20120405_seoulbeats_cityhunter_leeminhoWe all have those weekends. The ones where you wake up with a pounding headache and dry mouth, wondering what happened because in your memory everything starts clear but rapidly devolves into a hazy blur. The kind that lead to waking up in a pile of empty ramen cups and energy drinks. The sort that lead to fruitlessly wondering why it’s suddenly Monday when it was Friday — and what the hell happened to Saturday and Sunday?!

I’m talking about going on a drama bender. You start watching, and you just can’t stop. These four dramas are the most likely to induce just such a weekend.

4) City Hunter

City Hunter is a modern classic. It’s ostensibly an action drama, but the true crux of the story is Yoon-sung against his adoptive father Jin-pyo. While both are seeking to right a wrong committed twenty-five years ago, they do so in opposite ways. Jin-pyo wants to kill the five men responsible for the deaths of twenty-nine Korean soldiers at the hands of their government, satisfying his personal need for vengeance. Yoon-sung, though, understands that death will simply martyr them. Instead, he seeks to reveal their crimes and force them to pay publicly, thus serving the greater good.

The back-and-forth between these two men is enthralling, especially as both men claim victories. It’s not a given that Yoon-sung will come out on top, which makes the desire to see him do so all the more desperate. City Hunter is like a good whiskey: smooth, best consumed undiluted, and very, very hard to put down.

20150211_seoulbeats_boysoverflowers3) Boys over Flowers

I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. Boys Over Flowers is an absolutely terrible drama, with no substance, very little style, and admitting to liking it is akin to saying that Twilight deserves a Nobel Prize. It’s a train wreck that, at worst, glamorizes emotional abuse and, at best, sucks.

Of course, the fact that it’s such a train wreck is what keeps you from looking away. How much of an asshole can Jun-pyo be? Will Jan-di get fed up with being treated like a toy? Will Yi-jong and Ga-eul ever become a thing? Is the collective IQ of these characters above four? The vile fascination that inevitably develops is a powerful thing. Boys Over Flowers is the drama equivalent of rotgut vodka: it’s awful — you know it’s awful — but if you’re desperate enough to start drinking in the first place, that’s not gonna stop you from finishing.

2) Devil Beside You

Devil Beside You is one of those dramas that I need to watch at least once every six months. It has much more heart than the average romance drama, with Ahmon and Qi Yue being quite well-rounded for trendy characters. The passion between them is carried by genuine chemistry, but what really makes this drama addictive is the layering of problems.

In most dramas, there is only one major conflict at a time; Devil Beside You stacks them. While everyone is facing one problem head-on there’s always something else simmering in the background. Dealing with one thing just means they can start dealing with the next. Most trendy dramas are like cheap white wine —  they’re low quality, overly sweet and give you headaches you feel in your teeth. Devil Beside You, though, is like plum wine: still sweet, but if you have the palate for it, it’s an intoxicating and lovely treat.

20141115_seoulbeats_LiarGame1) Liar Game

Every person I know who started watching Liar Game has said the same thing: “I can’t stop,” and there’s a good reason for that. Liar Game is a heady mystery that refuses to give the audience clues it won’t give its protagonists, rendering both parties equally desperate to figure out what the hell is going on.

Woo-jin and Da-jung constantly face ever-worsening scenarios at Do-young’s creepy hands, yet it never comes off as trite. The solidification of the team is always mitigated by the feeling that everything is building up to something big and nightmarish, and, just like the game, leaving is not an option. Liar Game is top-shelf scotch: elegant, refined, and such a high-quality guilty pleasure you don’t even realize you’re not pacing yourself.

Not all dramas are created equal. Some are good, some are awful, and some are like crack. There are truly great dramas that you can walk away from in the middle of an episode, but not these four. These shows require caffeine, ramen, and no plans for three days before diving into an inevitable drama bender. Of course, the craziness of the bender is half the fun.

What are the most addictive dramas you’ve watched, readers?

(Images via tvN, SBS, KBS)