|Park Seo-joon happily thinking about dramas|
Just to keep a ranking of the shows I have blogged about...all subject to change:
MUST SEE SHOWS
1) Crash Landing On You: Just the perfect blend of comedy, drama, and romance with a narrative that sustains itself and interesting conversations about borders and separation. Characters and chemistry win the day. I can't imagine a more perfect pairing than Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin.
2) Mr. Sunshine: Strong historical drama focused on important issues but never losing sight of the personal connections between the characters and the impossible choices they face. So heartbreaking.
3) Kingdom: A little bit of Shakespeare, a little bit of Handmaid's Tale, and a whole lotta what-happens-when-your-leaders-care-more-about-preserving-their-power-than-serving-the-people." Apt for pandemic times.
4) Rookie Historian: Goo Hae-ryung: A mostly lighthearted meet-cute romance, with intriguing palace machinations that integrates Joseon politics and history with an array of well-crafted characters. A nearly ideal narrative that's gripping throughout all 20 episodes but fumbles with a too-cutesy ending for my liking.
5) I Will Come To You When the Weather is Nice: Life, love, family, and getting through every day is hard. This precious little gem of a show lets sadness live alongside happiness giving meaning to both.
6) Itaewon Class: I heart this group of misfits and their struggles feel poignant and grounded in important issues. Also Park Seo-joon heart eyes 4-eva.
7) Signal: Strong writing and compulsive plot make up for shortfalls in some character development.
8) What's Wrong With Secretary Kim: It's sexy and flirty and knows what it needs to do and thank you for that. Dynamic duo of Park Seo-joon and Park Min-young.
9) Weak Hero Class 1: A heart-breaking series on teenage bullying and the fragility of young men being indoctrinated into violence.
10) D.P.: A challenging and direct short series about toxic masculinity, the armed forces, and the violence of men.
11) Under the Queen's Umbrella: A twist on an old palace succession formula that focuses on the women in the palace, their status being tied to their royal sons, and the limited paths they have for survival.
12) Stranger: Doona Bae. Send tweet.
13) The King's Affection: A woman-playing-a-man story that feels more like a queer love story with swoonworthy writing and meaningful commentary about personal choice.
14) Happiness: A post-pandemic exploration of human nature, sacrifice, loss, and happiness. Balancing a lighter comedy on top of a zombie virus plot and a tender romance too.
15) Fight For My Way: A drama about the real heartache and struggles of working class kids delivered in a tender comedy with great performances from Park Seo-joon and Kim Ji-won.
16) Alone in Love: A bittersweet romance about a divorced couple trying to unlove each other and move on. Nuanced, funny, and thoughtfully handled.
17) Tomorrow: An empathic drama about Grim Reapers who try to help people who are suicidal.
18) Start-Up: A well-crafted character drama and romance that will have you torn between who will make Dal-mi happier.
19) Descendants of the Sun: Flirty bickering, great chemistry, multiple couples to root for, and a nonsense plot that just keeps upping the ante. A wild ride if you don't take it too seriously.
20) Move to Heaven: A beautifully written show about grief, quiet unobserved lives, and the secrets we carry even in death. It ends abruptly but I am forgiving that because of the craft of the 10 episodes.
21) Alchemy of Souls: Fantasy, romance epic where not everyone is as they seem.
22) Alchemy of Souls Part 2: Sweeping epic fantasy comes to its conclusion with a darker center in Part 2 and a sexier romance.
23) Taxi Driver: A slick revenge drama that tries to address the lack of justice in the justice system with empathy and respect for survivors.
24) Our Beloved Summer: The situation comedy from a former couple being reunited for a documentary gives way to something a lot deeper when we start to learn what's behind their insecurities and what pain they hide from each other.
25) Because This Is My First Time Life: Two roommates agree to marry for financial reasons, but their hearts start thumping for each other. A look at financial and housing precarity, marriage, and relationships as a younger generation starts to question tradition.
26) True Beauty: A teen rom-com that is funny, bright, and well-crafted, even if the issues of "beauty" and "ugliness" are hard to negotiate well. Added bonus of thoughtful exploration of fractured male friendship.
27) She Would Never Know: A quiet, uncomplicated romance about figuring out what you want in life.
28) Reborn Rich: A revenge tale that deepens into something more complex once the rivals come to see and recognize each other.
29) Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth: A period drama full of K-pop stars that has a unique rambunctious boy energy, a strong female lead, and also explores the challenges of leadership.
30) Semantic Error: A darling BL drama between an uptight engineering student and a carefree design student.
31) Today's Webtoon: A workplace coming-of-age story with thoughtful discussions of mental illness, abuse, and what happens when you quit your dream.
32) Why Her: A mystery-romance melodrama of buried secrets, political machinations, and people's lives ruined in the wake.
33) The Heirs: Classic teen K-drama and all the problematic elements that entails but still you can't stop watching it.
34) Hyena: A questionable initial premise but eventually it becomes a slick legal-corruption show exposing the hypocrisy of the Korean society and taking aim at the patriarchy and class structures.
35) Search: An action-mystery about nuclear rabies in the DMZ. But seriously, a gripping yarn and some well-crafted characters raised the stakes on this short but solid show.
36) Solomon's Perjury: An unsettling mystery told from the perspective of teens fighting for their voices and lives to matter.
37) Navillera: A sentimental but moving friendship between a twenty-something ballet dancer and the 70-year-old man who becomes his student. Quiet, gentle, and well-written.
38) The K2: It's so stupid but it's so fun. Action-comedy-romance guilty pleasure. 210% ridiculous. But still would recommend because of Ji Chang-wook and his face.
39) Healer: A great pairing of Park Min-young and Ji Chang-wook. While the story runs out of steam, they are such cuties together, we have to stan. Plus the fashion sequence for no reason is pure pleasure.
THEY HAVE THEIR CHARMS
40) Her Private Life: Great lens on fangirl culture and some steamy moments for sure. But not quite enough to carry it all the way through.
41) Jirisan: An unusual mystical murder-mystery with a beautiful mountain setting and sweeping cinematography.
42) Romance is a Bonus Book: Social issues are stronger here than romance or anything else. Wasting a handsome side man when he should be your lead.
43) You Drive Me Crazy: A short drama series, but if you love Kim Seon-ho this show spotlights his charms well. And a very hot kiss.
44) Record of Youth: Less romance and more growing up in your 20s, this bittersweet story about success not making life any easier had a lot of unfulfilled promise.
45) Stranger 2: A slow start and a dense contemporary legal plot issue made this a slow burn, but eventually it gets a groove and I was happy to be reunited with these characters. If only, there was more time spent on them and less on the plot.
46) Thirty But Seventeen: Low-key romance about finding family and growing up. A winsome Yang Se-jong.
47) One Spring Night: A sweet romance between a single dad and a librarian. But the couple faces family objection obstacles.
48) Run On: Frustrating because the primary romance is not all that interesting, but some really strong character work from Shin Se-kyung, Sooyoung and Kang Tae-oh. Worth watching for the actors and the secondary romance which has all the push/pull, love/hate to keep you tuning in.
49) Sh**ting Stars: A fun celebrity PR romance that shows how hard it is for famous actors to date.
50) Love in the Moonlight: A woman pretending to be a eunuch catches the Crown Prince's eye, natch.
51) Do You Like Brahms: A quiet, melancholy romance about unrequited love and trying to figure out what you want in life.
52) Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist: A strong female lead and a romance built on mutual respect make this a little better than it's Scooby-doo mystery plot.
53) Hospital Playlist: A medical drama about 5 friends creates some engaging characters but then makes us wade through a lot of surgery before we get to see the characters do or feel anything. Hoping for better pacing in season 2.
MESSY BUT STILL A LITTLE SOMETHING THERE
54) Youth of May: An interesting historic setting and a sweet couple, but the plot was hurried, obvious, and wonky.
55) My Name: A woman seeking revenge for her father's death joins a gang but a too hurried format took this from promising to frustrating
56) The Secret Royal Inspector and Joy: Not always the slickest of plots, but the chemistry of the leads is undeniable and they make for a fun watch.
57) Suspicious Partner: Ji Chang-wook and Nam Ji-hyun have a fun love/hate dynamic in this murder mystery-comedy-romance. But the show loses it's momentum.
58) Now We're Breaking Up: Some quality smoldering in a melodrama that gets lost in its own logic.
59) Search WWW: Too much search engine intrigue and not enough Noona romance.
60) My Country: With some highs and lows, a choppy, historic drama that offers up some tasty characters but then loses plot momentum. A downer that keeps doubling down on sadness.
61) Sweet Home: A monster-horror drama about how terrible people can be to each other and how much pain we can endure. Song Kang is a precious baby teenage angel in this but lordt it was a rough watch if you are sensitive to violence.
62) The Tale of Nok-du: A cross-dressing, mystery-identity drama that is stronger on romance than plot. But worth seeking out for Jang Dong-yoon's performance.
63) The Uncanny Counter: I'm just not that into genre shows like this. I was more taken by the ensemble than the lead and I was not as emotionally invested as I was supposed to be.
64) Bring It On Ghost: Horror-comedy about an exorcist college student and the ghost he falls for. Cute couple. Could live without the creepy ghosts or over-the-top "comic relief."
65) Love Alarm: I'm not writing this off yet. But with only 8 episodes this teen drama felt like it was only getting started. I guess I'm waiting for season 2 to be able to sort out my full feelings on it. Song Kang is the handsome, less angelic lead here.
66) Goblin (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God): I just wanted to push all the characters into a volcano at some point. Dragged out. I was not into it at all. Surly, sly comedy works. Treacly cringe romance with a teenager not so much.
67) It's Okay To Not Be Okay: I know people love this show but for me it was a stylized, gothic fairy tale that mixes serious and important mental health and care issues, with a destructive and unhealthy romance.
68) Suits: A remake of the American show so suffers an unfortunate shallowness. Hyungsik does what he can with the limited material.
69) Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Cross-dressing She's the Man-esque comedy set in bro-ey Joseon--Broseon. Some fun side characters (love me a brooding political Robin Hood), a good dose of yearning, but some truly awful dialogue. Loses it's mojo half-way through.
70) Chicago Typewriter: So much potential with a 1930s political plot but the contemporary characters don't live up to that promise. But A+ kiss and a sometimes smoldering Yoo Ah-in.
71) A Witch's Romance: Hooray for an "older" woman romance and lots of sensitive Park Seo-joon to enjoy, but not much else.
72) Touch My Heart: A harmless situational romance between an actress and a lawyer.
73) River Where the Moon Rises: A historic drama that flipped gender roles in an interesting way but then lost sight of the characters.
74) If You Wish Upon Me: Weepy, sentimental melodrama that pulls at your heartstrings a lot.
75) The Red Sleeve: I really liked the actors and the strong female lead but a king looking to take a maid as his concubine is just a hard story to tell today without giving us enough of her perspective.
76) Extraordinary Attorney Woo: A strong acting ensemble but I was uncomfortable with the performance of autism and the infantilizing portrayal
77) The Fabulous: A group of friends in the fashion industry find success and romance.
YOU CAN SKIP THESE
78) To the Beautiful You: Choi Minho gives a lot of good face here. But it's a 6 episode story stretched out to 16.
79) Strong Woman Do Bong Soon: Enjoyed the bickering romance, but the dumb characters and nonsense plot eventually dragged it down, plus some weirdly homophobic overtones.
80) 100 Days My Prince: A miserable prince loses his memory and eventually falls in love with a poor woman. Nam Ji-hyun and Kim Seon-ho are delightful but sadly the show's focus was elsewhere.
81) Love in Contract: A woman who marries men to help them out finally starts helping herself out.
82) Once Upon a Small Town: A little rural romance where nothing happens and it's not bad but it's not good.
83) Doom At Your Service: I found this whole show confusing and overly dreary. But good kisses.
84) Vagabond: A stunt man is going to solve a complex terrorist conspiracy with his bare hands and maybe also his kicky feet.
85) Flower of Evil: A show that is not as interested in the psychological aspects of its characters as I was. Sloppy on murder and mystery, but there are emotional moments that kept me tuning in. However, frustrating throughout.
86) High Society: Very daytime soap opera with a pretty low quality look but Park Hyung-sik leads the cast.
87) Oh My Ghost: If only this ghost were not so rapey, this show might have been a cute romance. Or maybe I would never get over the consent issues. We'll never know.
88) Lovers of the Red Sky: This could have been an intriguing palace drama with a childhood romance but then there was an evil spirit possessing someone and the fantasy layer didn't work.
89) Two Cops: Some very good actors are wasted in this meagerly written drama about a conman and a detective whose fates are intertwined.
90) My Sassy Girl: A palace mystery/romance that I forgot 1 minute after watching.
91) Yumi's Cells: A romance that gets sunk with terrible female archetypes and a couple I did not root for.
92) Imitation: An idol drama that's one note.
93) Shopping King Louis: Seo In-guk is cute and puppyish but that's it. I could not get to the end.
94) The King: Eternal Monarch: I was confused and didn't mean to watch this. I regret the error.
95) Tunnel: A magic tunnel, a murderer, a smart woman making dumb choices. Nope.
96) She Was Pretty: Park Seo-joon is wasted in this drama about an "ugly" woman struggling to confess her feelings to her childhood first love when he turns up as her mean boss.
97) Reply 1997: I could not finish this show because I found a particular romance plotline creepy and gross.
98) My Holo Love: I was so offended for 85% of this show. Some real consent issues here.
99) Something in the Rain: A good cast and an important sexual harassment story line but the creative choices made this one hard to get through.
100) Where Stars Land: A show that had promise and squandered it and made some confusing statements about disability.
101) My ID is Gangnam Beauty: A poorly executed look at beauty, plastic surgery, and societal expectations for young women.
102) Melting Me Softly: 2 people get cryogenically frozen thinking it will be for 24-hours and they get unfrozen 20 years later. This might also melt your brain.
103) So I Married The Anti-Fan: Run away.
Shows I turned off before watching all of: Black, My Mister, Where Stars Land, Chocolate, Radiant, Vincenzo, My Shy Boss, Reply 1997, Shopping King Louis, Coffee Prince, Weightlifting Fairy, Kim Bok-joo, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, River Where the Moon Rises, Yumi's Cells, Melancholy
Shows I watched but didn't review: Squid Game, A Business Proposal
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