This may be a one-off post, perhaps an ongoing series, or maybe once in a blue moon when I’m drunk and bitter. Recently I’ve been quietly watching some dramas that aren’t just bad (and stupid), it’s unbelievably so much so that I can’t even call it a guilty pleasure drama. I ended up watching these dramas for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is that as I am watching I keep shaking my head at what I am seeing yet I found it almost impossible to stop. Of course I managed to stop (otherwise I might have perished from the brain numbing effect of it all), so I’m here to share some of what I’ve seen so maybe you don’t need to watch it. Or maybe it will make you so curious you’ll run off to watch it immediately.
My verdict in a nutshell is that these two dramas are so bad it’s funny, and sometimes we all need a good laugh here and there. This post will discuss two C-dramas in particular: the recently aired Sealed with a Kiss (Hawick Lau and Ying Er) and Fall in Love (Hans Zhang and Kiton Jiang), the remake of Autumn in My Heart. If you asked me to blurb about both of them, it’d go something like this: SwaK is so batshit insane and sickening I can’t believe it even exists, and FiL is so dumb and horrifically acted I worried my brain was going to lose it’s functionality soon if I didn’t stop watching.
SwaK is a modern C-drama adapted from a popular novel of the same name, which would lead one to think it ought to have some merit and be well constructed. Alas, that is not so. The SwaK story itself is beyond the pale in terms of how godawful it is, but couple it would some shoddy directing and a female lead that looks like she took a few extra turns to the buffet table (and can’t act), this drama becomes utterly horrendous. So why did I keep watching? Because the story was so gross I was rubbernecking for a few episodes, and because male lead Hawick Lau was just brilliant and completely riveting to watch. Even if he played a sociopath.
Let’s me explain the story and you judge for yourself. Male lead (not anywhere near a hero) finds himself in dire straits. His daddy is dead and ruined because of a betrayal by a business partner, so he ends up selling himself in marriage to a rich daughter of a financier who loves him. The marriage is a sham, but he’s bitter and hardened by his lot in life. He ends up at a restaurant regularly just to get away, and meets a sweet and warm young waitress that perhaps pierces through his coldness and makes him feel a smidge of hope again. He tries to pursue her, but she’s innocent and upstanding and not interested.
He has her investigated only to discover she is the daughter of the man responsible for betraying his father and causing the entire collapse of his world. He decides to kill two birds with one stone and blackmail our intrepid leading lady into becoming his mistress by threatening to turn her uncle into the authorities for embezzling funds. The blackmail occurs in the form of calling her to his beachside loveshack and giving her three seconds to undress right then and there. Wow, what a wonderful man he is. Girl cries but complies to save her useless uncle and his entire family. Girl is stupid and has a martyr complex.
The drama starts off with girl being guy’s reluctant sex slave/mistress/torment victim for the past two years. She lives in his other house under tight surveillance, and guy enjoys following her in his time off to see if she does something he has forbidden. When she does displease him, he mentally and emotionally tortures her, and then forces her to sleep with him. I AM NOT MAKING THIS SHIT UP. Of course, we are led to believe that he has fallen in love with her in the two years he’s been with her, so it’s a combination of residual hatred of her father and his jealously over her not loving him which makes him mistreat her. Oh, that makes everything just peachy.
I watched about 10 episodes of this nightmare of a drama before calling it quits. I cannot fathom what else could happen that would be worth watching. Since guy’s wife is also insanely in love with him and wanting him to make their marriage a reality rather than on paper, I’m sure once she finds out guy has a girl toy on the side he’s in love with, psycho wife will start tormenting heroine as well. Yay, she gets more mistreatment. This drama reminded me of those sick romance novels from the 70s where the heroine would fall in love with her rapist since heroine rationalized he only abducted her and raped her because he was in luuuurve with her. Yes, people actually wrote crap like this and I once read it. I wish I could scrub the memory from my brain. What’s sadder is discovering novels like this is still being written today, and turned into dramas.
Anyways, this drama is sick and dirty and makes me want to scrub my eyes, but damn it Hawick was so sexy and controlled as the sociopathic male lead. He made the revolting male lead non-revolting because he managed to perfectly convey the douchebag’s internal conflicts and tormented psyche. I only wish his leading lady Ying Er had half his acting chops, and perhaps didn’t look like she was 6 months pregnant. I don’t have a problem with chubby leading ladies, but Ying Er appeared to have suddenly ballooned from her last drama to this one, leaving me floored by how godawful she looked. Didn’t help that her wardrobe was something purchased from the local swapmeet by a blind stylist. So in closing, if anyone is feeling a sadistic streak coming on, this is the perfect drama for you.
I’ve made no secret that Autumn in My Heart with Song Seung Heon and Song Hye Kyo is one of my guilty pleasure K-dramas. It’s terrible, but I’m inexplicably drawn to the original granddaddy of fauxcest dramas. Probably also because I adore my Heon oppa. But otherwise it’s just plodding and kinda icky in concept. It’s not a drama I think any other country should ever remake, but China does whatever it wants these days. AiMH was remade earlier this year into the drama titled Fall in Love (Chinese title translates as Accidentally Falling in Love with You, which is just LOL) with rising heartthrob Hans Zhang and newbie actress Kiton Jiang (Jiang Qi Tong). I don’t know what prompted me to watch this drama recently, but suffice to say once I started I couldn’t stop. I ending up laughing so hard I almost gave myself a hernia.
For those of you who have never watched AiMH, the story involves a pair of brother-sister siblings who discover when they are in junior high that they are not blood related. Sister was accidentally switched at birth with another newborn. Parents decide to switch the girls back, and then the rich family takes brother and their real daughter to America to start over. Fake sister joins her real family which is butt poor and proceeds to struggle with getting an education and a job. Ten years later, brother returns to look for sister, and immediately it’s clear these two have more than sibling affection for each other. Too bad brother is engaged to a clingy classmate, while sister starts being pursued by a playboy friend of brother’s. Eventually they say “screw morality” and decide to be together, only to get derailed by clingy fiancee using a failed suicide to keep brother guiltily tied to her, and sister randomly having her shitty life get even shittier by coming down with hereditary leukemia. Oh Korea, only you can come up with this.
So the C-version takes the basic set up and does some nifty updates to it. Mostly of which fail miserably, likely because nothing could possibly make this story any more palatable a decade later. FiL has the same adult actors play the teenage versions of brother-sister (in AiMH, it was Moon Geun Young who so famously sold the role of teenage sister), and raise their ages to high school by the time they are separated. Which of course ups the “OMG so gross” factor by a billion, since it’s clear brother likes sister in a non-sibling way even before they figure out the birth switch. What was alluded to in AiMH becomes the pink elephant in the room in FiL, and is so ewwwww even I couldn’t ignore it.
FiL also has the teenage portions interspersed through the drama as opposed to getting it out of the way in the first episode or so like AiMH. In the hands of a better director and editor, this would have been fine, but in FiL it was just a big ole mess. Scenes were cut randomly and without a sense of flow and rhythm, making the entire drama feel painfully choppy. It becomes a series of scenes rather than a narrative. I hated it. FiL was a shining example of C-drama’s failure in post-production that dog so many of its dramas.
Beyond those failures, the acting in FiL was sadly across-the-board dreadful. Hans had two moods (and expressions) – pensive and controlled happiness, but he was so insanely adorable that I pretty watched this drama for him. Even with his limited acting repertoire, his looks pretty much won over the shallow side of me. Sadly, his co-star didn’t even have that to fall back on. Kiton is not anywhere near pretty enough she can coast on her looks alone (that would be Crystal Liu‘s forte), but her acting is just miserably soggy. She’s like a Jang Nara lite in the way she tries to act cutesy and perky, and then her character turns on a dime and becomes morose and plodding. But all Kiton can do is scrunch her face in an attempt to convey emotion, and thus fail miserably. Plus she has zero chemistry with Hans (and vice-versa), turning the OTP in this drama into both icky and lukewarm.
Lucky for Hans and Kiton, they are both upstaged by the man many consider quite possibly the heir to Keanu Reeves and the worst actor in Korea. That would be Dennis Oh, this time playing the role of a rich playboy in love with sister. It was a role made famous by Won Bin in AiMH. but here Dennis makes it a ridiculous caricature. First off, he speaks all his lines in English, so I spent every scene he was in reading his lips to figure out what dialogue he was speaking when he was acting. That was a game I played to try and see if he had any gravitas if he wasn’t dubbed. Sadly, the answer is no. Secondly, his attempt at “emoting” was so laughable to behold. Dennis had just one expression – slightly befuddled squinty-eyed intensity. But he appeared to be the only one who seemed to realize what a hot mess of a drama he was in, and how stupid the story was, so sometimes I caught a glimpse or two where he looked like he was in on the joke. For that, I applaud thee, Dennis. It takes great fortitude not to burst out laughing saying some of the lines you were saddled with.
All in all, I’m not ashamed to admit I watched 20-some episodes of Fil solely for Hans alone. I can’t help it, he’s crazy good looking that I felt my hormones propelling my hand to click on another episode. After watching FiL, I can confirm that Hans is definitely a baby Huang Xiaoming, except less smarmy. I am so onboard with that. Though I did laugh through most of FiL, so that was entertaining enough. Every once in awhile, I’ll feel like eating something pretty gross and bad for me, like a McRib sandwich or a Cinnabon, and that’s what it was like to watch SawK and FiL. Don’t let me stop anyone from watching (or loving) either or both of these dramas. Just do whatever makes you happy. After watching SawK, I went and took a very long hot shower and tried to scrub the nasty off me. For FiL, I ended up watching an episode of Conspiracy in the Court to re-active my brain cells and higher discernment of good dramas.