New Review: Hi Venus (2023)

Joseph Zeng and Liang Jie in a poster for the Chinese television series Hi Venus.

A feel-good Chinese romcom about a female doctor from a poor background who is forced to become the hospital director’s assistant.

This is not another one of your usual medical dramas – in fact, doctoring plays only a small role, as the focus is on the administrative aspect of health care. Not only are we spared medical case after medical case (can you tell I’m not a fan of most medical shows?) but this romcom also involves no major love triangles, no jerky boss, no evil parents, no childhood connection between our leads, and shockingly enough for K-drama fans … no serial killer! And still, I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode of this drama about two adults who kept bickering and verbally sparring while slowly becoming more and more emotionally attached.

After a bit of stumbling in the beginning, this series does everything right — plot-wise (no boring episodes) and character-wise (except dressing the FL in horrible frumpy clothes for most of the show). One other imperfection is the incredibly stupid plot twist in episode 22 and the FL’s nonsensical response. Despite this unnecessary annoyance, it’s great fun to spend time with our leads all the way to the perfect happy end. Light-hearted, humorous, blessedly stress-free.

Excellent minus.

Youku (China). Written by Wang Xiong Cheng.


New Review: Extraordinary Attorney Woo (2022)

Korean actors Park Eun Bin and Kang Tae Oh in a scene from Extraordinary Attorney Woo K-drama

This popular legal drama is owned by actress Park Eun Bin who plays talented Attorney Woo, a rookie lawyer on the autism spectrum working at a top law firm. It is an amazing, touching performance, based on a superbly written character. We witness her inner struggles about work, friends and family (and, later on, romance) and see the often socially awkward interactions from her perspective.

With a sweet love interest, a wide variety of colleagues, and hilarious friends, the show offers some of the most finely drawn characters in the dramaworld — plus a simply delightful romance. However, almost every episode deals with another new case and has an extended court room scene with Attorney Woo saving the day. If, like me, you find this type of repetitive plot structure tiresome, the drama’s unique charm just might win you over despite this issue.

Characters/writing: Excellent. Plot: okay.

ENA. Netflix. Written by Moon Ji Won.

New Review: Shooting Stars (2022)

Promo image for the Korean drama Shooting Stars featuring Lee Sung Kyung and Kim Young Dae.

Focusing on events taking place at an artist management agency, this is probably the best behind-the-scenes show about the Korean dramaworld – well, certainly one of the funniest. This is mostly due to the many finely drawn supporting characters (from clueless interns to bizarrely behaving actors) that you can’t help but wonder if they are inspired by real-life models. Numerous cameos from real K-drama stars and the screwball romance of the head of the PR department (the amazing Lee Sung Kyung, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo) with the company’s biggest star (Kim Young Dae) are other highlights of the show.

This well-written mix of workplace comedy and rom-com is somewhat bogged down in the last third by some “more serious” plot developments, but in the last couple of episodes we’re back in comedy mode. Entertaining, amusing and simply just a lot of fun to watch. Don’t miss it. Excellent minus.

tvN. Written by Choi Young Woo.

New Review: From Now On, Showtime! (2022)

Photo of scene from the K-drama "From Now On, Showtime," starring Park Hae-Jin

A wild genre mix with an exceptional cast. It has all the stuff I usually don’t like in dramas, like ghosts, evil spirits, and serial killers, but to my surprise they are packaged in such a funny and charming show that they lose much of their scariness – and you can always skip a scene or two if they get to you.

Park Hae Jin (Far Away Love, My Love from the Star) plays a famous magician who is able to pull off the most amazing tricks – simply because he has three invisible ghosts working for him. Most of the plot deals with him partnering up with a female police officer (Jin Ki Joo) with whom he shares a complex past and a romantic present.

The banter between the magician, his house spirit and the ghostly crew is hilarious; the leads are gorgeous; and the touch of noble idiocy can easily be overlooked in a very satisfying ending. Excellent minus.

MBC/Viu. Written by Ha Yoon Ah.

A photo of Park Hae Jin hugging Jin Ki Joo, starring in the Korean Drama "From Now On, Showtime."
Jin Ki Joo (left) with Park Hae Jin, starring in From Now On, Showtime.

New Review: Business Proposal (2022)

A surprising hit on Netflix. A well done, self-ironic rom-com about a CEO (Ahn Hyo Seop, Father is Strange) who falls for an imposter (Kim Se Jeong) posing as his blind date.

All the fluff you want with no angst, no love triangle and an interesting second lead couple who dares to defy the trope-ical family obligations. After watching so many family dramas with role models who are ready to give up on their romances to appease their families, it was refreshing to see a female protagonist stand up to her father’s interference. A special shout-out to the hilarious Lee Deok Hwa who plays the CEO’s grandfather and likes nothing better than watching K-dramas. Well, we all can relate to that, can’t we? Excellent.


Written by Han Seol Hee and Hong Bo Hee.

New Review: Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021)

Kim Seon-ho as Du-sik and Shin Min-a as Hye-jin in the Korean drama Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha

A big city girl (Shin Min-a, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho) moves from Seoul to a small seaside village where she encounters jack-of-all-trades Chief Hong (Kim Seon Ho). In a reversal of the traditional drama trope, here it is the male lead that whips the female lead into shape – in this case to fit into the village community.
An adorably deep-dimpled lead couple, a variety of amusing side characters who have their own happy endings, and pretty scenery make for a relaxing watch. A less perfect male lead and a more convincing explanation for his hyper-helpful behaviour would have made this an even better rose-colored treat.
tvn/Netflix. Written by Shin Ha Eun.

New Review: My Roommate is a Gumiho (2021)

Poster for korean drama my roommate is a gumiho featuring Jang Ki Yong and Lee Hye Ri

A fantasy rom-com about a mythical creature who accidentally gets involved with a female college student in his attempt to become a human being. It’s so refreshing to see a super-nice and introverted male lead (Jang Ki Yong). He is also the perfect foil for Lee Hye Ri’s bubbly and straightforward character, probably one of my favorite female leads in recent years – it’s simply so much fun just watching her antics. Add to this one of the funniest second lead couples (Kang Han Na and Kim Do Wan, both from Start-Up) and you know you have a winner. Plot is generally fine but the last third has a little more angst that I’d like plus a touch of noble idiocy and an annoying male that can’t take no for an answer. In general: Light, fluffy, and lots and lots of cuteness. Excellent.

Poster for My Roommate is a Gumiho Korean Drama

New Review: Imitation (2021)

Imitation Korean Drama image of stars

An illuminating drama about the pressure-cooker world of K-Pop. In an environment of merciless competition and cut-throat business decisions, where people are treated as commodities, romance is a dangerous thing. One wrong move or even a rumor can end an idol’s career. Director Han Hyun Hee (Rookie Historian) as well as writers Choi Sun Young and Kim Min Jung (Love in the Moonlight) deliver a tightly scripted and engaging drama about life as an idol beyond the fun and fame. One caveat, though: The much-appreciated happy ending feels rushed and overly rose-colored. Still, a good drama to watch, especially if you’re interested in the Korean entertainment world.

KBS2. Written by Choi Sun Young and Kim Min Jung.

New Review: 18 Again (2020)

Korean Drama 18 again promo poster

An addictive drama about a middle-aged man (Yoon Sang Hyun, Secret Garden, My Fair Lady) whose body reverses back to how it was when he was 18. While it provides plenty of opportunities to laugh, this is not a straightforward comedy but rather a story about redemption: how the now younger-looking male lead (Lee Do Hyun) desperately tries to fix his mistakes as a husband and father by becoming friends with his children and a pillar of strength for his ex-wife (Kim Ha Neul).

Korean drama at its best: a fantasy premise, tight plot, superb actors, and a mix of comedy and melodrama that pulls on your heartstrings. Excellent.

JTBC. Written by Ahn Eun Bin, Choi Yi Ryool, Kim Do Yeon.

New Review: Once Again (2020)

Once Again Korean Drama promo poster

When you need some comfort food for the soul and that bowl of ramen just isn’t cutting it, this cozy family drama could be the answer. It’s a melodrama-free story about a family with three divorced children (and a fourth with a wedding disaster) who take 100 half-hour episodes to pair up again. Of course, there’s also a birth mystery.

Directed by Lee Jae Sang, it has a similar tone to his outstanding 2017 family drama Father is Strange but, unsurprisingly, doesn’t match its stellar quality – somehow the plot and characters in Once Again don’t draw you in as much. It’s one of those dramas that are fun and entertaining to watch once but not once again (sorry, couldn’t resist it!) Anyway, if you’re looking for a stress-free and pleasant family drama, this is a good choice.

KBS. Written by Yang Hee Seung and Ahn Ah Reum.