Been an avid drama watcher for a long, long time. Grew up watching Chinese drama classics, but ran into a resource problem when we immigrated to the US as a kid, but thankfully family friends came through and I was able to watch Huan Zhu Ge Ge, many of the late 90s/early 2000s wuxia adaptations, and Meteor Garden in 2001 via VHS in the pre-Internet age. Also had cyclical phases later on where I dabbled in and out of C, T, K, and J entertainment, which included dramas as well!
I'm really picky about the dramas that I watch so I always do a lot of research beforehand to see if I like the actors, the genre, and the premise - so most of the dramas that I start I do end up finishing and will rate. Wuxia's the genre that I grew up with and I will forever adore it, and I had a huge idol drama/kpop phase, but I am all about more serious shows now that have a greater emphasis on family, friendship, and life. Give me all the warmth, even if it comes with tears. Romance is fine, but I have a low tolerance for pure romance dramas. I also don't follow dramas as they're airing (usually) - I prefer not having to wait for new episodes (the agony is real) so I can binge watch.
I've recently been really interested in the C-ent (both film and drama) world overall due to how fast it's rising and how different it is from other entertainment circles, so I follow it pretty avidly in terms of new productions, rising stars, industry changes, etc. So basically just been watching C-dramas, movies, and variety shows, but will still occasionally dabble in k-dramas if it's getting a lot of good reviews.
I do have actors and actresses that I love or prefer (as well as production teams and screenwriters), but I won't watch a drama just for an actor/actress if I know the quality isn't up to par or if it's a genre that I'm not interested in (for example, Liu Hao Ran's With You is the only thing on his filmography that I haven't watched and it will probably stay that way).
Favorite dramas ever: Answer Me 1988 (it speaks to me in a way that no other drama has been able to do) and the Nirvana in Fire series (I'm cheating - I just really love the NiF universe - give me another one, Hou Hong Liang!)
Most anticipated drama of 2018: Like a Flowing River (大江大河) - hopefully an official English title comes out soon. Kong Sheng is my favorite Chinese drama director, and he's teamed up with Wang Kai again! Also excited to see Dong Zi Jian in his drama debut - I've really been liking him a lot lately. I have my reservations about Xiao Bao Zong aka Yang Shuo but my mom's been reading the book and she says the character that he's playing is extremely hilarious and likeable. Air date is set for December 2018.
Runner up is Ming Lan (if it airs this year) because it sounds like my cup of tea, though the director makes me a little nervous. I know Daylight Entertainment has such a great rep, but the only director on their team that I really trust is Kong Sheng - even Li Xue can be a miss (see: The Disguiser).
Most anticipated drama of 2019: Novoland - Eagle Flag, because of LHR, yes, but also I read the books and I really enjoyed the plot. It doesn't look like Linmon is planning on going the idol period drama route with this one, so I'm relieved. Also that supporting cast...
Favorite actors (this changes depending on the drama that I'm in love with atm): At the moment, it's 100% 20 year old Liu Hao Ran. Watched his first variety show back in 2015 (Real Men Season 1, which was phenomenal) and really liked how mature and intelligent the kid was then, but didn't really follow his later works. At the end of 2017, I watched a combination of the variety show Give Me Five and NiF2 and can't believe how far he's come. He's got an unbelievably bright future (the rare combination of talent + luck + resources so his fans never have to worry about his projects). There are a loooot of eyes on him right now (and this will only increase as his career grows), but he's got a good head on his shoulders and I can't wait to see what his next project is.
As for actresses, I'm partial to Zhao Li Ying because I think she's got the most acting talent and potential out of her drama queen peers, but her projects have been disappointing lately, so I haven't really followed them. I am excited for Ming Lan though, and I think she needs to give herself a break.
Favorite drama of 2017: Does NiF2 count since it aired at the end of 2017? If not, then it would be Stranger.
Favorite variety show of 2017 (using this space to write mini reviews for my favorites for the year): The Inn (Hunan TV) - though what happened with Chen Xiang has slightly tainted the show since he was so, so likeable, this is still my favorite variety show of 2017. The scenery was beautiful (I really want to visit Liangshan one day) and I love the slow paced, slice of life feel of the show. This was Liu Tao's non-celebrity husband Wang Ke's first time on a variety show but he was really impressive - being a businessman, he was a good leader and helped the group stay organized and focused while still realizing he was filming an entertainment show.
I liked how open and sincere he was with the guests and other cast members, and I especially adore his and Liu Tao's marriage. Obviously you can't assume everything you see on TV is real, but there was an old-married-couple comfort level and rapport that the two had that is honestly really, really difficult to fake (as someone who's seen a lot of variety shows featuring couples). Liu Tao is who I want to be in life - efficient, no-nonsense, optimistic and driven, and determined to be the best that she can be without thinking too much. There is one thing that she said that she still resonates with me deeply - when asked about how stays afloat in the entertainment world, she said something like, "I'm not naiive, but I'm going to assume that you are being sincere towards me and I will reciprocate that. I"m not going to second guess you or play games because I don't like drama and I don't like life to be too complicated." I really, really respect that - and she's become pretty famous at this point for her good nature within the industry.
Chen Xiang was hilarious and I was impressed by how smart he was - which was such a great contrast with Adi Kan's model boyfriend Ji Lingchen, who was happy-go-lucky and simple. They provided so much organic humor to the show and the bromance was real. Adi was a bit tense in the first few episodes (I think she just really wanted to do well), but when she loosened up later on the chemistry between the cast members was great.
Chinese Restaurant (also Hunan TV) which aired before The Inn, was also a good watch and had a similar concept, but was a little less interesting to me - I liked the cast members, but the chemistry wasn't quite there (mostly because of the difference in terms of status in the entertainment world was pretty huge). I did pick up a bunch of cooking tips from Zhang Liang though, who really shined in the show as the head chef. No matter what though, I appreciate the fact that there wasn't too much manufactured drama - that's something that drove me batty about Divas Hit the Road Seasons 1 & 2.
Running Man Season 5 was also very good - the fixed cast has amazing chemistry and that chemistry continues to carry the show even when the script is less interesting. The third and fourth episodes with guests Lin Chi Ling, Joey Yung, Charlene Choi, Li Qin, and Tina Tang is probably one of my all time favorite Running Man episodes - the girls (with Dilireba) had a great rapport with one another and didn't back down from the guys. Running Man remains the only multi-season show that I've continued to follow over the years - and I just hope it never ends (even though I know that's not possible).