Dear kfangurl: Which family dramas are the best?

D-Lighted writes:

Hello! Could you please write a post with your recommendations for the best “family dramas”?

I think that is what you call the shows that have lots of episodes and a sit-com feel to them, having most episodes filmed on a few sets and broader comedy.

I really enjoyed My Father is Strange and All About My Mom. I saw in your review of My Father is Strange that you mentioned Ojakygo Brothers.

Are there any other great Family Kdramas? What do you know about this sub-genre? Thank you!!!

Dear D-Lighted,

Thanks for your question! Apologies that it’s taken me a while to craft this answer, but better late than never, I hope? 😅

To be honest, I used to watch family dramas more, when I wasn’t actually blogging about dramas.

The reason for that is, family dramas tend to have high episode counts, which make them a big time commitment. The thing is, blogging about dramas (or about anything, really) is a big time commitment too.

And without breaking the code to bending the space-time continuum, I honestly find it really hard to make time for family dramas, these days.

Which means that my personal recommendations will tend towards older (and likely less easily available) family dramas, because those are the ones that I know and love.

However, I will also share several family dramas that I’ve had recommended to me, which I hope will help to expand your options.

As always, everyone, feel free to share your own recommendations in the comments below!

PS: For the curious, I’m using screenshots from one of my favorite family dramas, Ojakgyo Brothers, to illustrate some of the sections in this post.

WHAT’S A FAMILY DRAMA?

This isn’t cast in stone, but this is my personal understanding of the term “family drama.”

In popular usage in the drama fandom, the term “family drama” is used to refer to dramas that:

1. air on a weekend slot.

2. tend to have 50 full-hour episodes or more.

3. center around a family and their relationships.

The dramas tend to focus on the family members’ relationships with one another, as well as their relationships with others, including various lovelines.

4. tend to be warm and feel-good.

Although, this is not always the case. There are makjang family dramas as well. Generally speaking, though, I’d say that family dramas tend to (eventually at least) emphasize family values.

5. production values tend to lean rather basic.

Due to the large cast and high episode count, there’s usually not a lot of budget to make the show look shiny and pretty.

In other words, the show itself might look cheaper than its prime-time cousins. But, the best family dramas have more than enough feels to make up for the lack of shiny-pretty.

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE FAMILY DRAMAS

Life is Beautiful

This is hands-down my favorite family drama of all time, you guys.

At 63 episodes, it sounds daunting, I get it, but I was so into this, that I was literally sorry to get to the end, and would have happily watched another 63 episodes of this.

The warm family feels are of the especially toasty, comforting variety, and I’d call this the drama equivalent of a warm blanket on a cool night, coupled with the perfect cup of hot cocoa. Lovely. 🥰

The family members are all generally likable, and Show gets extra brownie points for not only having a gay loveline, but treating said loveline with sensitivity and compassion.

I have to confess, though, that my soft spot was for Lee Sang Yoon, who is such a picture-perfect clean-cut surfer boy, in this. 😍

Review is here.

Ojakgyo Brothers

This is my second most favorite family drama of all time, so I do highly recommend this one as well.

I love that this story has four brothers, and that each brother gets his own loveline.

This way, Show balances out not only the types of love stories – enemies-to-lovers, noona romance, office romance – but it also has enough to work with, so that even if one or two lovelines are going through angst, there’s always a loveline that’s on a happier track.

I thought that was nicely handled, and pretty cool, overall.

I was completely smitten with the loveline between Joo Won‘s reticent cop and UEE’s down-and-out city girl, coz the tension and sparks between them were cracklin’, I tell ya. 🔥

Review is here.

Father Is Strange

I really, really liked this one. This drama was the one that pulled me out of a writing hiatus cum drama rut, back in 2017, so that says something about how good it is.

I loved the warm family feels, and the relationships among the family members were of the heartfelt variety.

I LOVED Lee Yoo Ri’s fiesty character in this, and I also had a big soft spot for the loveline between Lee Joon’s stop star and Jung So Min’s shy everygirl.

Totally recommend, even if you’re not typically into family dramas.

Flash Review is here.

Family Honor

This was one of the first family dramas I ever watched, actually. In fact, I watched this early enough in my drama journey, that at the time, I didn’t even know what a family drama was. 😅

I should state upfront that while there are some warm family feels here, this one leans more into Heightened Melodrama than the other family dramas I’ve got on this list.

That said, I really, really, REALLY liked this one, and watched it twice (or was that three times..?).

For one thing, I found the tension between our two central families both interesting and illuminating.

One family’s newly rich and therefore rather unschooled and crass in comparison to the other, that’s deeply, elegantly entrenched in many age-old traditions. Those traditions were a great showcase for Korean culture, I thought.

The almost Romeo and Juliet loveline, between the son of the Newly Rich (Park Shi Hoo), and the daughter of the Elegantly Traditional (Yoon Jung Hee), was like catnip to me.

This enemies-to-lovers set-up had these two trading sharp barbs like lightning, and I couldn’t get enough of all that crackly tension.

Five Children [Five Enough]

This is one of the rare dramas that actually deals with second marriages, and the challenges that come with the process of blending the two families into one unit.

I really enjoyed Show’s simple, warm approach, where our characters have to deal with frustrations and difficulties, but eventually triumph against the odds, to achieve personal and family happiness.

I found this all very enjoyable and feel-good, and I’d call this a solid pick, from among the family drama offerings.

Flash Review is here.

My Daughter Seo Young

This one’s more of a melodrama than the average family drama on this list, but I found it very solid and enjoyable, overall.

Show focuses on the relationship between our long-suffering, steely protagonist Seo Young (Lee Bo Young) and her estranged father (Chun Ho Jin), as well as on the loveline between Seo Young and headstrong, idealistic Woo Jae (Lee Sang Yoon).

I have to admit, it was the loveline (rather than the father-daughter relationship) that hooked me from episode 1, though I did come around to the importance and appeal of the father-daughter relationship eventually.

Also, I mostly just enjoyed gazing at Lee Sang Yoon in this, because how roguishly handsome does he look, with a shadow of a goatee? 😍

Flash Review is here.

Smile, You

I can’t recommend the whole of this show in good conscience, because Show slumps a lot in its second half thanks to a whopping 15-episode extension, from its original 30. That’s QUITE an extension, isn’t it?

But that’s just testament to just how cracky and slurpy this one is, in its early episodes, before the extension got in the way, and made writer-nim reach for random plot points to keep the story going for way longer than it really needed to.

I’m just putting this out there to say that when Show was good, it was DELIGHTFUL.

The loveline between our poor ordinary dude (Jung Kyung Ho), and the down-and-out rich girl who ends up living at his house (Lee Min Jung), is just super cute, and their chemistry is of the natural, crackly variety.

I kinda feel like it would be worth your while to watch just the early stretch of this show, if only to get a taste of this adorable OTP – especially if you’re a Jung Kyung Ho &/or Lee Min Jung fan. 😍

Three Brothers

Heh. To be honest, my interest in this drama was mainly how cool Lee Joon Hyuk looks as a police officer wearing a gun holster.

Well, that and how swoony his character is, because he’s so focused in pursuing the girl whom he likes (Oh Ji Eun), regardless of the obstacles that this romantic entanglement might bring, because of old grudges between his father and hers.

It’s been more than a decade since I watched this, so the details are hazy at best. I can only tell you that I slurped this one up (or at least, Lee Joon Hyuk’s part in this) with relish.

Also, here’s a look at Lee Joon Hyuk looking schmexy in that gun holster. 🤩😁

Famous Princesses

This one’s even older than Three Brothers, and at 80 episodes, is quite the whopper.

I remember really enjoying it when I watched it back in the day, however, and among the three sisters and their lovelines, my favorite was the soldier sister (Lee Tae Ran), who gets involved in a noona romance in spite of her reservations.

Mostly, I thought Park Hae Jin was absolutely adorable as the smitten puppy soldier, determined to win Noona Soldier’s heart.

Gosh, I slurped that loveline up with a spoon, I thought it was really quite squeeworthy. 😍😁

Special shout-outs: Daily dramas

These next couple of dramas are technically not family dramas but daily dramas, because they aired daily on weekdays, from Mondays to Fridays, in half-hour episodes. Daily dramas tend to have episode counts of 100 episodes and above.

However, I thought it would be worth mentioning a few here, because they do serve up similar warm family feels.

Likable Or Not

This one’s long and winding, but I remember enjoying this very well, when it aired.

Mainly, I really enjoyed the central workplace romance between Kim Ji Suk’s and Han Ji Hye’s characters. If memory serves, these two were very cute together, even as they bickered they way to love and marriage.

Also, considering that most romance stories consider the wedding the finish line, it’s quite refreshing to see how this romance continues to unfold, after the wedding is over.

I Live In Cheongdamdong

I thought this one was very cute, funny and quirky. There was just something about it that felt fresh and different, compared to other offerings in Dramaland.

Our characters all feel a bit off-the-wall, but yet, still manage to also feel real and relatable. That felt quite special.

Most of all, I was very taken by the central love triangle, where Hyun Woo and Lee Sang Yeob compete for Oh Ji Eun’s heart. All three of them display excellent comic timing, and the writing felt fresh, too. Likey. ❤️

This one’s super elusive, unfortunately, but I thought I’d put it on your radar anyway.

FAMILY DRAMAS I’VE HEARD GOOD THINGS ABOUT

It’s Beautiful Now

This one’s airing right now, and I’ve heard from a couple of folks that this one feels enjoyable and solid, so far.

I really like the sound of the story, which is about a patriarch (Park In Hwan! 😍) who dangles a new apartment as an incentive for the first among his grandsons to get married. Cute!

I also love the fact that we have Oh Min Suk, Shin Dong Mi and Yoon Shi Yoon among our cast.

Here’s a trailer:

Once Again

This one’s a daily, and I’ve heard SUCH good things about it, that I’d watch it in a heartbeat – if I had that many drama hours to spend. 😅

With a frugal dad and nagging mom, and 4 adult kids, all with their own journeys and foibles, this sounds so much like just the type of family drama I’d enjoy.

Plus, among our sprawling cast, we’ve got Lee Jung Eun, Oh Dae Hwan, Lee Min Jung and Lee Sang Yeob, all of whom I enjoy. 🤩

Here’s a trailer:

Yoona’s Street

This one’s a recommendation by my friend Timescout, and it sounds pretty great, honestly. I’m just.. short on drama hours, is all. 😅

It’s not a true family drama, in that all our players aren’t actually blood-related. Instead, this is a found family sort of drama, with our players all mostly on the wrong side of the law.

I gotta say, this one sounds different and quirky and potentially lots of fun.

Here’s a trailer:

FAMILY DRAMA FEELS WITHOUT THE FAMILY DRAMA COMMITMENT

If you’re into family drama feels, but aren’t able to make the commitment needed in terms of drama hours, here are a few suggestions for shorter dramas that manage to offer up similar warm family feels.

Reply 1997, Reply 1994 &/or Reply 1988

Honestly, any of the Reply series would scratch that family drama itch, I think.

They’re all family-centric, and serve up wholesome family feels, along with romantic thrills, while being quirky and nostalgic about it all.

My personal favorite of the three is Reply 1988, followed by Reply 1994.

Reviews are here: Reply 1997, Reply 1994 and Reply 1988.

My Unfamiliar Family

This one’s basically a family drama that’s condensed into the tighter, shorter package of a prime-time trendy, and wears some of the polish that goes with.

Despite its extra polish, though, at its heart, Show focuses on the same family-centric values and relationships that most family dramas do, just with a little extra heightened melodrama on the side, is all. 😁

I personally found Show familiar and fresh at the same time, and very worthy of its drama hours.

Review is here.

Uncle

To be honest, I’d had higher hopes for this show; it just wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped it would be, especially with Oh Jung Se headlining it.

However, to be fair to Show, it does serve up a good amount of warm family feels (among its not-super-successful attempts at makjang), so I thought I’d give it a mention.

When Show was at its best, however, it was very good.

Review is here.

IN CLOSING

I hope you find this post at least somewhat useful, and that it gives you some inspiration, in terms of which family dramas to seek out.

Like I mentioned earlier, everyone, please feel free to add your own knowledge, thoughts and insights (and favorite family dramas!) in the comments below. As they say, sharing is caring. 🥰

I hope this post helps!

Smooches.

~ KFG ❤️

POST-SCRIPT:

1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!

2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!

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kate
kate
29 days ago

I have not watched a single family drama 😱

Thanks for this post, I think I’ll give one if these a go, the next time an available slot opens up in my schedule lol
Warm and comforting sounds very appealing to me ☺️

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
29 days ago

Fangurl – this list gives us a lot to choose from. I think I will start Once Again. I loved Five Enough and Ojakgyo Brothers. I also got hooked on Beautiful Love, Wonderful Life.

Thanks for the options!

Timescout
30 days ago

That’s a great list and I’ve seen several of them. It’s such a pity that many of the older dramas are not easily available now as there are some really good ones out there.

My contribution to the list is ‘Wonderful Days’. It leans a bit on the makjangy side at times but all in all it was pretty a good weekender. The main couple is played by Lee Seo Jin and Kim Hee Sung. Seems to be available @ KBS World YT channel, of all places.

‘I Live on Cheongdamdong’ is one of my all time faves. 🙂 It managed to be both hilarious and heartwarming. It was also my happy pill during a somewhat tough stretch of time, and it still makes me grin when thinking of certain scenes and episodes. The cast, especially the older one, was wonderful… Kim Hye Ja, Lee Bo Hee, Choi Moo Sung, Hwan Sung Min, Woo Hyun + a few not that well known ones.

reaper
reaper
30 days ago

Yes! Everybody has to watch “Once Again”. One of the best shows I watched so far!

I think the Reply series is more for people that like “rough” family love.

Last edited 30 days ago by reaper
Jiyuu
Jiyuu
30 days ago
Reply to  reaper

I’ve been planning to watch Once Again for a while but kept putting it off because of the high episode count. But I saw Lee Yang Seob cameo recently in Sh**ting Stars and couldn’t resist looking up his shows where he isn’t a villain or supporting character and so I’ve come back again to Once Again. Hah. Plus I like Oh Dae Hwan and the rest of the cast, so I guess it’s really time to just dive in and watch.

reaper
reaper
30 days ago
Reply to  Jiyuu

Totally worth it. Lee Sang Yeob really kills it in Once Again.
Also who doesn’t love Oh Dae Hwan 🙂

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
30 days ago

A very good all round list of family dramas that D-

lighted will enjoy, kfangurl.

As for me, I do watch a range of weekend and daily family dramas each year. Finding a good one though, is a challenge. I don’t mind those that are perhaps on the melodramatic side, but if they turn makjang, I find it a real struggle to continue. Then there are those that are just plain boring 😱

On average, I will find one really good weekender per year, and perhaps one to two dailies.

Despite the focus on sibling relationships and their trials and tribulations, I find the secret sauce for the really good shows are the parents. And haven’t we seen some amazing mum and dads, uncles and aunts and grand parents over the years 😊

So, at the moment, yes, I am watching the family weekender It’s Beautiful Now. I actually watch it with a smile on my face from beginning to end. It‘s using the classic three sibling relationship model or trope. Like all these setups, they represent the 40 somethings, the 30 somethings and the 20 somethings. The eldest couple is my favourite. They are a scream. Shin Dong Mi (Court Lady Jo in Bossam) is playing an absolute blinder.

However, we get plenty with interaction with the extended families, which is also being done quite well.

Five Children is delightful. Once Again was up and down for me, despite the cast. The fried chicken played a prominent role (as it does in many family shows). Three Brothers was a dud for me and so I dropped it.

My all time favourite weekender is Marry Me Now. The focus wasn’t just on the siblings but the first love couple or parents to be. It was very tropey, but boy, it certainly dragged me in. Show was extremely popular and documentary specials were made about it.

The biggest disappointment last year: Young Lady and Gentleman. It was awesome for the first 15 episodes, then it entered amnesia, tropey, hell. However, the home audience loved it and made it the fourth watched kdrama of all time.

The best family drama from last year either weekender or daily: Revolutionary Sisters. I guarantee most won’t like the three sisters, but somehow they redeem themselves.

Dailies tend to come in at 120 episodes. Generally, if I get past 15 episodes (three weeks viewing), then I will continue. Last year wasn’t a good year for dailies. I put on hold Be My Dream Family, despite the cast. However, my all time favourite daily: Lovers in Bloom. Great cast, a nice story and yes, it is 120 episodes.

Family dramas are awesome viewing because you get to spend more time with the characters you care about. And, if you find a good one, six months goes by in the blink of an eye 🤩🤩🤩

ngobee
ngobee
30 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Hi Sean, we had a similar experience with Gentleman and Young Lady. We got off the train quite quickly because of all the domestic screeching. I wonder what the home audience so appreciated about it.

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
30 days ago
Reply to  ngobee

Hello Ngobee, I think YLG represents the change that is happening in South Korea. They still want to see the classic tropes in their dramas, but repackaged – shown in a more refreshing light. For example, resolving misunderstandings quickly instead of letting them drag on for half the show. Shows such as YLG, Business Proposal and Mad For Each Other have done this very effectively.

Also, there is a strong push for certain topics to be presented with a more modern emphasis. The younger generations are not hung up on the age gap between characters. Soompi in a recent article also explored other topics further when it looked into how our gentleman Lee Young Kook’s (as we know played by Ji Hyun Woo, who is the ML in Queen In-hyun’s Man) behaviour drew the audience in:

  • He is a calm character that ends up with anger issues. It really shocked the audience;
  • He displayed endless tears throughout the drama in response to the sacrifices he made in his relationship with Dan Dan;
  • Even though he was a chairman and a widower, he is a gentle and loving father to his three children and would not sacrifice them re his relationships.

Viewers also liked the children, how protective Dan Dan was of the children, even though she was young herself and the very strong message that it’s okay to miss someone, to mourn them, but get on with your life.

When YLG went back into classic trope territory re what was to become the backbone of the show, the ratings shot through the roof. Viewers really wanted a good outcome for the OTP. I found it a bit much 😊

ngobee
ngobee
30 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Thank you so much, Sean! That really makes the appeal clearer.

kate
kate
29 days ago
Reply to  ngobee

oh lol, should have read this first. Yes the screeching was unbearable, wasn’t it. I dropped it early as well.

kate
kate
29 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

thanks for all those recommendations, Sean! Of all of these, I have only watched some episodes of Young Lady and Gentleman but found myself annoyed by the screechy older female characters and the lack of romance sizzle between the leads so I dropped it. I also seem to have amnesia myself because I do not remember an amnesia stroyline 🤔 😂

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
27 days ago
Reply to  kate

I’m glad you got something out of comments, Kate 😊 With YLG, the amnesia storyline occurred, I would say, after you dropped it. As for the older actresses, they have all done some very fine dramas over the years, so they know how to put on that screechy performance 🤣😂🤣

kate
kate
27 days ago
Reply to  seankfletcher

Maybe I’m just particularly screech-sensitive 🤣 😂

Medea
Medea
30 days ago

This post came at the perfect time for me! I’m just finishing up the last few episodes of my very first family drama, Five Children, which I’m loving, and I was looking to see what other similar dramas were available! I’m thinking of checking out Life is Beautiful or My Father is Strange next.