Escapism is something many of us are searching for this year. 2020 has been really rough. 2021 isn’t looking that much more rosy. In this context, we all can be forgiven for just wanting to curl up with a sweetly silly show.
Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol seeks to fulfill that need. It presents a comfortingly familiar story about a wealthy young woman who falls on hard times, a jaded young man with a soft spot for our heroine’s adorable antics, and the charmingly quirky band of small town residents who become their found family.
The show has a lot of solid elements, making it a strong candidate for viewers seeking to take a trip to the kinder side of life. Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol’s large cast of characters are, almost without exception, incredibly endearing. The drama is filled with great scenes of humor and heart. Best of all, Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol dots its cheerful narrative with moments of poignancy, making its world feel truly complete.
Unfortunately, this collection of positive qualities is undercut by Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol’s uneven writing. Especially in the drama’s second half, it increasingly becomes dominated by tropes and deus ex machinas. One last ludicrous twist sends the show tumbling into mediocrity. While frequently enjoyable, Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol is ultimately disappointing.
Our central couple is Gu Ra-ra (Go Ara) and Sunwoo Jun (Lee Jae-wook). Like any romance-centered show, this drama’s success hinges on the chemistry of its leading pair. Luckily for Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol, the duo’s dynamic is sparkling.
Although Ra-ra and Jun’s chemistry is delightful, the quality of the two individual characters themselves is very unequal. Ra-ra exemplifies the show’s best instincts and is one of the most unique drama heroines of 2020. In contrast, Jun is sloppily conceived and his convoluted plot trajectory is what eventually leads Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol astray.
Bubbly and naive, Ra-ra is a character that could easily have come off as unrelatable, cloying, or both. Impressively, Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol avoids this fate for her. A lot of credit goes to Go Ara for her luminous and lovable performance. But the show itself also does a great job making Ra-ra a flawed yet enchanting protagonist.
To summarize Ra-ra as a person, she is someone who is incredibly high maintenance and absolutely worth it. Growing up in a glittering mansion with a devoted father and no worries in the world has made her hopelessly impractical, not to mention a bit in love with herself. However, her bright personality and open heart improve the lives of everyone in her orbit. By framing Ra-ra as an admirable heroine, Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol sends the message that emotional generosity can be just as valuable as practical know-how.
It feels almost subversive that Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol does not punish Ra-ra for her self-confidence and refusal to be down to earth. Dramas have a long history of villainizing female characters who take pride in their physical appearance or enjoy luxury. Ra-ra is unabashedly vain and self-complimentary. She loves beautiful clothes and delicious food, and is not afraid to greedily scoop up what she fancies. Rather than portraying these tendencies as symptoms of deep moral delinquency, Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol frames them as side effects of Ra-ra’s zest for life and the pleasure she can find in even the smallest things.
Celebrating life’s little delights is a theme that runs throughout Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol. Many of the drama’s cooking and eating sequences are filmed with hilariously overblown glamour. Meat sizzles delectably, soup bubbles theatrically, and it is all shot in extreme closeups to emphasize the importance of daily food rituals. Scenes featuring relaxed gatherings of friends and silly inside jokes are given equal billing with sequences depicting major events. Ra-ra and Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol embrace the fact that the activities which make life worthwhile are often deceptively mundane.
Ra-ra is also the show’s gateway to music. Her one employable skill is her ability as a pianist and she eventually opens a piano academy. Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol frequently uses musical flourishes to enhance storylines, and explores how songs can be a powerful method of communication as well as a vehicle for memory. A particularly pleasant musically-driven interlude follows the recollected love story of an elderly student of Ra-ra’s, complete with cameo-filled flashbacks and a tear-jerking culminating piano performance.
If only all of Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol lived up to the excellence of Ra-ra and her surrounding plots. Unfortunately, Ra-ra has another half and his characterization and narrative arc is, to put it bluntly, a hot mess.
Jun starts Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol promisingly enough. He’s a lonely and sharp-tongued young man whose tough exterior hides a heart of gold. After Ra-ra finds herself in a bind, he swoops in to rescue her and becomes her de facto guardian and errand boy. Ra-ra and Jun’s odd couple dynamic is cute and makes the opening episodes of Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol a breezy blast.
It is when Jun’s backstory begins to emerge that the trouble starts. He, of course, turns out to be a runaway chaebol, heir to a massive fortune and a pile of family dysfunction. This is a disappointingly stereotypical plot twist, but not unforgivable in an escapist show like Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol.
In episode 5 though, you learn that Jun is significantly younger than he claims to be. In fact, he is 19 years old and a senior in high school. The initial misunderstanding about his age is explained away as an unintentional mistake on his part. However, as Ra-ra and Jun’s relationship progresses and becomes increasingly romantic, his continuing failure to disclose their true age gap (she is notably his senior) begins to feel more and more shady.
It also contradicts his previous characterization as an upright person. What kind of standup guy purposefully misleads the girl he is dating about something that, especially given the huge role age plays in South Korean society, is pretty crucial? One strike against Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol for illogical writing.
Strikes two, three, four, and on follow shortly. You learn that Jun has been infatuated with Ra-ra ever since a chance meeting in their youth. Jun is also revealed to be the titular Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol, an anonymous patron who has been supporting Ra-ra through encouraging messages and gifts. In episode 15, Jun gets abruptly diagnosed with cancer. The series finale sees Ra-ra and their friends learning that he has died. Ten minutes later, he strides back on screen and declares that he just pretended to be dead so that he could recover fully before returning in glory.
Please feel free to re-read the previous paragraph because that is a lot of plot. Besides being convoluted, these twists and turns make Jun into someone surprisingly creepy. There’s just no other word for a person who after falling for someone at first sight, systematically insinuates himself into her life. And that’s before he literally fakes his own death in order to supposedly protect Ra-ra from the harsh realities of his illness.
As Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol spirals into melodramatic nonsense, much but not all of it Jun-related, many of its subplots remain grounded and sweet. Nearly all of the drama’s supporting characters have satisfying arcs. A resilient single mother proudly watches her headstrong daughter become a capable young woman, and a burly private investigator embraces his softer side. A cynical doctor rediscovers his joy in life, while young bickering friends become young bickering lovers.
Even Jun has his moments, largely thanks to the boyish vulnerability Lee Jae-wook brings to the role. The great storytelling present in many corners of Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol is enough to keep you engaged and hopeful through the show’s finale. But when Jun waltzes in alive as can be at the end of episode 16, that is the last straw. Run away Ra-ra. This is not the man of your dreams. He is the man of any decent storyteller’s nightmares.
Hidden in the sloppily executed folds of Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol is an adorable romantic comedy about two young people searching for meaning, family, and a life filled with little joys. Their wholesome tale could have brought uncomplicated happiness into the hearts of weary 2020 viewers.
Sadly, Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol is prevented from fulfilling its potential by an overpowering amount of questionable narrative choices. The search for the great escapist classic of 2020 must go on, because this show has self-sabotaged and taken itself out of the running.
(YouTube. Images via KBS, Netflix)