Now that I’ve talked about the individual characters that I loved, it’s time for me to address the shows as a whole. In comparison to last year, 2017 was actually pretty decent for me. I only dropped five shows: Whisper, Strong Woman Do Bong-soon, Radiant Office, Seven Day Queen, and The King Loves. I completed five 2017 shows (four dramas and one drama special) and also looped back to watch the 2015 drama special, Splash Splash Love. And with the exception of one, I’m glad I completed all of them. Here’s how I rated them (and you can find an explanation of my ratings categories here):
Marathon it now!
Splash Splash Love (TVCast Naver/MBC | 2 episodes | December 13 to December 20, 2015)
This two-episode drama masterfully combines romantic comedy and time-traveling fantasy to give us a wonderful heroine and a cute love story. While the heroine does end up falling for a Joseon king, the story is firmly rooted in her personal character arc (and hatred of math) and centers her story without giving into the temptation to let the king overwhelm it. The comedy is clever without being cruel, and on more than one occasion I actually laughed out loud. (Shocker, I know.) But perhaps my favorite thing about it is the resolution to the heroine’s character arc and her fervent desire to go home. Spend two hours on this one—you won’t regret it.
Naked Fireman (KBS2 | 4 episodes | January 12 to January 19, 2017)
I love it when prickly ladies fall in love and are loved in return without having to rewrite their personalities. Our heroine is blunt, clever, and utterly determined to solve the mystery of her parents’ murders, while our hero is a somewhat dim comedic slacker with a good heart and an overabundance of courage. Their meet-cute is absurd—and yes, involves him being paid to take off some of his clothes—but the way they genuinely fall for one another is marvelous. I’ve seen dramas that can’t compete with this romance despite having four times the number of episodes. If you need something short and cute with a thriller second half, try this.
Save Me (OCN | 16 episodes | August 5 to September 24, 2017)
I went into this show worried that the heroine’s story would quickly be co-opted by the quartet of boys trying to save her, but they never made her pain and trauma about them. Instead, the boys suffered for the heroine in her quest to escape a religious cult, and in spite the many ways in which the villains tried to break her, she never gave up. Watching the good guys join forces to uncover the corruption in their town—and just how loved ones were complicit in it—was as emotionally taxing as it was satisfying. You’ll need to take this one slow, but you should definitely watch it.
Bump it up your watch list.
Circle (tvN | 12 episodes | May 22 to June 27, 2017)
The worst storytelling tragedy is watching a show desperately over-expand to try to fill up space it really just isn’t meant to take. But this drama knew where it wanted to go, and its interconnected mysteries across three separate timelines kept the momentum going when a longer, more unwieldy show would have languished. The 2017 timeline is by far the most compelling (and had the most shriek-worthy cliffhangers), while the future timeline frequently struggled to find its emotional footing. The show’s greatest weaknesses were in extrapolating the implications of the central technology/mystery and its limited number of female characters. Nonetheless, it is a solid show that sci-fi fans should check out.
While You Were Sleeping (SBS | 32 mini episodes | September 27 to November 16, 2017)
I wanted a grander, wider-reaching story than the one I got, but that’s what happens when you promise me prophetic dreamers who want to change the futures they dream of. If I ignore what I wanted this show to be and instead judge it based on what was actually offered to me, this was a good fantasy romance about two people finding each other again after childhood tragedy and growing to love one another. And in that, it delivered on almost every level. While I have and could continue to nitpick about various storytelling choices and lack of development for some characters, I don’t regret spending sixteen hours of my life on this show.
I would advise against it.
Solomon’s Perjury (JTBC | 12 episodes | December 16, 2016, to January 28, 2017)
I’m always going to be bitter that this show lied about the heroine being the protagonist. She was great whenever she wasn’t sidelined by the hero, but even then her investigation into the death of one of her classmates was hampered at every turn by the hero withholding information from her with very little reason. In a change from many other school dramas, several of the adults are good people with the kids’ best interests at heart. There were some great characters and moments, but in the end this show ultimately fell apart when it became clear it didn’t care about its heroine at all.
So now that you’ve seen my rankings, what were your favorite dramas this year?