[TV Talk] I Need Romance (1, 2, & 3)

Okay, so I watched all three seasons of this show in an incredibly fast speed. I think it helped that I managed to watch them while doing cardio at the gym! They often got me to stay on longer, and, of course, my ear for Korean is getting better with each K-drama I watch, so I like think I'm being pretty productive (even if the content is total fluff!). Anyhow, I found this franchise from scrolling through DramaBeans after finishing "Reply 1994," and wanting to watch a better quality drama that was both romantic and funny with acting that wasn't going to make me cringe (Looking at you and your American scenes, "Heirs). The "I Need Romance" franchise was touted as being the Korean "Sex & the City," so, of course, I was immediately intrigued as "SATC" was probably one of the first shows I started binge watching. Being the difficult person I am, I started backwards, watching the most recent one first. I literally have no rhyme or reason as to why, but I'm glad I did. Here's my reviews of each broken up per season and in order from the first one. To sum it up, these dramas are perfect for those who get bored watching 90 minute episodes and stiff, awkward kissing scenes (Also lookin' at you, "BoF").

Season 1

This was perhaps the most infuriating drama I have ever watched in my life. Holy crap was it a hot mess wrapped up into good chemistry and good actors. I pretty much hate everything about it, but I also immensely enjoyed it. Sunwoo In Young is the main lead. She is a hotel concierge of a luxury hotel with aspirations to be the general manager someday, and she has been in a ten year relationship with Kim Sung Soo a movie director who has just signed his first big contract. The opening scenes are dedicated to showing us how in tune and comfortable around each other they are in that basically-married-way. The reason they aren't married yet is because In Young has been playing the sugar mama as Sung Soo has been struggling to make it in directing. She also has two best gal pals, Park Seo-yeon, the Samantha of the friends who is also the director a shopping mall (center?), and Kang Hyun Joo, a highly paid lawyer who is getting married and also a virgin (more or less the Charlotte of the group combined a bit with Miranda). The stories are set in motion when Sung Soo cheats on In Young with a much younger movie actress, Hyun Joo is stood up at the altar because her fiance did not find her desirable, and the man Seo yeon had previously been sleeping with turns out to have an angry, pregnant wife who wants to sue her for adultery. Cue the next batch of men in Bae Sunghyun, In Young's hoobae who turns out the be the heir to the hotel, Duk Soo, the man who Hyun Joo hired to help her move things and pretend to be her husband at the altar, and Joon Hee, Seoyeon's photographer who's pretty much over her bitchiness. 

Let me say, I tolerate a lot watching K-dramas. I understand the issues with plot lines, obvious fan service, cringeworthy attachments, and more. This one seriously played up the "Who is she gonna end up with?" really well, and it's the only one of the three that I was really rooting for the second lead in Sung Hyun. I'm sorry, a cheater is a cheater, and Sung Soo not only cheated once but twice. And not once are we given a proper explanation of why. The whole series was spent on him trying to win In Young back inter spliced with scenes of their lovey-dovey relationship of the past. He says sorry a lot and cries sometimes and gets incredibly angry and jealous over her budding relationship with Sung Hyun, but not once does he explain his reasoning or thought process in his apologies. I was so over the main lead by the end, though, that I just threw my hands up when they finally got back together. In Young is supposed to be 33, and besides work, I had a hard time believing that. I also had a really hard time believing that the actress, Jo Yeo Jeong, is the same as the lead of The Servant and The Concubine (you can also see why she did the, erm, bed scenes the best of the three seasons). She was pretty badass in The Concubine, so I was definitely cringing at her cuter faces and whiny voice as In Young. Additionally, the way they handled the ending of her relationship with Sung Hyun was flimsily done, though the ultimate reason (not wanting to change herself to be a chaebol's wife) was perfect. Ultimately, though I was annoyed with how many threads the PDs started only to just drop. Sung Soo's cheating? The lack of passion she felt when she kissed him right before he cheated? The exploration of her hotel dreams? The first cheating ordeal (more in depth)? Sung Soo's apologizing? Seo Hyun's claim she's a terrible bitch? Not to mention Hyun Joo's peeing issues that initially made her think she had AIDS? Duk Soo going from a "sexy handy man" to a Ping Pong Club owner?

TL; DR: Full of laughs and great chemistry, questionable writing and plot development. I don't know why this was touted as having some sort of magic to it besides it being the first drama I've seen that goes into sex and kissing in depth. Still fairly PG compared to US shows and especially compared to "SATC," but for K-drama land, it's pretty forward.

Season 2

I really liked this season right up until the end. From reviews it was supposed to be the worst of the three, and it was also supposed to be similar to Season 1 sans its magic. Yeah, okay. In terms of plot, it was way more consistent and made way more sense (even if it fell to tropes) than Season 1. I also now understand why the PDs of "Reply 1994" used Jung Yumi in a cameo as the future wife of Chilbongie. So, plot: Joo Yeol Mae and Yoon Seok Hyun have known each other since early childhood. They started dating fifteen years before the start of the show, having broken up five times with the last happening three years earlier after Seok Hyun reveals he has no plans of marrying anyone, Yeol Mae included. Here's the catch though: both their fathers died when they were young, so their mothers built two houses that were conjoined (basically it's just one, big house). And in the show, they still live together, and they basically are married without the romance part. They even have two golden retriever dogs together and take turns doing chores around the house. No, I'm not kidding. Additionally, Yeol Mae is a music director, and Seok Hyun is a popular script writer. While Sung Soo was left out of the girl trio in Season 1, Seok Hyun is actually a part of the girl trio here, and it is more like a four way friendship than the girls and the guy. The other two women are Sun Jae Kyung, the owner of a shoe company, Shoezzle, and the wife of a famous news reporter, and Woo Ji Hee, who is dating a well off doctor. Their stories are set in motion when Seok Hyun and Yeol Mae start a friends with benefits relationship (pretty much because they're both horny and presumably have not slept with anyone else these past three years?) that again ends badly when she wants more, Jae Kyung reveals her husband has been cheating on her since they got married and that she herself is cheating on him with her co-founder, Lee Jang Woo, and Ji Hee's boyfriend calls her out for being bad in bed in public. Yeol Mae then starts dating Shin Ji Hoon, the coffee shop owner near her studio (this is after a series of comical events that bring them together), Jae Kyung is caught by her husband and is made into Korea's Bitch, and Ji Hee begins dating our runaway fiance from the first season, Kim Tae Woo (which now that I know this, I love!). 

I really liked this season, and except for how rushed the end was, I thought it was actually superior to the first. The chemistry wasn't as strong, but it was still quite good. I actually liked Seok Hyun, and I liked that the problem they had was that he was very distant from everyone even Yeol Mae. The best scene is when she draws a circle around him and tells him he lives in this circle, and he'll be all alone if he never lets any one in. The revelation for his distance is revealed towards the end, but beyond it being a revelation (seriously, how did she not know after nearly thirty years together?!), it was never much more. There wasn't even a confrontation. I can see how the last few episodes could have ruined it for a lot of viewers. I wasn't even crazy about Ji Hoon after the first few meetings. Was he ridiculously attractive? Yes. Was their relationship cute? Yes. However, it was also nauseating. I hate when boyfriends act like parents, and he basically parents her! It reminds of this customer I had once who told me his girlfriend was his little princess. I had to try not to gag. I do think her break-up with him was incredibly cold. She just sort of does it, and then avoids him! Also, I had a hard time believing Yeol Mae was 33 as well. She pulled off her side ponies, but I'm almost 22, and I can't picture getting away with the amount of cutesy she had in her style. Oh, and the fighting between the two leads is pretty epic. 

TL;DR Better than what critics say, and the plot makes much more sense than Season 1. Bonus "I Could Give You Love" by Lassie Lindh was a great OST song! 

Season 3
By far my favorite of the three! The plot is by far the best, and I actually liked and felt for all the characters. It was the least like the first two, and it is the definition of a Noona romance. It might also help that I related the most to the main lead here than the other two. Anyhow, plot: Shin Joo Yeon is the director of the New Brand team of a Home Shopping Channel (basically Korea's QVC). She is a workaholic who has had a lot of success in her field, but she is also so cold. Like can't handle emotions and is intentionally hard on her hoobaes. When her boyfriend breaks up with her in the first episode, she calmly orders ice cream and tells him it's no big deal (to which he freaks out). There isn't really a girl trio in this season, but there are the two (or three) secondary leads in Lee Min Jung and Jung Hee Jae. Ming Jung is a older member of the team who prefers one night stands (with meetings done online too), and Hee Jae is the maknae of the team whose boyfriend is studying for the Civil Service Exam. The only male member of the team is Lee Woo Young, who, yes, is the guy they think is pretty much gay until he starts dating Hee Jae. The main guy of this drama is the youthful Joo Wan, who has returned from living in the US and making it big as a music composer. Joo Yeon used to babysit him to help her mom out, and he has grown up believing her to be this kindhearted angel. Her mother, of course, volunteers her house as a place for him to crash until he sets up permanent residence in Seoul, much to her irritation. They have not seen each other since he left at like age 5, and she is pretty mean to him over the phone when she talks to him. He is good friends with her arch enemy, Oh Se Ryung, Korea's most famous stylist. All the paths are intertwined when Joo Yeon starts dating her director, Kang Tae Yoon, who also happens to have dated Se Ryung, and Joo Wan finally reveals himself to Joo Yeon and lives in her house.

The premise definitely sounds a bit weird, and I have to say I was a bit skeptical the first episode or two. After all, Joo Wan basically tricks Joo Yeon into a relationship before finally revealing himself to be the kid she babysat all those years ago and moving in with her. It's funny but weird. But from the point he moves in with her and begins breaking down all the emotional fortifications her workaholic nature has formed, I fell head over heels in love with this drama. Joo Wan is the perfect male lead, and there's no question she ends up with him (the cover poster is literally of them about to kiss). Whereas I can see Season 1 & 2 leading men existing in real life to a certain extent, Joo Wan is purely K-drama. He is so attentive and so kind and so sweet and so perfect that it's like he was born out of my thirteen-year-old imagination. I think I liked this drama more because it made sense in terms of character development. It was more about Joo Yeon's emotional journey than anything else, and I loved every second of it. 

TL; DR Best of the three, and by far my favorite. Noona Romance at its best.

I'm off to finally watch "You from Another Star," the "Secret Garden" of 2013-2014, apparently! I'm two episodes in and cracking up. Reviews say its hype was well deserved and that it stays strong through its 21 episodes whereas "SG" fell apart a bit after episode 16.

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