Doctor Champ. Or the one drama where the classic B-Guy finally gets the girl. Or a giant commercial for domestic pork.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I was pleasantly surprised by this drama. Not that I expected dislike it, I just didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Looking back I wondered if it had been all the cold medicine I was hopped up on while doing the Dr. Champ marathon (doesn’t everything look a little shiny-er with a nice cough medicine buzz?) During the rewatch I was happy to find out, no, it is a basic, quiet, well put together, well acted show. Of course all the man candy (and I’m talking a lot of candy covered shirtless choices) really helped. I’m not one of those weirdo people I promise, but this show just made me want to lick my tv screen.
Of course that was probably just the amazing camera they used and didn’t have anything to do with the shirtless judo champs and Khottie of a lead. Right?
Okay, so maybe I am a weirdo.
I loved, loved, loved this hero. On the surface he is the classic happy go lucky B-Guy. He’s a little dopey, a bit goofy, fiercely loyal, incredibly sweet and helpful all the way through the show–like a giant man/child. However, he is intently focused on his life goals which are clearly mapped out from almost the very beginning–a gold medal and Kim Yeon Woo. (Not always necessarily in that order.)
See? Classic B-Guy.
Funny, he kind of reminds me of the B-Guy in Playful Kiss Bong Joon Gu Well, Bong Joon Gu after high school. He is always in the background helping the heroine actually anyone he loves. Time and again he helps Kim Yeon Woo with keeping her job. Even with the sister-in-law who is so resentful to him, he does everything in his power to help her and his nephew. With both of these women he is not only in your face doing things for them but he is also there in the background doing what he can to make sure they are successful on their own.
Just an all in all stand up guy. On paper you expect him to be boring, especially when you see who he’s up against, but periodically you will see these flashes of depth to him. He has the capability for darkness, but I believe he chooses not to live his life that way. That’s why I thought his personality change was completely believable after Yoo Sang Bong’s accident and how he was able to come out of it. I’ve heard some people think it didn’t fit with his character, but I tend to disagree. You can see it right from the second episode after Kim Yeon Woo cuts into his leg. He puts his kidding, goofy persona aside and tells her, in all seriousness, if she was wrong about his leg he would have her medical license. In that second you can see below his surface to what bubbles beneath.
Those couple of episodes where he was a complete ass-hat to everyone around him was just him trying to come to grips with what he had accidentally done. Come on. He had just paralyzed his best friend then cheered over his body–well–until he realized something was wrong. That would send anyone into a tailspin. Once he processed his guilt and anger, he was able to stuff that part of him back inside himself and came back to some semblance of the person he once was.
On a side note. Was there anyone out there who saw that accident coming? I can tell you there were screams coming from my living room when I saw Yoo Sang Bong land on his head. We all knew as soon as the camera’s moved into place it wasn’t going to end well. I know plot wise, we needed to get him out of the way, but did the writers have to go that far? These two guys had a great relationship, and it was sad to see the small scenes they had together stop.
Although, I have to say, one of the scenes where I cried like a baby was when Yoo Sang Bong rolled himself to the match to show his support for his friend. Seriously? If you didn’t cry at that then you are a cold-hearted monster. This man would never be the same again and yet there he was back in the place where just a few months before he’d been paralyzed?
Ji Heon: Then why did you come?
Sang Bong: Because I didn’t want you to lose. Because if you lost and couldn’t go to the Asian Games, I thought you making me this way could become your last judo memory. And because it might become my last memory as well.
Ji Heon: I’m going to make the final memory the final match of the Asian Games. If I win a medal, Ill come and show you first. The first thing I do.
Awww….. I think these guys are going to be just fine. I loved the fact that in the last episode we got another cute scene with the two friends which let us know that their friendship was going to make it through and that Sang Bong was going to be okay with how his life turns out.
Was that a tangent? I’m not sure.
Anyway. Where was I? B-Guy. Right. So for every B-Guy there must be an A, right? Well the Doctor Lee Do Wook himself is pretty awesome. He’s got everything the hero should have, he’s prickly, can be a jerk to the heroine, and has a dark history with all sorts of crunch layers. With his cane, his “I know everything” attitude, and the pure joy he gets making others around him uncomfortable, Do Wook bears a striking resemblance to Dr. House. Man, did I love the scene when he came off the plane with his sunglasses, cane, and smirk. I definitely sat up and took notice.
I actually wondered if this guy perhaps was going to be our hero. I couldn’t tell you who I was rooting for, as I liked both characters equally. With the initial writing or even right up to the middle, it could have gone either way (especially considering the main couple didn’t get together until the last couple of episodes). Of course I eventually ended up rooting for our real hero, but I still wanted good things for the doctor.
However, I was thinking. Was he really a rival though for our hero? I thought he would be at the beginning, but the show seemed pretty clear that, while the heroine had a pretty strong crush on the doctor, it was not returned. He never, at any point, gave her hope that he returned her affections. In the last episode the writers tried to shoehorn in a little confession from him, having him say he had actually fallen for Kim Yeon Woo the very first time he had met her. I just don’t believe it. He was at all times clearly hung up on his love/hate relationship with his ex-girlfriend. Ugh. And then they had him say she was the only person to have made him laugh since his accident 14 years ago? Seriously? 14 years and nary a chortle? I find that extremely doubtful.
So is it a love triangle if one of the members doesn’t participate? I say no. Her crush on him was more like an obstacle to the main couples love. I love the jealously Park Ji Heon has of her relationship with the Doctor. Even at the end, when the main couple are officially dating, Ji Heon still has that slight insecurity to want to mark his territory (in the cutest way of course)
Once again in a review, I leave out the heroine to the very end. However, with those other two eye-candies on screen, who can blame me? Kim Yeon Woo is a pretty interesting character. Like the good doctor said, she is stuffy and suck in her ways. She’s got a prickly no-nonsense attitude which is a good match with the hero’s cheery nature. In the end she makes him a little more serious and he makes her lighten up (slightly). It’s actually a pretty interesting dynamic, one you don’t see as much in Kdrama. Usually the roles are reversed.
He slowly wears her down. Or I should say he sllllllooooooowwwwly wears her down. For most of the show she likes him as a patient or more as the happy chocolate lab who always greets you at the door. You don’t see her noticing him as a man even after he stands in front of her almost naked. (Rawrrr.) However, as the show progresses you never really see her make a conscious decision to turn to him until the last couple of episodes. The signs of her changing her mind or heart are very small and easy to miss. If you’re not careful the when she finally tells him she wants to be more than friends it could come as a total out of the blue moment. Especially since it comes on the heels of the heated fight she has with the doctor, it could be taken as a rash decision–her version of the drunk dial.
But if you look closer the signs are there. She cares about how he is, if he’s okay, and even puts him in front of the doctor. He truly is a bolmae. Someone who becomes more appealing the more you see him. Throught the show, little by little, he wears her down until the day she doesn’t even realize how much he means to her. And this makes it even sweeter when in the last scene, they make their wishes on the lantern and instead of wishing for themselves they both wish for the other.
The show was nicely bookended by the two lantern festivals. Actually, in my writing I learned a lot about three beats. If something is significant, it should be referenced three times. I’m guessing this writer learned that too.
First Beat: It began at the first lantern festival, after Kim Yeon Woo has had everything she’s worked so hard for taken away, and she writes on the lantern, “everything is all right. You are going to be okay.” This give Park Ji Heon a glimpse beneath the crusty exterior she tucks herself behind.
Second Beat: The lantern in the middle that Park Ji Heon gets for her to help alleviate her troubles and I think, just that moment, she sees him as more than a nuisance, and a little spark (lantern?) is lit. This lantern is snuffed out by the rain (not quite their time yet).
Third Beat: Fast forward to the end where Kim Yeon Woo has a career she loves and never expected to have, and a man who loves her. Crazily. (Who didn’t melt when he said that?) She now has friends and is happy with her life. Her original wish came true. She was going to be okay.
As much as I did love the lantern festivals, was anyone else just thinking it was a fire waiting to happen? I’d love to have my own lantern with a wish on it, but I’m pretty sure with my luck I’d just end up burning down the entire town. Doctor Champ is NOT brought to you by Smokey the Bear.
One niggling problem I did have with the heroine and the writers was with her abilities as a doctor. Okay, at the beginning, she was set up as this totally competent kick-ass doctor who everyone else went to in an emergency. Yes, she was still learning about surgeries, but everything else? She was on it. However as soon as she went to the clinic, she turned into, well, I don’t want to say incompetent, but she was almost there. It was just jarring and didn’t seem to fit. Yes she needed to learn and lean on the doctor but did the writers have to do such a 180?
One thing that never changed was her steadfast belief in doing what was best for the patient no matter what trouble it gets her into. And it gets her into trouble A LOT. From the inciting incident at the hospital when her mentor want her to cover up a mistake he made to one of the last cases they work on which pits her against Dong Woo and even the patient herself. This is why in the end she is the better doctor. They need a doctor like her to keep everyone else in line.
That girls got gumption.
As for the plot? Well, apparently I’m just drawn to shows which have plots with no real push to them. Doctor Champ has a timeline which acts as your plot marker. We start with Park Ji Heon winning enough rounds to get into the Taereung National Village (where the athletes train) to ultimately work on his goal toward getting into the Asia Games. Then we make our way towards his next qualifying match, from there it’s to the final qualifying match, then we end (with an epilogue) with the hero competing in the Asia Games. Everything else that occurs is episodic and just bumps along, slowly building the characters and their relationships with each other. It makes me think of Pasta, and we all know what I think about Pasta (well, in case you are new to the blog, I love, love, love it). I’m going to have to go out and find other shows where reviewers complain about non-plot and check those out.
I do puzzle at the director (or writer) choice in not showing the last bout of the last two matches–the qualifying round where he was up against Ko Bum–and the metal round at the Asia Games. I understand why they didn’t show the final one–we don’t want to see him lose, at that point it really isn’t about the medal for him anymore–however, I’m disappointed we didn’t get to see him kick Ko Bum’s ass. We should have seen it, this guy was set up to be the villain of that story arc, and our hero won. Not seeing one match is fine, not seeing both? Overkill.
The tone of the show was consistent throughout, which I know from watching lots of Kdrama, isn’t as easy as you’d think. It’s pretty mellow and soft, with a bunch of laughter (usually thanks to the hero and his pursuit of the heroine). The spirit of the show is kicked right off the bat with Park Je Heon’s dream sequence. You know right from the start this is going to be a fun time.
The acting in this show is just amazing. Well, the acting of everyone else except the swimming coach. She was one of those not there actors. “Eh.” We, or I, didn’t care about her or the character and I think that is entirely due to the actress. For the character itself was written in such a way where she could have been very interesting. The backstory and bad history she had with her ex-boyfriend, the doctor, and then the conflicting desires to have her athletes be successful and doing what was best for them. It’s just a shame I think that we don’t care.
I can’t wait to see something else that any of the three leads are in especially Jung Gyu Woon (and it’s not just because he’s so pretty). On the outside Park Ji Heon seems like an easy character but he does have lots of layers which need to be skillfully balanced. I loved all of his facial expressions. Unfortunately, I looked at his filmography and there really isn’t a single other thing I want to see. Maybe in the future Jung Gyu Woon we’ll meet again. I wonder if he’s been to the army yet?
I feel like I may be half-assing this. I’m sure there are loads of things, points I left out. Suffice it to say, I liked this show. For some reason the word fresh comes to mind. This is a really fresh show. The lead couple is super cute and their romance seems very normal and every day. Does Doctor Champ top my favorite list? Nope. Will I watch it again? Probably. You know. When I have time. (Bwahahahaha!) Will I recommend it to someone else? Absolutely.