First Impressions:

Beauty and Mr. Romantic” brings the good old makjang genre back. Ji Hyun Woo, who plays the curly haired producing director (PD) Go Pil Seung, and Im Soo Hyang, who plays top-billed star Park Do Ra, have a love story that is far more melodramatic than the previous dramas they worked on. There are plots, sub-plots, and a lavish ensemble of characters who are all entwined with each other. A saga that feels like a telenovela, this show will get you enmeshed into the lives of its characters, evoking emotions of happiness, anger, laughter, as well as disgust. Is it worth your while? It sure is! Here’s what you can expect from the premiere episodes.

Note: spoilers for episodes 1-4 below.

Go Pil Seung and his backstory

33-year-old Go Pil Seung is a tall and sturdy producing director, whose thick mop of curly hair makes him stand out. He loves his job and is even ready to forsake vacation time. But Pil Seung’s life has been as dramatic as the shows he produces. He is stuck in a precarious situation when he starts working with superstar Do Ra, the one woman he needs to stay away from. Do Ra’s presence spells trouble for Pil Seung. He first encounters her when he is 18 and she is 12. Do Ra had been infatuated with Pil Seung, who was known as Dae Choong. Dae Choong had been a bit of a rebel without a cause, with his relationship with a much older woman. The jealous Do Ra had not only snitched on him to his family, but the incident had serious repercussions on him too. On the same day, he learns that he is not the biological son of his family, which impacts him deeply. However, seeing how devoted his adoptive mother Sun Young (Yoon Yoo Sun) was in raising him, he resolves never to hurt her again with his actions.

Sun Young and the rest of his family hate Do Ra’s mother Mi Ja (Cha Hwa Yeon), who had scammed his grandfather. The incident devastates the entire family, and it is an unspoken rule in the house that Do Ra and her mother are their enemies. So when he is told to work with Do Ra, whom he has not seen in 15 years, his alarm bells go off. He pushes his luck, begging the studio to cast Do Ra’s rival Bi Bi, when he hears Do Ra is not too keen on working on the show. But Do Ra hears his rant and is adamant not to star in the show. His helpless predicament, when he is told to get her back by his bosses or lose his job instead, is comic to say the least. Luckily for him, Do Ra does not recognize him, since he has a different name and is bulkier than his teen self. And though Do Ra cannot stand the sight of him, what will happen when she discovers that he is her first love Dae Choong?

Ji Hyun Woo is adorable as the goofy Pil Seung, with his curly mop of hair. His character is totally in contrast to his appearance as the widower dad in “Young Lady and Gentleman.”

Park Do Ra’s complicated relationship with her mother

Im Soo Hyang stars as Park Do Ra, the most sought-after actor by drama studios as well as for brand endorsements. Park Do Ra’s story is the classic “rags to riches” tale. Do Ra wants a break—she has been relentlessly working for 15 years nonstop. But often behind a successful entertainer is usually an ambitious and overbearing parent who has pushed them to their limits. In Do Ra’s case, her mother Mi Ja is a pushy and manipulative woman who controls her daughter’s life and finances. Mi Ja negotiates Do Ra’s contracts as well as assignments on her behalf and does not give the girl any room to breathe.

You cannot help but feel sorry for Do Ra since this was never the life she wanted. She is suffocated under the spotlight but has to work to support her mother’s extravagant lifestyle. Do Ra has had a tough childhood, and though she hated auditioning, she had little say in the matter. Mi Ja would dress up a 12-year-old Do Ra and make her perform at shady clubs, which is cringe-worthy to say the least. 18-year-old Go Dae Choong was the light of her life, but she was brutally rejected by him. Now at 27, Do Ra wants to take six months off and leave for New York. But her mother insists that she work in the new series “Straightforward Romance” despite her protests.

Does Do Ra even have the courage to stand up for herself, as well as against her mother? Im Soo Hyang’s Do Ra is a naive character and is constantly weighed down by her mother’s emotional blackmail. Though there are times when you wish she’d develop a backbone, you see the first stirrings of rebellion when her actions nearly cost her the stardom she has always aspired for.

Love, angst, and an ensemble cast

Though Do Ra has never forgotten her first love, she feels the curly haired PD is oddly familiar despite being unaware of his real identity as that of her childhood crush. On the other hand, Pil Seung has matured, and his rebellious streak is long gone. But he seems wildly ruffled in the presence of Do Ra. He is still trying to come to terms with the fact that the infatuated little girl he once knew is now a national heartthrob. As their lives get set to take some dramatic and romantic turns, there will be hurdles in their way. Pil Seung’s family vs. Mi Ja will be a key factor. Will the filial son rebel for the sake of love and break his word? Or will Do Ra be able to undo the wrongs done by her mother?

In all this, there is also Pil Seung’s birth mother Jang Soo Yeon (Lee Il Hwa), who is his mother’s best friend and has her own secrets to hide. And Soo Yeon’s half brother-in-law Gong Jin Dan (Go Yoon) has taken a liking toward Do Ra. It makes you wonder if she’ll side with the brother-in-law whom she detests, in order to protect her son from Do Ra. And will the cunning and scheming Mi Ja pay for her sins, or will she get away as she always does? As one of the most dislikable characters in the show so far, that aspect would be interesting to see.

Though “Beauty and Mr. Romantic” comes with its share of tropes and cliches, the narrative is well-written. There are plots and subplots, and several characters come and go, but each one of them has a purpose. It could have well been a complicated show but wins with its simplistic storytelling. Even though the episodes are over an hour long and the show has a total of 50 episodes, it keeps you engaged and piques your curiosity as to where all this will lead. It’s a good and languorous watch for the upcoming summer weekends!

Start watching “Beauty and Mr. Romantic”:

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Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Yang Yang and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min HoGong YooCha Eun Woo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram.

Currently watching:Wedding Impossible

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