Why we binged on three seasons of The Good Doctor and two seasons of New Amsterdam:
For some bewildering reason, and as I simmer with disgust over the recent Commission on Audit (COA) reports, I have somehow developed K-dramanorexia.
K-dramas have been my constant, reliable escape from harsh reality, but sadly not this time. So hubby and I found ourselves binge-watching three seasons of The Good Doctor (US version). We tried it out because of the good reviews from friends, the fact that the show’s creator was Korean, and the interesting premise of an autistic savant MD as lead character.
It’s been quite a while since those endless seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, that highly addictive, deeply moving, and often salacious medical drama of the early 2000s. True to its K-drama DNA, and unlike most Western series,
The Good Doctor focuses a bit more on its characters than the hoopla surrounding medical cases (which are depicted in often outlandish and inaccurate fashion, but that’s another story).
The series drew us in because each main character was distinct, nuanced, human—sterling qualities, baggage, idiosyncrasies, warts and all. The relationships were highly charged, emotional, dynamic, exciting even. We easily became invested in each character; whether we loved the characters or were irked by them, we felt something strongly for or about them, and that’s what ropes an audience into a show.
Most of the characters did show growth over three seasons, some more, others less.
As for the medical cases and how these played out, as MDs ourselves we were often rolling our eyeballs at many details of the show. The creative license was a bit excessive, from almost every patient presenting nonspecific symptoms only to end up having a tumor, therefore necessitating surgery, as if surgery were the only option for anything and everything. The symptoms ranged from a nasty rash to a recurrent cold to a ruptured aorta, with patients being wheeled off to surgery within minutes or seconds of appearing on the show.
Then there’s the mind-boggling detail of this first-rate medical center in a rich US county, supposedly filled with specialists and sub-specialists, but with only the cardiovascular surgeon performing everything, from open heart surgery to fixing broken bones to delivering babies and even to overseeing chemotherapy and dialysis! Bewildering.
The titular character became annoying at times, but even then we could understand where he was coming from, and we could empathize with him if we mustered enough patience. That for me is the winning formula of a drama—when you want to slap and hug the character at the same time, because she/he is so real to you.
The finale of season 3 was traumatic for me (minor spoiler alert), and I strongly disagree with the show’s writers for going down that route, so I may or may not watch season 4.
We then transitioned to New Amsterdam, again because we heard good things about this show, which is based on a real person who supposedly revolutionized aspects of healthcare in America. We would rate this show lower than The Good Doctor, but we were equally hooked because the characters and their personal drama and interrelationships were compelling enough.
The lead character grated on me in each episode, mainly because I found him exhausting—his impulsiveness, obstinacy, hyperactive-bordering-on-manic behavior, and overall bullish conduct. Admittedly, these same traits which annoyed me so much are what made him an iconoclast. And as with The Good Doctor, it’s the characters’ arcs that kept us glued every night.
I normally binge-watch Korean, American, British, and a bit of Spanish series when I get overfatigued with the ones I usually watch. I like Korean series because of the unpredictable plot, cinematography (it’s like watching a movie already), musical scoring which brings out so many emotions, storyline which is very relatable since Koreans have values similar to those of Filipinos, and last, the good-looking lead stars who act so naturally.
It is the combination of these elements which keeps you hooked and wanting more. I watch not only your usual romcoms, but also the K-action series such as Taxi Driver, Flower of Evil and of course, the drama series, as well.
I’ve been watching Hospital Playlist since it started, as it provides a flavor different from the usual K-drama series. Koreans are also masters of suspense series, as in Kingdom and Mouse, which I also like. But my top favorite K series are Reply 1988, Mr. Queen, and Goblin.
I binge-watch American series like 9 Perfect Strangers and Chapelwait, which stars Hollywood A-listers Nicole Kidman and Adrien Brody, because of the plot, acting, and good script. American series can tackle more controversial subjects and have more material for story themes. But K-series bring me to a different world, as they allow me to experience different emotions in one show.
Every time I watch an episode of Reply 1988, I am made to feel that I am part of the show
I like both Hospital Playlist and Reply 1988 because I can very much relate to the theme, relationships between family and friends. Every time I watch an episode of Reply 1988, I am made to feel that I am part of the show, that I am one of the characters. It makes me reminisce about my youth and reminds me of my core (what is important, which is family and true friends). It’s like watching a reality show instead of a scripted drama series.
Characters are all played well, and each has his or her own narrative. The series did not bank on the popularity of its lead stars. Everyone is a lead star. This series brought out my different emotions. It made me laugh and cry. After watching it, I felt like I lost friends and neighbors who were with me in the entire series. They became a part of my daily life.
I have just binge-watched D.P.
There are only six episodes, and I was told that one of my favorite actors, Ko Kung Pyo (or Go Kyung Pyo) made a guest appearance in the first episode. So I started watching D.P. without expecting much from it.
However, I got hooked and was so immersed in the story that I couldn’t stop. I finished all six episodes in one night when I had originally planned on watching only one.
The story focused on a young soldier who was assigned to capture “deserters” from the South Korean military, and on the bullying that happens during their mandatory military service. All six episodes were an intense and heart-wrenching rollercoaster ride, as they dealt with the characters’ personal, psychological, and emotional issues.
As tired as I was after watching six episodes, it was worth the sleepless night.
Thelma San Juan:
You have only up to Sept. 30, 2021 to watch the K-drama The Liar and His Lover on Netflix, and especially if you’re a K-pop fan, you might want to check this out before it is deleted from the streaming menu.
Released in 2017—as K-pop’s popularity rose worldwide—this musical romcom (based on a Japanese manga, by the way) is timely now as it was then because it takes you into the making of a K-pop band, the interesting powerplay and dynamics in the powerful K-pop talent agencies, and just as important, how music is produced by today’s generation.
But apart from that meaty content, it also has funny sweet romance—ah, to be young, clumsy, jealous and insecure—and goodlooking. You crack up watching how “idols” try to date and you wonder if your own idols go through all those hassles just to pursue their love. Wearing hoodies, mask in public for starters. Next is having a manager who covers up for them when they go on dates. You know the drill.
It stars Joy of Red Velvet, Lee Hyun Woo (The Beauty Inside, Money Heist, To The Beautiful You, Dream), Song Kang (Love Alarm, Nevertheless, Navillera), Jang Ki Yong (My Roommate is a Gumiho, Search WWW). Of course, they were even younger then, young enough for Joy and Song Kang to play high school band members fumbling in music competitions.
Hyun Woo plays the in-demand producer of the hottest band Crude Play—he works behind the scenes so that unlike the Crude Play idols, he can move around incognito and is just known by the moniker “Producer K.”
This is teen romance that competently and bravely tackles this adulting K-pop industry issue
Joy’s character is a fan of K and Crude Play. How Joy and Lee Hyun Woo cross paths and get drawn to each other, without Joy knowing who Lee Hyun Woo really is, provides the thrill of the first few episodes. Once their romance blooms and Joy comes closer to her goal which to “debut,” the conflict ensues and the viewer gets intrigued by the workings of a Korean talent agency. The series actually shows the behind-the-scenes making of K-pop music, the drive up the music charts, and the agency’s sparring with a nosy media and ubiquitous social media.
But what is touching is the series’ honesty to show how conflicted the Crude Play members are because all this time, they’ve been made to “mime” their performances, and how incapable they are of performing the music of Producer K to the level that he wants. This is a teen romance that competently and bravely tackles this adulting music industry issue. Will Crude Play level with its fandom? How this plays out is what makes you see the episodes through to the end.
The Liar and His Lover (don’t mind the trite title) is a warm love story, so well-acted (Lee Hyun Woo, who long ago was linked to IU, has a striking resemblance to Park Bogum and BTS JK), but it didn’t end with young romance when it could have. Instead it went deeper into issues that a world-dominating K-pop industry must be facing, and that includes suicide risk, cyberbullying—and it does so with dramatic honesty. You will want to see it through to episode 16.
And by the way its OST (It’s OK) and the other tracks are exceptionally good.