First Episodes: A Taste Test

Posted by Stephanie on October 29, 2013

General

As an official simulcaster now, I looked through the currently running shows and realized I’d seen 3 first episodes. Which got me thinking…rather than doing the Hot/Cold post I’d planned on recently completed shows, judging their worthiness for a spot on the coveted TBWList, I’d change it up. Try the first episodes, a first taste if you will, of the currently running dramas to see if they could hook me into watching the rest.

I came across some interesting results: shows I expected to come through with flying colors stumbled at the gate, leaving me with a bad taste, and others, that I hadn’t considered before surprised me with an unexpected dose of yum.

Now here are a few things to keep in mind. I only watched first episodes. I’m sure some of these got better as they went along, but that doesn’t count. And, I was lazy. I only watched shows available on my TV, so I did miss Medical Top Team and Scandal. But beyond that? I’m feeling quite proud of this accomplishment! I feel like a regular simulcaster–who knew I had it in me?

Heirsheirs

Hrm. Heirs. I’ll admit, I’ve had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about Heirs since I found out the premise. I’d hoped watching the first episode at the DramaFever premier would help get me out of my eye rolling case of the “I’m so over it”s and get me back into the euphoric “wahhoos!” I had once the first news that Lee Min Ho and Kim Eun Suk were working together. Was it successful?

Nope.

It might have been the bad English. It might have been the clichéd characters. But Heirs made me laugh. And not in a good way. We’ve got the typical poor heroine in distress, the chaebol hero who’s really actually very sensitive on the inside and everyone has daddy issues. And the bit with the bean flour?

Cringe.

From what I hear Heirs has gotten a lot better from this first episode, and heck, maybe one day, when it’s all done, I’ll check it out. There were the start of some interesting characters. As is Kim Eun Suk’s way, the side characters have a lot more thought put into them then most other Kdrama supporting casts. Tan’s fiancée, while I’m sure we’re not supposed to like her, I could see why she was acting like such the royal bitch that she is. No one wants her. She’s a pawn to her mother, her father is dead, and she’s engaged to a guy who obviously couldn’t care less about her. Already I think she has way more right to be cranky than the cranky golfer in AGD. And Kim Woo Bin’s character? Wow. His dad is brutal. No wonder he thinks it’s okay to be such bully.

Remember when the information on Heirs was released everyone complained (me included) that it was so much like Boys Over Flowers? Wondering why Lee Min Ho was just going to play Junpyo again? Isn’t it funny (to me at least, remember I’ve only seen this first episode) that it’s actually the B guy who is the Junpyo? Like in this version, Junpyo doesn’t get the girl? Now if only Tan would start to sadly play the violin….

Verdict: Pixie Sticks. You know you should like them because everyone else does, but you just don’t…

A Clinic on the SeaAClinicOnTheSea
Adorable. When I first started this drama it made me remember why I initially started watching Kdrama, it’s light, fun, and hopefully romantic (even though it’s a Jdrama). The first episode set up lots of questions, why does Kota need to get married, why he’s on a boat in the middle of no where, why did he tell his mother he was already engaged, and what happened to change the heroine from a badass troublemaker to a dedicated nurse? Oh and when is Kota going to look next to him and realize the perfect girl he’s looking for is right there? Nothing big. Nothing particularly exciting. That’s exactly it—A Clinic on the Sea is a nothing show. I most certainly don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s one of those bright shiny shows which you check in, forget your troubles for 45 minutes while you laugh your butt off.
Since I don’t usually remember to watch the light romantic comedies, this is a nice change and even if I weren’t working on it for the DramaFever DramaClub, I would definitely keep watching it on my own.

Verdict: Shirley Temple. Sweet Tasty and usually decorated in colorful fans and umbrellas.

Mi-Rae’s Choicemiraes choice
I’m going to come out an admit it. I didn’t love this episode. Well. I should qualify that. I really don’t like future Mi-rae. There were a lot of things I enjoyed from the start of this episode. I liked the slightly slacker Mi-rae who has dreams but no real drive. She strives to just be content with her lot in life. Sounds like a lot of Kdrama heroines, right? I even like the plot of her future self coming back to stop her from marrying her future husband. I really liked the idea of fate that future Mi-rae didn’t take into account when she made her plans to come back and meddle. She just thought that by coming back and having Mi-rae avoid the accident, then her and her future husband would never meet. But fate, or fate in the land of Kdrama, is trixier than that. If they were meant to meet in a traffic accident, then by George, they were going to meet in a traffic accident. I think that’s an interesting idea.

I even liked her uptight future husband. Yes, I can totally see why everyone is coming down with a case of the second lead syndrome, but I think the broadcaster has a lot of room to grow and change. And as we also know from Kdrama, fate, and heroines, tend to favor the cranky and arrogant. (And I love his swearing.)

What I don’t care for is how quickly future Mi-rae became the bitch of the drama in her treatment to present Mi-rae. Yes, it’s basically yourself you’re being mean to, but it’s out of place and jarring. It’s like she’s the angry mother-in-law of a makjang-apalooza. When she slaps Mi-rae? Took me right out of the drama. And I question her motives. From her charts and diagrams, not only is she trying to break up her own marriage, but she’s also trying to break up the seemingly happy relationship of the other guy and his fiancée. In the interview of the future (or her past) he says he fell in love at first sight on Jeju during that visit with the other girl. So he wasn’t in love with Mi-rae? So she’s just breaking up another happy relationship on the off chance it will get her a better future? Even if she does love him, if he didn’t love her, and she’s changing his future on her wants alone? Well that bothers me. And I might be biased against her but I can’t also help but feel that part of why she wants to be with him is for all the money he will eventually inherit.

It makes me wonder–how on earth did the Mi-rae of today become the Mi-rae of the future? I know life can be hard, but it’s like they are two completely different people, with two completely different personalities. People change, but I don’t think they intrinsically change who they are.

It just strikes me as wrong and again, takes me out of the drama. And anything that takes me out of the drama is bad.

Verdict: An old latte. Started out awesome, but has quickly cooled.

Answer Me 1994Answer-Me-1994 (1)
At first I had no intention of watching this drama. I signed it off as the producers trying to cash in on the success of the first Answer Me. But as word grew, I decided to give it a try. This time based in the big city of Seoul, a group of kids from all different parts of the country live together at the heroines parents home-stay. Everyone in this story is a fish out of water, well, except for the heroine. Even though she’s only been in the city for a short time she seems to have acclimated well. There is a lot about this drama which is pulled straight from the original, just as I’d feared. It’s not completely bad, but it makes me give a bit of an eye roll. I like the return of the parents from the original, cast as the parents of this drama. Her mom is given the same quirk of wanting to cook for everyone, and it fits here as she is cooking for a whole house of people, but that first scene where she pulls out the ridiculous amount of food, even more over the top from last time, it just took me out of the story. Before she made a lot of food but it wasn’t as unbelievable as this was. The sound of the sheep is taken straight from the last drama and plopped throughout scenes here as well. Then the heroine is as big of a crazed fan as last year, however, in this version they’ve replaced Andy from H.O.T with a basketball player. And of course, we’ve got the entire plot of the drama hinging on that same one question—who is it that she marries?

As with the 1997, I feel like there’s a giant part of this drama that we miss out on because we didn’t grow up in 1994 Korea. We (or I) are out of the loop on jokes involving the time, movies, songs, or events of the time frame. The meta, that’s it, we’re left out on the meta, which is part of the lure of these dramas. Yes, we can go to Dramabeans, read the recap, and learn “Oh, that’s why that was funny,” or “Oh, that’s who that was,” but it’s not really the same.

Despite all this, I liked it. It was a nice way to pass an hour. The relationship between her and her brother—how quick they are to anger—made me laugh. When she actually goes under those blankets to remove his clothes from his body so she can do gather the laundry? So funny. And then when his bratty “Turn out the light” had her launching an attack? I knew these were characters I wanted to hang around with.

My favorite character though? The new guy, who spent most of the episode just trying to get to the home-stay. Coming from nowhere to the big city on his own for the first time? Completely lost not only literally but figuratively but trying to put his best foot forward? Well, considering that pretty much is my life right now, I couldn’t help but relate. With those few scenes my heart went out to him and I now want nothing but the best for him—seriously—if they could see fit to give him his own romance storyline? I’d be very happy.

Verdict: Grilled Cheese and tomato soup. Cozy comfort food.
Suspicious Housekeepersuspicious housekeeper
I hadn’t really had any intention of watching this until the idea for this post came along. It was one of those dramas you go “Oh, and that’s on too,” vaguely noticing it as it drifts by. However, this is why sometimes trying out everything might be to your benefit. If I hadn’t done this trial—I wouldn’t know the crack that is Suspicious Housekeeper. It’s been so long since I’ve had a crack drama, a show I just can’t put down, I was wondering that maybe it wasn’t them, it was me. Maybe I just didn’t get as invested into dramas anymore. Maybe the days of “just one more episode” are done.

Boy was I wrong. Thankfully.

I’m not saying Suspicious Housekeeper is a well written excellent thinkers drama. Nope, if it were, it probably wouldn’t be a crack drama. Crack dramas usually need the sensationalistic storyline, with some unbelievable characters and slight over acting thrown in. Suspicious Housekeeper has everything.
The father is such a dick in this show. He knows nothing about his children caring more about his work and crumbling affair to properly taking care of them. The kid’s, reeling from their mothers death, are just as bratty as you’d expect them to be. And the scene with the kids birthday when everyone freaks out and lets go of their inner secrets and pains was a bit much. Everything together was a delicious concoction of a drama-lovers wet dream.

Even the suspicious housekeeper herself is awesome. Who is she? Is she actually a robot? I’d almost believe that. And why did her boss ask her if she’d kill for her employers if asked?

As with all good crack dramas Suspicious Housekeeper ended on such a cliff-hanger, I had to keep going I needed to know what happens at that water. And well written or not, isn’t this the measure of a good first episode? (I’ll admit I’ve actually now seen 4 episodes of this drama, and can’t wait for a chance to check out more.)

Verdict: Lay’s Potato chips. I know they’re bad for you, but can’t stop eating them until that entire bag is empty.

Unemployed Romanceunemployed romance

This is terrible, stay away! Yep, that pretty much sums it up. What a bummer. I’d been interested to see this one as I wanted to see Senior Crazy Eyes (Nam Goong Min) from Can You Hear My Heart transfer into rom-com hero. But you know what? He’s not even in the freaking first episode! And it’s not like this is a full length drama either. At only 10 episodes, this means your hero is missing for at least 1/10th of your drama. Instead in the first episode we’re left with the heroine. Who I didn’t like.

I mean—really didn’t like.

I didn’t care for the character, I didn’t care for the actress, I’m struggling to think of one thing I did like about this first episode.

Ummm…yeah…I’m still thinking.

Okay, the lawyer? The one who came to talk to the roommate? I didn’t mind him. I didn’t mind the roommate either. The one we’re not supposed to like because she’s become successful over the heroine and is supposed to be snooty because she doesn’t like it when the heroine drinks all her expensive coffee and doesn’t replace it. In which case I am firmly on the side of the bitchy roommate. It’s standard protocol. You don’t eat your roommates stuff.

The heroine has a whole ‘woe is me’ attitude which is just annoying. Whining because her roommate is more successful than she is, whining that she doesn’t have money, that she’s never gotten another chance to make it. Makes me wonder if she’s suited to actually be a writer. She can’t come up with an idea without tricking the local chatty ahjumma into telling her the building gossip.

So with this first episode we were shorted rom, and there certainly wasn’t any com.

Now to be completely honest, I watched this episode after watching Suspicious Housekeeper. After the giant cliffhanger the episode left me on, I wasn’t totally in the mood for Unemployed Romance but after about 5 minutes I really didn’t like it and I couldn’t tell if it was because I didn’t like the drama or if my mind was still stuck on Suspicious Housekeeper or it was actually not very good. I wondered if I wasn’t giving it a fair shake by continuing on in my mood. So I stopped watching, finished the next episode of Suspicious Housekeeper and gave it a day to pick up this drama again to try and give myself some distance.

It didn’t work.

I’m sure the show is still just setting up the drama. I mean she’s not even unemployed yet. But we know, the way the boss keeps gambling, it’s only a matter of time before that business shuts down. However, in a 10 episode drama, I feel like it should move a little faster, shouldn’t it?

Of course this all flies in the face of what I usually say, how I don’t need a plot on a character driven show. But I’m not entirely sure this is a character driven show. And I’m certainly not going to stick around for the characters.

Verdict: A greek yogurt induced spit take.

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