[Review] Set Me Up, Cyrano Dating Agency!
Wouldn’t it be great if the Cyrano Dating Agency was a real thing? One grumpy and eccentric leader, a hopeless romantic, and two pretty boys work together to guarantee that your love will be one-sided no more. Are there actual dating agencies like this or have I not just looked hard enough? Sure there are companies and online websites that will set you up with a stranger or a Russian bride, but I want someone to help me get E.Den to fall in love with me. Someone give me the number for a company that does that.
Unfortunately for me and E.Den, it looks like the Cyrano Dating Agency only exists in the Korean drama world where, as we all know, many people get amnesia and fall in love with their long-lost siblings. Boy, do drama characters have all the fun. Not only is there a large population of single and handsome sons of CEOs, there is also an agency for all the non-rich and handsome people to find love.
This company can be found in the new tvN drama “Dating Agency: Cyrano,” the prequel to the movie of the same title. While it lacks the words “flower boy,” it is the fourth installment of tvN’s “Oh Boy” series (that started with “Flower Boy Ramen Shop”). It stars Lee Jong Hyuk as the grumpy and eccentric leader, Girls’ Generation’s Sooyoung as the hopeless romantic, and Hong Jong Hyun and Jo Yoon Woo as the two pretty boys. Lee Chun Hee also plays a big role as the mysterious restaurateur next door. The Cyrano Dating Agency is a team for hire that sets up elaborate (we are talking “mission impossible” style) situations to help their client woo the person they love.
Taking out the “flower boy” in this drama may or may not be a smart move, but it is too early to tell. Taking it out allows more mature actors to lead the cast, but it also means that the “Oh Boy” series will lose their teenage girl fan base. After having Jung Il Woo, Sung Joon, and Yoo Shi Yoon as the leading men, adding Lee Jong Hyuk to the list makes it an easy game of “what does not belong.”
Sooyoung fits well into the series, and to her credit she does well enough to make you forget she’s a Girls’ Generation member, but she is obviously much younger than her male leads (sixteen years junior to Lee Jong Hyuk and eleven years to Lee Chun Hee). It is a little hard to believe that eventually these three will form a love triangle. It is going to be difficult to create the chemistry to make the romance believable when it looks like Sooyoung should be calling them “Uncle.”
Just looking at the ratings, it looks like maybe tvN should have just stuck with flower boys, but since the drama has just started it can easily pick up. The drama does have potential to be a fun client-based drama with a lot of celebrity cameos. A client-based drama allows guest characters to come in and out to add variety while allowing the main story to develop for the fixed cast. The drama already started with actors Ji Jin Hee, Lee Chung Ah, and Choi Won Young to introduce the dating agency, and then moved on to Im Hyung Joon and Lee Yoon Ji to show what Cyrano is all about. Through Taemin’s crush dilemma, Sooyoung made her way into the love drama between Lee Jong Hyuk and Kim Jung Hwa (who looks great and so much more age appropriate).
For their clients, the Cyrano team creates overly elaborate situations involving hidden cameras, a souped up surveillance van, fake blood, and gangsters pretending to be gangsters. If they need to lock up a potential couple in a restaurant after setting off a smoke bomb, they will. They can also simplify things to create the right moment, like when Taemin sat on a windowsill while Hong Jong Hyun discreetly used a leaf blower to create the romantic blowing curtain effect. The Cyrano team is all about manipulating the environment to portray their clients in a favorable and memorable light. If they have to dress their team member in a school uniform and create a fake identity as a high school student to watch over their client, then so be it.
With the cameos and the over-the-top methods, the drama should be exciting to watch, but somehow even with all that the episodes so far have been rather slow and draggy. What the show is missing is energy. Sooyoung is usually bursting with energy and excitement, but she is the only one out of all the main cast members. The men in his cast all have similar aloof personalities who are more inclined to mumble one liners to themselves.
That is why having flower boys makes for entertaining television. They may not be the best actors, but they have the energy to move the scenes along and the faces to brighten up the atmosphere. The two actual flower boys, Hong Jong Hyun and Jo Yoon Woo, play the silent genius with the motorcycle and the too-cool-for-school high school student respectively. I like both characters (a Korean drama would not be complete without a genius or a motorcycle, and Ho Jung Hyun takes care of both), but since we already have the cynical Lee Jong Hyuk and the mysterious Lee Chun Hee, Sooyoung is left to be the only outspoken one. A character like “Flower Boy Next Door’s” overly reactive Oh Dong Hoon (Go Kyung Pyo) or “Shut Up Flower Band’s” adorable Seo Kyung Jong (Kim Min Suk) could easily liven things up.
“Dating Agency: Cyrano” has the ingredients to be a good drama; it just needs a dab of spice to make it into a great drama. As exaggerated the show may seem, it is all too familiar for those who are single but don’t want to mingle. For a country that has a culture heavily invested in romance and relationships, it is not easy to date in Korea. Who wouldn’t want a company that could create the moment of connection to end the loneliness we put up with but hate? I want Cyrano to help me nab the man of my dreams and star in my own romantic comedy (a quirky story about a witty entertainment journalist and a younger handsome idol who, despite clashing occupations and lifestyles, fall in love and overcome their emotional struggles*).
Unfortunately, Cyrano only exists in the drama world with its timely coincidences and eviler-than-Satan mother-in-laws. That leaves me to rely on myself to create the moments for romance and take charge of my own love life, or I can just go on koreancupid and see if I get lucky there.
“Dating Agency: Cyrano” airs Mondays and Tuesdays on tvN.