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4 kdramas that I wish had a second season

I know, I know—second seasons are a mixed-to-terrible bag in dramaland. Franchises seem to work better overall (see: Flower Boys series, School series), but there are a couple of dramas that I think had enough story potential for a second season. When I reviewed my completed dramas, I was actually surprised by how few of my top ten dramas (I need to update this…) made it on this list.

Then again, a lot of my top tens are top tens precisely because they completed the story they wanted to tell and I was satisfied with the ending. And while my fangirl heart might want sixteen episodes of domestic bliss and skinship, I can concede that it probably wouldn’t be the best business decision. Nevertheless, here are four dramas I would be very interested in getting a second season for, though I know it’ll never happen. Beware of show-ending spoilers! Continue reading “4 kdramas that I wish had a second season”

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My Top 3 “Comfort Food” Dramas

I’ve been sick with a cold all this last week, so all I’ve wanted to do is stay in my pajamas all day and have comfort food. (Current favorite: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.) Since I’m miserable, I also just want to curl up with my favorite shows and be soothed with their familiarity and guaranteed ability to make me feel better—or at the very least, make me smile.

(And fun bonus fact—I own the DVDs for all of these shows.)

#1 – Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Sweet, not too intense, absolutely going to make me happy. SKKS was one of the first dramas I ever watched and the one that got me hooked. It’s a mix of cross-dressing comedy, the earnest belief that the world can be made a better place, and friendships (and romance) that will stand the test of time. The heroine’s steadfast desire to stand up for women, the poor, the downtrodden, etc. always lifted my spirits. Continue reading “My Top 3 “Comfort Food” Dramas”

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My 5 Favorite Male Villains in Kdrama

I had a great time compiling my top five female kdrama villains last week, so I figured I should further indulge my evil side by making a comparable list of male villains. In no particular order, here are the five who made the cut:

#1 – Min Joon-gook from I Hear Your Voice

Usually villains have a signature style, a preferred way of doing things, but Min Joon-gook liked to branch out. He started off with a car crash + bludgeoning, escalated to bludgeoning + arson, and rounded out his body count with a staged drunk driving incident. That’s not to mention his propensity for charming his victims before killing them, kidnapping, violent rages, and trying to ruin the hero’s very soul. He was equal parts fascinating and terrifying, and the show made sure to reveal the tragedies in his background—while still condemning the choices that made him into a villain. Continue reading “My 5 Favorite Male Villains in Kdrama”

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My 6 “Marathon It Now!” Kdramas

I’ve gotten a number of people to start watching kdramas over the past couple years, and my favorite stage is always the beginning. You know, the point where you get to recommend all of your favorite stuff with few qualifications because they’ve stood the test of time. The best of the best. The ones that just speak to you on a visceral level.

So without further ado, here are the six kdramas that I recommend to everyone:

Arang and the Magistrate
(MBC | 20 episodes | August 15 to October 18, 2012)

From a strict world-building point-of-view, Arang and the Magistrate is the best fantasy kdrama I’ve ever watched. The world, based on a famous folktale, feels magical, and its fantastical elements are grounded by winning performances from its cast. While I think it could have been a little tighter if two episodes were shaved off, the drama generally maintains its fast pace and keeps a clear focus on the mystery of Arang’s murder and the search for Eun-oh’s mother. Watching the lead couple fall in love is a treat, and the high stakes in their search for truth only enhances their romance. Be prepared for comedy, drama, and tragedy in this exciting historical fantasy.


Healer
(KBS | 20 episodes | December 8, 2014 to February 15, 2015)

You can level several complaints at Healer: the early wire-work is worth a few raised eyebrows, a good chunk of the bad guys were barely better than low-level NPCs, coincidences abounded, the finale felt rushed, etc., but no other show came close to generating the same kind of excitement for me this year as Healer. From its adorable and believable OTP to its masterful use of flashbacks to a cheesy love song that won me over to a world populated by smart, determined, and different women, writer Song Ji-na proved that she is excellent at building characters and crafting a story the audience will care about.

What do I have to sacrifice to ensure you’ll be writing again in dramaland soon?


I Hear Your Voice
(SBS | 18 episodes | June 5 to August 1, 2013)

This was a mishmash of genres and tropes that honestly sounded like a disaster on paper: a mind-reader, a courtroom drama, a one-sided childhood love, a childhood rivalry/competition carrying over to adulthood, and a killer bent on revenge. Luckily, there was some magic holding all these pieces together. Even though awful things happened to our characters, I Hear Your Voice was astonishingly relentless in its optimism and sympathy for other people, even terrible ones. Character development arcs for the leads cemented our main pair as one of my very few kdrama OTPs. The drama suffered mildly from its two-episode extension, but I can’t even really hold it against the show when that allowed it to develop a touching character arc for a secondary character.


Queen In-hyun’s Man
(tvN | 16 episodes | April 18 to June 7, 2012)

I’m pretty sure the only one who sobbed more over this show than me is Yoo In-na. Queen In-hyun’s man boasts one of my favorite romances—in any genre—and my first kdrama OTP. This is one of the smartest time travel dramas I’ve seen and had one of the cleverest male leads I’ve ever seen in dramaland. But the heart of the show was Yoo In-na’s Choi Hee-jin, an actress who wore her heart on her sleeve and fell in love with a time-traveling Joseon scholar despite everything in their way, like bloody political conspiracies, several centuries, and a pain-in-the-ass ex-boyfriend.

Make sure you have plenty of tissues and a fainting couch on hand for this one.


Secret Love Affair
(JTBC | 16 episodes | March 17 to May 13, 2014)

Are you in the mood for an unforgettable drama about a woman who found herself trapped in a cage of her own making by sacrificing her morals and time and youth in order to acquire wealth and prestige? Are you in the mood to watch her rediscover her love of music, crave quiet moments of happiness, and find passion and desire with the help of a much younger man? Secret Love Affair boasted one of the smartest scripts in 2014, and its detailed camerawork and gorgeous soundtrack ensured that the audience paid attention to every detail. Kim Hee-ae and Yoo Ah-in’s performances as the two lovers were breathtaking. If you want smart, sophisticated, morally gray, and engaging storytelling, make sure you check this out.


Shut Up: Flower Boy Band
(tvN | 16 episodes | January 30 to March 20, 2012)

Easily the best installment of the Flower Boy franchise to date, SUFBB was everything I wanted out of a high school drama: a coming-of-age story where friends learn that growing up can be just as much a threat to their worlds as any other poverty, bullying, and the drive to succeed. The Eye Candy boys formed one of my favorite “found families” in dramaland, and their struggles against each other and against the world were both heart-rending and heart-warming. There are few neatly tied bows in this show—SUFBB knows just how messy life can be, and it isn’t afraid to stop things with an “and they kept living” ending. Watch this for great music, great performances, and great reasons to cry.


(If you want to see my ratings for all of the full-length the dramas I’ve finished, you can go here. If you want my recs by genre, go here.)

What would make it on to your “marathon it now” list? What dramas to you always recommend to people who are just starting to watch? Let me know!

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5 Kdramas That I Need to Rewatch Soon

The nights are getting longer in my neck of the woods, and that always means it’s time to pull out the fuzzy blankets and hot chocolate–and maybe seriously consider marathoning a kdrama or two.  I haven’t properly marathoned anything in a while, but it’d be nice to sit back down with some old favorites and see just how well they hold up under fresh eyes. Time to dig up some snacks and settle in for a long weekend.

white-christmas#1 – White Christmas (Yes, this is a bit of a cheat since I’m already planning and organizing a rewatch of it over the Christmas holidays, but still.)

One of my all-time favorites, so much so that I nearly broke my own classification rules and put it on the full-length list. While the majority of the cast is (sometimes painfully) green, this is an intriguing psychological thriller that turns into the best/worst kind of can-and-mouse game. The cinematography and soundtrack are some of my favorite things about the show, as is the relentless focus on the show’s central question: are monsters born, or are they made? While a few final act plot holes prevent White Christmas from achieving perfection, this cult classic deserves eight hours of your time. I’d even go so far as to say it deserves a rewatch, because you’ll definitely pick up on new things the second time around.

Pair it with: Pancakes and despair. Continue reading “5 Kdramas That I Need to Rewatch Soon”

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My 5 Favorite Kdramas with Secret Identities

There are many tropes I adore that frequently pop up in kdrama: arranged marriages, found families, cycles of betrayal and revenge, etc. One that shows up with surprising amount of frequency (compared to my standard U.S. television fare) is characters with secret identities, whether that’s a heroic alter-ego, an undercover cop, or even cross-dressing.

Sometimes the secret identity is a long-term game born out of necessity; other times convenience is what initially sparked the eventual deception. Regardless, one of the best things about secret identities is how it makes a character question their relationship between themselves and their love interest the rest of the world.

Oh, and the angst. Don’t forget the glorious, glorious (frequently romantic) angst. Continue reading “My 5 Favorite Kdramas with Secret Identities”