The Kdramas of 2016: Q4 Roundup

Drinking Solo

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Drinking may be considered a social activity, but sometimes people prefer to drink alone for various reasons (and in different styles). The drama depicts the life in Noryangjin, a district in Seoul known for its academies for those taking the civil service examinations. Park Ha-na is a diligent rookie lecturer who could be a little too nice for her own good. She unwittingly creates a misunderstanding with Jin Jung-suk – a sought-after instructor with discriminating taste and a prickly personality.

The good:
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The quirky characters.From the teachers to the students, I absolutely loved everyone on the show – flaws and all (obviously some more than others). They were realistic enough to be relatable; but they’re not boring, as their colorful personalities gave them individuality. They were all weird in a good way, each of them were both funny and frustrating, and the show’s humor did not take away the depth of each of their stories. One of my early favorites was Ki-bum, who had me hooked with his signature look and easygoing personality (awesome job, Key!). And I’m thankful that I didn’t know much about the cast’s acting history (honestly, it was only Gong Myung that I’ve seen before) because it allowed me to see them not as actors but more as their characters.

The fluid pace. I really enjoy watching slice-of-life dramas as they don’t need big scenes or earth-shattering plot twists to keep the story going. Noryjangjin was an interesting backdrop to depict the ups and downs of regular people – without the chaebols, the evil moms, and the scheming rivals. With well-written characters the plot unfolds with ease just by following their individual journeys, and with good storytelling there was no dull moment in the drama. Others may find it too slow, though.

The foodporn. I do believe Ha Suk-jin got the best role in this drama, only because he was able to taste amazing food every single day! Taking the spirit of Let’s Eat, this show knows how to whet one’s appetite with its scrumptious food shots. Jin Jung-suk’s “quality” drinking ritual each episode was a good visualization of his personality and of the eventual changes in his character.

The bad:
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The romance. I really wouldn’t tag this drama as a romcom. Not at all. Gah! The so-called romance between the main couple was frustrating until the end, no thanks to their personalities and Kdrama clichés. Romance was not a strong suit of this drama in general, but I survived with puppy Gong Myung’s swoon-worthy moments and Jung-suk’s occasional smiles. It’s a good thing I didn’t watch this for the romance, and that the other parts of the show were worth watching.

The verdict:
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It was a short ride for the people of Noryangjin and I believe there’s so much that still could’ve been explored with their stories. For a drama about drinking, I was concerned that all I’d be getting were drunken behavior, slurry speech, and bad decisions. Thankfully Drinking Solo was able to elevate its theme and make poignant stories out of its characters’ drinking habits. It may have left some people dissatisfied with the resolution, but I thought the ending went well with the slice of life feel of the whole drama. With all the amazing productions tvN has already churned out in the year, this little gem also gains my approval, for getting me invested in such wonderful characters.

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