haven’t seen. Oh wait. I think there’s an early movie about toilets or something that I have no desire to see. lol
I searched AsianWiki for Fantastic when Sean first mentioned it but I couldn’t find it. Does it have any other names?
Here it is:
And here it is at Viki:
Thanks but I read the synopsis. Any time I read “six months to live…” I’m out.
But thanks for the links.
I researched how Fantastic ended, because we’re not currently in the mood for more sad. Suffice to say, if you tolerated the ending of Secret Love Affair, this one would be far easier to bear. It overpromises and underdelivers on that count.
I…don’t…know what to make of that answer, merij1. 😆 But the show’s not intriguing enough to get me to take that on, plus I’m not a big fan of the actors. Not saying anything against them, it’s just that if I’m going to add something to My Monster (watchlist) or squeeze something in to watch now before the stuff already on The Monster, it has to be pretty special or with actors that I try not to miss.
Also, I barely tolerated anything in Secret Love Affair other than my bias Yoo Ah in and it was difficult watching him in that role.
Thanks so much.
Ha. I’m well aware of your not-love for SLA! I was only using it a reference point for “series ending sad-o-meter.”
Lee Da Hee!!! I got super distracted while reading this post because Lee Da Hee still connotates Search WWW for me and that show really spoke to my heart.
I’m in stage 4 now – just finished Stranger/Forest of Secrets (2017) and I’m bereft! Is there another show that can match this one? I’m just waiting patiently for season 2 to release teasers… But I may backslide to stage 2 and watch The K2 just because of that shower scene. With a judicious application of the FF button.
The good news latefair is that there is another season of Stranger which should be released in August this year. I am looking forward to it as I really enjoyed Season 1.
Yay for Sranger Season 2!
@kfangurl – should we warn them about season 2’s or let them go in blind?
Welll… Maybe this time the sequel will be good..? 😅😅
Is there a sarcastic “like” button? 😆
OK Beez – LOL – spill the beans! I just saw this and I am intrigued…
I didn’t take that to mean Beez has seen this show’s S2, but rather that they usually bite.
Oh. I’m sorry. Nothing so interesting as “intriguing”. It’s just that in the rate instance that a Kdrama is granted a second season, they usually completely blow it. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to get the same cast, same production crew, etc., somehow they manage to still make a 💩
I can think of two shows whose second seasons were worthy of – or better than – the first. One is “Age of Youth” (or “Hello, My Twenties”) and Let’s Eat. I’d watch both of those again in a minute1
That’s amazing. I didn’t watch either series but I’ve been burned way too often with horrible second seasons. The most recent one that I’ve watched and that I can think of is Mystery Queen. The first season was absolutely delightful but the second season didn’t seem to have ever met the first season despite the returning cast.
That being said, one of the things I really like about K-dramas is that so few go beyond one season, thus lessening the possibility of “jumping the shark”. And what I admire above all else is the ability to really stick the ending, which I think is sadly missing from so much of our modern culture.
Interesting, j3ffc because I’ve actually found that most kdrama endings are very unsatisfying and my motto has become “just learn to enjoy the journey” (which translates to “enjoy the first 14-15 episodes because I’m sure to be let down by the last one”.
Although, it recently occurred to me that those long running American shows usually sucked in the last season and if they didn’t, the last episode surely would.
Ah, I did not make my meaning clear. I agree that many/most dramas don’t necessarily end all that well. What I meant rather is that it’s special (in any fiction) when there is a great ending. Now I’m hard-pressed to think of one….
I started to add to this thread with my own list of shows that had great final episodes. That ended up being a fail due to my lousy memory, but it led to a longer comment that I moved up top!
You have a valid point…
The main cast is the same, and they’ve got the same writer back in, but Google tells me that the director and producing company are different this time round. Fingers crossed!!
@latefair – which show are you referring to? Is it Stranger?
Hey Beez and Co. – well, it took me an hour to find this post. Whew! I have to say that S2 was better than S1 which I thought was very, very good. I finished this yesterday and frankly I was pretty blown away. It was excellent. It is in a tie with Into the Ring for my favorite Drama in 2020 so far.
Bae Doo-Na is an amazing actress and proves why she has such a wide range of projects. She can emote on such a finely tuned sophisticated level. Cho Seung-Woo nailed his role and then some – perfection. These two dramas are are a perfect fit for him. My favorite huggy bear Choi Moo-Sung was impressive. All the acting was top notch and the story was well written. I am giving it an A. This is a rare case of KDrama world doing a second season just not right – but better! I seriously await S3….
Hello phl, yes, I agree 100%. Stranger 2 is better than Stranger 1 and it is a tie with Into The Ring. Both our leads are so believable. They more than just inhabit their characters. As for Huggy Bear, if there is a Season 3, it will be interesting to see what part he plays.
All I will say further is the premise of Stranger 2 is very real and shows how subtle these things truly are – except any tirade I ever experienced lasted for half an hour or more!
You might like Zombie Detective – it’s wacky without being over the top and looks at things from a different perspective (Zombies being scared of humans).
Hi Sean – that watch was ‘awesome sauce’ as the kids say. S3 – whew – I am hoping for Huggy Bear’s complete redemption and a deepening friendship between the very solid OTP with a further review of; the ending smile, reaction to the text and the loss of his temper in that interrogation room.
I have spent the last week wrapping up some dramas so I am down to 6 active and in the market for a new one. I will check Zombie Detective out. I think I may be spoiled too much with Shaun of the Dead. I will give Zombie Detective a try. I am still working my way through Darker 3 which is taking so long as I have to watch it on my PC which frankly is a P.I.T.A. I am also working on Ms. Temper & Nam Jung-Gi which is pretty darn entertaining. I also may look into Alice. I am also trying to finish the beautiful Winter Begonia but I am so scared there may be too much heartache for me to bear.
Let me know if you find a keeper!
P.S. Dating in the Kitchen – if you have not seen the movie it is based on – ‘This Is Not What I Expected’ – please take a sec and watch it. Although the movie over-plays cuteness in a few parts the watch is pretty solid. Takeshi Kaneshiro (living proof that some men do get better looking as they get older) and Zhou Dongyu (she works this role for all its worth) are the OTP. I found it by accident a few years ago either on Netflix or Prime. It is still on YT but I would be foolish to think that you have not seen it – as Beez says “Sean watches everything” LOL!!
@plhl1rxd: wow, watching 6 shows at the same time and looking for a new one! I have a long way to go, I usually try to watch two simultaneously. I’m happy to hear you consider Stranger 2 to be even better than S1, which I thought was very well done. Can’t wait to watch S2, Netflix is currently showing episodes on a weekly basis so I’ll wait until all the episodes are screened and i can control my viewing time.
I just finished Dazzling and Melting Me Softly and was looking to watch Six Flying Dragons but the 50 episode length stopped me in my tracks. I thought The Tree with Deep Roots with 24 episodes was long. Beez, I think, recommended watching both these shows before My Country and while I liked The Tree… I’m not sure when I’ll get to Six Flying Dragons.
Hi Geo – I hear ya. I have both of them queued up and I will eventually get to them when there is a dry spell. They are both def worth a watch and I will follow Beez’s recommendation on the watch order. I have to be in the mood for a Sageuk to appreciate them and I can only watch one at a time.
@phl: after realizing the sageuk shows I have on my list are all looong, I plunged into Six Flying Dragons and I love it so far, already up to episode 20! Maybe its because I like history but it’s engrossing learning about this period of Korean history and the writer and director have done an excellent job laying out the framework and introducing the many characters in a very viewer friendly way, didn’t take me too long to get my bearings on the various characters and there are a lot. This show is actually a prequel to The Tree with Deeper roots but i think it was produced after The Tree..and it’s very interesting to see the early life and background of some of the characters from The Tree….
@Geo – the reason that I recommend the watch order as I do is because if you watch Tree last, you might be disappointed in how certain characters end up. Also whenever shows get a prequel, sometimes the writers may change some things that end up being a bit inconsistent, especially when the prequel was not planned for ahead of time but grew as a later idea.
@phl1xrd: You will not be disappointed in the Tree… or Six Flying Dragons. I’ve just reached episode 30 on SFD but I find it even better than The Tree… so far. These are well produced shows with substantial budgets and across the board excellence. I started SFD half in dread of the 50 episode length but it’s going so well so far that I think 50 episodes may even be too short!
@Geo – Back when SFD’s was being broadcast every week – as it neared its finish, I felt a weird type of (mini) panic of “otakay” (spelled phonetically😊) of what am I going to do when it ends? It was so spectacularly engrossing.
Although I do think it’s good to know a little about Lee Bang won’s background. Wikipedia gave me just enough to know who we’re dealing with here – a man so ambitious as to kill his own brothers in his quest to lead the country but who sincerely felt he was better for the job because he wanted to help the citizens (which he did). Talk about a complicated yin-yang character.
@beez: I thought The Tree… was an excellent show but I would place SFD above it so far, up to episode 30. I’ve been relatively busy this past week and cannot believe I’m already up to episode 30, this show can be addictive, takes great willpower to take a break. The storyline is gripping and the pacing keeps you focused in all the time, very few draggy bits.The characters are well drawn and the evolution of Lee Bang Won is chilling, molded by events as much as he tried to shape them. His character raises the eternal question, does the end justify the means?
Many thanks for the referral to this trilogy.
@Geo – I agree that SFD is a better show all the way around. But that’s not so strange as I believe that it takes something good (Tree) to lead to producing something great (SGD)
As to a trilogy – My Country is not made by the same production team as the afore-mentioned shows. But I recommend it after viewing those because many things in My Country are assumed that the audience already knows the history of Lee Bang won. But if you don’t, you might be scratching your head like “what the heck happened?” As the story jumps without showing certain things that every S. Korean has learned since elementary school. (And also because Lee Bang won, while heavily featured, is not the main protagonist in My Country.)
I’m glad you’re enjoying SFD. I also love the “marching theme” music. I don’t know if that’s what you’d call it but I know that had I been in the crowd when Sambong rang the symbolic bell of rebellion, I would have answered the call (or at least sang along with them)😉
Thanks to the recommendations here, I’m finally watching Tree/Roots – my first saeguk – and am glad I did. Quarter way through, it’s not at all stuffy (my worry going in), beautifully acted, and totally engrossing. Thanks to all.
On the lighter side of my ledger, I’m watching “Bring It On, Ghost”, largely for the “Let’s Eat” cameos. Fun enough, although right on the heels of “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho” I think I’ve got my quota of creepy veterinarians for the year….
@beez; I’ve finished SFD and this show is excellent, from the very top drawer. Amazingly, 50 episodes almost felt like it wasn’t enough. This is a very human show in that there aren’t bad guys and good guys, no heroes and villains, just individuals driven by their differing visions of what they think the new country should look like and what they think their role should be in creating this new country. And underlying all these rival ambitions is the helplessness and suffering of the people for whom these rivals are trying to create a better life.I guess the only characters who emerge unsullied through this process are the masses and the loyal followers, i.e. the powerless.
@j3ffc: I think you will really appreciate these shows. I envy you still having SFD before you.
I’m going to take a break from the heavier stuff and look for a light show before watching My Country, actually was thinking of My Girlfriend is a Nine Tailed Fox but will just do a quick scan of KFG’s recommendations.
@Geo – I take great pleasure in saying “I told you so” 😉 😆 I was really pleased with the ending of SFD as well. Usually that’s my “air out of the tire” time with most dramas.
I do think Yi Bang Wong leans very much so to the dark side because of the very fact that he did SPOILERS BUT NOT REALLY BECAUSE IT’S HISTORY kill his siblings. Although, while SFD shows the one sibling as a child at the time of his murder, he’s depicted as more of a young man in My Country. I wonder which is true? But that one act alone always reminds me that Yi Bang won, while having many admirable traits and accomplishments is, in my mind, a very bad guy. I know that in other countries in ancient times, struggles for the throne could cause some to commit fratricide but from what I gather, Yi Bang won’s siblings were not evil – again, as far as I know.
I’m very glad you liked it as much as I did. Now we just need Kfangurl to come back to the light, finish watching it, so we have a place to discuss Gil Tae mi and his many choices of eye shadow before he went out to slaughter 20 people at a time. 😆
Do you feel satisfied with the fate of the characters from SFD in Tree?
And yes, My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox is really cute.
@beez: You have every right to say “I told you so”, without your recommendations, I doubt I would have seen these two shows.
On the issue of villains in SFD, I think all the rival parties committed evil deeds. Firstly, Goryeo was corrupt and oppressive (90% tax rate!) and for no good reason, ordered a war (through General Choi Young) in which thousands would have died with almost zero chance of success. Secondly, Yi Seong-gye, first Joseon King, had Choi Young together with hundreds of Goryeo supporters executed, not shown but I remember the comment in discussion. He’s trying to do the right thing and realizes he’s saved thousands of his “family” by attacking Goryeo but is clearly out of his depth as a ruler, depends on Sambong totally. Moomyoung (Nameless), the organization, thinks they know how society should be stabilized and they are ruthless in striving for this, assassination and suicide by captured members is their modus operandi. Sambong, a highly principled man, totally confident that only he knows how things should work, doesn’t sully his own hands by killings or torture but encourages and directs actions that result in both, eg the execution of the last Goryeo King. Yi Bang-won, as you have noted, kills his own half-siblings, one of them a child and he is actually seen as the most ruthless in how quickly he decides killing of key rivals is the only way. But he is actually the weakest of the contending factions, the 5th son viewed with distrust and suspicion by his father so he, I think has to be most ruthless in going for his goals. Yes, his half brothers are innocent but so are the hundreds, if not thousands, killed and tortured by the various parties. His father naming his half-brother as Crown Prince sealed his half brother’s doom. Reminds me of Richard III in English history who murdered two teenage princes to secure his hold on the throne. Bang-won is actually saved by two women, Boon Yi and his wife, without their contributions he would have failed.
All parties believe the end justify the means, even if that ultimately results in the deaths and torture of many, including innocents. But the writers show what a slippery slope that is, Bang-won starts with a forgery of his father’s seal on a document and ends with the blood of his step siblings on his hands.
I think the writers did a good job, showing Bang-won’s evolution into a ruthless, murderous individual and King which then flows seamlessly into the Tree…where that is the image presented to the viewer. It was very difficult to have any sympathy for him in The Tree..but SFD explains the transformation. I’m trying to remember other characters and how they ended up in The Tree… and I’m having difficulty thinking of them except for Moo Hyul who is in The Tree… as the King’s bodyguard and has done well. I can’t remember Lee Bang-ji from The Tree… so I’m not sure what happened to him. The other principal characters actually die in SFD. Did I miss anyone?
@Geo – you summed everything up very well. I often remark on how I’m glad I wasn’t born during the time when everyone walked around with swords and life held little value.
Yi Song-gye and his (seemingly) righteous attitude accompanied by his badassery with a bow and arrow had me swooning. I missed the part where you mentioned he had hundreds executed. I’m kind of glad I missed that as I’ve placed his portrayal here on a pedestal – starting with the scene where he takes responsibility for beheading the spy himself a la Ned Stark (Game of Thrones reference). The fact that so many Korean dramas feature a group like Moomyoung (making an appearance in Healer as the Farmers who “cultivate” the direction of the country) makes me wonder if this is a similar thing like our western Illuminati which may be real but may just be one of many conspiracy theories.
I do think Sambong is mostly on the side of good because, as you point out how corrupt the government is and how evil Mooyoung is – it was not going to be changed without some bloodshed but I believe he tried to keep it to a minimum as much as possible. (Case in point the murder of Poong by Bang won’s crony on the bridge (if I remembered the name right).
My fixation on Yi Bang won in this version comes from Yoo Ah in’s portrayal. While show is a sword swashbuckler, Yi Bang wong never once draws his sword (except to kill the young sibling which I try to ignore), but he never draws it except to give it to Moo Hyul to protect him as he runs away with Boon Yi. And yet I never thought of him as cowardly, which in my mind is a testament to Yoo Ah in’s acting. The scene where he confronts the clan that he wants to ally himself with and he takes “the bomb/not bomb” was so excellently enacted to put me on pins and needles at the edge of my seat.
As to the characters in Tree, I was most disappointed in Yi Bang ji’s fate. He’s the older hermit who teaches Jang Hyuk’s and Lee Soo hyuk’s characters martial arts. (Let me take an aside here to mention how great AsianWiki is because if you look up actors, the picture is always of them how they appeared in that show. Lee Soo hyuk has had a nose job to seriously reduce the size of his nose so if AsianWiki did like imdb and other databases who usually show the most recent picture of a celebrity even if they’ve aged so much you can’t recognize them from the show you’re trying to figure out who they are. Just wanted to point out and give them kudos because without AsianWiki, when I first started watching and couldn’t tell one actor from another – I would’ve been completely lost. But AsianWiki always shows the actor as they appeared, hairstyle and makeup, in whichever show you’re looking up. 👍)
Now, back to SFD and Tree – I never thought about The Tree being Moo Hyul. I thought it was the nameless organization, which ran deep throughout the changing regimes. Can I hear your thoughts on why Moo Hyul is The Tree?
EDITED TO ADD: When you’re ready to take on another saeguk, Nokdu Flower (not the comedy Tale of Nokdu) is a very good, quality, show that I recommend.
@beez: sorry if I misled you about Moo Hyul, not sure what I said but I meant I remember Moo Hyul in “The Tree…” as the King’s bodyguard, not as the tree. I’ll have to go back to “The Tree…” to watch the episodes with the old Yi Bang Ji, he was such a dynamic character in SFD. Yoo Ah-in was the standout (for me) in an overall excellent cast; he had the most challenging role and did it superbly, very convincing in showing the transformation of Bang-won from idealistic, clever young man to the shrewd, ruthless killer in support of those ideals. He hardly has any action scenes and perfectly illustrates the saying, that “men of action need men of thought to guide them.” Yoo Ah-in shows how the enthusiastic, over-idealistic youth can’t help but become a murderous adult, the extreme nature of his character tilts one way and then the other but the commonality is the extremism.
@Geo “men of action need men of thought to guide them”. Excellent! That describes this character perfectly and sums up what I was trying to say.
Hello again phl. Ah yes, Shaun of the Dead – an all time classic and family favourite. The boys did a lockdown remake of a classic scene at the start of the pandemic – on not being selfish. I can actually see my cricket bat sitting out on a pile of stuff on the patio. I last used it 13 years ago, I really should look after it better, but you never know when there might be some Zombie’s happening.
That’s awesome re Ms. Temper & Nam Jung-Gi because I think it’s fabulous. I have sidestepped Alice for a minute, but coming back to it soon. I wasn’t happy where it was going scientifically.
Finder a keeper is a bit tough at the moment. There is a mini trend of going back to more classic formats – which is almost refreshing! I am enjoying Lie After Lie. Do You Like Brahms is okay, I just feel like strangling some of the second leads and the use of the interrupting mobile/cell phone at crucial moments is a bit too much.
No, I haven’t seen ‘This Is Not What I Expected,’ so I will be tracking it down now, though. I have been watching a ton of other things, including quite a few movies like Silverado (which we haven’t seen in a very long time) and Midway (which was surprisingly very good) along with Atlantic Crossing. I might have to take a look at Mulan as it has received quite a shellacking for a whole range of reasons. Anyway, I am always one for due diligence and forming my own opinion. Which is one of the great reasons for keeping up with The Fangirl Verdict!
Sean – Vampire Detective is really something else. I never would have tuned in without your comments above. I am enjoying it and its weird ambiance. Thanks Sean!
Phl, it does have that Dark Shadows vibe! It’s a nice change to all the other dramas at the moment (I am dropping way too many!)
Cricket Bat comment was brilliant. I hoped that you filmed that remake scene for potential future uses. 😉
Ms. Temper & Nam Jung-Gi is 100% all heart. Finishing it up today! Love it!
Wanted to add a comment on VD – in a round about way it reminds me of the vibes I used to get watching Dark Shadows. Completely different stories but the same feeling of “Why do I find this so interesting when it is so ‘out there'”.
@phl1rxd – I think you’re talking about Stranger, which I still haven’t watched so I’m not reading the rest of your comment😘
Beez – so sorry! I tried to put into ‘code’ for Sean so as not to spoil. Just realized you may know who I was talking about. Beez. Both S1 and S2 are so worthwhile – truly. Not any romance per se but the writing and acting are so good. I really think you would enjoy these.
Hi Beez – I really believe that you would enjoy them. Also so sorry as I may have been a little “spoilery” up there. I was so engrossed in my convo with Sean I did not realize. Apologies – FG can you possibly add Spoilers to the post? Apologies to all!🤦♂️🙆♀️🙆♂️
No apologies necessary, phl1rxd! As I said, once I realized you were talking about Strangers, I immediately stopped reading because I do plan on watching it. Especially since one of my rare female biases – Shin Hye sun – is in season 1.
Shin Hye Sun was a stand out too!
@seankfletcher – I’m just waiting for the right mood to hit for me to watch Strangers. I’ll probably watch her movie Innocent before I get to Strangers.
I’m solidly in number 3 now. I totally went through all those stages as you described. I have dropped shows I was sure I would love at the outset. Loved the actors, the set, the storyline—but, when the meh sets in, and I can’t make myself pick it over something shinier, it’s history, at least for a while. Often permanently. One such show is Hotel del Luna. The set is crazy cool and IU’s wardrobe alone could almost make me watch, but try as I might I’ve only gotten through to episode 7. I should be loving it, but I just don’t.
@merij1,@beexrtp,@snowflower,@Carulheim,@Rokuro,@larius247 + any others I’ve missed:
Thanks for all the advice and recommendations, they are so useful in suggesting different ways to access Kdramas and in winnowing through the large number of shows. So, now I’m looking for Healer on viki, and Chuno, Tree with Deep Roots, Six Flying Dragons, My Country and Chicago Typewriter. As an aside, I just encountered My Love From The Star on YouTube and while the video isn’t top quality, all the episodes are available so now YouTube is another option. I’m enjoying MLFTS (why are Kdrama names so long?) through the first 3 episodes, I suspect it’s exaggerated but an interesting look into the Korean entertainment industry. Jun Ji-hyun is gorgeous and a little OTP while Kim Soo-hyun is the diametric opposite in being cool and understated, makes for interesting times, I think.
It’s interesting that Kdramas inspires such fan loyalty. One of my buddies was telling me of a female twenty-something relative of his wife who had a major trip planned for SK in early March at the height of the pandemic and it took a major effort by all to persuade her to postpone the trip which she did, apparently on the last day. as she’s an obsessive Kdrama fan and had planned out her whole itinerary based on her favourite Kdramas! She isn’t Korean (actually Chinese) but is fluent in Korean, apparently learned Korean from the shows and actually hangs out regularly in Koreatown in Toronto, visiting the stores and cafes etc. Now, I think this is a little extreme but maybe not for major Kdrama fans?
Chuno is available on Amazon Prime Video under the title The Slave Hunters. Maybe viki has it in some regions too.
I also dream of visiting SK and seeing some of the locations where my favorite dramas were filmed, but I would not do it amid a pandemic though. I did look up Unju Temple on the internet (fellow Chunoholics will know!)
I do see it at Amazon under “The Slave Hunters.” Free if you have Prime but crazy expensive otherwise.
I also see it on Viki — interestingly, also under the name “Slave Hunters” — but with access restricted for the US market. So maybe Amazon paid for an exclusive.
I keep sending requests to Viki to make it available in the US. I am also looking for a DVD with good English subtitles. Dramafever (RIP) had the best subtitles for this drama. The translator really tried to show the class differences through the characters’ language. I am even willing to watch it in Korean without subtitles..The OST is also outstanding.
The main illegit site in the U.S. (DC) seems to have the version with the best subtitles (WITH Team) but the video quality is not very good now that we’re used to seeing things in HD.
Although I haven’t seen their signature on the screen, I believe it is the WITH’s subs because of the way the “cursing” is handled. You see “wench” instead of “bitch” which makes more sense in the context it is used. For example when the little prostitute refers to herself it’s more likely that she said “wench”. And when Daegil talks to her when he’s not angry, “wench” makes more sense then as well. There are other scenes that in some versions the translation makes no sense but those same scenes here make total sense. For example, one scene where the tavern ahjomoni says you the General something about worrying about him has her breast throbbing. This line is missing from about 3 other versions but on the DC version she says it. I knew the other versions were incorrect because immediately after she’s done speaking, Monkey Boy says “they’re so small it looked liked you put two boiled eggs in there”. In the other version it seemed as if he brought up her breasts out of the blue with no context. This version also uses the colorful “belly grinding” instead of “they had intercourse” or “they were having an affair”. I totally hate when saeguk translators use modern terms or slang.
Ahh, I know those Chuno subs!! Yes, I do believe it was via WITH, and it was done by a Mr. X, who’s stopped subbing since. He did an amazing job of the Chuno subs, but I think some viewers found the language he chose quite inaccessible and hard to understand. I thought I heard that DramaFever used WITH subs without permission, if memory serves. 😝
Many years ago I came across one of their members. It was either through your Chuno review that directed to someone else’s review (or did I totally mix you up with someone else’s review?); or it was through Stuck on Hyuk that directed me to the other review – anyway, faulty memory aside, I asked the former WITH member why they stopped subbing kdramas and he/she said that because fans were demanding subs so quickly that they didn’t have time to do the thorough job they usually do and so they retired and left it in the hands of the subbers at Viki.
I love the way Viki’s volunteer subbers give extra notes, however you can tell very little backtracking to proofread happens. I think working in teams is great, but you can definitely tell they’re not checking with each other. For instance, from one episode to another – ambiguous titles change. In one episode a military person is called Captain and in the next he’s General. (Sometimes within the same episode (see Faith). The same is true with office personnel – Chairman, CEO, President can all be the same person. And sometimes the spelling choice for the name romanization is different. But what I really don’t like is when a line is translated and it’s obvious whoever did it isn’t watching the entire series because if they were, they’d know by the context that what they’ve translated doesn’t fit. My conclusion when that happens is they brought in a sub for the subbers that day. 😆
The lack of continuity in the translation fits with our Viki experience as well.
On the other hand, if the subtitles Netflix offered were my only insight into South Korea, I’d conclude that people there only use about 20 phrases to cover every single experience in their life!
WITH subs for Chuno introduced me to colorful words such as “slattern” and “prattle”. I also remember one yangban character whose language was so absurdly florid that nobody around him could understand what he was talking about. Good subs make all the difference!
> one yangban character whose language was so absurdly florid that nobody around him could understand
Sounds like Brad Pitt’s hilariously incomprehensible gypsy (Pikey) accent in Snatch. As another character describes it, “He’s not Irish; he’s not English. He’s just Pikey”
Or this version, with subtitles:
Yes. I love those subs because it keeps the ancient feel, especially since we’re already a bit removed by not only the language gap but the nuances of Korean speech levels and regional dialects.
Nope. No exclusive by Amazon because Chuno had been on both platforms for years. I just checked and Viki in my region doesn’t have it listed at all any more either.
I purchased Chuno on Amazon a couple of years ago but I’m still looking for the version with subtitles by the now disbanded team that called themselves WITH (Written in the Heavens). They always provided the best subs that really enhanced any drama they worked on. And yes, if I find it, I’ll purchase it again, especially if it’s in dvd form. It’s THAT good.
From the way it sounds, your friend’s wife’s relative probably never voluntarily cancel her trip. It’s likely the airlines had stopped booking international flights during that time. 😆 [Totally guessing]
You’re probably right. I think in Canada the borders were closed to all but residents of Canada in mid-March but there may have been restrictions already in place on travel to parts of China and South Korea from February (but not a total ban) and I think her trip was planned for the first week in March. I’m sure she’ll be going once air travel is restored.
I did get the impression there was heavy family pressure not to go, especially from her parents, but that may well have been in February as the trip date grew closer.
I just noticed that the excellent My Mister is also on Netflix. Kfangurl graded it A+ and that’s saying a lot.
> My Mister is also on Netflix
That’s good to know. We just started I Hear Your Voice, with Lee Jong-suk and Lee Bo-young. Only two episodes in, but we really like it so far.
In other news, my “Someday My Coffee Prince Will Come” tee-shirt arrived. Thanks, kfangurl for setting up that opportunity!
Ooh!! I’m glad the shirt arrived ok!! I’m so happy you liked the design enough to want it in your collection! 😀
Thanks, I’m going to add that to my list which is growing too fast. I’m busier these days so less time for Kdramas though I’m watching Healer and My Love From The Star concurrently.
I envy you! I’m remembering my early days of watching really good shows.
Thanks to you and other members of this community, I now have 33 older Kdramas to look out for. Now I know I won’t love them all (after all tastes do differ) but I suspect I’ll appreciate the majority given they’re recommended by the very knowledgeable members of this community. I’m well into Healer (Viki) and My Love From the Star (YouTube) currently and really like both, the contrast between the two shows adds a lot to my enjoyment as the differences keep both refreshed as opposed to say, watching two action shows at the same time.
@beezrtp – I know exactly what you mean, as a newcomer to Kdramas, there’s a stock of older, really good shows I haven’t seen yet and this blog has helped me identify these as well as different options to access them. I feel like a kid in a candy store picking out the best shows of the past 20 years or so, being able to ignore the mediocre shows through that time. Now, finding the older dramas presents a bit of a challenge but this blog has been very helpful on this. I’ve just finished Healer and My Love From The Star and I’m blown away by both shows. I would rate Healer higher but they’re different type shows so not really fair to compare them.
KFG, I think, steered me to Secret Garden, A Hyun Bin vehicle and I’ve started on that now, not on Netflix, and that’s going well. It’s interesting to see 2010 Hyun Bin and how he compares with the Hyun Bin from CLOY and Memories of the Alhambra. As a bonus, Son Ye Jin even had a cameo in Secret Garden’s final episode.
So glad to hear that you’ve been having fun exploring the older dramas, Geo!! 😀 AND! I LOVE Healer, so I’m thrilled that you love it too! I mean, I also loved My Love From The Stars, but I think right now, I’d probably love Healer a little more as well. 😉
Did she really?! I’ll have to go back and look for that. Secret Garden’s in my Top 10. Healer is in my Top 5. It’s No. 1 if I categorise and eliminate the saeguks.
@Geo, I should’ve asked does Son Ye jin appear in beginning, middle or end of last episode of Secret Garden. Or better yet, can you tell me what role did she play? (Not her character’s name because I wouldn’t remember that, but what role was it?)
@beezrtp – I think it’s towards the end when she plays herself exploring a new show with one of the characters. I must confess, I’m such a SYJ fan, I cheated and googled her appearance in Secret Garden. I’m speeding towards the end of what is another very good show, well done and acted. I actually get a kick from shows that feature celebrities as characters, making references to actual happenings in the entertainment world, so tongue in cheek.
Don’t think I can thank KFG enough for this blog and I think she actually put me on to Secret Garden.