The 2011 year-end review that couldn’t write itself


As has been said by many already, this year was a rough year for Kdramas. We saw a lot of piss poor, mediocre crap — even more so than the last three years – and also less than a handful of dramas that stood above the rest. For the most part, I was sorely disappointed with what I watched this year, despite being quite selective in what chose to watch, and even more nitpicky about which dramas I chose to finish. Call it the year that I turned into Oscar the Grouch or whatever, but there were certain moments throughout this year that I almost forgot why I loved Korean dramas in the first place. I almost lost the passion I had for dramas. It wasn’t until after I took a break and watched a few mind-blowing oldies that my interest was revived again.

I had originally hoped to talk about my Kdrama experience throughout this year by writing a year-end review. But the words weren’t coming naturally to me. To this very moment, I feel very unmotivated to say anything interesting or insightful about all the dramas I’ve watched all year long. The more I procrastinated to procrastinate from writing this review, the less excited I was to write a review at all. In the end, I couldn’t really deliver and accomplish what I had wanted to accomplish initially. Which was to bash a few dramas I hated and dote on dramas I loved.

Instead, all I did was put each drama into a specific category and write a snippet about each. And that’s all I will do. I know I’ve said this enough to sound like a broken record, but again, I’m so ready for 2011 to be over. Adieu, 2011!

The Hatables:

Secret Garden – I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. If I ever publish the review I wrote for this drama that’s been in my drafts box for the past year, you’ll know why. And if not, too bad. I won’t elaborate further. Mentioning this drama is enough to send me off reeling.

Manny – This just might be one of the worst dramas this year. I don’t know why I finished this. But it’s bad. Real bad. It was chalk-full of over-the-top acting and cheese. Unless you like watching dramas where the leads have zero chemistry and the story seems to be written by a sixth grader. Stay away!

The Forgettables:

My Princess – You’ve probably been told when you were little that too much candy was bad for you and that snacks should be consumed in moderation. My Princess had nothing nourishing to offer. In fact, it was so fluffy that it was a complete waste of time, but it won’t give you a toothache, for that I’m sure. It’s actually quite harmless, if you have sixteen hours to spare for entertainment. The first episodes of this drama may have been promising, but towards the end, I stopped watching for the story and instead, watched for the eye-candy and wardrobes. What can I say? I wants those shoes!

Romance Town – Sigh. And to think that I was so addicted to this show in the beginning! I put this drama into this category not because the story was completely forgettable; rather, I almost forgot to finish it and had no inclination to do so… until the completist in me found time to marathon the final episodes. Jung Kyeo Woon had little romantic chemistry with Sung Yuri. Yet I watched this drama completely for him. Oh the things I do for you, my love! In short, this drama lost steam for me when it began to focus on the greed amongst the maids who worked for the rich owners of the community. I must say, however, that I was quite satisfied with the ending. It wasn’t a bad drama. It’s just not something I’d recommend to anyone, for fear that they’ll be bored with it halfway through.

The Overrated:

City Hunter – I think I would’ve enjoyed this drama more if almost everyone hadn’t been singing praises about it from ten million miles away. I don’t think that City Hunter was the best drama of 2011 since it had many flaws of its own, yet it wasn’t too shabby, either. It has got every ingredient that was ever needed to make a fantastic drama so I’d recommend this drama to anyone. Still, I think it’s overrated compared to the dramas I really loved this year, which weren’t quite as loved by the populace. City Hunter’s a fantastic, well-made drama with some of the most chilling performances of the year. I don’t disagree that it has plenty of heart — it just didn’t tug on my personal heartstrings. It’s not this drama’s fault, people — it’s mine. Lee Min Ho fans, this one’s a keeper. Just not for me. Perhaps one day I’ll explain why.

Best Love – I’ll be honest and say that Cha Seung Won annoyed me to no end with his ridiculous, over-the-top character. I admit that he gave me a few laughs, but he also gave me a headache, not to mention he grossed me out with all his excessive cheese. It’s one thing to be romantic, and another to be cheesy. Also, is it just me, or are the Hong Sisters’ dramas getting less cracktastic? Anyway, don’t send me hate mail just ’cause I think this show’s overrated. For the most part, Best Love’s a fun ride. I just got tired of it and didn’t think it deserved all the hype it was getting. I’d recommend My Girlfriend is a Gumiho or You’re Beautiful over Best Love any day. I’ll even elaborate more on this one in the comments section if there are fans itching for a fight.

The Enjoyables:

Can You Hear My Heart – Yes, but can you hear mine? I don’t think so. Ahem. Sorry, I don’t know what the heck I was thinking. So anyway, I enjoyed this drama for its acting and for its bromance. It was really close to being named as my bromance of the year, if not for another certain drama (see below). As long as you’re able to get over Hwang Jung Eum’s mushroom hair and plastic face, and Kim Jae Won’s whiter-than-Edward-Cullen’s-face, you’re going to love this show. It has plenty of heart on top of stellar performances from veteran actors that gave me goosebumps.

Dream High – The drama that rose high above expectations. Whatta bad pun, I know. Four words: Underdogs for the win! I’m not a huge fan of all the musical movies and shows that are being mass produced and distributed in the American market for the past few years, so I was particularly wary of Dream High. Despite my initial misgivings, this drama blew me away in terms of quality and enjoyment. The biggest highlight and surprise from Dream High was Kim Soo Hyun. He rocked as quirky, adorable Sam Dong. The drama really picked up its momentum after a few episodes in, turning out to be one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve watched in a long time.

Girl K – Athena, meet Girl K. You still have a lot left to learn. Prepared to get your butt kicked by the most badass, underrated show this year. Three episodes. That’s all the episodes you need to create an epic, memorable drama such as this. It’s an action flick through and through, with one tough heroine who has an uncanny skill in martial arts. The story may not be the soul of the show, but the directing was awesome enough to grip me.

49 Days – A drama about life and death, with messages that inspired me. I had my own prejudices about this cast, but they delivered with their portrayals of their characters that taught me so much. Even when it went a little crazy in the finale, I still enjoyed this show very much. Life it too short for bad dramas, but life is also too short to waste on such things such as regrets.

The Lovables:

President – I. love. Choi Soo Jong and Ha Hee Ra. The end. Don’t be afraid to check this drama out just because it’s about politics because in reality, it’s so much more than that. In addition to offering a behind the scenes take on the highs and lows of a politician’s career, it’s also deals with issues including family relationships and morality. When the lines between black and white are blurred so that all things become gray, what happens then? Watch this drama. It gets my vote for the most sizzling chemistry between an onscreen couple in 2011.

The Princess’s Man – Believe me, this is not a tragic Romeo and Juliet story, nor is it as shallow as a love like that. It’s a compelling story with sweeping, beautiful visuals. It gave me a romance that I could believe in, one which I didn’t feel was contrived. It also presented an antagonist that wasn’t always evil (kind of like the Daddy in City Hunter), but one that sought a path that he thought would be most beneficial for him, his family, and his career. For never underestimating me or insulting my intelligence as a viewer, I think I’ll love this show forever and ever.

The Duo: My vote for best drama and bromance of 2011 goes to this lovely show. This drama owns my heart and soul, hands down. I was reading Dahee Fanel’s review over at Dramabeans the other day, and loved her analogy for The Duo. She compared this drama to makgeolli, and how it’s akin to comfort food. She’s right on the money, for that’s exactly what The Duo is. I’m currently watching The Tree With Deep Roots and in comparison, The Duo’s not as dramatic nor as exciting. But it’s full of layers with characters that are multi-dimensional. I love this show for all the happiness it brought me and for the refreshing contentedness I felt by the end of it. It didn’t need Big Plot Points to create tension for it had a bigger purpose — to analyze the complexity of the social classes which motivated each character from various classes. To say that this drama was about birth secrets would be scratching the most outer surface of its thematic messages.

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24 thoughts on “The 2011 year-end review that couldn’t write itself

  1. From what I can see, we have different tastes in dramas, you and I. LOL. I didn’t think 2011 was that bad drama-wise. For me, that was 2008. Bad Love put me off so much that I stayed away from k-dramas for almost 2 years. That being said, there’s NOTHING like a comeback when the very first drama I watched after that long absence was…(drumroll)… You’re Beautiful. Eeeee!!!! My k-drama LURVE was back with a vengence!

    • Oh, so I guess we do have varying tastes. But just imagine the blogosphere if everyone had the same drama tastes. Everything would be boring, no? I’m glad we all differ in what we like and what we don’t like because interesting conversations arise from those very differences. 🙂

      I’ve never watched Bad Love, nor do I plan to. The title itself gives off an ominous premonition that it’ll be bad. I still don’t understand why I love YAB so much or why this drama was so addicting when it aired. I’ll probably never understand, but whatever. Bottom line is, it’s AWESOME!

      • Puahahahaha. The very title, Bad Love, should’ve given it away, huh? I must’ve been incredibly clueluess / thick as a brick to not have gotten it back then. Idealistic sucker, I was. Lol.

  2. I truly LOVE period dramas and I had been wanting to watch the duo since news of it came out; but, can’t remember where, i read a lot of reviews for it that said a)the acting was really bad, espesh by PIE, b) the heroine ( HJY who i really like) made only stupid choices and c) the ending SPOILER ALERT where PIE died was pointless and you will only be left in frustration. END SPOILER. I usually don’t read spoilers but i have wasted my time on so much shit in the past i didnt’ want to become investd in something and then be disappointed. BUt i really really waant to watch the duo and like it? sO is what they said true? is it worth watching? i mean i know you rave about it but i am still a little insecure ahhaha

    • [READ: DON’T READ THIS COMMENT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED]

      It’s true that the adult actors weren’t as stellar as their child counterparts, but it’s evident that they all improve immensely as the series progresses. I’m not sure who in the blogsophere you’re referring to that said the acting sucked in The Duo, because while I can see why they can think so, I’ll have to strongly disagree. The acting didn’t suck, especially if we compare it to other dramas from this year. Sure, it was no Tree With Deep Roots, but there were nuances that Tree didn’t have. (If there’s one thing I have a bone to pick with TWDR, it’s the unnecessary over-the-top acting from all around. I blame the PD.) If other bloggers said that the characters in Duo sucked, then yes, they do. Because they’re all very human, and it’s easy to dislike them because they’re so flawed.

      Yes, the general consensus is that Han Ji Hye sucked boba balls and shouldn’t have been casted as the leading actress. It’s not that she made “stupid choices,” per se, but that she was stuck with a very traditional Joseon century mindset of propriety and also had a prejudice against those on their lower tier in the social hierarchy. Her character of Dong Nyeo sharply contrasted with Seo Hyun Jin’s Dal Yi, who’s more of a 21st century modern woman. Speaking of Seo, she was such a great asset to the leads, and was certainly a top contender among other singers that made a great transition to acting. I loved her portrayal of Dal Yi, who was so awesome she probably made Han Ji Hye insecure.

      As for the ending, I thought it was unnecessary, too. But the death did serve a purpose. And you’ll have to watch it to see why, I guess. The Duo might not be for you because it does take its sweet time to set the stage, but it worked perfectly for me and for I’ll always remember it as a phenomenal show that left a huge mark on my heart.

    • The Duo is sooo good. Don’t miss it. CJM was really awkward and HJY’s acting was really bland, but the rest was really good. Seo Hyun Jin and Lee Sang Yoon were a standout so was a lot of the supporting cast. And and I swear you’ll fall in love with almost every character in the story. I even liked HJY’s character and the slave mother somewhere in the end. And I personally think that there’s nothing wrong with the ending

  3. It really has been a disappointing year, hasn’t it? I’m with you on City Hunter – it’s great, but the hype is mostly because there weren’t many other dramas of its caliber around. The Princess’ Man was awesomeness, and in my opinion 🙂 so was Best Love.

    The newer batch of cable dramas was waaaay better than all of this year’s combined: Vampire Prosecutor (which takes my vote for Drama of the Year), Padam Padam, Queen Insoo, and What’s Up are all fantastic. The greatest thing about 2011 is the new fighting power of cable. Hopefully now we’ll see some originality and quality.

    • I agree that this year has certainly been the year for cable dramas. I’ll check out Padam Padam and Vampire Prosecutor later this week, if the drama gods are willing to let me have some free time. I’m currently watching What’s Up right now and it’s quite enjoyable, but not as crackly as Dream High for me. Whoa, is someone subbing Queen Insoo? Because I don’t know anyone who is, or else I’d be watching that too.

      2012, don’t disappoint us! *crosses fingers for MoonSun & Salaryman*

    • oh… Is Queen Insoo any good? i cannot find any English sub version so far… I am all for Women power 😉
      VP is my top drama as well… just can’t resist guyliner on a vamp 😉
      Bailed out on MP midway it was taking too long and just lost interest…

      Happy New Year Endodo and may all your wishes be fulfilled “)

      • If you’re a fan of writer Jung Ha Yeon (Shin Don, Flames of Ambition), then Queen Insoo’s awesome. I haven’t watched it myself, but those who are familiar with Jung Ha Yeon know that he’s one of the best scriptwriters, if not arguably THE best, in the industry right now. I like his works well enough, even though I find them to be a little too long for my tastes.

        Thanks, and have a Happy New Year, Kaddict4ever!

  4. It’s so nice to read that someone else loathed Secret Garden—I actually watched the whole thing, but by the end was debating whether gouging my own eyes out with a dull pencil would be a more entertaining way to spend my time. Worst show ever, in spite of what everyone else may think =X

    • I forced myself to finished the last few episodes of SG last March. Ha Ji Won and Hyun Bin had chemistry that literally made ME blush, I enjoyed the OST, the cinematography was lush, and early on I laughted a lot, but the plot and the OTP was so DYSFUNCTIONAL. I rooted for Ha Ji Won to dump him every time. And when she kept falling for him I wondered if love was really that scary. It would be easy to use clips from SG to make a public service announcement about partner abuse and the warning signs.

  5. I sooo agree with you in every single comment! The Duo and President are firsts in my to watch list, after Giant. Crossing fingers for 2012 to be an amazing year for dramas! 😀
    I’m a little late, but Happy New Year, dear Dodo!

    • Yayyyy for another Duo & Prez lover! Those two were seriously my faves from 2011. Tell me how Giant goes. I heard it’s fantastic and chilling, but it later dragged.

      Happy New Year, Indi! Love reading all your comments on this blog. They make me smile. 😀

  6. Great review. I agree with some, and others not. I too hated “Secret Garden.” I didn’t when i was watching it, but when I re-watched it, I came to a realization at how blind I was because of my love for Hyun Bin (the actor, not character). I agree that “City Hunter” is overrated. I’m still not a Lee Min Ho fan. LOL. And WOW at your comments on Hwang Jung Eum and Kim Jae Won’s physical appearance, because you’re so right. Lastly, I agree that Choi Soo Jong and Ha Hee Ra are amazing.

    The part I disagree with the most is your sentiments on “Best Love,” but I guess it’s just a matter of preference. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy Cha Seung Won’s performance as much as I did. I remember reading a first impressions post about it on this site, and you were raving about him then… I guess your opinion changed. I definitely think this one made me a fan of the Hong’s again. To be honest, the last one I liked was Choon Hyang. LOL. My Girl was okay. Fantasy Couple was meh. Hong Gil Dong was ugh. You’re Beautiful was def overrated for me (don’t kill me). and Gumiho was great at the time, but it was extremely boring the 2nd time I watched it. “Best Love” hit all the right notes for me I guess. I loved it the 1st time, and equally loved it the 2nd time.

    • Hey celest1al! Thanks for leaving such a long comment! You’re right in that I did love Best Love initially, but then my view on the drama changed when I picked it up again after my drama-watching hiatus over the summer last year. I did love Cha Seung Won in the beginning — he was so quirky and hilarious. But then, he did start to annoy me. A lot. The drama overall just wasn’t as enjoyable for me after the halfway mark. Perhaps my summer trip and the month where I paused my Kdrama watching altered my views drastically; it explains why I had a change of heart.

      What we often enjoy or don’t enjoy are influenced by the circumstances and mood we’re in when we watch those dramas. This is why dramas that I rewatch and continue to love after second, third, and fourth watches are pure gold. I didn’t hate Best Love and I liked it to a certain degree. Still, I found it overrated, even more than City Hunter. But if you love it, don’t let what little I’ve said stop you from continue on lovin’ it. After all, I’m just a little dodo that’s turning into a nitpicky grouch. 😛

  7. “What we often enjoy or don’t enjoy are influenced by the circumstances and mood we’re in when we watch those dramas.”

    Well said! Your thoughts on BL are fair and understandable. As much as I LOVE CSW’s DJ, I do understand why people are turned off by him. To each their own! Don’t worry, my love for it is not swayed by another person’s view. 🙂 I like what I like. And I honestly believe it’s inevitable to become a “nitpicky grouch” if you’ve watched a lot of dramas, so I’m right there with you. I mean look… out of 7 of the Hong Sisters’ dramas, I like 2… so that’s telling you something. Hahaha.

    • I haven’t watched all of the Hong Sisters’ dramas, but I’ve watched 5 out of the 7, though I didn’t finish Hong Gil Dong. I think you either love their writing and their brand of comedy, or you don’t. Some of my bloggy friends can’t stand ’em, others love ’em. I totally agree that it’s inevitable for a Kdrama fan to become pickier about their dramas when they start watching a lot. Oh, it used to be so easy to satisfy me because all I expected out of my dramas was to be entertained. Nowadays, I want them to tug on my heartstrings and not only entertain me, but teach me. This doesn’t mean that I only watch dramas that are “substantial,” in quality, because I’m a true believer in moderation of everything. That is, I’ll watch stupid, fun dramas on some days, and meaningful, deep dramas on other days.

  8. I have reached the episode in The Duo where they jump to the adult characters. I loved the childhood cast, but now I’m kind of disappointed in the adult characters, who I think are not as good as the childhood actors. And it seems like nothing much has changed. The poor are still being mistreated. The main characters are the only ones who seem to be better off. Dunno if I should continue…

    • Oh, you got to the awkward stage of The Duo, then! But don’t worry, it does get better! I think the adult actors were also blown away by the child actors that played their parts, that’s why they’re so bland in the very beginning. At least that’s my explanation for it. As for “the poor are still being mistreated” bit, you’re right and I actually think that’s the point. Continue on, and find out more about the plot! But if it really starts to get boring and predictable for you by episode 20ish and on, then don’t force yourself to continue! For me, the drama only got better on, as the adult cast became more comfortable with their roles. Oh, but I did hate Han Ji Hye for a good number of episodes. She’s the one that doesn’t improve at all….

  9. Woot woot! I agree so much with everything you said. The Duo is also my vote for best drama for this year and I am yet to watch President. Cha Seung Won’s character also annoyed me in Best Love and was the reason I could not finish that show. I was actually surprised that people thought he was good in BL and was actually in talks of receiving a Daesang for it. Maybe, there’s just something wrong with me.. or with us? 🙂

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