Dear kfangurl: What are some underrated gems that need more love?

MC writes:

Another idea for a Dear Fangurl post – would you want to do a list of shows that you love but are often passed over or neglected / underrated? Cos every year there are so many new shiny shows but there are so many good ones that pass under the radar because of low ratings or are older etc. This could be a love note or shoutout to them.

Let’s see.. what exactly shall we consider an underrated drama..?

Dear MC,

Thanks for the great question! You are so right; too often, we tend to neglect older or less buzzy dramas, in favor of newer, shinier shows coming out of Dramaland. I also realize that because there are so many drama offerings these days, many viewers tend to just follow the buzz – because if lots of people are talking about it, it must be good, yes? Also, FOMO is real (as I know all too well! 😅).

I’ve learned the hard way, though, that I don’t always agree with the buzz around a drama, ie, I may not find a buzzy drama to be as amazing as everyone else says, and conversely, I sometimes end up feeling that a drama that’s widely panned by drama fans is simply.. misunderstood. 💔

In this post, I’d like to give the spotlight to dramas that I feel deserve more love. Regardless of their age or ratings, here are some dramas that I wish more folks would check out.

A COLLECTION OF DRAMAS THAT DESERVE MORE LOVE

Before we dive into the list itself, I figured now is a good time to say, that what works for me, might not work for you. Different strokes for different folks, after all. However, if your drama taste is like mine, I feel like there’s a good chance you’d like at least a few of the shows on this list.

18 Again

I honestly don’t know why more folks aren’t talking about this show. I loved – really really luffed – 18 Again when it aired. It’s so heartfelt and sweet, and is full of warm, toasty love of all shapes and sizes. Besides romantic love, there’s parental love, familial love, and the love between friends. I thought all the actors did great in this, but Lee Do Hyun stands out so much, for his excellent portrayal of an ahjusshi in a teenaged body. His youthful gravitas had me melting all over the floor. 😍

Review is here.

20th Century Boy and Girl

I think most folks passed over this one because it’s a small show with a small story. I really liked this when I watched it, though. It’s so warm, easy and angst-lite; a perfect respite from stressful real-life situations, and a great way to unwind at the end of a tiring day. Plus, Kim Ji Suk is such a melty, sweet boyfriend in this. ❤️

Flash Review is here.

A Jaunt [Drama Special]

The drama specials definitely get less attention than the full-fledged dramas, and I really liked this one. Simple, heartwarming and poignant, it’s a great exploration of unlikely friendships, and what it’s like to feel invisible as an older person.

Flash Review is here.

A Piece Of Your Mind

Show got unceremoniously cut down to 12 episodes due to its initial poor ratings, so this show feels a bit like a wounded underdog, to me. It’s dreamy and abstract, and warm and healing, with the right lens adjustments.

Review is here.

A Poem A Day

Quiet and unassuming, this one might get passed over in favor of its more exciting cousins. But Show is small, simple and sweet, with thoughtful touches of poetry. As a plus, the OTP relationship trajectory isn’t tropey or predictable, which added a nice touch of freshness to my watch.

Flash Review is here.

After The Rain [Drama Special]

A down-to-earth story that’s full of heart, this little drama special is such a worthwhile investment of 2 hours. Kim Kang Woo is hapless but earnest, Lee Seol is sweet and ethereal, while Shin Goo manages to be endearing and crotchety at the same time.

Flash Review is here.

All About Eve

Of course this used to be all the rage, but now, with newer and shinier dramas coming out all the time, I feel like most newer drama fans haven’t seen this one.

This is classic drama at its best. It’s a light, warm sort of melo (and importantly, not of the sobfest variety), with a nice male lead, a female lead who’s anything but a Candy, and OTP relationship dynamics that lean healthy. It’s such an early vintage, that drama tropes weren’t even in place yet – which makes everything feel fresh, even though this is technically a retro watch.

Review is here.

Are You Human Too?

This show is reasonably popular, but I still wish more folks would give it a try. Viewed with a straight lens, this is way too melodramatic for sure. But with an absurdist lens on, this is so much slurpy fun! Plus, Seo Kang Joon does admirably at his dual roles of human and robot. 🤩

Review is here.

At Eighteen

This one is SO good, and so overlooked, y’all. Sensitively written, and very well-acted, this is a coming-of-age story that lands raw, earnest and grounded. Ong Seong Wu is really good in this, and makes his character so easy to read, even though he’s a character who’s quiet and reticent. Impressive. Worth checking out, even if you’re not usually into high school stories.

Review is here.

Bad Guys

I really liked this one, and am puzzled that it’s not more popular. Bad guys being harnessed to catch badder guys, with reluctant teamwork, growing camaraderie, and all kinds of badassery on display? Yes please, and thank you. It leans a little melodramatic in spots, but overall, I found this a really enjoyable ride. I especially enjoyed Jo Dong Hyuk and Ma Dong Seok in this. 🤩

Review is here.

Be Melodramatic

I feel like this one is quite popular, and yet, I still hope that more folks would check it out. Is that being greedy? Maybe. But this show is so quirky and refreshing, yet earnest and poignant, that I can’t recommend it enough. It’s kinda like Age Of Youth, all grown up and with acquired idiosyncrasies to prove it, and I mean that in the best way.

Review is here.

Beethoven Virus

I enjoyed this one for the heartwarming underdog sort of story that it is. I loved the idea of the hodgepodge orchestra, so earnest in wanting to make their mark, and I thought Show did a solid job of giving various orchestra members a touch of the spotlight. Kim Myung Min’s great as our resident grumpy maestro, and Jang Geun Suk looks great with the buzzcut.

Designated Survivor: 60 Days

I feel like many folks might pass over this one because of the political premise – I know I almost did. But this one turned out to be such an engaging, easy watch. It was easy to want to root for Ji Jin Hee as our hapless low-profile Minister of Environment who suddenly finds himself having to fill presidential shoes. I loved watching Ji Jin Hee grow into those shoes, and coming into his own. A very engaging underdog story.

Flash Review is here.

Do You Like Brahms?

Quiet and unassuming, I feel like this show is often passed over for how “boring” it’s reputed to be. Fair point, if you find yourself unable to jive with our leads. However, if you’re an introvert, there’s a good chance you might like this one. I found it easy to understand our introverted lead characters, and I liked following them on their journeys of self-discovery. I also very much enjoyed their love story; they make such an endearing pair of bashful lovebirds. ❤️

Review is here.

Familiar Wife

I feel like this one might be passed over because of the initial rough stretch, where our OTP is shown struggling a lot, and fighting a lot. I’d say that this is par for the course, for any do-over story (otherwise why have a do-over, right?), and once that settles, this becomes a very heartwarming, warm and satisfying story. The writing feels assured all the way through, and both Ji Sung and Han Ji Min are excellent in their roles.

Flash Review is here.

Find Yourself [China]

At first glance, this might look like so many other fluffy Chinese rom-coms coming out of China, but I really like this one because of the various thoughtful nuggets of introspection that we get sprinkled through our story. This makes our drama world feel a little more weighty, and the noona romance fairytale, a little more earthy. It helps that Victoria Song and Song Wei Long share excellent chemistry.

Review is here.

Five Children

A pretty rare story that explores what a second chance at love might look like, for single parents. This one does lean a little OTT in spots, and is also a little treacly at times, but it’s really heartwarming to see two genuinely nice, decent people get a second chance at love, and to witness the blending of their families, parents, kids and all.

Flash Review is here.

Girls’ Generation 1979 / Lingerie Girls’ Generation

I think this one flew under the radar for a lot of folks because it’s a mini series with just 8 episodes. But if you like the nostalgic goodness in the Reply series, this little show hits a lot of the same good notes, with a much smaller time investment. It’s engaging, endearing and charming, with lashings of bittersweet.

Flash Review is here.

Go Back Couple

A little underdog of a drama that works out to be heartwarming, sweet and poignant,  once you get past the initial setup. Jang Na Ra is excellent as usual, Sohn Ho Jun gets to display some very disarming bedroomy eyes, and Kim Mi Kyung is a treasure, as she always is. Oh, and Jang Ki Yong is very endearing in this as well, as our smitten second lead.

Flash Review is here.

Hi Bye, Mama!

This comes from the same writer who gave us Go Back Couple, so it’s no surprise that this one manages to also be a great combination of heartfelt and poignant. Show is a little more meandering than its older sister, but is sensitively written. As a bonus, Kim Tae Hee and Lee Kyu Hyung are each the best I’ve ever seen either of them.

Review is here.

Kang Deoksun’s Love History [Drama Special]

A great little drama special that takes us on the journey of our protagonist, as she sets out to look for her lost love, but ends up finding friendship, purpose and self, instead. I love how this one lands empowering and wholesome.

Flash Review is here.

King’s Daughter Soo Baek Hyang

I think the reason this flew under the radar for a lot of people, is that this show was aired as a daily drama, with 108 half-hour episodes. That’s 54 hours! Plus, the production values lean a little lower as well, which doesn’t exactly help. HOWEVER. This turned out to be engaging, heartfelt, and really quite enjoyable, with Seo Hyun Jin delivering an excellently faceted performance as our titular King’s daughter.

Review is here.

Life is Beautiful

I think the reason most folks haven’t seen this one, is because of its age and its length. A 63-episode family drama circa 2010 isn’t exactly the first thing you’d reach for now, in 2021! But trust me, you guys, this is SUCH a heartwarming, lovely watch, that you’ll feel sorry to reach the end. I loved unwinding to this one; it felt like curling up in a cozy blanket, every step of the way. ❤️

Review is here.

Love For A Thousand More [Web Drama]

Being a small little web drama, it’s not surprising that many viewers wouldn’t be aware of this little show’s existence. I was very pleasantly surprised by how engaging and thought-provoking this little fantasy story turned out to be. How fun, that our protagonist is a crusty old immortal who looks like a young lady, who’s sworn off dating, after thousands of years of disappointments, but chooses to make a living from dishing out dating advice. Cute, charming and really quite solid.

Flash Review is here.

Marriage Contract

I think most folks passed over this one because of the premise. A contract marriage situation where one party is suffering from a terminal illness just doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, right? But honestly, this is so solid. UEE is SO good in this; this is literally the best I’ve ever seen her. Lee Seo Jin is really good in this too, and Shin Rin Ah is so winsome as UEE’s little girl. Importantly, our story is warm, and is firmly laced with hope and love, making it a satisfying and worthwhile watch.

Review is here.

Marriage Not Dating

I’m guessing part of the reason more people aren’t talking about this, is Show’s vintage, since it came out in 2014. However, I also have the impression that this did fly under the radar for a lot of people, even when it aired. Show is breezy and blithely wacky on the surface, but there is so much heart built into all the relationships, that Show is never short on feels.

Review is here.

Miss Korea

This show aired in the same time slot as ratings sweeper You From Another Star, which is probably why it flew under the radar for so many people. However, it’s a great little slice-of-life drama about ordinary people who muster up their courage to pursue their dreams and overcome all the obstacles in their way, even when the odds seem stacked against them. Heartfelt and completely worth the drama hours.

Review is here.

My Friend Is Still Alive [Drama Special]

Funny, thought-provoking, poignant and heartfelt, this little drama special managed to get under my skin in a big way. Sensitively written, and ultimately, uplifting and touching, in spite of its heavier premise.

Flash Review is here.

My Unfamiliar Family

A compact family drama that boasts multiple excellent performances, and that manages to feel real, raw and heartfelt, in the midst of Show’s sometimes soapy, but consistently meaty plot developments.

Review is here.

Mystic Pop-up Bar

To be brutally honest, I think many folks might have passed over this one because of Hwang Jung Eum’s reputation for being screechy in her roles. For the record, she is not at all screechy in this. In fact, I found her quite wonderful as our supernatural protagonist. Although Show’s tone often leans comic and silly, there’s a whole lotta heart in this one, particularly with its found family feels.

Review is here.

Off The Course [Drama Special]

Show manages to balance the funny, the unexpected, and the heartfelt, and works out to be a pretty darn wholesome, enjoyable watch. Nam Ji Hyun and Park Ji Young are excellent in this; I totally believed that they had a prickly mother-daughter relationship, where they’d each been exasperated with the other for a long time. Healing and uplifting.

Flash Review is here.

Oh Hae Young Again / Another Oh Hae Young

I think folks might have been upset with this one because it was marketed as a rom-com, when it really isn’t a rom-com. Instead, it’s a melodrama (perhaps a bit of dramedy, arguably) that leans into the melancholy, and teases out the beauty that’s inherent in the melancholy. Show has a couple of weak spots, but is so sensitively written, and so full of heart, that I can’t hold them against Show too much.

Review is here.

One Spring Night

I think some viewers might feel that this story is too muted, small and slow, but I really liked this one for the thoughtful writing and the healthy dynamics of the OTP relationship. Our characters feel like real people with real flaws, and as a result, the romance feels real and raw as well, while managing to be aspirational, for how healthy it all works out to be.

Review is here.

One Warm Word

A sensitively written melodrama that deals with pain and healing in a thoughtful way. Many viewers avoid melodramas because of their reputation for angst, but any and all angst that Show serves up feels warranted, and is dealt with, with care. Thought-provoking, engaging and ultimately warm.

Review is here.

Padam Padam

A melodrama with a fantasy twist, Padam Padam is beautifully filmed and excellently acted. It took me a few episodes to get sucked in, but once the crack bit, I was hooked. Jung Woo Sung and Han Ji Min are fantastic in this, but it’s Kim Bum’s angelic turn in this that stole my heart. Interesting, romantic and thought-provoking.

Review is here.

Plus Nine Boys

Low-key, charming and thoroughly engaging, I really liked this little drama when I watched it. The premise is cute, and our various +9 boys (ages 9, 19, 29 and 39) all get their own little narrative arcs. Relatable, and great for a spot of mild comfort food.

Flash Review is here.

Review Notebook Of My Embarrassing Days [Drama Special]

Such a great little drama special. Show is light, earthy and cute, managing to feel like a full story, even though it’s only an hour long. Jeon So Min is relatable and likable, while Park Sung Hoon is swoony and adorkable. Totes recommend.

Flash Review is here.

She Would Never Know

It breaks my heart that so many folks dropped this early because of problematic behavior shown by the male lead in Show’s first couple of episodes. I’m here to tell you that he learns from his mistakes, and changes, and Show becomes this wonderfully earthy, sweet, melty romance, and stays consistently lovely to the very end. Highly recommend. ❤️

Review is here.

Someday Or One Day [Taiwan]

If you follow Taiwanese dramas, this wouldn’t be underrated at all, because Show took the Taiwanese dramasphere by storm when it aired. However, if you don’t follow Taiwanese dramas, you may not have heard of this show. In which case, I’m here to tell you that it is fantastic. Excellently written, and delivered with so much heart, that I couldn’t serve up my heart to Show fast enough. It’s best to go in blind; just know that there’s a fantasy element, and this is a romance.

Review is here.

Thank You

A warm, low-key, healing melodrama that feels raw and heartfelt. Jang Hyuk is badass as our rogue doctor with a hidden marshmallow heart, and Gong Hyo Jin is soft yet steely as our single mom who’s working to do her best for her HIV-positive daughter.

The First Half Of My Life [China]

If you follow Chinese dramas, this wouldn’t be underrated to you, because it was all the rage when it aired. However, if you don’t follow Chinese dramas, you might have missed this one, which is why I’ve got this show listed. Such a sensitively-written, mature, engaging story of our protagonist’s journey towards finding herself and her mojo, after her life falls apart. There’s something very elegant and sophisticated in the way Show is written and handled; highly recommend.

Flash Review is here.

The King Loves

This might be a spoiler, but if you’ve been curious to watch a recent-ish drama where the second lead gets the girl, this could be your ticket. As a serious drama, this might disappoint, but if you take this mainly as a love story, and remain open to the loveline between Hong Jong Hyun and Yoona, you might find this nicely engaging and enjoyable – like I did.

Review is here.

The Light in Your Eyes / Dazzling / Radiant

I think this show is very special. Don’t think of this as a rom-com. It’s more of a warm melodrama that sometimes lands a bit like a dramedy. There’s a fantasy element to this, but Show knows what it’s doing and where it wants to go. So trust it, even when things feel weirdly off-kilter, and everything will fall into place, when you get near the end. Affecting and beautiful.

Flash Review is here.

The Third Charm

Such a thoughtful and sensitive portrayal of personal journey. If you’ve ever loved and lost, and yet could still say that it was worth the cost, this drama would resonate with you. (I know that’s a little spoilery, but believe me, knowing this going in, is better than trusting in Show’s teasers and trailers, which lean (falsely) rom-com. 😅)

Review is here.

The Three Musketeers

A bold attempt to adapt an age-old tale across mediums and cultures, Show is breezy, entertaining and engaging enough to more than overcome its pacing missteps and logic lapses. The musketeer crew is great, but the stand-out, for me, was Seo Hyun Jin as our modest, endearing Crown Princess.

Review is here.

Time Between Dog and Wolf

The production values lean low because of Show’s vintage, but this is engaging, heartfelt and  rather cracky, all the way to the end. It’s a treat to have Jung Kyung Ho and Lee Jun Ki sharing the screen, plus, this role gives Lee Jun Ki so much range to shine.

Twenty Again

Show leans understated and quiet, but is so warm, engaging and relatable that I loved it a lot, when I watched it. Our cast is great, but it’s Choi Ji Woo who stands out; she is absolutely wonderful as our protagonist who decides to go back to school to reclaim the life that she gave up when she married early. Satisfying, uplifting and rewarding. Love.

Review is here.

VIP

If you’re, 1, in the mood for some emo angst, 2, consider relationship-centered mysteries, well, mysterious enough, and 3, don’t mind allowing Show to tease you for a stretch, while it scatters clues and possibilities for you to puzzle over, then you just might find this story quite compelling – like I did. Engaging, thought-provoking and quite cracky.

Flash Review is here.

IN CLOSING

I hope this list of shows gives you some new titles to add to your drama plate!

If you guys have more underrated shows to recommend, please feel free to share them in the comments below. Sharing is caring, plus, all the underrated lil underdogs need all the love that they can get!

Thanks, you guys.

Smooches. ❤️

~kfangurl

Quick, let’s go watch some drama! ❤️

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!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
92 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Merriwyn
Merriwyn
2 months ago

I can vouch for mystic pop-up bar, loved it.

trackback

[…] time ago, when I wrote my post about underrated gems that deserve more love, Natalia had reluctantly predicted that Youth Of May would become an underrated gem too; a show […]

snow
3 months ago

Agree with a lot of entries in this list, the ones which I have seen. It also made me realise that the shows which I thought were new, have actually passed a long time since they aired (time does fly so fast!!).

Adding a few: 9 End 2 Outs, Dalja’s Spring, Dating Agency: Cyrano, Ho Goo’s Love, Sweet 18.

BE
BE
3 months ago

Only half way through it, and very late to this post, but I am binging through Nobody Knows. It is a straight forward police procedural with a sociopath at its heart and focusing in on school bullying as well as a serial killer. I have seen both Stranger series, and I tried Beyond Evil. Both are gimicky and labyrinthine. This is more old fashioned, BUT it is less labyrinthine than Stranger, the labyrinth and internal politics in the two Stranger series leaving me wanting, and as twisted as this is in places, infinitely more sympathetic than Beyond Evil. It has a cast of good actors, Kim Seo Hyung has all the charisma of her colder roles with a serious quotient of emotionally and heroically attractive substance added in. Google the reviews. People who watch it, like it. For me, it is a chalkmark above shows of this genre for its heart and sympathies. Just saying.

Trent
3 months ago
Reply to  BE

I feel compelled to raise a gentle note of dissent as far as Beyond Evil. I understand cashing out on it after just several episodes, because it engages in a lot of feints and misdirection, so fair enough if one doesn’t have the patience or interest to invest in that. BUT! By episode six, even though I still wasn’t too sure what was going on, I still found it increasingly interesting, and then episode seven, which I watched a couple days ago, totally blew my socks off, so to speak. A lot of patient work in those earlier episodes came together, and I was kind of riveted to the screen. Very invested in seeing where it goes from there, and I am coming around to the view that Shin Ha-kyun’s best actor award was legit, and best script and best drama may have been too…we’ll see. That’s my two cents mid-stream…

BE
BE
3 months ago
Reply to  Trent

It has nothing but raves. My big complaint wasn’t the mystery, but my distaste for every character. Stranger too has been universally well liked. I just would say Nobody Knows is a very good iteration of this kind of story with a very sympathetic lead and a lack of labyrinthine ins and outs, and worth checking out. People love Beyond Evil. It is not an underrated gem deserving love. Nobody Knows is.

Trent
3 months ago
Reply to  BE

Ah. Yes, you’re correct as to the underrated gem aspect.

BE
BE
3 months ago
Reply to  Trent

Aspect, yuk, is that some sort of savory gelatin?

beez
3 months ago

My personal 3 favorites that get no love are:

Chicago Typewriter
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
My Beautiful Bride (which is NOTHING like it sounds and will have you on the edge of your seat the entire watch)

Usi
Usi
3 months ago

AAE is one of my All time favorites. I loved to hate YM and the acting of KSY. Even though someone could disagree but it is one of these Dramas where the 2nd ML gets the girl. Of course JDG was more popular then but he wasn’t the love interest of the heroine for a long time.

I love Are You Human too even though it wasn’t very popular. I love SciFi vibe stories and the Pinocchio theme as well. And the message about humanity was too overlooked.

BE
BE
4 months ago

On account of your rec and having just watched her in Dr. Romantic, I just binged Another Oh Hae Young. There is a lot that is wrong with it, but that is like how when one is first falling in love with someone, one either tolerates the other’s flaws, as oh well, that’s just their flavor, or wow, how flavorful and quirky. And there is a lot right about it too. Seo Hyun Jin brings the entire chemistry set, not just the chemicals, but all the flasks, beakers, and bunsen burners, of how absolutely loveable and adorable one young woman can be while at the same time being an alcoholic, having had an almost less than undistinguished academic career, struggling in a blah middle management fast food purveyor team under an overbearing boss, with an overbearing mother, having been unceremoniously dumped on the day before her wedding, and an inferiority complex a mile long. Seo Hyun Jin is simply magic, and whatever one thinks of her ML, whom I thought was quite good, quiet but one can always in his silences see him thinking so hard, she brings out the very best in him too. One wishes to eat her with tasty side dishes. I cannot imagine a single male human being who wouldn’t wish her Oh Hae Young had loved them the way she loves Do Kyung at some point in their life.

Also I was touched by your review K of the drama, how show and Seo Hyun Jin touched your soft spot, how that came out in your discussion.

MC
MC
4 months ago

Ooo thanks for picking up this qn, KFG! I didn’t think you saw it let alone thought about it. Yay! I really love your list. And everyone else’s suggestion here. This is a great list for me to pick up and discover some new loves!

Some suggestions I have:
1) Life on Mars. Many people will think of Stranger, Signal, Tunnel etc for thrillers but I love LoM (not just because of Jung Kyung Ho!) – it’s well written (which is so crucial for a show with fantasy elements), beautifully directed and shot, covers so many genres (who would’ve imagined that heart stirring bromance in the midst of the thriller legal police procedural show?) and is funny to boot. And that muted loveline between JKH and Go Ah Sung is soooo adorable. I’m seriously on a mission to get more people to watch and love this one.

2) Splash Splash love: This is just adorable and Kim Seul-gi is soooo underrated despite being so good. Nuff said!

3) 1% of Anything because it looks so dated but it’s a really good romance show – full of heart, chemistry, no rubbish bits (ok one of the plotlines was a little lame but generally this show is well done).

4) This Week My Wife Will Have An Affair / Listen to Love: I know KFG didn’t finish it but FWIW I thought this show was thoughtful, melancholic, threw up pretty interesting ideas and “what would you do” scenarios to grapple with. It’s a tough topic but I felt it was very sensitively handled.

beez
3 months ago
Reply to  MC

@MC – Which version of 1% of Everything? (It was remade at some point)

Mc
Mc
3 months ago
Reply to  beez

True. I like the remake! The one with Hak Seok Jin and Jeon So Min. Looks a bit dated but the chemistry is great!

Vespertyne29
Vespertyne29
4 months ago

A few gems hidden in a long list of mediocrity

Kay
Kay
4 months ago

Great list. I actually haven’t seen a good chunk of them. Quite a few do look a bit to understated for my tastes, but some of the lighter, feel good ones I will definitely have to add to my list 🙂

Timescout
4 months ago

I’ve seen a few on the list and there are also couple that have been on my List of Doom for a while now. I’ll get to them one of these days… hopefully. Most of my underrated gems are more like hidden gems as they are pretty hard to come by these days. Yup, they are that old. 😀 One that comes to mind is Daemang aka Great Ambition which has young Jang Hyuk playing a very different character from what we are accustomed to seeing him do. One of the reasons I enjoyed the drama actually. Not all ‘heroes’ need to be kick ass fighters.^^

Drama Fan
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

Loved Daemang and yes, hard to find. I bought DVDs from a not so legal source 🙈 and luckily it was a good copy (and thats all Ill say about my ilegal activities lol). One drama that is also not available anywhere is Life on Mars 😞 What is up with that?

Timescout
4 months ago
Reply to  Drama Fan

Yeah, I got mine from, ahem… “somewhere” too. g It’s a pity that so many of these older ones are not available legally anymore.

Life on Mars is an OCN drama and many of those just seem to sort of disappear once some time has passed. At least when it comes to legal sites.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

Sigh…I want to watch both Life On Mars and Great Ambition but there are nowhere to be found legally…

MC
MC
3 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

🙁 I watched LoM on viu previously but it seems to have disappeared too. So sad! If you can find it I highly encourage you to watch it! It’s sooo good!

Drama Fan
4 months ago

Great list! Among the dramas I watched I really liked Miss Korea, Go Back Couple and Thank You. Im thinking of starting VIP soon. And I’d suggest more people to check out “Train”. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and it was short! I think only 10 or 12 eps and its available on Netflix. I thought Bad Guys was popular way back when but I guess people stated forgetting about it. I recommended it to my brother and he loved it!

Triple m
Triple m
4 months ago

Thanks for the great list! I’ve seen some of them and definitely agree.

A couple of suggestions to add:

1 . Chocolate – totally love this poignant drama. Available on Netflix.
Below is Asiawiki’s synopsis:
Lee Kang (Yoon Kye-Sang) grew up in a small seaside town, dreaming of becoming a cook. He is now a neurosurgeon. He looks cold-hearted, but, in fact, he hides his warm heart.
When Moon Cha-Young (Ha Ji-Won) was a child, she met Lee Kang at a small restaurant in the seaside town. Lee Kang cooked and gave her a meal. This is the happiest memory for Moon Cha-Young and it eventually led her to become a chef.
Neurosurgeon Lee Kang and Chef Moon Cha-Young meet again at a hospice ward.

Pegasus Market – heartwarming and unforgettable, upbeat comedy. Can’t find anyone who didn’t enjoy this one! Stars Kim Byung-Chul and Lee Dong Hwi Available on OnDemand Korea.

merij1
merij1
4 months ago
Reply to  Triple m

Ha. I’ve been trying to get KFG to watch Chocolate for a year or two now. Han Ji-won is not one of her fave actresses, if I recall correctly. But mostly it’s that she thinks it’s a medical drama.

It’s not! A hospice-based script is different from medical dramas in so many ways. There are no trumped-up medical crises for the brilliant doctors to solve, leaving you wondering if they can beat the odds yet again. (While annoying the heck out of any viewer who knows anything whatsoever about medicine.) Actually there is one of these. But just the one!

Every patient you meet in this show will soon die. The question is not whether they can be saved, but how they choose to live their final weeks and what the rest of the cast learns from that vicarious experience.

All the main characters start out seriously damaged. Over the course of the show they learn to support one another’s healing. It’s a show about healing.

As for romance, the ML’s epiphany at the end of the penultimate episode is one of the most successful drama scenes we’ve seen on any show. An entire season that leads up to that one revelatory moment. (It was odd, however, that after that scene the writers didn’t seem to know what to do with the final episode. But I now realize that’s par for the course in the land of K-drama.)

I wouldn’t put this on my top tier list, but it’s very good. I’d watch it again just to re-experience that epiphany scene.

Khigrl
Khigrl
4 months ago

Thank you for sharing this list. I watched Poem a Day after reading about it on your blog and I absolutely love it. Brahms, A Spring Night and At 18 were all brilliant in their own ways. Some other dramas that I love that could be added to this list:

Dinnermate: the OST is still stuck in my head and I loved the story
Search WWW: unabashedly strong women where men played the supporting roles

Can’t really think of anymore but I’ll add them if I remember later 😊

merij1
merij1
3 months ago
Reply to  Khigrl

We just finished Episode 3 of Search: WWW. This is a really good show. And exactly as you describe it!

Shahz
Shahz
4 months ago

Brilliant question and post. Love an unrated gem! They always turn out to be firm favourites. Seen a few of these and loved them (yay). And shout out for Padam Padam which finally arrived on Viki here. It is superb! Just hoping the others do soon. I particularly want to watch one warm word and Miss Korea. Just caught a few episodes of Love for a thousand more after seeing it on the list and enjoying that as well

mikereport3
mikereport3
4 months ago

The Light in Your Eyes: have to disagree! (Wish that I had read the spoilers before I started in.)

merij1
merij1
4 months ago
Reply to  mikereport3

I know exactly what you mean.

It would be a dramatically different viewing experience if you knew early on what you discover later. My wife dropped this show prior to that point and I had to finish it without her. I could barely explain it to her, due to my emotional state.

So, perhaps that much should be known: It’s not nearly as happy-go-lucky/whimsical as it seems at first.

Well worth the watch, though! We started it for Han Ji-min, but Kim Hye-ja ending up being the prize.

Drama Fan
4 months ago
Reply to  merij1

Yup! I purposely looked for spoilers cause drama “weird” vibe was unnerving me and that made everything much better!

Erin Osen
Erin Osen
3 months ago
Reply to  mikereport3

I loved it so much ! The show fooled us all along. That was brilliant. Lots of emotions in this one.

j3ffc
4 months ago

Two more to add to the list. And yes, having cut my drama teeth on Let’s Eat (all three, plus Drinking Solo), I know that I have a problem with shows involving food and drink.

Waaaaaaaaay under the radar sits “Cheers to Me”, a minidrama that tells the not-story of a 30-something woman working in a rather toxic publishing firm, who enjoys ending her days with solo drinking and dining (sometimes a little too much of the former). I call it a “not-story” because there is very little plot per se, but rather a series of vignettes that play out more like a k-drama tone poem than anything else. Indeed, one of the things I really enjoyed about this show was the very different, literary tone of the show, plus understated performances by the lead Yoon Jin-seo and Lee Jae-yoon in a nice secondary role. It’s hard to find (no longer on Viki, where I saw it, sadly, but I think it’s on one of the Sites That Must Not Be Named) but at 10 episodes of about 20 minutes each, not a large time investment if you’re looking for something a little different and on the mature and serious side.

Higher profile and a mixed pleasure to be sure was “Dinner Mate”, which didn’t get a lot of love when it came out last year, despite it being the post-“Crash Landing on You” starring turn for Ji-hye Seo, who is winning – and hilarious – in this. Very much a left turn from her serious persona in CLOY. She’s a video producer (not, shall we say, focusing on high-end content) who is having relationship problems. I had never seen the ML, Song Seung-heon, before, but he was also great in this, as was the fantastic Ye Ji-won. I ultimately enjoyed the show, but it does have a big problem with a pair of very obnoxious and persistent second leads, which reduces the overall experience (and could be dealt with by use of the fast-forward control). But the dining and dating scenes, and the comedy (some of it dealing very amusingly with the CLOY phenomenon) were fun. Sort of a Saturday-afternoon watch.

My2Girls
My2Girls
4 months ago

This list contains so many dramas that I adore that I have decided I will go own the whole list and watch all those I have not seen. Because I know that if you liked it I will too. Thank you!

Asperugo
Asperugo
4 months ago

She would never know is a really curious case for me, because I can name so many recent and well-received dramas that show bad behavior from the male lead. In some cases the ml doesn’t even change that much during the drama, but keeps his problematic behavior and people are surprisingly ok with that. What made people to react to just this drama? It’s been two months since the drama ended and I’m still bitter 😀

BE
BE
4 months ago

Thanks K, a lot of options for down time periods. And I will back you on the shorts you mentioned. All very good selections.

Should I throw out one more time Dear My Family. As I noted elsewhere, it is something when Youn Yuh Jung is one of show’s lead actors, gives a terrific performance, and one can say she was the fifth lead. Along with Kim Hye Ja, Na Moon Hee, Go Doo Shim, and Park Won Sook, all certified terrific with resumes longer than most people’s arms, Shin Goo and Joo Hyun, fabulous actors, both putting in terrific performances, the veteran Kim Young Ok, a wonderful, quirky support performance, and the actual lead in re pov of show, the excellent Go Hyun Jung is heart breakingly good herself. Lee Kwang Soo, who plays a supporting role as the son of Kim Hye Ja’s character, Jo Hee Ja, has one scene with Kim Hye Ja that is so devastatingly touching it will leave you looking for another handkerchief or box of kleenex after. And for all the unflinchingly heart breaking episodes, show in the end is an elegaic and victorious testament to the human spirit.

The other, though it is nigh on to impossible to find, I would throw out there is Nokdu Flower, great, great performances by Choi Moo Sung, for those here who really like him, maybe his best; Jo Jung Suk, my favorite of the roles I have seen him in, and the one and only Han Ye Ri, who as always is just perfect. A memorable and moving portrayal of the Donghak Rebellion, one of the most important periods of modern (late 19th C) Korean history.

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

@BE – I watched Nokdu Flower on KOCOWA. They usually have a week free. Maybe you could binge it then unsubscribe if you find KOCOWA not worth keeping.

merij1
merij1
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

Beez, we finished Descendants of the Sun. Overall, most enjoyable.

My wife never warmed up to Song Hye-kyo as the primary FL but loved the other three, whereas I thought all four romantic leads were great. What a trip to read that Hye-kyo and Song Joong-ki married after the show, then divorced fairly quickly and mysteriously.

Unfortunately when we saw the final episode we thought there were three following it and were totally unprepared it to end. VIKI shows 19 Eps, but it turns out that 17-18 are an extended montage of best-of scenes and Ep 19 is interviews with the cast. So that threw us off.

But after all those months trying to convince her to watch it with me, I’m really glad we enjoyed it. Thanks for pushing me!

beez
3 months ago
Reply to  merij1

– I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I felt that you (both your wife and you) would like it. If you hadn’t, I’d have felt like a putz for pushing so hard. 😁

As to the Song-Song couple, I remember ignoring all the netzien buzz that they were a couple because you would hear that about every popular OTP with good chemistry. So when they announced their engagement I was shocked! But I sometimes wonder if the theme park based on the romantic experience of DOTS has been able to survive the real life divorce. (I’ve heard the visitors to the park greatly diminishes.)

Part of the hype of DOTS revolved around it being Song Joon ki’s first drama after military service. What made it so anticipated was his last performance in the movie A Werewolf Boy before enlisting. The performance was so good that fans couldn’t wait for his next project after his service was completed. Have you seen it yet?

beez
3 months ago
Reply to  merij1

– oh yeah. If I had been thinking, I would’ve warned you about those 3 “episodes”. I think we all were disappointed at the time. I had anticipated the special episodes to be similar to how Secret Garden had a special that was more of a “making of” special with thoughts/comments from the cast, especially the supposing cast.

But I’m glad you reminded me of DOTS special episodes so if I ever want to re-experience the show, I can watch those instead of rewatching the entire series. 😉

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

Nokdu Flower definitely deserves more love!

https://www.ondemandchina.com/en/program/nokdu-flower

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snowflower: Thanks for the link. I do want to rewatch.

Triple m
Triple m
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

Nokdu Flower is on KOCOWA (yes, it’s subsciption, but for all the shows available, it’s definitely worth it!).

Anandita
4 months ago

I really loved My Mister and it is one of my favorites. I feel like it should be more popular!

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  Anandita

Actually, I have a hard time imagining a more popular dramatic K series or a more passionate following than that for My Mister. That you would feel it should be more popular strikes me as the kind of testimony of that kind of passion. For myself, while I hardly think it lacks popularity among K Drama followers my only perspective on this is that it should be more popular as a television series produced from anywhere in the world, and Netflix should certainly hype it better, but as for fans of K Drama, I cannot think of a series more well loved.

MC
MC
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

I agree with you, BE!

I can understand where Anandita is coming from because when you watch it you love it so much you want EVERYONE to watch it. But strictly speaking it’s very well loved by those who are well-versed in Kdramas (unless say maybe you only like really fluffy shows then you might not watch or like My Mister. I think it’s for a more serious, mature type of viewer. Nothing wrong with fluff! But it may not appeal to you).

What I do wish is that non-Kdrama viewers would watch it. People get thrown off by the term Kdrama think it’s all love stories and soap operas and whatnot but My Mister is just fantastic as a tv series – it’s my all time favourite TV show. I hope more people will love it!!

tayo13
3 months ago
Reply to  MC

I love My Mister so much, I tell people not to watch it because I could not bear someone not loving it as much as me. It is one of my top three art pieces IN ANY GENRE (dance, film, painting, music) in my art-loving life.

Natalia
Natalia
4 months ago

A show I very much enjoyed is The Guest. Ok, it involves evil spirits and exorcists, but it is very well done.
On a completely different note, I am currently watching Youth of May. I am sad to predict that it will probably end up in this list, but so far I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a try.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  Natalia

Four episodes in the jury must still be out on Youth of May, although it looks like it will be very good. But I have no idea how it will be viewed by K Drama fans in Korea. I was surprised to find My Unfamiliar Family was nominated for Best Series in the Baeksang Awards, and yet I have no problem with KFG listing it as an overlooked gem, one people should really check out. As time goes by, I think Secret Love Affair, which had a pretty big following at the time, is beginning to be overlooked somewhat too and it is one of the greatest K Dramas I have seen, with devastating performances by the lead actors.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Youth of May has all the hallmarks of a classic (so far). I hope it stays strong and finishes well. Got the tissues ready…

I also enjoy Bossam. I don’t know what the reaction is about this show, but it can become another classic if it stays this consistent.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snowflower: I am also enjoying Bossam, especially ML, but it does seem to be content to run its wheels in old ruts, and while the little boy at the heart of the drama is adorable, he also has a tendency to drown out the other actors with whom he shares scenes. I like it, and Jung Il Woo is so good and plays such an appealing character, he may be able to carry the show all on his own, but I am hoping at some point show will distinguish itself a bit more, and the show will make use of the child character a bit more sparingly so that he does not wear out his welcome on screen.
A big thumbs up so far for FL in Youth of May, Go Min-Si!

Trent
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

@BE Second that sentiment, I am an unabashed Go Min-si stan at this point, and she is mesmerizing so far in Youth of May. Through the first quarter or so of the show, it has a very comfortable, almost nostalgic glow to it, although it will surely turn more dark if not tragic before too much longer. But much more watchable than I was expecting, so far at least.

fabfindsgal86
fabfindsgal86
4 months ago

Would my all-time favorite HEALER also qualify and be added to this list? 🙂

ffg86
ffg86
3 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

You are so welcome! And how can we not love it? It’s such a great show!!! <3 <3 <3 Aside from Ji Chang Wook, my all-time favorite hacker is in the show. Will make sure to give a shout out once I think of others. Thank you for this list!

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago

I have seen most of the shows on this list, and almost all of them are among my all-time favorites!

I want to see 18 Again so badly, but Viki does not have it in my region. Please, drama stars, align favorably…

I second Children of Nobody (Red Moon Blue Sun). Lee Yi Kyung is great in a very serious role in a very serious show.

Thank You is great! Jang Hyuk’s character is still angsty and tortured, but nothing compared to his later roles. Robber is pretty good and also underrated.

Tamra The Island is the gentlest and sweetest feel-good sageuk of all time. If I remember correctly, there is no body count! And Kim Mi Kyung, the best K-mom, plays one of her best mom roles.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Kfangurl, I clicked on the link and got the message that due to copyright restrictions the video is not available in my region (sigh…) So I am watching Youth of May and anxiously awaiting the impending doom…

merij1
merij1
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I’ll have to give the Opera VPN another try. It didn’t work for me last time and I do want to see 18 Again.

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I use Opera as a secondary VPN on my laptop but primarily use Protonmail’s VPN for both my mobile phone and laptop. The free version only has three countries to choose from but I think it’s enough for drama-watching needs. Tee-hee. Just need to (1) create a free protonmail email account and (2) use those details when logging in to their proton VPN app.

FrauSerious
FrauSerious
3 months ago
Reply to  Jiyuu

What countries would you recommend in order to watch dramas from the US?

j3ffc
3 months ago
Reply to  FrauSerious

I use a paid VPN because I need it for travel (or used to…) and have typically set it on Singapore b/c I knew shows were available there from KFG and b/c it’s one of the countries that Viu operates in. I haven’t run into any shows that can’t be see either in the US or there available in other countries although I’m sure there are some.

FrauSerious
FrauSerious
3 months ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Thank you!

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
4 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Now I’m curious to check out this gentlest and sweetest sageuk of all time. How can there be no body count!?

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago
Reply to  Jiyuu

There really isn’t any body count in Tamra! It is an odd little drama for sure. If you can survive the cringe-worthy English in some scenes, you will not regret watching it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKQBlHx0VNI

Winny
Winny
4 months ago

First off I wanted to say what a great list. I read your review of Search:www and decided to check it out. I loved the drama so much,so I’m definitely gonna check out Be Melodramatic.

My main question however was about your thoughts on the Goong remake, and if you’re planning to check it out. There hasn’t been much information about it out yet, but as a drama that’s extremely special to you do you have any thoughts about it? Or just modern remakes of older dramas in general?

Trent
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I’d guess you’re probably going to give the K-drama remake of Someday or One Day a miss, if it ends up happening?

(I saw that supposedly the rights were acquired for a K-drama remake a couple months ago; who knows if it will actually happen).

Trent
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I think I would be curious to at least see what it looks like in a different physical setting, since so much of the original felt (to me, at least) tied to the particular setting (I lived in Taiwan for a couple years in the early 90s, so seeing the setting in the countryside of Tainan made me feel very nostalgic). I think I would also be curious to see what different actors brought to it, depending on who they cast, of course…

Trent
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Oh, interesting, thank you for the suggestion. Huh, and it’s actually on Netflix, even. I’ll have to take a look to see if I even recognize anything; it has changed so much in thirty years!

merij1
merij1
3 months ago
Reply to  Winny

We just started Search: WWW, but yes if you loved that, you will definitely like Be Melodramatic. It’s more fun and quirky, but with comparable emphasis on an ensemble female cast.

Growing Beautifully
Growing Beautifully
4 months ago

Lovely , I agree with many on your list. I’d like to add the following as shows that may have slipped through the cracks:

Just Between Lovers – what is called a healing drama at more than one level. Loved Jun Ho and Ji Nah in this one

Avengers Social Club – So much satisfaction in the coming together of the team and getting their ‘revenge’

Children of Nobody (Red Moon, Blue Sun) – Mysterious and touching investigation into the reasons for children’s traumas. Show made me pay more attention to Kang Ji Heon. Kim Sun Ah was of course good.

Solomon’s Perjury – A young cast, well-acted and hits the spot in bringing on the ‘justice’.

The Guest – Fortunately not as scary as it looks. Great team and more true to life on how exorcisms are done than many other shows.

The Hymn of Death – Short but effective. Affecting, both sad and inspiring.

Growing Beautifully
Growing Beautifully
4 months ago

Correction: I meant Actor Lee Yi Kyung, not his character Kang Ji Heon. He was great in a more serious role in Children of Nobody.

j3ffc
4 months ago

I’ve seen four of thee shows you emotion, and LOVED each of them. Which just makes me want to check out the others (a few of which have been on my to-do list for quite some time). Thanks for another bookmark of a post.

bbimbapp
bbimbapp
4 months ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Black Dog: Beinf a Teacher – The drama is about the struggles of a new short term teacher.

It’s written by a former teacher and is wonderfully acted by the leads, Seo Hyun Jin and Ra Mi Ran, as well as supporting characters. The show is a very specific genre that I havn’t seen which doesn’t lend well to buzz but I learned a lot of about the Korean educational system from watching this show and so many life lessons along the way.

j3ffc
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

The ones I’ve seen and enjoyed are:

Be Melodramatic
My Unfamiliar Family
Mystic Pop Up Bar
Someday or One Way

Of those Melo is in my top five of all time list – maybe at the top of it – and one of the few shows I will definitely re-watch sometime. I think it would be even more appreciated with more drama miles under my belt. Family and Someday are also way up there, with the latter maybe worth a re-watch in hopes of understanding it better the second time around. And Mystic was just so much fun – I have taken to recommending it to friends who want a first drama watch.

Three on your list have been on my must-do list for a long time: the very well-reviewed Another-I-Can-Never-Remember-the-Character’s-Name-But-It-Has-Seo-Hyun-Jin-In-It, Brahms, and One Spring Night (I think merij1 and you have both recommended it as a sort of antidote to Pretty Noona). But those will all be pushed back due to the ongoing group watches. I am intrigued by many of the other titles on my list (I am sort of a sucker for the little trains that could).

And like others here, I do recommend “Hymn of Death” if one is interested in a short, period, straight-up tragedy based on a true story. Shin Hye-sun is excellent in it, as always.

phl1rxd
4 months ago

Wow Fangurl – that is one heck of a listing. So many good show listed here. I agree that these fell under the radar and some of these were really good.

I am so glad to see Love for a Thousand Years up there. What a magical little gem and the mascot dance scene still cracks me up whenever I think about it.

I am definitely going to check out those that I have not seen.

Great question and great post!