This post had been prepared much earlier, but was postponed until now because drama productions just couldn’t make up their mind! Drama titles kept changing, cast members refused to be confirmed, and even the basic premise of many of the dramas kept constantly being revised. But as it seems like there shouldn’t be any more major changes in the future, here finally is the list of the upcoming dramas for May and June. The theme of this new batch of dramas can be summarized in two words – lies and romance.
Baby-Faced Beauty (KBS)
Projected broadcast period: May 2, 2011 (scheduled to replace Crime Squad)
PDs: Lee Jin Seo (The Birth of the Rich) & Lee So Yeon (Drama City)
Scriptwriters: Oh Seon Hyung (Gumiho: Tale of the Fox’s Child, Don’t Hesitate) & Jung Do Yoon (Gumiho: Tale of the Fox’s Child)
Cast: Jang Nara (Sky and Ocean), Choi Daniel (Cyrano Dating Agency), Ryu Jin (Call of the Country), Kim Min Seo (Sungkyunkwan Scandal), Hyun Young (The Perfect Couple), Hong Rok Gi, Yoon Hee Suk (Gumiho: Tale of the Fox’s Child), Oh Yeon Seo (Dong Yi)
Synopsis: A romantic comedy about a baby-faced 34-year old woman (played by Jang Nara) who fakes her age to get a job, but eventually overcomes her disadvantages (of being a mere high school graduate and having bad credit) to make her dream and love come true.
Blue’s clues: Baby-Faced Beauty marks Jang Nara’s return to K-dramaland since her last appearance in the 2005 drama, Wedding. And how appropriate is it that this famous baby-faced beauty now gets to play one on-screen, or that Choi Daniel, known for looking much older than his actual age, gets to play opposite Jang in a drama about confusion surrounding the character’s age. A brilliant casting, I say!
Writers Oh Seon Hyung and Jung Do Yoon, who last worked together on Gumiho: Tale of the Fox’s Child, will be re-teaming up for this drama. I’ve only watched the first episode myself, but Gumiho: Tale of the Fox’s Child did receive praises from both the critics and the viewers for its writing. Director Lee Jin Seo, who directed last year’s The Birth of the Rich, will be co-directing Baby-Faced Beauty with a less-experienced director Lee So Yeon, who has several Drama City episodes under her belt and an assistant directing experience with The Immortal Lee Soon Shin. Although I found the writing for The Birth of the Rich to be spotty, I thought the drama was overall well-executed by PD Lee Jin Seo.
So on paper, things look good (despite the rather unexciting premise of the show), except… except… I can’t put a finger on why I’m not interested in this drama at all. Guess I’ll have to tune in for the first one or two episodes to decide.
Miss Ripley (MBC)
Projected broadcast period: May 2011 (scheduled to replace The Duo)
PD: Choi Yi Seop (Let’s Marry, Pretty Woman)
Scriptwriter: Kim Sun Young (Mr. Duke)
Cast: Kim Seung Woo (Iris), Lee Da Hae (Chuno), Park Yoochun (Sungkyunkwan Scandal), Kang Hye Jung (Girlfriends)
Synopsis: A traditional melodrama (정통 멜로물) inspired by the story of Shin Jung Ah, a national scandal which took Korea by storm in 2007 when it was discovered that Shin, a college professor and art curator at Dongguk University, had forged her academic credentials, including a reported PhD from Yale, to get hired. (In fact, she was only a high school graduate.) In the drama, Lee Da Hae stars as Jang Mi Ri, a character modeled after Shin, as it deals with how she falls deeper and deeper into her own web of lies and deceit, and the two men (played by Kim Seung Woo and Park Yoochun) who come to fall in love with her.
Blue’s clues: I’m not sure what is the official title of this drama, as some media reports call it Goodbye Miss Ripley, whereas others call it simply by Miss Ripley. But anyway, yay, Micky is back with a new drama! But no, why did he pick this one!
I’m not familiar with the director, so I’ll pass on making any judgment on him. But I absolutely hated what writer Kim Sun Young did with her previous drama, Mr. Duke (coincidentally also starring Kim Seung Woo). Mr. Duke had an interesting and original premise (at least it was back then) of a love story between a sheltered, princess-like daughter of a chaebol family and a water delivery man. In fact, Mr. Duke created a sensation for being one of the first reverse-Cinderella stories, where it was the man playing the role of a Cinderella-like figure.
But that was as far as originality went because the entire drama had no story whatsoever. It merely featured Choi Ji Woo looking pretty and princess-like (which I admit she did), and the OTP couple always running around town (literally) as the “princess” explored living a “normal” life. I think it might have been inspired by The Roman Holiday, but without the magic.
And it’s eerily scary how much Miss Ripley reminds me of Mr. Duke. And no, I understand the two stories are as different as they can be. But Miss Ripley also has a very fascinating premise, leading me to believe that writer Kim Sun Young is just simply brilliant at coming up with story ideas. C’mon, the real life story of Shin Jung Ah is just oozing of juicy drama. However, I’m just not convinced that writer Kim is the right person to do the job. Perhaps I’ll be kicking myself on my butt when she proves me wrong. And for Micky’s sake, I do hope she proves me wrong.
Lie to Me (SBS)
Projected broadcast period: May 9, 2011 (scheduled to replace Midas)
PD: Kim Soo Ryong (Father’s House, Aquarius, Blue Fish, Green Rose, South of the Sun)
Scriptwriter: Kim Yeh Ri
Cast: Yoon Eun Hye (My Fair Lady), Kang Ji Hwan (Coffee House), Jo Yoon Hee (Golden Fish), Sung Joon (White Christmas)
Synopsis: A romantic comedy about a man who has everything (why, of course!) and a quirky 20-something woman as they get swept up in a marriage scandal resulting from a “preposterous” (황당무계한) lie.
Blue’s clues: Ah, yes, a Yoon Eun Hye’s drama. Let me just get this out of the way. Yoon Eun Hye is not exactly a “great” actress (am I getting cyber attacked yet?). But for whatever reason, she has that something, whether you choose to call it presence, charisma, command, or the “it” factor, that makes people want to keep watching her. And perhaps it’s related to the first idea, but she does tend to develop great on-screen chemistry with her male co-stars.
As for the story itself, although fake/contract/pretend marriages are personally getting old, I like that the drama is choosing to call the lie that started it all “preposterous.” At least it recognizes it to be so, or (gasp!) it really is even more preposterous than the usual plot devices that lead to a fake/contract/pretend marriage in other dramas.
The people who will be working behind the scene for this drama are rather interesting. For instance, although Lie to Me (and let’s not talk about how many name changes this drama went through… umm, between two possible choices!) is described as a romantic comedy, all (and I do mean, ALL) of the past works by the director have been tragic, dark and dreary. I’m fascinated by how he’ll execute a romantic comedy genre. As for the writer, there has been some misunderstanding going around that she is the same writer who worked on the poorly-received 2009 drama Heading to the Ground. In fact, Kim Yeh Ri was the assistant writer for the drama (which typically means that she wouldn’t have had much say in the script), and there are even some rumors (although I’m not sure about how reliable they are) that writer Kim Yeh Ri left early due to her difference in opinion from that of Heading to the Ground‘s main writer, Kim Sol Ji.
Romance Town (KBS)
Projected broadcast period: May 11, 2011 (scheduled to replace Thorn Birds)
PDs: Hwang Eui Kyung (Drama Special: The Lady Next Door, Partner, Mr. Goodbye, Wedding, School 1) & Kim Jin Won (Drama Special: Snail Boarding House, Last Flashman)
Scriptwriter: Seo Sook Hyang (Pasta, Lawyers of Korea, Mr. Goodbye)
Cast: Sung Yuri (Swallow the Sun), Jung Gyu Woon (Sign, Dr. Champ), Kim Min Joon (Friend: Our Legend), Min Hyo Rin (Triple), Park Ji Young (The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry), Lee Kyung Shil (Enjoy Life)
Synopsis: A romantic comedy surrounding maids (oops, domestic helpers) working for chaebol households.
Blue’s clues: I know I’m in the minority, but I loved what writer Seo Sook Hyang did with Pasta. The people who didn’t like the drama criticized it for nothing ever seemingly happening, but for a slice of life drama about a day to day happening at a restaurant, it was a nicely told story with smart dialogues. (And I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Gong Hyo Jin and Lee Seon Kyun just sizzled with chemistry together.) Director Kim Jin Won is a younger director (interesting tidbit: He’s also the real-life son of the now-deceased actor Kim Heung Gi), but from what I’ve seen of his two Drama Special episodes, his style is quirky and has character.
I’m more concerned about the cast. The three leads (Sung Yuri, Jung Gyu Woon, and Kim Min Joon) have all been known for their wooden acting in the past. They’ve been improving, and in fact, based on his two most recent dramas, I learned that Jung Gyu Woon plays fun, youthful, and trouble-free characters very well (I mean, as fun, youthful, and trouble-free as they can be, and not that I know that’s the kind of character he’ll be playing here.) But Sung Yuri and Kim Min Joon remain a big question mark.
Best Love (MBC)
Projected broadcast period: May 4, 2011 (scheduled to replace Royal Family)
PDs: Park Hong Gyoon (Queen Seon Deok, New Heart, How Much Love) & Lee Dong Yoon (Running Gu, Hero, I Love You Don’t Cry, Life Special Investigation Team, Bad Woman Good Woman)
Scriptwriters: The Hong sisters (My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, You’re Beautiful, Hong Gil Dong, Fantasy Couple, My Girl, Delightful Girl Choon Hyang)
Cast: Gong Hyo Jin (Pasta), Cha Seung Won (Athena: Goddess of War), Yoon Kye Sang (Road No. 1), Yoo In Na (Secret Garden), Jung Jun Ha (Unstoppable High Kick), Lee Hee Jin (It’s Okay Daddy’s Girl)
Synopsis: A “has-been” former girl group member and an A-lister male star participate in a virtual marriage program (similar to the variety show We Got Married), and well, love is in the air.
Blue’s clues: If you’re reading this blog and even remotely interested in Korean dramas, I’d be very surprised if you haven’t watched at least one drama by the Hong sisters (whether or not you realized it was by them) and already have formed an opinion on their dramas. All their dramas follow the same formula, and although some may argue that they’ve been continuing to perfect that formula with their every new drama, I am personally a bigger fan of their earlier works than their latter. For one, they just seemed fresh and new back then. One-half of the couple willing to sacrifice their own happiness for their lover seems romantic the first and the second time seeing it, but the effect is slowly diminished by the fourth, fifth, or the sixth time around. And second, their earlier works dealt with more “mature” love, although that might just be the effect of me getting older whereas the age of their characters stayed just about the same.
But this time, I am super-excited about Best Love. First, I like that the cast is older, and by dealing with a “has-been” star and an already established A-lister star, their more mature age naturally means that more is at stake. (When I watch dramas with younger actors or characters, no matter how sweet and romantic the couples are, I can’t help but secretly feel that it’s just a bad case of puppy love.) And second, Gong Hyo Jin! Need I say more? Although I’m not a fan of Cha Seung Won (sorry, City Hallers!), I’ve never seen Gong Hyo Jin not have great chemistry with any of her co-stars. I’m SO ready for this!
Projected broadcast period: June/July (scheduled to replaced Best Love)
PD: Pyo Min Soo (Coffee House, The World that They Live In, Insoon is Pretty, Which Star Are You From, Full House, Solitude, Blue Mist, Foolish Love, Sad Temptation, Lie)
Scriptwriter: Lee Myung Sook (Just Run)
Cast: Jung Yong Hwa (You’re Beautiful), Park Shin Hye (You’re Beautiful), Kang Min Hyuk (It’s Okay Daddy’s Girl)
Synopsis: A story of love, friendship, and dreams of college students at a performing arts college.
Blue’s clues: It’s the reunion of the Go Minam and Kang Shinwoo couple from You’re Beautiful! Is it just me, or does the drama description sound like a college version of Dream High? But as for the title, Festival, it will likely be changing soon as the drama production is currently running a contest to come up with a new name for the drama. Here’s one suggestion. How about Dream College? Corny, I know.
I’ve never heard of writer Lee Myung Sook or her drama Just Run. (Any info or feedback on her dramas would be greatly appreciated!) In contrast, director Pyo Min Soo is one of the few star-status drama PDs in Korea, with a long list of dramas to his resume. Pyo has had many hits and misses, but I honestly believe that he fully deserves his fame. Whether he’s making a romantic comedy drama about a contract marriage, or an adulterous affair between two lonely people, Director Pyo is a genius in just striking the right tone and atmosphere for his dramas.
City Hunter (SBS)
Projected broadcast period: May 25, 2011 (scheduled to replace 49 Days)
PD: Jin Hyuk (Prosecutor Princess, Brilliant Legacy, Painter of the Wind, On Air)
Scriptwriters: Hwang Eun Kyung (Daemul (first 4 episodes), New Heart) & Choi Soo Jin (I Love You)
Cast: Lee Min Ho (Personal Taste), Park Min Young (Sungkyunkwan Scandal), Lee Joon Hyuk (I am Legend), Kim Sang Joong (Life is Beautiful), Lee Kwang Soo (Dong Yi), Goo Hara (Kara), Chun Ho Jin (Smile You), Lee Hyo Jung (Giant), Hwang Sun Hee (Sign)
Synopsis: Based off of (or perhaps, just inspired by?) a Japanese manga by the same name. Drama surrounds bunch of characters working for/around the presidential Blue House.
Blue’s clues: I’m not familiar with the original manga, but I’m guessing it’s not about people working for the Blue House? The drama production is not keeping it a secret their hopes of marketing the drama overseas, casting young Hallyu wave stars like Lee Min Ho, Park Min Young, and even KARA member Goo Hara, and then including many overseas locations. (Runaway: Plan B, anyone? *Shudders*)
Hwang Eun Kyung was the writer who quit (or was let go?) early on in the middle of writing for Daemul. Whatever was the reason for her early departure, I thought the first few episodes of Daemul was pretty uninspiring and even her earlier drama, New Heart, was one of the worst medical dramas I’ve watched, despite its commercial success. On a more positive note, although director Jin Hyuk hasn’t done any action genre in the past, I do think his style would work well with this genre.
King Gwanggaeto the Great (KBS)
Projected broadcast period: June 2011 (80 episodes)
PD: Kim Jong Sun (Dae Jo Young, Taejo Wang Geon, King and Queen, Dawn)
Scriptwriters: Jo Myung Joo (Three Dads One Mom, The Vineyard Man) & Jang Ki Chang (The Immortal Yi Soon Shin)
Cast: Lee Tae Gon (Golden Fish), Jang Shin Young (I Am Legend), Kim Jung Hwa (Job Well Done), Lee In Hye (Comrades), Jo Ahn (Three Sisters), Kim Seung Soo (I Am Legend), Kim Jung Hyun (Giant)
Synopsis: An epic-scale sageuk drama on the life of King Gwanggaeto of Goguryeo.
Blue’s clues: This is a drama on the life of King Gwanggaeto, the king of Goguryeo who is known for expanding his kingdom far and wide. Naturally, I expect there to be many court politics and battle scenes, and there are very few directors who have had as much experience in this field as PD Kim Jong Sun.
Writer Jang Ki Chang also has some experience with writing a sageuk from co-writing The Immortal Lee Soon Shin. But Jo Myung Joo is an interesting choice to work on this drama, considering her past works only included modern-day romantic comedy dramas. And even within this genre, I did not think that her scripts were exactly tightly written, which makes me wonder how she would be able to handle the much longer and much more demanding sageuk drama script. Umm, good luck?
Actor Lee Tae Gon will be playing the title character of King Gwanggaeto. I can understand why they casted him, as he has that deep voice and the (former swimmer) built that would suit a king. Although this is not his first sageuk (he played young Yeon Gae Somun in the 2006-07 sageuk drama, Yeon Gae Somun – thanks dramaok for the correction!), leading one will place a heavy burden on his shoulders. I’m not sure he’s yet ready for such a role, but umm, good luck?