All posts by dramagassi

Anticipated Unhappiness With Paradise Ranch

There should be a clause in an actor’s contract stating that if said actor becomes objectively more popular and successive as scientifically measured by search queries rise and interests from the blogsphere in the course of his/her current role, his/her current role would be revised to reflect the rise in success or he/she can leave the project without penalty. Wishful thinking, but one can wish. This sentiment comes on the heel of news that Paradise Ranch 파라다이스 목장(the title sounds like something the late Aaron Spelling’s would be pleased to call his own), a simple concept of young newlyweds encountering marital and life challenges in their little neck of the world on a ranch in Jeju Island, has secured a broadcast slot for premiere in late January. The sympathy is directed towards the actor playing the second male lead for this sucrose oozing, almost shelved, thus further disencouraging, drama- Joo Sang Wook.

Fresh off his recently ended, more current rating powerhouse and award-winning drama Giant 자이언트, whose success he greatly contributed to and deservedly lauded for, JSW’s next project is highly anticipated. The only logical consequence for viewers would be to see him next as the male lead in a substantive project or participant in another top-notch ensemble piece deserving of his talent and new status. But instead, due to the chronologically uncorresponding relationship between a drama’s filming and its actual broadcast, JSW’s pre-Giant project Paradise Ranch will be shown now, where JSW was relegated to nondescript second male lead. Since PR was meant to be mega-popular, albeit truncated, boy group DBSK member Choi Kang Chang Min’s acting debut, he is the naturally the lead. ‘Curiosity killed the cat’, and in this case, curiosity can lead to eye-gorging, muscle-cringing experience from watching newbie idol-turn-actor try to act. There’re too many painful past experience as data support.

It might really be a service to everyone if PR gets shelved. SBS will continue its recent winning run ahead of the network race since the last quarter of 2010 with uncannily entertaining dramas i.e. Giant, Daemul, Secret Garden, Athena. The two leads, Chang Min and Lee Yeon Hee (East of Eden) get paid training in acting free of audience’s criticism, and Joo Sang Wook and management can stop fantasizing about stealing and burning those PR tapes and move on to selecting bigger and better projects. The only potential loser in this scenario is the production company, but even then some degree of tax-deductible business loss write-off is possible. A retraction anyone…?

‘Mary Stayed Out All Night’ Ends With Little To Show

Mary Stayed Out All Night was an absolute waste of its young and talented leads comprising of Jang Geon Seok, Kim Jae Wook, and Moon Geun Young.  Being an adaptation, there probably was a bare minimum the producers had to follow, but from a one hundred plus episodes manhwa they could’ve and should’ve been able to reap better scenarios and sewn them into a cohesive mural of beauty instead of a dishevel quilt of patches.

There wasn’t anything fresh about the titular character Mary (played by MGY), but more unfortunate was she wasn’t root-worthy. She came off bland, not having fatal cons, but neither having strong nor endearing pros which made it difficult to buy that both the male leads fell in love with her so quickly and completely. The massive mob of unflattering curls overpowering MGY’s small face and frame didn’t help her character’s case either.  Even though she had a killer wardrobe of eclectic bohemian pieces, it wasn’t necessarily, for the most part, combined and matched well nor fitted in the right size on her. In fact, her wardrobe and hair were very distracting throughout the whole duration of the drama. 

Moving on, JGS’s character Mu-gul was simply a messy character to witness and endure. He had the unfortunate mixture of mopiness, insecurity, attachment isssues, rashness, and bringing it all to its disagreeable rim a lack of sufficient noogans between the ears to connect a row of vision impaired friendly numbered dots even with a How-To-Connect-the-Dots-for-Dummies besides him for reference. In terms of the character’s style, it has nothing on JGS’s real life style. In fact, Mu-gul’s style was rather tame compared to the usual ensembles JGS shows up in public in, but it does make one wonder if the stylist did his/her research or instead slacked off and just decided to pile on all the style stereotypes and prejudices of what he/she believes a young alternative bohemian rocker looks like and dresses in on Mu-gul.

Last in this trio is KJW’s Jung-in, styled from head to toe reminiscent of Jude Law’s futuristic artificial intelligent robot character in Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence(2001). His hair was too slick and high, his face too shiny and structured, his suits too stiff and manufactured that one can almost smell the starch in the collar and hear the last snip from the tailor’s scissors before the garments were draped over his lean almost mannequin-like frame.  The character’s traits were the usual stuff of second male leads- overflowing family wealth, unreasonably good looks, daddy issues, self-sacrificing (for the female lead) inclination, touch of vulnerability, and perfected I’m-rejected–but-I-sincerely-wish-them-the best-even-though-I-still-love-her martyr expression.  Again, nothing fresh about his character, but at least in KJW’s ownership, the character emoted naturally.

Mary’s storyline was a joke. It had an unlikely and confusing premise to begin with, but winnable in more capable scripting hands. (Case done oh so very right: soul switching fantastical romantic comedy Secret Garden.)  Like déjà vu, the same sequence of events and emotions kept playing over and over again so that even if one missed two or three episodes, unavoidably or purposely, one really wouldn’t miss much of the storyline at all- only difference is change of clothes and setting. The sequence of Mary agreeing to marry then breaking it off with the rich alpha Jung-in because she’s really in love with the poor boho Mu-gyul, was repeated several times even to the last predictable episode. The only unpredictable, creative even, though this is not meant to be a compliment, was what kind of manufactured wacky obstacles and hijinks would nonsensically turn up to instigate and try to move the not very romantic, not very comedic story that, if logical is slightly forgivable, but in the case of Mary is nowhere to be sensed.  The characters’ reactions and decisions were so frustrating to watch… that it’s better to just not.

Queen of Reversals’ Romantic Run Down the Stretch

For some reason, it’s generally the case that the second male leads in many, if not most, Korean dramas end up winning a dominant chunk of the audience popularity vote and thus the male leads’ thunder. This almost never happens in Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or other comparable formatted dramas. Memorably and famously done by Won Bin in Autumn In My Heart back in the earlier crash of this Hallyu Wave, followed up Lee Jun Ki in My Girl, and more recently Yoon Sang Hyun in Queen of Housewives, (female) audiences also succumb to this infectious syndrome in Queen of Reversals, where the troublemaker, scene and heart stealer in question is played by Park Shi Ho. Park’s rendition of his character may have arguably saved this drama from its earlier disappointing initial responses indicated in industry reviews, mob postings, and tuned in viewer numbers. Not only has audience warmed up to the romantic comedy thanks to its improved storyline which includes finally injecting sweet ole romance, not just hints of it, but MBC has given it two extensions, first an additional ten episodes and now another two to wrap up whatever it has in mind for the last stretch, bringing the drama to a total of 32 episodes, herego another six weeks in the rat race.

The longer run will benefit the drama in the obvious ways- a shining moment on everyone’s resume, more work and thus more pay- but it will also benefit the follow-up drama, The Duo, allowing it more preproduction time to polish off the rough patches.

Queen of Reversals stars Kim Nam Joo who also starred in its franchise wannabe predecessor Queen of Housewives, Jung Jun Ho, Park Shi Ho, and Chae Jung Ahn.

Fate of Bye Bye Birdie Buddy and The Musical

“The drama isn’t on until it’s on.” That is the conclusion reached after witnessing innumerable postponements and scrapped completed dramas which waited patiently, some eventually seeing the bright electric illumination of a network broadcast, but others only the dark forsaken shelves of an archive vault.

The latest casualty shipped off to cinematic Siberia is Bye Bye Birdie Buddy, girl group After School’s UEE’s first lead role. After being shuffled around indefinitely, it was finally shelved from MBC’s lineup. The only reason I was looking forward to seeing this was to see the insanely adorable Jin Ji Hee in her first post High Kick Through the Roof 지붕 뚫고 하이킥 project.  Her portrayal in High Kick of the bratty queen, potty-mouthed, yet innocently honest Jeong Hye Ri was incomparable.  Besides her, I personally didn’t have much expectation or anticipation from this golf drama of lame punned title.

Now onto another drama in limbo, but with better prospects given its heavier combined star weight. Also starring another High Kick Through the Roof alumnus is The Musical, which will be Daniel Choi’s first post HKTTR return to the small screen after his endearingly dorky turn in the recent box-office charmer Cyrano Agency 시라노; 연애조작단. It will also star Gu Hye Sun of Boys Before Flowers 꽃보다 남자 fame and Ok Ju Hyun of former girl group FinkL in a love triangle.

The Musical revolves around three stages and angles of the theater industry personified by the three leads- a wannabe startup actress, an established diva, and prolific composer, who show us the lives behind and in front of the velvet curtains. Again, the only reason why I really want, no, really need this drama to follow-through is because of the HKTTR history.

Side note: If one hasn’t figured it out yet, I love the drama HKTTR, except and that is a galactic-sized ‘except’, for the last episode, which rightfully is in contention for THE worst ending in the whole history of k-drama. After 125 glorious episodes of hilarity, banter, and satire unsettling etiquette, trends, bowel movements and other bodily functions, plus booting above all the infectiously addictive romantic journey of Ji Hoon and Jung Eum played by Daniel Choi and Hwang Jung Eum, the producers pissed it all away within the span of the last 9 minutes of episode 126!

The Musical is just quietly finishing its filming as management irons out its rollout. With fingers cross, I hope the talks go smoothly and audience can tune in to it soon.

My Princess’s Edict

When casting news of a new drama called My Princess 마이 프린세스 (2011) came out, it could not be helped that a most sarcastic reaction and laughing bout duked it out trying to burst out from me. But seriously, are the producers insane to let two of the most infamously bad actors anchor the same project? Who else can it be but Song Seung Heon and Kim Tae Hee, well known for their lack of acting skills despite years in the industry with innumerable opportunities to hone and improve upon them. At the same time, because they are also just as well known for their blessed physicality which has garnered them a much more positive response, they have been able to coast by on them. In the past, they were each fortunately paired with good to exceptionally talented co-stars, thereby minimizing the collateral damage they leave behind in their earnest efforts to emote any believable, uncringe worthy emotions. But now, on their own, it waits to be seen if their looks can save them.   

This harsh statement is made after having endured hours of their latest spectacular performance failures- East of Eden 에덴의 동쪽 (2008) for Song Seung Heon and IRIS 아이리스 (2009) for Kim Tae Hee.  Even Song himself was embarrassed and apologetic for having won the end of year Daesang award in acting as evidenced from his subsequent public posts on his webpage and other outlets. Why he won would beg a separate post on the behind-the-scene industry politiking and drama of self-promoting awards shows.

As if the casting match is not befuddling enough, the character descriptions ought to slam dunk one to the ground in hysterical fits- Song will play a chaebol bred career diplomat while Kim will play an ordinary late-entry college student. Really? Song who’s known for his lack of and short range for conveying facial expressions and intent and  Kim who’s known as the smart Seoul National University graduate student?

The premise is almost your typical romantic-comedy pinwheel set up: the two leads are mutually attracted, while there are one-sided second leads whirling around them scheming to break them up and/or pining away at them. Park Ye Jin who played Princess Cheonmyeong  in 2009’s Queen Seon Deok 선덕여왕 is said manipulator out to re-steal Song’s character for herself out of jealousy at her former boyfriend’s new relationship. Ryu Soo Young from 2008’s Lawyers of Korea 대한민국 변호사 takes on his first project after being discharged from his military service will be an archeology and art history professor crushed on by his female students but who secretly crushes on Kim’s character. Neither second leads are compellingly strong actors either judging from their filmography, which only adds to the disenchantment and lukewarm anticipation for this project. The only factor in this production that may save, if not miraculously turn it into a winner is the confirmed fact that Kim Eun Sook will be the writer, whose current work on Secret Garden 시크릿 가든 (2010) is romping fun to behold.

My Princess will tell how Kim’s character literally becomes a princess. This will certainly add an additional layer to the mounting demands of suspension of disbelief the producers are requiring as Korea does not have a monarchy last checked. Will there be another caveat at the beginning similar to Goong’s 궁 (2006)? I’m frightened to watch this, but simultaneously compelled to see how it pains out.

My Princess is slated for a January release on MBC Wednesday-Thursday evenings taking over Home Sweet Home‘s 즐거운 나의 집 timeslot.

Jang Hyuk’s Midas Touch

Who would’ve imagined that the Jang Hyuk from back in the days as the prototypical dorky cowering boyfriend to uber alpha girlfriends i.e Shin Mina and Jeon Jihyun could transform into such a delicious scroundel complete with reverberating gruff throaty voice, scruffy facial stubbles, and six- (maybe even eight-) pack choco abs. But here he is, in contention- rumored or what not- to lead the best scripts floating around where his potential roles’ characters are craft without a speck of sugar.

After last year’s all around cinematic K.O. Chuno (2009), Jang Hyuk had been in talks to lead dramas such as romantic-fantasy Secret Garden (2010) and action-adventure Poseiden (2010), which ultimately didn’t pan out, delaying seeing this surprisingly wide-ranged transformative actor sooner. Last seen in the Chinese remake of All About Eve (2010), taking on the character Jang Dong Gun played in the Korean version (2000), he has finally confirmed his latest project- Midas.

Midas will be broadcast on SBS network (which is having an amazing lineup all the way to next year) centering on the business world and several of its movers and shakers. Jang Hyuk’s character hasn’t been completely fleshed out yet, but in the high-stake, make-or-die cutthroat financial world, a three-piece Hugo Boss suit draped, smoldering shark persona might not be far from possibility.

Flanking him are Lee Min Jung, fresh off her local box-office topper Cyrano Agency, and Kim Hee Ae, ready for a comeback since 2006’s My Man’s Woman.

Midas, taken from the tragic Greek mythological character King Midas, who simultaneously gained and lost everything he came in contact with, is a telling title for a drama set in the world of tycoons, stocks, securities, and mergers and acquisitions. With the continuing fallout of the global financial crisis with its varying recession lows, there should be plenty of source material for inspiration and content to work with. Director Kang Shin Ho reunites with Jang Hyuk once again after their collaboration in Tazza (2008) to steer him and company through All In (2003) and Jumong (2006-2007) famed screenwriter Choi Wan Kyu‘s script.

Midas lines up after Athena:Goddess of War.

‘Giant’ Further Delays the ‘Goddess’

Giant‘s steady and strong audience support and praise has sealed the deal on another 10 episodes extension to its already long (and tiring) initial 50-episodes run. Although it’s a well-performing drama so far, really hitting its stride midway around episode 23-24, the producers’ reason for dragging the story out is unquestionably monetary. One can only hope the pace, story, and characters do not suffer in the aftermath of this greed à la Dong Yi (2010), and even High Kick Through the Roof 2 (2009-2010), which may have the worst twisted, bitter ending in the history of Korean dramas! The only sure bright note to this is seeing more of Hwang Jung Eum, who plays the youngest sister Miju in the drama and reigns as the current Queen of CFs in real life.

Giant’s extension has another more immediate fallout- the subsequent delay of the debut of Athena: Goddess of War, which is next in the line up. It is now slotted to air in December.

I Am Legend’s Legacy

I Am Legend was not a melodrama but the overarching effect was one of sadness. There was no death, illness, long separation, and other cruxes of traditional Korean melodrama, but it was sad from another source- identification.  There was a strong element of dreams deferred, gnawing regret, and hopes dashed. Many can identify with the fear of having their lives turn out as such. I Am Legend anchors these universal emotions in the microsphere of its flawed heroines and heroes.

Legend revolves around the lives of the four members of the Comeback Madonna Band who also happen to be pegged in Korean society as ‘ajummas’. A woman would be called an ajumma if she looks or is past her late twenties and/or is a mother.  The four ajummas are lead vocal and guitarist ­Jeon Seol Hee played by Kim Jung Eun, bass Hwa Ja played by Jong Ji Min, 2nd guitarist Ah Reom played by Juni, and drummer Jang Shin Yeong plays Su In.

The drama introduces the individual lives of the members, which includes their hobby of almost weekly private jam sessions together as a means of relieving the stress from the daily grind in their lives. There were suggestions that the storyline would go the way of struggling ajummas conquering stereotypes, ridicules, and other societal and legal hurdles to become a successful female rock band. Instead, that became the backdrop to a manifesto on the temptations and pitfalls of fame.  With a lick of fame, motherly responsibilities are thrown in the blender, with ambition of marrying well, pride and dignity can practically be sacrificed, and with fear of failure, priorities sidelined.

The characters were initially two dimensional and the effort to give them character arcs fell short, not due to effort and good intention but to the time constraint of the drama. It was hard to swallow how everyone can abruptly become such prodigal moral sons and daughters  in the short span of an episode or two.

In regards to the music, which naturally was the drama’s OST, it was a running commentary on the story and characters’ emotional development. Furthermore, as all the members really have some musical background and inclination, it wasn’t too difficult to transform their collaboration from a fictional band to a real one with scheduled live performances.  In the drama, the performance scenes of the band were training ground of sorts as they were filled with real invited audiences attending ‘real’ concerts.  The drama’s extensive OST was packaged and sold like a real debut of the Comeback Madonna Band. With many nods from fans and enough interest, although the drama is over, the Comeback Madonna Band is still alive and well rocking at venues near Seoul.

Although I Am Legend didn’t turn out to be any notable legend, it did shine a flashlight on many unglamorous aspects of Korean females entering the autumn of their lives hedged in their circumstances between traditional expectations and modern aspirations. For that alone, it is worth a watch.

And That’s How You Milk The Light Out of Your Stars

Countdown commences for the premiere of SBS’s drama Secret Garden. Two more weeks to go and everyone is busy- shooting scenes, post-editing takes, leaking set stills, and finalizing foreign distribution rights. Taking a copy from a copy of a copy out of a page of other A-List filled cast dramas, such as Fugitive: Plan B, this upcoming drama is also trying to sell to as many foreign markets as possible on the strength of its starry cast, lead by Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won, before its premiere.

Sealed deals include Hong Kong and the Philippines market. Pending markets of interests are the usual suspects- Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

Filling out the cast is Yoon Sang Hyun, Philip Lee, and Kim Sa Rang. Secret Garden takes over Life is Beautiful‘s weekend timeslots starting November 13.

Christmas Came Early this Year

SBS, the network that keeps on giving. It is certainly on a roll this holiday season. Great for them, but subjectively and selfishly, even better for viewers.  

Daemul 대물(2010), ruling Wednesday-Thursday night with its tight storytelling and superb acting is a great start for SBS this season. Meanwhile, SBS’s marketing department continues to bait audience for the upcoming Jung Woo Sung’s small screen return spy thriller Athena: Goddess of War 아테나 : 전쟁의 여신(2010). Sandwiched between the solemnity of Daemul and adrenaline rush of Athena, SBS has found the perfect genre to transition the audience through this season- fantasy comedy. After all, tis the season of believing in a robust man dressed head to toe in a red and fur suit sliding down unsecured chimneys delivering elf-made toys so what’s in store is not too far from the magical mood of the holiday. With comparatively little leaks and only recently established teaser is Secret Garden 시크릿 가든 (2010), SBS’s major November debut starring Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won.

After the serious political leanings of Daemul, a good laugh over an audacious fantastical setup with plenty of sweetened quirky romance much like a cup of bacon hot chocolate (you haven’t tried that?!) to relax, reboot, and ready us for the ammo-heavy, thinking-light mayhem of international good guy bad guy chase fest that is Athena: Goddess of War is just what the drama psychologist calls for.

Last seen in his critically acclaimed performance in Friends, Our Legend 친구, 우리들의 전설(2009), displaying unexpected depth, tortured spirit, and complexity is Hyun Bin, who in Secret Garden tackles a no less challenging role playing a cold, introspective business man who has his world pulled out from him when he switches soul with a woman, played by recent box office darling Ha Ji Won.

Ha Ji Won’s character is a stunt woman aspiring to be an action director whose initial encounters with Hyun Bin are animosity-ridden and unpleasant.  It would make perfect sense that these two should get the end of the venom they spout since track record indicates the Universe just has the darnest sense of humor and panache for irony.

Soul-switching plotlines are usually moral lesson devices. Those involved always learn some valuable lessons through their time walking in each other’s shoes, quite literally. Nothing less can be in store for this photogenic pair. When the premise is already so silly, suspension of disbelieve is already a given, so no-holds-bar on the laughs is expected.

Secret Garden will air on November 13 as SBS’s weekend drama.