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October 26, 2012

My Husband Got a Family – Final Thoughts

My Husband Got a Family (넝쿨째 굴러온 당신 – literally You Who Rolled in Unexpectedly or Unexpected You) wrapped up on KBS World last weekend. The series fulfilled its initial promise of utter predictability from beginning to end. Plot developments to come were not merely hinted at, they were shouted from the rooftops with megaphones. The abrupt timeslip at the end of the second-to-last episode seemed entirely arbitrary, as if the writer suddenly got bored and stopped caring what happened to the characters.
SPOILER ALERT: stop here if you haven’t watched yet.

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

April 12, 2012

Watching Now: Dream High 2 & Can Love Become Money?

I caught the first episode of Dream High 2 awhile back. I found it engaging, but couldn’t really relate to high school students struggling for stardom. However, I’ve stumbled across a few more episodes since then, and now I’m hooked (I can’t resist a morality play). I’ll be going back to catch up on the episodes I’ve missed.

I will get back to Vampire Prosecutor, I promise. I’ve been doling out the remaining episodes of Season 1 to myself a little at a time, like the last few pieces of a really sublime chocolate bar, since I know Season 2 won’t be available until August. I don’t want it to end!

I thought starting another Yeon Jeong Hoon drama might ease the pain. Can Love Become Money? is airing without subtitles on a local channel. I try to watch a little non-subtitled Korean TV every day. It’s easy to ignore audio when you’re watching subtitles. Watching without subtitles helps me build the habit of using my ears as well as my eyes. Also, when I start to understand what’s going on, I’ll know my Korean has progressed! Can Love Become Money? without subtitles was mystifying, however, and since Yeon Jeong Hoon is in it, I decided to check out subtitled episodes from the beginning.

Can Love Become Money? is makjang from the get-go, to an almost satirical degree. I wouldn’t bother with it if Yeon Jeong Hoon wasn’t in it, and I’m afraid it will only make me miss the Vampire Prosecutor more. Min Tae Yeon’s cool exterior is only protective – we know inside he’s a sensitive guy, with a worthy mission in life.

Ma In Tak, however, is mega-unlikeable. Nothing and no one is good enough for him. He’s bitter, venal and stingy, treating everyone horribly, and women worse. Even his dog can’t escape criticism. The plot is shaping up to be Taming of the Shrew in reverse (with loan sharks). I know this terrible start is creating room (and lots of it) for improvement, but it hurts me to see Yeon Jeong Hoon in such an unsympathetic role. Gotta like Uhm Ji Won, though, who flips him off Korean-style, only the second time I’ve ever seen a woman do that in a drama. You go, girl! Come to think of it, Yeon Jeong Hoon was the target the first time, too, when Lee Young Ah flipped off the Vampire Prosecutor. There’s just something about him, I guess.

I’m also watching Wild Romance, which is wrapping up on a local station. I haven’t seen all episodes, and don’t plan to, but I appreciate its unconventional heroine and villain, although we’ve known who the real villain is for far too long.

My One and Only is another series I entered midstream, and don’t like enough to catch up – I watch it only because the young lovers are so extremely and rigidly attached to each other that even the
SPOILER ALERT: stop here if you plan to watch this.