A few years ago I wrote about my discovery of Hallmark movies. Though the obsession I had for the genre at the time has since waned, I still enjoy the dependable, feel-good comfort they provide (I have one playing in the background as I type this, no joke). But I wanted to take a moment to fill you in on my newest viewing guilty pleasure.
I will admit, these aren't as accessible to me as the Hallmark movies, although anyone with a Netflix subscription has about a million of them at their fingertips at a moment's notice. The foundation of my lifestyle is multitasking, which meshes PERFECTLY with the predictable Hallmark movie formula, but not so well when I have to be riveted to the screen to read every subtitle while also watching for facial expressions in order to follow along with the storyline. So while I would watch these way more if I could, I usually have to snatch moments in time to watch when I can. With practically everyone quarantining right now (I was able to binge an entire series while recovering in bed myself), I thought you might be more open and available to try something new to get out of a viewing rut.
Beyond finding the time to actually tune in to a new show, the next hurdle is choosing one that is worth that valuable, shiny new time you've found. I've had a few dead ends that just couldn't keep my attention in the first episode, so I prefer choosing my next binge from the reviews of others. In that vein, I have compiled a list of ALL the K-dramas I've finished so far, so you can find one that sounds right for you. Because the perfect K-drama is a masterpiece of television viewing. They have different tropes and themes than we are accustomed to in American television, and the best ones make you laugh, cry, bite your nails, and smile until your cheeks ache--all in one episode. On to the list...
W - This first one came as a result of a post I made in one of my Facebook groups. I innocently asked, "Where should I start?" and the answers came flooding in. Unfortunately, the #1 recommendation (Shopaholic Louis) is only available with a paid subscription service (and I'm too cheap for that), so instead, I took every rec I could get for free and read up on them. W is an action show where a girl somehow gets pulled into the fictitious world of a popular webtoon (digital comics) that is written by her father. I would try to explain what happens along the way, but seriously y'all SOOOO much happens in this show that I've probably forgotten more than I remember. But it was instantly interesting, exciting and fun through to the end, so a definite watch!
Love is a Bonus Book - For my second show, I took a detour from the recommendations because it also featured the hero from W, Lee Jong-suk. This series is about a famous author who is hiding his love for his lifelong friend. She's recently been through a divorce (major cultural thing), and is older than him (another major cultural thing), and lied to get an entry level job at his publishing company after a gap in employment, so their relationship isn't easy. Honestly, the romance part of this one was really "meh" for me, but I did enjoy watching the heroine get back on her feet and fight her way back to work as a divorced single mother. Not bad, but I wouldn't recommend you spend the time unless it is dubbed and you really love publishing.
Memories of the Alhambra - So, I got back to my list and checked out this one that came highly recommended. It did not disappoint...for the most part. This one mostly takes place in Spain, where a game designer gets pulled into a deeply convoluted mystery surrounding his augmented reality game that's being tested--think Pokémon Go where instead of Pokémon, there are guys with swords, and instead of trying to "catch 'em all" you're avoiding being run through with said swords. Oh, and if you do get killed and are part of the glitch...you might get trapped in the game...the details are fuzzy. LOVED it. The thunder, the guitar strumming, Mr. Cha...I can't go into too many details without giving spoilers. But then the ending, like the last three seconds of the last episode, left me like...whaa??? Other than that, it was a perfect binge.
Familiar Wife - I detoured from my recommendations once again because by this time, Netflix assumes that I ONLY want to watch Korean shows and was pumping my feed with trailers. This one peaked my interest because the main character decides his wife is too mean and gets an opportunity to go back in time to the day he missed a date with his true crush, this ultra-posh rich girl. Of course, he takes the chance to change the future, only to find himself trapped in a miserable marriage while pining for the vibrant, free young woman his wife would have been without marrying him in the first place. Because I too believe my personality flaws are most likely the fault of others 😘, I gave it a shot. And I really enjoyed this one even though the main character was hard for me to like because he didn't choose his wife to begin with.
DoDoSolSolLaLaSol - Do NOT trip over the name of this one. To me, this one is not to be missed. I watched it because of the whimsical trailers, but it was so surprising. A rich girl is left with nothing after her father's death, and decides to move to a quaint little town after receiving messages from an anonymous stranger on social media. She immediately hits a biker upon arriving in town, and then the guy she hit agrees to help her out financially until she can get back on her feet. She falls into debt, he falls in love...that part is the only predictable piece of the story. Along the way there is humor, death, murder, stalking, history, runaways, entrepreneurship, love triangles...or actually, love squares are more popular in this genre. The ending is heavily discussed on social media, like a rip your heart out ending, and I loved every minute of it. I started binging slower as I neared the end, and then I watched the whole series again. I loved it that much.
Another Miss Oh - How do you follow up the perfection of the last show? Well, you can't, but this one was plenty entertaining. Like, the twists in this one--where do I begin? Okay, so guy is getting married to beautiful girl. But she leaves him at the alter without giving him a reason. He later finds out she is getting married to some other guy, so he ruins the guy's life and gets him in trouble with the law. Plot twist--the guy was actually getting married to someone with the same name--another Miss Oh. So now he has to dump his fiancé days before their wedding because he doesn't want her to know he's going to jail. So now the first guy meets the second girl, and of course they fall in love--only she doesn't know he's responsible for her failed wedding. And I vaguely recall something about him having psychic visions of the future. Oh, and of course the beautiful Miss Oh reappears and the other guy gets out of jail (love square, anyone?). Highly entertaining.
Crash Landing On You - This one is probably the most undisputed on the list. I'm pretty sure anyone who's seen it would put it at least their top five of all K-dramas, though many would probably score it even higher. Sooooo goooood. Seri, a rich heiress, is testing out her new paragliding equipment and is swept in a tornado over to North Korea (I wish I could write this stuff). Due to a series of events, she ends up getting stuck there, and Captain Ri and his officers have to hide her until they can secretly get her back over the border. I will admit, there were a few episodes that went longer than they needed to, but this show was so funny and touching and intense, and the dude who plays Captain Ri had to have invented cheekbones. Plus, I was sick with the -vid for a week with nothing to do but lie there in pain, so I binged this one all through the night.
Squid Game - We will end our list with the uber-popular show that caught the attention of the world. You probably know the story: down-on-his-luck divorced guy enters a shady game in order to win a ton of money. Participants play a series of childhood games to advance towards the winnings--but if you lose, you die. Not my cup of tea description-wise, but I watched it to see what all the hype was about like everyone else. In true K-drama fashion, there were lots of twists and turns, and more layers than an onion. It was very entertaining though, and definitely worth the watch. This one was the first I watched dubbed in English and the experience wasn't as distracting as I thought it would be. I recommend everyone put this one on their list, if only for the cultural phenomenon of it all.
Whew. I think I needed to get that out of my system because no one I associate with in real life will even consider watching a K-drama, and it's more fun to enjoy these with others. I haven't invested in a new K-drama since Squid Game (though I am currently LOVING the non-K-drama Righteous Gemstones on HBO--I binged the first season too quickly and now I have to wait for a new episode every week like back in the stone age). I've been trying to pick a new show, but I take my selection very seriously. Though it is time-consuming, and time is extremely scarce these days, I do enjoy the time I spend lost in a good K-drama.
Are you a K-drama fan? Leave me your recommendations!