The past couple of years have been slim pickings for K-dramas. While there were still some memorable K-dramas and hidden gems, there was also questionable acting, poor execution, and all-around rushed endings that just did not push them to be a favorite. However, 2020 has seen a splurge of amazing K-dramas that have captured our hearts for one reason or another. Great characters, satisfying endings, and unique storylines help make up the top picks for our mid-year review. We are only half way through the year and it was difficult to choose just 3 top favorites.
At number 3, we have Hospital Playlist which focuses on a group of doctors who have been friends since college, now work together as professors at the same hospital, and happen to also be in a cover band. Medical dramas, in general, tend to lean on the urgency and drama of their patient’s stories. There is always an emergency surgery that only one doctor is able to handle. There is also usually a main plot that carries the drama through such as the hospital going out of business or a genius doctor coming on board.
However, Hospital Playlist is a slice-of-life style show that goes more into the lives of the doctors with their romances, friendships, as well as into the difficulties of being a doctor. It shows that while they may try their best, doctors are not perfect and they cannot always save everyone. This show tends to go through several patient’s stories as they shuffle in and out of the lives of the doctors. In doing so, it has more of a realistic setting for a medical workplace drama.
The very first episode sets the tone for the rest of the drama and Ahn Jung-won’s (Yoo Yeon-seok) story is particularly what pulled me in. We see Ahn Jung-won struggle with a patient’s death along with the humiliation of having the deceased mother console him. He laments to his brother that he wants to quit even as his brother basically ignores him while stuffing himself with fried chicken. However, we see that it’s something he struggles with on a yearly basis as he considers the same option every year. In this way, the show shows the more human side of doctors. We watch them lean on each other while dealing with both their work and personal matters. Along with an open-ended but satisfying ending to the first season, this helps land Hospital Playlist on the number 3 spot for best K-dramas in 2020.
Itaewon Class seems like a no-brainer to add to the list at the number 2 spot because fans everywhere praised it for its unique characters and risky sub-plots. The story on paper does not seem all that impressive. A poor and uneducated protagonist versus a greedy CEO is nothing new but it has been modernized to fit with today’s audiences.
Park Sae-royi (Park Seo-joon) puts together a feisty team of underdogs who for one reason or another are struggling to be themselves. The show features Chris Lyon as Kim To-ni who is a biracial character searching for his Korean father and Lee Joo-young as Ma Hyun-yi who is a trans-woman. With To-ni, the show tackles racism in South Korean as To-ni is unable to enter a club due to his skin color. Similarly, Hyun-yi deals with the pushback from society after being outed someone she once considered a friend.
These events and characters do not take away from the protagonist who tackles every obstacle thrown at him by the petty and vengeful CEO who literally wants to see him on his knees. In contrast to Jang Dae-hee’s (Yoo Jae-Myung) brutal style of handling business, Sae-royi shows that he can succeed without having to step on anyone and while keeping his friends close. Both actors do a great job of portraying their characters and conveying the always tense rivalry that essentially fuels both of them to achieve their goals.
At the number 1 spot is, of course, Crash Landing On You. This K-drama reached high ratings during the series and with its finale. The couple captured so many hearts that rumors quickly circulated of a behind the scenes romance. On top of a charismatic couple, the K-drama ventures into showcasing a different story when it comes to K-dramas in North Korea. While typically we see spies, action-packed scenes, and a person longing to be freed of North Korea’s reigns, in this K-drama, we watch Ri Jung-hyuk (Hyun Bin) falls in love with Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye-jin) in the countryside of North Korea.
The K-drama is surprisingly funny, with many heartwarming scenes as Se-ri falls in love not only with Ri Jung-hyuk but also with the people of North Korea. On top of these more romantic and comedic scenes, the K-drama does deal with two villains (both North Korean and South Korean) who both are out to harm Se-ri. With the close calls and then the sudden return to South Korea, it seemed almost impossible that these two would get a happy ending. However, with the power of love and Switzerland, Se-ri and Jung-hyuk find their conclusive ending ultimately giving the audience what they want but staying realistic.
What K-dramas did you think should have made the list or are they any there that did not cut it for you? Let’s hear your thoughts!
(Images via tvN, Netflix, and JTBC)