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 our earlier posts, you can check them out as follows: phl1rxd, j3ffc, Uyen, Sean, Martina, David, Natalia, MC, Leslie, Reem.
Today, I’m pleased to announce that Elaine is sharing her drama year!
Elaine’s a busy lady who juggles motherhood AND a full-time job with her love for dramas, so I’m really grateful that she carved time out of her hectic schedule, to make time for this post!
I am also grateful to Elaine for not only being so positive and thoughtful in her comments, but also, for always reminding me to pace myself, and not work too hard. Thank you, Elaine! 🥰😘
I hope you guys enjoy!
ELAINE’S BEST DRAMAS OF 2022
Hello! I’m Elaine, a mother of two kids living in sunny Singapore (same country as kfangirl!).
For those who are curious, my daughter is 7 and my son is 4. They are at a very cute, innocent age, but also at the age where they desire a lot of parental attention, so I am trying to soak up all the cuteness I can, while also finding ways to juggle work demands and get time to myself to watch dramas!
I live in sunny Singapore, which has the odd distinction of being the only place outside of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to have a majority Chinese population.
But we are not a “Chinese country”, we are a multiracial one. (According to the 2019 census, Singapore’s population comprised 76% Chinese, 15% Malay, 7.5% Indian and 1.5% Others.)
Because of our history as a British colony, and because of the policy decisions by our government since independence, English is the main medium of instruction in schools (i.e. Mathematics, Science, History, etc are taught in English) while the other official languages (Mandarin for the Chinese, Tamil for the Indians, and Bahasa Melayu for the Malays) are taught as a subject in school.
This means that while there are many Chinese Singaporeans who are primarily Chinese-speaking and prefer Chinese pop culture, there are also many like me who are primarily English-speaking, and imbibed Sesame Street, X-Men comics, Enid Blyton, Jane Austen, Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes and the like growing up, and watched primarily American TV shows.
But I also had a fondness for watching Chinese dramas and Hong Kong action or wuxia movies with my parents, especially the Jackie Chan and Jet Li films of the 90’s which were humorous and family-friendly.
This short intro is to explain why I have found that Korean dramas resonate with me.
They are a blend of modern, high production value shows with strong plotting that rivals American productions, yet with a core of East Asian values, morals and traditions which I identify with.
(Along with the usual cited values like respect for elders, caring for the family and putting the good of the community before one’s self, there are also other quirky things common in East Asia like the expectation that food is for sharing, nosy aunties, and eldest siblings seeing it as their duty to guide and teach their younger siblings, which often takes the form of nagging and scolding.
I am the eldest myself, and nagged my younger brother for many years until I was told by my friends that I should respect him as an individual too! =P
But I can definitely say that I have never whacked him upside of the head like so many K drama elder siblings are wont to do, sometimes multiple times in a single conversation!!).
I started watching Korean dramas during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020.
Netflix kept promoting Crash Landing on You, and finally I clicked in out of curiosity.
I really enjoyed the chaste romance and glimpse into life in North Korea (the scriptwriters apparently got input from real-life North Korea defectors, so it does have some authenticity), the caring community of aunties and bumbling soldier-buddies, and the overall story, although it did go a bit melodramatic towards the end.
Also, Hyun Bin on a motorcycle is too cool for school!
Since then, I’ve gradually watched more and more K dramas, guided by the fantastically discerning recommendations of kfangirl and other Patreons on this blog!
2022 was a pretty awesome year for me in terms of the quality of dramas watched.
I even watched a few currently airing shows, which I’ve rarely done in previous years (this was the reason why I sat out the year-end posts last year.
2022 was also the year that I engaged much more actively on Patreon, and it has proven to be extremely rewarding to bounce thoughts off this bunch of kind-hearted, generous, eloquent and passionate drama lovers!
Below is my humble list of 9 top dramas and a couple of non-drama bonus recommendations. I have chosen the dramas based on a variety of criteria:
- How “spazz-worthy” they were (i.e. regardless of the objective quality of the show, did they get me buzzing with excitement?)
- Whether they resonated with me and helped me reflect on my own life
- If they were simply outstanding dramas, or exemplars of their genre
Best Dramas of 2022
As I began thinking about my year-end post, I found myself pairing up certain dramas in my mind, either because of similar elements (e.g. time-travel or a crackling OTP) or a certain resonance they had for me.
Some of the pairings might seem odd, unusual or forced, but I hope the comparisons spark useful insights!
The two dramas that I live-watched avidly and then cursed and swore over the ending, reminding myself not to do live-watch again!
A Business Proposal and Twenty-Five Twenty-One
These two shows aired at around the same time.
I remember reading kfangirl’s Patreon notes for the first few episodes of Twenty-Five Twenty-One and she was saying how fresh everything was, and how impressed she was with the show.
I thought, wow, kfangirl has watched scads of dramas for years, if she is impressed this show must be something!
I can’t remember what turned me on to A Business Proposal but there I was in March-April, waiting for new episodes from both shows to drop and then DUN-DUN-DUN arrrrgh both shows ended the same week and frustrated me with their endings!
Ah well, but I spazzed so much over both of them, and they have so many good points that I will still put them on my top list for the year.
Also, because I was live-watching in a spazzy, avid way, that pushed my engagement with the other Patreons up to an unprecedented frequency!
I previously hardly dared to even dip my toes into the Deep-Dive Zone for fear of spoilers, but I simply had to engage to let off steam week-to-week with these two shows.
This show is HILARIOUS, I loved the send-up of rom-com tropes (kimchi slap! Weak disguise! Mistaken identity hijinks! Contract relationship!) and likeable leads & second leads.
Perhaps the best running joke? One word – archaeopteryx! Hahaha.
Tied for best running joke – the show-in-show spoofing romantic melodramas which our characters watch at various junctures and get stunned by the similarities (e.g. the fall-down-kiss trope LOL!)
Yes, show had its weaknesses.
Even though ML was more socially awkward and dorky rather than cold tsundere, I felt he occasionally went overboard in his actions e.g. his petty revenge at being lied to felt too much like workplace bullying.
The second leads started off great but then 2FL got unreasonable and screechy.
Also, I didn’t like how the last two episodes didn’t follow through on some of the narrative threads set up earlier in the series and didn’t keep up the satirical comedic tone, such that it almost felt like a different writing team came in.
But there were nice moments in the last two episodes helped to cement that FL and ML were good for each other.
If you have watched the show and feel as I do about the ending, have a read of this incredibly funny, creative alternative ending that I feel is more in keeping with show’s vibe from earlier in the series.
I give show top marks for its fresh and vibrant depiction on that magical last year of high school where everything is intensely felt and the choice of where you go on from there feels momentous.
I loved the underdog sports story as Na Hee Do came from behind to become a top fencer before you go on to choose your path in life. And I loved the tight friend clique that formed.
Favourite supporting character/actor of the year – I loved Seung Wan!!!!
Smart, dry, sardonic with wild plans and derring-do, Seung Wan was awesome and I would have loved for more of her; I felt she was a bit underserved by show especially in the last third as the romance element came to the fore.
I hope for more great things ahead for actress Lee Joo Myung, she is da bomb.
THE ENDING. Grr. I can kind of understand it, but I was annoyed by the whole “mystery box/who is the father” thing they kept going for so much of the show, so that they could drop a bomb in the penultimate episode.
Never mind, enough ranting.
Show is still worth watching, just adjust your expectations that with the ending YMMV.
Two twisty, breathless edge-of-your-seat dramas where you never know what happens next!
Little Women and Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area
These two dramas have very different plots. But they are both high-budget, high-concept 12-episode extravaganzas which scratched the itch when I wanted to see some mystery/intrigue/suspense/thrills in my shows.
These shows delivered that, in spades.
There is also a definite artistic and visceral pleasure to seeing gorgeously shot productions featuring extremely beautiful people who acted their socks off, so I was prepared to give a pass when there were inevitable logic lapses or bizarre plot points.
Money Heist: Korea
I had never watched the Spanish original, so I could really enjoy all the twists and turns in this show with fresh eyes.
I also have not watched Squid Game, so I was extremely impressed with Park Hae Soo’s performance as the dangerous Berlin.
I think show more than delivered on its KPI (“key performance indicator”) of being twisty, exciting and thrilling.
Now that all 12 episodes have dropped, you can watch from start to finish, and it tells a complete, satisfying tale.
I did notice, however, that I did not think much about show or dwell on it and reflect on it as I did with others in my top list.
Also, from what I’ve read online, the show hews too closely to the original storyline when it might have been better served by doing more of its own thing, particularly in exploring the dynamics of its premise – the trial unification of North and South Korea.
Definitely a worthy watch if you have not watched the original Spanish Money Heist.
I enjoyed this show tremendously from the get-go.
The painted opening credits sequence intrigued me with its gothic aesthetics and creepy-cool music. The movie-style cinematics were breathtaking.
Show combined elements of crime thriller, John-Grisham-style political corruption investigation, gothic fairytale and full-blown makjang theatrics with verve and panache.
Sure, the ending could have been tighter but I really enjoyed the overall ride.
What puts this show a cut above Money Heist is the rich characterisation of female characters, particularly our central three sisters and their awesomely cold and fearsome great-aunt.
I’m trying to keep this write-up spoiler-free, but I do want to point out that while the sisters might do aggravating or foolish things, particularly in the early part of the series, this is due to their specific character traits.
I respect the writing team for keeping character integrity for our main characters throughout the show.
They do not magically wise up or become super-competent, but their innate strengths, like In Joo’s willingness to trust, In Kyung’s thirst for truth and justice, and In Hye’s wisdom beyond her years, combine in unique and surprising ways to drive the plot forward.
Although I have nits to pick on certain ridiculous plot points towards the end, overall I was very satisfied with how everything tied together.
Bonus: part of the show was filmed in Singapore, and the director (Kim Hui-won, who also directed Vincenzo and Crash Landing on You) made Singapore look extremely glamorous and beautiful!
Link: Singapore locations featured in Little Women (some spoilers for the show) – check it out here!
[SPOILERS FOR LITTLE WOMEN]
I read this article about how some Singaporeans were concerned about a major accident involving a truck in the central business district, not realising it was actually part of filming for Little Women.
I was pretty chuffed when watching the drama that Singapore now had a truck-of-doom scene to call our very own! Not a white truck, but a blue one, in keeping with the recurring theme of the deadly, blue Ghost Orchid in the drama.
Bonus bonus: Show introduced me to the phenomenal Wi Ha Jun as the mysterious-sexy Choi Do-Il. Reader, I was NOT prepared. *fans self*
Two Chinese dramas ostensibly with time travel hijinks but with deeper themes of loss, regret and what-could-have-been
Reset and Shining for One Thing
A cracking good drama that is only 15 episodes of 42 min each, really short by the standards of Chinese dramas.
The premise is a college student keeps waking up on her bus shortly before it explodes.
She gets slightly more time each time a loop occurs, but will that be enough for her to unravel the mystery and prevent the explosion?
A bit like a combination of the Keanu Reeves movie “Speed” and “Groundhog Day”, the show has good action/mystery/investigation elements but also has deeper themes of regret and the wish to do over parts of your life.
The theme of regret is even stronger in a firm favourite of mine this year – Shining for One Thing.
Based on the premise, you might think it to be a fun, frothy high school do-over drama.
Indeed show seems to start off that way. Our protagonist, Lin Beixing, feels like a washout at the young age of 28.
She is in a dead-end job, and worse still, her fiancé dumps her shortly before their wedding.
When she finds her old cell phone that she used in high school, it magically transports her to her high school year, shortly before her final exams.
She vows to use the do-over time to do better in the exam, and ignore her douche of an ex (whom she had chased since high school but who’d dumped her before the wedding).
[MINOR FOUNDATIONAL SPOILER]
But when she finds out that her schoolmate fell off a tall tower on that fateful day of the final exams, she gets an added mission to prevent his death.
What unfolds however, was much more engrossing than I expected.
Instead of a simple high school do-over romance, we get a very nuanced treatment of friendships, romance, and regrets in life.
In fact, thanks to this show, I learned the difference between two Chinese phrases that can mean “regret” in the English language. 后悔 (hou4 hui3) was the first phrase I learned. I was less familiar with the phrase 遗憾 (yi2 han4).
But thanks to a blog post about Shining for One Thing, I learned that 后悔 means to regret something you had taken action on (e.g. dating a douchebag) whereas 遗憾 means that sadness and feeling of loss at the path not taken (e.g. not having dared to leave your family and go overseas to study, which meant missing out on a potentially rewarding path of discovery).
I don’t want to spoil the story further, but one thing I found excellent about the show is that with each time loop that Beixing experiences, we see how her attempts to solve problems and fix things either don’t truly address the real problem, or have unintended consequences.
We also see her grow in character to learn how to be true to herself, and it is a truly rewarding journey. I loooved the OTP very much. Highly recommended!
Two dramas with outstanding OTPs who challenge each other and are absolutely perfect for each other
Our Beloved Summer and The Red Sleeve
This might be an odd pairing as these shows are from vastly different genres and have very different plotlines and premises.
But what I feel is that both share absolutely cracking OTPs who, in my opinion, are each brave and strong individuals on their own, yet their unique combination of strengths, weaknesses and quirks make the OTP couple absolutely, perfectly suited for each other.
In these two shows, the ML and FL fire each other up to be the best version of themselves, their characters complement and spark with vibrant chemistry, and they clearly admire each other’s core characters deeply.
(In contrast to some other rom-coms where it seems like proximity, time, physical attractiveness, and drama logic are enough to bring the OTP together and yet show expects us to root for them.)
Both shows also feature the OTP growing and evolving over quite a span of time, and do not shy away from showing the conflicts, hurts, disappointments and disillusionments that can happen between couples.
And I think the conflicts were handled in realistic, meaningful ways, and were not just idiotic misunderstandings as can happen in many other romances.
The other element both dramas share is a thoughtful tone, and meaty exploration of questions such as “What do you really value? What do you believe in? What defines a life well-lived and is a romance necessary for that?” and deeper themes like the dilemma between one’s personal onus of duty and responsibility (to family, to the throne) vs seeking happiness with a romantic partner.
Another similarity that comes to mind is that both shows treat with respect each FL’s professional ambitions and path to growth as an individual, not simply as a match to the ML.
When we first meet our OTP, they are high school classmates and polar opposites. Unexpectedly, they form a romantic relationship.
But when we next meet them as adults, they are successful professionally but living separate lives, having broken up some years before the present timeline.
The true reason why they broke up is teased through conversations, selective flashbacks and some of the most realistic depictions of hurt between romantic partners I’ve seen yet in K dramas.
Choi Ung and Yeon Su at times trigger each other’s sensitivities and reawaken bad memories. It is a delicate, awkward prickly dance and an emotional high-wire act.
We as the viewer can see that they absolutely are still perfect for each other. But they have so much broken trust and shattered dreams lying between them, as well as relatable (instead of blockheaded) misunderstandings to navigate.
It is not an easy journey, and I love how this show artfully balanced the light romcom hijinks with heart-in-throat magic chemistry moments and heartbreak.
The suspense as I rooted for them to get together, and the lump in my throat every time one or both of them got hurt, whether in the present or past timeline, was compelling and rewarding.
This show was extremely compelling and thought-provoking from start to finish.
I made no secret on Patreon that I loved Duk Im as a heroine, finding her to be a mix between Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Nancy Drew, teenage detective.
She is intrepid, whip-smart, fearless and loyal and opens pathways to help the good eggs in court in ways that the experienced male advisors do not expect, not by being a tough warrior, but by using her brains and unique access as a court lady to find solutions or powerful backers.
Lee San is no marshmallow either, I found his character, as written and performed marvellously by Lee Jun Ho (hat-tip to kfangirl’s fave man!) to be the embodiment of the East Asian standard of a virtuous ruler.
Even as Crown Prince, he is not frivolous but studies the classics long and hard and trains in fighting. He endeavours to develop wisdom and to become a good king, even as he suffers silently with the emotional wounds wrought by his grandfather and father.
I rooted for the two of them to be together, but I could also understand why they came into conflict with each other, being such strong personalities and having differing views of what it means to be a good person.
While Lee San cares for Duk Im, his duty is to the nation, and he is constrained in what he can bend for her.
As for Duk Im, she struggles to have choice and agency in a powerless position as court lady.
Show doesn’t shy away from dealing with the implications of the huge power disparity between the Crown Prince and the court lady, questioning whether they can have an equitable romantic relationship when he literally holds her life in his hands.
These questions – duty vs passion, choice and independence vs connection & love, power vs disempowerment – are weighty and mean the path to romance often feels complex and treacherous in this drama.
But show deals with these and other issues with grace and nuance, and it is this weightiness that made show linger on in my mind, many many days after watching it.
And my Number 1 show for 2022, the one that spoke to me the most…
The three Yeom siblings – Gi Jeong, Chang Hee and Mi Jeong – are different in character, but at the start of the show, each of them are frustrated with their lives. In a word, they feel stuck.
They expect and desire certain things – professional achievement, romance, to be appreciated by their parents – but are not getting it.
Then things happen.
One catalyst is the mysterious Mr Gu (played by Son Seok Ku!!!) who started working with their father over the past year.
Mi Jeong and then Chang Hee approach Mr Gu, each for their own reasons, and stuff happens.
Show’s title comes from a “Liberation Club” Mi Jeong forms at work with other introverted, struggling oddballs like herself.
These meetings were an utter highlight for me, at times sardonically poking fun at corporate culture in South Korea, at times beautiful in their sharing and commiseration on their frustrations with life.
Of all the shows I watched in 2022, this show spoke directly to my heart and my personal challenges.
At times it is firmly in the slice-of-life genre, showing the minutiae of getting ready to go to work, the little frictions that come from living with your parents and siblings, work conflicts etc.
But yet it is not a pure slice-of-life show like Misaeng, which is firmly grounded in the real world.
My Liberation Notes occasionally takes dreamy detours when the characters get more reflective, and certain sequences seem somewhat surreal and out of place, leading you to question whether it happened for real, or was a magical realism event.
Where My Mister (by the same screenwriter) referenced Buddhism, in My Liberation Notes, none of the main characters are shown to be religious, but recurring imagery (such as a church poster featuring the Bible verse “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid” from Mark 6:50, certain metaphors characters) and music reminiscent of choral hymns indicate that the creative team is trying to convey messages which are arguably spiritual and transcendent.
Show resonated with me emotionally, and gave me comfort.
Even as the characters struggled with feeling stuck, and even when they irritated each other (and us as the viewer!) with their aggravating traits at times, I was still heartened to see each of them taking steps towards growth and change.
Even though this show shares the same screenwriter as My Mister, come to this drama with no expectations.
My Mister has a lot of plot development, and a hero’s journey for our two main characters.
In My Liberation Notes, the growth and change for each character is much less marked, it is much more subtle but it is there.
This was a drama I rewatched immediately after I finished it, and I will probably revisit it again in time to come, and learn even more.
Link: YouTube MV with minor spoilers for episode 1 and 2 of My Liberation Notes
Bonus Non-Drama Recommendations
In the Soop: Friendcation
I have waxed lyrical on Patreon about this little gem of a reality show.
In real life, Park Seo Jun, Park Hyung Shik, Choi Woo Shik, V from BTS and Peakboy are a tight group of friends. But they don’t get to see each other very often due to their busy schedules.
With the help of the show producers, V plans a staycation in a winter villa and off the five of them go!
I had no idea what to expect, I started watching both because I like the actors (I had no idea who V and Peakboy were) and also intrigued by the trailers on YouTube which showed moments of reflection and sharing, not just games and hijinks.
I think show paid off well.
It is a soothing kind of show, nothing too crazy happens. OK maybe a funny ice skating expedition and some wacky games with forfeits in the house.
The boys take joy in simple pleasures like hot steamed buns on a cold winter day, and cooking for each other.
But the highlight for me was the open and honest sharing with each other about how their friendship started, how they each feel about their own respective stages in their careers, including the stress and expectations.
This is when you realise they are not boys anymore, but young men maturing and musing about the next stage of their careers.
And super highlight bonus: in one episode, the boys huddle together in the living room to watch the live broadcast of an episode of Our Beloved Summer starring Woo Shik! The playful ribbing of Woo Shik, and then the boys’ collective “awwwws” at romantic moments is beyond cute!
Spy x Family
What a riot!
I’m generally wary of Japanese anime which can sometimes be extremely dark, grotesque and/or violent. But this is actually pretty family friendly (with the exception of a few short scenes).
The premise is that a top spy must form a fake family to infiltrate an elite school to get close to a key enemy politician.
Through a series of fateful encounters, he fake-adopts a 6 year old who turns out to be a telepath, and then fake-marries a civil servant who has a secret night job as a deadly assassin!
There is a lot of comedy and sending up of Spy tropes. I love the humour and am rolling on the floor laughing more often than not! It also has a lot of warm, found family vibes. Highly recommended!
Over an eventful year for me juggling work and family, Asian dramas have been a solace, distraction, balm, but also occasionally a mirror reflecting elements from my own life, or a light providing illumination and insight that I could learn from.
Hope you guys enjoyed the list. Pardon me if I ran on too long. And a very Happy Lunar New Year to everyone who celebrates it!
In this Year of the Rabbit, may we all find new areas of growth in our personal emotional and spiritual journeys, and may we continue in this friendship bonded by a shared love of dramas. =) =) =)
If I were to update my post, I would add:
– Best Actor – Son Seok Ku in My Liberation Notes. I read online that he can create chemistry with anyone, even his soju bottle. And indeed he oozes charisma in every scene. His character is taciturn but extremely smart and perceptive. He wears a deadpan, dull expression a lot of the time but with subtle shifts in body language he conveys boredom, restlessness, intrigue, cynicism, dopey happiness or cruel menace. Fascinating!
Couldn’t agree with you more, Elaine 😚
My Liberation Notes is one of my favorite dramas of the year.
Btw, superb post !
What a great post, Elaine! I love your choice to compare two seemingly different types of dramas, and coming up with a new way to to look at them. It’s challenged me to think about other ways to evaluate shows. I also liked your selection criteria for shows that stay with you or move you or have an unexpected impact… regardless of whether they reach the fine art category. Yes! That is a big piece of what drama watching is about, that is, how shows make you feel. Thanks for this beautifully written post. ❤️
A Model Family, Again My Life, All Of Us Are Dead, Big Mouth, Blind, May I Help You, May It Please The Court, Somebody, well, think those are not on any of the lists so far. For one that is, Alchemy Of Souls, something is horribly wrong when the writer(s) are canned mid-series, which is all I have to say about that.
Next, as the one soul wrote in his submission:
“My favorite Korean movies from this era are: My Sassy Girl, The Handmaiden, The Classic, Oldboy, Memories of Murder, Mother, and more recently, Seoul Searching, Beauty Inside, High Society, Burning, and of course Parasite.”
Parasite is mediocrity. Won Best Picture owing to Hollywood producing mostly garbage (the bar was rather low) and was also their way of disposing of the BS in Best Foreign Film/Picture. Bong’s magnum opus, which our writer did mention, is Memories Of Murder. Some have opined that ever since Memories all Bong has done is try recapture that glory. In other words, if one has not yet seen Memories then one has not seen Bong’s best (that much is certain, like taxes and death).
Burning is otherwise just before the end (rank) of Lee Chang-Dong’s Oasis, Peppermint Candy, Secret Sunshine and Poetry. In proper order, Poetry (best Korean film ever), then Peppermint Candy, Secret Sunshine, Burning, Oasis. Hopefully still there but as of about two weeks ago Poetry was on Youtube (was on before but that copy was taken down and then a better copy appeared).
Our man might have also mentioned, for those still in love with CLOY, A Moment To Remember (that last part there at the end, well, before we get there, earlier in the film she complains, you don’t ever say, you love me, but he does in the jeep and so who knew that salanghae is the one word cure for Alzheimer’s, as they drive off into the sunset to live happily ever after, well, at least that’s how us romantics see the film).
Also, without doubt the ROKs best film with children leads, The World Of Us.
There’s also, in no particular order, Miss Baek, Miracle In Cell No. 7, Welcome To Dongmakgol, A Taxi Driver, Silenced, Hope, (and since she is better looking in it) Il Mare (over My Sassy Girl)(liked the premise better as well), Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…And Spring, House of Hummingbird, Right Now, Wrong Then, and a box office flop but still better than Parasite, Take Care Of My Cat (way ahead of Hollywood, that film, since not only as good a social commentary as Parasite but a females coming of age film that addresses female issues without being the least bit preachy, and did I mention that as with Nam Ji-hyun, Ok Ji-young (Ok Go-woon) floats my boat?).
Which reminds me, one of the site’s proprietors, well, I recall anyway, related will not watch a show if not appealing and never mind the male lead. Whereas one of the submissions re 2022’s best mentioned the one soul (male) who was so enamored with our gal that he watched shows not his type just to see her. On that note, also not on anyone’s list, since mediocrity, but if one can see Kwon Yu-ri in that dress at the club and wearing shorts every now again (legs), well, then one has to watch Good Job.
Thanks Elaine for this beautiful well-written post. I had a great time reading it. I have only seen 2521 and LW from this list.
And you are the first person so far among the guest post writers who has written in detail on Little Women drama (FGV – please correct me if I am wrong). I personally enjoyed that drama a lot and did a live-watch and so it was both frustrating yet exciting to wait for the weekends. I agree that the story had logical issues yet as you rightly mentioned they packaged it so well that I was happy to just enjoy the ride. Of course the bonus for me as well was Wi Ha-Jun 😇. I saw Squid Game and I liked him in that drama. His character did some real brave stuff and he looked cool doing all of that (though sometimes his face was covered with SG masks). So was happy to get to see him all suave and dressed up and be charming in LW. Now I feel like I have both the past and the future works to look forward to wrt Wi Ha-jun. On 2521 – many thanks for mentioning Seung Wan. She deserves more and totally agree her character was not developed well towards the end. I actually got very sad at that school leaving decision scene and wasn’t sure if she is doing the right thing for herself. I got reassured only after looking at her mother’s performance in the school next day. Thankfully she ends up well in life.
Of all the other dramas you have mentioned – MLN is on my 2023 watch-list and once done I share my views if any.
Take care and Happy Chinese New Year to you and family.
Happy Chinese New Year to you too, Princess Jasmine, thank you for your kind words! Yay I’m glad you enjoyed the shout out to Wi Ha Jun and Seung Wan! Special characters this year for sure.
Glad you enjoyed Little Women!! It was a really fun ride, some niggles for sure and a bit….
Ah Seung Wan. I was rather sad to….
Thanks for sharing this wonderful post, Elaine! I feel your pain vis a vis a beloved show tank in the last episodes – while live-viewing, no less! On the other hand, not all do (tho it may seem that way), and there is nothing like the pleasure of seeing a great ending and that specific melancholy that comes with missing a terrific show that is no more (yes, I am masochism-adjacent…😳).
And double yay for Seung Wan in 25/21. I, too, though she was a great character that just got lost in the events of the ending. Would have liked to see a different ending for her, but then again:
Thanks again for sharing, and looking forward to more posts over on Patreon….happy year of the rabbit!.
Haha j3ffc, I like how you describe the special evanescent pleasure of a live watch! We’ll see if I engage in one this year!
Regarding your spoiler thought
Thanks j3ffc and Elaine for this discussion. I didn’t think too much on her career success. Honestly I just relieved that she could get to college. Now that you both talked about it, it makes me think……..and I will accept Elaine’s explanation.
@j3ffc too funny with your spoiler within a spoiler inside another spoiler!!! By that point is it still a spoiler? Hahaha.
But pls see my comment above replying to Princess Jasmine about Seung Wan, which is a bit different from my classmate…
Yay Elaine, a wonderful post!! Agree with many of your choices here, like the love for Seung Wan and My Liberation Notes being a fav of the year for its thoughtfulness (it is definitely on my rewatch list).
You are making yet another case for me to watch Reset and Shining for One Thing, and they are both definitely on my list.
I adore Our Beloved Summer so love that you shouted it out. I really loved Choi Woo Shik and Kim Da Mi onscreen and would be thrilled if they collaborate again.
I love that you included Spy x Family, a gem!!
Thanks uyen! Wow that we have so many similar likes! Yes I count this year pretty fortunate to have so many thoughtful, non conventional shows, like 25 21, MLN, OBS. If you watch Reset and Shining for One Thing, do see kfangirl’s episode notes and reviews on her blog, I and others had contributed our interpretations of moments in the show, or the ending.
Great post Elaine! I think the people in deep dive can definitely attest to my very very very positive feelings toward 2521 but I especially love that MLN ended up as your favorite for the year.
I find myself thinking about the show a lot even now and it is definitely a show I want to rewatch in the future to experience all-over again, there was something so beautiful about the atmosphere and mood of the show.
Thank you Kun! Definitely agree about the beautiful atmosphere and mood of MLN. And yet, there are moments of humour too!
I especially loved
Happy Lunar New Year 🐇
Thank you for sharing your highlights – and I do love a backstory so it’s very nice to ‘know’ you a little better too!
Whether Red Sleeve was 2021 or 2022, I still have not seen it – gah! In fact, I’ve only seen Shining for One Thing and A Business Proposal on your list – two super different shows to each other. Isn’t it amazing how mixed all our genre-watching is? Blogs like yours, and over on Patreon, does make you try out different shows you might not otherwise – time permitting… 😊
Good point Ele, were it not for this awesome blog by kfangirl, we would not have been prompted to try certain shows, would not even have heard of them at all! (Especially since Asian dramas are spread out over so many streaming platforms now). For example, I would never have heard of the Taiwanese drama Someday or One Day, that would have been a big loss! And even though I tend to avoid sad or bittersweet dramas, all the rich commentary on Patreon and on kfangirl’s review convinced me to give The Red Sleeve a go. Not an easy watch, but very rewarding. Ah, I was trying to brief and I didn’t even praise Grandfather King’s tour de force, Shakespearean performance in The Red Sleeve!
Ele, I’d be very curious if you end up trying The Red Sleeve. OTP has an intensity that I think you might like (yes this is me unashamedly hoping you’ll love Junho as much as Leo Wu and Mark Chao 😂)
@Elaine Agree, I wouldn’t have found so many shows that I’ve ended up loving better than anything I’ve ever seen! Someday or One Day is a great example. Ditto My Mister.
@Uyen Just the pics kfangurl posts of Junho, I’m all heart eyes! The baby is literally not sleeping at the mo so my tolerance for watching TV is super low – but, oh, I really will try soon!!
Happy Lunar New Year, Elaine! Thanks for sharing your year in dramas and introducing yourself.
Like several other KFG fans, I got hooked on Kdramas during the pandemic with Crash Landing on You on Netflix as my gateway drama.
Pairing dramas was a unique approach that I especially enjoyed. I have watched many of the same dramas as you and found your comments to be refreshing.
Of all your insights, my favorite is “reminding myself not to do live-watch again.” I am tempted by on air dramas even though I got royally burned by 25,21–it still stings! To avoid disappoinment, I am working my way through KFG’s lists, starting by grade (A+ going down) and “iconic” dramas. Usually, I wait until on-air dramas are at 6-10 episodes, while monitoring KFG comments and the ratings on IMDB before I decide to jump in, playing catchup by binging.
I hope to visit beautiful Singapore someday, as the movie Crazy Rich Asians, one of my favorites is set in there. Have you seen the film or read the books?
Looking forward to 2023 dramas with KFG, you and fellow fans…..
Regarding Twenty-Five, Twenty-One, we’d read KFG’s review before watching, so we knew to swap out the usual “this is a romance story” viewing lens with a “this is a coming-of-age story” lens. It’s really great show, but without that crucial adjustment, my wife and I would have been disappointed as well.
Happy new year Su San! No I haven’t watched Crazy Rich Asians yet haha! I do have to say though that most of Singapore is not as glamourous and luxurious as is depicted in Little Women and Crazy Rich Asians.
The other thing that really disappointed me was how adult Hee Do didn’t seem to remember the magical beach trip, and how she didn’t seem to keep in touch with the rest of the gang minus Yi Jin. Basically, how adult Hee Do was written didn’t match up at all to her character in high school. Yes you can grow up and mature but what happened to her loyalty as a friend?
On 2521 – “the media coverage winding down in a couple of months” – my interpretation for the longer duration were US declared war in Afghan immediately post 9/11 and NY/Washington would have to be the place for international reporters to report back home on those developments. And then War in Iraq by US in 2003. Lot of things happened in the Afghan War/Iraq War between 2001 and 2011 until Osama was killed finally in 2011. So in that context I can see Yi Jin having some very busy years in the US in that period.
@Princess Jasmine re 9/11 – good points! There was indeed the war in Afghanistan and the larger war on terror. Didn’t think about that =)
Thanks Elaine. That’s all my geopolitical interests coming in to help me with the K-dramas 😃. Hope it was of some use in context setting.
@j3ffc 🤣🤣🤣 how can I get you out of the spoiler limbo?!
Same as you, I recently apologised to a secondary school friend about something I did that let her down, and she completely did not remember it. Yay for me! But in other cases, I was more mean than I remembered… my friend showed me written evidence in her yearbook how I left her a message that was jokey but was also very critical of her behaviour =( but hey we are still friends, so I guess the positives in our friendship outweighed the times I may have been too critical!
Whew! There – I’m out! Thanks!! 😂
But I think one thing we can say out loud is that, regardless of its faults, the fact that we are still thinking and talking about 25/21 after this much time has passed means that it was a drama of consequence that made an impression, which is something to aim for.
Of the shows we’ve seen, I totally agree on Twenty-Five Twenty-One, Our Beloved Summer and Little Women and mostly agree on Business Proposal. (I was surprised that Business Proposal didn’t wrap up better than it did, with the ML’s father especially, given all the great setup they’d done on him and that TV show he was watching.)
@Elaine, now that you’ve discovered Wi Ha-joon/jun, you simply must watch Romance Is A Bonus Book!! He is wonderfully sweet as the 2nd ML in that show, with a prominent role starting in the very first episode and a full back-story of his own throughout the show. (Whereas he played much less endearing characters in Something In The Rain and Squid Game…)
Yes I did watch Romance is a Bonus Book after it was recommended by other Patreons and kfangirl herself!! Wi Ha Jun was definitely cute and appealing in that show, but it was a more boy-next-door kind of role, so he didn’t turn on the smoulder he had in Little Women haha.
Thanks for the tip about Squid Game. From the little clips I’ve seen online, Wi Ha Jun looked really hot in the show but I didn’t know his character was unlikeable. From what my colleagues have told me about Squid Game, I think it is not up my alley as it probably delves more into the horrid things people do to each other for the sake of money/survival than I’m probably comfortable with. But kfangirl made it through! Hmm…
He’s not unlikable in Squid Game, just not terribly likeable either. But if there’s a sequel, I would guess he’ll have a more prominent role!
He’s not one of the win-or-die game contestants in Squid Game.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your 2022 favorites with us, Elaine! My Liberation Notes was my top drama in 2022 also. There were many times I had to hit pause so I could write down a piece of dialogue. This show helped me embrace my introverted side and lives in my heart.
Thanks Cathy! Yay, introverts unite! Have you read Quiet by Susan Cain? It is a pretty insightful look into how popular culture prizes certain traits which tend to be extrovert and don’t value enough the strengths of introverts like deep thinking and sensitivity.
Elaine, I love that list and the pairings (and you too!) I haven’t watched many of the shows on your list (maybe 2023 will be the year that I catch up??? lol) but I really agreed with your opinions for Business Proposal and Once Upon A Small Town. Lol.
High 5 MC, I definitely remember spazzing with you on Business Proposal hahaha!!! No worries at all about catching up when there are so many new shows to watch. Crash Course in Romance may be on my watch list next after Prison Playbook, the trailer looks so fun!
Hey, Happy Lunar Year!
We don’t really celebrate it (apart from otoshidama for kids – my kids respectfully follow all customs including money), but I know it is a big thing for many of you and I wish one day we will visit China or why not, Singapore, for the festivities!
I had this question reading your choices, it is actually a question addressed to all: What happend with The Red Sleeve after all? I remember all of you guys were crazy about it in Patreon, but I think this is the first list that recommends it?
I have the same question concerning Love between Fairy and Devil. I am only watching it now, but I remember everyone being so happy with it, it was a surprise that I didn’t see anyone actually recommending it…
@Natalia – Hi!!! Happy Lunar Year to you as well 🙂
YES! We did love Red Sleeve. I think some discussed it in last year’s EOY? Or maybe I am just thinking of all the discussions on Patreon. Maybe Elaine’s is the first list that mentions it?
As for F&D, I thought one or two posters put this one in their reviews this year. But cannot remember who at the moment 🙂
I am sure you have a better memory than I do, JJ!
And you are right, I am so bad at keeping up with time that maybe Red Sleeve was in the top lists last year? I am not even sure when it aired…
Natalia — The final two episodes of The Red Sleeve (16 & 17) actually aired on January 1, 2022. I think you could make a decent argument either way (for my own list, I ultimately decided to count it as a pre-2022 show).
Hi Natalia! Actually, Reem was the first to mention The Red Sleeve as a top drama, and a well-written review it was too!
I was also surprised that only Reem and I have mentioned The Red Sleeve so far. My theory is that since most of it aired in 2021 but its last episode in January 2022, some may have thought of it as a 2021 show, when actually it didn’t qualify to be in the rankings last year (as it hadn’t finished airing yet).
Ooops! I think I missed Reem’s post, I have to look it up!
@Natalia – You know maybe none of us mentioned it last year?!?! We discussed it heavily on Patreon for certain….
Here is a list of All KFG’s EOY and she included Guest Posts too 🙂
Natalia, similar to what other folks said, since most of The Red Sleeve aired last year, I considered last year’s drama even though I was still waiting on the ending and didn’t include in my last year’s wrap up…so it fell through the cracks a bit. It’s not one of my favorites but I did very much enjoy watching it.
I am still planning to watch LBFD sometime soon!! I hope you like it.
great list Elaine, except for the 2 chinese ones which I haven’t seen, I agree with all of your others. Especially no 1, loved My Liberation Notes.
High five jaco_4950!!
Ah Elaine — this post was fabulous! I loved your post last year and it looks like you have hit it out of the ball park again this year. Brava! I did not realize that your babies were so young. I do not know how you juggle it all. Much respect to you!
I loved Spy x Family as much as you did. I never would have seen this if not for your post over on Patreon. Big thanks as I laughed all the way through. New season is coming- https://www.digitalspy.com/tv/a40601813/spy-x-family-season-2-release-date-crunchyroll/.
I also read the Singapore article on Little Women and wow, that Truck of Doom video was really something else.
Hooray for the Jackie Chan/Jet Li graphic. That pic is a ton of very cool bad ass right there. Also love the bunny new year image!
I have avoided My Liberation Notes but I found your thoughts on this drama very intriguing and now I may watch it.
Happy Lunar New Year Elaine!
Thanks phl1rxd! Aaah I’m so happy you enjoyed Spy x Family!
Re: the Truck of Doom video, judging by the angle I think it must have been taken by one of the “extra” cars in the scene. From the voices it sounded like they were timing the speed of how they drive, but they were still wowed by the collision. It was more the commenters viewing the video who thought it was a real accident.
Ooh I’m glad my notes on MLN intrigued you. I hope I said enough to make clear what is enjoyable about the show, but I do know it is not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s A-OK! I would be happy if more viewers are not struggling with existential angst and unhappy/failed careers/romances so can’t identify =)
@Elaine – Did you say X-Men?!?! And X-men comics no less?!?! OMO!! So beyond cool. Who is your favorite? Mine hands down is Storm (Ororo Munro) Do share!!!
Your notes and comments on Shining for one Thing were invaluable and loved having you there putting everything into context along with KFG’s notes. I had so much on my second watch of that Show. AND WE GET A MOVIE NEXT!!! YAY!!!
As we discussed over on Patreon, My Liberation Notes just did not work for me, sadly 🙁 What did work was reading how and why My Liberation Notes worked for you so well which helped me see the Show a bit differently and appreciate more what it was trying to do in telling its story.
Over on the Deep Dive Zone, we were so lucky when you finally came over to spazz about 25 21 and Business Proposal. You have some of the best one liners and always make me laugh or chuckle in one way or another. Even here – “regret something you had to take action on (dating a douchebag)” 😂😂😂 and at the same time leaving us with something very meaningful in this case the translation of the two different Chinese words 🥰
“But thanks to a blog post about Shining for One Thing, I learned that 后悔 means to regret something you had taken action on (e.g. dating a douchebag) whereas 遗憾 means that sadness and feeling of loss at the path not taken (e.g. not having dared to leave your family and go overseas to study, which meant missing out on a potentially rewarding path of discovery).”
I am slowly working my way throw Friendcation with its tiny miniscule subtitles on “that shall not be named” streaming service. Its been so much fun so far!
YAY for Singapore getting a Blue Truck of Doom!!! 💙
Wonderful EOY, thank you for sharing with us.
“See” you in the Deep Dive Zone 🙂
Yes!! The Fox X-Men animated series showed here on local TV when I was in Primary 5 (Grade 5) and my friend and I were hooked! We started going to the neighbourhood comic shop to follow the comic series. From there, we branched out to the wider X-universe, and then darker fare like The Sandman.
The guys running the comic shop were extremely amused to have these teenage girls as regular clientele, given that most of their regulars were thirty-something nerds haha.
My favourite character is Rogue. She’s lovable and charming, I loved how tough and useful she was in a fight and also empathised with her dilemma at not being able to touch the people she loves. Her doomed romance with Gambit was swoon worthy! (Hmm, so even at a young age I enjoyed angsty romances?! Hahaha)
@Elaine – Ahhhhh, so awesome! So so awesome!
Rogue is great and I remember her romance with Gambit!
I love we have this in common as well 🙂
Yayyy!! I remember loving Ian Churchill and Andy Kubrick’s illustrations. So many years later, I still remember this iconic issue (owned by my friend alas, not me!)
@Elaine – I am COMPLETELY freaking out over this chit chat we are having over Xmen!!! We definitely have to continue this over at the Water Cooler!!!
Chris Claremont is my favorite writer of Xmen, ever
“Chris Claremont is synonymous with the X-Men. His initial seventeen-year run on Uncanny X-Men is the longest tenure of any Marvel writer, and he told some of the greatest X-Men stories, and just greatest superhero stories in general, during his tenure. He’d also launch New Mutants and Excalibur during this period, building the X-Men mythos into an empire of titles for Marvel.
Claremont wrote Uncanny X-Men #94-279, 381-389, and 444-473, X-Men #1-3, 100-109, and 165, and X-Treme X-Men #1-46. Claremont created the bedrock of everything that made the X-Men special. He was the writer who made the team popular and creators are still playing with characters and concepts he created.”
Elaine – that is one beautiful piece of art.
I enjoyed very much how you paired dramas in your year end awards, Elaine. In my English literature days, such an approach would have aced the dreaded compare and contrast exam questions.
I found I was totally entranced by My Liberation Notes. Although I had an issue re the direction show took with the mum and I guess ultimately, the dad, it was an absorbing and thoughtful show. As individuals, we are simple, yet complex. MLN pitched such a premise perfectly.
My Mister, is perhaps my all time favourite show. It certainly is in my top three, which has changed, it would seem during 2022. Although I keep changing my mind re the other two shows.
With the way you have pitched Shining For One Thing, that will be the next drama I start, some time this week. So, this has also helped me prioritise some other shows I was about to start.
All in all, a very fitting post for KFG’s celebration of the 1,000th post on the verdict.
I am quite sure you are going to enjoy drama 2023. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of drama material that is churned out. There are many interesting shows coming down the viewing pipeline 😊
@seankfletcher – if you do start Shining For One Thing, make sure you read KFG Patreon’s notes where she and Elaine provided lots on context for several of the Chinese sayings and translated lots for Leslie and I. Since you are at your 800th Show, might not be necessary for you, but for me was invaluable.
They had four writers for the Show!!! And wow did they do a great job of putting a beautiful story together. There is so much meaning in almost everything so you have to pay attention because you think you take the Show at face value until you realize how much attention to detail went into the Show. I watched it twice because the first time I had no clue what was going 🙂
Make sure you watch til the end of the credits, too!
@JJ – thank you for your enthusiastic support. My journey has started with Shining, so I know already that it will be on my favourites list of the shows I’m watching at present. And, I always check out the credits 😉
@seankfletcher – You are most welcome 🦄
YAY!!!!!! Awesome. Please do share your thoughts about the Show somewhere where can find them.
Ah good! These credits, I think, were very special and made me teary eyed 😬
OMO, I never watch to the end of the credits for fear of spoilers in the trailers! Might need to go back and see what I missed!
@Elaine & Sean – OPS! I just meant the final episode end credit. YIKES! Needed to be more specific 🙂
Haha ok yes I did watch the final episode end credits!!
@seankfletcher – OPS! I just meant the final episode end credit. YIKES! Needed to be more specific 🙂
@JJ – all good. I knew that’s what you meant 😉
Sean, I would be honoured if you were to try Shining for One Thing because of my recommendation!!! Just to note: the FL starts off in the first couple episodes a bit pesky and try-hard (the character, not the actress), and I felt she took a while to build empathy for her fellow schoolmates, but she did grow and develop in a satisfying way.
I have just finished the first episode, Elaine. So, a big thumbs up from me. I liked the FL straight off the bat. She’s cluey, which I find interesting. The ML seems like a very nice guy.
I have seen the leads in many dramas. Also, I have seen the FL’s parents, playing parents, in more dramas than I can count.
So, I will keep watching. Thank you for changing my mind.
@Sean – yay yay yay =) =) =)
Also share pics from Tasmania!!!! It’s on my dream destination list. It’s the flight all the way from Singapore that daunts me… Would it be nice in the winter (June) or is it better in the summer? I’m limited to traveling in the Singapore school holidays, the longer ones are June (one month) and mid-Nov to end-Dec.
@Elaine – my thoughts are mid-Nov to end-Dec. The daily temperature is often 22-24C (but it can snow). In Winter, it’s cold and beautiful, snow in many spots and cheaper too. Tasmania is a beautiful place all year round. It can be four seasons in one day, so if you visit in summer you will need some level of warmer clothing.
Here are a couple of links re what I posted last week with some decent photos:
@Elaine – my thoughts are mid-Nov to end-Dec. The daily temperature is often 22-24C (but it can snow). In Winter, it’s cold and beautiful, snow in many spots and cheaper too. Tasmania is a beautiful place all year round. It can be four seasons in one day, so if you visit in summer you will need some level of warmer clothing.
Here are a couple of links re what I posted last week:
Elaine –thanks so much for the introduction and sharing a bit about yourself and where you’re coming from. I too am a Covid kdrama baby, and CLOY was one of the first dramas I saw (maybe 3rd or 4th?). (I have to confess I kind of enjoyed the turn to the melodramatic there in the final episodes, though…😆)
You’ve got some really great dramas on your list (most of them
wouldwill make my list, too), and I like how you’ve paired them up with each other, and your thoughtful comments on what makes each of them tick for you. I especially like your observation that sometimes it’s not a question of how “great” a show is by some objective metric, but just how buzzy they make us feel, how much they resonate personally. That turns out to be the factor that I think I’ve elevated the most in evaluating shows…
Been great having your voice in the mix on the Deep Dive Zone. Looking forward to chewing over more great (and not so great 😏) shows with you over there in 2023!
Haha “COVID Kdrama baby”, what a phrase!
Thanks Trent, from our convos on Patreon I knew we would have a lot of overlaps in our Best of 2022 list. I’m looking forward to your list too, let it rip with your off-the-cuff comments and reactions!
Ah yes, since you mention not-so-great shows, I did toy with including as an Honourable Mention – A Show to Watch if You Want Nice Scenery, Cute Animals and a Tolerable-if-you-are-feeling-generous Romance – Once Upon a Small Town hahaha.
New category: “Best Show to have on as background noise while you are Doing Something Else”
@Trent, I somehow don’t put dramas on as background noise. Even when waiting at the clinic and some random local or Taiwanese melodrama is on that I have not been following, I just feel compelled to watch and comment on the developments! 😂