Taecyeon Talk

Sometimes I feel that I’ve been involved in all things Korean long enough that I’ve watched some of these idol groups grow up.  Weren’t they just rookies a blink of an eye ago?  With their hyper-enthusiastic greetings and their befuddlement on variety shows?  And now they’ve moved out of their company-owned dorms, and embarked on solo projects.

Case in point: Ok Taecyeon.  Not just a part of 2 PM anymore; he does variety shows and acts, too.  He’s a totally different actor than he was when he took on the JYP-helmed Dream High.  He actually, well…kind of ACTS now.

My favorite Taec is Three Meals a Day derp Taec, tho.

After watching two Taecyeon-starring dramas back-to-back, it was clear that he’s only as strong as the material he’s given.  The creepily-named Touching You was largely forgettable (if I hadn’t written stuff down I would have forgotten it existed already), while the clearly superior Let’s Fight Ghost was actually fun.

Let’s start by talking about Taecyeon’s drama My Extended TonyMoly Commercial.  Or Touching You.  Perhaps it should have been named Touching Your Skin with a Relaxing Facial Mist by TonyMoly.  It’s subtle, guys, but there MIGHT have been some product placement in this one.

“What are you looking at?  Haven’t you seen a guy mop up Tony Moly Wonder Cheese Firming Cream before?”

 

The premise is that somehow, Taecyeon’s character Do Jin Woo can see the future when he touches someone.  He touches Jin Hee Young (Song Ha Yoon) and sees her death.  So what do you do when you see a perfect stranger dying?  Why, you put on glasses to disguise your identity and sign on as a part-time worker at the shop where she works so you can change her future and make sure she doesn’t die.  Of course.

The list of problems is a mile long with this drama, including plot holes (why don’t you recognize him with glasses?), a totally predictable plot, a villain that practically had “I’m the villain!” written in huge letters on his back, and zero chemistry between the leads.  I think lack of chemistry might actually be written into any idol contract: “You may kiss, but under no circumstances may you open your mouth or move your head.  All eye contact must be slightly awkward.” It does keep the fangirls happy when they believe that Oppa won’t be able to love fully until he meets them.

However, it was quick, lighthearted, and I’m pretty sure watching this drama will clear blemishes and make your skin 60% more elastic just by watching it.

Tomorrow: Part II: Let’s Fight Ghost and the Ghost Net gang (the best nerdy sidekicks since The X-Files’ Lone Gunmen).

Someone Define “Alzheimer’s” for Drama Writers

As far as I know, Alzheimer’s disease is a tragic condition that happens to people over sixty where they gradually lose their memory and judgement.  According to writers of Korean dramas, Alzheimer’s is a disease that can strike young men at any age, which rapidly progresses into immersive delusions followed by periods of total normalcy.  At least, this is the impression given to me by two dramas I watched this summer, Bong Soon: A Cyborg in Love and Remember.

 

So, in the web drama Bong Soon: A Cyborg in Love, Super Junior’s Kyuhyun plays a robot scientist who falls in love with his robot assistant.  Wait…no.  That’s not right.  Kyuhyun plays a HUMAN scientist.  Only his acting is robotic.  That’s right.

So, the premise is that as a scientist, he develops an A/I, but doesn’t actually realize that the woman he’s falling in love with is that exact A/I, who’s tasked with the job of being his research assistant.  Her memories are his memories.  Basically he’s created a female doppelganger and fallen in love with her.  No narcissism there.

Then there’s the Alzheimer’s.  Kyuhyun’s character, Kim Joo Sung, gets Alzheimer’s.  And it comes in “attacks”–he’s fine, then he’s not.  And his decline is rapid.  Its inclusion into the plotline and involvement in the ending is the height of the absurdity of this drama.

Yoon So Hee is adorable as A/I Bong Soon, but the two leads have zero chemistry.  I can’t get past the man/machine love storyline, either.  I dropped Absolute Boyfriend mid-series for the same reason.

Remember is a decent legal drama with two actors I really like: Yoo Seung Ho and Park Min Young.  The concept of a young lawyer trying to reverse his father’s conviction is a classic, and the twist was good–the father has Alzheimer’s and can’t remember the crime, but the son has photographic memory!  It’s a great parallel.

But then…the son gets Alzheimer’s.  Again very early in life, but in a medically impossible way, too–because of his photographic memory, the Alzheimer’s is somehow MORE AGGRESSIVE.  It’s SUPER ALZHEIMER’S.  Seo Jin Woo (the son) has Alzheimer’s attacks which are more like fugue states–he doesn’t remember anything about them later, nor does he remember his normal life when he is in them.  It’s like switching back and forth between two states of being.

Even if I let this part go, and try to go with the flow of this drama, I can’t love it.  The legal part was good.  Namgoong Min as the bad guy, Nam Gyu Man, is deliciously evil.  I hated him SO MUCH.  He chewed the scenery apart like a rabid dog, and it was delightful.  But on the flip side, the chemistry between Seo Jin Woo and attorney Lee In Ah flops awkwardly into noona-dongseng territory too much.  I found I didn’t really care what happened to the two of them at the end, and it’s good thing I didn’t, because the vague ending would have made me throw things if I did.

So, drama writers, a piece of advice:  Give up the Alzheimer’s.  Let’s just go back to the old days, where everybody got amnesia.  Deal?

TL:DR

Bong Soon: A Cyborg in Love — Don’t even bother.  2 stars.  Barely.

Remember  — Watch it for the legal drama, if you have to watch it.  3.5 stars.

All Classic

In the corner of the world known as the internet, it’s Throwback Thursday.  In honor of this tradition based on nothing more than alliteration and people’s desire to show their cute baby pictures, I will do a little k-drama throwback with a classic drama you should watch.

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Today’s recommendation: 2010’s Secret Garden.

Secret Garden ranks in my top ten dramas of all time.  Seriously a favorite.  Rich and arrogant, Kim Joon Won (Hyun Bin) is the heir to a department store fortune.  He meets standoffish, independent stuntwoman Gil Ra Im (Ha Ji Won), and is strangely attracted to her. She fascinates him, but he can’t understand it–she is, after all, just one of the underclass he is used to ignoring.  They find themselves bound together–quite literally–when a mysterious potion makes them switch bodies.  Gil Ra Im must pretend to be Kim Joo Won and vice versa, bringing them into each other’s worlds.

This is an “against the odds” relationship.  They shouldn’t work, but they do.  Their chemistry is good, and they seem to make sense together.  This drama was very popular in 2010, and became a part of the cultural zeitgeist–especially two unique drama kisses–the sit-up kiss and the much parodied foam kiss, most famously challenged by Big Bang’s TOP and G-Dragon.

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G-Dragon makes a passable Gil Ra Im, right?

Great actors, great stories, just enough twists and turns, and iconic imagery make Secret Garden a great classic drama.

All Confusion

Cheese in the Trap is driving me crazy.

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I usually try to wait until a drama is over or almost over before I start watching it, because I like a new episode to be available to watch whenever I want.  I don’t like having to wait a week for a new episode.  But I started watching this drama when episode 6 came out, and now I’m stuck waiting for a new episode.  This is made all the more maddening since I don’t have a stable ‘ship!

SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP.

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All Man Monday

One of the things that I love about Korean Drama is the shameless display of abs.  There are no such standard on American television, which is much more about female T & A.  But KDrama and KPop loves them some chocolate abs.  (Isn’t that a much better term than “six-pack abs”?  Who doesn’t love chocolate, after all?)

So, for a Monday burst of energy, allow me to present a KDrama cliche’–the gratuitous shower scene.  The male lead (or second male lead) stands in the shower, struggling through some deep, internal conflict, and the audience gets to see his solemn face for a brief moment, and then we get to see his abs, dripping with water.

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All Man Monday is presented today by Do Min Joon (Kim Soo Hyun), lead alien in the drama everyone should see, My Love From Another Star.  That wacky, ripped alien not only likes a nice earth shower, but he enjoys doing it in a full-length towel, too.  Which begs the question–doesn’t the towel just get waterlogged and fall off anyway?

Enjoy.

All Fizzle, No Sizzle Part II

Three views on my first day!  Thanks, you three–you’re the real MVPs.

I still have five awkward We Got Married couples to talk about!  And number five is going to make some folk MAD.  Let’s get to it!

5. Jung Joon Young and Jeong Yu Mi

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This is actually the couple who inspired this whole blog post.  I was watching 1 Night, 2 Days last Tuesday and Joon Young was talking like a player, and I couldn’t help but remember his faux marriage with Yu Mi.

A lot of people shipped this couple, saying they were fresh and interesting because they were different than the lovey-dovey couples.  Joon Young himself said that was their charm.  But when it plays out kind of like an awkward adolescent and his naggy older sister, it’s not a great marriage match.  From the beginning Joon Young whined and teased and intentionally misunderstood Yu Mi.  He teased her about her age and aggravated her.  She, in turn, kept trying to turn the ship around and make him be more romantic, but he held her at arm’s distance.  I think his real talent (and one that he uses to his advantage in 1 Night, 2 Days) is his clever explanations.  He charmed his way through his interviews and threw Yu Mi a bone once in a while.  Yu Mi was willing to laugh it off, but they never really connected, and you got the feeling that they wouldn’t miss being a couple once their time was up.

HOWEVER, I did see this Instagram of the two of them having dinner and drinks post-WGM.  This feels right–like neighborhood friends.

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4. Marco and Son Dambi

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Throwing it back to early WGM days!  Popular singer Son Dambi paired with minor actor/”tv personality” Marco.  Raised in Argentina, he provided an uncomfortable foil for Dambi with his fiery South American personality.

A word, here, about the ladies of k-pop.  They are sexy.  Uncomfortably sexy sometimes.  Their dance moves, their stage outfits, their songs.  But that’s only for performance.  Off-stage, they are expected to be very pure and reticent.

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So here’s Marco, familiar with Dambi’s sexy stage presence, thinking he just fell into something good.  But it’s one thing to appreciate her gyrations and another to carry around a chair (to the beach, no less!) just in case she is inclined to grind in front of the other WGM couples that they just met.    Dambi is clearly flustered and caught between wanting to accommodate him for the sake of the show and wanting to ditch his happy ass on the shore.

They proceeded like this, with Marco pursuing like a puppy ready to hump her leg and Dambi caught without a rolled-up newspaper.  Their marriage died an early and unceremonious death.

3.  Hwanhee and Hwayobi

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You would think that these two would mesh as well as their voices do, but no such luck.  Fly to the Sky’s Hwanhee met soloist Hwayobi and it was general disinterest at first sight.  Hwayobi was pretty enthusiastic and willing to please, so she put up with Hwanhee’s shenanigans well.  Some might describe him as “playing hard to get”, I would describe him as “not really filming a romance show so much as taking a rest on camera”.  He would throw a vague criticism her way, then grudgingly perform some husbandly act, then go back to resting and ignoring his virtual wife.  Despite her encouragement of it, to spend the entire run of their show with him  calling her “dog poop” didn’t sit well with me.

2. Park Jae-Jung and Uee

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I think actor Park Jae-Jung had his WGM script developed before he even knew who he would be paired with.  He was hungry for leading man status, and had planned his persona to suit.  And then along came After School singer/actress Uee.  I think Uee is adorable, but she always strikes me as one of those kids who’s a little slow on the uptake.  She opens her doe eyes wide and stares blankly around, but doesn’t seem to really catch the vibe.  Jae-Jung tried to keep feeding her the lines, but she wasn’t in the same headspace as he was.  He tried to manufacture his “competent romantic oppa” persona, but Uee kind of just wandered around after him woodenly.  Their eight-year age difference really didn’t work for them.  He became less of an oppa and more of a “Toddlers and Tiaras” mom, directing a reticent child.

1. Jeong Hyung-Don and Saori/Taeyeon

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Comedian and MC Jeong Hyung-Don played an interesting role in the beginning of We Got Married.  Originally paired with Japanese/Korean TV personality Saori, her annoyance with his lazy, slobbish bachelor ways ended their virtual marriage after only 8 episodes.  They fought for their entire show run.  Then Hyung Don MC’ed the program, making occasional uninvited appearances at the various WGM couples’ homes where he continued being lazy and slobbish and causing chaos for the couples.  Then he got a second chance at virtual marriage.

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Girl’s Generation’s Taeyeon became his second wife (amidst protests from Taeyeon’s fans).  People didn’t like that she was 11 years his junior, and felt that his obnoxious behavior would bring her image down.  And they squabbled and bickered throughout their time together with no romance in sight (probably to people’s relief).  Unlike later couples who would suffer from dating rumors, their marriage came to a peaceful end after Hyung Don admitted to dating a comedy writer (whom he would later marry).  I think no one was interested in these two developing real feelings for each other.

Hyung-Don’s image has changed quite a bit since his WGM days, and he has shed his obnoxious and lazy persona.  When I first was watching WGM, I didn’t think he was funny; now I think he’s kind of hilarious, and miss his hosting since he went on hiatus to deal with anxiety issues.

In retrospect, his greatest pairing existed outside of the We Got Married realm.  His true soulmate is, and will always be, G-Dragon.

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The truth is that if every pairing on WGM was romantic and perfect, the show would be boring.  These awkward, soulless, or bickering couples do add spice to the show, but I would never ship them in real life.

You might be saying to yourself, “yes, but what about ________ Couple?  Weren’t they awkward and incompatible?”  If your pick isn’t on this list…just wait.  I’m saving a few up for a future post that I’m tentatively titling “Beards and Grooms.”

All Fizzle, No Sizzle–Part I

It’s Sunday!  Sunday means it’s time to watch the latest installment of We Got Married!  I was really surprised when I first started getting into Korean pop culture to realize that Korean celebrities really can’t have relationships out in the open.  When they get engaged, they have to apologize to their fans and ask for their understanding, as if it’s a great crime to fall in love and get married.  When a celebrity is caught dating, it’s a scandal.  We Got Married seems to be an acceptable way to let celebrities and k-pop idols date, because it’s all arranged and fictional.  Two celebrities get paired up and act like they’re married.

My impression of We Got Married is that it’s often used for image-making and publicity.  Got a womanizing idol?  Put him on WGM.  Got a fresh new actress?  Pair her with someone really popular on WGM to get her name out there.  Even knowing the nature of the game, some of the couples really make me wish they would start dating in real life.  On the flip side, some seem really reluctant to be paired with their “spouse”, and their chemistry seems extremely lacking.

Here are the first FIVE of my TOP TEN picks for most awkward We Got Married spouses.  Be forewarned, this might make some shippers unhappy…

10.  Taecyeon and Emma Wu (aka Gui Gui)

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One of the most touching things about this season of the WGM spinoff Global We Got Married was Taiwanese actress Gui Gui’s heart-wrenching sobs when she and K-pop idol Taecyeon ended their virtual marriage, but I also had to wonder why it was she was crying so hard when they could barely communicate with one another.  Add to that the fact that everything she did seemed to embarrass Taecyeon.  They weren’t a bad couple, but my overall impression was that Taecyeon is a smooth talker who delivered what was asked from him without actually experiencing any real affection for his WGM partner.

9.  Choi Siwon and Liu Wen

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Brief admission here: I never finished watching Liu Wen and Siwon on We Are In Love (the Chinese spinoff of WGM).  I got too frustrated partway through.  And not just out of jealousy because I think Siwon’s hilarious and too pretty to be true.  From what I saw, model Liu Wen was just too shy and inexperienced to be on a dating show.  Siwon was trying to move things forward the best he could, but he turned into a bit of a nag, constantly trying to get her to open up to him.  But I don’t know…it could have all turned out fine.  Maybe I’ll watch someday and see.

8.  Hong Jong Hyun and Yura

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Another case of too shy, too slow, except in this case it was the girl that kept trying to move forward and the guy who was avoiding.  Model/Actor Hong Jong Hyun was quiet and awkward, and seemed to never quite know what to do with Girl’s Day idol Yura.  Her brightness kept their couple watchable, and she seemed to be willing to offer a lot of excuses for his behavior without complaint.   I also found this couple interesting because they weathered a scandal where it was suggested that Jong Hyun was dating Orange Caramel/After School singer Nana while on the show with Yura.  I’m still vaguely suspicious about that whole business–it’s entirely possible that Jong Hyun was so awkward in showing affection to Yura because he didn’t want to piss his REAL girlfriend off.

7. Henry Lau and Yewon

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I actually thought this couple was fairly compatible, but they got sunk by circumstances.  Soon after Super Junior M’s Henry and Jewelry’s Yewon were paired up, she got involved in a situation with another reality show she was on where she got cursed out for being disrespectful to a senior actress.  The show tried to salvage the situation with some sweet scenes of Henry comforting a tearful Yewon and being supportive of her, but alas, it was only a matter of time before it came to an abrupt end.  Interestingly enough, even before her issues, I felt like they might not last.  Canadian-raised Henry was rather aggressive in their relationship, and they kissed early and often.  Most couples (especially those with young k-pop idols) take a long time to warm up physically to each other.  Yewon initially seemed to feel very awkward about all the affection, but then she went along with it maybe a little too eagerly.  One way or the other, they didn’t last long and didn’t even get a real goodbye.

6. Julien Kang and Yoon Se-Ah

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Insecure + insincere + cultural differences=this couple.  They had their moments, but the playing field never seemed to be quite level.  It seemed like Se-Ah felt like she wasn’t quite up to par for Julien, and Julien seemed unable to shake his image to be fully involved in their fake marriage.  They never achieved a good understanding of one another, in my opinion.  Julien seemed very cautious to get too close to Se-Ah, which made him seem disingenuous.  She ended up seeming more like an older sister to Julien, which made their parting, which was manufactured to be romantic, just seem surreal.

Want more?  Stay tuned for part 2: TOP FIVE!

All Apologies

Last night, over a piping hot stone bowl bibimbap, my friend asked me, “Have you ever been to Korea? You have, haven’t you?”

The question wasn’t just because we were splitting some japchae and banchan. She’s one of the few people who know about my obsession with all things Korean–and she really only knows the tip of my madness.

I’ve never been to Korea, nor am I Asian in the least. (Check out my main blog, Furnished Souls, for proof of my Scandinavian-ness.)  But for the last three years, I’ve watched only Korean television.  I owe a debt of gratitude to shows like Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey for being a part of the zeitgeist so I can still communicate with other Americans (with the caveat that I “haven’t had a chance to watch the current season”).  If I were honest in my conversations, I’d have to tell people I cancelled my cable and my Netflix subscription, that I have no idea what shows are on right now, and that I haven’t watched a commercial in ages.

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Dramafever and Chill?

It’s hard to put my finger on why I’m so obsessed with Korean television.  When my friend in grad school suggested that I watch Boys Over Flowers, I would have never guessed that I would be totally immersed in Korean dramas three years later.  I like the lack of cynicism, the challenge of learning a new language, the character development.  I feel like I know the celebrities, and I watch them crossover from music to dramas to variety shows.  In the West, too, our curriculum is very Euro-centric; we don’t learn about Asian history.  Korean shows are an educational experience both in the history of Korea (and their relationships with China and Japan) and the current situation with North Korea.  Plus, they’re romantic, which doesn’t hurt.

I read some blogs and news sites on Korean entertainment, but I don’t feel that I’ve found my fandom niche.  I’m blogging because I have opinions that are perhaps not yet out there (or I just haven’t found them yet).

As excited as I am to have this platform, I’m also wary.  I may make mistakes.  I may piss people off.  I may be misinformed or assume something that is not true.  Because I’m looking in from an outsider perspective, I may miss some context or history.  I have no desire to incite the rage of the sasaengs.  So I’ll apologize in advance.  Even if I say something wrong, I’m a fan and a supporter of the Hallyu wave.

Welcome to my look at Korea–with the captions on.