The Kdramas of 2016: Q4 Roundup

Just like that, the first two weeks of 2017 already flew by, and dramaland seems to sustain its momentum from the good productions it gave last year. This makes me optimistic that 2017 will just get better, with my current favorites –Goblin, Hwarang and the recently-concluded Weighlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo making their (hopefully epic) finales in the first quarter, and some buzzworthy productions on the horizon.

But before I immerse myself with new dramas, let me go back to some of the talked-about productions I followed that wrapped up in the last quarter of 2016. Some were hits with both the local and international audience, while others surprisingly weren’t able to please all. And yeah, even though I was gung-ho about watching more dramas and writing reviews on all of them, I had to drop a few shows this time around.

*As always, kept this post as spoiler-free as possible*

Cinderella and the Four Knights

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The gist:

It’s a modern-day Cinderella story about an unfortunate but optimistic Eun Ha-won who ends up living in a mansion with the rich, handsome, and popular Kang cousins. Her task: to make these estranged cousins into a real family.

The good:

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The promise of fluff, romance, and overall good vibes. I don’t mind fluffy dramas every once in a while, especially if the show really *intended* to be such. With the title alone (along with the casting), I expected C4K to offer cuteness and clichés all around, reminiscent of old-school dramas. And for the first half of the show, I think it did just that. It’s another reverse harem with handsome men, much to the delight of the female audience. I myself have no complaints.

Park So-dam as Eun Ha-won and her chemistry with the rest of the cast. It’s one of those dramas that genuinely felt like the lead could go with literally anyone. I still remember how anybody’s game in the early episodes, and the audience had major second lead, third lead, fourth lead feels – which could actually change every week (I know I was guilty of that). I think for the most part it was really Park So-dam’s charm and acting skills that made each loveline work. Her portrayal of her cheery character lights up the screen, and she’s able to bounce the energy off to the other actors.

The bad:

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*tries to calm down. breathe in, breathe out.*

The awful writing. There’s no other way to put it. With very little plot, forced and illogical scenes, and poor characterization, this show could make you scratch your head in frustration. As much as I wanted to understand these characters and root for them, I couldn’t buy into their journey without a proper set up of their motivations. The show drove me crazy with the kind of conflict and plot twists it threw around to extend the story. What I hated the most is how spunky characters became less and less interesting as the story progressed (or should I say regressed?).

The sound direction. Watching other dramas with superb music scoring and winning OSTs highlighted this show’s flawed sound editing. The misuse and overuse of their OST, the choir of angels, and the tinkling sound in random scenes (just whyyy?) became annoying over time. It really didn’t help the production at all.

Hye-ji/Son Na-eun. No offense to Naeun and Apink fans (I myself like Apink, by the way) but really, her storyline dragged the drama down for me. As I said earlier, I really want to root for each one of thesecharacters, Hye-ji included, but the poor writing and the weak acting was too much to take given her long exposure in the drama. I’m usually lenient with idol actors in contemporary youth dramas because it’s the perfect genre to improve their acting (after all, not everyone’s an acting savant), and at the same time display their idol charm. Naeun’s deadpan expression and overall lack of emotion became an exception though. Not that Ahn Jae-hyun was capable of salvaging their scenes either. I actually stopped watching this drama for a while when their storyline got more screen time.

The verdict:

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It started out as a weekly guilty pleasure that later on became a chore to watch with all the misplaced angst and frustrating elements. The overall execution could get a little too cheesy and dated, but fans of classic dramas like Boys over Flowers may find this blast from the past right up their alley. However, as a pre-produced drama (meaning, the production team had time to fix things), and a webtoon adaptation (meaning, the story must have some following), I expected a little more quality and production value despite the light storyline. It’s a bit of a waste of Park So-dam’s and Jung Il-woo’s talents, who could have really shone with a better material. But despite the flaws – and there were many of them – Cinderella and the Four Knights can be appreciated as a no-brainer show with a cast that’s easy on the eyes. Maybe it would have been so much better if it was on a shorter format – like a web drama or a 3-episode drama short.

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