Apart from the good things happening for my bias there have been other reasons to look on the bright side, including some very good Dramas. Japan supplied the outstanding Quartet, here are some Korean Dramas that made me feel glad I got to see them
This web drama is not high art. Ludicrously silly, with a plot so thin it barely pretends to be one, and a deus ex machina device ripped (probably) from the director watching Herbie as a kid, the critics would (defensibly) savage it. BUT, I gave it 10/10 for being perfect in one very important respect. It delivered EXACTLY what it promised; a celebration of sweet, uncomplicated romance, and thus a reminder that when K Dramas get it right, they REALLY get it right. An incredibly cute OTP with exceptional chemistry, and (VERY rare for K Dramas), more happy endings than you could shake a stick at.
The appearance and performance of the female lead in My Only Love Song so caught my attention that I went looking for another Drama starring Gong Seung Yeon. What I found was was one of the best Korean Dramas I’ve ever seen. In no particular order, some things that really impressed me:
The genre: This was the very first pure SF Korean Drama I’ve seen. No fantasy or supernatural elements, just science fiction. Very, very rare in K Dramas, a fact that may at least partly explain the very low ratings
The Story: A well thought-out morality tale about the link between memory and identity, and the extent to which the former defines the latter. Different characters had different views on the question, and some characters changed their views through the course of the story.
The execution: In the entire Drama, there was only one significant flaw I noted, involving an improbable recovery from massive blood loss. This meant almost no jarring facepalm moments taking viewers out of the world the story was building,
Gong Seung Yeon. I was impressed she chose such a completely different Drama after My Only Love Song. Clearly she’s serious about challenging herself and improving her craft by trying new roles. She did not disappoint, and I look forward to her next Drama, soon.
I’m not the biggest fan of tvN as Antarctica is not the hottest place on Earth. But they’ve delivered two hits year. First the stunning Circle, and then the equally good Secret Forest. A complex tale of political and judicial corruption, the content of the Drama is not new. But the excellence of the writing and the performances by the very strong cast, including the formidable Bae Doona, have elevated Secret Forest far above other political “thrillers” Korean TV cranks out. Apart from a few ponderously overlong early episodes (especially the first), it’s as close to perfect as we’re ever likely to see. Again in no particular order, some highlights:
¡A SENTIENT COP! As any longtime K Drama viewer knows, 999 out of every 1000 K Drama police officers would be outsmarted by a brain-damaged rock with a bad hangover. Bae Doona’s Han Yeo Jin is the 1 who wouldn’t. The joy that comes from watching a detective detect, using professional training and rational deductive thinking to do her job is enough to make me giddy.
A real partnership: The pairing of Detective Han with Prosecutor Hwang is at the heart of the show and it reminds me VERY strongly of the best Holmes-Watson pair I’ve ever seen, in Elementary. Just as with those two, this is truly a partnership. They complement and respect each other, and as a result, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
A credible villain: Bad guys in K Dramas are often shouty maniacs who make Dr Evil seem like a genuine mastermind. CEO Lee, though is calm, methodical and dispassionate. This makes the battle between he and Prosecutor Hwang a real joy to watch.
Background silence: Many K Dramas try to coerce viewers’ reactions through intrusive and unsubtle music, Secret Forest lets the talking do the talking.
BAD Dramas & GOOD Company
I have a wonderful Twitter timeline. Many of them are devoted fans of various actors and/or idols themselves, so indulge my ceaseless fanboying over Wang Ji Won, and my deliberately bad wordplay with good humour (or at least fake it well). They’re also there to celebrate bad or potentially bad Dramas, such as Manhole: Wonderland Feels. The hours of hilarity this Drama’s name has generated on my Twitter feed has been a real treasure, and when the awesome Mary excelled herself by creating a game to celebrate the absurdity, even more fun was had by even more people. Finding things to laugh AT is easy, finding good people to laugh WITH is definitely reason to look on the bright side.
Netflix rounds out my list for a couple of reasons. First, quantitatively, for making ever more East Asian Dramas available legally here in Aotearoa. As the major Korean networks retreat to a supply channel which defines “global” to mean “US/(Canada) only”, Netflix keeps adding to its available library here. Second, qualitatively. Of the three Dramas I discuss above, two are Netflix productions or co-productions. So for making many Dramas available here, and especially for making My Only Love Story and Secret Forest, thank you very kamsa, Netflix!
I hope these posts have given at least some readers cause to think of their own reasons to look on the bright side. BESIDES the obvious one – the fact that I’m finally done!