2011 In A Nutshell

It’s been a while, sitting down and squeezing words out of my brain, trying to recall every single drama I watched this year. As reflected by the extremely low post counts, 2011 was a quiet drama watching year for me. This is definitely something to do with a few changes in my life, when I finally stepped out of the carefreeness of tertiary education and plunged headfirst into the working world. Priorities, body clock, time management, state of mind and whatnot had to adjust, and dramas sadly get abandoned a little. Drama marathons become less and less likely, and to my horror I did not get to watch the bigger hits like City Hunter, Can You Hear My Heart, Protect The Boss, nor the Princess Man.

2011 is also my third year of intensive k-drama watching – I am still far from being a seasoned viewer, having not managed to complete any drama above 30 episodes (other than Jejoongwon). It’s either this year’s quality, the drama choices I made this year, or a slightly more grumpy and less patient self, or all of them. But lately it’s getting harder to stick to dramas to the very end. The problem with many k-dramas are, they started out with really strong setups but fizzled out as quickly as the writers go back to the same old tropes and cliched conflicts again and again. Since I have also learnt to throw in the towel rather than suffering to the end, there are many dramas I dropped in the middle.

But k-dramas also bring me enjoyment not found in any other entertainment; such as their unique brand of sincerity, earnestness, family values, Asianness, and exhilarating romance, without necessarily eating each other’s faces. I am hoping 2012 will see me spending more time with k-dramas, making wiser choices, and get back to mini- marathons (because sometimes there’s no other way to stand the drama).
Despite 2011 being a rather quiet year with not as many dramas finished as I’d like to, I’ll try to crack it down anyways. Because a girl’s gotta keep track of what k-drama she watched.

2011 Dramas

Dream High – I remember bad acting and many minutes spent multitasking during boring parts of the show. I also remembered Song Sam-dong dearly, Kim Soo-hyun’s the heart and emotional centre of the show and his heartfelt performance left a lasting impression and deep, deep noona crush (he is only two years younger! It is okay!). I remembered the always wonderful Eom Ki-joon, funny JYP, Pil-sook and Jason’s sweet storyline, and the earnest, warm vibe and the heart of the show, and the catchy theme song. Despite Suzy and Taec’s parts being seemingly less interesting than grooming my nails, ultimately the show manages to pull it together for me with satisfying journeys, ending, and time jump. Dream High is therefore ultimately a win.

Flower Boy Ramyun Shop – cute start, cute snippets, cute setup, and very cute second lead. I didn’t expect much from this show and found myself zipping through each episode easily. As a romcom with too many precedences and a very predictable plot trajectory, it fares very well and manages to bring freshness, memorable characters, heart and depth, and many LOL moments. I love that the writer attempts to flesh out the second lead by giving him adorable quirks and traits, even if in the end he still fits that perfect guy template. Lee Chung-ah and Lee Ki-woo were superb, but boy was I annoyed with Jung Il-woo’s Cha Chi-soo or what. It is sad to announce that Jung Il-woo in comedy doesn’t do it for me, even when I love him in his quieter dramatic moments (maybe I need to watch Return of Iljimae).

49 Days – I enjoyed this drama a lot, and was thoroughly  invested – for about 95% of its run. The tightly woven plot, layered characters and growth, and suspenseful, sometimes chill-inducing, and beautiful story actually made me looked forward to each episode so so bad. I thought Lee Yo-won did a superb job and Seo Ji-hye stood out, and I had my moments mooning over Jo Hyun-jae. The ending did not work for me and made me disappointed, therefore killing what might possibly be the best dramaof 2011 I watched.

I Need Romance – Stylistically, I love this drama. The use of stills, the world music soundtrack, the light and flirty but sometimes introspective atmosphere all scored wins for me. The sassy and confidence tone sets up the stage just right for the story of our three main girls. It’s an easy, fun watch bursting with eye candies all around. I find myself more interested in Hyun-joo’s and Seo-yeon’s stories than In-young though. And where did they find those hunks? But that ending. I hated the ending, which insults what the show is all about in the first place. Gah.

Best Love – I enjoyed the show immensely, laughed at the meta jokes, and was fascinated by Cha Seung-won’s all-out Dokko Jin, and thought the whole thing was superb. But for some reason, I couldn’t find the will to watch the last two episodes. And then, when I looked back, it is as if scales fell from my eyes and I started to think that the whole thing was overrated, really. Watching too many Hong Sisters does that to you. To give the show credit, though, it was thoroughly entertaining most of the time and made for an easy, inoffensive watch. Alas, the Hong sisters’ second leads did not work for me (they never do. The only one I like is UEE in You’re Beautiful and no one’s topped her), even though Yoon Kye-sang’s such a dear and Yoo Inna tried her best. Gong Hyo-jin and Cha Seung-son’s acting style were so different that it was kind of a mismatch. But Ding Dong. I will always like Ding Dong.

Where I Threw in the Towel

Secret Garden – I could not even remember what they were rambling on and on about. The start was pretty  strong, fun, and confident. She’s a poor tomboy stuntwoman and he’s a chaebol prick. And then he started insulting and tormenting her from being poor, lowly, and inferior to deny his growing attraction. What a douche. And suddenly the whole show seemed to be just about that. The body switch was funny but that was it. I am out.

You’ve Fallen For Me – I was hoping to like the show, it was shot beautifully and had a fun, breezy atmosphere and catchy songs. Park Shin-hye was adorable, Jung Yong-hwa’s much improved from his You’re Beautiful days, and Song Chang-eui impressed me lots. And then… somehow it just lost me. It seems like the drama took a nice long stroll in the park and gets lost in its own meandering ways. And there is not enough music and too much mopey ex-girlfriend who could not shake off that boy mooning over her.

Scent of A Woman – Same with all the rest, strong start and great premise, and I had high hopes for this drama. And then the noble idiot showed its ugly head and I just couldn’t be bothered to march forward. I could have, I suppose, skip those episodes and onward to the end, but the show has lost me. Even when it has Eom Ki-joon being so adorkable while putting on a cold facade. Even when it has Lee Dong-wook with his handsomely sculpted face. Someone in the blogosphere pointed out Kim Sun-ah’s irritating aegyo voice, and thereafter it bugged me all the time. Shame 😦

The Musical – another major disappointment. Just a few posts ago I christened it as the new crack, and now I just couldn’t be bothered to finish it. (Well, if any consolation, I read the recaps to the very end). With a slew of musical-themed dramas already out there, this should bring more to the table with  mature characters, a professional set-up, and finally real battles for the Musical Dream. Alas, it didn’t follow up the initial great start and potential. Gu Hye-sun’s character and delivery lost me, Daniel Choi’s wholesome goodness in the end couldn’t save the show. It’s a shame that the main character is also the weakest link in the show, although the rest of the acting didn’t disappoint. But ultimately, what failed me the most is when the show lost focus on its Chungdamdong Gumiho and instead dwelled on (sometimes unnecessary) dramas. Where’s the music, The Musical?

Older Dramas

Alone In Love – Superb. Just superb. Alone in Love is one of a kind, I’ve never seen a kdrama like this before. Someone said this feels like dorama, and it’s based on a Japanese novel. It is delicate and gentle, full of heart and moody, cheered me up or made me contemplative in turns. I really want to dedicate a post to this amazing drama someday. Great performances all around, lovely ambience, and this show makes me wanna hug Park Yeon-seon. This is not a show for everyone, but for me, it works so damn fine.

Dr. Champ – A show that could have been better in many fronts, but I enjoyed nevertheless. I fell in crush with Jung Kyu-woon’s gentle giant character, and couldn’t hate Kim So-yeon’s (a bit annoying) character because he adored her so much. I fell in love with the breezy tone, the slice-of-life feel and the beautifully shot scenes; and I was hoping the writer would utilise these strengths to capture the energetic spirit, sportmanship, and enthusiastic vibe befitting of a national athlete’s village. Instead, it shot down athletes like flies while making their injuries plot points of the show. It killed the most wonderful of all bromances out there. It didn’t offend me so bad though, it made me wistful of how good it could have been.

Magic – Ooh. There’s only two reasons why I downloaded this old show: Kang Dong-won’s, and Thundie’s testament. And Magic did not disappoint. Kang Dong-won’s charmed and angsted his way into one of kdrama’s most riveting and fascinating character, in turn sympathetic and repulsive. I grew really fond of Kim Hyo-jin and her sassy performance, while at the same time had an increasingly stronger aversion towards Eom Ji-won’s clingy ways, which is a testament to her acting. Not just strong acting, the show’s backed by strong writing that made me ponder about parental love and influences, sacrifice, ambition, and the meaning of success. Much more than a Kang Dong-won vehicle, this is an intriguing food for thought.

In Progress

Flames of Ambition – I am finally picking up this drama again, after a year’s hiatus. In fact I’ve been spending the last several days holed up with this wicked show. And oh boy, with that amount of crying and yelling all over the face, it is surprising to find little snippets of warmth and surprising gentleness hidden here and there. I really want to know how this will end. Onward, ho!

What’s Up? – Another music-themed show. Another promising start. Will it stay strong to the end? I was so happy this was finally picked up, and the darker, grungy feel definitely stood out from the pack. Also, it helped that Oh Man-seok kicked ass, Im Joo-eun was badass, while on the opposite spectrum I’m fond of Daesung’s sincerity and sweetness and Byung-geun’s bumbling cuteness. Fingers crossed that this is gonna work out to the end!

The Colour of a Woman – Jae Hee! Jae Hee! I always have a sweet spot for Jae Hee as my first k-crush. Yoon So-yi’s great here, and Lee Soo-kyung’s aggravating ways is made up by her successful agyeo-ness. I find the concept and the theme of the story relatable and interesting – to achieve success based on merit or feminine wiles, or another way to say it, hard skills vs soft skills. I can just tolerate the annoying and blatant bullying in the workplace, though, and many new kdrama offerings are tempting me. I can only hope my willpower is strong enough to stay tuned for this to the end.

Vampire Prosecutor – On hiatus. I hope I can return to this sometime this year because Yeon Jung-hoon’s too cool for school.

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About toopai
part time couch potato, full time movie and drama enthusiast.

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