Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Trot Lovers: What is this?

Wow, this show is weird. They buried the leading man up to his neck in dirt, stuck a paper bag over his head, and made him sing along to Korea’s version of the golden oldies. I just don’t even know what to say except . . . I think I like it.

Enough with the super spies, serial killers, and first love angst. Rom-coms FINALLY rolled back around on the drama schedule, and one of the first to hit the airwaves is Trot Lovers. I feel like I sat through the first two episodes with my face scrunched in slackjawed disbelief. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. I wouldn’t call it charming. The bad attitudes fly at random. I wouldn’t call it romantic. The main couple don’t have a love-hate relationship. It’s hate-hate all the way, and they have yet to show us any real connection. But TL has this kind of crazy neighbor appeal that keeps you staring out the window, wondering what they’re gonna do next.

It had to be you

But with this couple . . . not so much. I think Ji Hyun Woo and Jung Eun Ji more than proved their chemistry potential in past dramas like Queen Inhyun’s Man and Answer Me 1997. They sizzled up the screen opposite other co-stars, but right now I’m still waiting for the bells to ring with their current characters. The setup may be campy and ridiculous, but their acting itself is good. I just don’t get that squeeful feeling watching them butt heads, yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the ride. But my fingers are crossed for some fissions of attraction to start showing soon.

Is there such a thing as 5D?

I learned a new term while watching Korean television. 4D. They use it to describe a person who’s kinda left of center. While everyone else operates in three dimensions, they’re in their own little world, and might just wander away in the middle of a conversation and show up a month later to finish it. But after watching Shin Sung Rok as the hapless and reluctant new music president, I wonder if he might be 5D. He listens politely while his father chews him out on the phone, and cheerfully insists he can do so for an hour since his Dad is the one with all the money. (Cracks. Me. Up.) Poor papa gets so frustrated he hangs up. Things like passcodes and whose cell phone he’s holding stump this guy. He’ll spend ten minutes trying to open a locker with the wrong key, until someone else comes along and solves his problem. I can’t figure out if he’s serious, or just too lazy to think up a new plan of action. Either way, he’s hilarious. So far, his scenes are the highlight of this show.

Maybe I should start downloading some Trot

On a scale of 1 to 10, my knowledge of trot music ranks around .47, but I might start paying more attention because of TL. Jung Eun Ji makes the bouncy cheesefest sound heartwarming, mood lifting, and capable of recalling every long buried, happy hearts-and-flowers memory you lost along the way. It takes her away from whatever scary situation she’s currently in and puts her in a safe, little soft-lit cocoon with just the music and her family. The ending scene of Episode 2 hit a sweet spot for me when she starts her American Idol style audition with her back to the judges because she just can’t face reality. But then she imagines her father, sister, and deceased mother cheering and swaying in the audience and the rest of the people just fade away. Call me sappy, but I just love Awwwwwwwwwwww moments.

I really like this show. I’m not sure why. If they’d just mix in a bit more chemistry with the leads, I might start loving it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Love Myself or You: U Make Me Smile

I don’t know why I’m so picky of late. But I don’t want to watch melo, medical, thriller, or suspense. This leaves very few options from the current crop of dramas. A little romance, a little funny-bone tickling, a little piggybacking here and there. Is that too much to ask? But I’ve finally found one that puts a loony grin on my face. Even though there’s not an “Oppa!” to be heard. It’s the latest Taiwanese offering, Love Myself or You (AKA Pleasantly Surprised, but that title is too innocuous and irrelevant to the plot to be taken seriously).

It stars Puff Guo (currently appearing in the latest We Got Married: Global Edition) as the prickly French chef, Kai Qi, who relates more to the food she prepares than the living, breathing people around her. Enter the sunny, optimistic, and deeply dimpled new intern, Zi Jie, who is actually the wealthy son of the restaurant owner incognito (of course, he is). He remembers Kai Qi from a childhood connection, and makes it his personal mission to turn this touch-me-not back into a human being.

Don’t call me cute
I met the adorable force known as Puff Guo in last year’s scintillating Just You. Her chemistry with Aaron Yan registered super high on the Squee Scale, and I still bemoan their lost chance to repeat this duo in the currently airing Fall in Love with Me because of her We Got Married shooting schedule. *Mini-rant: I watch FILWM every week for two reasons: Aaron & Yan. But it’s kinda depressing seeing him sizzle up his half of the screen alone. His costar is adequate. Unoffensive. But it’s like watching two people try to move a couch when one of them is only pretending to lift their half. You just want to yell, “Would you please get with the program !”* I would love to see Puff and Yan together again, but I have to say that this part is way better for her. In Just You, she played the typical “Oops, did I do that?” kind of heroine with lots of charm and little brain matter. This Kai Qi character is crabby, driven, and rude to everybody. Seriously, I don’t think she’s cracked a genuine smile in two episodes. But she’s also talented, resilient, and fiercely protective of the ones she cares about. She’s got lots of love hidden somewhere. And I look forward to watching our determined hero peel her like a steel-armored onion.

Could you BE any cuter
Speaking of our knight in shining white apron, when this guy smiles I find the corners of my lips tugging up in a knee-jerk reaction. He’s just too, too adorable. It’s like his dimples shoot invisible, happy rays. Dramas repeatedly recycle the story of the plucky, positive girl saving the jerky, closed-off guy from his life of self-imposed isolation. It’s nice to see the gender roles switched for a change. He’s got a great relationship with his doting parents, lots of money, a fancy education abroad and no first-love trauma involving amnesia, cancer, or switched identities (at least, not so far). His character might not have as much meat from a development standpoint, but who cares. Look at the dimples!
Gourmet goes glamour shots
Any fans of the quirky, food-centered Let’s Eat should enjoy all the steamy, drizzly close-ups of French cuisine in this show. It may be fish eggs on a skinny piece of asparagus, but the slo-mo, camera work even makes that ludicrous combination look yummy. Since both main characters put their heart and soul into cooking, I’m hoping for some chemistry in the kitchen that doesn’t just involve hollandaise sauce.

Just Rip My Heart Out Already
I’m all about the romance, but a show stealing relationship may be the one between Kai Qi and the child of her deceased sister. She flatly rejects the idea of him living with her when the jerky father drops him off with grandma like an unwanted sack of potatoes. Kai Qi marches him back to his father’s place and insists he take responsibility. A heart-twisting detail is her nephew reaching out to her, but grabbing her purse strap instead of her hand, like he’s afraid to make contact. The deadbeat dad informs her that he’s getting married and wants children with his new wife, and she finally accepts the inevitable and takes her nephew back home. I love how she initially fights against any added burdens tooth-and-nail, but when she accepts the situation, she immediately does everything she can to take care of the little boy. Her personality lacks any natural warmth or nurturing, but she tries her best to make him happy in her own stilted way.
Hooray for Piggybacks
Any show that gives me a piggyback in the very first episode is already scoring major brownie points. But Episode 2 caught me hook, line and sinker with the elevator bit. Dimples (it’s so much easier to call him that) tries to make a connection with Kai Qi but is rebuffed at every turn, until he picks up on her competitive nature. He uses this to elicit actual human reactions from the otherwise robot-like woman, and starts making everything a challenge for her. The big showdown happens one morning at the elevator. He races to get in ahead of her, and presses the button before she can get to it. But Kai Qi does not give in so easily, taking her fingers and lighting up every floor on the panel. Then she leaves him to his neverending ride, and takes the other elevator. Her self-satisfied expression changes however when her car stops at the next floor to find that Dimples got out of his car and waited to hitch a ride in hers. Maybe I’m immature, but I stinking love childish stuff like that.

It’s been a long, dry spell in Dramaland the past few months. But Love Myself or You tastes like a sweet draught of lemonade with just the right amount of tart for flavor. I hope for many delicious scenes in the future.

We Got Married Global: First Impressions
Just You: Just For a Change