Last Week in Dramaworld: One Timeslot, Three Premieres

Another eventful week in dramaland as the big three networks simultaneously premiered their newest Wed-Thu fall dramas last week – SBS with megaproduction Legend of the Blue Sea, KBS with family melodrama Oh My Geum-bi, and MBC with youth sports drama Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo. I love the diversity in this batch that caters to different audiences (they should learn from the counterproductive overabundance of medical dramas and sageuks in one timeslot earlier this year grr). It’s pretty clear that SBS would be the ratings leader this time, and people are just speculating as to how much – i.e., would Legend easily surpass the peak of Descendants of the Sun? But we shouldn’t easily write off its competition, which also deserve viewers’ attention.

I’ve watched all three premieres and will be sharing my quick thoughts on the first two episodes of each. No spoilers.
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First Impression: A Strange Family/Romantic Setup in ‘The Man Living in Our House’

This year’s fall drama lineup is getting filled with rom-coms, as a couple more make their premiere this week. Replacing the hit youth sageuk Moonlight Drawn by Clouds and having the heavy task of sustaining the high ratings of its predecessor (before passing the baton to yet another youth sageuk Hwarang: The Beginning) is The Man Living in Our House, a peculiar noona romance between a flight attendant and her – er – stepdad. Now that premise doesn’t sound very appealing, but the pilot week was interesting enough.
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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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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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A Good Start for ‘The Good Wife’ (Korea)

There’s a whole slew of highly-anticipated summer dramas dividing audience attention right now, but the actual battle seems to be down between Park Shin-hye/Kim Rae-won and Suzy/Kim Woo-bin. And with a set of gorgeous Hallyu stars appearing on national networks, others – especially those on cable – are left out of the viewers’ mindspace.

I am hoping that ‘The Good Wife’ somehow survives competition with decent (if not exceptional) ratings, if only for the fact that a phenomenal – though not as widely known – actress headlines it. Premiering last weekend with 4.0% and 3.8% on its first two episodes, respectively, the show kicks off with a pretty strong start for a cable TV drama.
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