Best Dramas of 2020

BEST DRAMAS OF THE LAST YEAR

AMERICA

Never Have I Ever

This show from Mindy Kaling and found on Netflix is soooo funny. It’s about the life of an Indian-American, very smart, slightly lewd high school girl in California. I laughed through every single episode and am extremely excited that there is going to be a second season. Here is my longer review for it: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/668

CHINA

Lovely Us

The show is called Lovely Us and it really is lovely. I enjoyed it a lot. It was less of an addicting marathon and more like sips of hot cocoa with marshmallows. It’s a drama about friends, family and first love. This show is funny and sweet. The leads are five high schoolers. Three are underachievers, two who squabble all the time. The other two are top of the class and much more sedate. All of them love each other completely and are loyal to the core. The show is also about their families, many who are struggling in various ways. Marcus Li who played Tan Song stole the show.

Twenty My Life On

This show is about girls in their last year of college who share a dorm together, straddling youth and adulthood. Three of the girls are close friends and one is less than friendly. All of the characters personalities are very different and interesting. The script is great and has one very unique and refreshing quality. Parts of it are far more realistic than most dramas, making it less formulaic and more relatable. I really enjoyed this show and looked forward to every episode. I highly recommend it if twenties slice of life dramas are your thing. Also, I just learned they are coming out with a season two. Yes!

Nothing but Thirty

This show started slow, but then it picked up speed and got interesting. I ended up invested in the characters and watching it through to the end. The story is about three women in and around age thirty and the trials and tribulations they face in their work, home and love lives. And the blessing that friendships can bring. Like Twenty Your Life On, some aspects of this show are more realistic than other dramas. Not all people, including the leads are selfless, not all choices are fair and not all endings are perfect.

I liked Twenty Your Life On better, if I had to choose, but both shows are good and worth the time spent watching them.

KOREA

World of the Married

This is my favorite show of the year. I wasn’t even planning on watching it. But I gave in and watched one episode. Then I was completely hooked. This show is the definition of drama. It’s crazy. But it’s a well written, well acted crazy that makes it a fun ride to go on. Here is my longer review for it: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/715

Love Revolution

I adore this show, which is based on a webtoon. It is light hearted, quirky, funny and sweet. The actors, some of whom are amateurs, did a great job. There is no show I looked more forward to watching in 2020 than this one. Here is my longer review for it: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/746

Kairos

This may be the best scripted Korean drama I have watched. Mr. Sunshine and This is My First Life were also very well written, so it’s hard to say for sure, but the dialogue and the twists and turns are ingeniously written. The acting was also phenomenal. Here is my longer review for it: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/735

Nobody Knows

This is a show about a serial killer and the police officer tracking him. I am not normally into shows like this, but it was so well written and acted that I watched it anyway. I still don’t like shows like this, but I have to give credit where credit is due. It was a truly good drama.

THAILAND

2Gether

This BL is a sweet college romance, with a few surprises in the plotline that make it a little less formulaic. Here is my longer review for it: https://wordpress.com/post/ckdrama.home.blog/677

BEST OLD DRAMAS I WATCHED THIS YEAR

Money Flower (2017)(Korea)

I LOVE this show. It’s about someone getting revenge on a Chaebol family, how they do it and the consequences it has on them and everyone around them. I didn’t watch it before now because I am not always in the mood for a makjang, and when I am, I watch Thai Lakorn’s, which are always waaaay over the top. But the show was on my watch list for a long time, and I was in the mood, so I put it on while I worked, and got completely sucked into it!

The acting is great and the plot is intriguing – and infuriating. This has all the makings of a good makjang including cheating, murder, embezzlement, and revenge. By the end of the show I hated the male and female leads and did not wish them any happiness, but this didn’t make the show itself worse. I don’t think I was supposed to like them both. I ended the drama liking it even more then when I started it and will probably watch it again.

Game Sanaeha (2018)(Thailand)

This is my new favorite Lakorn. It has all the things Lakorn’s are famous for. It has rich versus poor, hatred and revenge, slap kisses, misunderstandings and some really, really stupid decisions. It is also unique because some of the characters are fairly mature and others gained some self awareness, learned from their mistakes and had personal growth throughout the course of the show. It was really refreshing and very entertaining.

K-Drama: Kairos (9/10)

Wow. This drama is gooood. The production value is high. The screen writing is top notch. The acting is fantastic, and the OST is nice.

I somehow missed that this show was playing, and randomly came across the reviews for it, which were all about as flattering as mine. I wasn’t confident the story was my cup of tea, but I started watching anyway. I was not disappointed.

Here is the summary:

Living a precarious life as a part-timer at a convenience store, Ae Ri strives to support her mother who is on a waiting list for a heart transplant. Unfortunately, her mother’s worsened physical condition leads her to forgo the long-awaited opportunity for the transplant, and just like that her mother disappears. Things were already chaotic enough for Ae Ri when she receives a phone call from a strange man claiming to be from the same world but 31 days in the future. Ironically, he desperately asks Ae Ri for help. Seo Jin, a father and a husband of a close-knit family, has been living a successful life as the youngest person to become a director at a construction company. One day, it all crumbles down with the kidnapping of his daughter and his wife’s suicide. On the verge of breaking down, he is given an opportunity to restore everything that was lost under one condition, help from a strange woman. To bring his daughter and wife back to life, he makes a phone call as the clock strikes 10:33. Source: KOCOWA/Mydramalist.com

I cannot begin to express how incredible the script is. I never knew what was going to happen next, and the show did something I normally only dream of in action and thriller based shows. They crossed all their t’s and dotted all their i’s.

Almost every action in the entire drama has a purpose, and every decision has clear consequences. It is close to flawless. With the exception of the first couple episodes when I genuinely couldn’t figure out what the cops were doing, which seemed to be breaking every established police protocol. And very occasionally the lead female who made some decisions that seemed more dangerous than they needed to be.

There is no way I could have watched episodes as they aired because the story is too riveting and I wanted to know what would happen next so badly. There is never a dull moment and although some characters were steady all the way through, some were more flexible. There were many surprises along the way.

The acting is great too. The last time I saw the male lead actor Shin Sung Rok was in Perfume, where he made me laugh a lot. This role is very different. Rok plays someone who is at times arrogant, intelligent and distant, and at other times helpful, a great father and a great friend. The female lead, Lee Se Young is also fantastic. She plays a character who is struggling, kind, confused, scared and fearless perfectly. The second leads are incredible too. Nam Gyu Ri is completely believable. I emotionally reacted to her character so many times. Second lead male Ahn Bo Hyun was similarly good.

Every single actor was great. Many played roles that were nuanced, where they were both selfish and selfless, good and bad, and did an exemplary job.

The OST is also good. I am partial to the song Can You Feel Me by Yoon of Winner, which I love.

Note: Thank you to CHTAJU for inspiring me to write this review after a hiatus due to waaaaaay too much work.

K-Drama: Itaewon Class (7.9/10)

This drama had promise. So much promise. If you have ever read my blog posts you know that I love Park Seo Joon’s acting. I will ride or die for him if anyone questions his artistic talent. That’s why it’s hard for me to say that despite his acting this drama made me mad and I wouldn’t watch it again if you paid me.

The acting by Park and the rest of the cast was good. The production value was also high. And the beginning was interesting and made it seem like the drama would be a good one. These are the reasons why I have rated it as high as I have.

Here is a summary of the show from Mydramalist:

Park Saeroyi’s life has been turned upside down after he gets expelled from school for punching a bully and his father is killed in an accident. Following his father’s steps, he opens a pub named “DanBam” in Itaewon and, along with his manager and staff, strive towards success and reaching greater heights.

What the summary fails to mention is that this show is about revenge.

The first quarter of the show centers on what happens that makes the lead character Park Saeroyi want revenge and who he wants it against. And his crush on a girl that he gets to know.

The next quarter is about how he works towards getting revenge which involves opening a pub that he staffs with a motley cast of characters, one of whom is in love with him.

The third quarter is about his growing revenge success and the forth is the culmination of all of this.

I was fairly into the show, although not addicted until quarter three when I wanted to throw it out a window. Basically the beauty of Park Saeroyi, that made him worth rooting for was that he was ethical and principled and would adhere to his principles no matter what it cost him. He loyally loved the same woman for over a decade, he stood up for anyone he felt was oppressed and he chose people over immediate revenge.

Then all the sudden he threw that side of him away, except that I can’t tell if that was meant to be a moral to the story. It doesn’t seem like it. More like the writers had him transition to be an unethical disloyal, revenge over everything type person while pretending he wasn’t. I haven’t read the manga it is based on, so I don’t know.

Worse than all of this, the lead/second lead female was AWFUL. I don’t know if I have ever disliked a character more, outside of some really evil sageuk ministers or evil moms of chaebols. She was described as a sociopath, which seemed right based on her behavior. She was a fairly bad friend, bigoted, although she would eventually see the error of her ways, but only because of Park Saeroyi who she was in love with.

It wasn’t really clear, minus his strong sense of ethics, why the ladies liked Park Saeroyi who wasn’t a great communicator and had one of the worst haircuts I’ve ever seen. And he didn’t disrobe like Park Seo Joon’s other characters have, so it wasn’t about his muscles. But they did like him – a lot. What is less clear is why anyone in their right mind would like this girl. She was a 20 year old running after a 30 year old, crossing serious boundaries to do it and being a godawful human the rest of the time. How any writer, director or producer thought that I would ship her with this guy or even root for her is beyond me. She is the kind of person that I cross the street to avoid IRL.

All I can say is that I ended this show after episode 14 of 16. Near the end of the episode I actually thought that I wouldn’t fault a guy for pushing Park Saeroyi into a street and in front of a speeding car. In fact, the show could have ended like that and I would have given it a better rating. That’s when I knew I was done.

I read the summary of the last two episodes, which helped validate that I made the right choice.

Breaking: Choi Jong-hoon and Jung Joon-young were just sentenced to 5 and 6 years in prison

Burning Sun Scandal update

The judge handed down sentences earlier today. The sentences are as follows:

Choi Jong-hoon (former FTIsland member): 5 years in prison, 80 hours of sexual violence education and he is banned from working anywhere with children or teenagers for 5 years.

Jung Joon-young (singer and songwriter): 6 years in prison, 80 hours of sexual violence education and he is banned from working anywhere with children or teenagers for 5 years.

“Mr. Kim” (Burning Sun’s marketing director): 5 years in prison

Kwon Hyuk-jun (older brother of Girls Generation’s Yuri): 4 years in prison

‘Heo’ (Entertainment Director): 2 years of probation and 160 hours of community service.

Note: Lee Seung-hyun aka Seungri (Former Big Bang member) who was the Publicity Manager for the Burning Sun Club was not sentenced, but has been facing charges related to brokering sexual services, by hiring prostitutes for groups of people on multiple occasions.

My thoughts: It’s sad to see anyone fall, K-stars included but Choi and Jung were found guilty of non-consensual sex and of filming sexual encounters with women without their consent (Molka) and sharing that information in a chat room for other men to watch and comment on. And the other men participated. It should go without saying that perpetrating this form of sexual violence is very wrong. And being celebrities, which we all know makes them women magnets also comes with increased responsibility to be ethical and responsible when they decide to be physical with someone. It’s too bad these guys will have to learn this lesson the hard way. But it is what it is. At least their victims will finally get some closure.

As South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in regards to the scandal “If the truth is not revealed, we cannot say it’s a just society.”

This is a great timeline of events relating to the scandal: https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/8503818/burning-sun-scandal-timeline-seungri-jung-joon-young

Here is a story on the initial charges: https://metro.co.uk/2019/03/14/inside-scandal-rocking-k-pop-seungri-jung-joon-young-retire-amid-prostitution-hidden-camera-allegations-8904243/

Here is information about their sentences: https://www.soompi.com/article/1368504wpp/jung-joon-young-and-choi-jong-hoon-sentenced-to-prison-for-sexual-assault

Kakao Talk chatroom participants included:  Kangin of Super Junior, Jeong Jinwoon of 2AM, Seungri of Big Bang, Singers Roy and Eddie Kim, model Lee Chulwoo and Yoo In Suk, former CEO of Yuri Holdings.

C-Drama: A Journey to Meet Love (8.6/10)

First, I have to say that this drama has a stupid name, which may also explain why it was 5th in the ratings in China last week despite being an amazing show. Guys and other people who aren’t into pure romances and romcoms probably don’t realize from the name that this show is so much more than that. It is action, slice of life, romance, mystery, intrigue and cop show all in one.

This show is so good that I will probably judge all other c-dramas by it in the future the same way I do with A Love So Beautiful. I highly recommend you watch it, even if you don’t normally watch Chinese dramas. I’m just a little more than halfway through and I already like it so much that when Vidfish had technical problems so only the subs were visible, but not the show itself and Youtube had raw episodes I McGuyvered it so I could read the subs on vidfish on my phone while watching the show on Youtube on my computer. I mean, that’s dedication.

Why I like it so much:

The plot is really interesting

It is about an undercover cop who ends up investigating a girl in her twenties who is somehow involved in an art theft and potential drug or money laundering operation. He is tasked with learning abut her role and retrieving the stolen art. The audience gets to know right away what her role was while the cop has to put the puzzle together himself by embedding himself in her life using false pretenses. The leads and supporting characters end up on a trip together across part of China where the girl and cop take part in a reality show while gangsters and thugs of all kinds follow and try to take them out. And of course feelings develop, but this drama makes the romance part a much longer, more natural progression than many others, which is nice.

The scenery is incredible

The characters drive from Shanghai to Shangri-La and I could not ask for a better tour of China. Not to mention that the people filming are really talented. A lot of the shots are stunning.

The law enforcement element is very well done

One of my favorite parts of this drama are the law enforcement scenes because of the way the investigation is portrayed. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly realistic, but it’s close for drama world. It’s a lot of logistics and coordination, but in an interesting way. And the relationship between the fairly conceited cop and his boss is fun to watch. I wish all shows about law and order were like this.

There are a lot of fight scenes

Almost every episode has a fight scene with lead actor Chen Xiao against one or more people. They are really well choreographed and he does a great job, which I judge because I watch his fight scenes with the same breathlessness that I watch Jackie Chan’s.

The character development is fantastic

Every single character is interesting and has been completely fleshed out during the drama to the point where you could imagine that they exist in the real world.

The lead male character Jin Xiao Tian is insanely likable despite the fact that his undercover persona is slightly annoying and loserish. Its because he is clearly a determined cop, with a tongue and cheek humor who continually protects people, sometimes at his own expense. And his fight scenes are badass. And even though he isn’t my type, he is appealing in a puppy dog eyes, superman savior kind of way. I presume this is because Chen Xiao is close to perfecting the craft of acting and embraced the character wholeheartedly.

The lead female is slightly less likeable to me, but I don’t blame actress Jing Tian who did a great job with her. She plays a girl that (although scheming) is very low maintenance, and self reliant, and mostly on the side of right. My issues with her are that she is somewhat self absorbed, willing to tank other peoples plans to ensure hers are safe. And she will not listen to Jin Xiao Tian even though he keeps proving that his advice is good, so she keeps getting herself and him and others into dangerous situations. Of course this drama would be much shorter if she didn’t do this, so I get really annoyed when it happens and then grin and bear it.

Second lead He Min Han who plays Chu Zhi Han, who is an heir, business startup owner and the coordinator for the trip the characters are on is pretty much faultless in his performance. His character strives to be kind and ethical at all times, even when it hurts him. Although he is single minded when it comes to a lady he likes and unable to see past her to any other options. The lady after him was Qin Shan, a professional livestreamer who is also very likable, as is Chu Zhi Han’s’s best friend A Pei and the entire cast of parents and baddies and law enforcement agents.

My only gripes so far are the leading ladies bad decisions and the fact that one of the villains isn’t all bad, so it’s hard to hate him. There are also long musical interludes, which are nice but sometimes I just want to get to the action.

Watch this show. Really! You won’t be sorry.