Sometimes life is such that I don’t get a lot of time to watch, read and/or write, so it’s been a little while. I will start with K-dramas and move onto Christie mysteries.
Lately, I’ve been struggling to find a Korean drama that I like beyond the first couple of episodes. I miss DramaFever a lot, because I always had a slew of things I wanted to watch and shows that kept my interest. Viki is great, but it just doesn’t seem to get as many new shows in as fast as Dramafever did, and their new shows have few intriguing plots and actors or actresses that I want to watch. Not entirely their fault, though, as they are now having to compete with powerhouses like Netflix for licensing of the dramas.
Initially, I was impressed with The Last Empress, starring Jang Nara (Oh Sunny), who is an amazing actress. Trouble is, she’s such a good actress that when playing a character that’s a bit repulsive she succeeds in helping us to feel revulsion. The Last Empress is a crazy, over the top soap opera set in an alternate universe in which Korea still has a royal family. Down to the last child, this family is full of gossiping, spying, backstabbing, loathsome characters, of whom, Oh Sunny, the new queen and empress, is only a milder version. Ok, she is the heroine, but somehow the writers made her really not likable. She’s greedy for money and really doesn’t seem that talented as a play actress. I was also looking forward to seeing Choi Jin Hyuk in an action role, but his character who goes through a transformation is so unemotional that it’s difficult to connect with him.
Long story short: Although The Last Empress delivers in excitement and nonstop plot twists and turns, it offers little in character growth, and offers few characters to truly root for. I quickly got tired of the constant bickering and intrigues of the royal family and wished Oh Sunny would just leave the palace altogether and be rid of them. After awhile, I just felt like I was wasting my time because I didn’t really care who won in the end. Although I’ve never seen Game of Thrones, I imagine the shows are similar to the extent that one is just watching highly immoral people trying to outdo each other, and any “good” character changes to bad or gets murdered or kicked by the wayside. It felt spiritually draining, and I think as I age I am looking more for stories with integrity than entertainment value. In the middle of Episode 18 I realized I just didn’t care anything about the characters or their fates, and that there was so many more (the show being in half-hour increments) episodes to go.
The next drama I tried was much more promising, but it stars the handsome Sung Hoon (Oh My Venus) who I think could be a pretty actor given the right script. Up until now his acting, except in Oh My Venus, in which he capably played a strangely vulnerable sport fighter, has been rather wooden and expressionless. I Picked up a Celebrity on the Street had the possibility of being pretty funny, so I gave it a go. The first episode was actually kind of freaky, with scary music and a creepy opening montage. I figured I wouldn’t make it past the first ten minutes, but something about the way the story unfolded was unusual. Spoilers: A young woman ends up accidentally murdering a celebrity, only to find he’s not dead, but that she has to hold him hostage in order to not get caught.
The main character, Lee Yeon Seo (Kim Ga Eun), come off as truly psycho, and, although the drama is supposed to be a dark comedy, it just turned me off after awhile. Keeping someone hostage, continually knocking them out, and deliberating how to best get rid of the body isn’t really that funny. In a movie, sure, it could probably work, but hours and hours of this? No way. The plot also became quickly repetitive. It seemed that every episode ended with Yeon Seo thinking, yet again, that she’d killed the celebrity, only to have him wake up at the beginning of the next one. It got old, fast. However, I do have to say that Sung Hoon may have a knack for this kind of comedy, and that his lack of expression in some cases ended up being a plus. I Picked up a Celebrity just wasn’t good enough to keep watching until it became great.
After that, I retreated to rewatching a drama I knew delivered both in comedy and heart: I am Not a Robot. A story about a wannabe inventor who ends pretending to be a robot for a part-time job, the story makes few false moves, and nearly all the characters are given room to grow. It’s an instant classic, and both Yoo Seung Ho and Chae Soon Bin are extremely watchable.
Now, I am watching My Strange Hero, also starring Yoo Seung Ho, and realizing what a great actor he is, having the advantage of naturally expressive eyes, especially when paired with a pretty, but not very good actress, Jo Bo Ah. Jo Bo Ah has definitely improved her skills since Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, but she’s still not quite on point as an actress. The second lead, played by Kwak Dong Yeon, goes almost toe-to-toe with Yoo Seung Ho in screen presence, giving him a bit of a run for his money. Kwak Dong Yeon will be someone to watch in the future, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he soon gets his own starring role. The plot for My Strange Hero is a little weak, but the half-hour episodes help keep things moving along, and additions of veteran actors like Kim Mi Kyung (Healer) and Cheon Ho Jin (City Hunter) are a good move. I’m only on episode 9, and there’s already quite a bit of heart in the story, and I’m excited to see where it goes and if it ends up having a great payoff.