After the crumbling rubble of Sodom and Gomorrah that was Heirs, the steam that fizzled out halfway through My Love From Another Star, and the doomed Titanic of chemistry in Secret Love Affair, I’m ready for some new kdramas. There’s a fresh new crop of shows, thank goodness. Bring on the romance, the love squares, and the drama!
You Are All Surrounded (.
Director: Yu In Shik (유인식).
Writer: Lee Jung Sun (이정선).
Cast: Lee Seung Gi (이승기), Cha Seung Won, Go Ah Ra (고아라), Park Jung Min (박정민), Ahn Jae Hyun, Oh Yoon Ah.
Air date: began 5/7/14, 20 episodes.
A foursome of rookie cops start out in the detectives division stationed in the ritzy Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul. This series invites us to go along for a fun, lighthearted ride in kdramaland. I just hope the pacing picks up a bit. (And aish, that title.)
Ep #1 was pretty heavy on the obligatory experienced-trauma-as-a-child flashback setup. There are threads and characters from earlier scenes with modern day counterparts we’ll have to wait for to come into play. Lee Seung Gi’s present day adult, stone-faced, terse Eun Dae Gu is busy doling out the cold shoulder to his fellow rookie cops while carrying out a personal mission; Seung Gi’s had barely any dialog thus far. (That must’ve been an easy work week, SG.) Though the show seems pretty deliberate with plucking in its action scene openers (granted for both ep 1 and 2, the same scene is used), the story so far has spent much of its time in the past, with schoolyard brawl, family upbringing, and boyhood crushes to round out the revenge premise.
This should be interesting, as Lee Seung Gi’s past roles mainly include bratty, privileged son types and bumbling, simple-minded – yet lovable – characters (The King 2 Hearts, Shining Inheritance). Go Ah Ra has come off of last year’s popular Answer Me 1994, and Ahn Jae Hyun’s last supporting role as an overprotective younger brother in My Love From Another Star was appealing, albeit on the green side.
And a (surprising) fashion scene-stealer: Lee Seung Gi’s kicks while in white-hot pursuit.
(Hint, hint, friends: I’m a size 7.)
Director: Choi Mun Seok.
Writer: Yoon Ji Ryeon (Operation Proposal, Boys Over Flowers).
Cast: Gu Hye Sun, Lee Sang Yoon, Kim Ji Suk, Seungri (yes that kpop, Big Bang Seungri).
Air date: began 4/5/14, 20 episodes.
Blind girl meets first love bumbling high school boy and they begin dating. Boy skips out of town (and country) while blind girl gets eye transplant surgery. Boy returns years later as a doctor and finds his now sight-bearing first love, who is now a firefighter/paramedic.
I was super hesitant to get into this one. The premise of anything that begins with “So, there’s this blind girl…” Cue big booty groan. But Park Dong Ju, played by Kang Ha Neul (Heirs, To The Beautiful You), dons some saturi in this one, and who doesn’t like a charming saturi accent? And his unique and unusual relationship with his mother is nicely written, I must say. He calls her Miss Jung Hwa (played by Kim Yeo Jin) instead of ‘Mom,’ he works part-time jobs on top of being a stellar student, natch. He is getting a bit too wizened to play high school kids anymore, methinks.
Seungri plays Teddy Seo, a Korean American (from Texas – I wonder why the writer chose that) who joins the team of paramedics. He’s the source of comic relief, donning a somewhat goofy saturi-ish country accent and a blatant naïveté. Yeah, sure the American accented English is bad, but the pop star does have an incredibly likable onscreen presence as an actor – when he appears on camera, I’m happy to see him. Brings to mind the likes of Jonah Hill, Tracy Morgan, and Jack McBrayer (but in a different way). (Sidenote: I miss 30 Rock.)
Casting notes: Kang Ha Neul is mainly in the first couple of eps, as the boyhood version of the lead. Gu Hye Sun, (who I don’t know if I’ll ever see as anything other than that chick from Boys Over Flowers, forever pouting out “Gu Jun Pyo”) is our blind protagonist, but 8 episodes in and am hoping we see much more of her character. Kang Ha Neul’s mom, played by Kim Yeo Jin, had some scene-stealing moments, although shortlived – she was also only in the first couple eps as a (SPOILER ALERT) tragic and integral part of the story line.
And on a completely related note, scene-stealing kdrama food porn. Hankering for Om(elet) Rice, anyone? The dish was juxtaposed in a scene dripping with mother-daughter nostalgia.
Yum. Pass it over. (Also, I miss LA’s ktp.)
Doctor Stranger (닥터 이방인).
Director: Jin Hyuk (진혁).
Writer: Park Jin Woo (박진우).
Cast: Lee Jong Suk, Jin Se Yun, Kang So Ra, Park Hae Jin, Kim Sang Joong, Kim Yong Geun.
Air dates: began 5/5/14, 20 episodes.
A father and son from South Korea get kidnapped into North Korea, working as doctors for a government medical facility.
This is the gem of the bunch. (Along with, arguably, Lee Jong Suk’s abs.) It weaves in so many different genres within the drama spectrum. There’s action! Medical drama! Romance! A political backdrop! Exotic locations! (Hungary) Sweeping moments of dramatic romance during an action scene (simultaneous)! Ahh! It’s got potential, this one.
Lee Jong Suk’s follow-up since last year’s I Hear Your Voice (that noona romance thing) has already chalked up some pretty money scenes, as far as kdramas and melos go. Lee Jong Suk’s Park Hoon is the love stricken young man. It is nice to see him take on a serious role (where he doesn’t play a high school student), especially with that pretty boy facade.
Jin Se Yun plays Song Jae Hee, Park Hoon’s love interest. I must say, Jin Se Yun seems much more apropos in this pairing, her coupling off with Kim Hyun Joong in her most recent Inspiring Generation came off a little creepy (he’s 8 years her senior).
Flaws the show is asking for us to ignore this early on….SPOILER ALERT:
- So the characters when in med school, and five years later – they look exactly the same. Yep. (Sidenote: I think every kdrama asks us to ignore this.)
- Gaping hole in plot: What did Park Hoon do during those years between getting shot on that bridge over troubled water (sorry) in Budapest and then getting out of Seoul Penitentiary? How can you just fade out from one and and fade directly into the other? Sigh. It’ll either be a key plot point later…or just ignored and never to be referenced.
- Red bracelet that Hoon gives Jae Hee when they were mere pre-K buggers: how is it that Jae Hee still has the bracelet, ahem, when they’re in med school together, and after? It’s gotta be quite the ratty bacteria trap by then. Just sayin’.
Out of all the new kdramas out there, this is the one I’m most looking forward to. Strongest intro eps.
Director: Hwang Joon Hyuk (황준혁).
Writers: Kim Yoon Joo (김윤주), Lee Sang Hi.
Cast: Lee Da In (이다인), Lee Ki Kwang (이기광).
Air date: 1/6/14-1/7/14, 4 episodes.
This is actually not a (brand) new kdrama – but was adorable so am including in my post. The series was produced as the first “mobile drama” by CJ E&M – so I guess akin to web series followings (it aired on tvN).
It’s a 4-ep miniseries about kids – yep – in their 20s. Follow the footsteps of a 20 year-old college student as she pursues her boy crush and tries to figure out love. Then there’s the tiptoeing around with a secret kpop star boyfriend you can’t even tell your best friend about.
Best friend played by Kim Hye Ji was some blatant acting, but Lee Ki Kwang (of kpop boy group B2ST fame) is surprisingly endearing – granted, he appears to be playing a version of himself.