Translated by Kim Hoyeun
In the first half of 2020, Korean dramas received two opposite reviews. While dramas like Crash Landing On You, which first premiered at the end of last year, The World of the Married, Hospital Playlist, and Itaewon Class received favorable reactions and recorded high viewership, other works, such as The King: Eternal Monarch and A Piece of Your Mind, showed disappointing results despite their casting of star actors. In the case of Meow, the Secret Boy, it became the first drama that aired on terrestrial TV network to record the dishonorable viewership of 0 percent.
Let’s take a look at editors’ best and worst pick. (selection made among all the dramas that premiered since 2020.01.01.)
Editor Yang Young Jun’s Pick – BEST: Itaewon Class / WORST: The King: Eternal Monarch
It is rare to find a webtoon-based project like Itaewon Class. I may have an axe to grind, but considering how high the viewership of the drama was, I am guessing that a lot more people are thinking the same way. From the actors’ passionate acting, the script written by the original author, to the “underdog’s rebellion” story that anyone would enjoy, there are so many key points that made people fall in love with the drama. Yet, regardless of all these advantages, the fact that Kim Da Mi, my favorite actor, appeared is enough to make this my number one drama.
The King: Eternal Monarch is the most regrettable work written by Kim Eun Sook. The unique directing style, excessive product placement, unattractive characters, and boring narrative early on have surpassed the level that can be recovered by the attractive setting and star actors Lee Min Ho and Kim Go Eun. There were many improvements in the latter half, but it was just like locking the barn door after the horse has bolted. So these days, I am soothing my disappointments by watching Goblin on Netflix.
Editor Seo Hae Lan’s Pick – BEST: Kingdom Season 2/ WORST: My Holo Love
Even I, who run miles away when it comes to zombie movies or dramas, endured to watch Kingdom Season 2. Though the second season continues the story of the first season, it was produced more like the Korean traditional historical dramas. Loyalty, guilt, the sorrow of the firstborn in Korea, and the twisted desire to destroy it if you can’t have it, such emotions are melted into various parts of the drama, raising the level of immersion. I hope you don’t forget to watch the icon of loyalty, Ahn Hyun, who bites the face of the treacherous subject even as he turns into a zombie.
The concept of My Holo Love is ingenious, and the way it was implemented is also quite persuasive. You can see the effort they have put into research on artificial intelligence and lifestyle. Nevertheless, I still chose it as the worst drama because there is no “taste of words” that I expected. Even in the scenes where intense emotions explode, the lines are too stiff. It is difficult to follow the character’s emotions since the lines hinder the concentration. So the moment when the main characters kiss and confess their love, the viewers are puzzled. That was supposed to be the whisper of love?
Editor Kim Won Hee’s Pick – BEST & WORST: The World of the Married
The most thrilling drama in the first half of this year is The World of the Married. After giving off an unusual vibe even from the poster, the drama showed a shocking twist from the first episode, stimulating viewers’ peripheral nerves. The facts revealed as the story progressed were shocking, and Ji Sun Woo always presented gratifying scenes whenever she faced difficulties. Female characters who showed various performances like Yeo Da Kyung, Ko Ye Rim, and Min Hyun Seo were also impressive. But yet…
Up until the 6th episode, it faithfully followed the original storyline of the first season of Doctor Foster, boasting an extreme satisfaction. However, from the 7th episode, it slowly drifted away from the path and only seemed to seek stimulation by presenting an overly assailant-centered viewpoint. The initial freshness, which met the expectations, ended with a flurry of violent depictions, leaving only an awkward and uncomfortable aftertaste. It is a pity that the responses in the first half and the second half are poles apart.
Editor Hwang Hong Sun’s Pick – BEST: Hospital Playlist / WORST: Hi Bye, Mama!
Hospital Playlist is the drama that makes people think of people first before the hospital. The chemistry shown by the five main characters was as sympathetic and warm as if we were watching our own friends. Jeon Mi Do, who made her first TV drama debut with the drama, showed such a strong presence that it made me wonder why she didn’t come out earlier. There were some criticisms that such good and warm stories are not realistic, but still, the drama delivered its sincerity with delicate and emotional portrayals.
While Hi Bye, Mama! showed s fresh start, the second half was just disappointing. In fact, Kim Tae Hee’s brilliant acting as a mother and her touching story that goes back and forth between the past and the present was good. However, the drama began to crumble in the latter half that dealt with Kim Tae Hee’s reincarnation. The key points that have grabbed the attention early on were buried deep by forced stories that only sought out for tears and frustrating developments that failed to speed up when necessary. Especially, the ending was so obvious that it was boring.
Editor Hong Hyun Jung’s Pick – BEST: Hyena / WORST: Money Game
Among the dramas introduced in the first half of this year, the most impressive one is Hyena, which gave birth to a female character “Jung Geum Ja,” who took a great step forward. Jung Geum Ja, who takes the bull by the horns in this challenging world with her own strength and takes the lead on both work and love, came to life after meeting Kim Hye Soo’s charismatic acting, presenting catharsis to the viewers. Her sexy “adult romance” with Yoon Hee Jae, a lawyer who lived a sheltered life, was a bonus.
Money Game, which depicts conflicts and confrontations among three people with different beliefs over financial scandals, is a case in which expectations have turned into disappointments. The fact that it dealt with an economic crisis, which is rare for Korean dramas, was exciting, but the slow development as they pressed the story of each and every character was certainly regrettable. In particular, it’s questionable whether the extreme setting of death should have been drawn from the beginning to build up tension. I rather wanted them to focus more on the economy.