The Year That Was – 2014 Volume Uno: Best of K-Dramas

Wow, hard to believe but this marks just over 1 year of hardcore drama watching.  First exposed to Secret Garden via Netflix a couple years ago, it took some time (and free time) in order to finally jump in to the magic of Kdramaland.  I come to this “official kdrama watcher tag” by my first experience live-streaming, aka watching shows that haven’t been recommended in some critical consensus because they are still airing, which can also mean #loomingdissapointment.  But I’m in no position to complain, as my first “live” drama just happened to be the small, modest You Who Came From the Stars.  I like the symmetry that my first drama and first live drama just happen to be the most popular trendy dramas of the past 5 years.

yoo in ah

Key to crazy drama hits – Yoo In Ah?

Both set viewer records domestically and abroad, while proving their worth far after the final episode through parodies, tours, references, and commentary from news outlets.  At this point you may be thinking, “wait, I thought this post was going to discuss the year’s best dramas, not some girls experience watching massive hits.” Well if y’all would just calm down, my stream of conscious thoughts will eventually catch up so take Xanax and chill/scroll down.

AAA secret garden from the stars

My misappropriated point is this.  With both shows I was giddy for watching/experiencing something new.  The former being a K-Drama or long-form rom-com and the ladder being the feeling of watching a drama with an international online community, all while only barley grasping how huge the show actually was.  Thusly, my biased for these shows were/are obviously impacted.  Both shows have many problems that keep if from being a “perfect drama”, and yet I shall look upon these dramas with fondness and happy nostalgia pains for all that it lead to, namely this blog and the online drama community.

With all that sappiness outta the way let’s move onto the the good, bad, and ugly of 2014 in dramaland.  This year I watched 18 dramas.  I count watched dramas as anything where I watched the majority of episodes in 2014, either by calendar dates (Pinocchio), or it was so bad I dropped (Greatest Marriage).  Two currently airing dramas I’m loving, (Healer and Valid Love) won’t have enough episodes aired in 2014 to allow inclusion, but considering my happy dance when each episode is uploaded, expect their inclusion for 2015’s list.

Honestly I’m not sure If I could ever see myself completing more then 20 dramas (live) annually because there is whole lotta crap to wade through in order to get the gems.  Though when you do find those few precious few shows that surpass expectations, it can make any so-so year feel suddenly one to remember.

Because I feel the sudden need to acknowledge all these shows I put around a days worth of time and subtitle reading skills to, I’ve decided to follow the People Republic of Boulder suit and give everyone a trophy/award.  Like is my want, not all awards are created equal.  In addition, the shows are grouped together and in two main cate–, eh well you’ll figure it out. Onwards!

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You Who Came From The Stars: Amusing Clip Findings – Video Variety

mlfts

With the cornucopia of rom-com dramas* airing it may be easy to forget the long and winding drought dramaland had without the fluffy rom com fare that’s become a touchstone to Korean television.  I don’t think I could pin point why we had more shows with serial killers instead of kisses, but no matter, at least I’m in love with this most current slate.

*Seriously, at last count we have Trot Lovers, Marriage Not Dating, Fated to Love You, It’s Okay that’s Love, and High School King of Savvy.  Of those, to the best of my knowledge only one, has received mixed to negative reviews (Trot).  4/5 well received rom-coms running at the same time?!? I don’t know whether to feel greedy, or sad that these shows couldn’t have possibly been spaced out a wee bit better so that I would actually have time to watch all of them.

Also, the wait for rom-comy goodness wasn’t quite as punishing when the genre went out (or on hiatus) on a high note such as My Love From the Stars (MLFTS) which captured millions of eyeballs all over the world due to it’s intermingling of comedy, supernatural, drama, and romance. (and let’s get real JJH putting on one of the great comedic performances in a drama ever.)

So thought I would share some amusing MLFTS adjacent clips, stemming from parodies to PPL’s to plenty of KSH JJH adorableness. Enjoy!

You-Who-Came-From-the-Stars-Poster1

As many things as this show did right, these header/poster pics were not one of them. Is this a 1990’s soap opera? A funeral? or a rom com featuring a 400 year old alien? Better luck next time promo department

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Top 5 – Favorite K-Drama tropes

Incest, wrist grabs, comas, EEEEVVVIL mothers, bitchy second leads.  What do they have in common? They are the annoying cliches and tropes used in Korean television.  But not all tropes are created equal, so this list will attempt to find the rose amongst the thorns, or is it supposed to be the other way around?

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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!