Looking Back At K-Dramaland’s 2015: A Couch Kimchi Roundtable

The new year is here, so, we’re waxing nostalgic about our K-drama experience in 2015. Just how good was the past year for K-dramaland? Here’s our take!

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page 1

What Will You Miss About 2015?

What Won’t You Miss About 2015?

Were the Dramas Better in 2015? Has It Gotten Better Since K-Dramas Came Into Global Prominence in the Mid-2000s?

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2015 Shows That Should Have Been Cut

Favorite K-dramas of 2015

Best K-drama Moments of 2015

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Cringe-worthy and WTF Moments of 2015

Best K-drama Endings of 2015

Worst K-drama Endings of 2015

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Best K-drama Characters of 2015

Worst K-drama Characters of 2015

What Are You Looking Forward to in 2016?

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What Will You Miss About 2015?

Clockwatcher: To be quite honest, 2015 wasn’t my best drama-watching year, but I found some great shows on cable. So, I’ll say what I’ll miss most about 2015 are cable dramas. It’s a good thing we’ve still got 2016 to look forward to.

Rinchan: This year was pretty much a mixed bag, but there were still some noteworthy, albeit underrated, dramas.

Leila: This year is totally different because only a few K-dramas stood out for me. I will definitely miss Jo Jung Suk‘s as Chef in “Oh My Ghost.”

Goodange: What I’ll miss about 2015 was the anticipation that was building for a few 2016 dramas — namely, for “Cheese in the Trap,” “Descendants of the Sun,” and “Saimdang, The Herstory.” 2015 had been devoted to drumming up interest in them, and it was like foreplay — without the sexual part, of course. LOL. There were a few spoiler stills every few weeks (or months), and that stretch of campaign time before the 2016 air date certainly heightened the eagerness for the shows. As a viewer, I like looking forward to something new and different, and my propensity for this stokes up towards the end of the year. So, yeah, much of 2015 had been about setting up a promising 2016.

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What Won’t You Miss About 2015?

Clockwatcher: There were some fun shows but none to add to my must-watch list. My closest was probably “Oh My Ghost,” which isn’t even on my top 10 list.

Leila: I won’t miss the dramas that should not have been made — ever! Haha. This past year was slow, but it’s always a challenge for the networks to produce projects that are better than what they offered the previous year.

Goodange: There were a few shows that I liked in 2015, and the one that tanked was the one I still enjoyed: “The Time We Were Not In Love.” What I won’t miss about the last year was certainly the negative publicity that surrounded the show before and during filming — from plagiarized teasers to the shuffling production crew. Sadly, I don’t think this is a drama that Lee Jin Wook and Ha Ji Won can boast as among their best works even though they acted their butts off in it. The issues behind the scenes didn’t bode well for the drama’s success and how it would live up to the original.

Another Lee Jin Wook drama, “Goodbye Mr. Black,” was also beset with problems in 2015, as it struggled to find a channel that would air it, so, I hope 2016 will be its year.

Rinchan: I won’t miss the debacles associated with live shoots. To this day, I am certain “Hyde, Jekyll, Me” suffered the way it did because the writers scrapped their original script likely to distinguish the show from the simultaneously airing “Kill Me, Heal Me” and from Hyun Bin’s past dramas wherein he played an insensitive chaebol heir.

Goodange: The webtoon writer behind “Hyde, Jekyll, Me” also turned off netizens with his persistent plagiarism accusations, so, consequently, he was only doing “Kill Me, Heal Me” a favor as viewers gravitated towards it more.

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Were the Dramas Better in 2015? Has It Gotten Better Since K-Dramas Came Into Global Prominence in the Mid-2000s?

Leila: There were shows that raised the bar story wise and with their leads. I discovered Ji Chang Wook and Ryu Jun Yeol this year.

Clockwatcher: I think it’s unfair to use 2015 to gauge the overall quality of dramas; as I’ve said, it was a pretty slow year to me. I do like that there were some high concept dramas like “Oh My Ghost” and “The Girl Who Sees Smells.”

Goodange: That’s true, but even with better technology, more actors, fresh concepts, etc., there is an underlying feeling that there is a lull in K-dramaland. There is a quiet sentiment that there needs to be a revitalization that will capture the similar feelings viewers had towards K-dramas back in the early/mid-2000s. The fact that Japanese broadcaster NHK won’t be airing K-dramas anymore means that the same luster of the Hallyu wave has diminished. Every so often, I come across comments from people who express their inclination to step away from K-dramas because they don’t feel as refreshing as they used to. As trivial as it sounds, I would find it revolutionary if we didn’t get a scene of a piggyback ride in a K-drama. LOL.

I do think that writers, production, and networks are trying to make things better. Cable channels seem especially gutsy about what stories they’ll tell, how they’ll be told, and how they’ll be marketed. Or whatever formula worked for the big Hallyu wave then might just need the right conditions to make it feel fresh again … Maybe?

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Rinchan: The dramas are not necessarily better, but I am noticing a trend in which more actresses are moving away from playing roles in which they are simply pretty or cute. They are going for the characters that are less candy and more sassy, owning their unique personality and background. For example, Park Min Young‘s role in “Healer” was probably the best she’s had; she wasn’t trying to uphold the image of a beautiful, reserved girl that I felt hindered her acting in her previous shows. With “Healer,” I felt like she was free to immerse herself into the character.

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2015 Shows That Should Have Been Cut

Clockwatcher: This is a hard one because I didn’t watch every drama out there. If I had to pick any, it would be “Hyde, Jekyll, Me” for not being worthy of Hyun Bin’s comeback and “The Time We Were Not In Love” for being a poor adaptation.

Leila: I hate to break it to Angie and Rin, but I pick “The Time We Were Not in Love.”

Rinchan: I can’t agree with you on “The Time We Were Not In Love” since I enjoyed it as a stand-alone, independent of the Taiwanese version.

Meanwhile, “Hyde, Jekyll, Me” was a trainwreck that needed to end. It dragged needlessly and the fillers were tortuous. “Birth of a Beauty” was another one that really needed to end for me. I disliked the premise because of the poor message about body image. The writers did change the tone, that it was the personality that mattered, but in the end, it was too easy to argue that the male lead fell for her because of the manufactured beauty that accompanied the lovable personality. A better executed show about weight and beauty is “Oh My Venus.” The male lead here fell in love with the girl before she lost weight, and he has consistently emphasized that she is sexiest when she is healthy. All those make their love seem more meaningful, and they communicate a better message about the motivation behind weight loss.

Goodange: It’s not that “All About My Mom” needs to be cut, but there are subplots that just don’t need to be there. I had to drop it because of the snowballing struggles facing its characters. For instance, Jang Chae Ri (Jo Bo Ah) had lied to Lee Hyeon Soon (Choi Tae Joon) and his family about being pregnant so that they could get married. You would think that lie would be compelling enough an issue for viewers, but to introduce another female character to complicate Chae Ri’s relationship with Hyeon Soon even more is just unnecessary.

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Favorite K-dramas of 2015

Clockwatcher: One of my favorite dramas from 2015 was “Healer,” which I found very romantic. *Swoon* “Oh My Ghost,” on the other hand, was a drama that I enjoyed for everything but the eventual romance. “I Remember You” was a pretty good thriller, and how is it that Seo In Guk gets sexier every year?

Leila: I second Seo In Guk, “Healer,” and “Oh My Ghost.” “Twenty Again” was also among my favorites, and I’m currently in love with “Reply 1988.” The third installment has been as good as what was promised!

Goodange: I’m also a “Healer” fan. I had bad withdrawals when it finished that I even missed waking up early to catch the live stream. LOL.

There were parts of “Kill Me, Heal Me” that didn’t work for me, but overall, it’s the kind of show I would recommend to friends. Ji Sung‘s talent is on full display; his seamless transition between personalities makes the show well worth enough to watch.

I like the mystery genre and this one delivered the juicy twists, so, “The Village: Achiara’s Secret” is also a 2015 favorite.

While it isn’t the second coming of “My Name Is Kim Sam Soon,” I’ve been into “Oh My Venus” for the message it sends about having confidence and pride in yourself at any size. “Twenty Again” was another show that had something positive to deliver, like there’s no deadline for personal growth.

I would also give an honorable shout-out to “The Girl Who Sees Smells” because of the concept and the adorable OTP, and while I didn’t watch it, I feel obligated to mention “The Producers” because even from the teasers, the pairings were something to be excited about. For me, it’s the leads’ chemistry that usually decides whether the drama’s a keeper or not … My standards aren’t high.

Rinchan: Right now, I am addicted to “Reply 1988,” “Oh My Venus,” and “Six Flying Dragons.” On top of “Healer,” other favorites that aired throughout the year were “Kill Me, Heal Me,” “Who Are You: School 2015,” “Mask,” and “Pinocchio.”

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Best K-drama Moments of 2015

Clockwatcher: Now this is hard, especially in a year of middling dramas. Perhaps this is because it’s still fresh in my memory, but I really liked the last kiss scene in “Splash Splash Love,” when the king lifted Dan Bi (Kim Seul Gi) and kissed her before sending her back to the future. *Swoon*

Leila: The best moments for me would be every scene with Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol) and Deok Sun (Hyeri) in “Reply 1988.” No matter how frustrating Jung Hwan can be, I still smile whenever I see him with Deok Sun, who sometimes reacts with annoyance. LOL. They jive amazingly onscreen.

Goodange: “Healer” may have begun airing in 2014, but the most memorable parts for me dropped in 2015. I remember being up extra early to live stream episode 15, which was full of fan service. Chae Young Shin (Park Min Young), who was already aware of Seo Jung Hoo’s (Ji Chang Wook) secret identity as Healer, had gone to his hideout at a time when he really shouldn’t be alone. He initially pushed her away, but by this point, it would have been absurd if they failed to get together. So, what followed was a sequence of scenes that inflamed a collective squeal of pure joy from its viewers. There was fun time on Jung Hoo’s bed, and it was endearing how he couldn’t extricate himself from Young Shin’s side. Whether she was cooking or tending to his wound, her shoulder was like a magnet to his head.

“Twenty Again” was also replete with unforgettable moments. The ones I particularly liked involved Hyun Suk (Lee Sang Yoon) spearheading a secret mission to help No Ra (Choi Ji Woo) complete everything on her bucket list when he mistakenly believed she was dying.

Rinchan: I feel the same about the kiss scene from “Splash Splash Love,” and this drama should have had more episodes. Also, I love the moments between Young Ho (So Ji Sub) and Joo Eun (Shin Min Ah) in “Oh My Venus.” They are so playful and sweet together, and the stars seem like they are in a real life relationship. (Sorry, Kim Woo Bin.)

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Cringe-worthy and WTF Moments of 2015

Clockwatcher: I’m sure there are tons of cringe-worthy moments, but Soon Ae (Kim Seul Gi/Park Bo Young) foisting herself on Sun Woo (Jo Jung Suk) to lose her virginity is high up there.

Rinchan: To be honest, I found those scenes to be funny because she was so different from the female leads we’re normally presented with. She was pushy yes, but her openness was easier to relate to than a female lead who has presumably kissed her boyfriend many times before but is coy about the act.

What was definitely cringe-worthy for me was each time Woon Tak acted obsessive around his wife. Bae Soo Bin is a great actor, and he played the role of the psychotic husband in “My Heart Twinkle Twinkle” really well.

Goodange: I’m with Clock. That part of “Oh My Ghost” might have to be the top cringe-worthy moment of 2015. It’s an incomprehensible moral dilemma to pass onto Bong Sun (Park Bo Young), whose body Soon Ae was inhabiting.

For me, my cringe-worthy moment would be the pre-coital kiss between Oh Ha Na (Ha Ji Won) and Choi Won (Lee Jin Wook) in “The Time We Were Not In Love.” It was the night of their first real date, and they were in his room. After a few awkward moves on his part, they kiss, but it was more like he was making out with a post, albeit a very pretty one. Ha Ji Won had explained they were filming well past midnight, so, she might have been tired at that time. Whatever. When I watched that scene, I shouldn’t have been mentally prodding her to move her lips!

There were also plenty of moments in “D-Day” that were big WTFs! It was mystifying that there were doctors in this drama who refused to care for patients that have been injured in Korea’s worst natural disaster.

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Best K-drama Endings of 2015

Clockwatcher: I won’t say this is my best ending, but I want to mention “Shine or Go Crazy” because unlike for others, I thought it was pretty darn appropriate for the story we’d been told. Living together as king and mistress just didn’t seem like the right way to go.

Leila: “Oh My Ghost” is such a winner for me! I won’t forget the sweet kiss Bong Sun and Sun Woo shared, which was improvised by the actors! Having it unscripted made it feel much more real.

Goodange: I really had to dig around my head for this one, but for this category I would give it to “She Was Pretty“: Sung Joon (Park Seo Joon) takes his little girl to school, and while waiting to cross the street, he beams at her, obviously thinking she’s the most beautiful kid in the world despite being handed down her mother’s physical imperfections. I know I wasn’t the only one with a moony-eyed smile while watching this scene.

Rinchan: The ending I liked best was from “Super Daddy 10” because of how happy the lead characters were in spite of the circumstances. I was prepping for a sad ending, but although the female lead was sick, she and her family were living happily in the moment.

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Worst K-drama Endings of 2015

Clockwatcher: I didn’t watch any dramas with shipper wars, so, I’m not angry about any endings, unlike my friends who saw “Who Are You: School 2015.” LOL.

Goodange: Ha! I’m glad I didn’t watch that show then. LOL. I probably would have been swept up in the shipper war, too. However, it is a bit silly to be so heavily invested in either ship since the characters are still in high school. They’ll move on to college, and they’ll probably have new crushes by then. LOL.

Rinchan: The ending of “Who Are You: School 2015” most certainly did not take away from how good the drama was. It was just that the ending was ambiguous enough that you couldn’t get proper closure if you were on the wrong ship. It was definitely upsetting for many.

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Best K-drama Characters of 2015

Clockwatcher: Hands down, my favorite character was Soon Ae in Bong Sun’s body in “Oh My Ghost.” Park Bo Young did an amazing job making this character relatable and endearing.

Leila: Park Bo Young was outstanding playing two roles; she did it effortlessly. I also love Hyeri’s take on Deok Sun in “Reply 1988,” and I think she’s removed people’s initial misgivings about her acting abilities.

Goodange: To me, perhaps none is more indelible than Ji Sung’s Yona, an idol-obsessed fangirl and one of Cha Do Hyun’s seven split personalities in “Kill Me, Heal Me.” If there had been a spotlight to be stolen, she would have done so in the literal sense, and I don’t remember feeling sorry for Oh Ri On (Park Seo Joon), who was the object of her crazed affection. Yona was a hilarious nightmare. She traumatized Ri On, forcing him to go on a date with her and harassing him for kisses, but I wanted more of the same scenes.

Rinchan: Ji Sung’s Shin Se Gi of “Kiss Me, Heal Me” would be among the best characters of 2015. He had charisma; just looking into his eyes raised the room temperature. Another would be Gong Tae Kwang (Yook Sungjae) of “Who Are You: School 2015” because he was animated and colorful. Every emotion he felt was contagious. There’s also Choi Taek (Park Bo Gum) of “Reply 1988.” His existence is just lovable. Period. Lastly, I’ve got to mention Gil Tae Mi (Park Hyuk Kwon) of “Six Flying Dragons” because he is the most fabulous, comedic villain out there. There was one scene that showed his outrageous yet amusing personality: A group of military men had come to kill him, but he made them wait until he finished putting on his makeup. LOL.

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Worst K-drama Characters of 2015

Clockwatcher: We had several villains this year, but hating only means that they were well-written. The worst one for me was the evil spirit in Sung Jae’s (Im Joo Hwan) body in “Oh My Ghost.” The most absurd part was his extremely anticlimactic ending. There’s nothing more annoying than forcing a happy ending where it shouldn’t be, so, perhaps I should go ahead and toss this in the ‘Worst Endings’ category.

Rinchan: There are villains, and then there is Mok Ji Won (Seo Yi An) of “Warm and Cozy.” She just wouldn’t go away. I can appreciate a good bad guy like Suk Hoon, who was as slick as the devil, presenting himself as a savior, when he is the one trying to end your life. Whereas Suk Hoon (Yeon Jung Hoon) of “Mask” turned evil in hopes to avenge his father, Mok Ji Won was a tedious gold digger that was used to drag a storyline.

Goodange: Rin, that’s how I felt about Dr. Park Gun (Lee Kyung Young) of “D-Day.” He wasn’t someone you loved to hate and couldn’t get enough of; rather, he was someone you just wanted out of the show. He was a one-dimensional bad guy. He existed solely to aggravate the other characters who were overwhelmed with more pressing issues, like saving patients in a post-apocalyptic environment. In the end, it took an accident (and being saved by the doctor whose license he tried to revoke) to rework his personality and be forgiven by his daughter, so, I couldn’t reward him credit for the sense of humanity he eventually gained. Rather, I felt smug about his well-deserved karma.

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What Are You Looking Forward to in 2016?

Clockwatcher: 2015’s spate of mediocre dramas has affected my outlook on 2016, but I’ll say I’m looking forward to “Cheese In The Trap” because I love Park Hae Jin.

Leila: Of course, I hope that more quality K-dramas will be produced. We want to be crazy in love about a show instead of being crazy bored!

Rinchan: For now, I am looking forward to the end of “Reply 1988.”  Maybe I should be conflicted about who to ship with Deok Sun, but really, I’m happy with the guys, so, I’ll be satisfied with whomever she ends up with.

Goodange: News breaking that Park Min Young and Ji Chang Wook have been secretly dating would be nice. Same goes for Park Bo Young and Song Joong Ki. Okay, in my dreams. LOL.

This new year, I’m looking forward to “Descendants of the Sun.” Between Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo, it would be hard to resist the collective pulchritude, and by the time the drama begins airing, it’ll pretty much be a finished product. So, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of success it garners as it won’t be hampered by problems that accompany a live-shoot. I hope the show lives up to all the hype from the last year; I expect a tightly edited story as well as visuals.

I also want “Descendants of the Sun,” “Saimdang, The Herstory,” and  “Cheese in the Trap” to be critical and ratings hits, proving to networks that it’s worth investing in pre-filmed projects and that it’s time to start nixing the live-shoot.

Maybe 2016 will surprise us, and even if the Hallyu wave isn’t what it once was, it doesn’t mean that progress will stop in K-dramaland. There will always be daring writers, fresh concepts, and soon-to-be discovered talents that’ll find their way to a new audience and that’ll keep many K-drama fans sticking around.

Thanks for joining us for this roundtable! Enjoy the new year, and check out the shows we’ve mentioned on VIKI!