What I've been Watching During Quarantine + My Drama OST Playlist
To be honest, quarantine hasn't changed my habits much as even prior to it most of my free time was consumed by shows. That said, I've certainly been able to make more progress on Kdramas and multiple items on my list, and have also marathoned through some of the more popular hits.
I also created a Spotify playlist with my favorite drama OST tracks from over the years - take a listen if you're as big a fan of Kdrama songs as I am! I tried to be fairly selective, only picking ones that struck a certain emotional chord with me while watching (surprisingly few vs the total number of dramas I've seen). I also wish Spotify had a broader selection of older/less popular drama OSTs but oh well. I'll be keeping this playlist updated as I find more favorites. Note I do have older posts with my favorite Kdrama OSTs and Taiwan/China drama OSTs in case you want to take a listen.
So in case you're curious, here's the list of shows I've been working my way through during quarantine.
One prelude is that nearly all these shows are Netflix - I've really found myself orienting to their content in the past year, as the variety of their programming is like no other (especially now with their clear interest in Asian entertainment + Korean dramas) and the user platform is by far the best I've experienced among any of the big streaming players. I mean, Hulu's subscription+ads policy just makes me angry (there's nothing worse than having to pay to also watch ads, and their content alone isn't worth $10+ a month for the ad-free version), while the HBO Now app is straight up janky to use. Why doesn't every streamer have a quick and easy way to move forward or back 10 secs? Such a simple function that many of these corporations seem to lack the intuition to put in. If you can't put in basic functionality to enable the user experience, I'm not inclined to support you. Anyways, on to the shows.
Crash Landing on You
I'm still shocked that I was able to sit through 20+ hours of this show, which while prettily filmed and entertaining enough, isn't something that will ever be on my favorites list. What's been even more surprising is how many people I know have watched this drama, even those that aren't Kdrama fans.
My main issue with this show is that while Son Ye Jin and Hyun Bin were cute together, their chemistry and characters' relationship didn't fully appeal to me and lacked a certain oomph factor. The story was also quite exaggerated and full of holes, and the pacing a bit slow in multiple points (almost a given when episode run-times are regularly 1.5 hours).
Nothing really stood out about this drama, aside from the beauty of Switzerland particularly in the ending sequence. As soon as the travel ban lifts this will be one of the first countries I try to pay a visit (especially that town by the lake where Hyun Bin played the piano, which is fairly reflective of the drama as a whole, beautiful and totally fantastical).
Kingdom Season 2
I already posted my full review here so will direct you there, but in short, a great Joseon-era zombie thriller and can't wait for the next season!
Yes, I finished the whole thing, and yes I realize how absurd the show is but still found it a fascinating watch. The memes make watching the whole thing worthwhile. I will say the so-called lame "reunion" episode hosted by the Community actor who I don't care much about is definitely a hard pass.
I hope Joe Exotic is able to appeal his case, if only because while he committed violent acts, I had the sense this was just a guy who tends to let his emotions get away with him rather than a truly evil man. He was certainly entertaining though, and again it would be too tragic for anyone to have to spend the rest of their life in prison.
I'm late to the game with this show, but I find it quite a refreshing watch with strong and unique characters that I've yet to see in a Kdrama. I originally couldn't make it past episode 1, as the premise of the poor guy getting taken advantage by the rich bully felt overly predictable, not to mention I thought the annoying Soo-Ah was the main female lead rather than the second lead. Thankfully things pick up quickly starting in episode 2 and especially once Saeroyi hits his adult years.
I'm about halfway through now and still wouldn't count this in my favorite dramas, but it's certainly one of the better ones I've seen year to date. I love the message of inclusivity - everyone of the side characters has an arc, and I find it great to see a Korean show finally cast a non-Asian in a non-cringey manner with Toni (a black Korean who faces discrimination that I find realistic even if tough to watch). I also appreciate the themes they cover, from the inclusion of ex-cons such as Saeroyi to Hyun-Ni, a trans woman and to our borderline sociopathic main female lead Yi Seo.
In fact, Yi Seo is everything I've always wanted to see in a Kdrama female lead, in that she's clearly independent, capable, self-absorbed and in-love with the male lead long before he sees her even as a possibility. In fact, she's written the way most male leads in Kdramas are, and I find her fascinating to watch. It's not a perfect execution, as there are certainly moments (such as her initial treatment of Toni) where she's just plain not palatable and grating, but I still find her infinitely less annoying than the simpering Soo Ah.
This drama feels like a major step forward for Kdramas in finally covering more progressive themes and not just following the traditional tropes in male-female love. It's also a classic and very easy-to-root for underdog drama, which is always enjoyable. Park Seo Joon is such a versatile actor, and while I don't find him as traditionally appealing in this versus some of his other roles, I do appreciate his character and want him to succeed.
The King Eternal Monarch
Going from Itaewon Class to The King definitely feels a bit like stepping back to the era of pretty and slightly substanceless drama fare. I'm more than a little ambivalent on this drama, but it feels like a must-watch given the cast and writer (which was clearly the intent). So far, everything feels like a re-thread of Goblin with its mystical backdrop and largely empty and meandering dialog each episode, encapsulated by big dramatic episode endings.
While I'm entertained and find Lee Min Ho reliably attractive, he's playing basically the same character he did pre-Army, as a rich and powerful male lead opposite a more plain and normal female lead. I also don't think Kim Go Eun brings all that much to her roles - she was my least favorite part of Goblin, with her penchant for exaggerated acting and for making her heroines come across even more immature with her mannerisms.
While our leads are well-matched in terms of star power, age and general looks, their coupling feels akin to the Crash Landing on You one to me - pretty but lacking that special factor that makes you tingle when watching them together. Their first kiss scene did absolutely nothing for me, and instead felt awkward and out of the blue. I find myself still scratching my head as to why he likes her, which I find is a common theme with Kim Eun Sook's dramas. She definitely does better writing the male leads than the female ones, which is my biggest issue with her.
I do give credit to The King's parallel world's mythology, which is creative and offers ripe opportunity for plenty of story and hijinks in both worlds. I also enjoy Lee Jung Jin as an actor overall (such gravitas) and am curious though spooked by his murderous, never-aging character. Hoping the plot at least gets thicker and more substantive in the episodes to come.
The Bachelor Presents Listen to Your Heart
I swore I wouldn't watch this when I saw the Shallow-anthemed promos (which I think Bachelor producers really missed the ball on, and is probably why the ratings are as low as they are for this show). It looked like a gimmicky mess with musicians going after fame while pursuing fake "love", not to mention A Star is Born is one of the worst movies I've seen in years with an ending that felt depressing for the sake of it.
But surprisingly, LTYH was a lot of fun from the very start - it's got the drama of The Bachelor but in a less manufactured way, largely because the contestants are clearly novices to The Bachelor franchise and are musicians first and foremost. While it's clear at this point that most couples aren't really in it for the long haul (in fact I'd be shocked if anyone besides Bri and Chris last til after the show), the performances are really fun and the drama has really delivered.
My biggest sadness was both Julia and Sheridan getting eliminated last week. They were by far the best performing couple in terms of singing talent and chemistry, and it's truly a shame the misfortune that came down on them both. I totally related to Julia's unpopular indecision, and really feel for what she must have been going through the past few weeks.
What are you watching these days? What would you recommend for me to add to the list? I'll keep these regular pulse checks as I continue to work my way through various shows.