First Impression: New JTBC Drama ‘Fantastic’ is Gives More than Celebrity Romance

My Friday-Saturday drama lineup suddenly felt empty after Age of Youth and The Good Wife said goodbye last week, which no amount of cohabitation hijinks from Cinderella and the Four Knights can solely fill. Hence I checked out the new JTBC drama FantastiC (while I still got spare time in my hands), which at the very least would let me see Ji-soo. Maybe it’s premiere burnout (my slate just looks totally different from a few weeks ago), but this drama didn’t quite captivate me as much as its predecessor AoY did. But it has some potential; and it looks like the K-audience are responding positively, maintaining ratings above 2% on its opening weekend (at 2.2%, 2.4%).

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Fantastic (stylized as FantastiC) doesn’t reinvent the wheel with its premise: a love story begins (or continues?) when popular drama writer Lee So-hye (Kim Hyun-joo) reluctantly works with arrogant, “foot-acting” Hallyu star Ryu Hae-sung (Joo Sang-wook) on her latest project. And this may just be her last, from what a supposedly friendly visit to the doctor revealed to her.

This reminds me of yet another cliché-filled ongoing drama Uncontrollably Fond, but I do hope this story takes us on a more positive and fulfilling journey. Coincidentally, new SBS drama Jealousy Incarnate also took on the Big C, yet we still don’t know how far they’re going with that subject. But as far as Fantastic goes, its initial lightheartedness and strong characters can create a different spin on this kind of story.

She’s a workaholic without much of a personal life to speak of, only a strained family relationship and a couple of treasured high school friends. But I love how she’s a confident career woman who takes pride in her work, and a strong individual who may mask everything with sarcasm but is deep inside reflective. He’s a vain celebrity coming back from a successful stint in China, whose only redeeming quality so far is his fondness for his grandmother – even to the point that he does “aegyo” in front of her. They do nothing but clash with each other and plot little revenge schemes behind each other’s backs. And when mature, successful grownups (with hints of a history together) are bent on annoying each other, it will almost always result in falling in love – the K-drama manual says so.

But it’s not all laughs for this show, obviously, especially with *that* problem our heroine is facing. We also see the life of her close friend Baek Seol (Park Shi-yeon), the once-badass popular student who has been reduced to nothing more than a maid (maybe even a puppet) in her in-laws’ household. Being trapped in such a cold and sham of a married life is suffocating and frustrating, and I love how Park Shi-yeon balances her brimming emotions with restraint.

The first two episodes seem to be steady enough, but have not given me anything exciting to latch on to just yet. I’m on a wait-and-see mode for this drama, as there are still many others in the horizon that are about to pilot. Maybe I’ll hold my final judgement until Ji-soo appears to round out the cast. Then we’ll see what kind of journey this drama will take me, and whether it will indeed be “fantastic”.

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