Passions and Obsessions

You’re nursing a Vincenzo hangover?

2021 K-Dramas we love—and the stars
we love more (work-in-progress list)


If 2020 saw a lockdown-captive audience’s sepanx (separation anxiety, where have you been living?) from CLOY (Crash Landing On You), 2021 is sepanx from Vincenzo, which had its final episode (Ep 20) last May 2.

As someone in a chat group posted, “Now I have a Joongki-sized hole in my heart, so I’m rewatching it.”

 Joongki is Song Joongki who plays Vincenzo in the K-Drama series about a Korean orphan who becomes a consiglieri of a Mafia family and who comes home to Korea in search of gold, literally, but who gets drawn to a vortex (again, literally) of cliffhangers in pursuit of it—and of course, to an unintended romance. All this in 20 episodes (so it’s a major commitment to binge-watch) starring Song Joong Ki (Descendants of the Sun), Jeon Yeo Bin (After My Death, Age of Shadows), Taecyeon (Dream High, member of 2PM), Kwak Dong Yeon (Love in the Moonlight, My ID is Gangnam Beauty).


Song Joong Ki in a Live Fan Meet (History D&C) last May 7 on YouTube

It’s a cast that’s able to do perfect or near-perfect action, drama and comedy. Vincenzo is action comedy, or dark comedy—just when your heart is about to burst from the suspense/blood/gore, the story makes you laugh, or the other way around.

Vincenzo’s finale got the highest ratings for its time slot across all channels in Korea and the sixth highest ratings in tvN history, next to CLOY, Goblin, Reply 1988, Mr. Sunshine and Mr. Queen. asked our regular readers for their K-Drama recommended list:

From KCR:

What’s there to like about Vincenzo?

  1. Song Joong Ki is beyond perfection as Vincenzo.

  2. The main and supporting casts, without exception, are fantastic, be they heroes, anti-heroes, or villains.

  3. Nothing is ever predictable, so it’s always a wild ride.

  4. Once you get the hang of it, the tonal shifts from serious to comedic to downright ridiculous to touching/moving to swoony become quite entertaining.

  5. Technically—particularly cinematography, music, wardrobe, visual effects/ CGI—is breathtakingly beautiful.

  6. The bromances, the family found, the personal and relationship growth arcs, are all heartwarming and deeply affecting.

  7. The series has mastered cliffhanger episode endings.

  8. Song Joong Ki in his bespoke suits with his bangs up; Song Joong Ki in anything other than bespoke suits with his bangs down

  9. Song Joong Ki merely being in this drama and then some.

  10. Female lead Jeon Yon Bin nails the comedic, even the slapstick, parts which I initially found hard to watch then got the hang of it. Then she shows her range in the dramatic scenes. Taecyeon has grown so much as an actor. I last saw him in Dream High which was filmed nine years ago. Kwak Dong Yeon is an excellent character actor and I truly love him in any role he plays (Love in the Moonlight, My ID is Gangnam Beauty), but he hits a homerun here as Hanseo. He brought a truly multifaceted, quirky, lovable and tragic character to life. Kim Yeo Jin as Myung Hee is a most despicable villain—after I read her interviews and Googled her, just so she could be human again in my eyes, I learned she is a social activist. She and Taecyeon made torture seem palatable.

    What I think Vincenzo needs though is just a bit of tighter editing, unless they really want to take their time to tell the story and different plot points.

From DL:

  1. Vincenzo—comedy, drama, thriller , action and romance. Song Joong Ki is the Tom Cruise of Korea. Jeon Yon Bin—her acting is of a typical Korean friend you have.

  2. Oh My Ladylord—Nana is like the Liza Soberano of the Philippines. Feel-good K-Drama.

    Oh my Ladylord

  3. Taxi Driver—fast-paced crime thriller. Taxi service that offers revenge. Last K-Drama I watched of Lee Je hoon was Paparotti and Where Stars land.

    Taxi Driver

  4. Mr. Queen—Historical, comedy, fantasy, romance and drama. Very entertaining. A modern man in a historic-period woman’s body. Shin Hye Sun did very well in the shifting of characters, like a dual personality. Good chemistry between her and Kim Jung Hyun (the second male lead in CLOY).

    Mr. Queen

From TSS:

True Beauty

True Beauty

If My ID is Gangnam Beauty or Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung didn’t turn you into a diehard Cha Eun Woo fan, True Beauty should.

The hit series of early 2021 is not only a feel-good series, it also has a plot and character build-up you’ll find engrossing from one episode to another, mainly because it doesn’t dumb you down.

Cha Eun Woo in ‘True Beauty’

Moon Ga Young plays an ugly duckling who’s been bullied in early school until a family misfortune enables her to move schools—and to discover makeup that would mask her ugliness. She becomes the beauty in her class that includes, you guess it, Cha Eun Woo’s Lee Su-ho, an aloof A student whose dad is Korea’s heartthrob actor and owner of a big entertainment agency. Lee Su-ho is a loner, a taciturn half-nerd—until Moon Ga Young’s Lee Joo Kyung draws his curiosity. Then the unraveling of the past begins, and your eye candy that is a Cha Eun Woo and a Moon Ga Young turns into engaging substance.

The two young actors feed off each other’s character so well that it becomes the drama’s strength. That there’s a third party, Hwang In Youp’s character of Han Seo Joon, turns that strength into a cliff-hanger of a romance. (In time, the local audience became divided into Team Su-ho and Team Seo Joon. And it didn’t hurt that the two male leads once studied in the Philippines.)

This teen drama could have been a sappy bubble-gum fare, but it didn’t. With good acting, it tackles issues and hard realities faced by today’s young: suicide, bullying, lack of self-esteem, peer pressure. It does so not in a didactic way, but through the irony of human relationships.

Best of all, it portrays what beauty is and should be to a generation that has it all.

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