Dokgo Ma Te is an ambitious man and wants to make a lot of money using his beautiful appearance. He sets out to date ten of the most successful women in Korea. A strange woman then appears in front of Dokgo Ma Te. Her name is Kim Bo Tong, an ordinary girl come from a poor background who’s been in love with him for ten years. Can she make Dokgo Ma Te love her?
~~ Adapted from the Manhwa series "Yebbeun Namja" by Chon Kye Young.
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That pretty much sums up my viewing experience of Pretty Boy: not a particularly good drama, but one I found extremely watchable and that I anticipated each week.
The storyline is two-fold: one thread is Dokko Ma Te and the ten women he must "conquer"; the second being a drama-standard birth secret plot. I will admit that the birth secrets had me most invested and offered little surprising twists. The women storyline might seem off-putting at first, but in the end, it became less about Ma Te taking advantage of women and more about a mutual exchange and growth happening within those connections.
Where the drama started to corrode were the moments where I actually paid attention to what was going on. Those were the moments when the plotlines to nowhere, random character entrances and exits, moments of discontinuity within the story, and quick fix deus ex machinas that happen off screen and present a quick "WTF" fix to a problem became glaringly obvious.
OK, that's admittedly quite a lot wrong with the drama. However, if you're looking for a drama that will fly by quickly with light humor and mystery and a quirky comic book feel to it, Pretty Boy should hold you over until the main drama course arrives.
At times, the storyline was solid to fair, but eventually, the story got caught up in its own premise (conquering 10 women) that it left very little room for any personal growth on the part of its female lead and severely understated the role of the other lead male. In fact, the story focused much more on the growth of one of the supporting roles than any emotional investment in other characters.
Furthermore, the story focused so much on the typical birth secret tropes that it lost a lot of its early humor. The story was at its best when Bo Tong and David did funny things, not when 95% of the episode dealt with the MG Group's machinations.
That being said, I feel the story limited its actors in a way. As this was Jang Geun Suk's comeback role, the character of Dokgo Ma Te seemed awfully similar to his previous roles, in particular that of Hwang Tae Kyung. This drama did nothing with JGS' acting that I hadn't already seen from him. IU, on the other hand, had a very vivacious character early on, but the story kept her rather one-note toward the end. The only decent performance was Lee Jang Woo's David Choi, which at least had me feeling for him and who was as beautiful inside as he was outside.
The only song from the drama which I remember off-hand was David's song. The rest of the OST didn't really resonate with me and seemed much more like surface music rather than fused with the storyline.
I will rewatch this only for David; really, I'm not even sure if I can rewatch it. In that regard, Bel Ami was just a surface drama; it's not memorable or great. It's really just botong.