The best currently-running Korean drama is King of Drama, a drama about making dramas. It’s not a melodrama, thankfully, it’s quite satirical, a bit like Broadcast News, and very meta. I’ve been wondering how the actors in these dramas manage to cry so much – here the guy fakes it with a little drool.
I’m using Hulu Plus as my current substitute for regular TV. It’s got a lot of content but lacks most of my must-see shows – currently I’m missing out on Walking Dead, for example. To fill in the gap, I’ve been checking out their bevy of Korean drama – it even has its own category in the Genre page and a “beginner’s guide” of selections.
I gather I’m late to the “Korean wave” of entertainment (even Obama has extolled its virtues) but I’ve been playing catchup with Korean dramas on Hulu Plus, my current substitute for regular TV, since they don’t have much in the way my usual must-watch shows (I’m missing out on Walking Dead right now), but they have an abundance of kdrama, even given its own category and a “beginner” selection. I peruse dramabeans.com for recommendations, though.
I won’t make any assumptions about Korean culture based on the shows (might be like piecing together a picture of the US based on The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl), but here’s the universe of kdramas:
Stories run for one season, twenty episodes or so, like a really long miniseries.
Episodes last more than an hour, so they pack a lot of story in each one.
The beginning typically starts out wacky, even if it gets really serious later, and often includes an out of the blue action sequence, like a motorbike race or fight sequence. I usually can’t tell if I’m going to like the series until I see the second or third episode.
The last episode of the season is often a mixed bag since they have to wrap everything up, sometimes too neatly, sometimes not neat enough.
There’s a lot of head slapping. They should wear helmets. Actually, some of the guys have hairdos that look like helmets.
Lurking is easy. Stand behind a pole or corner, stick your head out to eavesdrop on some people twenty feet away and somehow you’re invisible.
Romantic gestures include piggyback rides (tall women need not apply), dragging by the wrist (I keep thinking a dislocated shoulder will result) and back hugs.
Despite all that dragging around, most of the stories are led by women or split 50-50 in importance between the male and female leads. The female lead is typically spunky, sometimes a tomboy, has a healthy appetite, likes to kick men in the shins, is a good cook, inexperienced in romance, wants to have a career and doesn’t want to get married early.
The leads are ridiculously cute. It’s like watching puppies mate.
Every story has “second leads”. Thus the love triangle. Or love triangle list, as the potential pairings grow.
There’s a lot of drinking, drinking competitions, drunken karaoke. Both men and women.
There are no medical privacy rules. Doctors will cheerfully supply any and all information to the villain.
Many actresses started out with a singing career. Very handy for all the singing scenes (it’s not bad, I enjoy the drunken karaoke numbers).
Some plots are wickedly complicated. Like he knows that she knows he’s lying, but she doesn’t know that he knows that she knows that he’s lying. That’s where I start yelling at the screen, “what’s going on?”
Don’t watch hungry. There’s always footage of good food, especially barbeque.
Lots of crying. And not just by the women. I hope they have a lot of water bottles on set – dehydration must be an issue.
They excel in the romance department. It’s like they have design patterns. For example, woman upset or drunk staggers into traffic, guy pulls her out of harms way and into a safe hug.
I don’t know if I’d enjoy them more or less if I understood Korean. Possibly less – I’ve read complaints about an actor’s pronunciation (which might distract me like English actors who struggle to speak American). Instead, I’m enjoying the range of inflection, from cutesy girl talk to something that sounds like a cat coughing up a hairball. I especially like exclamations like “Aiissh!” and “Aigoo!”
Any non-Korean language is spoken excruciatingly slowly, whether it’s Chinese or English. I think they must recruit English-speaking actors from tourists (to say it’s wooden would be an insult to Pinocchio). The most natural sounding English is from actors who are probably Korean-American or at least spent their youth here.
Coffee Prince is still my favorite Korean drama, but Lie to Me (starring the same actress, who strikes me as sort of a Korean version of Sandra Bullock, or Sandra Bullock is an American version of her). I’m not normally a sucker for romances, but throw in great acting and chemistry, humor, and scenes with good-looking food…
I’ve only watched a few, but I’ve been a fan of Korean film since that brief intersection of time when I had paid cable and AZN was still going. But it’s only just recently, while scavenging for free TV on my PS3, that I discovered Korean episodic drama. First I caught a few intro episodes on Crunchroll, and then while trying out a free week of Hulu Plus I discovered they have an even bigger bounty of Korean drama and once you watch episode 2, you get hooked. There’s been a formula in the ones I’ve seen so far. The first episode seems almost slapstick. Then the relationship stuff starts and it’s one tear-jerking romance-crushing romance-lifting rollercoaster ride for twenty episodes. It’s exhausting, and you want to stick your arms into the screen, grab the star-crossed protagonists and yell, what the hell’s wrong with you people! A Breaking Bad marathon is a walk in the park by comparison. And there’s always a love triangle, although it’s more like a love polyhedron. And the young and chipper female protagonist who’s a supposedly plain jane who has at least two guys pining over her, at least one of which is a mildly bad boy unable to express his feelings. Despite being a tomboy, the girl sure cries a lot (but to be fair, the guys cry, too), but has commitment issues because of her desire for independence and self-fulfillment and ends up taking a trip to Europe at the end before settling down (how come no one wants to take a trip to Canada?) There’s a lot of texting and really good-looking food.
My favorite show is The First Shop of Coffee Prince. It’s not just my favorite Korean show, it’s one of my favorite TV shows period (I wonder how much better I’d like it if I understood Korean).
It’s heartwarming to see there’s always one thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on – that it’s OK to stoke up the American public on how Asians and Mexicans are taking their jobs.