People. I hereby decree that Fondant Garden must be watched. This is the drama that’s pulled me out of my drama slump and period novel fascination. After a slew of meh to ehhh dramas, who knew that a totally under the radar TW idol drama from the godmother of TW idol dramas (Producer Angie Cai) would hit me that hard with the cuteness and sweetness double whammy. FG premiered last Friday on CTV, a pretty dead time slot, though it did yield the ratings bonanza that was The Fierce Wife last year around this time.
FG has started off with a great first impression from the fans but super low ratings of .61. I think this is a bona fide TW idol drama that blends the usual combination of great character chemistry and interactions with easy breezy situational comedy. Paired with a fantabulous leading lady in Jian Man Shu (this girl, she’s going place, and I’ve been eyeing her since she got a Golden Bell Best Actress nomination for The Year of the Rain), watching FG is like eating delicious airy bon bons. But be forewarned that I’m already all over the alterna-shipping of the heroine Mi En with second male lead Han Xiang played by Kingone Wang. OMG, swooning forever for their chemistry.
FG is about as typical a TW-drama as it can get, with a Korean twist. SS501‘s Park Jung Min plays Park Hee Hwan, a Korean-Taiwanese (his grandmother is Taiwanese but he grew up in Korea) second generation chaebol heir who is cheerful and carefree and just wants to enjoy his life and not have to take over the family business. Jian Man Shu is Cheng Mi En, a talented young patissier who has lost both her parents and finds herself running the bakery her father founded. Kingone Wang is Yen Han Xiang, Hee Hwan’s cousin who runs the family business division in Taiwan and is a little annoyed that younger cousin is uninterested in taking over the business yet might inherit over him. Lia Lee is Chen Ai Lin, the daughter of the owner of a pastry conglomerate in Taiwan and also Mi En’s college best friend.
Turns out Ai Lin invested money in Mi En’s bakery to keep it afloat, but in turn Mi En has been baking goods for Ai Lin to pass off as her own creations since their school days. Ai Lin isn’t a bad person, she’s just always looking for the easy way out and her scruples aren’t very high. But she doesn’t think anyone gets hurt by this little charade, and she is genuinely wanting to help her friend Mi En out. Episode 1 starts with Ai Lin getting entered into a cake competition in Korea because her family thinks she’s an excellent patissier, so she drags Mi En along with her to the competition since Ai Lin can’t bake worth squat. At the airport, Ai Lin spots Han Xiang, who she has been crushing on since college.
In Korea, Mi En has cute and successive run ins with Han Xiang and Hee Hwan. In particular, the first meeting between Mi En and Han Xiang is so perfect I have no words. Ai Lin has ditched Mi En to go shopping, so Mi En goes to have some samgetang. The restaurant is packed, so when Han Xiang arrives, the owner asks if he can sit at the same table as Mi En. She thinks he’s Korean so when Ai Lin calls her, they proceed to talk in Chinese about him and it’s the cutest thing ever. Afterwards, they have this totally wordless meal where Han Xiang shows Mi En how to eat the array of dishes that came with the meal, and then he pays for her afterwards. After he reveals he’s Taiwanese as well, he walks her back to the hotel. She’s so adorably nervous and when he introduces himself to her, she’s a little sad he didn’t ask her name. He reveals that he can’t know who she is, because she revealed she’s here for the cake competition, and he happens to be a judge.
Turns out Hee Hwan is being forced on matseon after matseon, so he finally gets fed up and decides to book it. During his cute run in with Mi En, and later Ai Lin, he finds out they are Taiwanese. He reveals his Taiwanese heritage and his longing to visit since he’s never been. For some reason, Hee Hwan finds Mi En super adorable (don’t we all), and I love how he’s genuinely so charmed by her. Episode 1 had most of the action in Korea, but it looks to be set in Taiwan for the most part as all the characters head there soon. Park Jung Min speaks his own Korean lines, but he’s dubbed in Chinese, as his character is fluent in both languages. The dub is actually pretty decent, once you get over the slight disconnect knowing its two different voices. It’s not jarring, and actually makes it feel as kooky as his silly character is.
The drama is so breezy, has a delightfully catchy OST, and the acting ranges from decent to solid. Park Jung Min isn’t the best actor for this role (I keep picturing Donghae, who is just killing it as Shang in Skip Beat right now, in his limited screentime), but he’s trying so hard and I do find him harmless to watch. Kingone has the worst hairstyle I’ve ever seen on him, but I adore his character and his chemistry with Jian Man Shu is pitch perfect. Lia Lee is actually an adorable second female lead that I don’t hate, and her acting is nice to watch. Its leading lady Jian Man Shu that I give the most props to. She’s like a Rainie Yang who doesn’t mug, with shades of young Ariel Lin. I simply love her. I enjoyed episode 1 so much I’ve seen it twice, and am totally looking forward to episode 2 this Friday.
Preview for episode 1 (English subbed):
Preview for episode 2:
The title cards reads as thus.
She: the real Mi En, the fake Ai Lin, the real champion.
He (referring to Kingone’s character): fell in love with the fake Ai Lin.
He (referring to Park Jung Min’s character): fell in love with the real Mi En.
A really hard triangle problem to solve.
Opening Credits (SO CUTE):