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.

SBS/Netflix

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.

New Review: Soul Mechanic / Fix You (2020)

Poster for the Korean Drama Fix You showing Shin Ha Kyun and Jung So MinThis ambitious drama shines a light on the Korean mental health care system and challenges current approaches to mental health. The hero is eccentric hospital psychologist Lee Shi Joon (Shin Ha Kyun, All About My Romance), who uses unconventional treatment methods and is not afraid to cross professional boundaries if it helps his patients.
Despite his sometimes controversial behavior – he gets romantically involved with one of his patients (Jung So Min, Father is Strange, Because this Life is our First, Playful Kiss) – the drama provides a thoughtful introduction to the world of mental illness. But what really draws in the viewer is the sensitive portrayal of Jung So Min’s character who so desperately struggles with her anger, her insecurity and her abandonment issues.
A very good drama with a low-key romance and another spectacular performance by Jung So Min. Why her character’s clothing choices are often so atrocious remains a mystery to the end.

Jung So Min star of Fix You - Soul Mechanic

New Review: Bride of the Century (2014)

Poster for Korean Drama Bride of the Century showing Lee Hong Gi and Yang Jin Sung.

Two scheming mothers, a family curse and a ghost are part of a story in which a chaebol heir (Lee Hong Gi, You’re Beautiful) falls for the lookalike impostor (Yang Jin Sung) of his intended bride. This is a strongly plot-driven drama with an abundance of twists and turns that keep you glued to the screen. Funny, romantic, suspenseful (but not scary) with a touch of fantasy like the best of classic K-dramas. After episode 13, it becomes more melodramatic and the female lead’s actions become less comprehensible. The road to the happy ending is much longer than it should be – like in other older K-dramas. Up to episode 13: excellent. Rest: good.