Sunday, January 15, 2017

2016 Drama Recap

Happy new year everyone!

How was your 2016? The internet said it's the worst year ever, but I disagree. Twas a pretty good year for me, both personally and drama-wise. Granted, it wasn't the best in terms of blogging but hey, we can't have everything amirite? Please accept my apologies.

I actually watched a good deal of dramas this year. Lots were 2016 dramas (although no more than previous years), but a lot were dramas of yesteryear too. And I have to say, I was quite pleased with the dramas I watched this year. 2016 produced a lot of great dramas and I didn't even watch that many. Although to be fair, there were quite a lot of dramas I dropped too. You win some, you lose some.

As per usual, the following list is written in order from my subjective best to my subjective worst involving dramas that finished in 2016.

1. Signal

I was so torn as to which drama should take place as the number one since there were quite a few truly excellent dramas in 2016. But ultimately I have to give the honors to the brilliant Signal. Even if you're not a fan of mystery/thriller genres like me, I highly urge you to give this a try. Basically almost every element of this drama is near perfect. The story, the directing, the acting, the editing, the music. It all came together into this rare being that makes Signal a true feast for the eyes, mind, and heart. I sound really cheesy, but it really is that good. So good in fact that the withdrawal syndrome for this one took me away from dramaland for a few months because what can top this? (Answer: not a lot.) If I'm not convincing you (and I know I'm not that convincing of a person), then maybe the 9.3 average rating on MyDramaList might sway you. Detective Lee Jae-han, I'll never forget you!

2. Jealousy Incarnate

I was so close to putting this drama as number one, but it's a little cheating since I know almost 99% of the time that I'll love anything that puts together my favorite lady Gong Hyo-jin and the magnetic Jo Jung-suk. Jealousy Incarnate isn't your run-of-the-mill rom-com. Sure it has your classic quadrangle, but this one involves co-habitation, polyandry, a good dose of bromance and kick-ass boss ladies. Not to forget the best "momance" a drama lover can ever ask for. On paper this show is probably the stupidest story there shall ever be, but when the characters are not only charming but oddly realistic, it's really hard not to fall in love. And you can never beat a show that gives you a 40-year time jump. This is definitely a 24-episoder I wished, with all my heart, never ended.

3. Age of Youth

Age of Youth got lots of rave reviews from the international community when it aired in mid-2016. For me, it was a late player as I've only watched it in my December mad dash to finish as many 2016 dramas as possible. The drama isn't particularly spectacular in its appearance, but it's probably one of the truest slice-of-life dramas I've ever seen. It's a drama that involves 5 young ladies living in the Belle Epoque share house and tells their day to day trials and tribulations as young 20-somethings. It's a heartwarming story with an all-girl lead cast, a rarity in popular media, and depicts them as complex, thoughtful human beings who love, hurt, laugh, and cry on each others' shoulders. Watching this drama makes me reflect on my personal life but also made me envious of the Belle Epoque girls since they have four other ladies who are ready to catch them when they fall. Not perfect in any sense of the word, especially when you consider that somewhat traumatizing psychotic ex-boyfriend episode, but it's definitely a drama that will fill your heart with lots of snuggles. Season 2, please?

4. Something About 1%

Oh, Something About 1%. The show whose name alone leaves my face in a sea of smiles and giggles. This drama is actually a remake of a drama that once graced Kang Dong-won's face. But according to many, this remake is so far better than the original (which I never watched, because why?). The plot is classic 1990s-early 2000s K-drama that involves a chaebol with an over-involved family who unexpectedly falls in love with a girl his grandfather forced him to date/basically marry. The story is overtly simple, but what makes this drama so incredibly charming is the undeniable chemistry of the two leads, Jeon So-min and Ha Seok-jin. If I were to make a list of favorite drama couples of all time, I'm pretty sure these two take up the top 5. They're so lovely to each other, it makes you wonder if the two actors may have developed real feelings for each other. Writing this makes me want to watch DaDa and Jae-in once more, so I think I'll do that.

5. On the Way to the Airport

If there was a drama that played like a poem, On the Way to the Airport is probably one. I don't know why I decided to watch this drama, as it had makjang written all over it (thankfully it didn't fully go that route). But I'm so happy I did. It was initially promoted as a show about two friends who happen to marry other people, but basically it's a show about affairs and how people slowly drift away from their default couple to only find their perfect soulmate who is married to another person. As I've said, it's a show that had makjang elements written in the plot, but was executed with an air of sophistication. It's a superbly well-edited drama and actually made me more aware of how important not only acting and story is to a drama, but also directing, editing, coloring, and music. Definitely not a show for everyone, but if you like slow-paced, well-acted, utterly gorgeously shot drama with a poetry-like atmosphere, this one's for you.

6. My Wife is Having an Affair This Week

What? Two back-to-back affair dramas? I know. Fortunately, that's their only similarities. I wished this drama was more popular than it ended up being because it's truly wonderful. Although I suppose with "affair" in the title, it's definitely a too-bitter pill to swallow for some. But My Wife is Having an Affair This Week is really, truly good. A story about a man's downward spiral when he finds his wife is cheating with another man seems a little bit daunting, but the comedic approach and Lee Sun-kyun's always amazing portrayal of a desperate man seeking advise from the always (?) wise internet community makes it so good. Plus the secondary couple in this is just too good to miss out. Unfortunately, a third plot line involving the supposedly hilarious antics of a "professional" cheater that lasted 6 episodes too long takes away from the earnest heart of this show and takes away major points from what is otherwise a solid drama.

7. Reply 1988

How weird is it talk about this series a full year later? But Reply 1988 did finish in 2016, so I'll have to talk about it. And as I've mentioned in my review previously, I think this is probably my favorite Reply series to date. I love how the focus of this drama is the family, since it's been such an important factor in all the Reply series but get glossed over to the more attractive love line. I kind of wished it had more episodes, mostly so that the running time for each isn't some ungodly 2 hour run. But because of how long the show ran, it really allowed for the 5 households of Ssangmun-dong to get the beautiful story they deserved. The young love story is actually the weakest link of the show, but I didn't care. I loved the family stories so much, who cares about young love?

8. Oh Hae-young Again

I don't really know where to put Oh Hae-young Again because, despite remembering that I smiled quite a bit during the finale, all I can remember is how utterly terrible Hae-young and Do-kyung's relationship actually is. It's like, I feel like I need to like this drama because everyone loved it and because the two Hae-young's are awesome, but the core of this show, the main romance line, is childish at best and destructive at worst. Okay, to be fair, there's lots of good things about this show. The performance is really good (Seo Hyun-jin is probably the runaway star of the whole drama), every other relationship other than the main couple is really good, the music is really good, the comedy is really good. And I guess if you completely ignore the main coupling, this is a solid show that depicts the growing of every woman Hae-young, which is quite rare. I guess I'm not into the masochist type of love.

9. W

After the devastating (for me) end of Signal, it was difficult for me to get back to watching dramas because what would I do without the meddlesome trio? Well, W did it for me. It was the first time in a long time that I stayed up nights to marathon a drama and I love it, and how can you not? It's slick, unique, and bares the faces of two gorgeous leads in the form of Lee Jong-suk and Han Hyo-joo. I find it to be a pretty good drama that sort of blew my mind and wet my pants a little. And I thoroughly enjoyed the story despite the gaping holes in its plot line. Although, I'm definitely not satisfied in its ending since the lines between the two worlds got blended way, way too much. But in the end it was a good drama and contained probably the best kiss of the year, if not in the whole existence of dramaland. And, you know, lots of shots of hot stuff Lee Jong-suk. Didn't know you were this handsome all these years.

10. Drinking Solo

Prior to watching Drinking Solo, I did finish Let's Eat 2 which is a sweet, sweet show. And knowing its premise I knew what I was getting into. For one thing, it's a really predictable show, minus one character (but more on that later). Ha Seok-jin played an ass less likable than Jae-in, which is unfortunate. Park Ha-sun's Park Ha-na is endearing but too much of a candy. But the highlight of the show is the students of Noryangjin. Their struggles to become a public service officer is relatable to anyone who has ever had to face a huge exam and had to stumble over several stumbling blocks. It got to a point where I almost didn't care about the love story and wished it was more slice of life instead. The real downer of this show is Gong Myung. Not because the actor sucks (he's actually really good) but because he's the second coming of Chilbong which will always break my heart. Even if he didn't get the girl (and the other girl), would it be so terrible to have him get a satisfying character development? Maybe for Season 2? This wasn't supposed to be a drama that gets a ton of praises or anything, but that little details hurts a little.

11. Cheese in the Trap

Cheese in the Trap is probably 2016's biggest disappointment. I've mentioned it in a previous review so I won't talk about it too much. But basically it had the best first half and a really, really disappointing second half. Thankfully all I can remember is the best part, specifically how perfect Kim Go-eun is as Hong Seol. I know a lot of people have mixed feelings of her in this role, but now that I'm watching her in Goblin (in which she's still as charming as ever), I realize she portrays early 20's low-key angst really well. I feel like Hong Seol is more relatable to her than Eun-tak, which is the reason of her better performance (in my opinion). Still, if only this drama continued the pace it had in the beginning, it would've ended up being one the best dramas on the year. If only.

Honorable Mentions (basically the short dramas):

Positive Physique

I think I started watching this web drama since someone mentioned it on Twitter and I ended up really liking it. It's short, in what essentially is the length of a one-episoder drama. It tells of a film student who has to contact his now-superstar actress ex-girlfriend to make his career defining movie. It's not groundbreaking in the slightest, but the performances are well done, lead by Do Kyung-soo and Chae Seo-jin, and the story is pleasant. It's bursting with youthful energy and that's always good in my book.

Home Sweet Home

Not much to say about this one. Basically I wanted to watch another work by Lee Sang-yeob who blew my mind this year by becoming a murderer in the first half of the year and a bumbling goofball in the latter. Home Sweet Home turns him into a cyborg and the story contains elements of sci-fi, thriller, and a dash of romance. Not the best drama I've seen, but good enough.

And now the list of non-2016 dramas I finished in 2016. This year the list is a little long, but I'll put it in anyways to give you my thoughts on some of these dramas. Listed in order of year.

Potato Star 2013QR3 (2013)

This drama took way too long to finish and not because it's a daily drama. I don't have much else to say about this drama as I've written my thoughts on it previously. But I don't think I'll ever watch a daily drama again, mostly due to commitment issues. I still haven't finished Six Flying Dragons, so there's that. And also, Potato Star had a weird, extremely unsatisfying ending, and that sucked.

Liar Game (2014)

I started watching this when in the midst of watching On the Way to the Airport and I wanted to see Lee Sang-yoon's face for a little bit longer. A couple of years ago a lot of people were buzzing about this show and I could see why. It's a drama that makes you think, which is oddly uncommon in dramaland, but in the style of game shows, which is always fun. I love the characters on this show, especially Lee El's because I love her anyways. There were rumors of a Season 2, which makes me really excited. Although almost 3 years later no further word on this. Hope it's sooner than later or never!

Because It's the First Time (2015)

I wrote a review on this previously so I won't say much. Yet another youth drama, which is pleasant in every aspect. Not as good as, say Age of Youth, but since it's a co-ed leading cast, I guess that gives more dimensions to the main plot? Basically I loved seeing Park So-dam's cuteness in its full glory because I don't think I'll be watching Cinderella and the Four Knights.

Twenty Again (2015)

Yet another drama fueled by my wanting to see Lee Sang-yoon's face and his oddly round eyes. I'm really glad I got to see these three works of his because it showed three different characters and personalities (despite all being professors!). I actually watched the first episode when it aired but found it to be childish. But then I re-watched and was glad to because it was more than a meet cute between two childhood friends. Choi Ji-woo was adorable in this one and I'm so glad that she decided to grace her being as No-ra. Her journey of re-discovery was incredibly satisfying.

Let's Eat 2 (2015)

Why I decided to skip the first season I never know, but I think Seo Hyun-jin had a lot to do with it. The Let's Eat series, and its subsequent Drinking Solo, aren't shows to write home about but are pleasant to watch. Oddly enough, as much as I love to watch food-porn, the food shots in Let's Eat is really too much. I mean, 2-3 minutes of shots of the same food? Fortunately, the cute love stories in the series more than enough made up for the overbearing shots of albeit delicious looking food.

Splish Splash Love (2015)

This is a drama special that I reviewed previously but needed to be mentioned because of... administration reasons? Any who, I love this and wish Yoon Doo-joon and Kim Seul-gi star in a longer story in the near future because they are oh so cute. It doesn't even have to be in the Joseon period or involve eunuchs who are secretly women, although that'll be fine and dandy too.

My Fantastic Funeral (2015)

I was really excited to watch this drama special because it starred Choi Woo-shik and Kyung Soo-jin, two up and coming stars who I really like to watch. The story is a little bleak: a young woman is about to die soon and unexpectedly meets someone from her past. But despite a funeral looming in the background, it's an uplifting drama about living your life. The two are as sweet and charming as ever and the music for this is worth listening to.

So there you have it, my watching activity of 2016 laid out for you. It's both a lot and a little at the same time, depending who you ask. And I hope I can come back next year to talk about the dramas I watched in 2017. Til then!

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