Announcement: Upcoming Group Watches!

Thanks to everyone who voted in the poll; 552 votes were cast by 289 voters, and Stranger / Secret Forest came out on top, with 119 votes! Looks like I will finally watch Stranger, after putting it off for so long, heh.

At the same time, some of you have let me know that the poll results were showing inaccurately for you, in terms of the shows that you voted for. I do want to make sure that the group watch features shows that you guys actually want to watch, so I’ve taken the various opinions raised in the comments into consideration, in mapping out a solution that I hope will satisfy most voters.

I did also promise Ele, that I’d use my Editor’s Choice to balance things out, if our winning show doesn’t feature a romance, because it’s true that we’re due for some romance, in our group watch.

I really hope you guys like the solution that I’ve come up with.

The solution

Essentially, I decided that we’d plan for two group watches instead of one, based on the results of this latest poll. Meaning to say, 1st place goes to People’s Choice 1, which will be directly followed by our 2nd place winner, which will be People’s Choice 2. I will then choose two dramas, as Editor’s Choice 1 and Editor’s Choice 2, to pair with these two winning shows.

In first place, we have Stranger, with 119 votes, followed by My Mister, with 114 votes. I’ve decided to pair Stranger with Secret Love Affair, which came in third in the poll with 98 votes, and I’ve decided to pair My Mister with Someday Or One Day, which came in fourth in the poll, with 75 votes.

This way, we’ll get to discuss our two most popular shows in the poll, on Wednesdays, and since both of these aren’t romances (because Stranger is not a romance and it’s debatable whether My Mister features a romance), we’ll get to discuss shows which do feature romances, on Saturdays.

In the sections below, I outline for each show, the schedule, availability and reasons to watch. If you know of other streaming sources that I haven’t mentioned, or if you’re passionate about the shows and want to help stir up some excitement for them to draw in more group watchers, feel free to share in the comments below!

I hope that this way, everyone will be able to find at least one group watch that you’d like to join. Of course, join all of ’em, if you’d like – that’s what I’ll be doing. 😉

Geo-restrictions

Remember that you can always use Opera’s free, built-in, unlimited VPN to get around geo-restrictions. A tutorial on that can be found here, and an article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here. You can also sign up for a free account with ProtonMail. All their users get access to their VPN service for free.

Fair warning that this may not work for all streaming platforms, as some of you have shared that only paid VPN services work with platforms like Viu.

*PEOPLE’S CHOICE 1*

Group Watch 1: Stranger / Secret Forest

Schedule: Wednesdays, starting 13 October 2021. Posts will go live at 8:00am, my time (GMT+8)

Commitment: 16 episodes. 2 eps per week = 8 weeks.

In other words: We will discuss E1&2 next Wednesday, 13 October 2021.

Availability: Available for free on iQIYI. Also available on Netflix.

Why you should watch:

I’ve heard that this one boasts great acting, writing and directing, and is generally really quite excellent. I’ve also heard that Show stays consistent through to the end, ie, there’s no slump in the middle, and neither does Show fizzle out towards the end. I’m told that Jo Seung Woo and Bae Doo Na are great in this.

If you’ve already seen this show, it’d be great if you could help me out in the comments by explaining a little more, of why this show is more than worth our drama hours.

Trailer:

Stranger / Secret Forest Open Threads:

I’ll be linking the Open Threads here, for easy reference. You’ll also be able to find the Open Thread links on my Full List page.

E1&2 | E3&4 | E5&6 | E7&8 | E9&10 | E11&12 | E13&14 | E15&16

*EDITOR’S CHOICE 1*

Group Watch 1: Secret Love Affair

Schedule: Saturdays, starting 16 October 2021. Posts will go live at 8:00am, my time (GMT+8)

Commitment: 16 episodes. 2 eps per week = 8 weeks.

In other words: We will discuss E1&2 next Saturday, 16 October 2021.

Availability: Available for free on Viki.

Why you should watch: 

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, while being thoroughly compelling. Both Kim Hee Ae and Yoo Ah In are excellent in this, and Yoo Ah In is particularly impressive, in that he literally learned to play piano, for his scenes in this show. 🤯

Secret Love Affair review is here.

Trailer:

Secret Love Affair Open Threads:

I’ll be linking the Open Threads here, for easy reference. You’ll also be able to find the Open Thread links on my Full List page.

E1&2 | E3&4 | E5&6 | E7&8 | E9&10 | E11&12 | E13&14 | E15&16

*PEOPLE’S CHOICE 2*

Group Watch 2: My Mister

Schedule: AFTER the group watch for Stranger / Secret Forest concludes. Wednesdays, starting 8 December 2021. Posts will go live at 8:00am, my time (GMT+8)

Commitment: 16 episodes. 2 eps per week = 8 weeks.

In other words: We will discuss E1&2 on Wednesday, 8 December 2021, after we finish our watch of Stranger / Secret Forest.

Availability: Available for free on iQIYI and Viki. Also available on Netflix.

Why you should watch: 

A legit masterpiece that I think all drama fans ought to check out, at least once. It’s thoughtful, gritty, beautiful, dark (yet still warm) and haunting, and celebrates so well, what it means to connect as humans. Lee Sun Gyun and IU are wonderfully restrained yet nuanced in this. Also, the OST is ethereal and hauntingly beautiful.

My Mister review is here.

Trailer:

My Mister Open Threads:

I’ll make another announcement when we’re about to start on this group watch, and I’ll link the Open Thread posts there, as well as on the Full List page.

*EDITOR’S CHOICE 2*

Group Watch 2: Someday Or One Day [Taiwan]

Schedule: AFTER the group watch for Secret Love Affair concludes. Saturdays, starting 11 December 2021. Posts will go live at 8:00am, my time (GMT+8)

Commitment: 13 episodes. 2 eps per week = 7 weeks.*

* I know I said in my Poll post, that we’d do 1 ep a week of this. I.. don’t know where my brain was at, sorry! 🙈 2 eps a week works much better, and the episode length is comparable to the other kdramas we’ll be covering in this set of group watches, so it’s not an issue.

In other words: We will discuss E1&2 on Saturday, 11 December 2021, after we finish our watch of Secret Love Affair.

Availability: Available for free on Viki.

Why you should watch: 

I loved this one so much, when I watched it, and it turned out to be my drama of the year, in 2020. I found it really well-written, well-acted and well-executed, while remaining quintessentially Taiwanese. I loved that it managed to make me think and feel, at the same time, consistently. I personally think it’s best to go in as blind as possible with this one, so just know that our story has a fantasy twist, and it’s a romance.

Someday Or One Day review is here.

Trailer:

Someday Or One Day Open Threads:

I’ll make another announcement when we’re about to start on this group watch, and I’ll link the Open Thread posts there, as well as on the Full List page.

In closing

..That’s about it, really! Now that we’ve got our group watch shows selected, please go forth and enjoy your first couple of episodes – and remember to tune in for the Open Thread posts, going live next week! ❤️

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Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
8 days ago

Hello! Popping up from a long silence to say hi (I’ve been having a super busy, trying time at work). What a meaty and thought provoking line up of shows you’ve chosen! I loved Someday or One Day, so might rewatch with the group watch. Between Stranger, SLA and My Mister I suspected Stranger would be less emotionally fraught. I’m looking for an easy watch now so I’ve started Stranger, will be all ready for your first post on Wed!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Hi Elaine – so sorry work is a bear right now. I think you may really like Stranger.

BE
BE
9 days ago

Some lens suggestions for episode one SLA.

  1. Take the time to appreaciate the camera work and film editing. Show has spectacular interior compositions, especially, one after another. Really high level work. One wishes to see a collection of the compositions on the walls of a really excellent gallery. And the homey grittiness of the lower class settings are a wonderful chiaroscuro to the ultra elegant finish taking place in the upscale locations. Shots are often quite simple, and always arresting. Show is about music, but music could be considered a stand in for art in general. Show is visually arresting.
  2. Go to one of those sites where you can see the list of characters along with photos. First episode is daunting because you meet as many characters as you might in the opening chapters of a 19th Century Russian novel. It really helps to figure out who is whom, K, I must say NIF has nothing on SLA in terms of the work you have ahead of you with Episode one.
  3. Like the cinematic compositions, pay attention to the clothing people are wearing. Fashion designer does a bang up job using clothing to enhance characterization with tells about style and class, not to mention pecking orders among the characters.
  4. Try to begin to get at the relationships, hierarchies, among the characters, and how through this very narrow slice of life there are some highly unlikely, but coincidental connections leading to an uncanny chain of events all closing out at Sun Jae coming to audition before Hye Won as a favor to her husband. Show is non stop presenting character, and does so through a variety of strategies, and great understated, shifting perspectives that accumulate.
  5. Remember Sun Jae is 19 years old.

Anyway I hope these lens tips help a viewer. The first couple times I watched show I was a bit impatient in Episode one because I was a bit overwhelmed by all the information in that episode, and so did not pay as close attention to it all as I might have. But it is an excellent introductory chapter to this story, and there is much to take delight in.

Episode 2, all I can say about that lens: the same as above, and just dig it.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  BE

Great comment BE!

Geo
Geo
9 days ago

With SLA scheduled for a group watch, i found an interesting article in Forbes magazine about Noona romances in the Kdrama world. One point made by the magazine is that 90% of the writers are women which seems very high and I’m not even convinced yet is accurate. Another point made is that there is no reluctance to pair an older actress with a younger ML even if the show/film calls for same ages or older MLs. Quite the difference from Hollywood.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/joanmacdonald/2020/04/01/why-older-actresses-are-often-cast-with-younger-actors-in-korean-dramas/?sh=4e4130ef445e

merij1
merij1
9 days ago
Reply to  Geo

Joan MacDonald is a regular reviewer of k-drama shows and trends, so I imagine she knows what she’s talking about. It was also my impression that most of the Korean romance shows were written by women but directed by men.

In any case, it certainly makes sense that male writers would be more likely to picture the ML with a younger FL, and visa versa for female writers.

My wife will only rarely warm up to a show with an older man and a younger woman. Or a not-so-good looking actor paired with a beautiful actress. Since I prefer older actresses, that works out well for our household viewing preferences!

Kay
Kay
10 days ago

Great to see Someday or One Day coming up in December. I’ll definitely be tuning in for it. There should be plenty to talk about with that one! hehe

Kay
Kay
9 days ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I think this is the kind of drama where you could watch it 20 times and discover something new each time, lol 😂😂😂

wonhwa
wonhwa
10 days ago

Yay, Stranger! Such a smartly written show, and one that uses the plot structure of a crime show to explore much bigger questions about how the systems humans create can become self-sustaining monsters and how difficult it can be for even well meaning people to dismantle them. Also, I could watch Bae Doo Na and Jo Seung Woo’s characters just hang out together for hours and be perfectly happy.

be
be
12 days ago

Hi all. I really appreciate this solution. For me, it means each set will have one choice I am really into. In fact, my two all time favorite contemporary K Dramas, SLA & MM. So thanks so much K.

I will likely be out of it at the time of the first post on SLA, but I believe there is a lot of lens adjusting I can bring to the table vis a vis especially episode one, so my plan will be to watch the first couple episodes this weekend, and if it is okay with KFG, I will email her my post for the first week, albeit I have serious doubts I will be able, alas, to put in a back and forth with folk, though by midweek the next week I should be able to get on line and read commentary.

JJ
JJ
11 days ago
Reply to  be

Looking forward to your commentary, BE 🙂

j3ffc
j3ffc
11 days ago
Reply to  be

BE – hope all goes well. Take care.

Trent
11 days ago
Reply to  be

@BE Will be looking forward to your SLA commentary. Wish you best of luck and hope you’re back up and running soonest.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
8 days ago
Reply to  be

Please be safe and sending you positive vibes! 😘 I am also looking forward to your SLA comments.

Sara
12 days ago

Yay! I am so excited to finally join the group watch. I think I’ll watch all of them except SLA. I didn’t get on with SLA last time I watched it, though I admit I didn’t watch the last few episodes. Nothing really wrong with the show, I think I just have a strong personal bias against younger man older woman loves tories, which made it a hard watch for me.

Stranger might be my fave drama. For me, the appeal of Stranger is all about the characters, in particular the two leads. As others have mentioned, it’s a slow burn. You will either find the male lead boring or fascinating, and if you find him boring you will probably have a tough time with the show.

BE
BE
9 days ago
Reply to  Sara

I think the age gap is treated differently in SLA than in other K Dramas. If anything because of show’s realism, the relationship is even more transgressive. They are twenty years apart, and yet that may not even be the most transgressive element of their relationship. But viewing lens: show is asking some basic thematic questions about the banal, even deadly, demands of convention and the vital if transgressive nature of art, to explore what it means to live a life worth living.

Maria
Maria
9 days ago
Reply to  Sara

I used to feel the same way about SLA. I actually dropped the show at first, but then decided to give it a second go after reading glowing reviews. My opinion at the time was that age difference matters, as it should. After watching SLA and My Mister, my attitude has changed: I still think that age matters in real life, but I now believe that it should not

eda harris
eda harris
12 days ago

all is good in the asian dramas land, all is under control in the domain of fangirl, all is fixed in the club of faithful followers. kudos and i bow my head again.

Natalia
Natalia
12 days ago

YES! I will finally get to finish SLA! I have quit watching somewhere in the show’s middle, because as others have mentioned, watching this is so taxing emotionally. I think a group watch will help me relieve the stress!
The other 3, I have not watched, all 3 are on my watching list, now I only have to find time enough to watch them!

JJ
JJ
11 days ago
Reply to  Natalia

@Natalia – I am with you even though I did finish SLA while being totally stressed out. Will be nice to do a rewatch with others to see their point of views as I think there is so much to discuss 🙂

Timescout
12 days ago

I’ve actually watched all of these group watch dramas. Forest of Secrets/Stranger and Secret Love Affair are two of my all time faves and I’m kinda tempted to rewatch both to see if I still love them as much as I did back in the day. 🙂

Like others have already mentioned, FoS may need some viewing lens adjustments to be made as it IS pretty slow paced and more character driven than most crime shows tend to be. Annnnd there is no romance, not even a whiff of it. Plenty of camaraderie and teamwork though, which I personally prefer over anything romantic anway.

SLA is a masterpiece but gosh, is it emotionally taxing. I was farely obsessed with it and could.not.stop constantly thinking about it. I watched most of the episodes at least twice and wrote several posts too as I just had to air my “feels” somewhere. 😀 I actually read through the posts earlier today and it all came back in a rush, ha. This is such an intelligent, adult drama. Might be the best by PD Pan Ahn Seok/ writer Jung Sung Joo (though I probably like Heard It Through the Grapevine a tad more because it’s a satire and rather hilarious in places).

KS
KS
12 days ago

Hi,
Thank you for choosing my favorite two dramas, namely My Mister & SLA for the open discussion. I recently finished watching SLA and I’m in love with it. Eagerly waiting to share my views and understand others’ opinions of this masterpiece. It’s for the first time I’m participating in an open thread.

merij1
merij1
12 days ago

Wow. So many shows and so many that are heavy! lol

As to Stranger, it’s a really great show, but I agree with Shahz that you may need to adjust your viewing lens.

This is not a high-drama affair built around a series of jaw-dropping revelations in the crime-solving storyline. Much like its lead male protagonist, the show is a slow-burn. Watch it for the individual character studies and the evolving relationships between characters.

merij1
merij1
12 days ago
Reply to  merij1

Another lens adjustment to consider:

None of these shows are what we typically think of as k-drama romance. Healer would have been, but these others are far more complex and less happy-go-lucky.

The relationship between the ML and FL in My Mister is transcendent, a deeply inspiring and loving relationship. But not romantic in the boy-girl sense, or at least not romantic in both directions. (The FL is quite a bit younger than the ML, so that’s actually a good thing.)

The romance in Secret Love Affair is steamy! But it takes place within a difficult context that makes a happy ending hard to imagine, especially midway through the show. (Mild spoiler ahead, however I truly believe it’s something that you’ll prefer to know in advance: The ending is somewhat open-ended. I personally felt optimistic and highly satisfied with the the resolution they give us, but it’s not typical, relative to how other romance shows conclude. Much more realistic and true to the arc of the story.)

The resolution of the romantic storyline(s) in Someday or One Day is also more realistic than you might expect, especially considering that it takes place with a time-travel fantasy. Again, I found the resolution highly satisfying and hopeful, but be forewarned that this is not a simple story along the lines of “boy-meets-girl and after overcoming a few obstacles they end up happily ever-after.”

In short, these are serious shows for adults. The palette of emotions you’ll experience are both more subtle and more complex than you encounter in a typical TV show. Such a great list!

BE
BE
9 days ago
Reply to  merij1

Viewing lens SLA. I think it is a mistake to think of the relationship between two leads as something that will or will not work out. And in fact, I believe the ending is both transcendent and heroic, but that having only slightly to do with the fate of the couple. A much better viewing lens, even given the suspense and drama concerning them as a couple, is to see show as a character study of each during the time of the show when they connect. This is a grown up love story, not a fairy tale, and what matters in it are our two leads, how they develop and grow over the course of the series.

merij1
merij1
9 days ago
Reply to  BE

I agree.

Even though it is a grown-up love story, the male lead is only 20 years old. Hence the ambiguity. He can’t help but be a dramatically different person in a few years.

My main point was to address the anxiety that kept some of us from finishing the show. Midway through, it feels like it will be an extremely depressing ending. Yet in fact it is, as you say, transcendent. As long as you don’t watch primarily with a romance lens.

Because, like you, I believe it is transcendent regardless of the OTP resolution down the road. The one character’s decisions take those possible outcomes into account and remain appropriate, regardless.

But to say more, we risk wandering overly far into spoiler territory!

Ele Nash
12 days ago

Brilliant, kfangurl! I will watch Secret Love Affair and then Someday or One Day along with you. Ah, romance ♥ I do need my fix 😊
I will also comment when you post on Stranger and then My Mister. Having seen both those shows and pretty recently, I don’t think I’m emotionally ready to watch them again so soon! But I will still enjoy commenting and reading your thoughts and everyone else’s. Stranger is a tricky show and there are definite aspects I was less than keen on but it is very, very good – and as for My Mister, as you say, a legit masterpiece 😍

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
12 days ago

It’s funny because I didn’t even consider You’re Beautiful in the previous two polls but now that it hasn’t been mentioned, I was curious and ended up watching and loving it.

I’ll probably be lurking and reading posts only for the first round (unless the discussions change my mind). I like Stranger well enough but I don’t understand the overwhelming love for it (is it like Healer where international fans like it more than domestic fans?).

But the second round, I’m looking forward to because both My Mister and Someday or One Day are on my list (and I have yet to get the motivation to start them).

Yay for group watches!

j3ffc
12 days ago

A wise decision, indeed, KFG, that both honors the votes cast and allows some future planning. I will get right to work!

Three of these are new to me but all were on my neverending watch list. Oh, wait, make that four. For a second I thought that I had already seen “Someday or One Day”, but I was confusing me for somebody else.

Shahz
Shahz
13 days ago

KFG you are wise woman indeed! Great solution that I believe meets most of our needs.

And yay a watchalong of SLA and My Mister!! Perfect, it feels Christmas has come early.

So I have watched Stranger recently as I didn’t think it would ever get picked for a watchalong and as it quite recent I will give it a miss but in terms of helping others. I would say show deals with political machinations of Law and Order and big business in Korea. And does a fantastic job in fleshing out inter personal relationships of work colleagues.

The leads have this deep mutual respect and friendship going on. In term of words of warning do not go in expecting huge plots and twists and roller coaster of emotions this isn’t Beyond Evil it is its much reliable older Uncle, full of interesting stories but tells it them at his own pace without embellishment. I found it fascinating but I can see people dropping if they are expecting a Makjang drama.

MC
MC
13 days ago

Oh man! This is both the best and the worst for me. Best because you actually picked all the 3 shoes I voted for (yes! Exactly all 3 of my votes! Did you read my mind?!) plus My Mister which is my all time favourite show and I would love to rewatch it. Your choices were all so good!

Bad because now I need to figure out how to commit to 4 drama episodes a week?! 😱 Problems problems…

Anyway thanks Fangirl for working out a very good solution! Gonna be a great couple of drama months ahead with high quality shows!

JJ
JJ
13 days ago

Fantastic Solution, KFG!!! Thank you so very much 🙂 Looking forward to all of them since I have seen 2 and waiting to watch 2!

manukajoe
manukajoe
13 days ago

Thanks for this KFG. Hmm such a lot to digest. Have to decide whether I can do 2 shows each week or whether I’ll just pick one …

Trent
13 days ago

Ah, I love your solution, speaking just for myself, since there are two I’ve seen and two I haven’t; I’m looking forward to the ones I haven’t seen, and the ones I have are high quality.

Really looking forward to some high-power discussion on these…seeing what the Stranger hype is all about…seeing if SLA lives up to the universal praise it gets…wallowing once again in the My Mister feels…hopefully figuring out all the wrinkles of just what is happening in Someday or One Day with the help of the Hive Brain.

Whew. Gotta clear some space on my drama plate, for sure. Let’s go!

JJ
JJ
13 days ago
Reply to  Trent

Trust me, Trent. SLA is pretty awesome and its not my kind of drama and I made it through and STILL cant talk about it because it evoked so much….

MC
MC
13 days ago
Reply to  Trent

I’m with you Trent! I want to relive the feels of My Mister, see the hype around SLA and Stranger and for me, experience the wonder of SOOD (since Fangirl loves it so much I’m piqued!) Good luck to us for having time to watch!

Trent
11 days ago
Reply to  MC

I don’t love SOOD as much as KFG and others do (for me, I think the issue is largely a bit too much high school angst in the middle episodes for my personal taste, but I look forward to reassessing that view!), but I do give it full marks for storytelling ambition and intricacy of plotting, and also I personally got a lot of nostalgic feels from the setting, because it really replicates the “Taiwan of 2-3 decades ago” feeling, which is when I was living there.

Actually quite looking forward to seeing it through the lens of others who love it and can also contribute to talking through its twists and mysteries (which is a very significant element of the show).