Just like that.
Another winter is here and a brand new year is upon us. And that means hundreds of hours spent drama gazing, weeping, laughing, cherishing but also sometimes eye-rolling, chastising, and growling.
In total, I watched 13 full-length 2016 dramas this year: 2 Chinese, 1 Taiwanese, 1 Chinese/Korean collaboration and 9 Korean. Ah. So — kdramas still reign supreme.
As a whole, none in my 2016 trough made it to the holy grail of my masterpiece mount but a few got pretty darn close.
So, here’s an alphabetical run-down on my 2016 finds.
One of the two that was almost perfect and Jang Hyuk had plenty to do with it. Brilliant, simply brilliant acting.
One medical mystery drama done right. It may come across as confusing with so many complex themes intertwined into one show: psychological thriller, murder mystery, romance and your usual dose of hospital politics.
Unpredictable, thoughtful, its characters are mega-rich but also mega-flawed.
Verdict: Hidden Gem
Cheese In the Trap
Slice of life drama that sure generated a whole bunch of controversies. Put that aside it was a delightfully interesting character-driven drama with a strong, compelling cast.
The secret sauce for me was Kim Go Eun. My first time watching her and she doesn’t disappoint. Understated but quietly bewitching. I loved the way she portrayed Seol. Very down to earth, flawed, at times selfish but real. A story about two awkward individuals with their own warts but ultimately drawn to each other despite the external forces seeking to tear them apart.
Verdict: Deceivingly Entertaining
Descendants of the Sun
What can I say about this one that’s not already been said? Song Joong Ki’s comeback drama. Beautiful Song Hye Kyo. Doctors and soldiers falling in love amid war and strife – settings and characters that are ripe for epic storytelling.
I built up the anticipation so much in my head so no wonder it finished on the flat side for me. Despite it breaking all records, it eludes mine. Good but not magical.
Verdict: Popped Expectations
Far Away Love
Park Hae Jin triggered my interest and luckily it had enough oomph to keep me glued. Friendships take center stage in this tale of mother against son and besties against vixen.
Show has all the shortcomings you’d expect from a contemporary cdrama. It looks, feels, and sounds cliche but as a perennial sucker for swoony, starry-eyed rich guy, poor girl love story, I quite enjoyed it.
Verdict: Cheesy Delight
Go Ho’s Starry Night
Reminds me of the Cover Girl tagline — easy, breezy, beautiful. This office rom-com explodes with sweetness and laugh-out-loud moments.
Spunky female character meets overbearing boss. This short web drama is on point and never drags.
Verdict: Satisfying Filler
A quirky drama that embodies the extraordinary. Modern family, male breast cancer, live-ins, impotence, mother-stepmother bonding, office politics without the politics, hospital dance routine and to top it off a spine-tingling kiss rarely seen in prime-time kdramas.
A modern, sassy show where it is hard to quibble with any character. Together they bring us goofy adorability with heart-wrenching moments without shying away from the adult subjects.
Verdict: Daringly Different
Start with your typical drama canvas and throw out all the cliche tropes — evil-in-laws, amnesia, birth secrets, star-crossed love; stir in a couple of clean-cut, good-looking, charismatic leads and endow them with to-die-for character traits; mix in online gaming backstory and college romance — voila!
There you have it — the successful formula that makes up Love 020.
Verdict: Youthful Pleasure
Office rom-com with corporate warfare thrown in. Predictable, slightly over the top. I like the backstory of role reversal between the OTP. The sexual tension in the beginning kept me going but gotta admit once Yu Tang and Wen Kai got together, it made for a far less interesting story. Loved Ai Sha, the beautiful, loyal and super-smart secretary without a mean bone in her. She’s my favorite character on the show.
Yu Tang’s tenacity rallying Sales Team 3 is uplifting showing some good raw materials but alas, it never quite managed greatness.
Verdict: Bubbly Cliche
Second to Last Love
A kdrama for grownups! Story of a career woman who has mastered the rat-race and lost the love of her life. Icy and strong, Min Joo’s life takes a turn when she meets Sang Shik, a straight-laced single father plagued with a tragic past.
Together they fight for justice and learn to trust and love. A classy, light-hearted romantic drama, well-acted and appropriately cast. And to add to its charm, the cinematography is simply spectacular, making Woori a picture perfect postcard destination.
Verdict: Singularly Charming
One of a kind time travel, action-packed CSI fest. Great story, great characters, great plots, great everything. One complex show that demands attention. Be prepared to rewind, not just once but twice or more.
The nuances are just that important to get the gist of the story. If you have a forensic mind, this is a must-watch.
Verdict: Best in Class
Sweet Stranger and Me
Story started out promising but got draggy and pointless midway through. An unorthodox premise of old crush turn stepfather relationship story with hints of mystery and tension that fizzled.
Lovely leads and great acting kept me watching but sum of parts failed to make it a whole on this one.
Verdict: Sweet but No Cigar
Another one that was super hyped up but failed in its delivery. Save for the superb acting and chemistry of Song Yoon-Ah and Ji Chang Wook, the other plot points did nothing for me.
Rather than letting the action weave into the plots, show tried too hard to showcase Ji Chang Wook’s fighting skills and Yoona’s pretty face.
Verdict: Less is More
Depressing and angst-filled melo but even melos have redeeming qualities that make you care about its characters.
Started out really strong for me but halfway through my empathy had waned. I wanted so much to cheer for Joon Yeong and Noh Eul but the repeat tug and war mind games wore me down and I no longer cheered for anyone in particular except for Pororo.
Verdict: Missed the Mark
There. That’s a wrap for 2016. 2017 dramas — here I come.