My Drama Guilty Pleasures

After a post extolling the virtues and enjoyment of a K-drama widely considered a work of art (Goodbye Solo), I thought I’d get off my high horse and swing the pendulum in the other direction. I hereby present to you a series aimed at disseminating works of not-so-much-art.

I get annoyed when people love something, but then try to justify it by saying that it’s the best thing since God Steve Jobs invented the IPhone. I’m completely upfront about loving something and conceding that it’s not very good.

That’s why the phrase guilty pleasure got invented. The guilty denotes the fact that it’s nowhere near a masterpiece, and the pleasure indicates that it made you happy. I have lots of guilty pleasures in my koala treasure trove.

My Guilty TW-Drama:

After growing up on TW-dramas from the 80s up to the late 90s, I took a long hiatus from drama watching, spurred on in one respect by a rapid decrease in quality of dramas coming out of TW. Around 2007, my sister convinced me to give a TW-drama she really enjoyed a try.

It looked about the silliest thing I had ever laid eyes on, and I still stand by that initial assessment. Prince Turns Into Frog (2005) is about the frothiest, goofiest, dorkiest little drama I’ve ever watched. It doesn’t aim to be anything more than cotton candy entertainment.

And boy did I enjoy that cotton candy! I loved the main leads, Ming Dao and Chen Qiao En. This was during the early days of the emergence of idol dramas in Taiwan, and these two youngsters were raw and untried (like a oyster kind of raw).

Ming Dao plays Shan Jun Hao, the proto-typical rich, arrogant, cold and ruthless hotel heir character. Jun Hao has got his entire life mapped out, he’s on top of his game at running and expanding his hotel, and he’s planning to propose to his childhood playmate Fan Yun Xi, whom he does love (but no one is quite sure what type of love – sibling-esque or romantical).

Chen Qiao En plays Ye Tian Yu, the hardworking daughter of a convenience store owning mother, with dreams that she’ll kiss a frog who’ll turn into a prince and rain money on her for saving his life. It’s a pipe dream, but it’s closer than she can imagine.

An initial meet-cute that involves Jun Hao being his typical ass-wipe, and Tian Yu fleecing him of a few hundred Taiwan dollars for a pack of gum, they seriously do not like each other. An accident somewhat involving Tian Yu causes Jun Hao to get run over, and he loses his memory.

Tian Yu and her family fear they will be in trouble for the accident, so they take him home. When he awakens with no memory, they convince him that he’s their cousin from Mainland China who is in Taiwan illegally, named Dang Ou (which is the name of a type of cheap and common vegetable, and as dorky sounding in Chinese as it sounds in English).

Dang Ou is absolutely adorable – he knows not to trust these so-called “relatives” of his, and he’s still hella smart as Jun Hao was. But now he’s softened up, let his hair down, and is generally a chill and normal guy. Tian Yu and Dang Ou become friends, and slowly fall in love.

One of my favorite scenes involves Tian Yu making up a lie when she is being bullied by her high school tormenters, that she is dating a rich man now. First she states that it is Xu Zi Qian, Jun Hao’s childhood friend. But when Zi Qian shows up at the party with a date, Yun Xi, Tian Yu improvises and says she’s actually dating Shan Jun Hao, the hotel heir.

Of course, she has to produce the guy, or else dance in a bikini at the party. Just when her lie is about to be burst, Dang Ou walks through the door dressed like his Jun Hao self and proclaims that he is indeed dating Tian Yu. Yes, in your face, evil high school loser tormenters!

The happiness doesn’t last for long, after the couple confess their feelings and happily enjoy life together, another accident makes Jun Hao forget his time spent as Dang Ou and regain his original memories. He forgets Tian Yu, thinks she’s a crazy gold digger, and goes back to his old life. Tian Yu is devastated and tries to move on. But can the couple re-fall in love, this time as Jun Hao and Tian Yu?

I absolutely enjoyed this drama. It’s not meaningful, the acting is across the board mediocre (with the secondary leads being so awful they should be incarcerated and never allowed to act again), the directing is competent, and the presentation is tinny (i.e. like cardboard cut outs of places and locales).

But hot damn did the OTP have amazing chemistry – natural, sincere, and sweet. Ming Dao was handsomer than handsome, and Chen Qiao En proved that she’s got the staying power for the long haul. This drama is of course quite forgettable, but it’s my guilty pleasure because I often get the urge to re-watch certain scenes. And I happily succumb to that urge.

Have an MV of the opening sequence:

My Guilty J-Dorama:

I confess: I will try to watch YamaPi in anything. I may not last the entire production, but I owe it to the poor boy to check it out. To my everlasting surprise, other than the wonderful Nobuta wo Produce (which is considered well-done and beloved, so loving it is not guilty at all), Pi has actually made another drama that I absolutely loved.

Kurosagi, you say? (Excuse me while I go ROTFLMHO over there for a few hours). Ah, that felt better, I’m back to say, errr no. Nope, the drama I am talking about is Buzzer Beat (2008). BB, you say, are you sure? Yes, I know I once called it a teenage knockoff of Pride, a wannabe sport-renai. But you know what, I really really liked it when I watched it.

How that is possible can only be attributed to it tickling the guilty pleasure node in my brain. And no, it’s not because Pi is in it. If that were the case, Kurosagi would have to be the ultimate J-guilty pleasure since Pi is in every frame of that dreck of a drama. BB works because, once again, the story is sweet and thoughtful, and the OTP have mad believable chemistry.

The direction and cinematography for BB was way above average, making it a pleasure to watch for the eye candy. I wished Pi didn’t have orange permed hair, but somehow he pulled it off. I dunno, it’s not nearly as barf-inducing as the same hairstyle appears on Song Seung Heon‘s head in Summer Scent.

But I saved the real treat for last – Keiko Kitagawa as Shirakawa Riko, an aspiring violinist who is more raw than experienced. I loved Keiko’s performance, genuine and a tad ragged around the edges. What really worked was that she and Pi really made me believe their story.

Riko meets Kamiya Naoki, a point guard for the JC Arcs, a professional basketball team in Japan, on the bus. They later discover they live in the same neighborhood, and both often go to the nearby playground (Naoki to practice hoops, Riko to practice her violin).

Naoki has a bitchy girlfriend who is about to cheat on him with his high school nemesis, and Riko is about to be pursued by Naoki’s basketball coach. Naoki and Riko start off genuinely as friends, with no chemistry other than a comforting presence around each other. I loved this twist on the romance meet-cute staple.

Riko starts to fall for Naoki first, who ends up nursing a broken heart when he catches his ho-girlfriend in cheating action, and breaks up with her. The mid-section of this drama is my favorite, and its chock-a-block with delicious and heady OTP scenes, lots of them (especially for a J-dorama).

The soundtrack is outstanding, I spent days afterwards just listening to the instrumentals. Since Riko is a violinist, she plays this lovely piece for Naoki that just melts my heart. I did wish that both Pi and Keiko were better actors, but overall they did just enough to make me like their characters and chemistry.

I actually have tons of favorite scenes in this drama, but if I had to pick just two, it would be: (1) when Riko plays her violin for Naoki over the phone, and can feel his sadness, so she takes a bus overnight to cheer up him, and Naoki instinctively bear hugs her, and (2) the spooning scene (yeah, you watch, I don’t describe it).

This drama feels grounded in real life – with both Naoki and Riko experiencing career disappointments, set-backs, and triumphs – and yet it feels slightly whimsical – with the OTPs relationship from friend to confidante to lovers like a trajectory of a magical summer fairytale. While BB is nothing to write home about, I loved it enough to happily make it my guilty pleasure.

Have a BB MV:


My Guilty K-Drama:

I just devoted one-fourth of an entire review to this guilty pleasure. Rather than rehash it, I’ll just link to the review:

The guilty pleasure is, of course, Autumn in My Heart (2000), with Song Seung Heon and Song Hye Kyo. I can’t tell you how many times I keep asking myself: why do you like it so much, it’s pretty awful? And yet I plow onward regardless.

Have an AiMH MV:

What’s your guilty drama pleasure(s)? I have a lot more, but to start off I wanted to share one from each Asian country with you all.


My Drama Guilty Pleasures — 21 Comments

  1. Cool post!

    I’ll do the same, list my guilty pleasures from each country.


    Kamisama Mou Sukoshi Dake

    Oh, Takeshi Kaneshiro, your deep voice, your beautiful face, your long legs and big feet. How do I love thee…well, enough that I’ve watched this drama at least 4 times, despite my full on hatred of Fukada Kyoko in it. My beloved cat Oscar was almost named Keigo! And yes, I cry every time I watch it.


    Could it be anything other than ISWAK? I love love love love love this drama. LOVE IT. I love how OTT it is, I love the horrible music, I love Joe Cheng’s hair, I love Ariel’s little non-existent chin, I love the crazy mother and the acerbic little brother. Ahhh…I might need to go watch a few scenes now.


    I always say my favorite is Coffee Prince, and it is, but my go-to K-drama, my woobie, is MNIKSS. No matter what emotion I’m feeling, there’s a scene in MNIKSS that corresponds to it. This drama is like hot cocoa for me. Yummmmy.


    • I just about chocked and died mid-cough while I read your comment about Ariel Lin’s chin. You may have just pin-pointed why I can’t like her, despite her much lauded acting abilities. I’m sorry.
      But I do love ISWAK too! I watched it twice in row! And its dubbed weekly version in the local TV. Love it, Ariel Lin’s idiotic character and all.

  2. Okay, Kamisama is most definitely a guilty pleasure, unni! Thanks for sharing your deep dark secret. 😛

    However……ISWAK, CP, and MNKISS is no-way-jose a guilty pleasure. They are all really good dramas! Guilty has to mean the drama is pretty sucky if you judge it by objective standards.

    However, I concur 100% on those dramas being of the upmost pleasure to watch!

  3. Hmm…then I guess the guilt part is factored by how many times I’ve actually watched them, either in full or just specific scenes.

    That would be…many many times. Even I don’t know. 😀

  4. But but unni, that’s not guilt. That’s appreciation! If you spent hours staring at the Mona Lisa how could that be equated with wasting your time. However, if you spent hours staring at one of the paintings C drew, then I would have to say “guilty as charged.”

  5. Ok this feels like AA…

    Well my name is nycgrl and I can think of two guilty kdrama pleasures.

    I love YB (I’ve seen it once, but I’ve seen some scenes at least 10 times) even while conceding the last 4-6 eps sucked.

    I also love WS (I’ve seen it twice which I’ve only managed to do for White Tower and Resurrection and I actually own the DVD) even while the whole are they/aren’t they siblings and the numerous car accidents got tedious, annoying and made me want to put my fist through a wall.

    While we are confessing the first thing I reach for is “People” when I’m at the dentist office.

  6. You got me there, I totally thought you meant Kurosagi!!!! XDDD (I guess you didn’t love it THAT much after all, in spite of Pi’s Thousand-and-One Amazing Technicolor Cosplay Outfits…) Have you seen Kurosagi the Movie? At least the drama had an “OMG so cheezoid, hahahahahahha x 1029783872823” factor. The movie was just so dull and humorless, not to mention OHFORFERKSSAKE-pretentious (Hamlet references, anyone? vlerg).

  7. Here are my guilty pleasures


    With Love : this is one Japanese drama that will always hold my interest. I love Takenouchi Yukata in this show. The relationship between main characters are sweet and very comforting to me. Although secondary characters are sort of annoying..especially the one with the main focus of “Lets sleep together so you can get to know me better”. When I re watch it again, after at least 15yrs, I still enjoyed it very much.

    Taiwanese Drama:
    Prince turn into Frog: the show that open the whole world of “asian soaps” to me. Agree with everything you wrote, ockoala.

    The Magicians of Love: it has the most weird, over the top outfits in any drama that I have ever seen, and exaggerated story line….but I can’t peel my eyes away from the relationship between Ming Doa and Joanne Zeng. She is very cute and he is quite nice to her. IT’s soooooooooo appealing to me.

    my ultimate guilty pleasure, without any sort of explanation, would have to be INVINCIBLE SHAN BAO MEI…..very weird humor, odd and not to mention embarrassing plots, but I just love Nicholas Teo’s character in there. I had to warn my sister not to have too high of an expectation with this drama. Just watch it as if you have an low IQ and enjoy the lame jokes.

    K- drama

    Ballad of Suh Dong…..the one that open the door to k-drama for me. I just love the storyline and I love how Suh Dong and Sonhwa never sacrify their love for anything….which to me is so memorable and nice to watch compared to all other drama with twist and turns/ sacrify in the name of love/ leave this person in the name of love/lie in the name of love/ die in the name of love….blah blah blah.

    I love “PEOPLE” magazine….one that I actually read form beginning to the end.

  8. Hahaha, like @nycgrl says, this is definitely a meeting of the DD lovers Anon (DD = dreadful dramas).

    In all honesty, no one’s listed a drama that is truly mingbogglingly awful (though @yuan89 – Magician’s of Love? Really? I LOVE Ming Dao, but that drama just was truly wack – eh, whatevs, love away!)

    I also love People magazine – but no magazine is as guilty a pleasure as ……US Weekly. I draw the line at that – no Star or In Touch for me.

    @ nycgrl – YB – hmmm, that’s a hard one to judge whether it’s a real guilty pleasure. I think it’s my second fave Hong Sisters (first being HGD – tho it used to be My Girl until I unwisely decided to re-watch it and ended up really really not enjoying it), and the first 10 episodes were spectacularly fun, adorable and interesting.

    What kills me on YB is how much I (personally) really disliked the last 6 episodes. It’s an active dislike, as opposed to just thinking it’s not as good as the earlier 10. I’m probably just being a big ole meanie, I concede.

    I think YB is too good to be a guilty pleasure, but considering it’s coming from you – then I think it qualifies as your own person brand of guilty. 😀

    @ yuan89 – No freaking way With Love is a guilty pleasure!! I X-Nay that selection. With Love is a VERY GOOD drama – from writing to pacing to execution. I would have preferred a prettier lead actress (yes, 13 years later and I’m still bitter about that, you remember how I used to rail about how horrid she looked).

    @ Ender’s Girl – Kurosagi the Movie – it’s sitting on my shelf staring at my in a sullen depressed manner. I keep daring it to jump at me with a cleaver, because until it scares the living bejesus out of me like a DVD from Child’s Play, I have no desire to watch it. Thank god it only cost me like 12 bucks for that PoS (so I’ve been told), otherwise I may watch it out of guilt (har har).

    When I first watched Kurosagi the drama – after 20 minutes, I paused and ran to OT to scream that I was watching a drama structured purely to cosplay YamaPi. I was right, and so wrong on it being “structured” in any way. It was merely a Pi fashion show.

  9. Too me YB is guilty because the laughs were so slapstick, its teen oriented ala BOF and because the last 4-6 eps frankly sucked. If it kept up a certain quality level, I probably would have had more difficulty calling it a guilty pleasure.

    Truthfully its not really my type of kdrama since I generally steer away from teen oriented movies (twilight?) and shows yet I surprisingly really loved it.

  10. love your post ockoala….excuse me for butting in your blog….

    hee… I’ve watched all your guilty pleasure dramas
    watched Prince Frog long ago due to the hype with Ming Dao….deserving I say though the drama itself is enjoyable but forgettable….I keep picking on those nitty gritty little things that made the drama not so great as in most of TW production….one of them is the set and location….while watching the back of my mind keep thinking for a famous hotel there sure are nonexistence guest :)….

    My guilty pleasure dramas will be dramas that I can keep watching again and again though the quality may be questionable and the most recent one will be Boys Over Flowers….no amount of mocking whatsoever or the last half of the drama heading towards doom with Jihoo crazy drama writer and a moping Jandi will keep me from getting me some of Jun Pyo loving

  11. I have some very embarrassing ones… what is DD meeting for, right?

    At dentist office: People/US weekly. I find Vogue exacerbates pain.

    TW drama:
    @langdon awww I love the ISWAK ost!! I still have those ballads on my ipod!

    It’s because of Joe Cheng that I had the following 2 DD addictions: The Rose and SummerXSummer.
    I rewatch scenes fr The Rose, that drama dragged and had mind numbing writing through and through. More than half the leads r awful actors who should never act. But staring at JoeCheng in a frilly silk robe planting incestral kisses on both his bro and sis is a recreational drug of mine.
    I watched all of SxS for the catwalking JoeCheng. He’s my fav TW male model (in RL) and I’ll give anything for his character to shut up, strut and be hot and gorgeous.

    Can I sneak in With Love?! Here’s why, I don’t regard WL that good a drama because I still think the lead actress is depressingly dull and plain to the point of very unattractive (ahjumma perm is NOT helping, who has that head of awful perm as a 23 yo regardless of what dreadful decade we’re trapped?!?!?! esp when sharing a scene w/ Yutaka and his GLORIOUS mane, still the best hair ever for me) She cant act and her character is a very boring Mary Sue. So I watch it to droolz embarrassingly madly at Yutaka, I cant pay attention to anything but him in that drama, I was fangirling him so so mad. I rewatched many times just covering the screen w/ a book or paper or anything handy when lead actress was on yet I cant ff because of Yutaka. it’s that bad, and I do feel very ashamed for being very shallow. But it gives me a nostalgic comfort if I’m going to rewatch it now, I’ll still do the same. sth never changes in my life!

    Beach Boys: to this day I still have no idea whether this is good or bad. It was the days of pirated vcd boxsets, mine was a crappy one w/ NO subs and I didnt know the fact till I’m 3000 mi fr where I’ve bought it and I just have to make do. I did not know a lick of Japanese, at times I did watch the drama mute. But if u’ve watched it, u will be nodding w/ me the drama needs no convo. It’s my Baywatch w/ Yutaka.

    Stairway to Hell?! I gave me a very unique brand of entertainment that is irreplaceable. I lol’d to tears watching it the very first time and I did rewatch some scenes to destress when I’m in a very weird mood. I didnt grow up w/ Kdramas, so I’m more rational and unforgiving. It didnt help when my very first dramas r hard acts to follow: MNIKSS and Damo.

  12. and while I’m at it, atm I’m skipping through Catherine Coulter’s Devil’s Embrace. I havent read a trashy romance novel for ages and it’s hard to top this one in trashiness, right?

    and I confess reading this crap when I’m in the middle of Basara is blasphemy. *hide*

  13. I had totally forgotten about Nobuta Wo Produce! I’ve only watched like 3 J-doramas but that was my number one. YamaPi was a cutie, meow. I think I browsed the web for pics of him afterwards and yes even watched the drama Kurosagi, blech. I can’t believe I had forgotten all about the guy!

    My kdrama guilty pleasure drama is probably Save the Last Dance for Me. God that soundtrack is awful and so are the outfits, hairstyles and the over-the-top-only-in-a-kdrama twists (like who gets amnesia TWICE? seriously? and then your ex-girlfriend that you can’t remember happens to start working at the company your family owns??) but I can rewatch certain scenes repeatedly and still enjoy them. I think this is mostly because of Ji Sung. His chemistry with Eugene was good and it also didn’t hurt that Kang Ji-hwan had a VERY VERY small role as a cute doctor. What was with that ending though? *rolls eyes*

    You’re Beautiful is another one I’m not exactly PROUD to be a fan of due to the fact it deals with an idol band and way too feminine male pop stars. YIKES. Somehow that show even managed to make me enjoy Jang Geun-seuk though and I thought that could NEVER happen! Lee Hong-ki was flippin adorable too! The heroine was a little too ditzy but again I thought she had great chemistry with the male lead.

    And then the one I am just plain ASHAMED that I enjoyed…Full House. I don’t know how I would feel rewatching it now, but that is my first drama so of course it will always hold a special place for me. But god, what a repetitive piece of garbage! I still can sing the Three Bears Song to this day though.

    Honestly, kdramas in general are my guilty pleasure!

  14. ockoala, I really want to hug and kiss you. I like that we like the same dramas (not all, but at least you’ve got most of them covered) and same actors/actresses. 😀

    Prince Turn Into a Frog is not just guilty pleasure to me. But it’s my fav, and dare I say, the best TW drama I have ever seen. (But then again I’ve only seen about 10+ to count). It’s funny, cute, quirky, romantic, and most importantly moving. Loved MD and QE’s sizzling chemistry (they’re my fav TW drama couple), their acting so raw and so heartfelt whenever they interacted with each other.. oh I can go on. It wasn’t perfect, with some cringe-worthy stuff, but oh wellz, the OTP overshadowed everything else. They carried the drama for sure.

    Back then I watched ISWAK too, but I guess I wasn’t in the right mind or I ate something wrong, nothing in ISWAK struck a chord with me. I thought Ariel’s character was stupid, the guy as dull, insipid and wooden as a stick (*ok, runs away from ISWAK lovers, I see many here! Aiks..*) and worst, I hated how the girl had to leech on the guy like she had no worth. But again, considering how many people loved it.. I was most probably in another world while watching it. haha..XD

  15. oh you really always have interesting topics to talk about, ockoala!

    My guilty pleasure dramas :
    TW : Love Contract. Ariel & Mike’s chemistry is just…indescribable. The rest of the casts, however, gave the worst acting ever. I rewatched it couple times, only to see Ariel & Mike’s scenes.
    JP : GTO.
    Korean : all makjang dramas I’ve ever watched! Miss Mermaid is my top guilty pleasure..
    Chinese : Dream’s Link – from Qiong Yao’s novel. I love QY’s dramas ( I wish I can read Chinese well so that I can read all her novels… but some of them were translated to Indonesian – thanks to the popularity of her dramas – so I can read some. )
    HK : I love those business related dramas, like Golden Faith, At the Threshold of an Era . Most of them are OTT, but I used to be addicted to them )

  16. Fun topic!

    My K-guilty pleasure is probably Goong / Princess Hours. Everyone agrees its sets are beautiful and costumes, er, interesting, and it has an evocative fusion soundtrack I dig. But where my guilt comes in is — I was so into the romance. Which makes no sense because Joo Ji Hoon and Yoon Eun Hye were pretty lousy actors (and let’s not even consider Kim Jeong Hoon), Prince Shin was a right bastard to Chae Kyung and generally a messed-up young man, and Chae Kyung was an idiot who had no pride. But I loved them as a couple and my heart bled for their troubled young love. Why on earth? No idea. Maybe I was swept along by the mood. Maybe I resonated with its wistful tone. Who knows. Guilty of in-discriminating OTP-shipping!

    My J-guilty pleasure is Gokusen. I watched not one but TWO series, and the movie. Everyone agrees the Johnny’s eye-candy is nice (thank you, Johnny). But where my guilt comes in is — I watch for Nakama Yukie. I love Yankumi. I know she is a cardboard character, but I watch with the (doomed) hope that her character will develop. And when I realise that there is no way this formula is going to change, I still watch, adoring Yankumi’s every affected gesture and repeated gag.

    • I totally agree with you… hard to admit to my higher-learning/science-loving colleagues that my guilty pleasure consists of watching k-dramas and even reading blogs about it..
      Goong w/ lousy actors and booorriing script is so terrible but I so love to bits. Maybe bcoz I have this terrible crush on Joo Ji Hoon.. I used to wake up in the morning listening to Goong OST, watching eps I downloaded..

  17. I have lots of guilty pleasure. If i am to choose 1 each then here it is:

    I so agree with you on Autumn in my Heart. It is definitely my most Fav K Drama. There’s some drama that you enjoy, but AIMH is one of those rare drama that touches your soul.
    J Drama would be Pride. Haru-Yuki Romance was so nicely done. It feels like i was a part of that beautiful romance.
    T Drama definitely ISWK 1 and 2. I was insanely i love with Zhi Shu as Xiang Qin was.

  18. I find myself asking the same qs about Autumn in my heart in the last 10 year.still cant find the answer but that drama is till list as my absolute favourite drama ever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.