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What you may want to know before watching the drama

Some Stills from Love Rain starring Jang Geun Seuk and Yoona

Love Rain

Love Rain stars Jang Geun Seuk (Mary Stayed Out All Night, You’re Beautiful) and Yoona (Cinderella Man,You Are My Destiny), playing their 1970s and present selves. Two roles in one drama, that’s not gonna be hard on Yoona, huh? Anyway, they play star-crossed lovers whose parents were in love too with each other back in the day. Why does the plot make me cringe? Anyway, let’s just see how it fares on 2012.

Love Rain

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…?

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.

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.

‘Queen of Reversals’ and Her New Court

QOR still
Still from 'Queen of Reversals' set

When a sequel to 2009’s sleeper hit Queen of Housewives was announced, it was marketed as a real sequel, in the universal definition of the word, complete with the same characters, continuing time line, and background. At last count, real sequels are unaccounted for in network k-dramas, so the production team behind Housewives was stoked to engineer one. Turning an audience recognizable and supported drama into a seasonal staple cuts down on many production costs- mainly creative and marketing- and promises a receptive, if not guaranteed sponsor base, thereby making it more profitable for the network and production team. But, alas, it is not to be, as the latest project ultimately bears little to no resemblance as a continuation storyline to the original melodramatic comedy.

The major impediment to a sequel’s life is re-signing all or some of the actors from the original hit. Because of the way Korean network dramas are produced, where the cast and crew need only commit to one series and network at a time and are then free afterwards to book with another network and project, it makes it very difficult to sign so many participants together again for another project. This seems to be the case for this project as only one actress has agreed and contracted on board. Although it happens to be Kim Nam Joo, who was the lead actress of the original, this doesn’t suffice to make the new project fit to be called a sequel. In fact, the new series, first depressingly titled Queen of Tears and now more optimistically finalized as Queen of Reversals, isn’t even a spin-off as it doesn’t share the universe the original characters live in. In fact, none of the original characters are penned into this new series.

In Queen of Housewives, Kim Nam Joo’s character was an ordinary housewife of a struggling common household, while in Queen of Reversals, she plays a completely different character of a different economic and social status. Reversals centers on Kim Nam Joo’s character and her husband, played by Jung Jun Ho, who rashly rushes into marriage only to then find out how challenging married life is when you don’t know nor understand each other. Unlike Oh Ji Ho’s character as the husband in Housewives, who is honest (almost to a poverty and divorce state), good natured and kind, the husband in Reversals is described as spoiled, idle, and useless.

These blatant character reversals lend themselves to the argument for this series’ title naming, but the ‘reversal’ is most likely in reference to the chronological placement of the journey a couple takes together before and after marriage. Reversals reverses the order of the couple’s courtship period, when the two learn about and work out each other’s differences and compatibility level, with their wedding, which commences their marriage. Reversals is giving us the marriage then the journey of the couple.

Marketing wise, Reversals certainly seems to be capitalizing on the popularity of its alleged predecessor so far, as much attention and anticipation have already been built and buzzed around it. It awaits to be seen whether its viewership support can match or surpass the progenitor’s.

To help it achieve its goal is its new cast which includes Park Shi Hoo coming off Princess Prosecutor 검사 프린세스 (2010) and Chae Jung Ahn of Cain and Abel 카인과 아벨 (2009) fame.

Writer Park Ji Eun returns from the original series to pen, hopefully, another hit, while director Kim Nam Won steers the helm of this series. Queen of Reversals will air after the overstayed 60 episodes Dong Yi’s exit on MBC’s Monday-Tuesday nights.

Full House so Mary Stayed Out All Night

Teaser Poster for MSOAN

Maybe it’s time to fold on the idea of a Full House sequel with Rain and Song Hye Gyo intact. At this point, do audiences really want to see SHG do aegyo (super cute) anymore? Or Rain as an immature, fashion question mark brat? She has turned out to be an elegant, versatile actress and commercial princess that reprising her 2004 hyper cutesy, naive, mischievous role would actually seem like a step back in her career and acting development. He has become so ridiculously famous and international, a full mansion might not be able to contain him. Even if the producers should set the drama years later into their marriage life or what not, it’s not really Full House anymore, is it? So the next best thing as far as satisfying the prolonged Full House fever is concerned is another adaptation from the same manhwa creator and writer Won Soo Yeon.  Maybe great creative minds think alike, because the light is go and money vault is open for such an idea. Coming to KBS in November is the light-hearted adaptation of manhwa Mary Stayed Out All Night (no arguments here if the producers should elect to change the misleadingly scandalous title).

The story surrounds three protagonists- Mary, a dating virgin and daughter of a failed chaebol who shuns dating at her tender age only to then end up in an envious love triangle with two completely opposite yet equally magnetic guys in the form of a free-spirited hippie musician and a prestigiously educated, responsible, and rich tycoon. All three leads have finally been cast to much of the netizens’ great approval and applause.

Moon Geun Young (Cinderella’s Sister 신데렐라 언니 2010, The Painter of the Wind 바람의 화원 2008) lauded as the finest Korean actress of her generation plays Wi Mae Ri (Mary), Jang Geun Seok (You’re Beautiful 미남이시네요 2009, Beethoven’s Virus 베토벤 바이러스 2008) rocks the role of frontman Kang Moo Kyul, while Kim Jae Wook (Bad Guy 나쁜 남자 2010, The 1st Shop of the Coffee Prince 커피프린스1호점 2007) sets up the love triangle as steady Byun Jung In.

It might be a favorite plot devise of the manhwa author, because similar to the marriage contract used to bond the lead characters in Full House, the premise of this love triangle lies in the love contracts that Mary enters separately into with both guys. Learning from the failure of her business father, these contracts are sure to contain clear terms, stipulations, and expiration date which roughly translates to storied excuses, amusing misunderstandings, and a sea of sighs and squeals from viewers.

Mary Stayed Out All Night also has a very interesting Trivial Pursuit tie to Full House– Moon Geun Young played the child role of the character Eun Suh, whom Song Hye Gyo played the adult role in none other than Autumn in My Heart 가을동화 (2000) arguably the k-drama that ignited the Korean Wave.

Penned by In Eun Na (Goong 궁 2006) and directed by Hong Seuk Gu (Kyung-sook, Kyung-sook’s Father 경숙이 경숙아버지 2009), 2010’s last trendy drama drops on November 8 on KBS, picking up the Monday-Tuesday slot of Sungkyunkwan Scandal.