This year’s K-drama scene has been a melting pot of varied themes and bold experiments. While some received accolades for their innovation, others failed to resonate with audiences due to their overly progressive or anachronistic content.
Celebrating its 19th anniversary, JoyNews24 conducted a survey from September 18th to 25th, asking 200 industry professionals to vote for the worst dramas of 2023.
Durian’s Affair earned the ignominious title of “Worst Drama” in the survey, collecting 37 votes. The TV Chosun drama has been flagged as a problem piece from the start for its portrayal of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law’s same-sex romance. But the controversy didn’t stop there. Plotlines involving a 30-year age gap love affair, a housemaid possessed by a ghost turning into a shaman, and a chaebol daughter-in-law demanding a surrogate continued to shock audiences.
The disappointment peaked in the final episode when the drama, which began as a fantasy romance, concluded with the mysterious disappearances of Durian (Park Joo Mi), Dan Chi Gam (Kim Min Joon), and Joo Nam (Kwak Min Ho). Viewers decried the absurd ending as a “rushed and unfinished conclusion.”
The second worst drama is writer Kim Soon Ok’s The Escape of the Seven, garnering 26 votes. The series, a picaresque revenge drama, follows the struggle of seven villains implicated in the disappearance of a young girl and their bloody retribution. Despite the buzz and ratings success of Kim’s The Penthouse series, her follow-up work failed to capture the same acclaim.
The Escape of the Seven consistently courted controversy for featuring distasteful themes such as sugar daddy, in-school childbirth, child abuse, and murder. Critics said its overstimulation became a source of stress rather than entertainment. We’ll have to see how this bloody show will come to an end.
Third place went to KBS 2TV’s weekend series The Real Has Come!, selected by 23 insiders. The drama faced discord from the start, with the originally cast male lead withdrawing due to scheduling conflicts and hastily replaced by Ahn Jae Hyun, who had not yet shed his label of inadequate acting prowess. The result was a dire viewership. The original intent to showcase the value of family was long forgotten as the drama excessively utilized the trope of birth secrets, tiring its audience.
The rest of the list goes like this: My Lovely Boxer (13 votes), The Uncanny Counter 2 (10 votes), King the Land & Pandora: Beneath the Paradise (8 votes), Bo-ra! Deborah (6 votes), Alchemy of Souls 2 (5 votes), and The Golden Spoon & The First Responders 2 (4 votes).