Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Sons of Sol Pharmacy, part 1

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So, only a couple of posts ago, I voiced my hesitance in watching the drama Smile, You because it might have 50 episodes instead of 30. To date, I have avoided most, if not all, dramas that are in the category of long dramas (which is basically anything with more than 30 episodes). So now, posting about a drama that is exactly just that is a pretty historic day for me. ‘Sons of Sol Pharmacy’ has become my first ever long drama. I finished the entire 54 episodes in mere two weeks. Of course, I can’t say that I didn’t utilize the fast forward button a few times, but it is safe to say that 54 episodes felt like a zip. I enjoyed watching the drama SO MUCH.

I couldn’t remember what it was that made me start watching SSP. I think it was one of the comments over at Javabeans about Daepung and Bokshil or something. But I started watching casually. Just like I never finished New Heart or Dae Jang Geum or Lawyers of Republic of Korea even after almost halfway the series, I just went into SSP with the thought that if I managed to finish it, then awesome, great but if I grew bored, then whatever. So, 6 episodes went by in a flash, then 16 and it became clear that this drama has to and will absolutely be finished because it is just so frickin addictive.

I skipped classes and stayed home to watch whether or not Seonpung came to his senses and proposed to Eunji, whether or not Mipung got his Baby Hana back from Suhee, or whether Sujin dumped Daepung for Jinpung just yet, or whether the Bokshil finally stood up for herself. I even looked forward to whether Mama Song and Mama Oh caught their respective husbands in the hair salon and drag them home.

SSP has finished airing a few weeks ago and became this year’s highest rated drama, recording 48% in its last episode. It effectively became the nation’s drama of the year, trumping the record number 47% set by Brilliant Legacy.

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To give a little summary, SSP is about the Song Family whose 4 sons are yet to be married, 3 of them have surpassed the 35 year old mark. And their Mom is anxious for them to finally get married and delegate some of the housework to her daughters in law. Jinpung, the eldest, is approaching 40 and his shy personality coupled with his long time one sided love to a former close friend makes it really hard for him to get a girl. Daepung, on the other hand, is 37 and is living his glory days. He dates and outdates his girlfriends easily and is as flaky as a leaf.

Seonpung, 35, is a reporter who doesn’t think much about marriage and has no time to entertain romance. A huge animal activist, it’s been said that he might love animal more than people. Mipung, the magnae, is only 20 and is studying to get into a good university after failing the first time. His passion is sewing and knitting, yet he can’t pursue it because his hobby is not ‘for men’.

‘Sons of Sol Pharmacy’ revolves around these four brothers and the people around them. Their friends, their parents, their neighbours, their enemies, etc. The drama boasts an extensive cast and dare I say it, they ALL deliver. If I have to pick someone I don’t like among the characters, I would have a hard time. SSP has the amazing ability to make all characters likable and sympathetic that in the end, you just root for them. To sidetrack a little, I think this is the problem with Smile, You right now. At the moment, after watching 10 episodes, among the many characters I can say for sure that I only like at most 3 people.

But ‘Sons of Sol Pharmacy’ introduces a wide variety of personalities. Most often, you don’t like them when they first appear, not right away anyway. Miran, Mama Song’s niece, was pretty annoying when she first appeared and basically invaded the house because she put all her money into a failed production play and had nowhere to live. But I ended up liking her so much that whenever she says she’s going to an audition (she’s a stage actress, btw) I actually prayed that she would get the part. That’s how much emotionally attached I became to her, and she’s only one of the supporting characters!

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There are in essence 4 pre-scripted couples. Jinpung marries Sujin, Daepung marries Bokshil, Seonpung marries Eunji, and while Mipung does not develop romantic storyline with Suhee, they become close.

Now, if I have to pick a favourite couple, it’s Jinpung/Sujin, hands down. Sujin is the new neighbour who happens to be Hyerim’s sister in law, who happens to be Jinpung’s long time love. When they first met, Sujin thought Jinpung was the neighbourhood creep ahjussi who went around getting drunk and vandalizing properties. Little by little they get to know each other and Sujin falls for Jinpung’s kindness just as Jinpung falls for Sujin’s blunt spunk. I’ve read a few comments that think this couple is a little too normal and boring. I find this couple to be the most compelling and I attribute acting skills to one of the reasons.

Son Hyeonju is awesome. Plain as that. I first saw him in What’s Up Fox and at first he was really creepy. By the end of the drama, it’s not a stretch to say that he’s my favourite character in the entire drama. He’s got brilliant comedic skills, yet he does the sad scenes SO. DAMN. WELL. Midway through ‘Sons of Sol Pharmacy’ there is a scene where Jinpung and Sujin, on camping, sit together and talk about Hyerim who has passed away. That scene had me crying and snivelling at exactly 4 in the morning.

Park Sunyoung is the perfect counterpart as Sujin, who is strong on the outside, yet shows her vulnerability only to Jinpung. It wasn’t easy for them to finally be together, yet even after they get together, I enjoy and look forward to their scenes. One little part I like about their storyline is conflicts after marriage. In marrying the ‘First Son’ of the family, Sujin understands the important implication of being THE daughter in law. A perfectionist herself, Sujin is very VERY careful to the Song family that they even wonder why she seems to fear the family so much. She memorizes all the birthdays, the Chuseok shopping lists, etc. I appreciate that Sujin takes it seriously, but I appreciate the family and Jinpung as well because instead of accepting it as face value, they want Sujin to just take it easy and enjoy herself. And btw, throughout this drama, all I could think about is that I want to have a husband like Jinpung.

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Now, Seonpung and Eunji are the cutest couple. I really like how the style of their courtship is very straight forward, but by no means cold. They grow closer and get married less than halfway the drama. But the downside is that for the remainder of the drama, Seonpung and Eunji do not get too much focus anymore. Sometimes they barely even appear onscreen, which is such a shame. Like the other couples, this couple fit like a puzzle. Eunji is the kind of girl who spouts whatever she has in her head, without much thought. In a way, Seonpung is a lot like that too, he’s careful about his manner, but he’s oblivious that sometimes he speaks bluntly. Eunji is much younger than Seonpung and she’s childish a lot of times. But because of this, Seonpung is able to channel his caring personality for Eunji, while she is able to evoke different kind of reactions from Seonpung.

Eunji herself, is a very adorable girl. She talks really fast and has a lot of weird habits. On the onset, I thought she would clash with her mother in law who expects great things from her very first daughter in law. But she doesn’t shy away from her mother in law. Instead she treats her just like she treats her mother, with familiarity and warmth. She teases and gets teased by Mom Song and their interaction has more like a mother daughter dynamic rather than the polite and proper in law mannerism. This is why that even if Mom Song wants to reprimand her for her less than ‘daughter in law-y’ behaviours, Mom Song can never get herself into this ‘Dominating’ Mother In Law mode. It is a little saddening tho because after getting married, Seonpung and Eunji sort of became a filler in the background. They were just a little here and there and a little disconcerting. It was a relief that toward the end, they found their tandem again.

So anyways, next part will be about the other two couples, the storyline and the pluses and minuses of ‘Sons of Sol Pharmacy’. In the meantime, enjoy the awesomeness of Son Hyunjoo below:

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See You Soon, Junjin

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*fangirl cheesiness start*

Argh, other than Lee Dongwook, THIS is the saddest military enlistment for me. I’m a big fan of Shinhwa, but despite loving all the members, Junjin holds a special something so to see him going off the spotlight for two years is tough and I admit that I resent this national obligation a little bit, especially after so many great men go this year.

My fangirlism for Junjin has been going up and down since last year. After he did his eyes, his appearance changed quite drastically and call me cheesy, but I felt that his cute troublemaker semi magnae charm just went away with his eye fats. I kept saying it didn’t matter but frankly speaking, it had an impact.

I still followed him and his album releases were top priority. And then his image in variety shows like Infinity Challenge, his High School Girls show, and WGM just became more prevalent than his works as a singer and that was a source of disappointment to me because while it proved that Junjin is a multi entertainer with a great personality to be going back and forth in reality shows, it also highlights that singing, his original title occupation, has taken a backseat compared to variety programs.

But now, after seeing him going off to Army, I am regretting the useless time spent to pile up negative sentiments on someone. Especially after seeing the picture above. Junjin’s signature impish toothy grin. It feels like this cute troublemaker semi magnae is back.

I am sad that it means Junjin will be inactive for two years, but on the other hand, I feel relieved that he’s now free to live a more personal life, away from the spotlight, FINALLY. After pretty much 12 years of entertainment slave labour. I hope this is a chance for his to reflect on what he’s accomplished so far and what he wants in the future. I hope that this two years will be a healthier and happier life for him.

Jin, eat well, sleep well, work well. Don’t go on too much drinking binge, don’t get yourself injured, don’t get too competitive in your job. Take care and see you in two years.

*fangirl cheesiness end*

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Reasons to love Junjin and relive these old times:

Last, but not least:

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Smile, You Ep1-6

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This is the drama whose number of episodes is elusive. Some says it’s in the range of 50s, others states it has 30. I was bidding time to decide whether I’m going to stick around and make a bail. That’s why I avoided talking too much about this because if it is true 50 episodes, then it is a pretty ambitious goal in my part. There are lots of long dramas, but I just never really watch them. I have never watched them because I either get bored, or get lost in the storylines.

The last time I attempted to watch a longer drama was Happiness (58 episodes, if I’m not mistaken) but that quickly blew up in my face. By episode 12 I was bored and I ended up waiting until the drama finished and just watched some cuts of it. Pretty much the longest drama I’ve watched is Brilliant Legacy with 28 episodes, followed by 1% of Anything with 26 episodes. So it is with much amazement that I see people watching those crazy long dramas like Be Strong Geum Soon, Jumong, or the current Queen Seondeok. I don’t have the patience or the devotion to do that.

But, I decided to catch Smile, You anyway because I feel like this drama has a unique charm. It’s not necessarily different or revolutionary, but everything about it is strangely charming and refreshing. I also like how none of the main actors are the high profile trendy actors, yet they have appear in enough projects for me to see familiar faces. I’ve seen Jung Kyungho in the fantastic drama I’m Sorry I Love You and the forgettable movie Herb. Lee Minjung was in the drama Who Are You and of course, she was ‘Gu Junpyo’s fiancee’ in Boys Over Flowers. Admittedly, I have never seen Lee Chunhee act, but I saw him countless of times in Family Outing. The talented and hilarious Lee Kyuhan was ‘Samsoon’s asshole of an ex’ in My Name is Kim Sam Soon, but for me, he was most memorable in Que Sera Sera. Choi Yoonjung have had quite a lot of projects under her belt but I remember her most in Bad Couple and Taereung National.

So, Smile You is about the rich Seo family, comprised of dad, mom, eldest son, eldest daughter, and youngest daughter. Working for the Seo family is Grandpa Kim who heads a family of a son, a daughter in law, and a sole grandson. When the spoiled, arrogant Seo family goes bankrupt, they are forced to camp out together in Grandpa Kim’s house and live by his (super tough) rules.

I admit that while I loved episode 1 and 2, I thought episode 3, 4, and 5 lacked a certain oomph. I understand however that episode 1 and 2 were mostly laying out the foundation of the characters on the drama, the relationships between them, and some special dynamics. Episode 3, 4, 5, and 6 were where things build up to set us to the direction the drama takes.

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I almost gave up the drama because a lot of the characters just pissed me off. It’s not like they are evil or manipulative, but they are so spoiled and annoying that it just grated on  my last nerve. And I wasn’t having fun watching the drama anymore. You know, when you watch a character you hate, there are 2 different kind of hate going on. One is where you hate the character but secretly marvel at them (case in point: Kim Soyeon in All About Eve and Kim Misook in Brilliant Legacy). The other is when you hate the character because they annoy you so much that you just can’t spare them any drop of sympathy whatsoever (case in point: Park Shieun in Delightful Girl Choonhyang and sadly Goo Hyesun in Boys Over Flowers).

Now,watching a drama with the first type of hate is pretty overwhelming, but a very good ride overall, usually. But the second one, it just leaves you exhausted and pissy.  It’s OKAY if you only have one of those in a drama. But imagine having 4 of the second kind in ONE drama. 4 times the frustration, yo! I felt like I was going to explode anytime while I was watching Smile You. I ended up skipping a lot of parts and just got to the characters I actually liked. To note, I think if a drama can evoke such strong sentiment from you ABOUT the character, it is already a successful drama in one aspect. But then, when you hate a character (the 2nd type, mind you), there might be some problems with either acting or writing.

But then episode 6, finally hinted that these characters would not stay annoying forever. Perhaps 1 would (Seo Jungkyung played by Choi Yoonjung), but I think the other characters would be introduced to some humility, which I am looking for, by the way.

Now, the things I like. I love love the two main characters here, Hyunsoo and Jungin. I love that Hyunsoo is such a sweet guy. He tries to treat everyone really well and even if he disliked Jungin in the first instance, he always tries to do right by her. When his mom, having to serve the guests she doesn’t like, is angry and sad, Hyunsoo buys her a lotion to put on her hard worked hands. That was the sweetest gesture and the best scene in episode 5. Jungin is someone that is spoiled (and it’s cute that Hyunsoo has now taken to spoiling her too, lol) but in the face of hardship, she doesn’t recoil. She’s not stuck up like the rest of her family and actually loves and respects Grandpa.

But more than the character, Jung Kyungho and Lee Minjung are two lovable actors who ‘become’ Hyunsoo and Jungin. They’re natural in their interactions and they actually look really close, which is refreshing to see actually.

You’re Beautiful Ep. 1-2

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Damn you, Hong Sisters.Why must you be so frickin good?

I wasn’t intending to watch this drama at all. The cast was not interesting, the idea was barely passable (reminded me a lot of either Hana Kimi for some reason), the preview was not promising, the posters looked incredibly gross, and the whole A.N.JELL thing was super lame.

But out of respect and curiosity for the Hong Sisters, I gave the first episode a try. Sure, I fell asleep on the first try but that was more because of me than of the drama. I saw Javabeans recapping its first episode with much enthusiasm so I tried the second time. And the second time, not only I cursed Hong Sisters for being so good, I also cursed Javabeans for being so so SO spot on in her drama recommendations.

So, You’re Beautiful is about this popular idol group called A.N.JELL whose vocalist Taekyung (Jang Geunseok) is having problems with his vocal cords. So, the company president (Jung Chan) needs to look for a new member to help with the vocal. And Go Minam is the candidate for it. Only, he’s out in the States having corrective surgery. Fortunately, Minam has a twin sister Go Minyeo (Park Shinhye) a nun apprentice who is taken to the task of impersonating her twin brother. But too bad for her, Taekyung hates the idea of a new member and while the two other members Jeremy (Lee Hongki) and Sinwoo (Jung Yonghwa) accept her, she is still getting her ass kicked by Taekyung.

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The first two episodes were fun, hilarious, and they have the signature Hong Sisters jokes (obvious, over the top, yet creative and still so funny). I laughed pretty much every five minutes. The drama knows how to make fun of itself and the general concept of idol group in Korea. The obsessive fans of the group, the girly (sometimes vain) people in an idol group, the overenthusiastic management, reporter who tries to get every tiny bit of gossips, even down to the obligatory shower scenes complete with classical opera tenor in the background. Seriously, it’s so funny.

Acting could be better. Jang Geunseok is pretty good as the emo neatfreak Taekyung who has a permanent frown on his face and basically has ‘I hate the world’ tattooed on his forehead. Park Shinhye is also very nice as the cute girl with soft voice and shy mannerism. There was a scene with her and a bunch of naked males in the changing room and she was so embarrassed that she only was able to go out of her hiding place by imagining them as merely naked babies, hahaha.

Hongki is so silly. I was watching the behind the scenes and photoshoot and I think he pretty much plays himself here. Only the notch of silliness in Jeremy is higher. Jung Yonghwa, apparently the brother of Jung Kyungho(?), needs lots of work. He is still sigh worthy in this early stage, but I think I’m gonna get annoyed by his character if they don’t introduce a flaw very soon. His acting is pretty awkward too so I hope that the Hong Sisters know his limit and won’t bog him down with too much storylines like the writers did to Kim Hyunjoong in Boys Over Flowers.

The music is surprisingly quite catchy and easy listening. I hope they don’t hammer those songs down throughout the drama and opt for more variety.

Overall, very enjoyable first week!

Current Events..

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So, Lady Castle/My Fair Lady is its final week. In fact, in mere hours, its last episode will air. Man, perhaps THE most anticipated drama for me this year ended up being THE disappointment of the year. I am glad it’s ending because I am impatient for the actors, especially Jung Ilwoo and Moon Chaewon to go do other, better, projects. While I stopped watching that crap a long time ago, I still follow Javabeans’s recap every week. And sometimes if a scene sounds interesting (which is fortunately really not often) I would go back and watch it. But other than that, I’ve moved on.

I was just struck by how significant a writing in a drama is. If you compare Brilliant Legacy and My Fair Lady (I know, I’m sorry BL to put you in the same sentence as MFL), objectively, Brilliant Legacy probably has more cliches going, a disadvantage to the drama. Kindhearted girl with mean evil stepmother and equally plotting stepsister, etc. But the writer so skillfully weaves through and around those cliches and work out the subtleties instead. The characters are explored more and the actors are worked to bring out the characters’ respective charms. MFL had a great opportunity to take Kang Hyena’s struggle in the company into another level and make it as her maturing experience. But oh no, they’d just rather go round around the same circle surrounding Dongchan/Hyena Love of The Century concept. Oh well.. Let’s hope that the main cast learns from this piece of crap and be more careful in choosing other roles.

Anyways, so updates have been rare in between. I wish I could write more, but I find that I have to cut back on drama watching by a lot. I am very slowly in the midst of catching up with Tamna The Island (episode 3) and I keep up (for now) with a new drama as well, called Smile, You. Smile, You stars Jung Kyungho, Lee Minjung, Lee Chunhee, Lee Kyuhan, Choi Jungyoon, etc. It’s a mix between family drama and trendy romcom. I am enjoying it immensely at the moment. It’s not free of the familiar cliches or setups, but it’s quite invigorating. The younger, more low profile stars are a breath of fresh air. It reminds me of the drama Happiness but with considerably less potential angst and evil deeds. So far, while it has its meh moments, it’s a fun and lighthearted drama.

The new variety show with Kang Hodong and Lee Seunggi called Kang Shimjang (Strong Heart) premiered recently to a surprisingly high rating! Rating was around the 17-18 range, which is really good for a variety talk show kind of program. It was also surprisingly really entertaining. I have found that basically the only variety shows I can watch without wanting to pause a lot are 1 Night 2 Days and We Got Married. Stuff like Star Golden Bell, Infinite Challenge, Star King, Happy Together, and a lot others are okay, but I never have the desire to follow them week to week religiously. Plus, there’s also the language barrier that is quite pervasive when it comes to talk shows. So when I watched Strong Heart, I didn’t have any expectation.

I was surprised because not only I could digest it moderately easy, it is also a very interesting program. The concept is simple. Celebrities talk about themselves, their past experiences, and share interesting stories. If a story is interesting (be it a sad story or a hilarious one), you get a Strong Heart sash. The next person will challenge the story. If the story is deemed to be better or equally good as the previous, the sash will be passed on. I have yet to figure out who actually decides whether a story is sash worthy or not, but that is the general mechanism of the show.

The viewers responses have been good, from what I’ve read. The consensus is that many people feel that there are too many guests (24 per episode) and because of that some guests don’t even get a chance to speak. Another complain is that the screentime is not divided equally at all. The first episode has 2 Big Bang members and they are basically the focus of the show. Well, the camera DID capture them unnecessarily too many times. They asked Seungri to show his dance once and G-Dragon to perform his song like twice. Come on! They didn’t ask Kim Taewoo or Mc Mong or Epik High who just released their works very recently to perform! Having said that, I have to concede that the stories being shared by or about them are pretty hilarious.

But anyways, yeah, those are the two things I’ve been watching the last week. I am trying the first episode of You are Beautiful (Jang Geunseok,ew) as I’m typing right now. I missed the last Hong Sisters drama Hong Gil Dong, and to be honest I am not exactly THAT excited about this drama either, but I figured I’d just try the first episode to see if it’s worth it to continue to the 2nd one.

So, adios for now. Gnight!