There are certain demos rarely seen or highlighted in kdramaland: people with disabilities, average-sized women, blue collar families, LGBT, blue collar families, women over the age of 40, the elderly, single parents. (Not that Hollywood is doing much better in regards to women, either.) These are not the usual profiles of the leading men and women of most of our OTPs, aside from a few exceptions. We do see our fair share of orphans, vampires, ghosts, and people with ghost-seeing abilities among the chaebol card-carrying majority.
Dear My Friends (which should really be My Dear Friends or Dear Friends, but whatevs) is a charming series highlighting one of these overlooked (kdrama) minorities: the elderly. They’re usually written into the script as supporting background characters in a landscape of leading twenty- and thirty-somethings.
The elderly heads of families are usually the respected, set-in-their-ways sort, and presumably, crossed a WTF-I’m-gonna-do-what-I-want-I-don’t-care point in life, beyond which there is no turning back.
Friendship and family are at the heart of this one. A wife stifled by her husband. A daughter very much involved in her aunts’ and mother’s lives. A stunted romance. A lonely widow waits to join her late husband. Sounds like a batch of buzzkill, right?
But somehow it’s mostly fun, cute, and sweet. There’s a shirtless Daniel Henney working out. A grandma studying for her GED alongside teens. There’s a near-I-think-I-may-have-killed-someone experience. There’s some family boob-groping. (Sidenote: Family, please, never ever do this in real life. EVER.) We even see Lee Kwang Soo’s abs (episode 2, you’re welcome).
The cast is a who’s who of the grandmas and grandpas of kdrama:
Yoon Yuh Jung: from Wonderful Days, The Producers, a bazillion Korean films
Joo Hyun: Heart To Heart, Incarnation Of Money, Flower Boy Ramen Shop
Kim Young Ok: Reply 1988, All About My Mom, Marriage Not Dating
Shin Goo: Heartstrings, God’s Gift-14 Days, The Great Queen Seondeok
Na Moon Hee: from feature Miss Granny, dramas The Sons, My Name Is Kim Sam Soon (remember Sam Soon, y’all?!)
Kim Hye Ja: Unkind Ladies, Princess Hours (aka Goong)
Go Du Shim: All About My Mom, High Society
Park Won Suk: My Daughter, Geum Sa Wol, Fated To Love You, Golden Rainbow
With cameos and guest stars like Shin Sung Woo (Sidenote: Shin Sung Woo never came off this suave in Roommate), Jo In Sung, and the aforementioned Lee Kwang Soo and Daniel Henney.
I was surprised at the many beautiful moments of friendship. And it is family that makes you want to kill each other; but these are the same folks you know you can count on when you’re in the thick of it.
I thought I’d be in for a lighthearted tea-and-scones weekend drama, fast forward to episode 7 and I’m a bawling mess (don’t forget the tissues, friends).
Dear My Friends (aka 디어 마이 프렌즈). Fri-Sat. tvN. 16 Episodes. May 13-July 2.
Writer: Noh Hee Kyung (It’s Okay, That’s Love)
Director: Hong Jong Chan (My Secret Hotel)
Cast: Na Moon Hee, Kim Hye Ja, Yoon Yuh Jung, Go Du Shim, Park Won Suk, Go Hyun Jung, Shin Goo, Joo Hyun, Kim Young Ok. Also guest stars Shin Sung Woo, Jo In Sung, Lee Kwang Soo, Daniel Henney, Sung Dong Il.