What makes a good drama?

In the last few days I have watched dramas so fine I don’t feel worthy, and dramas so farcical* they make a mockery of the whole genre.

*(In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not referring to Boys Over Flowers.)

Whether a drama is brilliant or a piece of crap, it affects me. I may feel elated or insulted; rarely do I feel nothing. The feelings may dissipate after a while, or they may hang around for a long time. For all the hours I spend on my kdramas—watching, thinking, and writing about them—I hope my brain is getting a beneficial workout. The day when I watch uncaring about quality is the day when it’s time to move on and look for a new obsession hobby.

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Revisiting old favorites

As you can tell from my previous post, I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic lately. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s the hours I spend watching or reading about the manifold tribulations in Japan and feeling sorrowful and overwhelmed. My mind drifts easily when I’m in a pensive state, flitting from one thing to another, and it takes me to places that I wasn’t planning on visiting.

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Damo, the Undercover Lady Detective (MBC 2003)

Do you subscribe to the belief that “you never forget your first love”? It’s a lovely sentiment, but in reality not always true. We forget stuff all the time, including poignant memories such as a first love. [Like, I recently forgot I was married with kids, and attempted to buy a ticket to Japan to stalk a certain shiny, crooked toothy-grinned, newly muscular, spacey fluff-ball, only to regain my sanity memory, right before I clicked the Buy button. Disaster and marriage counseling averted].

Memory loss nothwithstanding, do you still remember the first time you de-lurked? In whatever context, whichever forum, you typed the first tentative comments about a drama that moved you. Armed with that little ounce of courage in announcing your presence in the drama-verse, I applaud you. This review has been inspired by the devotees of dramas world-wide.

When you really love something, you pour your heart and soul into it. And it shows. I want to share with you such a drama. From the first frame to the last lingering shot, every detail is exquisite, every emotion is genuine. While not the best drama I have ever watched, I absolutely, unequivocally, love it. [I once wrote that I loved a drama so much I wanted to marry it and have its babies. I probably have a tendency to be effusive, and I don’t want to become the koala who cried wolf (every drama is the “Best Drama EVAR!!!”). I promise to fight my natural inclination to pile on the accolades, and try to be objective here].

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Sageuk Awards

Was it six years ago? A man and a woman at night, she bleeding from a wound on her shoulder, he tending so gently to the wound. Their voices are as soft as the breeze is light. As they walk home afterwards, cherry blossoms flutter around them, like a million pink and white lights aglow in the dark.

Even now, six years later, I can’t speak of my first sageuk (Korean historical or period drama) without a lump suddenly forming in my throat. Damo changed my life, literally flinging me over the edge into the depths of kdrama addiction. It marked the beginning of a love affair that has continued to grow; both my top movie and drama are period ones and I don’t see any other genre coming along to topple them, in the foreseeable future or otherwise.

Damo stayed at the top of my favorites list for a long time, but the day finally came when I had to sadly acknowledge that another drama would take its place. So it has been, this game of musical chairs, this rotation of faves and favored. I’m not alone. One of the contributors to this post sent me this note along with her picks: “I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO CHANGE MY MIND.” (See how passionate we sageuk fans are? Haha.)

So here we are, a special post on my favorite genre. Six dear friends, all familiar names in the Kdrama community, responded enthusiastically to my invitation to participate in this poll of sorts. Nine categories in all (because it’s obvious thundie can’t count; she thought she listed ten), with picks that I’m sure will delight or dismay you. Wrapping up the post is a hilarious and insightful look at how sageuk and wuxia stack up against each other.

Many thanks (and cups of coffee) to ockoala (who wrote the sageuk/wuxia piece), dahee, dramaok, hjkomo, javabeans and His Grumpiness misterX. All of you inspire me every day to be a more discerning viewer.

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Best and Worst Dramas (Part 6): 2003

 

This was supposed to be a five-part series… until I saw the list of 2003 dramas.

How can I skip the year that produced the first drama that nearly drowned me? I drooled, I wept, I was becoming dehydrated! (Thank you, Damo. I owe you.)

At some point it will end, but for now may I present to you Part 6 of our Best and Worst Dramas poll? (The five that went before are here: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.)

By the way, I’m not kidding when I say “worst” because some of the worst dramas I’ve ever watched are here! *runs away screaming*

 

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A Damo pyein’s tears

For Naeuri Hwangbo Yoon

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Naeuri, you never thought the day would come when you would send Chae Ok away and hope never to see her again. “Go,” you said, “The next time we meet you would be one of Jang Sung Baek’s men and we would have to cross swords. Go….”

And as she walked away slowly, you fell onto the grass and you cried, remembering the seven-year old girl you met fifteen years ago. “This child… I did not do anything for this child.”

But how could you say that, Naeuri? You did so much for this child. You loved her. 

[MAJOR SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT]

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For Damo

Written in September 2004

For everyone who has watched and loved Damo… I wrote this to release some of the feelings in my heart…

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Jang Jae Hee

Little Jae Hee. Could you even imagine the joy your parents felt the day you were born? The delight on your father’s face as he gazed at you… the peals of laughter that could be heard throughout the house. “A perfect little sister for you, Jae Mo,” he said, as he carried you in his arms. “Our little Jae Hee.” 

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