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.
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Q3 Pitstop: The Kdramas of 2016

Let the good dramas roll! 2016 is proving to be a strong drama year in the land of K-entertainment, continuing its streak with a bunch of summer dramas – anticipated hits and pleasant surprises alike – that captivated the audience. And with all these shows airing simultaneously, the battle for viewership got much more heated. Whichever side you’re on, all is fair in ratings war.

I especially loved the cable dramas that came out this year, thanks to their fresh content and hard-hitting themes. tvN continues to rock my world, and I found new favorites from OCN and JTBC. The main networks had some treasures too.

I was supposed to wrap up these dramas by yearend (like what I did in my midyear review), but I realized my list has gone a bit too long, and I found myself having a lot more to say about this batch. So I’m dividing the second half of the year and give you now a rundown of the dramas completed within July to September 2016.

*No plot details revealed. There may be minor hints here and there but nothing that will ruin your own drama experience.*
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Amnesia, Cohabitation, and Lots of Clinginess in New Fall Drama ‘Shopping King Louis’

Seo In-guk is one busy man. I haven’t quite gotten over his clever cons and occasional satoori in 38 Task Force and now he’s back in dramaland – speaking random English and French!

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New MBC Wed-Thu drama Shopping King Louis opened this week, promising a quirky romance between an amnesiac chaebol raised abroad and a kindhearted (this seems to be an understatement) country bumpkin. Honestly though, it started out as a bit too weird and ridiculous for my liking, but the main couple’s winning performances got me watching on. The second episode is much better with the chemistry and cuteness now that the hijinks are kicking in. However I’m still cautious that things may spiral out of control in the future. I’ve already been burned by quite a number of dramas to be blindly optimistic.
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Raise Your Glass for the Premiere Week of ‘Drinking Solo’

This is a drama that lured me to watch solely by its title. The phrase “drinking solo” bears a negative connotation (I presume more so in Asian countries than the West), but it can be comforting and liberating when you let it. I should know; I’ve done it too. And I was intrigued as to how this show will interpret the title.

So I jumped in without any expectations – I don’t know the actors except for Gong Myung (whom I completely forgot about until I saw him appear onscreen) and I haven’t seen the Let’s Eat series (which inspired this spinoff). I might have imagined some dramatic brandy-pouring or wine tasting 101, but I’m glad Drinking Solo (also known as Let’s Drink) is actually heavier on the human angle than plain alcohol appreciation. It looks at the different approaches to drinking, and the different reasons why people do so.
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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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Drama Premiere: The Time Travel Begins on ‘Moon Lovers – Scarlet Heart: Ryeo’

It’s finally here. The much-anticipated SBS sageuk remake of highly-popular Chinese novel-turned-series Bu Bu Jing Xin premiered this week, airing two back-to-back episodes on its first night.  Moon Lovers – Scarlet Heart: Ryeo is considered to be a production Goliath – armed with a big budget, a 100% pre-produced format, and many of today’s hottest names in K-entertainment. This formula so far has no guaranteed results, as demonstrated by the opposite reception on its predecessors Descendants of the Sun and Uncontrollably Fond.

Loosely inspired by Korea’s own history, Scarlet Heart Ryeo follows the story of a modern-day woman named Go Ha-jin who gets transported back to the Goryeo Dynasty, and finds herself in the body of a girl named Hae Soo. She gets entangled with the many princes of the empire, who are at the onset of a power struggle. I somehow think of it as Game of Thrones-slash-shoujo manga, with its multi-cast fight-over-the-throne aspect and reverse harem with seven flower princes. That alone pretty much sounds like a dream come true to me.
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#OnMyDramaRadar 3: This Week in Dramas

It’s one busy week of hellos and goodbyes in Kdramaland. But with FIVE drama premieres this week, I simply cannot (and will not!) take on all of them. Meanwhile, the Olympics makes one final pre-emption on the side of Jdramas, which will be somehow compensated come next week. So I’m skipping Jdramaland this week altogether.

As always, these mini-reactions will be short, sweet, and spoiler-free. Let’s get to it.
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Drama Pilot Week: It’s Raining Jealousy, Characters (and Controversy?) on ‘Jealousy Incarnate’

New SBS Wed-Thu romcom Jealousy Incarnate (aka Don’t Dare to Dream) is exactly what I expected on its premiere week – hilarious, quirky, and on its way to a storm of jealousy hijinks. The pilot episode’s messy editing and cluttered character intros may be a little off-putting, but overall I like it. I want to like it. There’s hope that the lead trio Jo Jung-seok, Gong Hyo-jin, and Go Kyung-pyo will come through for me, and will give me sunny romance and a pleasant ride throughout the drama’s 24-episode run.
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‘Moonlight Drawn by Clouds’ Premiere Week: Is Park Bo-gum Safe from the “Reply Curse”?

Fusion youth sageuk Moonlight Drawn by Clouds premiered this week with decent ratings, pulling 8.3% and 8.5% viewership on its first two episodes. While it falls behind competing dramas Doctors (which aired its final three episodes this week at 19.5%, 17.8%, and 20.2%, respectively) and Monster (grabbing 8.9% and 9.7% viewership ratings), it already made a big leap from predecessor Beautiful Mind, which ended only at 3.2%.

The first to premiere among the three highly-anticipated youth sageuks this year (along with another “moon” drama Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart: Ryeo and Hwarang: The Beginning), many are curious as to how Park Bo-gum’s post-Reply 1988 drama will fare – and if he will be able to escape the “curse”.
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On My Drama Radar: My Week in Dramas

I guess it’s better to be drowning in dramas than to have nothing worth watching at all, so I’m happily ‘busy’ keeping up with what dramaland has to offer. It’s definitely a challenge, though; because just missing almost two weeks of dramas (with the exception Beautiful Mind, of course) meant spending my weekend on lockdown to catch up. Goodbye, social life.

It’s been a while since I first blogged about my current watchlist, and several dramas already came and went in between (they’d be featured some other time). But just like last time, I’m going to write my quick thoughts on these shows as of the latest episode I’ve seen.
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