Dear kfangurl: Can you talk about your experiences re-watching dramas?

Shriya writes:

When I first watched Goblin four years ago, I loved it so much, and it was so mindboggling to me at the time.

I’m actually rewatching Goblin right now (first time since it came out), and I still enjoy it, it’s still one of my favorite dramas of all time, and the feels are still amazing (and the cinematography and aesthetic still stands out), but the second time felt slightly less spectacular than the first time I watched it. It’s odd because this is one of the only TV shows that I can tell you the plot of, explain the character arcs, defend any criticisms (like the age chasm; I can write about that below for the sake of putting it out there), etc. I remember it so well, and I remember it with such a specific lens, with such specific emotions and thoughts. It’s like a memory, a well-maintained one. As I’m rewatching it right now, there’s a slight foreign feel to the experience. I know many people who often work on fanfictions that face this dilemma, as their minds wander and deviate from the original plot, whether it’s with character changes or alternate endings, etc., and then when they come back to the show, they’re often shocked, or even averted from it. But the thing is, with Goblin, I never really explored further beyond the show, but I still feel this way.

In essence, I’m still enjoying the show after a long time, but it just isn’t the same, and many things could be to blame. I get that. I’m an adult now, I have more life experience, my worldview is different, my drama preferences have changed, etc.

But I would love to ask about your thoughts on this dilemma. Have you rewatched any dramas, either ones that you stopped early or finished completely; ones you love or ones you can tolerate, etc.? Do you have a specific guide to rewatching anything? Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever fallen out of love with a drama after rewatching it?

I actually forgot to add a sentence about a “slice of life” lens that I needed to adapt for my Goblin rewatch, shifting from a previous lens of expecting plot-heavy drama; point being, have you ever needed to change your viewing lens/perspective during a rewatch, either for the fun or it or because that’s required for an optimal rewatch?

Hmm.. Are drama reunions always a good thing..? 😋

Dear Shriya,

Thanks for your question! Rewatching dramas can be a very interesting experience for sure, sometimes giving us outcomes that we didn’t expect, going in.

I rarely rewatch dramas these days since there are always newer and shinier shows on the horizon fighting for a spot on my drama plate (though with the Group Watches becoming A Thing on the site, that’s kinda changing), so the examples I have to share aren’t actually that many.

The way I look at it, there are two main factors or players in this relationship: you, and the drama you’re rewatching. In the sections below, I’ll attempt to break it down in a way that makes sense, and is helpful, at least to some degree.

Everyone, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts, insights and stories in the comments! 🥰

FACTOR ONE: I, THE VIEWER

Our Personal context

Boys Over Flowers: I loved you, once. 😝

As you’ve rightly pointed out in your question, we as viewers don’t stay the same. People rarely ever do; we just can’t help it.

Over time, we gain life experience, which changes the way we view things. We also gain drama experience as we watch other dramas, which also changes the way we might view a once beloved drama. Things that might have once felt fantastically amazing and novel, might actually now strike us as tired and clichéd.

Case in point, I watched Boys Over Flowers back in 2009 when it aired, and I was swept up in BOF fever along with everyone else. I thought Kim Hyun Joong as Ji Hoo was so cool and melty, and I slurped up all of the episodes without a second thought.

Now, though, as many of you know, I can’t bear even one episode of this show. When I attempted a rewatch some years ago, y’know, for old times’ sake, I found everything really cringey, not least Kim Hyun Joong as Ji Hoo. Whoops. 😝

The thing is, Show hadn’t changed; it’s the exact same show that I’d watched back in 2009. But I had changed; my tastes in dramas had changed; the dramaverse and the type of dramas it produced had changed too. BOF just didn’t have any appeal to me, anymore.

Another show that’s suffered the same fate with me, is 2010’s Secret Garden.

Personal nostalgia

Goong: Oh, how I love thee, and will likely always love thee. 😍

At the same time, I feel that personal nostalgia plays a big part in how we experience a drama rewatch. For example, almost every drama fan will admit to having a huge soft spot for their gateway drama, flaws and all. After all, how can you not have a soft spot for the show that started it all, right?

On that note, I think this gateway affection would also apply to the drama that introduced you to the awesomeness of a bias. I’d imagine that, hypothetically speaking, if your bias was Lee Min Ho, for example, and if you’d first watched him in Boys Over Flowers, then you’d most likely be a lot more forgiving of BOF’s flaws, and you’d also mostly likely enjoy a rewatch of BOF more than I would, heh.

My gateway drama was 2006’s Goong (review here), and I have a great deal of nostalgic affection for that show. I’ve watched it 6 times now, and I have enjoyed it every time, even though I am cognizant of its flaws. It just brings back all of those early giddy feels, and that’s priceless. 🤩

In terms of a gateway to the awesomeness of a bias, as you might know, I have sizable heart-eyes for Jang Hyuk, and the first time I set eyes on him was in 2010’s Chuno (review here). To be fair, Chuno’s an excellent show all on its own (more on that in a bit), but I will always have an extra fondness for it, because it introduced me to the amazingness that is Jang Hyuk. 😍

Our ability to switch lenses

You’re Beautiful: a victim of my rigid lens, once upon a time 😝

This doesn’t apply to everyone, because not everyone actually feels that it’s worthwhile to play with the idea of adjusting their viewing lens, but I have found that adjusting my viewing lens can make or break a drama, for me.

Case in point, 2009’s You’re Beautiful, which I watched with a strict analytical lens when it first came out – and which caused me to hate the show. I found the logic lapses ridiculous and insulting to my intelligence (ooh, snooty hoity-toity me! 😏), and I essentially rage-watched it to the very end, oops. 😝

However, thankfully, I was intrigued enough by everyone’s rave reactions, to give the show another try, some months after my initial watch. I read other viewers’ comments on what they enjoyed about the show, adjusted my lens accordingly to something much more campy and silly, and was shocked – shocked, I tell ya! – by how much fun I had, on my rewatch. Suddenly, the logic lapses were funny instead of insulting, and I had a grand time. Huh. Who woulda thunk it, eh? 😉

I do think that a more open-minded approach to dramas, and a willingness to try on different viewing lenses to find one that works, can open up a world of possibilities, not just with current watches, but with rewatches as well. I personally think that’s so cool, because even without Dramaland producing more shows, you get to enjoy so many more dramas. 😉

Our ability to appreciate the actual dialogue

Winter Sonata: almost like watching a whole new show!

This might not be true of everyone, but over the years, I’ve found that I’ve picked up a good amount of Korean while enjoying my Korean dramas (you can read more about my perhaps unfair Korean-learning advantage here).

What this meant, is that sometimes, while revisiting shows some years after I’d first watched them, I’d find myself understanding a lot more of the dialogue, which made for a much richer watch experience.

Case in point, 2002’s Winter Sonata, which I’d first watched very early in my drama journey. At the time, I was fully dependent on the subtitles provided in the DVD box set, and had no idea that I might be missing out on nuances not reflected in the subtitles.

Some years later (maybe 5 or so years later?), I decided on a whim that I’d like to rewatch Winter Sonata, and found to my utter surprise, that the dialogue was a lot richer than what was reflected in the subtitles. Woah. 🤯 It felt like I was watching a whole new drama, almost, and it was great.

I had a similar experience with Goong, where I realized on a rewatch, that certain key scenes were actually more significant than the subtitles suggested (I translate those in my review of Goong, which you can find here). What a fantastic find, to have my gateway drama come alive with additional reasons to squee! 😍😉

Our mood

Terius Behind Me: an almost-victim of my mood. 🤭

A simple but important personal factor, I’ve found, is our mood. Sometimes, we’re just not in the right mood to enjoy a show, and if we were to power through despite not being in the mood for it, we’d likely not end up having a very good time at all.

So if you weren’t in the right mood on your first watch, but found yourself in the zone on your second watch, it’s highly possible that you’d enjoy the show much better on your second watch (and vice versa, of course).

When I’d first attempted 2018’s Terius Behind Me (review here), I was definitely not in the right mood, and I came away after a few minutes of episode 1, feeling convinced that this drama wasn’t a good fit for me. Happily, though, I thought to give Show a second try, based on the very positive reactions that I’d seen from other viewers, and I ended up enjoying it a great deal. It’s arguably my favorite outing of So Ji Sub‘s, to date, and I’m so glad I didn’t end up missing out because of my mood. 😅

Our watch environment

Chuno: such a great Group Watch experience. 🥰

Last but not least, I wanted to mention that our watch environment can make a huge difference to how we experience our dramas, and this applies to rewatches as well.

Traditionally, I’ve mostly watched my dramas in my own bubble, at my own pace, so it’s only recently, that I’ve really dived into the community watch experience. With our recent group watch of Chuno (details and Open Thread links here), I was delighted and blown away by just how rich the community experience is, with everyone bringing their own insights, knowledge and thoughts to share, every step of the way. 🥰

This was my third watch of Chuno, and the community experience legit made Chuno feel more fresh to my eyes than I’d thought possible. How fantastic is that, that an awesome drama is now even more awesome, to my eyes? 🤩

PS: If anyone’s keen to try out the group watch experience, we happen to be just starting group watches for Dr. Romantic and Money Flower. Details are here, do join, everyone – even if you’ve watched the shows before. 😉

FACTOR TWO: THE SHOW ITSELF

Nirvana In Fire: worth many a rewatch, thankyouverymuch. 🤩

The other big factor in this whole rewatch equation, is the show itself. Can the show stand up to a rewatch?

When we approach a rewatch with a more discerning, experienced eye, some dramas inadvertently crumble. This is because our more informed eyes can’t help but spot flaws that we’d missed the first time, but seem glaring now. And, if we don’t happen to be wearing forgiving, nostalgic lenses to buffer it all, this can be quite a sad, disillusioning sort of experience. 😬 This is why it’s perhaps better to leave some dramas as they are, and not risk sullying your happy memories of them with a rewatch, I think.

On the other hand, some dramas are well able to withstand the test of time, and I tend to think that these are dramas which are objectively outstanding.

For example, I feel 2015 C-drama Nirvana In Fire is an all-around masterpiece (augh, so glorious!), and multiple people have told me that they’ve watched the show many times. My mum has watched it 5 times now, and she says that she picks up on new details each time; it’s just that rich. 🤩

With shows like this, a rewatch will always be a rewarding experience, I think. ❤️

IN CLOSING

I hope you find this post useful, and that it helps you gain some insight into your own rewatch experience! Also, it occurs to me that you might also find this Dear kfangurl post, on what makes a drama addictively re-watchable, and this Musings post, on what makes drama crack stay fresh or turn stale, interesting. 😊

Like I mentioned earlier, everyone, please feel free to add your own thoughts, insights and experiences in the comments below. As they say, sharing is caring. 🥰

I hope this post helps!

Love! ❤️

~kfangurl

..And these are all of my thoughts that I could collect.. I hope they are enough! 😅

POST-SCRIPT:

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!

17 thoughts on “Dear kfangurl: Can you talk about your experiences re-watching dramas?

  1. snow

    In most cases, I have enjoyed/ loved the shows on rewatch. In fact, there are some dramas that I liked less or didn’t complete the first time but the rewatch made me enjoy/like/love them a lot 🙂

    But I agree, our taste changes over time.

    And yes, that special place for your first dramas! I have rewatched dramas mostly because I wanted to show them to someone else. (And of course to relive those golden moments :)).

    Reply
  2. Snow Flower

    For most of the shows I have rewatched, the experience has been very positive and worthwhile. That includes shows like Chuno, Mr. Sunshine, Damo, Bridal Mask. So far there has been only one rewatch that made me less excited than the first watch, and that was City Hunter.

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      1. Snow Flower

        @BE,

        I have been listening to a lot of contemporary piano music in conjunction with Piano Day 2021 (April 29 this year, the 88th day of the year) and I have discovered many wonderful artists from around the world. I even submitted my Chuno track to the official Piano Day playlist on Soundcloud.

        Thank you for sharing the video. This lady is more of an avantgarde minimnalist. I like her dynamic playing.

        Reply
        1. BE

          @Snow Flower: Good luck with your submission, big thumbs up from here. April 29 is the birthday of imo America’s greatest piano genius, Duke Ellington, and my granddaughter’s birthday (when she was a little girl ((she will be 23)) I would put on Congolese dance music, and call her the Dutchess of Rumba as we danced together).

          Reply
          1. Snow Flower

            The Chuno track is getting some plays. Nothing spectacular, but I do have a couple of new followers. I am a newbie composer, so I like listening to various piano playlists to hear what more experienced artists are creating.

            Reply
  3. Kay

    Fantastic post addressing this question 🙂 I don’t re-watch a lot of dramas because for me a good deal of the fun is not knowing what’s going to happen. Once I do, some of the thrill is gone.

    Of course, I do have favorites that I can re-watch and do so from time time to time. I’m one that if I liked a drama in the past, I will still like it now. Sure, I may notice things I didn’t the first time around and come at from a different perspective (you could say I just adjust my lens), but I can still easily appreciate what it is and what I loved about it. Hence yes, I do still like Boys Over Flowers (I know, gasp! But it was a hot mess then and it’s still a hot mess now 😂 ) and Love Rain even now.

    Of course, like everyone else, I change over the years in my preferences and grow in knowledge, but luckily, I tend to always like what I liked before while still being able to appreciate newer concepts and dramas 🙂

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  4. Elaine Phua

    For me, even if the drama is really excellent and I heart it very much, I think some time needs to pass before I can appreciate a rewatch. I tried to immediately rewatch NIF and Someday One Day cos I didn’t want to leave the drama worlds, but it didn’t work for me. I think these two shows definitely have enough substance to stand up to multiple rewatches and will reward the viewer with new things each time!

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  5. Vero

    I only rewatch dramas I really really love. It can be because of the story, the characters, the actors, or even that just gets me into a good mood. Sometimes I just rewatch my favoyrite episodes and sometimes the whole of it (and suffer through/cry over the sad parts).
    I have rewatched (and more than once): Reply 1988, Reply 1997, Coffee Prince and Sungkyunkwan Scandal. These are all not new ones but I have not found one that is more recent that I would like to rewatch.
    I never watched Boys Over Flowers at the time it was out but seeing bit and pieces made me cringe. About Secret Garden it made me cringe first time round.
    I know the ones I have rewatched are not perfect by any means but they certainly cheer me up.
    Probably a reason why I cannot rewatch Goblin. I dont want to cry all over again!!!

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  6. BE

    I tend to only rewatch kshows I absolutely love. Sometimes I will rewatch right after first viewing as I did with Mr. Sunshine, Secret Love Affair, My Mister, and most recently My Dear Family. There is a comfort food effect in rewatching these, becoming more immersed in the story, especially particular scenes, particular episodes; more immersed in characters, often especially support characters–for me maybe the main attraction of rewatching Mr. Sunshine, but leads as well. And of course with those I view more than twice, the third and more rewatches take place over time, and in those I really grow impatient getting past the first episodes often and into the meat of the story. I have less patience for the origin stories of the main characters in Mr. Sunshine, really want to get beyond the silly salary man dramedy intro of My Mister, can’t wait for the first piano duet in My Secret Love Affair, and am more impatient before getting to critical points in the dramas which starts the drama to roll without anymore resistance downhill, the massacre of the family at the Go funeral service in the Buddhist Temple, ep 19 om Mr. Sunshine, or Dong Hoon confronting Liee Ji-An ‘s tormentor in Ep. 9 of My Mister. And then there was the recent group rewatch of Chuno, which even though I quite liked it first watch, I really savored watching with everyone else, and because I had to pay attention to discuss it forced me to see it less as a comfort food experience and more from a critical appreciation perspective that led me to like the series so much more than I had the first time.
    Recently we have started Dr. Romantic here, a show I probably would not rewatch even though I liked it, because I felt knowing what was going to happen in what to me was a fairly predictable story once the plot was fully announced so to speak–SPOILER ALERT: good guys win, bad guy gets commupance, better to live a passionate, virtuous life than a mediocre greedy one, and otp after a long series of obstacles find their way to one another–END SPOILER. Yet rewatching the first two episodes, I found that I really liked how show did not as so many K dramas do dilly dally around at the beginning. Many first time watchers, on the other hand felt it came so hard and quick that its more dramatic elements were not “earned” as one reported the experience. That is, I found the opening episodes better than I had remembered them to be, and also I could see the drama from more aesthetic perspective vis a vis how it is constructed, than when I was just initially reacting to the characters/actors in real time.
    In general, since I like show enough to not be bound by cliff hanging techniques, and I can relax knowing where my characters are going in the story, I have more time to appreciate things beyond plot, both those I remember enjoying and other things I can better pay attention to than when I was worried about when the relationship between Eugene Choi and Go Ae Shin was ever going to stablize or if Goo Dong Mae had just been killed in Mr. Sunshine, or whether, when, what will happen to then Oh Hye Won and Lee Seon Jae finally get outed in Secret Love Affair. Along with that I tend to stop my watches after what previous episode cliffhanger has been resolved in the next episode rather than following episode endings as I often do when watching first time, especially if I am watching it as it is being dropped in real time.

    On the other hand, to be part of the Money Flower rewatch, I have started rewatching it. Now it was not a series I particularly remember thinking much of. I would have given it a B- rating after my first watch. Indeed my memory of it was basically I thought the second female lead, the older woman of the Cheobol, Mal Ran, stole the whole series; I loved the book given to the Old Cheobol don before he went to prison was a collection of the simple poems of the poverty stricken rural poet Dong Ju who died in a Japanese prison in WW2; and that show went on and on and on and needed a four episode trim. And I hated to think what I might say of some of my Hyuk fan friends on this blog who have claimed that Jang Hyuk in Money Flower is even 1/1000 as good as he was in Chuno, let alone as good or better (secretly I think it is tonic that such fans will be seeing these back to back and perhaps altering their outlook on that). That is, for me, it was not a series I was very passionate about.
    And I must admit rewatching the first two episodes, I had an even poorer experience. Unlike with Dr. Romantic which I had liked to begin with so was ready to enjoy a second time, because I had no such first experience with Money Flower, all its flaws came roaring into my face with my initial second watch. First of all, I realized that I did not have a rooting interest for any, not one, character in the story. I sort of like Kang Pil Joo’s pal Park Young Goo, but have to look up the character’s name, and I am sympathetic with Na Mo, though I am wondering how she is going to be so stupid as to get played into marriage with creepy, creepy Jang Boo Jun. Secondly I thought the kid playing the young Kang Pil Joo was more interesting to watch than this tight lipped simmering Jang Hyuk, enacting a character whose personality was to understate it so effing dour, about as interesting as watching paint dry when he is standing around with the mucky mucks, and the rest of the time simply creepy himself, willing to sell the one person who ever treated him decently off to further his own greed. And again contrasted with Dr. Romantic, I realized I was going to have to plod through several episodes filled with flashbacks to get the gist of what was going on before relaxing into the story. That is, because I am starting a rewatch I am not that enthusiastic about, wondering how long I will stick with it despite loving the interaction with others. When I was a music critic I only reviewed music I liked. Everyone has different tastes, and while I was venting here, I really see no purpose in imposing my dissatisfactions on people who might really enjoy the piece. So I might lurk for the first couple posts, rather than comment, and continue a little while to see if I change my mind. But the big lesson for me is stick to my own instincts, and rewatch stuff because I really enjoyed them in the first place and really want to see them again.

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  7. Ele Nash

    As quite a newbie to kdrama, I kind of laugh at myself that I’ve rewatched some shows within a year (Chuno and Money Flower) and that’s entirely down to my adoration of Jang Hyuk 😍 I also rewatched The Rise of Phoenixes, my gateway Asian drama, and, despite knowing the ending episodes were going to annoy me like mad, I did still love it in all the ways I’d loved it the first time. I plan to at some point rewatch Mr Sunshine as that was the first kdrama I watched and I feel like I maybe didn’t get the full experience of it from an historical context – I remember not knowing for a good few episodes that we were in Korea as they called it Josean. Josean? Where’s that now? Embarrassing admission 😩 The group watch of Money Flower will, I’m guessing, change the rewatch experience and I’m really looking forward to being immersed in it again. Maybe that’s the best thing about rewatching really great, complex shows, is being able to relax more, like lying back in a lovely warm bath 😊

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  8. phl1rxd

    Hi Fangurl – great post! I think they have to be a higher quality and/or you have to personally really love them to re-watch. When a drama stands up to a re-watch you know it is good. When a drama gets better with each re-watch you know it is outstanding. I really feel these kinds of dramas are few and far between.

    Reply
    1. BE

      @phl1rxd: Yup. I may rewatch NIF before commenting on the KFG post page by the way. And although such dramas are few and far between, I am amazed at the number because as very old guy, I can think of fewer series from everywhere else in the world I would be prone to rewatch, and that includes some very good ones like The Wire or Treme, than the number I have happily rewatched from South Korea.

      Reply
  9. Shriya Mandepudi

    OMG! I’m on a kfangurl blog post. AHHHHHH! Excited to hear what everyone thinks. THANK YOU KFANGURL! 🙂 Sending lots of love to everyone.

    Reply
  10. My2Girls

    It has been so many years since I have had that crack drama experience – You know the one when you are getting up at ungodly hours to watch your favorite new show stream live (on questionable sites and without subs!) because you just had to see it the moment the rest of the world did. I miss the feeling of absolute joy at watching something you are so invested in – but will admit that many of those shows would not hold up to a rewatch and for all the reasons that you have so eloquently laid out for us in the above post.

    But I do miss that feeling. That obsession if you will. But frankly a good nights sleep is more important to me at this age. Sad but true.

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    1. MC

      Ooo yes I absolutely get what you mean – after watching a steady stream of kdramas for the past few years I admit I’m finding them less and less cracky, maybe because the tropes are becoming more and more obvious and I can (generally) predict the trajectory of a story. I do miss those questionable-sites-stay-up-late-to-watch shows!! Romance shows are even worse – I hardly feel the cracky bits nowdays :X having said that, there are still some shows that are really cracky – Money Flower, the current group watch, is one of them!

      On the topic itself – I don’t have much further to add other than adjusting your lenses – it won’t ever be the same as experiencing a show for the first time but I find that when I adjust my lens to one of nostalgia or remembering to lower my expectations of the amount of feelz I expect to have, it works 🙂

      Reply

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