Lee Seo Jin fan? Me, too. Annoyed by “reality” TV? Me, too. For the likes of us, the year and a half since Wonderful Days wrapped up has been long and weary.
But rejoice, relief is in sight! LSJ has signed up for a new weekend drama on MBC. Many of LSJ’s most popular roles have been in MBC dramas (Hon, Damo, Yi San, & Gye Baek), along with some of his less known work.
MBC is really stepping up their outreach to English-speaking U.S. audiences these days – check out their MBC America page. Don’t miss the VOD tab, where you can view previous MBC series via embedded Hulu. Move over, KBS!
Kim Yu Jin, better known as UEE of the girl group After School, has been confirmed as oppa’s significantly younger leading lady. Hmm.
But she’s not just another pretty face. Acting was her original ambition before she took a detour into K-pop. She has appeared in a number of dramas, beginning with Queen Seonduk in 2009 (which was my intro to Kdrama and Korea), working her way up to leading roles, and receiving awards.
The new drama, with the working title of Hundred-Day Wife but now being referred to as Marriage Contract, is scheduled to start airing in Korea on Saturday & Sunday nights in late February. I’m psyched that it only has 20 episodes, which means more airtime for LSJ to do what he does best.
I’ll be watching on a local MBC broadcast station. Yes, I do know how lucky I am! But MBC has broadcast stations in several US markets, as well as availability through various broadband providers, so check their map before you hunker down to disconsolately wait for one of the streaming services to get it.
GirlFriday, my favorite bean, translates the description of Marriage Contract as “a warm, cheerful series” about a widowed single mom with a terminal illness. Only in Korea!
They won’t really kill off the leading lady at the end, of course. Or will they? You never can tell with Kdrama. Place your bets, people….
Now why is it so intriguing to see Lee Seo Jin speak English? I’m liking how real he looks in this drama (if you disagree, you may find this video from a recent Cosmo shoot more to your taste). But it’s weird that they have him playing a 33-year old. He makes 43 look good, but 33 he is not. Would it have been that hard to adjust the script to the casting??
Mihansa.net is not a Lee Seo Jin fan site. However, if for some unfathomable reason you don’t find him worth watching, better come back in about 6 months when Wonderful Days is over, ’cause I am going to be mentioning his name a few times until then.
I wonder what children are really like in Korea. They are always so incredibly sophisticated and wise (not to say mouthy) in Kdramas. Hard to understand how they become such tortured teenagers and neurotic adults after such a promising start.
North and South American viewers can now watch the new KBS drama Wonderful Days on Viki (many thanks to Kim for bearing this excellent news).
Lee Seo Jin’s talent for non-verbal expression is a great fit for his outwardly cold but internally turbulent character. 2 pm’s Teac Yeon plays a more straightforward character, and so far is doing a respectable job of it for a Kpop star with limited acting experience. There are great female characters in this drama, too – loving feisty Kim Hee Sun and Yoon Yeo Jeong, whose role promises a depth worthy of her versatility, for once.
Viki’s page for Wonderful Days has extremely helpful character (not actor) bios to help sort out the rather complicated family relationships and back stories. They are a little spoiler-y after only two episodes, though, so be warned.
Immortal Songs is a KBS Saturday afternoon program (also aired on KBS World), which has existed in varying configurations with other Saturday programs for a number of years (according to Wikipedia). I don’t usually watch singing competitions, but this one has some features that strike me as distinctly Korean, and I find myself watching it most weekends.
The “Immortal” in Immortal Songs refers to a respected elder singer and/or songwriter who was widely known and dearly loved back in the day. A different senior guest is featured each week (“senior” in this context refers to professional status, not age). There is a rotating pool of current singing stars – each singer or group is featured on several consecutive shows. The singers/groups each select a song from the senior’s repertoire, and prepare their own interpretation of it, which may or may not include a change of genre, background singers and musicians, costumes, dancing, and/or dramatic staging effects.
Singer names are randomly drawn by an MC, who teases the live audience by describing the next performer before revealing who it is. After the performance, the next singer is selected – both singers receive feedback from the senior. Then the audience votes. They do not choose between singers – rather, they are asked to vote for each singer if the singer “moved” them, and the singer with the highest score proceeds to the next round. The prize is a trophy for the last singer left standing.
There are cameras in the back room where the singers await their turn. The camaraderie and interaction between the singers has been one of the most interesting features of Immortal Songs. Since they are on the program for several weeks at a time and are rotated out on individual cycles, they have multiple chances to go first or last, be matched against various other contestants, and receive a high or not so high score. Newer singers are advised by experienced veterans, singers who usually perform with a group get a chance to display other aspects of their talent, and everyone gets to experiment with new styles. Sometimes there are pre-performance interviews with individual singers, or pairs of competitors. The atmosphere is generally supportive despite the competition.
Identification with the group even in a competitive environment, and connection of current generation singers with their predecessors strike me as uniquely Korean twists on the singing contest format. Immortal Songs is also a painless education on Korean popular music over the past half century. Clips of the original interpretation of the song by the senior are shown before the performance for comparison. It’s fun to see what the younger singers come up with. As with many music programs, the lyrics (in Hangul) are flashed on a corner of the screen during the song, which is handy for students of Korean.
Some of the charm of Immortal Songs has been lost in the Immortal Songs 2 season that started in spring. It seems more staged in a number of ways. Entire singing groups are now participating, and an emcee and other guests have been added to the back room, creating quite a crowd. This renders the interaction a lot more superficial, and reduces the opportunity to get to know each participant. The sense of a bond building within the participant group over several programs has been lost. Also, the randomness of the selection process seems questionable (even the stars think so). I hope Korean viewers feel the same way, and will persuade KBS to return to the earlier, more intimate and more spontaneous format.
Guests singers on Immortal Songs 2 may be Kpop stars, or drama stars or emcees who also sing. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a lot of crossover between performance genres in the Korean entertainment industry. Because of this, drama fans, Kpop fans, and students of Korean culture will all find something of interest in Immortal Songs 2. Check it out!
The latest KBS World Drama Special is called The Most Glorious Moment (in Life). I don’t know how many more episodes it has, but one was really enough. It’s a story about a mildly dysfunctional family that is united by a medical crisis (three guesses which disease). The acting is quite good, but the hardworking actors deserved fresher material. The Most Glorious Moment has all the originality of an after school special, and all the tension of a 10-year old rubber band, with the Valuable Lesson revealed in the opening scene (not to mention the title). The predictability of American TV is what I turned to Korean TV to get away from, but in this case I could’ve stayed home.
Update: Watched the second episode of The Most Glorious Moment drama special today. Two is all there are, thankfully, since it is every inch the tearjerker it promised to be. If you decide to watch, pull out the tissues. It’s a two-boxer.
Here’s a song by one of my favorite YouTube artists that may be of interest to people who watched this drama. It has nothing to do with Korean drama, but it’s my blog, so I can be off-topic if I want to…