Previously, I have introduced 6 dramas in the TOP 10 K-Dramas List Part 1 (linked) and now I’m going to cheat by introducing 5 here instead of 4. Because one of the dramas on this list is my personal favorite and I’m probably too biased to think objectively! Dramaland knows no rules.
Let’s continue where we left off!
#4 Queen of housewives 내조의 여왕
There wasn’t much hype initially but the drama gained insane popularity and it basically turned out to be Yoon Sang Hyun’s breakthrough role, with good reason. One reason why I love this drama is because it deals with Korean culture, the workplace and family version. The central theme of the story is power and hierarchy and you can see how the Korean hierarchy culture plays a major role in weaving the story together.
Our female lead was the popular girl in high school but after she married a “normal salaryman”, she ended up in the inferior position as compared to her friends whose husbands are in the “managerial” levels. As fate will dictate, her husband joins the same company to work under her first love (whose wife was her frenemy back in high school). The drama does a very realistic portrayal of what it means to have added power / hierarchy differences to a relationship and the awkwardness of having maneuver between the various identities in various situations. In the workplace itself, males have their own hierarchy to adhere to. However, the wives having their own positions dictated by their husbands’ positions and there is a certain amount of power that they can wield to help their husbands along. Sounds simple enough, until the CEO starts to fall in love with our married female lead and when his wife turns out to be a hoobae of her husband. And that is another shift in power and hierarchy. Exceptionally well written and you will fall in love with all the characters, trust me.
#3 Reply 1997 응답하라 1997
A true underdog. Produced by a cable TV with no heavy weight names, it was expected to air and finish quietly. Instead it gained a huge and loyal following both in and outside of Korea. High school story at its most poignant – it reminds us what’s the best in our teenage lives and what hurt the most. Dreams, friendships, family and loyalty. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get the pop culture references in that era, you will find yourself ditching the latest kpop and get back to the oldies.
A gem for the language learner – being the only drama where you can hear Busan satoori (dialect) in its full glory. Most dramas tend to shy away from dialects (only the elderly characters speak them) but the cast here are chosen specifically for their fluency in the dialect.
#2 Obstetrics and Gynecology Doctors 산부인과
Korea. Medical Drama. Hospital. See these key words and it’s easy to think that the drama will be about rivalry amongst a bunch of genius doctors, endless hospital politics, with romances and some crisis thrown in. There are no geniuses here, only very capable (in a realistic way) and caring doctors and zero hospital politics. This is the first time where everyone in the hospital is NICE – and that’s considered really rare in k-dramas. The writing is tight and manages to weave a number of cases / topics in OB/GN and the story of the personal lives of the department together. I find myself caring a lot about each patient and story, not just finding them peripheral to the main characters. Each character is well fleshed out, including the nurses and resident doctors of the team. Again, rare in k-dramas where everyone else outside the main leads are there to fill up screen space.
p.s. you get to see Song Joongki in one of his earlier roles
#1 Heartless City 무정도시
As if you didn’t expect it 😛 Long time readers will know that I’ve been raving about this drama during its airing period and it shot up right to the top of my list. You don’t hear many people talking about it (we are usually over at tumblr), but the following is HARD CORE.
Set in the crime-filled world of mafia, drugs and the police, the noir crime drama is raw and gritty, with excellent cinematography to boot. Story-wise, graphics-wise, it is unlike your usual bright, cheery k dramas, but more like an extended Korean film. Which in my books, is a good thing.
(credits: wgooooon / Tumblr)
What I loved about the drama was that you can never guess what’s going to happen. In that, it already exceeds expectations, given the predictability of most k-dramas. It’s not just the plot that is hard to predict, but even small things like reactions, the role of each character and the focus of the story. The villains are not there just to provide some angst to the story. The side characters are not there to fill in the screen space and to act like they are written with a one-liner description. For a show that deals with betrayals, justice, loyalty, misunderstandings and secrets, I expected a lot of time spent on people being silly, a single secret dragging out for episodes for no good reason but to the show’s credit, there was nothing like that.
Every passing episode sends you nearer the edge and by ep 19 I was really teetering off the edge. This is no feel-good story and it resembles a Korean film both in writing and execution but nonetheless it combines the sleek, pretty scenes you get in k-dramas too.
Some dramas shine because of the writers. Some the camera and the directors. Others owe their success to compelling acting. Heartless city is all three, with an excellent OST thrown in.
Give the drama a chance, and it will take your heart and breath away.
All time favorite:
Fantasy Couple 환상의 커플
The special drama in my life. Definitely my all-time favorite Hong Sisters drama. There is just so much that I can identify with the female lead’s way of thinking (hehe), and I have a whole list of favorite quotations from the drama. Don’t even ask how many times I’ve watched it.
There. I’ve shared my all time TOP 10 dramas. None of your “usual classics” are on the list, but that means you are likely to be able to find something new to watch!
Time for YOU to share. What are your favorite dramas?