The upcoming sageuk Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love delivers its promotional material like one step forward, two steps back, then two steps forward, one step back. I can’t figure out if its going to be good, if I should be excited, if it’ll be a hot mess. All I know is that its decidedly buzzy for a variety of reasons – limited-actress Kim Tae Hee doing her first sageuk as the meaty leading lady role, her pairing with much younger and baby-faced Yoo Ah In who is coming off the stinker drama of all stinkers Fashion King, Jae Hee going for yet another second male lead unrequited love role, Hong Soo Hyun returning to her career-making role of playing a Joseon female royalty figure, and Lee Sang Yeob continuing to cement his arrival on the big stage with yet another big-budgeted drama supporting role. I guess there is something for everyone in this drama, except if the glue holding it all together is craptastic then everyone is headed for a major letdown. I loved the pretty press conference, but found the two official posters terribly lifeless. The one above has King Sukjong perched on his dais with a very morose-looking Jang Heebin sitting below him. What is that supposed to convey? He’s the King, she’s a very unhappy concubine? I don’t find it romantic at all, and this is supposed to be a revisionist tale of Jang Ok Jung’s true love story with Lee Soon. The other poster is just the five leads in colorful costumes arranged in the foreground and background according to the importance of their roles. It doesn’t pop or sizzle either.
SBS was nice enough to release the long preview for the drama after the press conference and my interest went up again. I chuckled at the decidedly not historically accurate or plausible fashion show scene, but I found Kim Tae Hee very endearing in her scenes. Her chemistry with Yoo Ah In is all there, even if he still looks like her kid brother standing next to her. When King Sukjong tries to act all calculating and menacing, I just want to pet him. Song Dong Il is, on the other hand, very scary as Jang Ok Jung’s power hungry nobleman father. The long teaser shows bits of the childhood love story between the OTP, and then introduces Queen In Hyun as the rival to Jang Ok Jung in the adult years. My suspicions are correct, in this version Queen In Hyun more than holds her own against her rival for the King’s heart and isn’t the sad woebegone figure she is historically portrayed as. What I loved the most was the final minute of the trailer which shows Jang Ok Jung sewing the King’s robe and putting it on, with Queen In Hyun peering in at the intimacy, Jae Hee’s character seeing it and wanting to interrupt and is stopped by Lee Sang Yeob’s Prince Dongpyong, and a very sneaky Choi Sukbin (Dong Yi) hiding behind the partition and also getting an eyeful. This is going to be interesting indeed, though let’s not forgot both of King Sukjung’s wives end up dead so how this drama’s getting a happy ending is beyond me.
Long preview for Jang Ok Jung: