If you didn’t already know, we’ve got an unexpected special series to kick off the new year! Guests posts, by patrons on Patreon, sharing their personal drama stories, mostly around the topic of “How did you get into dramas?” and “What does your first drama mean to you?” – with flexibility to go off on personal tangents, of course. 😁 Feel free to share your stories too, in the comments!
This guest series is MC‘s brainchild (thanks MC! 😘), and you can read more details, and check out her inaugural post, here.
After today’s post, there will be seven more guest posts by mystery guest writers, whose identities will be revealed when their various posts go live. Woot! 🥳
Today’s post is brought to you by Sean, whom, as you might remember from his year-end post, manages to watch an absolutely incredible number of dramas – particularly for someone who manages to live as full a life, outside of drama-watching, as he does. Sean is a true time-bending marvel. 🤩
You might also like to check out Sean’s blog, where he writes about management and leadership!
I hope you guys enjoy!
~ KFG ❤️
Hello, from the Home of the Black Swan!
As some of you know, I do watch more dramas than I should. I have a wide ranging taste in what I watch, but there are those shows I generally won’t watch either. When it comes to kdramas, I watch all the different formats i.e. mini-series (typically 16 episodes), dailies (Monday – Friday: generally 80 – 120 episodes), weekenders (typically 50 episodes), and web-series.
The tropes or plot devices that really bug me include: the (white) truck of doom, the interfering and badly timed mobile phone call and the male lead (ML) that takes at least two episodes to respond to the female lead (FL)’s question or suggestion 🤣 (that’s probably because it reminds me of myself, and it’s the sort of behaviour that tends to get me into a bit of trouble at home 😱).
Anyway, time to read on…
My Gateway Drama – Falling For Innocence (Beating Again)
So, back in 2016, I just happened to be filling in as the CEO of Western Australia’s smallest local government – the Shire of Sandstone. It’s in, what we call, the outback of Australia and no less than seven – eight hours driving time from home (although I can make the journey in a lot less time). It is, despite its remoteness, in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by gold deposits as far as the eye can see and extremely hot in summer (can reach 53C or 127F).
Well, seeing as I had nothing better to do re my evenings, I kept trawling through Netflix looking for something to watch. I kept coming back to whether I should take a stab at kdramas or not.
In the end my curiosity won out and I clicked on Beating Again starring the wonderful Jung Kyung Ho and the delightful Kim So Yeon. Well, I was drawn in straight away.
We have a CEO with a stone cold heart that becomes the recipient of a heart transplant. Not long after he receives his donor heart, he starts to become human, taking on the attributes of the heart’s original “owner.”
Now, of course I had heard of and read about this phenomenon previously, but kdramaland took the premise to a whole new level. The use of another’s heart to make the lead more human is littered throughout kdramaland, we just haven’t had such a story for several years.
What compelled me to keep going with my watch, was the corporate side of the drama, something that I am obviously quite used to from a professional perspective. However, there was one scene that really got to me and that was where the chairman slapped Kim So Yeon. Now, the way this scene was done, it was quite realistic and perhaps, to this day still remains the most impactful level of work abuse I have seen on the small screen.
I was staggered that such a scene would be depicted as if this was common practice and the recipient had to live with it, feeling disgraced, for all the wrong reasons. As a CEO, I would not have put up with this behaviour from the chair and certainly would have acted on it (in fact, I have, where board members have abused their power).
After Beating Again, I went straight into Goong and then Dong Yi. I knew then, I was on a roll. I had also found something to stop me from being a workaholic; watching all hours of the day and night, instead of working!!!
My Favourite Dramas – The Top 10
Here is my eternal Top 10, in no particular order, other than to say, except for the first one listed below is my all-time Number 1. 😉
My Mister (My Ahjussi)
I can’t recall watching anything like My Mister before, and it is in my top three shows of all time, for any country. My Mister is currently part of the group watch, and although I am not re-watching it with the group, I am enjoying everyone’s wonderful comments and observations.
Quite simply, My Mister is the most amazing story with phenomenal direction and performances.
At its heart, there are two characters who give meaning to their lives through their growing understanding of one another, in what is painted as a bleak and dreary existence, but one which in fact, I find beyond interesting.
In fact, after the half way mark I had to hold my breath and watch Show through threaded fingers in case Writer-nim blew it! Sometimes, I had to delay watching episodes and then make myself do a countdown before pressing the play button.
But why did Show resonate so much? I used to be where Dong Hoon, our male lead, is, from a work perspective. Well respected, with forthright values, and kept in check by the person at the top. However, once I broke free, I never looked back and made sure I would never treat those who worked for me like I had been treated. 😊
Hot Stove League
I was totally mesmerised with the performances in this show. Here, we have not just a sports drama, but a drama that goes to the heart of what it takes to be a successful enterprise, contrasted against the traditional methods of business often depicted in most kdramas and cdramas.
I know what it means to bring an organisation back from the dead, and Nam Goong Min’s character does exactly that, in spades.
Nam Goong Min’s performance is superb along with Park Eun Bin (who was fabulous in The King’s Affection, but I dropped this show after episode 7). Of course, Oh Jung Se is in this show too, where he turns in a different performance yet again. If there was ever a Hot Stove League 2, I will be there, sitting in the front row, eagerly waiting to lap it all up. I won’t say slurp it up, because that’s what kfangurl does re dramas that tickle her fancy.
I see Nam Goong Min is lined up to do One Thousand Dollar Lawyer and Doctor Prisoner 2 (I can’t imagine what the premise will be here, but it should be awesome).
Money Flower was my favourite drama on the 2017/18 cusp.
What more can I say about Mr Chuno! Jang Hyuk plays the ultimate puppet master in this awesome show. He is always one step ahead of his detractors. He uses sophisticated methods to track, record and keep information on his adopted family’s transgressions.
Of course, I like Park Se Young too. She is adept at playing both despicable characters and vulnerable ones. In Money Flower, she finds out the hard way what it takes to survive in a family controlled by its own fear of losing influence over future events. [SPOILER] All the while, she comes to realise that although her true love put her into an arranged marriage, he was trying to protect at the same time. [END SPOILER]
I suppose on a certain level, show taps into my love of spy thrillers. Apart from that, it also has the delightful Lee Mi Sook. She is so adept at playing any role, but I thought she was devilishly manipulative in Money Flower. Contrast this to her hilarious portrayal along with Park Ji Young (currently in The Red Sleeve) as the bickering in-laws/friends chasing the local chef/restaurateur.
So, what are my favourite Jang Hyuk dramas? They are: My Country: The New Age, Voice, A Beautiful Mind (A very different role here) and Fated To Love You (He and Jang Na Ra are great together). Then there is his 2007 drama: Thank You, where he goes to Blue Island to fulfill his deceased girlfriend’s last wish.
Bpoop Phaeh Saniwaat (Love Destiny)
Love Destiny is not just an extraordinary Thai drama, but one of the best dramas out there. It’s classified as a lakorn, but it’s not what would be your typical equivalent kdrama makjang on steroids with lots of abusive slapping, furniture throwing and shouting. In its simplest form, a lakorn is a Thai drama that is shown in primetime. So, not all Thai dramas are lakorns, and some are very good, I promise.
Love Destiny is a time travelling, body swapping, supernatural drama set at the time of great change in Thailand’s history – the opening up to the colonial west.
It is a historical and cultural feast. We get to see not only how the Thais lived their lives at that time in great detail, but also a depiction of history that is extremely accurate. In fact, I was trawling though a lot of historical information regarding that period at the same time, and this drama got it right – even down to events that happened in the local markets that the fated OTP visited and became part of.
The other point of interest, is that when it was shown the first time, it was streamed into Thailand’s prisons so that the inmates could get to learn about Thailand’s past; it was considered that good. Now they are making the movie of the drama in 2022, using the same actors.
Now of course, it stars Thailand’s iconic actress, Bella as the time travelling, body swapping, supernaturally possessed archaeologist. Some would argue there are many iconic Thai actresses, but like Seo Hyun Jin, the screen absolutely loves her. I have seen Bella in quite a few shows – some very good and others, well, let’s just say, she should have been in something better. 😱
BG: Personal Bodyguard
The Japanese produce shows (jdoramas) on every subject imaginable! BG is my favourite jdorama – and there are many favourites.
It stars Takuya Kimura, a Japanese icon. He is also known as the “King of Ratings,” as he has starred in five of the top ten highest rating Japanese shows of all time. So, I am always more than happy to watch any show or movie he is in (he is also the lead voice actor in Howl’s Moving Castle).
The brief synopsis of BG is that Shimazaki Akira is divorced and lives with his teenage son. He used to work as a personal bodyguard but had since left the industry after an accident occurred in which his soccer superstar client was injured.
He now works as a security guard at a construction site. The private security company he works for is setting up a new bodyguard division. Without telling his manager about the past, Akira starts working as a novice bodyguard.
Just so you know, one of my favourite genres are shows involving bodyguards. So, this show may not be for you. It’s also a favourite theme re Thai dramas.
A couple of notable of dramas are: The Crown Princess, Girl Next Room: Security Love. It’s also a constant theme in cdramas as well. Speaking of which, the cdrama I am hooked on at the moment, devouring each episode as soon as it drops, is: The Lion’s Secret. This show is a combination of the contract marriage theme and bodyguard genre all rolled into one.
Arang and the Magistrate
Much has been written on this blog about Arang and Shin Min Ah. Needless to say, it is a wonderful show. My only criticism was the ending, but you know, in kdramas, you get that.
Hwang Bo Ra was also superb as the hapless shaman/psychic/medium, and she nearly stole the show for me. She has undertaken some very good roles since, and a couple of ordinary ones too.
I am a great fan of Shin Min Ah and I think she is a very astute actress who has made sure she can transition into roles that will ensure her acting future until the end of days.
I thought she was terrific in Chief of Staff 1 and 2 as the hard working young politician that actually had a clue about what was going on. If you want to know what it is like working in the political arena, apart from watching the West Wing, this show gives you quite a good idea. I have worked with, and clashed with, many a chief of staff, so I do have a pretty good understanding re the accuracy of the dynamics here. 😎
One thing I will say overall, is that I have a biased view when it comes to the Korean, Chinese and Japanese actresses. They seem to me to be, generally, much better than their male counterparts. Perhaps this is because of the typical roles that the male actors are cast in. However, I feel the actresses exhibit far more range, are more nuanced, and are more adept at different roles.
The one thing that kdramaland actresses can’t do better is running. The guys have much better techniques. 😂🤣😂
The Story of Minglan
Minglan is the first of my two all time favourite cdramas.
What a story, what a production: a husband and wife team who are so committed to the drama industry that they produced and worked in this very fine drama. Show is long at 72 episodes and we won’t see anything this long again as the Chinese government has now mandated that dramas are capped at 30 – 40 episodes.
Minglan herself is intelligent, decisive, wise beyond her years and knows how to run a household at an extremely young age. But as we know, in ancient times, regardless of your age, if you had a role to perform, you were expected to carry out your duties without a hiccup.
No matter what is thrown at her, Minglan comes out the other side fully intact, much to the chagrin of the other women in her extended family. Show itself uses beautiful language with the poems and songs of the great Chinese poet Li Qingzhao forming the basis of much of its context, and is the basis of the show’s theme songs.
As kfangurl has also commented in her review of Minglan, the relationship between Minglan and her grandma is very special and its hard not to hang off every word they say to one another.
Li Qingzhao lived at the same time that Minglan is set and penned the following:
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
She loved her husband very much and was so revered for the truth in her words. Li Qingzhao also wrote:
This year at the end of the Earth,
I find my hair greying at the temples.
Now that the evening wind is growing in force,
I shall be hard put to it to come by plum blossoms.
For those who don’t know, plum blossoms represent the young ladies, the potential love in their hearts and their joy of Spring.
Lovers in Bloom
Lovers in Bloom is a kdrama daily, running to 120 episodes, and I had to watch it each day – so no saving up episodes to do a binge watch here.
I just loved everything about this show. I like police shows, and this one tries very hard to put a positive spin on South Korea’s police at the local level. For those who don’t know, the police are not looked upon fondly and are given quite derogatory names. An insight regarding this string feeling is given through the Snowdrop controversy.
It’s also interesting to note that the delightful Im Soo Hyang would do such a show; isn’t she amazing? I am so much looking forward to her next role in Doctor Lawyer, alongside So Ji Sub!!!
The Longest Day in Chang’an
Chang’an is the second of my all time favourite cdramas.
If you want to see commitment to detail, cultural accuracy and a gripping story that’s like watching a good version of 24, this show is it!
Many historians spoke highly of this production, its attention to detail and even the costuming itself. No other show has been so accurate – although there were some rumblings about the emperor and the crown prince being depicted in the same vicinity – a Tang dynasty no-no. It would not have happened in real life, but I’m cool with that!
I was totally mesmerised by this drama and I know phl1rxd spoke so highly of the artistic nature of the camera work in this show. The hero, is an unsung hero of sorts, downtrodden, but highly adept, loved by more women than I could count and loyal, despite the treatment he received. Also, the relationship he had with Tan Qi was stoic stuff – understated awesomeness.
A Category All on its Own
Stranger (Forest of Secrets) 1 and 2
Stranger 1 and 2 are in a category all on their own.
I thought Stranger 1 was phenomenal, but then came along Stranger 2, which, to my mind, was even better than the original.
Both Jo Seung Woo and Bae Doo Na (can she ever put a foot wrong as an actor?) steal the show each time. In Stranger 1 we also had Shin Hye Sun, and I felt then, only bigger and better things were on the horizon for her, despite her previous performances perhaps indicating she was on a glorious path to somewhere. As we all know, Hye Sun was absolutely brilliant in Mr Queen, a showed that I dropped. 😱
With Stranger 1 we get to see, despite lacking empathetic abilities, Shi Mok being able to work his way through the “forest of secrets.” In Stranger 2, we get time to absorb the battle for control between the prosecutors and the police, and how Shi Mok and Han Yeo Jin make sense of it all.
I once worked in a cloak and dagger type situation, so the Forest of Secrets is all very real to me.
My Special Mentions
Finally, I am going to share with you my special mentions. Some of these could easily be in my Top 10, or were in my Top 10 until they were taken over by other shows:
|My Love from the Star||Kdrama version (The other versions are nowhere near as good)||So magical in its concept and the performances are a knock out. Jun Ji Hyun is breathtaking and glamorous (Pity about Jirisan). The ending of our resident alien gave us so much hope…|
|A Life: A Love||Jdorama||This is the type of show the Japanese excel at: brilliant surgeon returns home to perhaps reunite with his former, now married girlfriend (whose husband is the Hospital DG). And of course, it stars Takuya Kimura.|
|Saimdang, Lights Diary||Kdrama||A visual feast for the eyes. Every bit as artistic as the famous artist herself. Of course Lee Young Ae who stars, is also awesome as Inspector Koo.|
|Mr. Sunshine||Kdrama||Visually stunning, with marvellous performances that help deal with the tragedy that befalls some of the main leads.|
|Misty||Kdrama||This is a brilliant drama, except for, I will be honest, the last episode. I should have stopped at episode 15.|
|Marry Me Now!||Kdrama||Family Weekend Drama – 50 episodes. I love to see the older couples get back together and it was a huge ratings success.|
|Second To Last Love||Kdrama/ Jdorama||The Japanese version is the original. I consumed both versions with glee and of course, the kdrama version stars the delightful Kim Hee Ae, Ji Jin Hee and Kim Seul Gi.|
|Manpuku||Jdorama||Japanese daily that ran to 150 episodes – a fabulous story re Ramen and it’s creator!|
|Queen In Hyun’s Man||Kdrama||An amazing time travelling treat. Yoo In Na is an absolute delight and a personal favourite.|
|Weighlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo||Kdrama||Lee Sung Kyung is a fine actress. Plus, she can sing and dance too. The characters in this show are a delight and support our fairy wholeheartedly!|
|Romance is a Bonus Book||Kdrama||What an amazing story on how to have a second chance at life! Brilliant.|
|Vincenzo||Kdrama||A gangster delight that was operatic in its vision and entertaining from the beginning to the end.|
|On The Verge of Insanity||Kdrama||Show was a wow for me. It reminded me of when I worked in Industrial Relations and when I ran HR Departments and branches.|
Who Am I? – A Little Bit About Myself
These days, I am a consultant, a governance specialist, and consultant trainer to the local government industry where I live.
I used to be a local government CEO, and before that, a public servant, both in the traditional sense and in earlier times, with a large government corporation. I do hold high-level post graduate qualifications in leadership and regional development (economics). I am a student of history and politics and trained as an archaeologist originally. I am also an avid science fiction and fantasy fan (but only of the good stuff 😉) and play the guitar here and there.
So, I have been in the political space for most of my career and along with that, in the public eye. I understand what public personalities go through when they are in the spotlight.
That being said, I have been able to do more things than what most people get to do in their lifetime. I have met the most amazing people, including: world leading business people, senior ministers and politicians, and media personalities. And, I have made key decisions that have led to the building of more roads than I can remember, parks, gardens, ovals and recreational centres and medical centres, residential, commercial and industrial sub-divisions, airports and the list goes on.
I am not allowed to use the tv remote at home or select shows to watch, because I have a bad habit of picking films and shows that, shall we say, certain members of my family just shake their head at my choices (except for kdramas, jdoramas and the odd cdrama of course 😂). I admit I watch an insane amount of tv, which isn’t good for me, I know, but somehow I do fit everything in.