THE SHORT VERDICT:
At its heart, Show wants to be a heartwarming, feel-good sort of story, in a Disney-Hallmark sort of way, but ultimately, it feels that Show was never confident enough, in its own skin, to just do what it most wanted to do.
Instead, Show attempts to spice up its story with feints towards darkness, and even makes an attempt at makjang, in its later stretch. These were not my favorite things, by far.
However, Show’s characters and relationships are just warm enough, that I was persuaded to stick with them until the very end, even when I was most underwhelmed by Show’s uneven tone.
It’s a pity, though, because Show could have been so much better, if it’d just stuck to the heartwarming stuff, because that’s what it does best.
THE LONG VERDICT:
When I first read this show’s synopsis, I knew that I’d be drawn to the heartwarming theme of a loser uncle coming into his nephew’s life, and becoming the father figure and hero that he needs.
Plus, it’s Oh Jung Se in the lead role, which is a huge draw for me as well. What’s not to love about Oh Jung Se getting the spotlight for a whole drama, right?
While Show does technically hold up its end of the bargain on these two things, I have to confess that I was rather unprepared for exactly the sort of story, that Show wanted to be.
Here’s the breakdown of all my impressions of Show’s various parts – the good, the bad and the ugly – and hopefully, this will help you figure out whether this one’s for you, or whether you’re better off chalking this up as a dodged bullet, heh.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
As underwhelming as I found some of Show’s narrative decisions, it did have some pretty great original music.
Fun fact: according to Show’s closing credits, the track Blue Bird was written by Oh Jung Se himself!
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a couple of things that I think would be useful to keep in mind, in order to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. A Hallmark-Disney lens works best.
At its heart, Show’s brand of heartwarming is very similar to the slightly treacly, too-good-to-be-true type of heartwarming that Hallmark-Disney TV movies tend to serve up.
Don’t expect a lot of nuance, and be ready to embrace the treacly, is what I’m trying to say.
2. Show feints regularly, towards darkness.
From early on in our story, Show regularly indicates that there might be dark and foreboding things in store for our characters.
In a weird sort of way, it makes me think of a.. House of Horrors, but built in the center of Disneyland, and it’s run by Baby Mickey. Like, here are a few kinda-sorta scary things, but they won’t last long, and in the end, it’s all good, coz we’re in the middle of Disneyland – if that makes any sense. 😁
3. Show attempts makjang, in its second half.
Key word being “attempts,” ha.
Show isn’t very good at it, and when it brings out the makjang guns, it kinda-sorta feels like a little kid dressed in a tiger costume, trying his best to roar and act fierce, and actually expecting everyone to take him seriously.
4. There are instances of domestic violence, in our story.
I’m including this, because it might be a trigger for some viewers. The domestic violence doesn’t get graphic, but it’s a very present element in our story, particularly after the halfway point.
5. Show sometimes simply sweeps things under the carpet.
Show is simple at its heart, and in introducing more dramatic elements, I often felt like Show was out of its depth. Instead of providing robust resolutions for certain dramatic arcs, sometimes I felt like Show was doing more of a token resolution, with most things getting swept under the carpet.
Knowing to expect this, helps.
6. Show’s sense of humor leans broad.
At first, I was a little thrown by how Show’s sense of humor even leaned a little crass (to emphasize just how crass Hyuk’s character is), but happily, Show lets up on that, after a while.
By Show’s middle to late stretch, Show’s toned it down, and I’d also gotten used enough, to Show’s brand of humor, to feel pretty comfortable just rolling with it.
STUFF I LIKED
Our key characters
Overall, I liked our key characters, and wanted to know about the happy ending that I was sure Show was going to give each of them.
I signed up for Oh Jung Se as Hyuk, but also found myself enjoying very well, Jeon Hye Jin as Joon Hee, and Lee Sang Woo as Kyung Il.
I found Lee Kyung Hoon as Ji Hoo a touch one dimensional in his delivery, but I’m willing to give him a pass, since he’s such a young actor, and the role really does require a fair amount of range. Overall, I’d say that he does a nice job of the role.
Besides the uncle-nephew connection that I signed up for, I was also immediately rather taken with the idea of Show healing the brother-sister relationship between Hyuk and Joon Hee.
And of course, I was invested in seeing Hyuk find his way out of the seemingly never-ending valley in this life, to reach better and brighter days ahead, too.
The relationship between Hyuk and Ji Hoo
The relationship between Hyuk and Ji Hoo starts off way more antagonistic than I’d originally expected, so that did take some getting used to, for me.
Happily, Show is quick to give us glimpses that Hyuk’s bark is way fiercer than his bite, and that underneath all his bluster, he really does care about his sister and his nephew.
I really like the idea that the more Hyuk sees of his sister’s and nephew’s lives, the more he can’t bring himself to walk away – even though he keeps saying that that’s exactly what he’s going to do.
He literally can’t help himself, when it comes to these two, and that’s one of my favorite things in this show.
By the time we hit Show’s middle stretch, Hyuk and Ji Hoo are inseparable, and even though the turnaround feels a tad convenient, I liked the idea of them being besties enough, to embrace the turnaround anyway.
The loveline between Kyung Il and Joon Hee
Pretty early on in our story, Show indicates that Kyung Il is attracted to Joon Hee, an idea that I was immediately supportive of.
I mean, I like them both as characters, and Kyung Il really does come across as very thoughtful and sweet, and I felt that this would make a potentially really cute loveline.
The thing is, Show keeps throwing out these dark indications, that Kyung Il might not be as nice and wholesome as he appears.
As a result of this, our loveline only gets going pretty late in our story.
However, I did still enjoy what we do end up getting, which is a low-key, understated sort of romance.
I especially enjoyed the portion where Kyung Il’s out and proud, about his crush on Joon Hee. He’s just so unabashed, about the fact that he likes Joon Hee.
From declaring it to the Momvelies, to insisting on carrying her groceries, never mind who’s looking, I can’t help but melt at how matter-of-fact, and almost.. proud, he is, about his crush on Joon Hee. It’s adorable.
Of course, I was very pleased when the two of them actually get together. I just feel that Kyung Il and Joon Hee are very well-matched, in terms of temperament, and would be good for each other.
The original songs
I really like that the songs that Show features, are clearly originals that are written to reflect Hyuk’s journey.
In episode 2, what I love most, is that Hyuk’s question, asking permission to stay, posed in song, is directed not at Noona, but at Ji Hoo.
A story hard to put in words
Should I just sing them to you
When I first met you
You shined so bright
I was too young back then too
I was too naive to know anything
So will you forgive me for stepping back
I still don’t have anything
I still don’t know how to do anything
If it’s okay with you I’ll be by your side
If it’s okay with you I’ll be by your side
I love the highlight reel that we get with this song, because, with the lyrics, it shows us that Hyuk’s heart has always, always been for Ji Hoo, from the very moment he’d been born. Aw.
That is so lovely and heartwarming, I feel like my heart is undecided on whether to melt, or burst, or both.
This was very nicely done, I thought.
Ahn Suk Hwan as Hot Bar’s boss
I low-key loved Ahn Suk Hwan’s turn as Hot Bar’s boss, who just happens to enjoy crossdressing. It’s rare enough for a kdrama to feature a crossdressing character in a matter-of-fact he’s-just-like sort of light, that I feel that alone deserves a shout-out.
On top of that, Boss drops some great nuggets of wisdom, from time to time, which endeared him to me further.
Like the time in episode 2, when he says to Hyuk:
“You and your sister are enemies? All family members are enemies. 5 minutes together is enough to make you want to kill each other. But if someone else messes with your family? You’re on the same side. Don’t complicate things. Just throw rocks at them.”
Ha. Spoken like a true king – or queen.
Hwang Woo Seul Hye as Yoo Ra
I found myself really growing a soft spot for Hwang Woo Seul Hye’s Yoo Ra.
I appreciate that Yoo Ra’s got more of a conscience than the other Momvelies, and I love how she often brings up an alternative point of view to the Momvelies’ toxic conversations, while coming across as guileless and innocent.
More than that, though, I enjoy Hwang Woo Seul Hye’s personal charm. There’s something about her manner, her husky voice and her slight lisp, that I find very endearing.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
I hadn’t expected this story thread, with the snooty moms thing, where all the moms are hyper-focused on the success of their children, and very vocally disdainful of people who don’t measure up to their standards of affluence and success.
However, it wasn’t all that long before I realized that the Momvelies are basically a convenient plot device, for Show to amp up when it wants a bit more drama in its story, and then quickly shove aside, when it wants to focus on something else.
All in all, I didn’t love the Momvely thing, but it didn’t annoy me too much either.
Also, I have to admit, I think the uber-pretentious name is low-key kind of amusing. It’s such a ridiculously great non-word, ha.
The loveline between Hyuk and Teacher Song
Fairly early on in our story, Show starts hinting at a potential loveline between Hyuk and Teacher Song (Lee Si Won).
While I liked the idea in concept, because Teacher Song is sweet, down-to-earth, and so encouraging, I have to confess that this loveline leaned too hard into the cutesy Disney vibe, for my taste.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Show’s feints towards darkness
Show does this right from episode 1, so it’s not like I didn’t know this about Show, and got hoodwinked into seeing it all the way through.
I thought that it was just Show’s schtick, to make empty threats, and then serve up more warm underdog family feels.
The thing, is, though, Show’s feints towards darkness become more and more frequent, as we get deeper into our story, to the point where I’d roll my eyes each time Show hinted at something being dark and foreboding.
Show’s attempts at makjang
To be fair to Show, it does start hinting to us, as early as episode 1, that there’s some chaebol-flavored makjang brewing in its kitchen, just waiting to be brought out as the main course.
However, because Show kept making these feints towards darkness, which mostly turned out to be cheeky bluffs, I made the mistake of believing that Show wasn’t actually going to go ham on the makjang, at any point.
I guess it’s my fault for not taking Show’s threats seriously? 😅
Show does go ham, and our baddies are cartoony bad and larger-than-life, and.. I suppose some people might find that enjoyable?
Personally, I felt that this makjang side of things was at odds with Show’s true heart, which leads me to my next point.
Shout-out though, to Song Ok Sook, who plays Chaebol Gran. She looks fantastic and very glamorous with the ash-silver hair, and she gives Chaebol Gran the perfect withering stare.
Show’s uneven tone and pacing
The way Show keeps toggling between the treacly-sweet and the aggressive makjang, it doesn’t actually feel like it knows what it wants to do, and is following some kind of plan.
Instead, it feels like Show’s being tossed here and there, and is randomly taking directions from the court of public opinion.
The ratings go up coz we went a little makjang? Ohhh. Let’s throw in some more makjang! Wait, is stuff getting too dark in here. Hrmm. Let’s go sweet for a bit, then.
Unfortunately, it all worked out to feel rather whiplashy to me, personally.
To be fair, though, when Show is at its best, it’s genuinely easy and fun to watch, kinda like how Racket Boys had felt easy and fun to watch. The strong underdog flavor, the familial feels, and the youthful innocence of the kids in our story, all come together in such a toasty, satisfying sort of way.
THEMES / IDEAS
E2. I do rather like the idea that Show serves up at the end, that everyone has secrets; that all these people with the picture-perfect lives, have not so picture-perfect secrets that they feel ashamed of.
Context really is everything.
E3. When Sodam goes missing, I love the idea that it’s Ji Hoo’s worry for her, that gets Hyuk to put aside his plans for getting that last critical vote, to go look for her.
I’m a sucker for this idea, that being a nice, decent human being is the thing that brings you victory, and Show serves this up in spades, in this arc.
E7. The idea that miracles are around us, sometimes in small and unexpected corners of our lives.
E7. The sharing of our own dark times can give other people strength and perspective.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Ok, so this is the point in the show where I’ve come to the conclusion that this show must have been written by middle-schoolers – while they were slightly delirious from staying up wayyy past their bedtime, to rush out the script.
I just.. don’t know what Show is going for, anymore.
In the first portion of this episode, I seriously considered dropping this show, because I actually felt so bored, with the Disney-happy of Hyuk basking in his new-found fame.
At the same time, I felt the the plan that Hyuk and Ji Hoo hatch, for Ji Hoo to co-headline the concert with Hyuk, without Joon Hee’s knowledge, is just a Supremely Bad Idea.
I mean, aside from the fact that Joon Hee’s bound to find out, once the concert actually happens, how did they think they could actually keep it from her in the lead-up to the concert, given Uncle King’s popularity?
Also, it’s outright and blatant disrespect towards Joon Hee as a parent, since they hatch this plan after she’s said no. So it’s not like they thought she’d be ok with it, and it turned out that she wasn’t.
Instead of dropping the show, though, I took a break from the episode, and when I came back to it, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised by the parade of Disney-happy that Show serves up.
Ah, to be clear, some of that Disney-happy has to do with comeuppance for our baddies. So while that’s not exactly a frothy happy sort of thing, there’s a measure of gratification that comes with it.
Like Chaebol Gran losing her entire fortune to Bio Dad, because he’s just that messed up, from her messed up upbringing. There’s some poetic justice there, from him turning that messed up twistedness, against the mother who’d tormented him in the first place.
And then there’s Chaebol Gran actually losing her mind, from the blow of losing her fortune to her traitor son.
While I don’t like to wish bad things on people, it does seem apt, that Chaebol Gran would basically lose her ability to inflict misery on others – except for her caregivers, poor them.
It also seems fitting, that Hye Ryeong (Park Sun Young) would lose her son’s trust, as a result of all her evil scheming and shady dealings. After all that she’s done, in order to get Min Ki (Go Gyeong Min) back, it seems that she’s lost him for good. That’s pretty sad, honestly.
It’s also sad that Hye Ryeong actually attempts suicide because of this. Thankfully Hyuk pulls her back from the proverbial ledge, but honestly, I don’t see how that’s going to help Hye Ryeong, unless she actually turns over a new leaf, and starts over.
Now ex-Diamond Da Jung (Jung Soo Young) going to work for Joon Hee is such a Disney-Hallmark sort of thing, but y’know, I’m not complaining about Joon Hee having more people on her side now than before.
As we get near the close of the episode, we even have Joon Hee coming round and giving Ji Hoo her permission to do the mini-concert with Hyuk.
AND, we even have a lovely little wedding, with Joon Hee finally getting to wear a wedding dress, as she gets married to Kyung Il. I’ve been rooting for these two for a long time, so I’m really pleased about this. I feel like it was worth hanging in there, if only to see their wedding.
At about this point, when I’m going over in my head that there’s really no one left who’s going to make things difficult for Hyuk, now that Chaebol Gran’s incapacitated, Bio Dad’s off on a yacht somewhere, and Hye Ryeong’s abandoned Chaebol Gran.
BUT NO. Show’s got other ideas, and gives Hyuk heart trouble that’s bad enough that he’s advised to get hospitalized immediately.
SERIOUSLY, SHOW?!?? Did we HAVE to do this?!?
Gah. I feel like those middle-schoolers, who happen to have a more naturally Disney-Hallmark sensibility, have been given an assignment to write a makjang story, and they’re doing their best, but also, they don’t really know what they’re doing.
Mannn. At this point, my desire to watch the finale, mostly stems out of a morbid curiosity, to see exactly how Show plans to solve this dilemma. Because we are surely going to get a happy ending, right? 😅
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Well, in the end Show serves up a happy ending, which, by the late stretch of my watch, was really just about the only expectation that I felt was reasonable to have of Show, after feeling disappointed in multiple ways, with regards to Show’s execution.
Overall, I’d say that, tonally, this finale was pretty jerky.
It felt like Show just had this amount of screen time to use up, and was just buying time, by toggling between serving up happy scenes where everything vibes pretty normal, and Hyuk puts on this overly bright persona, and feinting towards darkness – without actually getting dark, because we’re basically out of screen time and don’t have any more story bandwidth to go dark, if Show is to abide by the unspoken rule, that it would serve up a happy ending.
Like one moment we have Teacher Song getting all upset with Hyuk for refusing treatment, and then she soon comes around and pledges her unfailing support towards Hyuk, and then suddenly, once Joon Hee and Kyung Il are back from their honeymoon and become aware of the situation, Hyuk’s suddenly much more open to receiving treatment.
And, his treatment goes well, and he’s brightly live-streaming to his fans, along with Ji Hoo – but suddenly he collapses, and we’re told that the artificial heart isn’t working out, and he needs a transplant.
But we don’t actually see him getting a transplant, and yet, somehow, he manages to get discharged, and even eventually have one last concert with everyone whom he cares about, in the audience.
And then, we cut to the flash-forward, where k-idol Ji Hoo is giving that interview, and right at the point where we’d heard him say, last episode, that his uncle’s disappeared, we cut to Hyuk living in a big house, with a big garden, happily smitten with his daughter, who addresses Ji Hoo as “Uncle” even though they are technically cousins.
I mean, it’s nice, I guess, to see that everyone’s happy, and that all these years later, Joon Hee and Kyung Il are still getting on in their understated, sweet manner.
Still, I can’t help feeling that this finale is rather underwhelming, overall.
It’s all very logic-lite, and Show essentially blatantly ignores the cliffhanger it served up last episode, and skirts the whole thing as if it had never happened.
I’m.. not impressed, to say the least.
My only consolation is that Hyuk isn’t dead (although by what magic, we don’t know), and is living a happy life with his family, while Ji Hoo goes on to conquer the music scene, not only to achieve his own dreams, but to achieve Hyuk’s dreams too.
I’m also mollified that in our final scene, Show is sensitive enough to swop out older Ji Hoo, to give us a glimpse of younger Ji Hoo, making music with Hyuk once again.
That feels right, because this story was never just about Hyuk; this story was always about the relationship between Hyuk and Ji Hoo.
I’m glad that in the end, we get to re-live a peak uncle-nephew moment between them, and realize that even though time has passed and things have evolved, the heart of their relationship remains the same.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Heartfelt at its core, but otherwise rather underwhelming. Much better in concept than in execution.
FINAL GRADE: B-
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on Viki here.
GETTING AROUND GEO-RESTRICTIONS
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.
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An article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here.
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Uncle, is Pachinko. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I really like what I see, so far! My E1 notes on Pachinko can be found here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Confession (bonus show!)
Early Access (US$5): +Rainless Love in a Godless Land [Taiwan]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +A Business Proposal
VIP (US$15): +Pachinko