Cinderella, Prosecutor, Taste: First episode impressions

Finally! The new Wednesday-Thursday battle is off, and the results
are pretty consistent with my expectations, both content- and

First, the numbers: Cinderella’s Sister took the
lead with a 16.7%, while Personal Taste was in second
with a 12.7%. Prosecutor Princess trailed with a 7.3%.
(Those are TNS Media numbers; AGB Nielsen gave the numbers as 15.8%,
12.8%, and 8.0%.)

I think it’s likely this trend will hold. After seeing all first
episodes, I think it’s also an accurate reflection (for once!) on the
relative quality of the shows. Each series had strengths and weaknesses,
but this time I have a clear picture of which ones I prefer and why.

On to the reviews! (To the spoiler-phobes: I have avoided giving away
any big plot points that aren’t already known.)


In my latest Oh My Lady recap, I mentioned the issue
of a drama making an emotional connection with the viewer, and how Oh
My Lady
has been slow to build that rapport. In contrast, Cinderella’s
is very good about establishing that connection right
away, and I felt myself drawn from the start.

Tonally, the first episode wasn’t angsty or tragic, and was
surprisingly light. Not light in a fluffy way, but in a way that is
humorous and heartfelt. (I suspect that the drama will grow heavier
later, but am thankful it starts briskly.) I feel confident saying that
of the three Wednesday premieres, this was the strongest first episode
and while none of them sucked, it was a pretty obvious first-place. The
pacing is assured, the scenery beautiful. The acting is outstanding, not
just from the leads but everyone. (That would be Moon
Geun-young, Seo Woo, Chun Jung-myung, Lee Mi-sook
, and Kim
. Taecyeon is not in this episode.)

Without giving away too many plot points, the gist of the story is
this: Eun-jo (Moon Geun-young), somewhere in her
mid-teens, is the daughter to a woman who keeps shacking up with
horrible men — drinkers, beaters, lowlifes. Mom Kang-sook (Lee
) goes from one man to another, and Eun-jo bears this
stoically although she’s sick of living like this. Hyo-sun (Seo
) is a bright, lovable girl whose father owns a makgulli
(rice wine) company. Meeting Kang-sook stirs her longing for a mother
figure, and Hyo-sun does her best to push Kang-sook toward her father.
Ki-hoon (Chun Jung-myung) is a good-natured employee of
the makgulli company and a caring, mature older brother figure to
Hyo-sun, who adores him. Though his interaction with Eun-jo is brief,
he’s the only person who’s able to get through Eun-jo’s tough outer

Moon Geun-young as Eun-jo is the main draw by far, and she does her
cynical, hurt, defensive role well. She makes Eun-jo relatable and
unique, and acts with convincing intensity. I love Chun Jung-myung so
I’m thrilled merely to see him back onscreen again, but I’ll admit he
doesn’t have much to do in this episode. However, his gentle, smiling
presence in itself gives his character a warm aura. I am keen to see how
their relationship unfolds, and by keen I mean VERY. I’m invested

That said, I think Seo Woo is almost as strong as Moon Geun-young.
Yes, she most certainly overacts as the young schoolgirl. I suspect some
viewers will find it annoying. As in Tamra the Island, I find
Seo Woo’s girlish exaggerations cute rather than contrived, because they
seem genuine to the actress herself, and not put-upon to force
cutesiness. I am also being a little lenient because she’s playing a
young teen, and will revise my opinion if she doesn’t grow out of it
later. All that said, it’s the crying scene where she really stands out,
and she makes Hyo-sun’s tears not only sympathetic but entirely
believable. I was impressed.

Kim Gab-soo is excellent as the quiet, withdrawn father. You won’t
find a trace of his creepy villain (Hon, Partner, Tazza) in
this character, who is alternately gruff and vulnerable. Lee Mi-sook is
the perfect stepmother to Cinderella, and she plays Kang-sook with
layers of complexity. In fact, everyone plays their characters with
layers, which is why I have a good feeling about this drama. It’s not
simply reversing the Cinderella fairy tale, it’s subverting all the
relationships and creating something new with them. I find that really



The basic plot features Ma Hye-ri (Kim So-yeon) as a
fashion-loving prosecutor who is the latest addition in the public
prosecutor’s office. With her love of stylish clothing and extravagant
shoes (and jewelry, and handbags), she stands out in the low-key,
no-nonsense office, and not in a good way. It’s no surprise, then, that
Episode 1’s plot largely centers around a pair of fabulous shoes.

As the daughter of a prosecutor, she has made it through school at
his prodding, and thinks she’s finally free of all that hard work. Of
course, we know her hard work is just about to start. Her first
encounter with a case shows us that what she’s lacking isn’t a brain —
she’s plenty smart, and she knows the law — but a compassion and
connection to her cases. The law is cut-and-dried to her, and developing
an attachment to her cases on a basic human level will probably figure
largely in her growth.

The big lure here is certainly Kim So-yeon, whose
take on frivolous Ma Hye-ri is bubbly and entertaining. I am not by any
means comparing her acting to Mi-shil in Queen Seon-deok, but
both roles gave me a similar sense of watching a skilled actress diving
into a character with gusto and enjoying playing around. Kim has altered
her intonation and speech patterns and completely changed her image,
and it’s particular fun to watch her because it was only a few months
ago that she was so tough and fierce in IRIS.

This is essentially Legally Blonde set in a public
prosecutor’s office, and I think the similarities are pretty deliberate,
down to Hye-ri’s offbeat candidness, overaccessorization, and
near-garish fashion sense. For some reason it doesn’t feel like a total
copycat to me, though, and I wonder if maybe the cultural differences
are enough to set it apart.

Where Prosecutor Princess falters is in that everything
feels just a little too familiar. I’m always looking for a drama to show
that one flash of inventiveness, a twist on a trope, or a jolt of new
energy — it doesn’t have to be completely new, but there’s got to be
something that feels different. I don’t get that feeling from Prosecutor

The characters and plot setup are straightforward thus far. They’re
aiming to give Park Shi-hoo’s character a tinge of
mystery, and to their credit they achieve that, since I’m curious to
know what his deal is. But that’s a purely intellectual curiosity, not
an emotional one. Neither he nor Han Jung-soo’s serious
prosecutor character have been explained much, but I don’t find that
I’m very interested. They haven’t really broken through to give their
characters life, and I thought Han Jung-soo was stiff.

There’s a yet-unexplained subplot regarding a case Han Jung-soo has
been following for three years, but like with many dramas with a legal
(or business) angle, the pace drags when we linger on the case. Partner
lost me with its dry legal storylines despite the chemistry between the
leads; I fear the same may happen with Prosecutor Princess.
(At least this drama is working in an additional angle with Hye-ri’s
professional and personal growth, which may save it.)

Based on the first episode, my prediction is that Prosecutor
will have a small but loyal following. It’s not bad,
it’s just in a tough timeslot — I think those who want something more
substantial will gravitate toward Cinderella’s Sister,
while those who want a light romantic comedy may be more drawn to the
zippier Personal Taste. I’ve been wrong before, but
that’s my gut feeling.



I said that Cinderella’s Sister had the best first
episode, in that it’s the best-produced and most cohesive package. But Personal
is my pick for the most fun and laughs — it’s cute,
well-cast, and has a freshness to its humor. The jokes aren’t wildly
original, but they’re presented well and feel new for a kdrama. (I mean,
a gay-blowjob joke on Korean television? Ha!) Also, every deviation
that the drama has made from the
has been for the better (so far).

If you’ve been following the novel posts, you’ll get the gist. If you
haven’t, here’s the deal: Kae-in (Sohn Ye-jin) is an
upbeat and good-hearted furniture designer, if naive and rather dense.
She is badly hurt by her boyfriend, whom she believes is going to
propose to her when he is in fact marrying her friend the next day.

In a series of chance encounters, she gets off on the wrong foot with
Jin-ho (Lee Min-ho), an architect who works at a rival
firm to her ex. She thinks he’s a pervert at first, but then gets the
impression that he’s gay. Jin-ho, who considers her a clueless
blunderer, doesn’t bother correcting her. In the next episode (we aren’t
there yet), Kae-in agrees to let Jin-ho move in, fed up with straight
guys and liking the idea of having a gay roommate. Little does she know
that Jin-ho has an ulterior motive: he badly needs to win a building
project, and needs to study her house in order to do so, as she is the
daughter to the famed architect who built it.

Spot-on casting, for sure. Sohn Ye-jin is perfect as Kae-in, showing
the character’s positive personality even as she bumbles through various
encounters. She also lets a naivete and vulnerability shine through,
making it easy to root for her. Everyone, from the main cast to the
supporting members, has that extra spark that draws you to them and
their roles. I have a feeling the sidekicks are going to be a hoot. I
even like Kim Ji-suk’s take on his character, who is
nowhere near as awful as the book character; you can see he’s conflicted
and remorseful. He’s just also a wuss.

Lee Min-ho may be young (he’s even younger than Im Seulong
despite playing his hyung), but he wears Jin-ho’s airs perfectly. I’ll
be the first to sing Lee’s praises, but I was worried that he wouldn’t
be able to emerge from the Boys Before Flowers shadow — which
is considerable — or live up to expectations, particularly since he’s
taken over a year to choose his next project. I think he does quite

You might say that of course I like Personal Taste because I
expected to like it — but I think liking the idea actually makes it
harder to live up to the hype. Episode 1 is a little unstable at times
and the pacing is uneven in the first half, but in the second half it
starts to gel and really work. At the end of the hour, this is the drama
whose second episode I wanted to see the most.

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