We’re having guest posts from the lovely folks on Patreon, to help us take stock of our drama years, kinda-sorta like what we had last year, woot! 🥳
We’ll be seeing about 2 guest posts per week, and this will unfold into January 2023, and that’s perfectly ok. AND, my annual year-in-review, which usually comes out in December, will also come out in January (or thereabouts 😅), after all the guest posts have been published.
If you missed phl1rxd’s post, you can check it out here!
Today, I’m pleased to announce that j3ffc is sharing his drama year, YAY j3ffc!
If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you probably already know that j3ffc’s a super good-natured, humble dude who is as humorous as he is modest.
j3ffc doesn’t seem to know this, but he always manages to brighten up my day and make me laugh, with his comments. Thank you j3ffc!
I hope you guys enjoy!
Confessions of a Drama Slacker
First and foremost, congratulations to kfangurl on an auspicious 2022 – 10 years and 10M views to boot! Wow doesn’t do it justice (although @seanfletcher came close), and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s a little intimidating to step onto this big stage.
But thanks to our host for providing the platform and congratulations on a distinguished career of dedicated drama scholarship.
My own drama journey began on February 8, 2018.
An inveterate fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was casting about for something to watch and came upon a clip of a show featuring a tiny superhero with serious attitude – and a stylish sense for outerwear – called Strong Woman Bong Soon.
Hmm, sounds familiar and fun! Oh, it’s Korean? Cool.
I decided to check it out and that led to Oh My Ghost and that led, eventually, to now.
While I wouldn’t now put SWBS in the top tier of all time, it drew me in with many of the features that have led me to cherish the entire K-drama our e: an appealing cast, a peek into another culture, shiny production values, and an off-kilter, goofy, but wholly original sensibility (of course you would ask a superhero to prove her mettle in a chicken fight!).
My early drama watching was informed by a New York Times article “A Starter’s Guide to Streaming Great Korean TV”.
Fast forward a couple of years when I insisted on finishing Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food despite all kinds of warnings from various drama blogs.
In need of serious drama therapy, I found kfangurl’s review and noted it had an extensive “Thoughts on the Ending” section. Right there and then, I knew that I’d found a drama home.
I love romantic comedies and that’s still my drama happy place, but I appreciate any genre that’s done well. Not so much of a procedural or action fan but have enjoyed those as well.
In real life, I teach and do research in science at a reasonably well-known university in the United States.
I’m much closer to the end of my career than the beginning of it, but I feel privileged to have had an opportunity to do work that I find meaningful (more on this later).
Unfortunately, this means that my drama watching time is relatively low and often improvised. My wife is not a fan and we share prime TV time together, so I usually watch my shows later at night (providing a convenient excuse for being slow on the uptake on character ID and plot recognition), weekends, or in the gym, or on airplanes – you get the idea.
I have also chosen to enroll in the entirety of our Group Watch seminars, which lowers the number of optional shows I get to see, selectively cutting down on current series.
I’m now enough of a seasoned watcher to have earned a little slump and it showed up this year. A lot of the shows I ended seeing lately had lost the sheen I’d come to expect and I’ve become less tolerant of common tropes and conventions.
On the other hand, through the group watches I’ve gained a much greater appreciation for genres I might not otherwise have sought out (e.g., sageuks and makjang), even branching out to Taiwan and Japan, and when something special comes along (like My Mister) I appreciate it even more.
Sincerest thanks to all of you who participate in the watches and suggest shows.
One short/sweet, one sprawling, and one with two timelines – and [SPOILER] not a perfect ending in sight. [END SPOILER]
But each of these shows presented flawed but realistic characters in drama worlds that I’d love to visit. I loved the artistically stylish feel of FL, the lived-in community of OB, and the nostalgic melancholy of 25/21.
I didn’t regret a moment I spent with these characters.
Actor of the Year: Park Eun-bin (Extraordinary Attorney Woo)
In recent years she has since proved to be a sturdy character actor to reemerged with another show-stopping performance in 2022 as Attorney Woo.
I am aware that just playing an autistic person nets an actor style points and for this reason alone her portrayal would have “Oscar” written all over it in Hollywood.
Apart from that, I thought Ms. Park empathetically created a believable character with panache and style.
And for this same actor to touch my heart in a much more conventional role in a show that I finally got to this year (see special category), this pick was a no-brainer for me.
OTP of the Year: Ko Du-shim & Kim Hye-ja (Our Blues)
There are many kinds of true pairings and the love between lifelong friends can be as compelling as the deepest romance.
She was hilarious in BP, tragic/creepy in AoS, and even stood out in a very short role in EAW. This may be more of a “keep an eye on” award for a future leading role.
Razzie Award: The Sound of Magic
I love music and musicals and was sooooo looking forward to this. And the first episode was really good. And the rest was really, really….not-good.
And to add insult to injury, the most energetic song-and-dance number was in a coda that came after the show’s final credits.
I would love to see more actual musical performances in K-dramas (like the lovely duet that ended episode 2 of Be Melodramatic). But this was, sadly, just not magical.
Award for Drama Longevity and Overall Excellence: Hong Jung-eun and Hong Mi-ran
In 2022, I finally completed a very slooooow watch (over a year!) of Delightful Girl Choon Hyang.
Although pretty much a trope-fest, even in that first outing one could see the playfulness and genre-mixing that would make the Hong sisters famous.
And along with many here, I am enjoying Alchemy of Souls, already in the running for next years’ top drama awards.
I respect craft and originality – especially in writers – and even though it’s too much to expect a hit every time or to appeal to everybody’s palate, the Hong sisters have done good work for what has got to be a lifetime in this business.
Show That Hit Closest to Home: Do You Like Brahms?
Thanks to all, including kfangurl, who recommended this slight gem of a show. I would have eventually watched it because, you know, Park Eun-bin (see above), but this turned out to be much more compelling than I expected.
From a strictly drama perspective, it was the first straight Korean romance show that I ever watched, i.e., it’s a proper drama and not a rom-com.
Everyone acted like real people in real situations. And one of those situations cut very close to home.
If you haven’t seen it, Brahms is largely concerned with a young woman who loves music and has skills but is not (unlike a certain attorney) extraordinary.
She’s just a normal person with some talent and a lot of passion – just enough to get into the orbit of some high-flying folks in her field.
She is forced to come to terms with exactly what she can realistically accomplish, while being in all-too-close proximity with superstars who have a much higher ceiling.
The drama does something nearly miraculous in showing not only our heroine’s plight (and she is a heroine), but also demonstrating how the superstars have their own issues.
She comes to learn where she fits in this world and navigates the tough gulf between professional ambition and personal happiness.
Now imagine a viewer who is in a competitive field and had dreams in his youth. And did OK.
He got by, did some nice things, and made the world a little better place than how he found it. And did well enough to regularly cross paths with others who were, in fact, extraordinary.
They did amazing things and were highly rewarded for their efforts, maybe even winning a really famous prize that everybody in the world knows about.
But there is an uncrossable line between this viewer and that top tier, or even a tier or two below that one. How to navigate that gulf?
By doing what Park Eun-bin’s character did.
Learn to appreciate what one can accomplish while accepting one’s limits. Embrace service to one’s professional community, knowing that that can have impact, too. Realize that one’s life has value apart from what happens at work.
Prioritize family, friends, and community. Take pleasure in art! Do your best while not giving up.
Coming from a genre that many dismiss as slight, that’s a pretty good lesson to go along with the Pretty and the Fun and the Wacky.
Thank you all for sharing your stories and your thoughts throughout the year. And, as always, thanks to kfangurl for founding our feast. And best wishes for a happy 2023.
 Netflix has a scary useful feature where you can download your exact viewing history of all time.
 www.nytimes.com/2018/02/07/watching/k-drama-streaming-guide.html. I’m still working through their list of shows and have enjoyed them more than not.
 July 25, 2019 is a day that will forever live in drama infamy.
 If other drama sites are drama colleges, The Verdict is Drama Graduate School.
 KFG has good advice on this topic, too: thefangirlverdict.com/2022/02/27/dear-kfangurl-how-do-i-deal-with-drama-fatigue/
 As there has been ado a-plenty…
 I’m limiting these choices to 2022 dramas in a futile attempt to show that I’m keeping up with y’all. I’ve watched a total of six new shows this year! Whoo whoo! Watch out!!