Saturday, 18 October 2014

tvN churns out awesome Korean dramas

tvN is a South Korean cable channel which, in my humble opinion, produces some of the best Korean dramas that I've watched in the past 2-3 years. My guess is being a young cable network, tvN has a young and creative drama department which is not afraid to try new concepts, compared to KBS, MBC and SBS, the big 3 TV stations. In this post, I will talk about my top 3 tvN dramas to date, in no particular order.

1. Reply 1997

The "Reply" series' successful formula is this - coming-of-age drama which brings back nostalgic memories of the 1990s, while being funny and romantic at the same time. There is a suspense in the drama that engages the audience. It moves back and forth between the 1990s and 2010s, where in the 2010s we know the female protagonist is married, but we don't know to which of the male characters.

Both "Reply" 1997 and "Reply 1994" are great but I personally prefer "Reply 1997" because "Reply 1994" turned draggy towards the end. (P.S: The plots of the 2 dramas are unrelated so you don't have to watch one before the other.)

In "Reply 1997", the female protagonist, Shi-won (Jung Eun-ji), is a great fan of H.O.T and through her, audience recap or learn about (depending on when they were born) the crazy Kpop fan culture back in the 1990s. Other nostalgic items that appeared in the show - pagers, Tamagotchi, etc. Don't know what I'm talking about? Proof that you haven't watched this yet and (hurray!) you are young.

What drew me to the drama though, is the romance between Shi-won and the male protagonist, Yoon-jae (Seo In-guk). Shi-won and Yoon-jae grew up together and he's in love with her but she is (a) dense when it comes to boy-girl relationship (b) too obsessed with her idol (H.O.T's Tony) to realize it. There are many sweet scenes between the two and my favourite one is from episode 11 where he runs all the way from his house in his pajamas to rescue her from a stalker.

Seo In-guk, Eunji

2. I Need Romance 2012      

The "I Need Romance" series (so far 3 dramas in all, again with unrelated plots) is another great series which is something like the Korean version of Sex and the City. I love how it tries to portray love and sexual relationships among young Koreans today in a realistic, yet romantic way. My favourite is "I Need Romance 2012", the second in the series, because the last few episodes made me cry so much.

Here goes the plot: Yeol-mae (Jung Yu-mi) had an on-off relationship with her childhood friend, Seok-hyun (Lee Jin-wook), for 12 years before they broke up 3 years ago because she wants to get married and he doesn't. They maintain an ambiguous relationship until one day, a new love interest, Ji-hoon (Kim Ji-seok), appears and a love triangle is formed. Just when Yeol-mae falls for Ji-hoon and accepts his proposal, she discovers a secret about
Seok-hyun that shakes up her world again.

Did I mention that Lee Jin-wook is really hot in this drama? And that there are many sexy make out scenes?      

3. Nine: Nine Time Travels

The plot of this drama is, in my humble opinion, intelligent and confusing. So if you don't like to use your brain cells when you watch TV, this is probably not for you. Anyway, in a nutshell, this is a time travel fantasy show about a news anchor, Park Sun-woo (Lee Jin-wook), who finds 9 incense sticks which allow him to travel back 20 years in time.

He wants to travel back to do 3 things. (1) Sun-woo's father was murdered 20 years ago and his death caused Sun-woo's mother mental illness, so he wants to prevent the murder from happening. (2) Sun-woo's brother also suffers from mental illness due to the family tragedy and breaking up with his lover 20 years ago, so Sun-woo wants to help his brother to make up with his then girlfriend. (3) Sun-woo is diagnosed with a brain tumor and has only a few more months to live, so he wants to warn his younger self about it and hopefully save his own life.

Here are the complications. (a) Each incense allows him to travel exactly 20 years back from the moment he lights it. So if he lights it on 18 October 2014 at 2pm, he will return to 18 October 1994 at 2pm. Thus, he needs to pinpoint the exact time to go back to. (b) Each incense burns for 30 minutes so each time he time travels, he can only stay in the past for 30 minutes. Thus, he needs to complete whatever he sets out to within that time frame.

Wow! 9 chances to go back in time and fix things that went wrong? Awesome! Alas, we soon find out that when human beings try to play god, things can go bad. During Sun-woo's trips, he discovers a secret that shakes up his whole world. He also changes things in the past that affect the present, with bad consequences.

This is not just a fantasy drama, there is a romantic subplot between Sun-woo and a rookie reporter, Min-young (Jo Yoon-hee). It's fun to watch the bubbly and somewhat naive Min-young chase after Sun-woo who acts distant. This subplot is what makes the last episode my favourite. The enigmatic ending of this drama has set many fans discussing. Click Nine Nine Time Travels - Ending to read my interpretation.            

Korean drama,

By the way people, I heard that there is going to be an American remake of "Nine: Nine Time Travels" by ABC, and Fox is going to remake "Reply 1997". I guess a good storyline is universally appealing.

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