Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year in Review 2014: A Year of Non-Completions


With the new year almost upon us, it's time to look back over all the dramas I partook in for 2014. This year resulted in the most non-completions of dramas yet. I feel like I watched a bajillion shows, but when I actually try to think of what was finished, I have trouble recalling. Turns out, that's because there were only three of those! This was the year of drama-dropping, where cute stories eventually resorted to cliches and needless angst while initially intriguing plots grew weary and repetitive.

But despite that, I had a fun time sampling the year's offerings and remain continually hopeful of finding the next satisfying watch to rave and rant over on this blog. Unfortunately (or perhaps happily?) my "To-Watch" list is growing impossibly massive due to the sheer volume of dramas that came out this year. I expect to be doing lots of catch-up watching well into 2015, but for now, let's discuss the many shows I did get to.

The Dramas I Completed:

I Need Romance 3


I plan to do a separate review on this show, but in essence I'm not sure it was worth the number of hours I dedicated to it. It was fun and sweet at points, but also frustrating and downright tepid at others. You would think that the generous allocation of kiss scenes would make the romance really pop and feel more natural than most dramas, but my impression was quite the opposite. While it's the first of the INR series that I've been able to finish, it definitely lacked some of the frankness and heart of the first season (and let's never speak of the shrieky second season). Oh the power of the noona romance, which even in its most shallow and nonsensical states as here is too compelling for me to set aside.

To be fair though, INR 3 also featured the wonderful Kim So Yeon, who was Reason No. 1 for why I managed to wade through this mushy tale. This was a far cry from her best role ever, as she was saddled with a poorly written and psychologically inconsistent female lead. Sung Joon and her shared solid chemistry, but pity the story managed to make even their many kisses and roommate antics feel watered down and almost childish. Had it not been Kim So Yeon, I'm quite positive there's no way I could have tolerated the leading lady for more than a couple episodes.

The story itself also felt much more like a linkage of mismatched arcs that individually sound interesting but make zero sense when strung together. We get a very cold girl who ends up rooming with the boy she used to babysit as a child while crushing on her sexy boss. After a whole lot of kisses and general romantic confusion that often left me puzzled as to what was going on in her head, she ends up realizing her love for the younger roommate, predictably ending up happily ever after with him.

The main problem was that our leading lady was written with far too many extremes. First, she's an emotionally unavailable and cold over-thirty woman with a string of failed relationships, then she's the childishly naive girl who's in love with her boss and doesn't even know it, then she's a workaholic who only comes home to sleep, and finally she's a reformed lady who recognizes her love for Sung Joon despite all obstacles. I got a bit of whiplash trying to follow her thinking and figure out just who the heck she was supposed to be.

As for Sung Joon's character Allen, I found him adorable as the young man smitten with his noona, but also felt he was written much too idealistically. He was the wiser-than-his-years emotionally aware foil to her character, which just seemed too convenient and pat. Additionally, it seemed like even the writer wasn't sure about how much younger to make him - in one scene she's carrying him as a baby on her back when she's meant to be at least twelve, but in another they mention how the age difference is only about six years. What? Be consistent at least!

Making things worse was the plethora of unlikable side characters who served no purpose other than to fill up time and to demonstrate that our leading girl could be a good friend. While I enjoyed moments of this show, as a whole it's shallow and forgettable.

Let's Eat


This drama taught me that I really don't mind food porn, and sadistically rather enjoy it. Here's another noona romance, but wrapped up in a parade of likable side characters and dish-of-the-weeks, all of which are deliciously consumed through close-up camera shots of the actors. I've never had more job envy than I experienced here.

Regretfully, the ending was a complete mess, with a sudden dose of murderous makjang and a resolution that felt over-hasty and made me scratch my head. Seriously, why the hell are they sitting down to eat with the anger-issues creeper who basically tried to kill innocent Jin Yi mere minutes ago? But aside from that, I appreciated the main pairing and slice-of-life feel enough to ultimately not mind, and this goes down as one of the most pleasant, easy-going watches of the year. Highly recommended for those that haven't yet seen it, especially as now you don't need to suffer through the once-a-week snail-paced airing.

Shitsuren Chocolatier


This is another show that I plan to review separately later, as it's monumentally the first Jdrama I've seen in ages. Unfortunately it was quite a disappointment, but did feature a charming conclusion and one of the best side characters of the year in Kaoruko.

The main leads are Matsu Jun and Ishihara Saotomi, which was a pairing I couldn't pass up. Sadly, their romance was more of the ill-fated and draggy sort. The plot revolves around Sota's (Matsu Jun) decade-long love for Saeko (Saotomi), whose a rather dense but beautiful girl who loves chocolate.

I ended up not liking either of the leads very much, which is never a good thing. Sota was pathetic and completely incapable when it came to his feelings for Saeko, while Saeko went from sympathetic and sweet to deceptive and spineless. It didn't help that I also majorly disliked Sota's arc with Erena, which felt crass and irritating.

I came in expecting a light-hearted rom-com with plenty of chocolate food porn, but wound up with a strangely melancholy mix of frustrating characters and very unromantic love arcs. The only thing I got out of this was a major desire to eat beautifully made chocolates (ugh, the crunch sound effect they use every time someone took a bite was so freaking satisfying). Not a show I'd recommend, but entertaining while it lasted.

Dramas that went down the drain:

Cunning Single Lady



Things could have been worse for this show, because by all rights I thoroughly enjoyed most of the episodes I watched (I stopped before the finale week at episode 14). This is the first work of Lee Min Jung and Joo Sang Wook that I've really been won over by, as the two shared simmering chemistry and added a mature charm to their respective roles. The earlier episodes were hilarious, emotionally-grounded, and surprisingly romantic.

Unfortunately, I later grew tired of their back and forth relationship status as well as Jung Woo's childish petulance. This in turn led to some second-lead shipping with Seo Kang Joon, who admittedly wasn't the best actor but who was just compelling enough to make it hard for me to turn down the noona love. But the main reason I dropped was the crazy robot second-lead lady, who provided a lot of insane with zero payoff. Eventually I just couldn't deal with more noble idiocy and the dragged out reconciliation.

As a whole, the later episodes (past about episode 10) felt clumsily written and over-reliant on traditional second-lead manipulations to sustain a story. The emotional payoffs also felt ham-handed and forced. For instance, the reveal of Ae Jung's miscarriage, through a conveniently overheard conversation in the bathroom, was such a dramatic disappointment.

My recommendation would be to watch the first ten episodes, then jump ship right after to avoid the angsty downfall.

Trot Lovers



Oh how much wasted potential this drama showcased. They took such a talented cast (I'm referring to our main leads and the second male lead), then chose to shaft them with a crazy goons amnesia/ conspiracy story revolving around the expressionless and acting-school failure of a second female lead and her even faker mom.

As a slight consolation, the first half of this drama (at and before episode 8) was such a well-tuned mix of sweet chemistry, warm-hearted familial moments, and rollicking music that was enjoyable even to a non-trot fan like me. It's one of the most schizophrenic dramas I've watched, because as much as the first half was light and enjoyable, the second half was an insane trainwreck. I admit to staying glued to the screen all the way through the end of episode 15, partly out of disbelief for the manic change in pace, but also out of a desire to see revenge befall the plastic second lead's family. Alas, the show never managed to return to its early roots, and I have to say kudos to our main actors for managing to stay sane and pour out performances despite it all.

The one thing this show did achieve was to finally make me like Jung Eun Ji. She turned out an impressively solid performance despite the failed writing, and her chemistry with Ji Hyun Woo was convincing and compelling. Not to mention, this girl's one incredible singing talent, and I think all the hype around her voice is warranted.

The biggest regret here is Ji Hyun Woo getting sucked into such a dismal project in his first post-army drama, but I'm hopeful that a hair style change and a better future role will restore his appeal.

Dramas that irritated me:

No seriously, even thinking about the below dramas just revs up my frustration. What's worse is they're all fairly hyped up (except Discovery of Love), for reasons I cannot understand. So for the sake of clarity, let's go through what irritates me about each of them.

It's Okay, It's Love



Frustrations: Hae-Soo, fake psychology, pomposity

This drama was as full of itself as Hae-Soo was of her mama-issues, anger-management-problemed self. There's nothing wrong with arrogance, unless you don't deliver, which this show certainly failed to do. The by-the-books sex-based psychological issues were frankly a bit insulting to watch, and let's be real, I don't think any of us are any more open-minded because we watched this drama. In fact, the only messages I got out of this were that 1) everything is the fault of our parents' sex lives and 2) all mental illnesses can be cured by finding the right person to shag.

I do think Jo In Sung turned out a standout performance, with a character that managed to be both prickly yet completely sympathetic. Too bad they had to mess that up by making him pressure Hae Soo into physicality. Though hey, at least that cured her life-long issues! Ugh.

Lesson to all writers: please stick to what you know, or at least do your research.

Marriage, Not Dating



Frustrations: The screechiest, most exaggerated female lead of the year plus dramaland's most redundant cliche as the central plotline (and not even done well!)

How exactly is Han Groo the standout talent of the year from this hot mess of a drama and her alternately pathetic, alternately shouting-her-head-off heroine? Seriously guys, I tried to like her for three very long episodes and finally had to call it off after another drunken bout of idiocy. For Pete's sake, she went digging through a near-stranger's fish tank and nearly killed the poor fish. There's funny, and then there's blazing idiocy, and I found her far, far into the latter category.

It didn't help that the plot was singularly stupid and the fake relationship plot didn't make much of any sense even by episode 3. I also personally disliked the editing style of teasing us in the first few minutes with a misleading scene, then rolling back to three days or whatever before. It felt like the show was purposely wasting my time, because you just knew they were trying to be deceptively scintillating with the clip.

Han Groo = criminally overrated. And Yeo Woo Jin, I admit you're not as hateful as you came across in WAML, but I also don't find you appealing enough to stick through a stupid script and stupider coworker. Better luck next time.

Discovery of Love


Frustrations: Wishy-washy, I-want-to-smack-her-face heroine and a pair of mediocre guys who need to get a life that doesn't center around her.

I think I've covered my frustrations well enough in my first impressions review. All I can say is, Jung Yumi, please pick a role that doesn't involve a self-centered, ragingly talkative and randomly moody character next time.

Liar Game


Frustrations: Draggy pacing, befuddling game rules explanations, and mediocre performances (ahem Ha Woo Jin)

I'll admit it - I probably wouldn't be half so critical of this drama were I not familiar with the Japanese original. But on the flip side, I'd probably be 10000x more confused when watching the games play out, because wowzies do they suck at explaining the rules. I still have no idea what was going on with that candidate voting game, which was the single non-canon round they added.

I admire the show's attempts to build a more complex and human-based backstory to connect the leads, which is something the J-drama and manga never bothered with. Childhood mysteries and messed-up psychological experiments are always interesting, and I liked how it made the character relationships feel more significant. But I couldn't stand the slow pacing of each episode, which dwelt overlong on distractions like the production team drama and the gangster baddies. There was also this general inertia in the editing, where we would sit in the same frame for stretched-out moments, often for no purpose other than to watch someone brood or think. It made me feel dazed over and sleepy within five minutes of watching.

Finally, Ha Woo Jin was an inevitable disappointment given how much I adore Akiyama. I outwardly recognize that he's cool and sexy and all that, but Lee Sang Yoon had such a way of butchering the key reveal moments that it would make me wistful for his Japanese counterpart, e.g., in minority rule game when he calls out Jaime and goes up to ask his question (his delivery managed to make this moment So. Boring.). He did well in acting out the brooding, but couldn't pick up the charisma when the moments required it.

All in all, this was a decent drama, but I'm not even remotely interested in a Season 2, and in fact have no idea how they could make the story make sense given the relationship reveals here. Let's move on from this franchise, yes?

Dramas that just got boring:

Miss Korea



I feel like I'm one of the only people out there who thought this was vastly overrated by the online community. Yes, it was more substantive than the typical drama with its 1990s historical underpinnings and underdog story, but theoretical substance alone doesn't make up for snail-paced story-telling and near-zero grip. The romance was flat, the story predictable, and the acting solid but not nearly enough to make up for the faults. This to me is a clear case of a soundtrack being much better than the show itself, because had it not been for Every Single Day's heartrending ending themes, I doubt I would have stayed as long as  I did (which was up to the very beginning of episode 20, so close to completion, but I just couldn't keep my eyes open any longer).

I do admit to enjoying a good chunk of the middle portion, after all the set-up and before the post-pageant drop-off, so I'll say I understand where the ardent fans are coming from. When it was good, it felt poignant and disarmingly lovely. But even in those moments there were times when I'd catch myself almost falling asleep or otherwise struggling with the horribly drawn-out pacing. I think this show would have done much better as a 16-episode drama rather than a 20-episode dragger.

Additionally, all of the characters felt distant and unrelatable by the end, especially leading lady Ji Young. She went from cold and bitchy to suddenly in-love to the point where she couldn't even think for herself. The later episodes made me lose nearly all of my respect for her, especially once she revealed herself to be no more than a silly ditz with zero aspirations aside from oppa. Just disappointing, and not something I can get behind.

My Love from the Star


Like most of the drama-viewing world, I was totally swept into this show when it first premiered. Who wouldn't with Chun Song Yi's gorgeous wardrobes and dicey sense of humor? But unlike most, I quickly grew tired of the murderous brother storyline and personally never got all that into the romance. A lot of that was probably owed to Kim Soo Hyun's distanced and overly-reserved performance as Do Min Joo, but I didn't think the two leads had more than an average level of chemistry. As it stands, I grew tired of the repetitive catch-the-bad-guy plot and dropped out somewhere in the later teen episodes.

What this drama did manage to do was convert me to the Jeon Ji Hyun fan ship. I totally get why she's a top actress now. I saw My Sassy Girl, but never understood the hype around that (to me she was a crazy and rather disgusting girl who abused the most patient guy ever). Well, now I get it. I also can fondly think back on the early episodes of this show and on her freaking flawless looks throughout, which makes me almost want to rewatch.

Fated to Love You



This show lived and died by Gun, and is another of those that would have probably been much better as a 16 rather than 20 episoder. As someone who watched and similarly obsessed over the original Taiwan drama when it first came out, I was pleasantly surprised with this version's premiere. The first half was just a dreamy ride of cuteness and sparkling chemistry, with two leads that I honestly came to adore. Jang Hyuk was hilarious and not afraid to go as weird as needed as the chaebol Gun, while Jang Nara really stood her own ground as the reserved and lovable Mi Young. They were adorable perfection together.

Where the drama fell off was right about the same place where the Taiwan drama fell off, aka the car accident miscarriage. For reasons unknown, this version chose to preserve the accident but entirely strip it of the motive of the original, leaving behind one of the most illogical drama separations and worst cases of noble idiocy ever seen.

For those not familiar, the original Taiwan drama had Mi Young's character mistakenly believe Gun was out to force her to get an abortion, thus resulting in her terrified flee and the car accident. This was admittedly one of my biggest frustrations with the original, because the misunderstanding took up so much of the second half and was painfully angsty. But when you remove the misunderstanding but preserve the accident and separation, you end up neutering your best character, Gun. Seriously, could the writer have been any lazier about the treatment of this?

Alas, I wasn't patient enough to sit through the rest of the wallowing and dropped off around episode 12.

Records of the Night Watchman



Looking back, I'm rather embarrassed at having wasted as much time as I did on this show, though to be fair I stopped relatively early on. It just goes to show that dramas with awful beginnings don't usually get better. I'm not sure what this director was on, but this was one strange mess of a drama from the very start. The cheapo CGI and awful child actor combined with the crazy-king plot and random floating "ghosts" should have been a major red flag. But alas, I stuck on, a lot because I wanted to see Gu Sung Hee in her first role after a great first impression of her in Miss Korea (she was probably my favorite character in that drama).

But as everyone now knows, that hope was misplaced, because all of the nuance and restraint she showed as an actress in her debut show went completely out the door as she took on the loud-mouthed, horribly written and very badly dressed ghost-seer here. She was so bad it was almost comical, especially when she was trying to act out the more emotional moments. I blame it on the combination of bad directing paired with too-novice acting. I still oddly like her, but clearly she needs a strong director to offer self-awareness where she has none.

While the acting was a major fail, I think the biggest fail was the story, which seemed to have no real purpose or direction outside of the theme of ghosts and people who can see ghosts. And again, just way too many episodes given the amount of story.

Joseon Gunman


I had such high hopes for Joseon Gunman, and tried for a long time to love it before finally giving up. The Princess's Man is one of my favorite dramas ever, and I know that one took me about 8 episodes to fully engage with. But the main contrast between TPM and JG lay in their leading lady selections. I loved Moon Chae Won and found her both believable and charming as the young noble lady who eventually becomes a princess. By contrast, I found Nam Sang Mi physically much too old for the role and also an irritating bore. I'm not sure what her thinking was for the character, but she basically played her up as an incompetent wannabe scholar who relies on cutesy stupidity to get by.

The action scenes were gorgeous, and oh how I loved Lee Jun Ki in his well-tailored get-ups. But I was disinterested in all the political junk and couldn't fathom what his character saw in the leading lady. Since that ended up as such a big piece of the story, I had to stop.

A New Leaf



Kim Myung Min is one of those veteran actors whose appeal I've never quite been able to comprehend. This is the second drama after King of Dramas that I've seen, and both left me feeling more blase than impressed. I did like his dog-loving, morally-conflicted lawyer role here, but man was this a slow and dull show. I found myself to a point where I just couldn't process any more legal-speak because it felt so spiritless and overemphasized here.

I respect that the drama seems to be accurately written (though what do I know since I'm not a lawyer), but you've got to balance accuracy with audience engagement as a drama. A New Leaf seems to have completely ignored the latter need, and chose to subject us to what felt like endless episodes of legal nuance revolving around offshore accounts and corporate fraud. Additionally, as much as I don't like Park Min Young, I couldn't comprehend why they spent so much of the early episodes building her up to be the young romantic interest, only to completely ignore her halfway through. Chae Jung Ah instead took up that screentime, which I don't mind, except that it was combined with the bafflingly boring legal-talk.

My Secret Hotel


I don't know if it was the writer switch or simply my growing impatience, but it felt like all of the inertia in this show disappeared by the end of episode 4. What started off cute and full of potential somehow wound up feeling dry and overwrung even by episode 6, which was when I stopped. I've heard it gets even more dull and repetitive, so am glad I spared myself of more disappointment.

My main issue with this show was that I wasn't very drawn to the central romance because Jin Yi Han bores me to death. Not sure how this guy made it from lower-second-lead status up to leading man with such suddenness, but I don't believe he was ready for it. He wasn't altogether terrible, but there was a distinct lack of charisma, which even Yoo Inna's appeal couldn't quite make up for. Their coupling felt warm and lovely initially, but the continued lack of progress combined with the flashbacks of his possessiveness in Las Vegas were a major turn-off.

The murder mystery also felt sleep-inducingly tame considering the potentially creepy premise. There were also so many mediocre side characters, each taking up time without providing much substance.

The Three Musketeers


Three Musketeers was another show that majorly impressed me early on, only to dry up in doppelganger murder mystery and foreign political machinations. I would have much rather had the story focus on the friendship and antics of our main quartet, who were compelling and hilarious, as well as impressively compatible together.

Lee Jin Wook's Crown Prince was by far the best part of this show, although Jung Yong Hwa was surprisingly capable as the central story figure. I didn't care for either lady from what I saw, which is disappointing but probably expected for a show that revolves around a band of guys. I'm sure this show has its own merits, but for now it doesn't hold my interest.

The Dramas I plan to come back to (really!):

Hotel King



Lee Da Hae and Lee Dong Wook, that about sums it up. This show was super addicting up until episode 12, when noble idiocy and dragged out politics destroyed the flow and necessitated a break. We'll see if I come back to this.

Surplus Princess



I was completely head-over-heels for this drama when it aired, with its dash of crazy, funny, and mature. My favorite scene to date is Kim Seul Gi dressed up as Elsa getting ready to eat an Olaf food-creation for her makbang. That's the type of humor this show excels at, which pokes fun in a laugh-out-loud, ridiculous way that I find refreshing. I also didn't mind all the french kissing and butt images with Song Jae Rim.

But my love is tempered by the knowledge that Song Jae Rim's prince doesn't end up getting the girl. Originally I liked this subversion of cliches, with the second guy getting the girl, but that was before all the adorableness and misunderstood sweetness of Song came to the forefront. I find our actual main lead a bit of a doofus, both in character and appearance, and it's rather frustrating that the show had to continue its original arc given the episode cut and frankly unexciting chemistry between the two.

Not surprisingly, I stopped off right in the midst of the suddenly somber dead grandma funeral with the main guy, which again felt like forced emotion to make us care for this guy. I think I may utilize the fast-forward button and just push through the remaining three episodes, since I have so much remaining goodwill for the show as a whole. But don't expect me to change ships at this point.

Temptation



This is another case where I like the OTP of Kim Sang Woo and Choi Ji Woo enough to sit through the drudgery that is the rest of this drama. There's also something I like about divorcee stories, because they reflect the real-life reality that people change and that maybe your true love isn't the first person who catches your eye (a reality that most dramas blatantly ignore).

Qualitatively, this is far from an outstanding drama, but it's an addicting, tense watch that I personally enjoy. I'm hopeful as well for a happy ending between our leads, illnesses and ex-wives be damned.

Secret Love Affair



I'm sure I'll like this show more the more I watch, but for now there's no real impetus to pick it up given all the other more cheery and exciting stuff out there. I admire that this show was not afraid to push the boundaries, with a love affair between two people twenty odd years apart, and not to mention with a student-teacher relationship. Yet it does so, and in such a classy way that even those fervently opposed to the base premise can't help but admire its raw portrayals of passion, regret, and greed.

I'm probably the most curious about this ending, which I've done my best to prevent from spoilers. After all, how does one close off such an impossible yet desirable relationship? For that and the gorgeous soundtrack I'll have to tune back in.

Other Things I Watched:

Mad Men Season 7


For some reason I found season 7 to be less engaging than many of the earlier seasons. I suppose it's because we've been at the same chase for so long with this show. The ad deal battles, the continued journey of Don as he paces about the agency, and the multitude of failed domestic lives just feel a bit tired at this point. I suppose it's a good thing that only 6 episodes remain from now until the close.

I like that we're finally peeling back on Don's emotions and detecting something there besides the continued chick-pursuits and suave talking. But I felt like his tribulations here were too short and too conveniently resolved to make much of an impact, and while I'm glad he's gotten his bearings straight again, I'm not sure I'm still aboard this journey.

Good job AMC on stringing this show out another year, quite needlessly in my opinion. I would rather just have Mad Men done and dusted by this stage, but on the other hand it'll be nice to look forward to the concluding arc this spring.

My friend's belief is that the series will end with Don jumping out the window, much like the opening credits. Too predictable? Yes, but endings are always hard to make satisfying, and at least this would be consistent with audience expectations. Hopefully it doesn't disappoint.

In Time With You



Despite my many qualms with this show (all originating with You Qing), I have to admit this is an oddly appealing drama with an intensely realistic heart which completely stands up to a rewatch (if you ignore Da Ren's stomp-all-over-me personality). You Qing may have been an annoying mop of a character, but she had her moments of wisdom, and she looked and acted so put together that you couldn't help but feel a bit of girl envy. I also love the soundtrack for this show, and have to say that the second-time around was actually a little more enjoyable than the first because you could already anticipate and prepare for the frustrations brought about by Ding Li Wei (who imo is still one of the most irritating and selfish second-leads ever).

The directing is almost magical, and that alone is probably worth watching and analyzing again. Scenes managed to feel so realistic yet beautiful and effecting, and I think a lot of that is owed to Director Winnie's subtle touch. It's too bad his follow-up drama, The Pursuit of Happiness, was about as subtle as a blade with its exaggerated dream-characters and Sonia's skimpy outfits, but I think this makes it even more clear that ITWY is a stand-out with its rare synergy.

Yet, to be shallowly honest, my favorite thing about this show is Ariel's wardrobe, which is chiq yet entirely approachable and true-to-life. For one, she actually repeats outfits throughout the series, and everything manages to be well-fitted and perfectly coordinated for the occasion.

I'm actually quite excited for the remake, and my only hope is they cast an actress I like in the role, or else it'll be near impossible to get on-board with watching another round of Da Ren beat-ups. Yoon Eun Hye, pretty please?

MasterChef



This is the second full season of MasterChef I've completed. It's probably also the last I'll watch, as the format is starting to feel repetitive with the same-format challenges over and over and over, as well as the constantly yelling judges. Seriously, I know the three of them are cooking big shots, but the act is getting a little old and sometimes I wonder how Joe was raised with so little manners.

I have to say, I was super disappointed with the winner. I was hoping for either Elizabeth or Leslie because both are hilarious and seem like genuinely good people underneath. Courtney on the other hand always felt a bit simpering and definitely didn't wow me with her final competition meal. I read a comment on how the judges were always biased towards her (per what Ahran claimed), and well, I have to say the final round kind of convinced me of that too. Joe couldn't have come across more biased if he'd tried, and after all this my respect for the integrity of this competition was dramatically decreased. After all, it's all up to these three hotshot men, and somehow each year we get garbage chefs like Kristy and Cutter making it up to the top rounds.

What I'm Watching Now

Healer


After a rather slow start, Healer has made a sudden turn into out-of-control addicting territory. Ji Chang Wook is appealing beyond words, and despite still not being a huge fan of Young Shin, I'm crazy curious about how the hidden identity romance will play out. Only problem is this is a 20-episoder, which means it's only time before the dragginess starts. Hope for the best?

Pinocchio


Pinocchio's definitely starting to feel the weight of inertia in this stage of its 20-episode airing, although I give the writer kudos for managing to create such compelling, non-romance based tension. The brothers arc just about killed me with the tragedy and richness of feelings. Hyung is by far my favorite character in the whole drama, surpassing even Dal Po (who I've just never particularly warmed up to). Like many others, I love the actor who plays him, and really hope to see this guy in bigger roles in the future. I'm just disappointed that his screentime has now just about disappeared. Can we please replace Song Cha Ok's scenes with Hyung? 

Empress Ki


You can probably guess why I started this 51 episode drama - 100% for Ji Chang Wook. I'm not a major fan of Ha Ji Won, and normally would stay far away from long (and typically draggy) historicals. I'm now on episode 5, and have to say I'm pleasantly surprised and at least mildly hooked. There's no moseying around with this drama, which has sped ahead with the plot at a breakneck speed.

At this point, both guys are clearly falling for Sungnyang despite still believing her to be a man. Ha Ji Won is one lucky gal (I have such a hard time believing she's over 35 now), and while I infinitely prefer Ji Chang Wook's naive and slightly petulant Prince, Joo Jin Mo also has charisma in spades. Just be aware that while the show is remarkably entertaining, it's a far cry from realistic.


That's it for 2014! It was a satisfying year despite the many eventual disappointments, and I'm looking forward to another year of drama excitement! Thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. I dropped My Love From The Stars after episode 2, and this was despite my liking both Jeon Ji-hyun and Kim Soo-hyun. I'd thought I would go back to it, but just never felt the urge. Mehhh on k-Liar Game, Ha Woo-jin is clearly no Akiyama.

    As for Empress Ki, I found it boring even though I like Ha Ji-won and Joo Jin-mo. Ji Chang-wook was pretty good in what I saw of him, but I didn't like how the drama basically butchered history and there was just too much shrieking going on. Maybe you'll like it more than I did.

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    1. So I actually just dropped Empress Ki after reaching episode 13. You're completely right about the shrieking and inaccuracy; I only tolerated as long as I did because of Togon (who right now seems completely wasted on Sungnyang). I also wasn't impressed with Wang Yu, who was so fictionally idealistic and basically just a distraction from our ultimate pairing. 51 episodes is way too long for any drama in my opinion, because you end up with insane and/or boring plots to fill the time.

      Pretty disappointing, but part of me kind of wants to keep watching just to finally see Togon get the girl lol. But not worth another 40 hours of my life.

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