I’m lazy, I admit but I’m always a hardworking girl when it comes to watching dramas and variety shows, heh! I watch quite a diverse range of things, from Taiwanese dramas, Korean dramas, Chinese dramas, Japanese dramas, Korean variety shows and Chinese variety shows. Often, I find myself eager to write something about them but I always can’t find the time or enough things to make it a post. Since I’m currently on holiday right now, I’ve a bit more time on my hands and this is probably the best time to write brief thoughts/reviews on some of the things I’ve been watching or currently watching.
The long list of things to talk about (brief thoughts/mini review):
Note: For the dramas that I never talk in detail before, I’ll use the actors/actresses’ names instead of character names to avoid confusion/trouble.
In A Good Way, Fabulous 30, Innocent Mistake
Angel Eyes, Heart is Beating, Infinity Challenge, Dad! Where are we going? Season 2
Phew, I don’t know when can I ever finish reviewing this long list of entertainments.
In A Good Way (我的自由年代)
I’m guilty because I feel like I’m neglecting a precious child who used to be my favorite, I’m SO behind In A Good Way, I stopped at Ep19 (will pick it back when it ends) and it’s not because the plot is horrible or gone downhill or whatsoever, I just feel like I don’t love it as much as before. What went wrong? I’m also not sure.. maybe after ep12, I feel that it kinda lost the charm that made me love it so much. After Jia-En and Liu-Chuan got together, I somehow miss their interactions when Jia-En first came to Taipei. I can’t put words to describe the kind of feeling I miss from IAGW but it still holds a special spot in my heart for being a memorable campus drama. I would much prefer the drama to be shorter, around 20 episodes so they would condense unnecessary subplots and tighten the pacing.
Apparently, it’s not only me that’s feeling this way about IAGW because it’s reflected in their ratings, its ratings used to be around 2+ when it was wildly popular but ever since the fever has gone down, the ratings for IAGW dropped to around 1.8+. It’s still a great number for a Friday drama, especially when you compare it to the poor performance of Sunday dramas, Aaron Yan’s Fall in Love With Me is leading the Sunday idol dramas competition but its average rating is around 1.3+, lower than IAGW and it’s not a healthy trend because normally, Sunday dramas rate higher than Friday dramas.
On the up side, even though IAGW is not as wildly popular as before, it still generates a fair amount of discussion in forums and that’s a good sign. In the mean time, I’ll continue to translate video previews for IAGW but I don’t think I’ve enough things to talk about to write compilation reviews about IAGW.
Fabulous 30 (女人30，情定水舞間)
I’ve been casually following this drama and I really really enjoy this as much as I used to enjoy Two Fathers, I think SETTV daily dramas can go downhill fast when it’s close to its end (I think two fathers is an exception to this trend) but they’re always easy to watch and the best entertainment when I’m eating alone at home. This is probably my favorite Taiwanese daily drama from SETTV so far because I adore the sisterhood and bromance between the leads. I’ve so much love for the heroines, this is really a women-centric drama, they may be immature at times but the 3 heroines are unique in their own way and not your conventional meek or annoying heroines (although Vivi Lee’s character is pretty conventional…). I love their friendship as they’re always there for each other, their bond is even stronger than a real family and because they share a house together, there’s a lot of fun interactions. Fabulous 30 is witty and fun, I find myself chuckling at their jokes or funny situations, it feels like a sitcom at times but with more serious plots.
Even though the main focus are on the lives of the 3 heroines, the guys are as lovable as the ladies. Due to certain reasons, they stayed in the ladies’ house for a period of time before moving to another storey of the same apartment so this semi-cohabitation drives them closer and easier for their romance to blossom. Albee Huang won me over with her character, I never seen such a heroine that can be soooo fun, open-minded and unpredictable that she drives her love interest, Danson Tang crazy, haha! You go girl! I admit I didn’t have good impression of her before this drama but I think she’s really great in this drama. Jennifer Hong‘s workaholic and queen dominator character fits her well and I’m glad that the angst between her and her ex-mother-in-law is not draggy or frustrating to the point where I want to skip through their scenes. Plus her love story and history with her gentle ex-husband, Hans Chang can be quite moving at times. She’s also very spunky and strong that I can’t help to admire her, she’s definitely a super woman!
Danson Tang is so cute when he’s jealous when Albee Huang is being too open-minded with the guys or when she do crazy things, he’s prickly on the outside but soft like a plushy deep inside. I always find Danson Tang handsome but I never really like any of his roles but I’m really loving his role in this drama so I guess this drama made me see Albee Huang and Danson Tang in a new light because of their characters. I’m so entertained by them, I can’t get enough of Danson Tang sulking or becoming ridiculously petty or childish because Albee Huang spent the night outside without telling him, LOL! Vivi Lee and Darren‘s characters are outshined by the other strong characters but I do find their comfortable interaction enjoyable, their friendship is very natural, they share a lot of common interests and have endless topics to discuss about, they just match each other perfectly. This kind of friendship can easily blossom into a romantic relationship anytime.
Fabulous 30 had been a fun and breezy ride, I highly recommend this for anyone who want a relaxing or easy to watch drama.
An Innocent Mistake (罪美麗)
I don’t know what got into me that I start watching An Innocent Mistake for the second time (it’s a late 2012 drama) and find myself heartbroken for the characters again, this is easily my favorite Taiwanese drama. The characters are all so complex, real and flawed that I always find myself affected by them. In Time With You may be Mag Hsu‘s most well-known drama but I think this drama is my favorite one from her. It may not be as dark as Mars but it’s heart-gripping in a pragmatic way that it left a bittersweet taste in my heart.
I think the reason why it affects me so much is because the plot moves slowly at first, revealing bit by bit, building up the complexity of these characters, then layers after layers of complex emotions start to peel off, containing the sorrows when they feel hurt and finally, darkness explodes and swallows them up when the truths they’ve been ignoring or they don’t know are revealed. The dialogues, expressions and every single movement of these characters affect me, I can’t find the right word to describe the feeling I get from this drama but it’s been bittersweet and a memorable journey. It’s not flawless for sure as I think the last few episodes are the weakest episodes but I still love it for everything it gave me. Just like what the tagline says, “The lesson that school owes us, how to love beautifully“, An Innocent Mistake covers the complexity of family love, friendship kind of love, romantic love, ardent love and nobody in this drama really know the proper way of loving someone, they’re all beautifully flawed.
One of the most memorable dialogue comes from Jason Wang‘s character as Mo Tzu Yi‘s father, “School has never taught me how to be a good father” because he’s been so self-absorbed in his sorrows that he neglects his son for many years. His character is involved in a complex relationship with the heroine, Lin Chen Xi and his son, Mo Tzu Yi sees him as his love rival. But actually, the heroine just sees him as a replacement for the ideal father figure that she’s been dreaming of and Jason Wang only sees the heroine as a replacement of his late wife, his unforgettable first love. They’re both seeking comfort in each other but it’s easy for others to misunderstand their relationship, especially when the nature of their relationship at a point is blurred, it’s like father-daughter but also mixed in with man-woman attraction and that makes their relationship complicated.
Mo Tzu Yi is the character I pity the most and probably one of the most pitiful hero I ever seen in dramaland, he’s been containing his sorrows for so long to the point that when he exploded, I was breaking with him. Joy Pan‘s performance as Jason Wang’s perfect wife is probably one of the best performance I’ve seen in Taiwanese dramaland, on the outside she’s so elegant, calm and seems like a perfect wife but inside, she have so many complicated thoughts, schemes and her whole character is just so restrained that I feel her suffocation. I hate her character the most but her acting is undeniably excellent.
The performance of the main actors and actresses are all so strong and intense with the exception of the heroine, Lin Chen-Xi who is the least seasoned among the bunch of experienced actors and actresses, but she’s not that bad too, in fact a lot better than most young Taiwanese actresses. Mo Tzu Yi is a strong contender for the best actor award in Golden Bell awards last year, I think he’s as good as Vic Chou, he used to be a musical and stage actor so his acting is very good for his age. Jason Wang is famous for his Hokkien dramas and this drama reflects that those hundreds to thousands of drama episodes definitely polished his acting skills. I already tried my best to condense my thoughts on this drama as much as I can because this is such a thought-provoking drama but I think I’ll be tired if I write too much on this. I also love the music in this drama and their opening theme is lovely.
Opening Theme: Wan Fang – Michelle’s First day
BGM: Ai Yi-Liang – If You Love Me
Angel Eyes (엔젤 아이즈)
I’m on a Korean drama slump lately, I used to watch even more Korean dramas than Taiwanese dramas in the past (one of the reason for that is also because there’s more Korean drama available than Taiwanese dramas) but for the past 3 months, nothing really grabbed my attention until Angel Eyes came. For some reason, this drama reminds me of a mix between the heartwarming Can You Hear My Heart and the sweet melancholy drama, Will it Snow for Christmas. It maybe because Nam Ji-Hyun plays as the younger version of the heroine in both WISFC and Angel Eyes. Everything about this drama has been pleasant, the music, directing, styling, color palette and the cast. Even though the storyline is nothing to write home, the execution makes up for it.
So far, I only watched 4 episodes so I won’t give my verdict yet on Angel Eyes but it’s been enjoyable so far. I think I understand the reason why so many viewers find it difficult to part with the childhood couple as Nam Ji-Hyun and Kang Ha-Neul‘s chemistry is sizzling from the first 2 episodes and for the first time I actually find Kang Ha-Neul less stiff and actually emoting with expression, it may be because his past roles has been the “cold” guy type so he didn’t have the opportunity or chance to fully showcase his acting skills but I feel that he definitely improve a lot. Nam Ji-Hyun is as fantastic as usual, she’s always great and I can foresee her being one of the leading younger actress in the future if she keeps on giving us this kind of strong performance.
(Screencaps courtesy of wandering thoughts, reuploaded to my blog)
I know there’s a lot of animosity from international viewers towards Goo Hye-Sun because of Boys Over Flower but she’s really lovely in this drama and she’s always better in her quieter scenes as she don’t need to overreact. I’m indifferent towards GHS as she tend to be a hit or miss to me but I think I’ll love her back again through this drama. I only watched Lee Sang-Yoon in My Daughter is Seo Young before and think that he’s not bad but he’s overshadowed by Lee Bo-Young and Park Hae-Jin‘s characters. It looks like he finally found the perfect role for himself in Angel Eyes, he’s sooooo warm and fuzzy when he smiles and gently looks at the woman he loved for many years, ooooh the feels!! The only gripe I have about this drama is the way the portray the firefighters, it’s so dramatic and unrealistic, I know this is just a drama but I wish they could be more responsible in the way the portray firefighters, especially since the reality-variety show, Heart is Beating from the same channel worked so hard to educate viewers about firefighters. Anyways, I’ll continue watching this and see how it goes but overall, it’s been very sweet!
Listen to the OST and watch the lovely FMV of Angel Eyes below! Any song from Lasse Lindh is an instant win for me, I love him ever since his OST in Soulmate and I Need Romance 2!
Heart is Beating (심장이 뛴다)
I’ve written an overall review on the reality-variety show, Heart is Beating before and been continuously watching this interesting show. This show proves itself to be a good educational show for many viewers despite its low-to-moderate ratings as the recent episodes have been focusing on showing viewers the importance of giving way to ambulances and the fire brigade vehicles.
It’s so heartbreaking to see a patient to lose her leg because the ambulance missed the golden time for her to be sent to the hospital on time and she has to live with her imperfection for the rest of her life. It must been very hard for her and that was heart-wrenching and very emotional to watch. It’s great to see that she’s willing to volunteer and use her case as an example to warn many people to give way to ambulances and fire brigade vehicles as you’ll never know how serious is the situation or the patient inside the ambulance. That person could be anyone, your family member, your friend or your lover so it’s always good to be considerate.
The members of the show have shot promotional videos for the “Moses Miracle” campaign which is directed to remind the public to give way to ambulances and fire brigade vehicles. The show also showed tutorials on the proper way to give way to ambulances and fire brigade vehicles as some people want to give way but don’t know how to do it when the road is packed and crowded with cars during peak hours. There were other memorable cases such as Gangnam area where they actually broke into a place full of prostitutes, it definitely shows that under the luxurious, shining facade of the metropolitan area lies a lot of darkness. They also covered on the issue about Korea’s drinking culture as there are many drunk drivers or drunk people who causes trouble for the fire fighters. Heart is Beating is a show that deserve more love and more people should watch this educational show, it shows interesting insights on the lives of the firefighters.
Infinity Challenge (무한도전)
Definitely my favorite reality-variety show and probably one of the longest running popular Korean show. The recent scandal of Gil drunk driving and him leaving the show won’t make me lose the passion and love I have for this show. This is my mental support and best entertainment for me every week, I just enjoy the sight of Infinity Challenge members gathering, talking nonsense, doing crazy, funny antics or even talking crap about each other, heh! Sometimes I don’t watch dramas for almost a month but I can’t survive without watching this show for a long period, imagine how tormented I feel when MBC went on strike for months!?
Because the members have such a tight relationship and a strong chemistry built over the past 9 years, they have a lot of inside jokes which viewers can only understand if they’ve watch the past episodes. A fan of IC once said, this show is like a serial drama, the more episodes you watch, the more you understand these members, the more you’ll find this show interesting, entertaining and love all of the members. This is not a show that you’ll easily fall in love with but once you understand the essence of this unique show, you can’t easily come out from the pit of addiction. I’m an addict for this show and this is the only show that I’m passionate about, it owns my soul and heart. The members of IC are Yoo Jae Suk (often nicknamed as the Captain Yoo), Park Myung Soo (nicknamed as father due to his grumpy personality and old looks, LOL!), Jung Jun Ha (nicknamed as the helmet due to his big head or the most recent nickname, wax dripping Jung because of his sudden loss in weight), Jung Hyung Don (nicknamed Doni or Fatso), Noh Hong Chul (nicknamed as the crazy kid or Dol+1(taken from the direct pronounciation of 돌+아이, which means crazy kid, a pun originated from I+dol as he often self-proclaimed himself as Idol), Haha (nicknamed as shorty or the little one) and Gil (nicknamed as baldy).
The concept is very flexible, a bunch of guys and ahjussis (Korean term for older guys) who are lacking in most people’s eyes doing various kind of challenges, it’s true that when they first started this show, these guys are lacking but now they’re above average Korean men, especially Yoo Jae Suk. It’s not as formulaic as Running Man where the concept is simply about chase-and-run game in the metropolitan, where they invite guests to play athletic games and have fun. IC hardly invite guests and if they did, most of these guests will hit it big and become famous, this is how influential this show is in Korea. Because of the flexibility of the show concept, they tried and experiment on many different kinds of challenges. Some are short, simple challenges, some projects need the members to train for almost a year (for example the Wrestling Challenge, Rowing Challenge and many more…), the amount of time the members spend on training and doing challenges of IC exceeds the average amount of time needed to spend on shooting a normal variety show.
The members meet up at least a few times a week for IC projects and by doing less popular sport challenges like wrestling, rowing, they’re in fact promoting these sports to the public. They also do a lot of charity projects, one of the most notable project will be their Song Festival Project which they hold every 2 years, they collaborate with famous and lesser-known artists to produce a song that fits the color of the IC members and release it digitally, all of the profit will go into charities. Another notable charitable project is their yearly Calendar Special, there was even a year when they parody the show America’s Next Top Model in shooting the photos, LOL!
What IC represent is not just an ordinary variety show, it’s the first Korean reality-variety show when studio shows such as X-Men were the trend and a lot of games that current variety shows did were done before by IC and they were the first to do that. They’re the icon of creativity, Koreans are proud of this show and many aspiring producers wish to work in the IC team as they will have the chance to come up with interesting concepts. The logo and special subtitles of IC always changes according to the special project they’re doing, it’s these kind of little details that make fans love this show so much. It’s also wildly popular among college students and the younger people in Korea, the rating in internet live streams surpass other shows by a lot, (eg: 45% are watching IC on live stream, 14% or less than 10% are watching other shows).
To elaborate and show examples on how flexible IC can be, I’ll choose 2 memorable specials that aired earlier this year. One is the IF project, it creates a scenario, what if the member was put in a situation? The members voted for Noh Hong-Chul and Gil to go into a situation where they’re married…fake like in We Got Married as they’re the only members left that are still single as other members are married, it’s quite fascinating to see the IC members getting married and have kids over the past 9 years through the show, it’s like I’m growing up with them! Thus, that creates a We Got Married parody and I’ll say that I’m more entertained by IC’s version of WGM than the real WGM couples, LOLLLL!!! They invited Jang Yoon-Ju (appeared before in the Calendar special project) as Hong-Chul’s partner and two female comedians as Gil’s partner. JYJ and NHC’s chemistry is the bomb, especially since they’re good friends in real life, that makes their interactions seem so real, I can’t stop laughing at that episode, it’s even more amusing if you’re familiar with these two people, NHC is being so timid to JYJ’s advances which is SO not like himself, heh! Gil’s partners on the other hand isn’t as entertaining as NHC and JYJ couple but the comedians paired with Gil are long time friends with YJS so when they invite YJS as their friend (parody of WGM where they usually invite friends of the couple, usually it’s members of the same idol group), I almost died laughing at their conversations. The funniest part will be when YJS kissed PD Kim Tae Ho (producer of IC) to show the love between co-workers, you can hear the staff members’ laughters behind the screen! LOLLL!
The most recent long-challenge project is Speed special, where the members will compete to participate in Korean Speed Festival as amateur speed racers. Back in 2010, they did a short challenge on Formula-1 but they didn’t make it as a long-special due to various safety reasons. It’s not as funny as the usual episodes but when I watch the members compete against each other, it feels like a documentary show of racers, it’s intense and entertaining to watch at the same time. IC is really flexible, it can be a show like Running Man where they play the chasing game (they actually did the chasing game before RM even started), a talk-show, a music show, a sports-documentary show, a musical show or even a virtual marriage show (WGM parody, LOL!!!). Definitely one of the most colorful show I ever watched. Watching one episode won’t do this show any justice, you’ve to understand, know the members first and when you do, you go back watching earlier episodes, then you’ll understand their jokes and this will double your enjoyment. May not be popular among international audience due to cultural, language barriers and because the concept is not as simple as RM but will forever hold a special spot in the hearts of real fans of IC. To me, IC is not only an ordinary show, it’s the spirit of challenge.
Dad! Where are we going? Season 2 (아빠!어디가? 시즌2)
Whether it’s season 1 or season 2, I can’t help but love these kids, they’re all so CUTE and angelic!!! It’s the innocence of these children that bring people laughter and makes me put on a big smile whenever I watch them. They may do some funny things when they’re faced in a certain situation. While season 1 of Appa Odiga will forever remain as the classic in many people’s hearts, I hope that more people will look Season 2 separately and not always compare the kids from the 2 seasons. All kids are unique, different and cute in their own ways, there’s no need for comparison. No matter how much a sequel try to compete with its first installment, they will never win or be the best, just like first love will always be the most special person in people’s heart. People will always be biased towards Season 1 and refuse to see the good sides of Season 2.
(Screencaps courtesy of ForChanhyeong, uploaded to my blog)
I do think Season 2 has more flaws than Season 1 but I feel that the producers are trying to re-position the show and finding the right direction to go in the recent episode where they listen to the wishes of the dads when they were chatting. While the editing of season 2 can be choppy at times, I still enjoy the show a lot because of the kids. From my current avatar, I think I made it obvious that Im Chan-Hyung is my favorite boy from Season 2, hahaha! He’s such a bright kid, always smiling and optimistic towards everything but at the same time, he’s also a good kid who listen to the adults and take care of his dongsaengs. He does reminds many people of Junsu when he first appears because of his smile but they’re definitely different, Chan-Hyung is just one happy-go-lucky kid for everything, LOL! Chan-Hyung’s daddy, Ryu-Jin starts to reveal his Heo-Dang (Korean term for bad/lacking in many things when the person do things) nature in recent episodes, unlike Ahn Jung Hwan who’s good in a lot of things. He amuse me with his big blow-dryer and blind optimism which Chan-Hyung inherits from him , LOL!
The other kids are Min-Yool (2nd son of MC Kim Sung Joo, younger brother of S1’s Kim Min Gook), Sung Bin (daughter of Sung Dong Il, younger sister of S1’s Sung Joon), Ri-Hwan (son of former soccer player Ahn Jung Hwan) and Yoon Hoo (son of Yoon Min Soo, both are members of S1). I think the growth of these kids are becoming apparent as the show progresses, especially Hoo, he’ve matured a lot compared to Season 1, he used to be as playful as Junsu but now, he’s ready to lead his dongsaengs. Ri-Hwan is playful among friends but timid and scared to try new things that he’s not used to but as the show progresses, it shows that he’s trying to new things, improving bit by bit. Sung Bin is such a tomboy and she’s so funny when coupled with her slightly grumpy daddy, Sung Dong Il, Daddy Sung is a lot more gentle compared to Season 1, he can now understand better on how to communicate with his kids. Min-Yool is cute because he’s so tiny like a pea, LOL! In comparison with other kids, he got his own tantrums at times since he’s very young but he always entertain viewers with his innocence and cute antics. There used to be another kid, Gyu-Won (daughter of Kim Jin Pyo) but the family left due to various reasons, Gyu-Won is too shy and introverted that she doesn’t really suit the show so her dad decided to withdraw from the show and it’s a pity because I was hoping to see her growth. New addition will be Se Yoon (daughter of Jung Woong In (or Min Jun Gook from I Can Hear Your Voice, LOL!)).