Top 5ish – Gong Hyo-Jin Love Interests in Dramaland (Update: Vote for Your Favorite!)

With this weeks premier of her latest show, It’s Okay That’s Love, I realized that this will be my 6th (!) Gong Hyo Jin drama.  Which means I have spent more hours watching GHJ than either Lee Min Ho or Lee Seung Gi, though she still doesn’t top my apparent love affair with Ahn Suk-Hwan (UGH. 7 dramas!).

Ahn gaksital

Why are you and your mustache twirling ways in every drama ever?!?

Truth is, whenever I choose a drama, my criteria is based on critical reaction and premise rather than the actors in question, which is why it’s rather amazing the streak GHJ has going on.  To the best of my knowledge, her past six dramas have pretty much been critical or ratings successes (usually both), with zero “forgotten dramas”.  She’s also worked with some of the dramaland’s best, and though I will be focussing on her male co-stars this time around, the creative talent should make anyone jealous considering she’s worked with Lee Kyung Hee (twice), the Hong Sister’s (twice), and now also reuniting with Noh Hee Kyung.  Sounds like your typical bitchy diva who you’d never want to work with. (JK, she’s obviously amazing)

gong hyo jin turkey donkey gong hyo jin turkey?

Warning: nothing but nonsense from here on out!

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Top 5 – K-Dramas American TV (or anyone else) Should Adapt

Answer me 1999 US korea fox

The Much Too Long Intro

When I collected data from blogs large and small for my drama ratings, the one constant became the consensus of Answer Me 1997.  I didn’t find a single negative review, and of the 30+ dramas I’ve seen it had the highest averaged rating with 9.3 (out of 10).  So it comes as no surprise that a drama that was so universally loved from the international community would be adapted for other audiences, yet I remain conflicted with the prospect.  According to deadline, Fox is very interested in bringing the Answer Me franchise stateside, honing in on the year 1999 and all that NSync/Brittany Spears/Backstreet Boys craziness that occurred.  On one hand, I’ve literally had the exact same thought when watching  AM 97′.   The BB VS N’Sync wars were raging during my elementary school years (of which I was always a N’Sync and JC girl), and so eerily paralleled the H.O.T.-Sechs Kies battles that occurred I even wondered if American music producers saw the Korean b-boy shenanigans and produced such fan wars here (cause I’m nothing if not a conspiracy theorist).

Yet as much as I would love to have that rush of nostalgia bring me back to my old CD collection, bus-ride debates, and pop culture references I would understand in full.  I remain traumatized by the prospect.  Answer Me was a show that nailed its casting, from its stars (Seo in Guk  and Jung Eun-Ji being one my favorite drama couples ever) to the teenage ensemble, to the parents (ditto for Song Dong Il and Lee Il Hwa), in ways I’ve only seen one other show replicate (NBC’s Friday Night Lights).  But really the tone was the most important.  Not that it can’t be done (Freaks and Geeks, FNL, and Skins come to mind, though perhaps more serious), but when the people adapting AM are most well known for creating the 3rd Step-Up movie, its hard to tell if this is gonna become more about  fad-ish pop music instead of its fully-rendered characters.  All this is a precursor and inspiration for this weeks Top 5, because if a global audience can fall in love with a drama steeped in 15 year old Korean pop-culture, then adapting it for American audiences should prove resonant at least for those Americans aged 20-30??  But because I’ve already talked about AM at length , it will not be included in this list.  Mostly I will speak to American television as that’s what I know, but most of these choices seem universal for any TV market.  Also, it seems historical dramas and standard rom-coms wouldn’t really work due to the lack of Joseon eras and over-abundance of multiple season shows.  What’s more interesting (and provides more options) are shows Korean television should adapt, a future top 5 I shall be working on shortly.  But without further delay, here is number 5!

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Drama and television viewing habits (narcissism edition!)

Here is a rundown of some of my viewing habits/bias which is probably for my own sake but might give insight into some of my ranking.  In all likelihood its the narcissist in me who needs to be seen.

  1. Characters >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Plot – It’s why Mad Men is my favorite show even with episode descriptions like “A computer comes to the agency while Peggy receives a flower delivery.” Or why I find dramas with mixed receptions like Flower Boy Next Door or Pasta intriguing long after others have deemed them “boring”.  As long as the characters are interesting and well rounded, I will never require any long standing mysteries,  parents or second leads used as plot devices,  or makjang elements to shake things up.
  2. That said, though I prefer my characters to be realistic and 3 dimensional, I don’t really have a similar issue with sci-fi or gimmick elements that become plot devices instead of being thoroughly integrated into the story.  For instance, some of Secret Garden’s complaints (similarly You Who Came from the Stars) dealt with how the body switching/sci-fi element was wishy washy, and never fully explained. I liked that it was used further character development, provided ample comic fodder, and was used enough to add tension and stakes, but not so much as to get annoying or for the audience to lost track of the whose who.  Basically it all comes back to characters. (for an English example, I much prefer the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who, compared to the Moffat reign, as one featured a delightful cast of recurring players, while the ladder had a series of convoluted plots.)
  3. Did someone say comic fodder?  One thing thats is necessary in my TV and can make a average plotted show into complete chamazingness territory is a funny bone embedded into the shows DNA.  The King of Dramas and History of the Salaryman are two of my favorite dramas, and I can easily say both shows had several flaws, missteps, and plot holes.  The single characteristic that kept me throughly entertained was that both were “mother father” hilarious. I recall History did an especially good job of adding humor throughout an episode, no matter how sad or dark things became for our heros (See a Weekend at Bernie’s elevator ride). Breaking Bad‘s pitch black comedic sensibilities were the only things that kept me going during the darkest hours of that depressing show.
  4. Can’t be too long – self explanatory but I’ve never watched a drama longer than 28 episodes. So many dramas, so little time.
  5. Other kinds of dramas I’m not crazily into – the revenge and/or serial killer thriller, ANY medical show (E.R. did  me in when I was 12), the traditional sageuk (though I still need to watch one..), and your standard melo.
  6. Things I totes adore! – slice of life dramas(Coffee PrinceFriday Night Lights) genre hybrid hodepodge (think I Can Hear Your Voice or Chuck), sci-fi or supernatural premises, subverting gender dynamics, biracial characters (mixed baby I am), bromances, shows not set in Seoul, NYC or LA, and of course romantic intrigue!
  7. Interestingly enough, when I choose a drama, its not based on the actors but heavily weighs on the plot description, trailers, and other people’s opinion.  This definitely varies from movies where even if Matt Damon is rocking a fat suit, I’d still buy that ticket.  Guess its really the instance of having a dynamic actor make a 2 hour film watchable vs. suffering through 20 hours of So Ji Sub trying to convince the audience (and himself) that his love for Ha Ji Won is worth it (I wish I never wanted to know What Happened in Bali).  That said, if a drama has two actors I like, it has a much better shot at me watching it even if the description seems average (por exemplo -the two Gongs in Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy).
  8. Now disregard everything I just wrote.  I mean all rules are made to be broken right?  none of these are rules but “It’s more like guidelines anyway.” Another of my favorite shows is Nine Times Travels as it’s possibly the most tightly plotted (and best use of time travel) show in recent memory.  Basically, where is the fun in getting everything you want?

Any show that does right by its acting, writing and directing will be good, and with that surely controversial statement those are  my 8 simple rule for dating  viewing biases,  yay lists!