Are first impressions important? Definitely. If I had watched Bi (a.k.a. Jung Ji-hoon) in either Full House or A Love to Kill first, I would have fled from his subsequent work. But my first look at Bi was in Sang-doo, Let’s Go to School! (2003).
His Cha Sang-doo role (student, single dad, gigolo, security guard, conman) was lovable and well-acted, and I felt so entertained watching him. Sang-doo’s indomitable “I’m not afraid of being hurt” spirit also left a deep impression.
No matter the kind of trials that life threw at him, he remained positive and cheerful, especially with the two people who meant the world to him: his daughter, Bori, and his first and only love, Chae Eun-hwan (Gong Hyo-jin). The moment he approached Bori’s hospital room, he would put away all his sadness so that she saw only his happy face. He invented many stories to tell her, games to play with her, and songs to sing to her. He didn’t mind making a complete fool of himself just to see and hear her laugh. She was everything to him.
Bi’s portrayal of Sang-doo and Sang-doo’s relationship with Bori were the two main reasons why I loved this drama. He seemed to be really enjoying himself in his role and as a viewer I found his enthusiasm catching. The way Sang-doo interacted with Bori also made me think that Bi would be a terrific father in real life. He was just so natural with her. I missed seeing that ease and exuberance in his next two dramas. He just seemed overly self-conscious afterwards.
Another favorite part of the drama was Sang-doo’s relationship with Kang Min-suk (Lee Dong-gun). Because of Eun-hwan, the two men hated each other at first but grew to become good albeit reluctant friends. Their scenes with each other were hilarious and their love rivalry so much fun to watch. They had the best chemistry!
On the other hand, I had some difficulty relating to Gong Hyo-jin’s character. I loved her in Ruler of Your Own World because she was so noisy and feisty. Her acting in Sang-doo was comparatively more subdued and her Eun-Hwan character just didn’t tug at my heart. In her serious moments, Gong Hyo-jin often looked like she was scowling. It also didn’t help that she looked older than Bi. But the two had good chemistry, although I wished they shared more romantic moments. I wanted to see them talk more, and do more things together.
Still, I really loved the story of their first love. The flashbacks portrayed beautifully the depth of their love for each other and I especially loved the songs that played in those scenes. There was no question about the sacrifices they would later make for each other. After all, they had gone through so much together.