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Archive for October, 2012


What could be more glorious than Song Joong Ki angsting? For many of us, this would be a rhetorical question.

I’ve not been blogging much this weekend. I’ve been busy conducting a normal life, you know, getting out in the sun, meeting people, having long meals with friends… that sort of normal stuff. I’m quite proud of myself, actually (*pats self on back*), that I don’t spend ALL my weekends on my computer all the time. Still, in between life I have been getting some k-drama watching done. But only the really compelling stuff.

I’ve watched only one new episode of Nice Guy, everyone’s angst-crumpet of the moment. Because there is something else even more compellingly angsty than Nice Guy, calling my name. WHAT? you cry. YEA! I reply. Hard as it may be to believe, there is an even more gripping tale of betrayal and revenge, an even more tightly plotted saga, even more deliciously angst-y heros, even more head-spinning politics, even more psychological drama, even more all-round awesomeness than Nice Guy screaming for my attention. I KNOW, RIGHT? What could be this impossibility of which she speaks?

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So, I’m watching Sandglass, that great k-drama from 1995. I’ve watched eight episodes and I thought I’d write a mid-point review, but I feel so inadequate to the task. What can I possibly say about a classic piece of television? It didn’t just average viewer ratings of 50%; it shaped Korean television and the very consciousness of a nation. I simply do not have the knowledge to do justice to the context and impact of this important work.

If you’ve seen both Sandglass and Eyes of Dawn (MBC, 1991-1992), you’ll know that Sandglass is the younger sibling of the latter. The same team of writer Song Ji Na and Director Kim Jong Hak was responsible for both. (Let’s just ignore the fact that they were also responsible for the recent risible Faith, shall we?)

Both Sandglass and Eyes of Dawn are epic in the true sense of the word; human drama of operatic proportions set in dramatic moments of real history. Both are hard-hitting and unsentimental (even, brutal). Neither is an ‘easy’ watch. Both were ground-breaking in terms of scale, which shows in extraordinary production values (Sets? What sets. That stuff looks like the real thing) and a creative product that transcends criticism. Both are great, unforgettable television, comparable with epic historical cinema from anywhere in the world and bearing scant resemblance to the mindless and carelessly cobbled-together fluff that sometimes passes for historical k-drama nowadays.

[click for some (non-spoilery) thoughts]

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AAAAAHHHHH!!! Ohmigosh, just when I thought I could safely put Arang and the Magistrate to bed, Lee Jun Ki tweets a picture of cast and crew that is so adorable I simply HAVE to post it. So, here. Enjoy. Click on pic for a bigger version!

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Well, what do you know. Perhaps there is after all something to be said for a drama falling off the cliff some time before the end. I watched the last two episodes of Arang and the Magistrate grudgingly, just because I’ve come too far to give up now. But actually I had already a couple of episodes ago gotten bored of its facile storying and paper-thin characterization. I was bracing myself to hate the ending. But, surprisingly, I didn’t.

[somewhat spoilery musings follow after the break]

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Polling time! We have eight episodes of Nice Guy to go. Eight episodes of delicious angst, betrayal, and counter-betrayal. Much as it may seem in bad taste to be wagering on the outcome of a train smash, let us throw decorum to the wind and have a bit of fun.

Nice Guy is an interesting creature. It is entirely unoriginal in its use of melodrama tropes, and yet it doesn’t feel old or stale. In fact, it’s rather gripping. Its plot seems eye-rollingly contrived, but its execution is so fine it doesn’t feel stupid.

One thing is for sure: It will all end in tears! And probably a high body count. Or… will it? Let us pit our wits and shamanic powers against writer Lee Kyung Hee!

18 Nov ’12 Postscript: The poll is now CLOSED! (Well, technically, it isn’t, because I can’t figure out how to, and if you want to be annoying you can still vote even though we all know by now how it ended.) For the results as of the time of the airing of the last episode see here.

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I’m slowly watching A Wife’s Credentials. It’s really hard going. Not because it’s no good, but because it is brilliant. It’s so brilliant I am completely immersed. (Also, there’s an issue with finding English subtitles, but that’s another story.)

A Wife’s Credentials is a 16-episode drama shown on cable tv channel jTBC back in Feb-Apr of this year. It flew under the international K-drama fandom radar, save for some enthusiastic plugging by Softy and Thundie at Thundie’s Prattle and by X in his Vault. Its subdued impact is unsurprising, since it is not fluffy or fun-filled, and rather short on gratuitous fanservice. It is, however, deeply rewarding.

[Non-spoilery short review of Episodes 1-7 follows]

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Huh. Um. Uh. Well. How shall I put this? That was a whole lot of nothing. I’d say that I’m shocked at how quickly a drama which showed so much promising originality in its first four episodes has descended into sheer forgettability. Except that I’m not really shocked because we’ve seen this sort of thing happen so often in this crazy manic conveyor-belt that is k-drama making.

I found this episode so boring, I probably derived more amusement from the above pic Lee Jun Ki tweeted recently of the cast horsing around while filming it.

[spoilery rant after the break]

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