Monthly Archives: February 2011

My Princess

First My Princess is a pretty meh drama. Second, I LOVE IT!!!

My Princess is one of those cases. You know the storyline is as flimsy as a leaf, the pace is all wrong, it’s slow and cofused; things just sort of trudging along with no particular direction in sight. You know the acting is only passable, Park Yejin is like a dead fish (which is funny because back in Family Outing, killing fish was her specialty) whereas Kim Taehee and Song Seungheon are, well, themselves. At the end of the day, you know you’re not watching a quality drama. Heck, I wouldn’t even call it good, not in a million years. So how come I, who is the most impatient viewer ever, continue to be so devoted to the drama??

One, despite the acting deficiencies, Kim Taehee and Song Seungheon really hit it off fantastically on screen. Saying that they have a great chemistry is the biggest understatement. To be fair, they are two pretty people and generally when two pretty people are put together on screen, chances are viewers are gonna love it. But it is not a given that two pretty actors would have great chemistry. Lee Minho had more chemistry with Lee Minjung than Goo Hyesun in Boys Over Flowers whereas Chae Rim and Choi Siwon had zero chemistry in Oh My Lady. What I’m trying to say is that while there is a good chance Kim and Song would make the screen crackle, it was not proven yet. But the thing is, they exceded all expectations I had. I expected a cute coupling, with enough cute dialogues and cute moments, who will end up in a cute way. Instead, we got a CUTE CUTE CUTE couple. The level of sweetness and cuteness is literally three times what I anticipated.

Another thing I love is that there’s a great dynamic where I see the male and female lead as equal. In a lot of drama couples, you can see things tip off in one direction. Be it your preference in the actors or character/acting strength, many times one of the two comes off better. For example, Secret Garden hullabaloo heavily leans toward Hyun Bin,whereas My Girlfriend is a Gumiho tips in Shin Minah’s direction. But in this drama, I love both characters equally. And not in the ‘I’m indifferent to both so they’re on the same league technically’. I really enjoy both characters, Princess Lee Seol and her P-Gun Park Haeyeong, immensely. I think not only do Kim and Song have great chemistry, they complete each other. It is only when they are on screen together that my day just explodes into squeal/giggle fest.

Progress and direction have all gone bust at this point. When a drama with a lot to say, like The World They Live In, moves slowly, it doesn’t really matter because a lot of other things sustain the drama well. But My Princess isn’t such drama. It’s not trying to analyze human psychology, it’s merely trying to give us an entertaining 8 week run. So progress or pace is crucial. It is no wonder that the drama is already losing viewers, proven by its flagging ratings, because nothing in this drama gets done! Normally, I would have run like the wind, but My Princess is again, a special case. I may like Kim and Song’s chemistry but the biggest thing that keeps me checked in is how much I love the relationship between Seol and Park Haeyeong.

This couple starts out bickering, like a zillion other k-drama couples. When I watch a drama, sometimes I wonder how the two main leads can connect when all they do is argue. I’ve come to accept that Arguing Couple is the golden rule of k-drama so I just take it in. But I appreciate My Princess a lot for actually SHOWING how these two can come to like one another. When Seol and Haeyeong bicker, there is no note of hostility like so many other couples have. They’re fun and flirty with each other, not like one is being an annoying pest and they other is just trying to get away but somehow fall in love. When they don’t bicker, they ACTUALLY talk a lot. Waaaayyyy more than romcom standard, and it is the best part of the drama.

Also, I love how forthright Seol is. A k-drama heroine tends to keep her feelings in wraps until The!Big!Reveal! whereas Seol slowly opens up and reveals how she feels about Haeyeong and it is so refreshing to see that. She kissed him first too! On the other hand, how can you not love how caring and attentive Haeyeong is? When I first read his character description, I thought ‘yeughh, this has been done to death’, spoiled rich chaebol kid with attitude problem. I’m pleasantly surprised at how….human Haeyeong turned out to be.

There are 3 more episodes to go. I think in the end My Princess will just be one of the many dramas. It’s not gonna spurn a love for a Pig-Rabbit doll, it’s not gonna incite so many Sparkly Tracksuits parodies. It’s never gonna be a culture phenomenon. But I think it’s gonna be one of the few dramas I will save on my harddisk.

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The World They Live In/Worlds Within (2008)

So I admit that I started this drama after Secret Garden for Hyun Bin. I’ve never seen Worlds before but did hear quite a bit about the initial buzz and the resulting rating failure. Pyo Minsoo’s work can be a hit and miss, but overall I have a good impression. Especially after news broke out that the leading actors Hyun Bin and Song Hyekyo hooked up after doing this drama, I had it on my radar as one of the To Watch.

The biggest factor that always kept me from starting is the fact that the drama is written by Noh Heekyung. Now, I know she’s a popular writer, critically acclaimed, and all, but from the few episodes of Goodbye Solo that I saw, her writing struck me as overly heavy, pretentious, and self important. I mean it’s great that she always explores deeper into human connections, her characters’ emotions and interactions, but at times she just rambles on and on and I’m left wondering what is the point of all these narrations and lengthy lines??

It does happen in Worlds too, lots of conversations, lots of narration, sometimes I get lost as well. But I think in general she’s easier to swallow this time around. They still get long and confusing, but I do appreciate that Noh really takes great care in her script. Her dialogues can be a bit trying. But at the same time, her lines are just firecrackers, they’re lots of fun. They’re daring, they’re witty, and sometimes they’re crass. I love it!

Plot is secondary and to be honest, almost irrelevant. I have read a lot of comments saying how boring the drama is. But for me, Worlds is SO far from being boring. It is such an engaging drama, one you can’t tear your eyes from. I fall asleep to a lot of dramas, but this one, you can’t stay away. Keep in mind that plot moves at a snail pace. And really, there is few plot points to boast about anyway. But it grabs your attention and keep it.

Worlds Within is about the daily life of people working in a TV station doing dramas. Song Hyekyo is the cool but fiery new drama director. Hyun Bin is an idealistic director who approaches drama making passionately. Basically the drama is them navigating through their work life, love life, and possible future. They are surrounded by family, coworkers, friends, and rivals, who all have distinct personalities and make an impact throughout the drama.

You can say that it is a slice of life drama. Doctor Champ is also a slice of life production, but man, it’s 50% sleep inducing. Here’s the difference. Worlds can be meandering in making a point, but it has a slew of solid actors and wonderful characterizations. While let’s face it,  Champ’s interesting parts are really a)Jung Kyeowon and b)bromance. But I’m not here to stab Champ. I’m here to emphasize that unlike Champ, Worlds line up of characters are WAY stronger, more eccentric, more passionate, and better acted.

Worlds is probably 90% propped by wide variety of characters alone that literally, THEY are all the stars. Sure, the drama’s top billing actors are Song Hyekyo and Hyun Bin, but at the same time Yoon Yeojung’s presence cannot be ignored. Likewise, I remember almost every single one of them. From the aging glamorous leading lady played by Bae Jong-ok, womanizing director Uhm Kijoon, dedicated Kim Gabsoo, meddlesome Kim Changwan, crazy dude Daniel Choi, and kickass writer Kim Yeojin. They are what makes Worlds so intriguing.

For someone with a pretty short attention span and a general impatience, I think Worlds proves that it is not boring, it is not dull, in fact it is past paced, it is sharp. I started the show, being on the fence about Song’s character Joo Joonyoung. She can be really selfish, stubborn, and it’s like ME, ME, ME all the time! But throughout the drama we get to see her growing a heart. She becomes friends with people she initially hated, she learns to be more tactful dealing with people, and she learns to love deeper.

Hyun Bin’s Jung Jioh, on the other hand, came off super perfect in the beginning. He’s a caring friend, he’s so good to his mom, he’s passionate about his work, and he’s so freaking hot (and not underweight like Secret Garden’s Joowon!!). Little by little, we get to see that really, he’s just human. He can be a coward, a hypocrite, and he can be cruel with people. I really appreciate this contrast because it brings us, viewers, back to earth. Early on, the scale was tipped in his direction (the ‘He’s too good for her!’ sentiment), but by the end, we see a more balanced relationship.

Overall, this is definitely a must watch. It’s such a refreshing drama, laced with wicked realism that after hours of watching fairy tale-like dramas, this is a completely welcome change. 9/10! Recommended!

Verdict on Secret Garden and Fugitive Plan B

Well, Secret Garden is all the rage these days, with the invention of Heavy Sexual Tension Sit Ups, Joowon Sparkly Tracksuits, and Joowon Ache. Everyone, every TV station, from Shin Bongsun to Kim Gabsoo have done a parody of the drama. I think the last time something became such a huge mainstream phenomenon was probably the Boys Over Flowers. Secret Garden didn’t pass 40% in ratings or anything, but thanks to the little things that stand out, it’s crossed over to the public at large.

This drama has literally propelled Hyun Bin to being THE guy of the moment. Hyun Bin is not a stranger to popularity of course, after being an overnight sensation with the drama My Name is Kim Samsoon. But his last few projects were garnering mediocre ratings even though they are critically praised. But with Secret Garden, Hyun Bin has successfully left his mark for the next two years he will be in the army.

For me, Secret Garden is a lot like Sungkyunkwan Scandal in a sense that it had so much potential. Both dramas promised something meaningful underlying the story, an ideal almost. Yet along the way we find out that it’s mostly bogus. Secret Garden had such a fascinating premise, body swap between a poor girl and a rich guy. They are drawn to each other but both stick with their own principle. The rich would never associate with the poor and the poor would never dirty herself by playing with the rich asshole.

For the first several weeks, I ended every episode with an excited ‘Oh My God!’. Despite not caring as much for the supporting characters, the drama had enough going on with the main couple that they alone keep me glued to the screen. As the episodes grew, I started disliking even the main characters. I find Ha Jiwon’s Raim to be so conveniently writtern. She’s the worst case of character inconsistencies. She’s supposed to be a tough stunt woman and has repeatedly demonstrated so, so how can we believe that Joowon drags her by the wrist while she struggles? I’m nitpicking, but such scenes were frequent enough that I can’t help but take notice. Raim is supposed to be gutsy, but when the story dictates, she’s so meek to people that I just can’t connect these contrasting personality to one person.

Whereas Hyun Bin’s Joowon? He’s just an asshole. Pure and simple. That’s why I don’t get this Joowon frenzy that is going on in Korea because I think the guy is inherently a big ol’ jerk. The Guhro frenzy was understandable because dude was freaking awesome, but Joowon? He doesn’t change. From the beginning he does whatever he wants without regards to people’s feelings. And really, he stayed that way till the end. His change only extends with respect to Raim, whom he loves. And really, he only changed because he found out he is literally indebted to Raim (‘s dad).

Near the end, it seems like Writer Kim was lost and just pretty much pulled everything out of her ass.The solution to Raim being brain dead was hilarious. Everything was literally solved in one or two episodes without us being given an explanation or a hint as to how things got solved. By then, I had lost all excitement for the drama and was just watching to see how the mess got tied.

The non-existant and overly convenient Body Swaps were really disappointing. What triggers the body swap? How can they come back during the rain? WHAT IS THE EXPLANATION? True, I didn’t expect to see them swapped for 10 out of 16 episodes, but I think that body swap should have been used to enhance character development, not merely as convenient plot device. Overall,6.5 out of 10.

Fugitive Plan B has always been a simple drama with spiffy coreography, expensive fashion, and pretty tourism ads. So I didn’t expect the ending to be, you know, meaningful or deep. But I did expect the ending to be satisfying not just in the sense that I want happy ending, but also an ending that is as spiffy as cool and as cocky as the drama had been.

In short, I did not expect everything to be solved just by Jini crashing the press conference to reveal the gold and the evil dude to the world. Why? Because how are you to believe that evil dude(s), who’s killed so many people, won’t have her trailed and killed BEFORE she got to fuck up the press con. That’s just so unbelievable. Considering how many minions the evil dude(s) has. So I was a little deflated that they went out with such simplistic ending.

Plus, how can you kill off one half of my favourite couple??? Seriously, that’s just unforgivable. I DID sort of predict that my couple wouldn’t get their happy ending, but damnit, they just had to kill one of them. I no like!!

In general though, I like Fugitive Plan B as that check your mind at the door and enjoy the show. I don’t watch it the moment it comes out, I don’t follow its news, I wait for it to be subbed. Which is actually critical for me. If you can get me to watch you right away on the day you air, then you’ve got me invested. If not invested, then at least curious. It means you’re never gonna be as memorable as some other dramas, even though I do recognize you are better than some of those other dramas. So the fact that I’m not as into the drama does not take the enjoyment I get from watching it. So, Fugitive Plan B, overall 6 out of 10.