I need help! I know my K-bloom isn’t totally off the rose but I feel as if it’s hanging on by only a couple of wilting petals. I’m not tired of Kdramas but I find I can’t easily decide what to watch these days. At this stage in the game, where my biases (actors that I watched in ANYthing they starred in next) are getting older so filling less leading roles, I find myself with less that I’m interested in watching unless the synopsis snags me with a unique subject matter or hobby or career/lifestyle that I’m interested in. So how do you (I’ve noticed you’ve become more selective) choose the shows that are worth your busy time?
For example, I see you reviewed My Unfamiliar Family. I haven’t read your review yet because 1) I never read reviews of shows I have no intention of watching and 2) I never read reviews beforehand of a show I intend to watch. So looking at the synopsis on AsianWiki for My Unfamiliar Family – sounds like a total snoozefest. And I learned to never rely on video teasers as they are totally random and can set me up for disappointment when a teaser is hilarious but the show turns out to be a drama and vice versa. So, how do you decide what’s up next to, not necessarily review, but to watch?
I feel your pain. Dramaland’s serving up more dramas than ever before, so there’s so much more to sift through, to get to the shows that are worth watching. And from what you say, this appears to be complicated by the fact that as a drama veteran, you’re feeling a touch of.. fatigue?
In this post, I’m going to share how I pick the dramas to add to my drama plate, as well as what I do, when I find myself in a potential drama rut.
Everyone, if you have other ideas, experiences or insights to share, please tell us about it in the comments! Sharing really is caring. 🥰
MY PERSONAL TIPS
The litmus test
Whenever I feel a drama rut coming on, I always wonder if it’s me, or Dramaland at large. Like, have I really fallen out of love with dramas, or are the currently airing dramas just not working for me, y’know?
I put on an episode of a show that I know I love, like Coffee Prince, or Healer, not to watch it, necessarily, but just to see if I still feel the drama feels. Gotta check if my internal equipment’s working, heh.
So far, I’ve always concluded that my internal equipment’s just fine (I get sucked into my old faves within a minute or two, usually), and then I know that I do still love dramas – PHEW. 😅 I just need to find the right one, is all.
Know your Stage
In my post about my evolution as a drama viewer, I concluded that I pretty much live in Stage 3, where I don’t blindly inhale anything and everything just because “Oppa” is in it.
I’ve come to the realization that the most important thing to me, when watching a drama, is the writing. If the writing sucks, no amount of Melty Oppa can make up for it. Worse, enduring a show that I dislike can drain me of Oppa Loyalty.
Exhibit B: After I’d moved on to Stage 3, I attempted to endure Uncontrollably Fond, also for the love of Kim Woo Bin. That endeavor was awful and painful, and I found myself approaching each new episode with a new level of dread. I ended up dropping the show pretty late in the game. But it was too late, coz Show had drained me of almost all of my Woob loyalty. Yikes.
To avoid a similar catastrophe, I now gravitate towards Shows that have a reputation for being well-written, and avoid the ones that are known for being hot messes – even if Oppa is in it. (And this is why I still haven’t watched Tell Me What You Saw, despite my deep affection for Jang Hyuk.)
So I say, know your Stage, and navigate accordingly. What do you like about the shows you like? The writing? Execution? Music? OTP chemistry? The more you understand your own drama tastes, the more successful you’d be, in picking dramas to enjoy.
Keep your ear to the ground
The next question is, how do I know what kind of reputation a show is making for itself, as it airs?
Ratings really don’t tell us anything except for what Korean TV audiences seem to be in the mood for, and often, what Korean TV audiences are in the mood for, doesn’t have anything to do with what I would enjoy on my screen. Case in point: Healer received low ratings in Korea, but international audiences mostly love the show. Imagine not watching Healer, just because it got low ratings – the horror. 😱
My drama spidey senses are fed by what I see on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and comments on the blog. If I see lots of people gushing about a particular show, that’s when I sit up and take notice, and start to evaluate whether this might be a show for me, too.
As an example, I was going to give Mystic Pop-up Bar a miss because it just didn’t sound that interesting to me, but because several of you spoke so enthusiastically about the show in your conversations on the blog, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. And so I checked it out despite my initial lack of interest, and ended up enjoying it very much.
..Which brings me to my next point.
Know your taste – but keep an open mind
It’s important to know what you like and don’t like, but it’s important to also keep an open mind.
In my head, this extends to both genre and actor.
For example, I generally like rom-coms, melodramas and slice-of-life stuff. And I generally avoid medical shows, sports, politics and revenge stories, either from a natural lack of interest (politics), or from having been disappointed by attempts to watch those genres in the past (medical, sports, revenge stories).
Yet, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Hospital Playlist (medical), Stove League (sports), Designated Survivor: 60 Days (politics), and Money Flower (revenge), all by keeping my ear to the ground and following the positive buzz, as well as keeping an open mind and making exceptions, even though I didn’t naturally gravitate towards these genres.
In terms of actors, there are certain actors and actresses that I mostly feel underwhelmed by, and therefore, when I hear that they are headlining a particular drama, that actually reduces my interest in the show rather than increase it. But I’ve found that sometimes, it’s worth it to make an exception.
For example, I’d actually felt quite underwhelmed by Lee Bo Young as an actress for years, after seeing her for the first time in 2005’s Save Your Last Dance For Me. It wasn’t until I’d heard so many good things about My Daughter Seo Young that I decided to give it a try, and in the end, that’s the show that completely changed my mind about Lee Bo Young as an actress. I now think she’s great.
Similar thing with Nam Goong Min, whom I’d felt quite meh towards for years. He’d always struck me as very vanilla and uninteresting, and I often felt like I was just watching him play different variations of the same character. And then, when everyone fell in love with him for playing villains and zany characters, I didn’t manage to get on that bandwagon either. *cue sad music as I twiddle my thumbs in the corner all by my lonesome self* BUT, I loved him in Stove League, and have now officially gotten over my Nam Goong Min allergy.
Sometimes, there are actors that don’t make a final breakthrough in my head, in terms of their acting abilities, but who manage solid performances in a particular show because the role is suited to their abilities, &/or the PD does a great job guiding their performance. Those are worth making an exception for, too.
For example, I generally don’t care much for Go Ara as an actress in the various roles that I’ve seen her in, but I truly loved her in Answer Me, 1994, and I’m so glad that I didn’t miss out on that show because of my aversion to Go Ara.
Yay for making exceptions!
As a caveat, though, I just wanted to say that it’s still helpful to know what’s a hard pass for you. For example, even though I like to keep an open mind, I know that horror is really not my thing, and that stories about cults aren’t my thing either. And because I know that forcing myself to watch those shows would make me miserable &/or affect the quality of my sleep, I simply don’t watch ’em, even if people say they’re excellent (like in the case of Kingdom, and Save Me).
Know your friends’ tastes
Since my drama spidey senses are often fed by my friends’ reactions to dramas, I’ve found that it’s really useful to understand my friends’ drama tastes.
If I know a friend’s drama taste is quite similar to my own, then if said friend gushes enthusiastically about a show, I know to sit up and pay serious attention quickly, because there’s a good chance I might like the same show too.
Conversely, if I know a friend’s drama taste is quite different from my own, then if this friend gushes enthusiastically about a drama, I know to take it with a pinch of salt, because, while there’s a chance I might like the show in question, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t work for me as well.
Understanding my friends’ drama tastes – an appreciation which continues to evolve, just as my friends and I continue to evolve – has helped me sift through the spazz, to find the dramas that are more likely to work for me than others.
That said, I’ve also learned that we are all unique, and so even the most similar of drama buddies can and do have polarizing responses to the same show. But, y’know, that’s okay; we can still be friends. ❤️ It’s one of the things that keeps the dramaverse so interesting!
Be sensitive to your mood
There are basically three options, once you get started on a show and have watched enough of it to give you a feel for it: shelve, drop, or continue.
If you’re feeling it enough, it’s a no-brainer to continue. If you hate it, then it makes sense to drop it. But sometimes, the answer is neither.
Sometimes, it’s a mood thing, and you’re just not in the right brain space for a particular kind of show, for right now. I’ve learned from experience that rather than force myself to continue watching something because my brain recognizes that it’s a good show even though my heart’s not feeling it, the better thing to do, is to shelve it for another mood and another time.
Rather than end up frustrated with a show now because it just doesn’t match my mood, it’s a far better thing, I think, to save it for another time and space, where I might just love it yet.
Take a break – sometimes
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that can be true of our dramas too. Sometimes, when we’re feeling drama fatigued, what we really need is a break from our beloved dramas.
What that break looks like is different for everyone. It could be a deep dive into variety shows, it could be exploring movies, or it could be exploring dramas from other countries. I personally find food videos on YouTube a very nice change of pace from dramas – partly because nobody’s expecting me to write about the food videos that I watch, ha.
What I’ve found is that a break from dramas can do a really good job of making the experience of watching a drama feel fresh and fun again, when I do find my way back to them. My longest break from dramas has tended to be about a month at a time, almost on an annual basis. But yours could be completely different, and that’s perfectly fine.
It’s most important that you follow your heart, so that dramas feel more fun and enjoyable to you.
I hope you guys found this glimpse into my drama management methods useful in helping you figure out what might work for you, as you streamline the way you pick your dramas to watch.
As always, if you guys have other tips, perspectives, or insights to share, please tell us about it in the comments! 😊
I hope this helps!
1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!
2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!