This week saw the premiere of the dramas Mary Stayed Out All Night and Secret Garden. Mary is apparently adapted from a manhwa of the same author as Full House, whereas Secret Garden is yet another drama written by Kim Eunsook, whose past dramas have been uber popular, like City Hall, On Air, and the Lovers series.
Personally, I am a fan of the Full House manhwa, in addition to the drama. I followed the manhwa when it first came out in my country and even after moving overseas, whenever I went back home, a trip to the local bookstore, dedicated for Full House manhwa, was a must. It’s not a particularly good manhwa, but for some reason I was just so into it.
Whereas, I remember totally hating on City Hall and On Air. I finished Lovers and loved it then, but after coming back down from the high, it was like ‘WTF was I thinking?’ I have a problem with how pretentious and stuck up her characters are (plus, why are they always RICH?!!) and how pliant the women tend to be in the presence of the men. It’s so insulting. But anyways, so those were my feelings going into the dramas, respectively.
Casts – Mary stars some hot young stars like Moon Geunyoung, Jang “Queen” Geunsuk, and everyone’s favourite waffle dude, Kim Jaewook. On the other hand, Secret Garden carries bigger and more mature stars: Ha Jiwon, Hyun Bin, and Yoon Sanghyun. You can also easily see the target audience from the casting. Where Mary hopes to gain the younger viewers, Garden is geared for wider audience. Although to be fair, Kim Eunsook tends to write for more mature viewers anyway.
General Premise – Between TWO contract marriages and body SWAP, I don’t know which one is more preposterous, really. I admit to doing lots of eye rolling when reading about these two dramas. Aren’t we done with contract marriage storyline? Now we’re having TWO contract marriages in one drama? Bravo. And bodyswap can be fun a la Freaky Friday, but romantic plot out of body swap is all kinds of pervy, don’t you think?
Fashion – This is just for fun, but man, it’s the war of weird hair (Yoon Sanghyun and Philip Lee are contenders from Garden while Moon Geunyoung and Queen Jang represent Mary) and crazy fashion. BTW, it’s SO much fun to look at Queen Jang and Yoon Sanghyun’s style in their respective dramas!
Female Leads – I usually love Moon Geunyoung, but I’m not too fond of her character Mary this time around. It’s a curious thing because her unassuming naivete is what was so great about her in My Little Bride, yet it feels forced and a little fake in Mary. I found myself getting annoyed more often than empathizing with her. Ha Jiwon, it’s been SO long since I last saw her. She’s an actress that has such a commanding screen presence, like a younger version of Kim Hyesoo. I love her tough, boyish image, but I can see her character has a tendency to melt into a puddle of mush at the attention of a male. And I detest the latter simply because Kim Eunsook tends to overdo that element; it often makes me want to slap the female leads.
Male Leads – Good thing the male leads are awesomely fun characters. This wouldn’t have been so special had my expectation been skewed this way. But I expected typical, cool, snippy male leads, so both Jang Geunsuk and Hyun Bin exceded my expectation. Jang Geunsuk is a carefree character in Mary, one who gets drunk in the middle of the day and pinches girls’ cheeks as he pleases. If only producer didn’t give him such a laughable song to sing, I would have really bought him as an indie singer. Hyun Bin’s character is a hoot, when they’re not trying to push the cool factor down his throat. I love that they make him walk around in shiny tracksuit and defending its worth by the amount of cash he paid for the thing. He’s also fun because he seems to genuinely have some loose screws in the head, as in he’s a little bit of a nut. His ‘going crazy’ is a recurring theme, as is the shiny tracksuit, as you can see, heh.
Supporting Leads – I suspected Kim Jaewook would end up being the boring character, and so far I’m right. What a waste. Kim Hyojin barely had any screentime in the first episodes, so I can’t comment much, but she seems thorny and a badass. Already Yoon Sanghyun sports some really interesting hairdo and I just realize that he has a tendency to yell his lines no matter what character he plays. But he’s funny as ever. Kim Sarang’s character is the girl you LOVE to hate. Oh it’s gonna be so much fun seeing her stuck up face mushed up in a pile of poo. Damn, writer should include such scene!!
Anyways, after watching the first two episodes of these dramas, I think I’m more inclined toward Secret Garden as a guilty pleasure. I know I’m supposed to hate it and maybe I will, 15 episodes down the road or something, but for now, I can’t help it but laugh and be totally entertained by it. Both Mary and Garden have lots of eyerolling moment, and suffer some directing issues, so I’m on the fence whether I’m going to stick around until the end or not. But Garden holds an edge because it has more exciting character. They are coming out bold and catch your full attention, whereas Mary’s only manage to be halfhearted.