We are at the end of our Nirvana In Fire and Kill Me, Heal Me group watches, y’all – where has the time gone?!?
I hope you guys have been having fun with the group watches! I especially appreciate those of you who managed to join both group watches &/or have been active on the Open Threads. Sharing your reactions and your thoughts really makes the experience richer for everyone. Thank you for playing! ❤️
It’s time to brainstorm on what we should watch next, as a community. Here are some initial ideas, feel free to let me know what you think, in the comments!
Some things to consider
1. Group watch benefits
I realized that one of the cool things about having the group watches, is that even though we are watching shows that have long completed their runs, we still get to have that “live watch” experience, by sharing the experience as a community. I think that’s pretty cool. So let’s pick dramas that have already completed their runs?
In picking a show, we do need to take into account availability, so that anyone who wants to join in, can join in.
We need to pick a show that people can access on legal platforms like Viki, Kocowa, OnDemandKorea, Viu or iQIYI, preferably without needing to pay additional membership fees.
If you’re geo-restricted, a VPN service would help you get around that. Not only does it provide online safety, it also gives you access to lots of great geo-restricted content.
I personally use NordVPN. You can find my review of NordVPN here.
You can use my affiliate link (here!) to enjoy up to 60% * off, with prices starting as low as US$3.29 per month.
* This used to say 73%, but because NordVPN’s changed the way it calculates the discount, it now says 60%. BUT, it’s the same great price, starting from US$3.29 a month!
An article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here.
4. How are we going to choose?
I will gather some of the most popular options from the comments in this post, and put them into a poll next Wednesday, which I’ll announce in a new post. After a week of voting, I’ll announce the winning show, and our first Open Thread can kick off a week after that.
So, in summary:
Brainstorming: today until Tuesday, 28 September 2021.
Poll: Wednesday, 29 September, until Tuesday, 5 October 2021.
Announcement: Wednesday, 6 October 2021.
First Open Thread for People’s Choice group watch: Wednesday, 13 October 2021.
First Open Thread for Editor’s Choice group watch: Saturday, 16 October 2021.
You can totally add more suggestions in the comments, but to kick things off, off the top of my head, here are a few dramas that I thought we might want to consider, in alphabetical order.
Dr. Romantic 2
I thought you guys might be interested to revisit the Doldam crew, after finishing Season 1 together. I’ve heard that Season 2 is just as enjoyable as Season 1 – if not more so.
16 episodes. Available for free on iQIYI and Viu. Also available on Kocowa if you have a paid subscription, and on Viki, if you have Viki Pass Plus.
BE suggested this one as a possibility, and I’m happy to include it because it’s one of my all-time favorites. This one’s got romance, action, melodrama; a bit of something for everyone. Plus, y’all know I just can’t help swooning, every time Healer casually parkours off a building. 🤩
20 episodes. Available for free on iQIYI and Viu. Also available on Viki with Viki Pass Plus, or on Kocowa if you have a paid subscription.
Hikaru no Go [China]
I haven’t yet seen this one, but I’ve heard very promising things, like Show has excellent production values, is a fantastic adaptation of the manga source material, is mostly well-paced, thought-provoking and even a bit educational, while featuring an affecting friendship. My mum watched this one, and she says she’d give it an A.
36 episodes. Available for free on iQIYI.
I haven’t seen this one either, but am told that it’s a very solid watch. It’s not an easy topic, since child abuse is part of the story, but I’ve heard that it’s touching, warm, and beautiful, with fantastic acting by the cast.
16 episodes. Available for free on Viki.
A legit masterpiece that I think all drama fans ought to check out, at least once. It’s thoughtful, gritty, beautiful, dark and haunting, and celebrates so well, what it means to connect as humans. Also, the OST is ethereal and hauntingly beautiful.
16 episodes. Available for free on iQIYI and Viki.
Nirvana In Fire 2: The Wind Blows in Changlin
I thought I’d offer this as a suggestion, since we’ve just finished NIF together. This is not a direct continuation of NIF; it’s the same drama world, but the story takes place a couple of generations further down the line, than our original NIF crew.
I found this a lot more of a slow burn than NIF, but those who’d wished that we’d had the opportunity to follow our protagonist’s story from the beginning (instead of learning about it via flashbacks) might like this sequel’s approach, since that’s exactly where we start.
I found this slow-going (so that might not be great for a group watch, since we might lose everyone along the way, before it gets really good 😝), but by the end, I was firmly satisfied with where Show takes us, and where it leaves us. I also did find Show thoroughly stirring, towards the end.
50 episodes. Available for free on Viki.
Secret Love Affair
This one was also suggested by BE. Thoroughly absorbing because of our story, our leads, their soul connection, and an amazing OST that makes the watch even more immersive. Beautiful, thought-provoking, and ultimately hopeful.
16 episodes. Available for free on Viki.
Stranger / Secret Forest / Forest Of Secrets
I’ve heard so much about how fantastic this show is, that I’m quite curious to see whether I’ll love it like everyone else. Maybe a group watch – and the company that it provides – is just what I need, to finally commit to this one.
16 episodes. Available for free on iQIYI.
The Disguiser [China]
Elaine suggested this as a possible follow-up to NIF, since many cast members of NIF also acted in this. Fun fact: this show was made before NIF, but only became popular after NIF, because of the shared cast and NIF’s success. I got about a third of the way in, before I wandered off, because I am a wuss about torture scenes. But, I would be game to give this another go, if you guys would like to watch this together.
Just so you know, it took me several tries to get into this one, purely because I’d found it unsettling to see our characters from NIF as different people. I lasted all of 5 minutes, on my first try, after seeing Wang Kai not as royalty, but as someone’s driver. 😱 I.. wasn’t ready for it. 😅
Ah, and for the record, and as fair warning, my mom remarked that she thinks this one might lean a little too nationalistic for some international viewers.
41 episodes. Available on YouTube and Viki.
Like I said, these are just some initial suggestions! Please feel free to add your ideas in the comments below, and we can figure out together, what we should watch next, as a community. ❤️
Newsflash: Hit Taiwanese Drama “Some Day Or One Day” Confirmed For Korean Remake. https://www.soompi.com/article/1455690wpp/hit-taiwanese-drama-some-day-or-one-day-confirmed-for-korean-remake
Cool. So who would you pick to play the three lead characters? Well-known actors, or newcomers?
Hi KFG!!!! My top three are Healer, My Mister and SLA in that order even though they are all really tied for first place in my mine because they are all stellar for different reasons to me 🙂
I want to second, third, fourth, fifth, to infinity and beyond Merij1 suggestion of Search:WWW!!!! Love that Show so much because for once three female leads carry that show excellently! And of course, the music is awesome 🙂
And Someone also suggested for the second choice to be shorter dramas, I forgot who and cannot find that post. I like that idea as well 🙂
Thanks, KFG for making the decision for us 🙂
Hey JJ! Great to see you here! ❤️ Thanks for your input! I won’t be making the decision for everyone, exactly.. I’m making a poll, with the most popular titles, that will go live tomorrow. From there, the title with the most votes will go to the Wednesday group watch (People’s Choice), and then I will select a show to balance that out, for the Saturday group watch (Editor’s Choice). So.. be ready to vote very soon! 😉
Thanks, KFG!!!! Happy to be here to join in the Fun!!! Ah ok! Thanks for explaining process. ❤️
My Mister would be my choice. I absolutely love it and would really love to rewatch it with everyone here and look closer together at its nuances.
I so agree about would love a rewatch together for all the nuances. 🙂
I liked other shows mentioned here, but, to be honest, the only shows I would be interested in discussing are My Mister and Secret Love Affair.
From your list, Healer would definitely be my pick. That drama is always good for a re-watch and has a little bit of everything in it to enjoy 🙂
I have heard The World of the Married is an interesting show with some level of complexity. Does anyone have any thoughts on whether it would be a good candidate for a group watch?
Based on comments I’ve read so far, Secret Love Affair and The Disguiser look like interesting choices.
I’ve had World of the Married on my watch list for basically forever; the problem is that it’s tough to get it in the U.S. since neither Netflix nor Viki carry it (in the U.S.). You can get it on Viu.com as long as you can VPN through say a Singapore server (but Opera’s VPN won’t fool Viu, in my experience).
But yes, I would be more than happy to group watch it.
Too bad it’s not readily accessible.
Oh. I always took it for granted that anyone can watch TWOTM because I see it everywhere from where I am. For my geo-restricted dramas, I use ProtonVPN. They’re awesome (CERN people) and their free version is enough for my needs (but just three countries to choose from: Japan, US and Netherlands). If you can binge the show in a week, I suggest try their 7-day premium trial which allows you access to 50+ countries. You’ll just need a ProtonMail account (also free).
Kim Hee Ae is spectacular, worth the price of admission, some scenes so great it is hard to quantify, and show is dramatic to say the least right from the get go, but extreme makjang of it, if Secret Love Affair made some folks antsy, my goodness World of the Married, a bombshell every fifteen minutes. I thought the ending was weak, show pretty good, Kim Hee Ae at the top of her formidable game.
Ooh, kfangurl, you really do spoil us with these group watches! I love them. They literally make me smile, watching, then reading your insights, then everyone else’s in the chat. It’s such a happy experience for me 😁
So, I only just watched My Mister – and I have to say, it felt like such an intimate, quiet, beautiful show, I’m not sure how that would translate to a group watch. I feel like it’s too fragile somehow! I don’t think I could join in with it because that show for me was just perfection.
Stranger and Healer are cool. I probably wouldn’t rewatch but I’d join in the comments each week as the shows are still fresh in my mind.
As for the others, happy with any. But it would be nice to have a romance. I do love a romance 🥰
Aw! I’m glad you enjoy the group watches so much, Ele!! ❤️ I do think we are due for some romance, so if the People’s Choice doesn’t turn out to be a romance, I’ll make sure the Editor’s Choice helps to balance that out! 😉
I’ve been reading your reviews for quite a while now and would love to try a group watch now that I’ve caught one that’s just about to start.
Stranger is one of my all time faves, but I haven’t seen it in awhile and I would absolutely be up for watching it again with a group. That would probably be my top pick.
Loved Healer, but just finished it like 2 weeks ago. Haven’t tried My Mister, but it’s on by to be watched list as is Sky Castle, Mother and Coffee Prince.
Hi there Merricat, WELCOME! 😃 Glad to hear that you’re up for a group watch! I’m keeping a running tally of all the preferences stated in response to this post, and have just included yours! ❤️
Heh, thank you. I look forward to the poll and whatever the group pics!
i just finished “nirvana in fire” for the 4th time. never did i dream that i can re watch anything a second time, but 3,4, 6 times? until i started watching chinese and korean dramas, and at first i thought that i am just crazy, or something of this sort, because in my life when i was done with something, it was done and move on to another project. once i discovered that many of you re watch these dramas, it made me feel much more at ease, i am not alone. so thank you all for that.
now back to the nirvana. although i was not very impressed while watching it the first time, (but it was due to starting it right after “the rise of phoenixes”, and my heart and mind were full with chen kun, nini and just the whole experience of this incredible drama. i simply had no space in me to let in anything else.) but after a while i returned to NIF, I became more and more fascinated by it’s amazingly smart and intricate story, it’s impressive cinematography, it’s actors highly professional portrayal of the characters… and many more aspects of this production. after i finished, i thought where do i go now, i’ll never find anything equivalent to NIF andTROP, it was sort of depressing. and i must admit that i discovered those dramas quite recently, and grateful for kfangirl’s and other people’s direction – it helped a lot. so after i finished NIF, I was missing to see again on the screen the chiseled face, the penetrating eyes of mei changsu, the booming warm voice of prince xiao jingian, the quiet strength and wisdom of mama jing…
i turned to “secret of the desert”, just to see hu ge – and he was as good as it gets but the drama itself was such a poor cousin to the other dramas, it was just not my cup of tea, but i am not going to talk about it now. i saw somewhere that “the disguiser” would have some of the same actors as in NIF. so i tried , and boy was i surprised and delighted to feel a kind of sensation that i am “home”, and am meeting “old friends”… here is the list of whom i discovered so far (i am only at the beginning, episode 6 and it is NOT disappointing!):
hu ge (mei changsu) in the role of ming tai
wang kai (prince xiao jingyan) in the role of ming cheng
jin dong (lin chen master of langya hall) in the role of ming lou
liu min tao (consort mama jing) in the role of older sister ming jing
wang ou also known as angel wang (qin banruo) in the role of wang manchu
liu yi jun (the evil marquis xie yu) in the role of wang tianfeng (not less evil, but very different and interesting)
gao xin (the crown prince xiao jing xuan)
zhang yan yan (grand princess liyang)
li gang (from jiangzuo alliance, mei changsu’s guard and ex chiyan captain)
feng hui (minister shen zhui)
gao zheng (the designated rapist of princess nihung -sima lei)
sun meng jia (xiao xin – consort jing’s maid of court, the traitor)
and even sun meng jia -( the bride and later wife of prince jingyan)
i might have missed some others, but isn’t that enough to entice anyone who loved NIF? and let me tell you, they are all GOOD, LIKE REAL GOOD. in addition, it is the same director li xue, assistant director wang hong, even the music department meng ke is the same for both dramas.
so you know what to expect from this talented wonderful crew. so far, it has the same vibe, energy, feeling as in NIF, even the music makes you relive NIF. but don’t get me wrong, it is not NIF by any stretch of the imagination, it is a totally different animal, and a wonderful one at that. for that reason my recommendation would be we all watch “disguiser” it’s on viki.
and there will be some people that simply do not want to watch war movies, but in order to avoid repeating past mistakes, the pain and suffering, we must watch the blood, cruelty and horrors of wars, regardless of what time period or what geographical place it would be. apart from human suffering, there is also the uplifting elements of human courage and sacrifice. even when it is historically not very accurate, and even if the logic is warped, we can connect and respond to raw emotions. i saw a lot of movies of world war II and the nazi regime, not that i like it, but my own close family experienced those horrors in the most direct way. through my own incredible pain i had to see it. suffering is the greatest teacher of all. i personally knew very little of the sino-japanese war, but getting to learn about it introduced another dimension to my perception of the fate, struggles, strength, determination of the chinese people.
and may be , just may be some of the viewers can become kinder to humanity in general through such an experience, and cultivate more compassion in their hearts, as there is so much pain on this planet earth.
Forgot to mention that Healer rewatch is always welcome.
I enjoy group watches that provide the support and encouragement to watch dramas that I really want to watch but would struggle to stick with without the weekly posts. NIF is a good example of that; I ended up loving it but needed a helping hand and a structure to view it. So I’d favour My Mister or Sky Castle.
Ooh, SKY Castle is another good one; social commentary and critique with real bite, and some fantastic acting, IMO. The sort of thing that would probably benefit from a group watch treatment….
Yes! I would add Secret Love Affair!
The weather is getting colder, so the time is perfect for some serious sageuk! I have been wanting to rewatch Tree With Deep Roots and Six Flying Dragons, but the availability and the length may be an issue. I have never seen Mother, so I am intrigued. My Mister and Secret Love Affair are classics. The latter has the best OST (seriously!) and the best ever piano playing scenes. I am also open to The Princess’ Man and The Moon Embracing The Sun.
Tree With Deep Roots is I believe still accessible via Viki
The only one of the dramas that Snow Flower lists that isn’t on (U.S.) Viki is Six Flying Dragons. I have a vague recollection that it was there last year(?), so maybe the U.S. license lapsed?
I’m not sure any drama can match NIF for its complexity and I don’t think I’m ready for NIF2 as yet but my suggestion would be a show that allows for different perspectives so we can learn from each other. Without the complexity, I think the discussion would not be as deep or extensive which I think is the big benefit of a Group Watch. I learned so much from other viewers in my 2nd watch of NIF.
Did you hear about the c drama You are my hero? I think it’s one of the best I’ve seen so far, with very likeable leads and also a nice plot and a healthy relationship. The second leads are also good, especially the third leads, I was totally charmed by them.
The drama is a bit long and there were too many special force moments in the second half, but because of the great acting and likeable leads it didn’t matter for me. It’s the second c drama I liked so far after The Rational Life and I did try a few, but they did not work for me.
If you have time just try the first episode and you may be hooked (I think it’s one of the best first episodes I’ve seen).
Despite knowing some Chinese, I usually don’t like C Dramas. The first C Drama that I liked was Unrequited Love 暗恋：橘生淮南。It’s nicely done. Recommended.
I do not want to gainsay other folks’ faves, but while I thought Bae Doona was terrific in Stranger, and generally thought show was an okay, B level mystery procedural, I found the initial hook as to why ML thinks and behaves the way he does utterly unnecessary & the kind of the typical gimmickry I tend to dislike in Korean dramas, and while I suppose the whodunit and why might be worth discussing, though that seemed pedestrian to me, in a group, along with the nuts and bolts of South Korean admin of justice system if folks find that interesting, for me, I just do not see it as being in the league with some of the other shows mentioned insofar as inspiring much discussion, nor did I find its characters especially at the heart of the mystery itself, being memorable. But that is just me, and I should admit to finding mysteries, procedural, etc. one of the lesser entertaining genres in K drama land.
I would say also I do tend to like the tension in shows like My Mister, Secret Love Affair, Dear My Friends in part because the dramatic payoff in each for such is substantial. And they are the kinds of shows one does not see coming from different parts of the world. And characters all these shows were quite memorable.
Insofar as pure genre entertainment goes Healer strikes me as having more to it, and while the logistics might be difficult because of episode length for pure comfort food watching, hard to beat Reply 1988.
Even more difficult logistically because of show’s unwieldy length would be the great classic Queen Seondeok which for me can only be rivaled among sageuks by Chuno for epic greatness. For folks who like sageuks, truly a classic, and given its age fortunate that it is still available on Viki.
If we are watching 2, I did like having one be a fluffy piece like Gummybear, so that watching 2 did not require the same amount of heavy lifting for both. And I did suggest to K perhaps for a 2nd watch a KFG Specials festival, which might allow different folks with different likes and interests to drop in and out and only require an hour per week for group and considerably less writing work —though scouting might cost K some time—for KFG.
I feel the same way about Stranger. Well acted but pretty boring on the whole.
Huh. I thought Stranger was excellent. Slow-paced, for sure, but that’s not something I have a problem with.
The who-dun-it? plot was not what drew me in, btw. I thought the characters were incredibly well-drawn and their life choices fascinating. The good guys, the bad guys and those living in the grey zone.
I wouldn’t put it in the same category as, say, My Mister. But that was slow moving also.
Yes I know I am in the minority vis a vis Stranger. I do remain adamant about the whys of ML’s affectless personality, but such a personality is the oldest trope in the genre going all the way back to Sherlock Holmes, and needs none of the KDrama penchant for ridiculous sci fi gimmickry as entire show set up. As for the rest I am jaded as I have been reading books of this genre for fifty years and seeing tv serials of this sort for even longer for which I have a distinct set of tastes. But I should say I was not overly wowed by the recent Beyond Evil either, which drew raves and awards universally. And watching stranger, while I really liked Bae Donna’s character, I just did not care one way or the other about anyone else, including, ML. I would not say it was bad or a waste of my time, but simply not a show I would choose to rewatch.
@BE, regarding Stranger, none of what I’m about to say will be news to you, but I find it useful as a baseline for discussing the psychopath trope in dramas.
If I recall correctly, the term “psychopath” no longer exists in the DSM of personality disorders. But as most of us use it, a pure psychopath is literally incapable of experiencing empathy. Importantly, that doesn’t mean they behave badly. (That would be a sociopath.)
For most us, however, the ability/tendency to experience empathy is not an all-or-nothing proposition.
In many professions, leaning toward the far side of the zero-empathy spectrum is a major plus for society. For example, which person would you want performing your brain surgery or landing the damaged airliner you’re trapped on: the coldly rational person or the one distracted by feelings about their loved ones at home or the fate of the people who might die if they fail that day?
For corporate executives, unfortunately, a tendency in the direction of psychopathy leads to the world we currently inhabit. Because it does help those people rise up through the ranks. Hence all these chaebol tropes.
All of which is background for my response to you. For me, the mechanics of why the central male protagonist (I usually reserve “ML” for OTP romance shows) in Stranger has no empathy is not significant. The only distinction relative to other shows is that he was born with it but then lost it as a child due to some made-up surgical procedure.
What matters in a good drama is how the psychopath behaves despite not feeling empathy, and in Stranger, how others respond to his flat affect. Unlike some psychopaths, he does not study and then mimic normal human behavior. As a result he comes off as an oddball, more like Star Trek’s Vulcans — less “human” yet far more moral and more focused than normal humans.
And, yes, like Sherlock Holmes, except without the arrogance. Because of that difference, it takes a while for colleagues and opponents to get the measure of this guy. They underestimate him because he is so totally not an alpha.
All of which was a plus for me, watching the show.
Well I did not view Shi Mok as either psychopath or sociopath, as he clearly is more than just an intellectual puzzle solver, having a distinct moral code; actually, he reminds me much more as someone on the ADHD spectrum, and every other investigator in the long history of investigations is for one reason or another seemingly plagued by lack of affect. K Drama is given to all these sci fi gimmicks to short cut characterization, and especially given that this is hardly broached again in either of the two series, I found it very irritating to start the show.
Insofar as his personality and how that affects his co workers, well, that too is a trope in which the male protagonist has one sort of tic or another that makes it hard for him to get along. Recently, on Prime, an American detective, who is actually too moral for his confreres, Bosch, ran through several seasons of very good procedural suspense drama, although those were not without their own flaws as well. It is a feature of the genre; some do it better than others.
I did not find Shi Mok very compelling at all, and the cheobol, government, prosecutor drama, well…one among many.
But as I say, everyone views shows differently. I saw Mare of Easttown at the same time I was watching Beyond Evil, suspense dramas with a tightly knit small locale as backdrop both, both featuring the overused and a bit tiresome, young woman victim of violence plot device, and thought Mare of Easttown was more captivating, and as good as Shin Ha Kyun was in the lead role, for which he won praises and awards, I did not think it was the same category of performance as that of Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown. Taste will be what taste will be. As I say, I have not really found this genre to be as compelling in K Drama land, although better than its scifi offerings, as slice of life, rom com, and sageuk genres, or that special of K Drama the genre mashup combos.
I’m pretty sure that was the stated premise of his character in Stranger — a known side-effect of the childhood surgery was that it eliminated his ability to experience empathy. Entirely.
To be clear, since we just finished Stranger S1 and 2, I’m not advocating it for the group watch. (Though not opposed either!) I just think most people would enjoy it. As long as they know it’s not a romance drama.
My wife and I thought Mare of Easttown was excellent.
Yes that was the hook pitch, and yet he is empathic enough to be a prosecutor on a moral mission, rather than someone who works out the most interesting way to torture kittens. As he is portrayed, he is more that he gets migraines and has no personality affect.
I thought Bae Doona’s character as a woman police person, who while, this too is a more contemporary trope of procedural drama, being constantly underestimated, how she plays against that, as well as having an emotional affection for Shi Mok, portrayed a much more interesting and dynamic character. But I also think having seen each in other vehicles, Bae Doona is a top of the shelf actor; Jo Seung Woo not really so much. And while show would not be my top choice, Bae Doona is worth watching. I did not pay much attention to Shin Hae Sun’s character in my first watch, but would give her special attention now, having seen her in a couple things that blew the lid off.
I would vote for Reply 1988. I’ve watched a few eps, they’re long and dense, it would be great to have a conversation about them.
The logistics might make it difficult, but I have not heard anyone ever say oh that Reply 1988, I don’t like it.
I’m good with all these. Of the ones mentioned in this post, I’ve seen the following and they are all excellent:
Healer – an easy watch and a delightful blend of fun OTP and action, whereas the others below are much more serious
My Mister – incredible show that I skipped at first because I thought it would be depressing. Instead I found it deeply uplifting.
Secret Love Affair – I’m with Natalia in that I found it very stressful to watch and almost let it go midway, despite recognizing how incredibly great it was — Kim Hee-ae in particular, but also the writing and visual production. My solution was to solicit spoiler hints from KFG on how badly it would turn out. Having finished the show, I can say the writers found a satisfying balance between realism and “justice served.” Excellent story and acting.
Stranger/Forest of Secrets (season one) – Great show. So well-acted and everything fits, right up till the final scene. Don’t worry about there being two seasons — the equally satisfying 2nd season is an entirely different story that takes place a few years later, although most of the S1 characters return. I watched it for Bae Doona but everyone in the cast was excellent.
Other shows to consider from my top faves thus far:
Be Melodramatic or Fantastic. Both are great, but I add them here in part because the stories address how k-dramas are made. Fantastic is more typical of other shows you’ve seen with a romantic OTP focus, whereas Be Melodramatic is a uniquely quirky and features an ensemble cast, and is thus arguably the better of the two (but for that same reason not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea).
Search: WWW – Excellent narrative featuring three strong women who shift between friendship and frenemy status as their professional alliances shift. The men in this show, including the romantic partners, are like the women in most shows you’ve seen — useful in many ways to propel the plot, but otherwise non-essential.
Coffee Prince – a super fun classic from 2007 that I think of as a trojan horse for South Koreans learning to think past homophobia. (No one else would frame it that way, so don’t let that put you off!) It’s a traditional OTP — no gay characters — but the ML-thinks-the-FL-is-a-guy trope goes to some interesting places, as Goon Yoo‘s ML grapples with his growing love for Yoon Eun-hye‘s FL.
Pinocchio – Great Lee Jong-suk and Park Shin-hye vehicle with several k-drama tropes that prove why tropes exist in the first place.
Beating Again – If you like Jung Kyung–ho, he hits this role straight out of the park. Such charisma!
Some Day or One Day – Excellent Taiwanese show that does a solid job with the paradoxes of time travel. For those who find shifting timelines and characters difficult to follow, a group-watch might be just the thing.
Her Private Life – fun romance (Kim Jae-wook and Park Min-young) that dives deep into the world of fangurling.
I heard this is good. I know nothing about it.
manukajoe – I think our tastes run similar, and I absolutely adored BM. It is a mix of smarts (Oh My Meta), off-beat humor, and deep emotional truths. My fave OST to date to boot.
3 female leads! Your kinda show. Quirky, both comedic and dramatic.
Some Day or One Day is amazing (after the rocky first few eps).
I’ve heard so too. But is it too “fluffy”? (Don’t ask me to define fluffy…)
No, not fluffy at all. A bit heavy, actually.
Not fluffy. It starts off a bit goofy in Taiwan style but quickly finds its feet. It’s about a woman whose lover has died and she thinks he is still alive and is searching for him.
Oh oh oh! So Secret Love Affair doesn’t end as bad as I was afraid? Maybe I should go back to it then. Thanks for the hint, merij1!
Like I said, it’s a balancing ending. The most stressful parts for me were midway through. Less so near the end.
I agree! Totally stressed out in the middle, I had to ask KFG about the ending to get through the Show. So well, done. Loved the ending.
The end of SLA is absolutely heroic.
Hi Natalia!!! SLA is so excellent and I had to have KFG give me how it ended because I was so stressed out about the Show. I agree with Merij1, balanced ending. This Show is so beautiful to me, I have not been able to do a rewatch, yet.
Thanks for this list, Merij1. I added a couple to my List!!! I love a Show that can do the paradox of time travel well as that can be so hard to do!
Love Jung Kyung–ho from Hospital Playlist so will be fun to him in something different. Thanks for the suggestion 🙂
BTW – love how you listed everything out in the format you did. Thank you ! So easy to read 🙂
And I voted for Search:WWW. I have seen that three times now because of KFG! The second rewatch was to be able to pay attention to the subtitles more because of everything going on and it was an early watch in my Kdrama viewing and the third watch was for pure enjoyment and no stress. Great music, too 🙂
Fangurl – my vote would be for either Secret Love Affair or Secret S1. Both are very good. My Mister would be highly successful as so many viewers truly loved it,
Mother is beautiful. It will make you cry hard.
Forgot to say what about ” You are beautiful” to balance out a serious pick? Super campy but sooo much fun!And great music as well.
I have to say “The Bond” don’t I !!!! I would highly recommend that one. Otherwise would love to watch My Mister and because I probably wouldn’t give it ago by myself Hikaru No Go as I am sure I have heard good things about it as well.
@Shahz – Just took a peek a the trailer and it really looks good. Bai Yu is in it so that is good. Is there a lot of comedy in it? I laughed all the way through the trailer. Let me know and thanks Shahz!
Hey phl1rxd. Sorry for the late reply . I didn’t get a notification and only saw this bu chance. So I wouldn’t say it has loads of humour in it. It is more Slice of Life so interspersed with ordinary day to day humour. I would honestly it is well worth your time. Jennifer and I are obsessed with it! All the cast are fab the first two episodes maybe a hard watch but you will be rooting for all of the main characters. And just a word of warning the first two episodes are child actors but they do such a sterling job which is rarity! And Bai Yu is amazing in it🥰. I think I have seen you on Patreon if so pop along to the Drama Exchange section and join in with us!! I would go as far as to say it is one of the best dramas this years even if I was to lump K dramas in the mix.
Thanks so much Shahz. I will move forward on this. I will check this out on the Drama Exchange which I have bookmarked. 😅🤣😂
Aw brilliant! Can’t wait to see you on there . As there is so much to discuss. I am on episode 31 and honestly have enjoyed every single minute! Feel free to drop a message on here or Drama Exchange as Jennifer and I never tire of talking about The Bond🤣
Hi!!! Yes, Shahz and I are totally obsessed with The Bond!!! Oh, we have lots of Spoilers on the Drama Exchange, but we tried to highlight them with Spoiler Warnings!!!! Yes! Join us on Drama Exchange 🙂
Everything Shahz said above 🙂
@phl1rxd – Soooooo good!!!
YES! Of course, you have to say The Bond!!!!! 🙂
Yes, you absolutely have to say The Bond!!!!
Off-topic, but I just had to share! YOU GUYS. The blog got a mention in @VOGUEIndia‘s article on kdramas! Ahhh!! 😱🤯 Thank you Vogue India! ❤️
Y’all can read the article here: https://www.vogue.in/culture-and-living/content/available-on-netflix-and-viki-vogue-ultimate-beginners-guide-to-korean-dramas
Ha ha wow!
I just read this Fangurl. That is really awesome!
Interesting choices in that article for which shows newbies might start with. Can’t say I agree with a number of them. But I’m so happy to see your plug!
Congratulations KFG – You deserve this and many more to come in the future. Keep on shining and take care as well.
Merij1 – Hope you are doing fine. I read the article and just to let you know that it is in Indian version of Vogue. This edition is mainly read by Indians and Indian diaspora so the drama choices are more catering to what is popular in India and what might appeal to them (also Indian entertainment is weak on stories over the last 3 decades and hence Indians in general are not exposed to complex stories but thankfully its changing now). I am an Indian myself living outside and many times I am surprised by some of the dramas that is so popular there (and my Indian cousins update me on this as well). For eg – I did not enjoy Fight for my Way/Secretary Kim but seems its very popular there. Hope this helps.
Hey PJ! I should’ve clarified that I absolutely agree with some of the recommendations in that article. I looked at quite a few of the other k-drama articles that link from it and have to say the lush visuals of Vogue magazine — regardless of the country — are well-suited to a discussion of gorgeous Korean actors and actresses!
@KFG: Well deserved!
My vote for Secret Love Affair, since that’s been on my list and group accountability would help me actually watch it!!
ooh or Mother, that’s also one I’ve considered but haven’t started since it looks heavier
Stranger is my fave kdrama so it has my vote. I have also watched Healer, Secret Love Affair, and My Mister, but not really keen to watch them again. The others I would consider.
Everything looks good (some I’ve watched, some I’m curious about) but I’m raring for Hikaru no Go. I love, love, love the manga it’s based on and when I checked the first two episodes of this drama adaptation, it felt fresh (they tweaked some parts) and the production seems pretty high quality. I hope this gets considered~
Surprised to see some love for Hikaru no Go! Do you like Haikyuu too?
Ooopsie. No I haven’t read Haikyuu. 🙈
I haven’t read it either but I love the anime. So a recommendation.
Wow! I didn’t manage to finish the previous one but I really would love to join one for Stranger/ Secret Forest, My Mister (love this show too much) and Secret Love Affair. Healer is great but I watched it too recently! But happy to join in the threads.
A suggestion from Jennifer, which I received via email, is C-drama The Bond, which several of you have been chatting about, over on Patreon. Just thought I’d put it here, in case it piques the interest of other folks too!
I would vote for My Mister, a show that you all say is great hoping a group watch will push me into watching it, just like NIF, which had also been on my watch list forever.
Also, Secret Love Affair that I have half watched and dropped because I couldn’t handle the stress. A group watch could help with that!
And finally, Stranger is also on my list.
But I am willing to try the other shows too!
Natalia — I finally got around to tackling My Mister a few weeks ago (as I think I’ve mentioned, for “serious” shows, I have to marshal my emotional reserves first), and whew, it was the real deal, from my perspective.
I like IU a lot, as a performer and (from what I can tell) a decent person, but I had not previously imagined that she had that depth or level of performance in her, having only seen her in Hotel del Luna (where she was fine, but it was a role calling for fairly limited range, it seemed to me). Her performance in My Mister really really got to me–not to slight the rest of the cast, which was also uniformly great (yes, even Kwon Nara, haters! I know the quirky actress thing was not universally loved, but I liked it).
I liked Kown Nara too. I always lump My Mister together with Misaeng, have you seen that one? My fave.
I haven’t seen that one, I’ve always kind of passed it by. But enough people have good things to say about it that I probably should give it a higher priority on the list.
It starts off a little depressing but picks up pretty quickly. After that it’s gripping. Good ending too. The scenes in Jordan are a bit irrelevant.
@manukjoe I really loved Misaeng as well and also lump that in with My Mister as firm favourite.
I recommend On the Verge of Insanity to you, a show I liked much more than Misaeng with a similar theme. My problem with Misaeng has to with its young ML, whom I find the most wooden actor in all K Dramaland, and now that I have seen him in 2 shows (Run On, the other), I will probably evade no matter how good the reviews in any future drama).
I can’t argue with that but I think it doesn’t matter in Misaeng.
Hey Trent, I know, you’re one of the reasons I think I have to watch My Mister (provided you’re the same Trent as in Patreon, the one I watch Bossam with – if not, my excuses!!). I can really believe IU is great in this. I thought she was well, very weak in Scarlet Heart, and I dropped Hotel del Luna (too much fantasy plus a ML that didn’t work for me), but then I watched The Producers, and even though it was a small show (that I enjoyed, by the way), I received so much warmth from her that I immediately listed her in my “to follow” lists.
Natalia — Yes, it’s me..I have kind of been going on a bit about My Mister lately, haven’t I? What can I say, I just found it really moving.
I’ve avoided Scarlet Heart, not only because I’ve heard IU is a bit iffy, but also because I’ve seen some complaining about some whiplashy plotting, and also frankly because I tense up, for lack of a better description, when there’s a significant age gap in the OTP between a younger FL and older ML (there’s 11 years between her and Lee Joon-gi, which okay, not insurmountable or a huge deal, but still).
(That last bit is the reason that at first I didn’t pay attention to My Mister for a long time–on cursory inspection, it looks like it’s probably an older dude/younger woman romance. But it’s really not, or at least not in any conventional sense; if it ends up on the group watch list, I’m sure the assembled worthies will expound on just what it is at great length).
(I also agree with you about the ML in Hotel del Luna, where I felt that Yeo Jin-goo was basically an inoffensive non-entity. He’s much much better in both Beyond Evil and The Crowned Clown, both of which I finished recently…)
I first became aware of IU from My Mister. As a rule, my interests in music are more earthy than pop, but her performance was so devastating in My Mister was so good, and was actually better on successive viewings–I have watched it 3 times–that I decided to check out her music career, which simply blows my mind. In a way her music reminds me a bit of the Beatles, that spirit of youth, the playfulness and yet seriousness with which she lovingly addresses her fanbase, among which I am one. I did not like Hotel del Luna, and would like to see her get more slice of life roles such as in My Mister.
Kwon Nara could be annoying in My Mister, but what can you say about someone who has to play a bad actor, not easy, and she so perfectly complements Gi Hoon, quite the dramedic couple. I like
I first encountered her via Hotel del Luna, and from there her pop career, which yes, is very impressive–I have a number of her songs in my playlist rotation–the young woman has loads of talent! Even so, encountering her through those two vectors is what allowed me to be so (wonderfully) surprised by the performance she delivered in MM.
That’s the thing,
spoilers for Kwon Nara in My Mister Yoo-ra and Gi-hoon make no damn sense, it’s like they’re vibing on a totally different frequency than everyone around them and somehow it works, and we can dimly sense that it works, and admire it. In my head canon, Gi-hoon manages to write his come-back work, resolve his issues–to some extent at least–and they eventually get back together…
Amazing given his two brothers, who are wonderful characters, but each so way out there as grown men, Dong Hoon has turned out to be such a heroic everyman.
Ooh I think Stranger would be a good one for sure! I would also be down for Healer or My Mister – all A+ dramas for me, and definitely lots of room for thought & discussion.
I kind of agree with your mom on the Disguiser potentially being too nationalistic. I think depending on where you grew up / the context in which you undersand the Chinese civil war (i.e., the Nationalist party v. Communist party), it can be kind of jarring to watch this, given that it is a spy drama centered on this conflict, and told from the perspective of one specific side. I always find it kind of whiplash-y to watch Chinese spy dramas for this reason and generally refrain, although I do hear that the Disguiser is almost as good as NIF!
The nationalistic slant is definitely a thing. Probably not as visceral to we Westerners, but to anyone who grew up in Taiwan vs the mainland, or whose parents/grandparents did…
I lived in Taiwan 30 or so years ago, when martial law had been lifted less than 5 years, the KMT (nationalist party) was still firmly in control, and the opposition DPP was still fighting (literally) for legitimacy and a seat at the table. From that perspective, one in which slogans decrying the “communist bandits” were painted in prominent characters on various walls everywhere, a mainland-produced drama casting the Nationalist party as villains… (to be fair, the KMT were villains to most of the native Taiwanese back post-’49, too, so).
It might be complicated, is what I’m saying, without stepping into the minefield of current cross-strait politics and relatives…
But maybe nobody cares! And it’s just a good drama!
Trent – I really appreciate your comment, Food for thought. I watched it and saw it was very heavy handed on that issue mostly at the end. Need i say that the acting was top notch in this, and Jin Dong stole the show imo.
tiptoeing very cautiously here again, but… it’s interesting that as Xi Jinping has changed the prevailing norms and rules to consolidate and perpetuate his own hold on power, and as the government has become increasingly authoritarian in a number of aspects over the last few years (mostly coinciding with Xi’s grip on the top position), it has seemed to lean even more into nationalism and patriotism as a way of bolstering its legitimacy and hold on the people.
I forget where I saw it recently (maybe a random twitter thread?), but people were talking about the early 2000s Jet Li wuxia film Hero , and how the ending (some felt — I haven’t seen the movie myself) was basically a thinly veiled propaganda boost for the current authoritarian government. I don’t have any idea how overt the linkage between the government’s film and culture bureau and the production companies/creative types that put out content is, but I can speculate that, at least on appropriate topics, there’s probably no downside and a whole lot of upside in emphasizing a nationalistic, regime-pleasing message…
(none of this should be taken as an argument over whether similar things happen elsewhere, or an assertion that other places are faultless, or anything like that, of course).
Trent – I understand. I am now going to re-watch Hero as I own a copy. It is quite a memorable martial arts film and the cinematography is stunning. My viewing lens was on the visual dynamics only, but I am curious so I will take a 2nd, closer look. Thank you.
If you feel like reporting back on your findings and conclusions, I will definitely be interested!
i just watched hero recently and was blown away by the sheer beauty of it. it’s probably the most creative and stunningly aesthetic work by zhang yimou, not to mention the depth of the message.
Wow, that’s high praise for the director of Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou, To Live, etc…
@Trent – Eda is spot on, as it is magnificent to look at which is why I missed the issue you described. It is a quick movie so if you ever get a chance to see it, do it for the aesthetics. It is a stellar work of art. I will get back to you on the other issue soon.
@Trent: I understand your thought process. My perspective on things as a student of history with an extensive and complex corporate experience is that everything has its pluses and minuses, nothing is either totally good or bad.
I thought Hero a tremendous movie, not least for its martial arts scenes and stunning cinematography. I can see the basis for the comment that the movie supports the state inasmuch as the hero gives up his life and aborts his mission to kill the Emperor as he grows to understand and support the Emperor’s goal to create a unified country.
I mean, stunning cinematography and butt-kickin’ martial arts set pieces are very much their own reward!
Sorry didn’t see your comment till now! (Great comment btw….)
Yes politics is definitely kind of a tricky thing, which I too feel the need to tiptoe around. I grew up in Canada, but with a strong Hong Kong influence (parents, grandparents), so probably enough said there.
But to everyone else- hey it’s just a drama, about a far away time and place in history, and I hear a very good one at that, so I will recommend it even though I am not going to watch it myself haha.
Hi there! Looks like clearing the cache helped, and I can actually comment now. Yay!
As noted on Twitter, my vote is for either Healer or Mother. If those don’t make it through this poll, I’d be up for a rewatch of either My Mister or Stranger. I love both dramas so so much.
So glad you’re able to comment now, RK!! ❤️ (If anyone encounters technical issues with the site, like accessing posts, or commenting, please let me know!!)
Secret Love Affair. A classic!
My 2 cents:
Yoo Ah In and Kim Hee Ae each in one of their most, if not the most, dramatic roles of both their entire prestigious careers. A romance that is entirely an adult romance, with adult and real stakes. Enough issues about what is transgressive, the nature of love, of art, of music, of what constitutes a life worth living, as good as anything I have seen concerning cheobol corruption, concerning elite privilege especially vis a vis university admission, again about love across generations, across the vast gap of class, about coming to terms with one’s own falling away from the way as someone middle aged, about real, not cliched, anxieties over lost youth, lost attractiveness. Spectacular OST. So much to chew on in this classic, and again above all a breathtakingly great master class in acting by two of Korea’s premier actors, twenty nine year old Yoo Ah In as a lower class son of a single working mother, naive nineteen year old self taught piano prodigy and genius, ass over teakettle with 40 year old (49 at the time of show) Kim Hee Ae’s all but ruined Hye Won, elegant, wealthy, corrupted, passionate married piano teacher destiny and cheobol fixer forced by his love to confront the sins of her life. Really. One of the great all time dramas of K Drama land. Music (art, passion, life lived to its most passionate truths, artistically) is King! And oh, the passionate embrace!
BE – I am with you on this. It has been a few years since I watched this and I could do for a re-watch. It would be a great welcome to YAI for anyone who is not familiar with him.
I love how when asked how he was so absolutely convincing in his piano playing scenes, Yoo Ah In responded by saying, the same way he was convincing in sageuk derring do: he was serious about acting.
I was actually thinking of Healer as well! My second vote would be for Stranger – I’ve been meaning to watch that for a long time.
Wow, you’ve queued up a murder’s row of great options.
I’ve actually seen three of them (My Mister, Healer, Dr. Romantic 2), but all three are good enough that I’d be cool with doing a group (re)watch. Even though I just finished My Mister a few weeks ago, it’s so powerful that yeah, no problem seeing it again…
I’ve had Secret Love Affair near the top of my “intense dramas that I need to gather the space and emotional fortitude before I start them” list for awhile now, so I would totally be into seeing that…the only downside is that if it’s as good as everyone says it is, I’ll inevitably want to start bingeing it.
And I’m kind of in your boat on Stranger. I’ve been meaning to see it, I just keep putting it off until the “right” time, whenever that is. I’d definitely be up for a group watch.
I don’t think I’ve heard of Mother before this, but now that I check it out and read the description…that looks like it could be pretty intense and dramatic. Tough to watch? Probably, but could be good, nevertheless.
I don’t tend to love sageuk, but I do have several on my list I want to see, so…if we wanted to go all epic again I’d put Six Flying Dragons out there, except it’s geo-restricted on viki.com in the U.S. You can get it via VPN if you connect through a UK server, though. Other sageuk on the list: Deep Rooted Tree (it was on the last couple polls and didn’t make the cut, obviously); The Princess’s Man (newly available on U.S. viki.com); Moon Embracing the Sun.
I recently watched Healer and My Mister, so won’t be voting for those, although they are very good. I’ve started Hikaru no Go and like it quite a bit. It is kind of a high school drama though, which might not appeal to everyone. I really need to finish My Girlfriend is a Gumiho from the last group watch. Looking forward to seeing what suggestions come up!
Hi Joe – The little kid in the first few episodes of this did a great job. I enjoyed every minute he was on my screen. Great work on Chu Ying’s character’s semi-transparency as well.
Yeah he did. And I was worried the replacement actor wouldn’t be able to keep it up, but luckily he was good too.
Ooh I’m excited! I think the dramas I’d be most looking forward to do a group watch would be My Mister and Stranger/Forest of Secrets. I’ve tried to dip my toes in both at different times but was not in the mood for either – maybe watching it with everyone is just what I need to be motivated to watch!