5:36 pm - 12/25/2012

Dramaland: The gift that keeps on giving [Year In Review, Part 5]

OP Note 1: This one was written by girlfriday
OP Note 2: Posting full articles from Dramabeans is not allowed :C These are just excerpts. You can read the full thing at the SOURCE.
OP Note 3: ast one!

If there’s anything that Santa has taught me over the years (other than a musical mnemonic about single-malt scotches), it’s that Christmas is a time of giving. Dramaland gives us so much throughout the year, that I thought it was finally time for me to stop being a grinch and give back, out of the goodness of my heart. *waits for credit*

So this year I’ve made a Christmas list, and every drama I’ve watched this year is on it. Because everyone deserves presents. Yes, even you, Show.

The Moon That Embraces the Sun

There was perhaps no prettier drama in 2012 than The Moon That Embraces the Sun. Even twelve months later the visual appeal of its world still leaves a very distinct mark—one with rich, vibrant colors, costumes that made you want to twirl vicariously, and every single thing framed artfully for maximum purty factor. (Why yes, that is a technical term.) It was a version of Joseon told through the eyes of an art director. The politics might’ve gone to hell, but damnit, we were going to color-coordinate!
And while it was new, I suppose, to hinge an entire plot on a king’s inability to consummate his marriage (because One Twu Wuv will do that to a libido if you’re not careful), I really would’ve rather he’d gotten laid and moved the hell on, for his own sake. And okay, a little for mine.

My gift to you: A treadmill. So you can work out all your, um, frustrations.

Shut Up: Flower Boy Band

If there was ever a show that could perfectly capture the quiet loneliness of adolescence or the universal feeling of being adrift in a big world, this is it. I have a feeling School 2013 will do the same in the new year, but for 2012, it was Shut Up: Flower Boy Band, which took the opposite approach from many dramas this year and told a very small story. But what a story, and told with such fire and raw emotion.
Some shows burst onto the scene with such energy and force that they leave an aftershock and those things tend to fade away. Now, almost a year later, what I remember is the music, and the emotion behind it. This show did what I wished all dramas would do: it put feeling behind every beat and every line of its songs, so much that you really felt your heart go thud when Ji-hyuk pounded on his chest as he belted out that chorus. It’s not something big, but it is something amazing.

My gift to you: Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Twelve Men in a Year

This was a cute, light rom-com among the many cable offerings this year, and though it did hit all the right genre notes and was a really breezy watch, it was ultimately forgettable. It featured a good episodic premise—a woman dates a different guy for each astrological sign of the year, so she can write a featured column about it at her magazine.
It was perhaps a case of false advertising: if you hadn’t told me in your title that there would be a dirty dozen, I would’ve dialed my expectations down to a saucy six-pack.

My gift to you: 12 stuffed stockings.

Rooftop Prince

Rooftop Prince had the problem of being both too silly and too serious—there was about 50% of that drama that didn’t feel like it fit into the rest, and the tone suffered a great deal because of it. I basically loved the cute, light comedy, the fun chemistry between the leads, and the hallmark time-traveling hijinks that you’d tune in for in the first place. I mean, there’s just never a day that newness to the inner workings of a toilet isn’t funny.
It’s a drama that had about four good episodes’ worth of material, and decided to fill the rest with a stable of rotating drama clichés. And even then, I would’ve forgiven a lot of that if the endgame had left me with a resolution that capped off our initial premise with a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Instead I just wanted to throw things, because I may not know all the truths of the universe, but this I know: MY DOPPELGÄNGER IS NOT ME.

My gift to you: Ugly Christmas sweater. Werk it.

The King 2 Hearts

The King 2 Hearts… was a weird drama. In the end it may have left a stronger impression as a romance or even a fantasy-political-action hybrid, but that’s not at all what hooked me on the show. In fact, it was its weirdness that made me watch in the first place. It was just strange—the farcical North-South war rooms, the fisheye faces talking into the camera, the absurd humor of a war breaking out over girl group fandom… It was basically juuuuuust off-kilter enough to make me curious, and then before I knew it, I was the lunatic going: What is this strange new crack and can I have some more?
This show had a really wide pendulum: it ranged from wacky to sweepingly romantic, from action-packed to tear-jerking, and from beautifully-shot (and perfectly-lit) to inducing cries of WTF, bad guys, no really, WTF. But it was ambitious, and idealistic, and it told a complete story from beginning to end, of turning a prince into a person before he could become a king who was his people. And it turns out, when your people are badasses, you can become a pretty awesome king.

My gift to you: A shiny toy bot. *sniff*

Queen In-hyun’s Man

You know, despite romance being the central conflict of almost every drama out there, few are actually romantic. Queen Inhyun’s Man was going to be, by all accounts, just another time-traveling drama in a sea of time-traveling dramas. And an unnoticed underdog on a cable network at that. But it did something smart—it used that time/space conundrum as a device to fuel a romance, instead of the other way around.
The drama stuck to its guns too, and carried that idea to its end—that love, and the human will, can overcome any divide and traverse any distance. I wish the magical mechanism—the how of it all—didn’t come from left field in the final hour, because the message behind it is one I can totally get behind. It’s the stuff of fantasies, the most romantic notion of them all: that love conquers all.

My gift to you: A landline and a cigarette.

A Gentleman’s Dignity

This show takes the cake this year for the drama with the least drama. And though you might think that doesn’t sound half bad, you’d be mistaken, or worse—bored. A Gentleman’s Dignity was a drama that put all its beans into a casting coup, and then stopped working. Because what else do you need when you have Jang Dong-gun headlining your drama?
What I did enjoy about the drama was the focus on men of a certain age, and all the attendant worries and insecurities. When the show was about the friendship, it delivered what we were promised—a frank and funny look at the everyday problems of the modern manchild. And that was fun. It was witty and charming, and the actors were willing to look ridiculous for the part. It just would’ve been great if they had been given a story worth their salt to go with.

My gift to you: Season pass to laser tag.

The Chaser

Oddly enough, in a sea of fantasies, fusion sageuks, and melodramas in 2012, it’s actually a drama like The Chaser that stands out from the pack for being different. It’s best characterized as both a law drama and a political thriller, even though really, it’s just the story of a father trying to get justice for his daughter’s murder, and having to go up against the entire system to do it. It’s one man against The Man, and it turned out some of the most stirring ideas and quiet performances of the year.
This show was dark in its characterization of human nature and greed, but it was also hopeful that the country would find a way to recover in a failed system. There’s a lot more to the hero and villain’s journeys that go beyond election day, but the fact that this man comes back and chooses to put his faith in the system again says it all.

My gift to you: #1 Dad mug.


That theme song just triggers such a visceral reaction in me: I suddenly feel like a masked crusader will leap down from a tall building and fly across my path, on his way to avenge the wrongs of my fellow man. All is right with the world because for every evil empire that springs up, so does a hero who protects the people. That’s the power of a comic book superhero—it’s the archetype and the belief that is more powerful than any one man or woman can ever be. And that, in a nutshell, is what Gaksital proved so compellingly as a drama, a character, and an idea.
What Gakistal managed to do with a fictional hero was imbue a painful part of history with the reminder that there were actual heroes—brave individuals who fought for their country against insurmountable odds, not because they thought they could win, but because they had to fight. Some dramas disappear from your memory like vapor the second you’re not watching anymore, while others leave a range of aftertastes that may be pleasant or terribly bitter. And some dramas cut you so deep you’re left standing by the side of the road, clutching your bleeding heart, and wondering when you’ll ever recover. Maybe never.

But maybe, that’s the way it should be.

My gift to you: Steel underpants. Sumthin’s gotta holster those balls o’ steel.

I Do, I Do

I’ve never loved your run-of-the-mill workplace dramas, and will usually only watch them if they have a particularly great couple who makes the bulk of the corporate plot go by faster. I watched I Do, I Do expecting that with the oops-pregnancy storyline and the noona romance, the work stuff would really take a backseat. Sadly, I was mistaken and I had to sit through a lot of really boring shoe design and characters’ fates hanging in the balance over shoes, which I honestly couldn’t be paid to care about.
I felt a little like Show had invited me to a party and I came with my party hat on, only to be told to wait eight hours till the hostess arrived. No amount of party punch will take the edge off of that.

My gift to you: A chance to raid each other’s shoe closets. This in no way benefits me alone.


So Big committed a lot of drama crimes this year, and many could argue that there are worse dramas (true), more appalling fails in logic (also true), and dramas far less enjoyable in the grand scheme of things (yes, I’ll give you that). But there is something fundamentally different about a drama that negates its own premise—we end up feeling cheated, in a way that overpowers the other stuff. It isn’t quantity, but an emotional response to being told it was all for nothing.
It was clear early on that this show was never going to reach the head of the pack, but the contract you have with your audience is that you will do very minimal job of following through on your own premise. It’s actually mind-boggling to me that a pair of seasoned writers could muck that up somehow. But there you have it. Silver platter, blown to smithereens. Perhaps not the gravest crime ever committed in dramaland, but damn does it ever leave a bite.

My gift to you: A picture of the present I got for your brother.

I Need Romance 2012

This was a spin-off of last year’s winning rom-com I Need Romance that never quite clicked for me. And strangely, I never could quite pinpoint why. I think it was a combination of a lot of little things rather than one gaping flaw, because it has all the ingredients and it tells a whole story, but it never moved me or made me care.
Alas, the series decided not to do anything new this year, so what I got was a lesser version of the show that I saw last year, because I never really took to the characters. Nothing about this drama is bad in and of itself; it’s just tepid, in a genre where everything should be fire and ice.

My gift to you: What you gave me last year.

To The Beautiful You

I did not understand why anyone did anything in this drama. The end.

My gift to you: A chance to explain yourself.

Panda and Hedgehog

This was a bad drama. I was seduced by the pretty pastries, I tell you, and I paid the price. There were things about it that were cute and made it easy to watch, like the main couple who were ridiculously juvenile but also kind of sweet and simple. And the hero’s relationship with his gramps was actually the reason I ever even watched past the first episode.
Overall the drama was half-baked in execution, but I could see that the recipe had good intentions behind it. Too bad good intentions don’t count for beans in dramaland.

My gift to you: A wormhole. Everyone else got one this year. Thought you’d feel left out.

Answer Me, 1997

High school dramas that are done well have this way of unifying an audience, because even though we all define ourselves differently as adults—by occupation, by nationality, by relationship status—the things we feel in adolescence are much the same. Like that terrifying first act of defiance, that all-consuming first crush, that rush of emotion at your first taste of fandom, all part and parcel of the same thing: heightened, intense, raw energy. And even though Answer Me 1997 told a very specific story about a group of kids in one town in the late 90s, it spoke to a larger audience because it captured that universality so pitch-perfectly.
The thing that sticks with me now are the diary-esque voiceovers from the future that tinged everything with a layer of nostalgia and the tone of a bygone era (though not that bygone, *cough*). They capture in one very economical scene the gap between who you were—young, impetuous, passionate about everything—and who you are now. That to me encompasses the feeling of this show more than anything, because it’s that sense of distance and looking back on yourself that it conveyed so keenly. More than the first love, I remember the moments of insecurity, the fights with Dad, the misunderstandings between friends, and the fevered cries of fangirls that defined a generation and embodied everything amazing, overwhelming, and blindingly bright about being young.

My gift to you: My teenage diary, so you can feel MY embarrassing adolescent pain. It’s only fair. You did it to me.

Arang and the Magistrate

Arang and the Magistrate was the most fun I had all year, as a recapper. Sometimes these things don’t always match up: just because a drama is amazing doesn’t actually mean it’s easy to recap, and just because a show is funny doesn’t mean that it’s fun to recap either. I don’t know what the science of it is, and if it involves math you know I’m down for the count. But whatever the reason, Arang and I had a grand ol’ time. It was just breezy, and whimsical, and mysterious in all the right ways, and writing about it was just plain fun.
Arang had a great deal of missteps along the way, notably a scaling down in production as the live shoot caught up with them, a villain who was scary but rather one-dimensional, and a third act that palpably prolonged the conflict for no apparent reason other than it had more episodes left to go. But now that the year is over I can look back and say that Arang is among the best of the shows that 2012 had to offer—it’s not the loudest, the one that claims the most attention, or even the most memorable, but sometimes the wallflower has the most to say, if you just spend a little time with her.

My gift to you: An audience with heaven. Wait… a chance to cheat death. No, no, I got it: another chance to cheat death. Uh… a gift certificate to Olive Garden?


Faith is a production that suffered a great deal before ever airing one episode, languishing in development hell where it suffered its most crippling blow: the loss of a large part of its massive budget. And at the end of the day, it was a loss that it never truly recovered from. Here’s the thing though—that explains the circumstances, but isn’t a viable excuse. A creative director finds a way around any budget cut, because you film around your limitations to hide what it is you lack. This director had all the finesse of a bull in a china shop, and somehow managed to make the flaws even more glaringly apparent. And it kind of killed me.
It was as much about love as honor and duty to one’s promise, which I rather liked, because so often dramas pit love against those things, as if they’re naturally opposed. Though I wanted so much more from the story, it at least managed to do get that one thing right. I suppose a heroic warrior who loves, lives, and dies by his word isn’t the worst thing to walk away from a drama with.

My gift to you: Eggnog recipe from Santa. Puts hair on your chest and makes you forget the last year.

Nice Guy

Okay, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it, to get it out of my system: Dear characters of Nice Guy, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

I feel better, don’t you?

I find the hype around Nice Guy to be really fascinating, because I watched this show calling it a guilty pleasure drama, the way you’d talk about your daytime soap addiction or that one summer you spent watching Temptation Island that you swore to never speak of. I don’t really mean it was of equal quality, but this show was sudsy, just dressed up in fancy clothes. That made it fun to watch actually, because it zoomed along with one life-altering secret exposed after another, memories gone, recovered, then gone again soon after, and the ace in the hole—exploding brain—rearing its ugly head whenever the threat of total destruction wasn’t quite up to par.
This show doesn’t leave much behind for me, because it’s the kind of drama that’s enjoyable at the time and doesn’t leave much of an aftertaste. Though I guess it does leave me with the faint association of sneaking around the parents’ liquor cabinet. Because if watching a bunch of people tear each other’s lives apart isn’t a guilty pleasure drama, I don’t know what is.
My gift to you: A lump of coal, you naughty boy.

Vampire Prosecutor 2

This season of Vampire Prosecutor has me torn. On the one hand, I love, love, love Yeon Jung-hoon as this character. It’s just my favorite thing he’s ever done, and I want him to BE the vampire prosecutor in real life (okay, just the ‘tude, minus the blood-sucking). It’s the kind of character you want to see someone play for ten years and be so sick of that he refuses to talk about it in interviews afterwards because we can’t stop seeing him as that guy. And all signs point to cable network OCN wanting the same.
Mostly we were left with a second season that felt like a bridge to somewhere else. And while bridges are necessary, if you don’t bring us to the other side of wherever it is you’re going by the end of it, you leave us annoyed and wondering if maybe we should just head back the way we came. The thing is, I’m not sure that the writers know where they’re going either, and if they do, they’re being so damn stingy about sharing any information that we feel left behind in the process. I want you to be better. I want to watch Yeon Jung-hoon be the sexy bastard until it is no longer believable that he is a vampire who doesn’t age. But you gotta give us more than breadcrumbs, no matter how hot, cold, or undead your hero might be.

My gift to you: Tickets to Muppets on Ice. I hear they’re doing Count von Count’s origin story this year.


King of Dramas

What a fun show. So many (and really, too many) dramas use dramaland itself as a backdrop because it’s easy, familiar, and best of all, cost-effective. But few ever delve into the world in any meaningful way. That’s why King of Dramas, despite doing nothing particularly new, is actually immensely refreshing. It feels new because it’s unapologetic and incisive, and yet not so self-serious that you’d roll your eyes at the drama that wants to say something about Dramas. It has the perfect amount of undercutting and self-mockery to keep it firmly planted in fun and witty territory, even if you can tell this a show that loves itself, a whole lot.
Of course the winning combination in this show is the yin and the yang of our two main characters, one world-weary veteran producer who’s seen it all and one bushy-tailed rookie writer whose dreams are finally coming true. They keep the thing from going too far in either extreme, because for every jaded snarky meta reference, it also has an idealistic bright-eyed moment, reminding us that sometimes, the people who make dramas love them as much as we do.

My gift to you: Your ego in cat form. So you can stroke it yourself.

I Miss You

This drama wants to cause me pain, and I don’t know what I ever did to it. The thing is, I don’t actually feel all that much pain when I watch. It so clearly wants my tears; I can see the artifice in the drama’s execution, pulling every one of its drama muscles, begging me to cry. The story is engaging enough to watch, but for a melodrama that’s all about the tears, it isn’t actually very moving. It’s putting the cart before the horse; you have to give me reason to cry, not show me lots of crying.
Of the love thread, the bad daddy thread, and the murder thread, I actually think the murder is the most interesting of the three major storylines, and would rather it be more of a murder mystery all the way instead of meandering a little here and a little there. I want the drama to commit to a direction, but I have a feeling it’s already chosen one and the only thing at the end of that road is TEARS.

My gift to you: A letter telling you that even though I’m standing in front of you to tell you that I miss you, I can’t face you because it hurts too much to miss you knowing you miss me, so I can’t tell you that I miss you. Hence the letter.

And on THAT up-note…

Thanks to javabeans for being a kickass Head Bean In Charge, our recap minions kaedejun, gummimochi, and HeadsNo2 for sharing their reviews and recaps with us throughout the year, and mostly to all of you — our faithful, nutty, one-of-a-kind readers of Dramabeans — for making 2012 a fantastic year.

Stay tuned for more year-end goodness, including Editors’ Picks, coming soon!

Source Dramabeans
exo_cath 25th-Dec-2012 11:12 pm (UTC)
I actually really liked Panda and the Hedgehog :') I love how the two main leads who were mean't to be enemies ended up being really good friends which is definitely different to other dramas and a good change :3 I loved Donghae's relationship with his grandfather! It gave the drama a friendly kind of atmosphere to me. I also though the ending was really cute :)

Plus it just kept me entertained and interested even if it wasn't over dramatic like other dramas. Everyone did a good job with the acting to me. I personally think Donghae's acting has improved a lot. I can't wait to watch the new movie he's going to be in!

But omg I hated Donghae's character's dad /so/ much. Couldn't stand him

Edited at 2012-12-25 11:15 pm (UTC)
waterpulse 25th-Dec-2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
LMAO @ the gift to 'To Beautiful You' 壁||∇≦)))ノ彡☆ キャハハ!!
myquiveringhole Queen Inhyuns Man25th-Dec-2012 11:42 pm (UTC)
<3 I have never loved any other drama as much.
tsuyoi_hikari 26th-Dec-2012 02:33 am (UTC)
The list of dramas I enjoyed this year:
1) Gaksital
2) Rooftop Prince
3) A Gentleman’s Dignity
4) The Moon that Embraces the Sun
5) Queen In Hyun's Man
sandritablue 26th-Dec-2012 07:58 am (UTC)
My favorite this year was Reply 1997 hands down and second Nice Guy.

Gentleman's Dignity was a total dissapointment to me as a fan of JDG since "All about eve", i found myself not even caring about the main couple. I kept watching because MinSok & Rock were my favorite couple...also the guy who played the student, Woo Bin, was awesome and he deserved more airtime imo.

Faith was another dissapointed, i had so much expectations but the drama became mehh in the middle...Lee Min Ho was awesome in the drama but the plot was a bit lacking.
honeebs 26th-Dec-2012 03:12 pm (UTC)
Geez I haven't watched a drama since city hunter. I just don't have time. I want to find time but then comes WHAT to watch.
queenhinata 26th-Dec-2012 08:55 pm (UTC)
I loved Shut Up Flower Boyband and Reply 1997. I never made it past episode 2 of To the Beautiful You lol. And Nice Guy has been awesome so far (halfway through it rn :3).
This page was loaded Feb 21st 2018, 1:13 pm GMT.