Annnnd we wrap up the last installment of our Best of 2011 series with dramas: an activity that — if done right — will have you spending countless number of hours staring at your computer (or TV) screen until your eyeballs fall out. So why shouldn’t we weigh in on what was the best and worst of the year, right?
And here are my picks for the year…
BEST DRAMAS OF THE YEAR
I do have to start with a disclaimer for this category. I watched quite a few dramas this year but I wasn’t able to watch everything, which ultimately influences which dramas I do pick as the best of the year. Dramas like Tree With Deep Roots and The Princess’ Man seemed to be universally well-received, but I couldn’t weigh in on those because I personally haven’t watched them.
49 Days is a drama that a lot of people probably didn’t anticipate to be as good as it turned out to be. Since it did air earlier in the year, it may be a drama that’s gotten overshadowed as some of the more impressive dramas came out in the latter half the year, including the likes of City Hunter, Tree With Deep Roots, The Princess’ Man, Warrior Baek Dong-soo. But 49 Days remains one of my favorite dramas of the year, as well as a drama that I think was one of the best written.
I don’t think 49 Days was a perfect drama — there were some glaring flaws with the writing as we neared the end — but it is one that’s stuck out to me most, and has continued to be on my mind despite the fact that there were better dramas that aired later. It’s billed as a fantasy, but really has the makings of a dramatic story mixed in with lighter elements, which is why I never feared that it would go makjang on us.
The writers of 49 Days tried to incorporate a lot of philosophy about life and death in the story, which I appreciated. Deaths were not written just for the sake of wringing tears out of watchers; I felt that they were necessary in order to illustrate a point. A lot of people weren’t satisfied with the way the story wrapped up, with the death of one of the main characters, but I think the death serves as a good final example of the moral of the story: that death isn’t just the end. There is a lot that transcends the often feared idea of death. For that reason, I was extremely satisfied with the mission that our characters set out with at the very beginning, and felt that it concluded in a meaningful manner.
Like I said, 49 Days wasn’t a perfect drama — it did have some wonky story lines and some vague and shallow acting — but the crux of the story and the lesson dispensed made it a stand-out one to me.
City Hunter is undeniably the best action drama of the year. The story was gripping, the acting was strong, and it was just an all-around compelling drama to watch. Oh and yeah, it’s got Lee Min-ho.
Joking aside, this drama was slick and extremely engaging. While the first couple of episodes stood out to me because of the bad use of cliffhangers, once the drama got into its groove, every episode left me hanging until the very end. I’m pleased as a viewer the way it ended, because it came down to the elements that are crucial in revenge stories — love, family, revenge, and redemption. The writing held up well all through the episodes and gave us a hell of a closer.
Some people didn’t enjoy that the ending was open-ended, but this is one case in which I think the open-endedness fit very well with the arch of the story. The idea of the City Hunter will always be there, and it is the City Hunter’s job to keep doing what is necessary of him, regardless of the actual person owns the title of City Hunter, so the idea of not locking down Lee Yoon-sung to a romantic love or a comfortable family was completely fine with me.
Long live Lee Min-ho!
Honorable Mentions: Best Love, Tree With Deep Roots, The Princess’ Man, Protect the Boss
MOST OVERRATED AND UNDERRATED DRAMA OF THE YEAR
Protect the Boss
I think it’s fitting to say that Protect the Boss was both an underrated drama and a very much overrated drama.
I hate to admit it, but Jaejoong has much to do with this drama’s over-hype and under-hype. My guess it that a lot of viewers tuned in because of Jaejoong, and their good feelings for Jaejoong translated into their good feelings for the drama, which even independent of Jaejoong was a pretty great drama. Through our polling and the response from our various Protect the Boss mentions on the site, I get the sense that a huge portion of the enthusiasm for this drama came from very ardent and vocal Jaejoong fans, which placated fellow fans and also irritated regular drama fans who care not for Jaejoong.
And this then becomes a fact of pop culture fandom: the more fans gush and praise to high heavens about something, the more other observers are inclined to say that it’s not all that. I myself am very surprised at those who didn’t enjoy Protect the Boss, but understood the reasoning because sometimes idol fans can be very overbearing about just how great this drama is because they believe that Jaejoong made it that way.
Don’t get me wrong, I have my fair share of love for Jaejoong, and I do recommend his performance in this drama wholeheartedly, but he did not in any way, shape, or form single-handedly make this drama.
And this is where I would call this drama underrated: this drama was great, pure and simple, regardless of the fact that a very popular idol was in it, and a lot of people don’t appreciate it or don’t give it a chance because the Jaejoong/DBSK/JYJ brand can tend to shroud all else. Everything about this drama tickled me pink: the spunky female lead played by Choi Kang-hee, the ridiculously loveable friendships between ALL of the four leads, and the general uncomplicated approach to the characters and their problems.
Protect the Boss was not a drama I expected to be as good as it was because the premise seemed whacky in a bleh way, but man am I glad I underestimated it.
Spy Myung-wol was supposed to be great, campy fun. Instead, it turned out to be one of the most frantic, disorganized, poorly-written, and drama-filled dramas of the year. The Han Ye-seul debacle didn’t help the story towards the end, and neither did the ridiculous writing that the entire drama was infected with. There were too many useless peripheral characters, too much self-inflicted hand-wringing, and the main couple left a severely bad taste in my mouth because Eric‘s Kang Woo became Mr. Supreme Asshole #1 as the story progressed. I was looking forward to Eric’s comeback project after Poseidon didn’t work out for him, but maybe next time.
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop
By and large, I might be the only person who wasn’t enthralled by Flower Boy Ramyun Shop. I found it light and funny at first, but the persistent overacting from Lee Chung-ah and dynamics between her character and Jung Il-woo‘s and Lee Ki-woo‘s felt strange as the story progressed. The storyline is not one that regular K-drama watchers haven’t already watched to hell and back, so there was nothing about this drama that felt fresh to me, other than the ramyun shop aspect. Yes there are feel-good moments regarding the bromance of the four kkotminam’s in the shop, but it’s also not something we haven’t seen before. I enjoyed the acting from almost every member of the cast just well enough, but I don’t feel that any aspect of this drama as a whole were so outstanding and unique that warrants the popularity it garnered, outside of the fact that it, well, was about a bunch of hot dudes together in one place.
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What are your picks for drama of 2011?