6 Objectively Awful Dramas I Loved Anyway
In my last article, I talked about highly rated K-dramas I dropped. This time we’re going to take a look at dramas I loved despite their flaws. I have to say I was surprised by the MDL rating for most of these. Seems like I’m not the only one who rates high!
My rating: 10/10 MDL rating: 7.2/10
Why I like it: After rewatching You’re Beautiful, Secret Garden and Boys Over Flowers only to realize these gateways to dramaland had lost their charm, I was sure my love of Mary Stayed Out All Night could be chalked up to the blush of discovery. It was one of my first dramas after all. I was ready to be annoyed and bored by it the second time around. But that didn’t happen. What I like the most are the scenes with Mary, Mu Gyal, and their friends. Sure, the events in their lives are a little out there but when you watch them all together, gathered around a table eating and drinking, it feels very much like you could just slide in there, offer up a “sorry I’m late guys, what’d I miss?” and be handed a drink. Somehow in the midst of all the zany antics and writer drama, the show managed to find this little island of truth. You’ve got two damaged people hanging out in a dilapidated studio apartment trying to get all their crap in one sock and falling in real love. Not that idealized k-drama crack we all love so much but something resembling reality. The soundtrack, though a bit of a blunt instrument, is definitely a highlight as is Kim Jae Wook who is all kinds of dreamy in this role.
Why it’s actually awful: Everything about this drama feels clunky. Sure, the set design and location scouting were sporadically on point but other than that you get the feeling that any awesomeness was completely accidental. The story is 16 episodes of trying to bang a square peg into a round hole while chasing your tail. Everything is hashed out in triplicate. Character development is rare but when it happens it's sudden, and it feels like little more than a plot device and generally has little to do with the character as established up to that point. Kang Mu Gyal becomes a completely different person so fast that if you blink, you’ll miss it.
Final thoughts: This drama conjures up memories of my younger days hanging out with all my musician buddies. It grabs me right by the nostalgia so it gets a pass. I’ve watched it in its entirety four times.
My rating: 9/10 MDL rating: 7.8/10
Why I like it: I have a deeply held personal belief that Miura Haruma is an actual angel. He’s indescribably adorable even when he’s being awkward and not doing a particularly great job in acting. The skinship is everywhere and both male leads are so fantastic, I would have been happy no matter who she ended up with. In fact, most of the characters are so fantastic, it’s hard to hate them, with the exception of the second female lead who is annoying yes, but more pitiable than hateable. If you’re a lady in your 30’s, the female lead is exaggerated but completely relatable. The story has moments where it is surprisingly mature.
Why it’s actually awful: The script is obvious and lazy. If you’ve seen more than ten Asian dramas you can pretty much guess the overall plot within the first 45 minutes. Being Japanese, it’s got a short 11 episode run, which should have been plenty for this very basic noona romance. The show spends a great deal of its time on side stories, though, short changing those stories and our main plot. You end up feeling like you got the cliffs notes version of at least three or maybe four pretty good dramas. It leans a lot on the fact that the actors are fantastic and most are surprisingly natural even with the exaggerated Japanese humor.
Final thoughts: Scientists need to get on that cloning thing so I can have my very own Haruma. I actually powered through it for the third time for this article just to refresh my memory. Still enjoyable.
My rating: 8/10 MDL rating: 7.5/10
Why I like it: The title should tell you everything. Flower Boy Ramyun Shop never pretends to be something it’s not. This is a Korean rom-com in its purest form, tropes and all distilled into drama moonshine. The humor is low-brow, the substance is lacking and the boys are pretty. It’s a fun ride as long as you don’t take it too seriously. Jung Il Woo is someone I can never get enough of and I really liked Lee Chung Ah as the female lead. She was funny and really held her own with all those boys before it was popular for ladies in dramas to do that. Even though the drama is fairly recent (2011), it feels reminiscent of earlier K-dramas.
Why it’s actually awful: Have you SEEN this mess? The acting is bad, the writing is worse and it will never stop being creepy when Asian dramas have a teacher/student pairing. If you think about it at all, Cha Chi Soo is nothing more than a stalkery teenage boy who could have seriously benefited from some strong female relatives and Eun Bi is that gross college guy that shows up to his old high school’s football games to hit on the cheerleaders. Also… kimchi kiss… *shudders* nasty.
Final thoughts: Another one I am just a little embarrassed to admit I have watched more than once. BUT this drama introduced me to Verbal Jint, a Korean rapper you should totally check out if you are human and enjoy music. Does that give me back some of my street creds?
My rating: 8.5/10 MDL rating: 8.1/10
Why I like it: The guy being a monster isn’t just a gimmick, it’s necessary to the plot, which is pretty interesting and fun as a whole. One of the things I love about Asian dramas is that they go there. While Western shows are worried about being cool, Asian dramas are creating a Star Trek/My Little Pony mashup and dare you to say something. My Amazing Boyfriend goes there. They are not ashamed of their cheese, they embrace it and it goes over really well because they do. They don’t try to be anything they are not. The leads are adorable. There’s definitely skinship but it’s not the driving force of their chemistry. Wu Janice is surprisingly funny. The whole thing is surprisingly funny. I generally find the Asian sense of humor to be a little tool on the nose but it didn't bother me here... The second leads are fantastic and so are the supporting characters.
Why it’s actually awful: This script is bloated, to say the least. You could probably have gotten rid of half of its 28 eps and ended up with a technically much better drama. Story development is painfully slow. The drama has its strengths but way too much time is spent exploring its weaknesses. The “secrets” are all pretty obvious so we get no pleasure in watching the characters sort them out, especially when three or four episodes in a row run with second leads and supporting characters getting the majority of the screen time and this happens multiple times in the show. Kim Tae Hwan is not an actor and it shows. They get away with it, sort of, because he’s dubbed and we didn’t have to listen to his line delivery which from his body language I can only assume was often stiff and awkward. He’s a model so standing there looking pretty is no problem, it’s when complex emotions are required that he loses it and you really just have to let it go and bask in his beauty. Soooo much pretty… All the pretty…
Final thoughts: Despite its childishness and flaws, this drama always left me with feeling warm and fuzzy. Funny girl + cute boy = I don’t care about the fact that a twelve-year-old could have written it.
My rating: 10/10 MDL rating: 7.9/10
Why I liked it: Seo In Guk and Lee Soo Hyuk. No, they weren’t the only reasons, but big ones. Seo In Guk shines in this show. He strikes a balance between cute and sexy effortlessly, that’s sort of his thing, but it was with this role that I realized he has great comedic timing. He’s a funny dude. His character in Shopping King Louis feels like it has its foundation in Lee Min Suk. Lee Soo Hyuk plays a very standard issue, arrogant, cold, rich guy. You’ve seen this character as the male lead in pretty much every drama and Lee Soo Hyuk slays it like a boss, further proving that it’s a tragedy he hasn’t gotten a first lead role. There’s a pretty great group of supporting actors who play high schoolers including Kang Ki Young who may be the hardest working man in Hallyu. I love this show for the performances.
Why it’s actually awful: The female lead… holy crap, she is awful. Aside from her horrendous styling - waaay worse than it had to be - her personality is pretty appalling too. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Jung Soo Young and I did for the first half of the drama, but she is so pitiful you get tired of feeling sorry for her. It is constant and overshadows the humor, the actress managed to create such a wet blanket of a role. She’s too sad, too awkward, too… just too much! She has some moments of awesomeness with her sister, played by Lee Yeol Eum, but these, too, are lost in the unappealing archetypes the actresses are forced into. The adult/high schooler romantic pairing hasn’t gotten any less creepy in the last three paragraphs. The underlying corporate machinations that run throughout this drama and so many like it are of course predictable and boring.
My rating: 8/10 MDL rating: 8.9/10
Why I like it: The action is on point. As a child, I loved action flicks and Healer is reminiscent of those, just without all the blood and naked people. Honestly, if it had been 20 episodes of Healer and Ahjumma doing a procedural mission of the week type thing, I would have loved that, too. Their banter is hilarious and it’s heartwarming to see how two people who’ve never met face to face care about each other so much. Kim Mi Kyung is one of my favorite ahjumma actresses and she never disappoints. The romance brings this show a lot of love, too. Timing, development, skinship, everything is so close to perfect that we should just go ahead and call it that. I love Healer’s inexperienced eagerness and Young Shin’s spunk.
Why it’s actually awful: Birth secrets, conspiracies, murder!!! As someone who grew up watching and enjoying American soap operas, I will never understand how makjang manages to make insane plots boring. There was too much of it and they seemed to plunk a huge chunk of it down right in the middle of exciting stuff, ruining the flow and pacing. The two halves of the plot never fit together smoothly. Sitting through flashbacks and evil plotting always felt like I was being forced to do my homework when I really wanted to play video games. But I’d watch it again.
Final thoughts: Depending on where you watched it, you may have seen claims that Healer had Autistic “tendencies” or “traits”. I ain’t mad about it but for general information purposes, I’d like to let those of you who don’t have experience with Autism Spectrum Disorder know that Autistic “tendencies” aren’t a thing. They just aren’t. At no point in the show does the Healer show the classic traits of ASD, either. In fact, he never displays any behaviors that would meet diagnostic criteria even for high functioning ASD.
TV shows are obviously not a good source of information about complicated neurologic developmental disorders. Wondering how I’m qualified to make these statements? PM me, I’ll be glad to discuss it with you.
In conclusion, City is a shallow woman who is easily distracted by likable women and attractive men with adorable smiles.