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August 31, 2012

My Husband Got a Family – Korean drama review

promotional poster for series featuring a wedding photo of Kim Nam Joo and Yu Jun Sang;My Husband Got a Family is airing on KBS America as a weekend drama. The first few episodes were so excruciatingly predictable that I gave it a pass for many weeks. Here’s the opening setup: adult adoptee seeking birth family moves into the same building with wounded family seeking long lost child. Guess what happens next? Ten million Koreans live in Seoul, and 100,000 Korean children have been sent to the US for adoption, but what’s a statistical impossibility to a drama? Dickens. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.

However, for all its faults, My Husband Got a Family inhabits the dinner hour timeslot, where it faces little competition. It’s true what they say about timing being everything. Just when I’m ready to put my feet up and rest my brain, there it is. I drifted back to it, gradually at first, but now, I admit, I make a point of watching it.

Na Young Hee with a very unhappy expression on her face;Yoon Yeo Jung with a very unhappy expression on her face;The family dynamics at the core of this drama are just like every other Korean family drama you ever saw. There’s sibling rivalry, abusive parenting, and a secret that’s too big to keep, yet too horrible to tell. According to my drama sun dial, we’re due for a life-threatening diagnosis or accident any episode now.

Other familiar elements appear in a modified form. As in Love Rain, the incest love-obstacle appears in the form of the in-law relationship taboo, instead of a scare over being half-siblings. Since in-law incest is not even a thing in the US, this substantially reduces the ick-factor. If there were loan sharks, I missed them. Drat. No, really.

Kim Nam Joo and Yu Jun Sang having an emotional conversation;The central couple (Kim Nam Joo and Yu Jun Sang) are annoyingly smug and self-satisfied at the beginning of the series. They’ve had ups and downs since then, matured a little, and lost some of their insufferability.

Yun Hui, a successful professional woman battling sexism at work as well as in her husband’s family, is an unexpectedly sympathetic character. Her deficient housekeeping skills may be more damning to a Korean audience than they are to me, but she sure knows how to navigate the backbiting power dynamics in her entertainment industry workplace (which is in a different universe from the cozy little production company depicted in Sent From Heaven). The developing independence of her sister-in-law (Yang Jeong Ah), everybody’s punching bag, is also refreshing.

A smiling Lee Hee Joon sits close to Jo Yoon Hee, who is holding up a teddy bear;However, my favorite storyline in My Husband Got a Family concerns the budding relationship between two people who are monumentally slow on the uptake about their own feelings. In real life, I’d be unimpressed by that, but for some reason, I find it irresistibly charming in this drama. It’s mostly Lee Hee Joon’s comical dialogues with himself (with a few well-placed jibes at drama conventions) that keep me coming back for more.

Not so funny (through no fault of her own) is Yang Hee Kyeong, a rare (in Korean drama) large woman, as a comic relief character. I wish I could applaud this drama for taking a step forward in diversified casting. Unfortunately, the running joke is that her character audaciously believes she’s a worthwhile and attractive person regardless of her weight. Ha ha. Two steps back.

Despite its lack of originality, there are engaging moments in My Husband Got a Family. Last weekend, I cheered when the family’s women put aside their differences to team up on a man who done one of them wrong. I tittered at Terry’s bemusement when his sophisticated wife and her adult little brother screamed at each other like kindergarteners on the playground. Yes, this is drama with a small d, but there’s a place for that.

[NOTE: After I posted this review, I learned that My Husband Got a Family has received surprisingly high ratings in South Korea, though I suspect this is mostly due to the presence of Kpop idol Kang Min Hyuk of CN Blue in a relatively minor role. His “Code Name” (CN) is “lovely.” ‘Nuff said.]


Related posts:
Final Thoughts review for My Husband Got a Family
10 Obstacles to Love in Korean Drama

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