First Impressions on Wild Romance with Lee Dong Wook and Lee Shi Young

As a sports fan there are just teams you effing hate. The greatest sports rivalries in history spawn the best fan wars, which begets the central conceit of Wild Romance. What if a die hard fan of one team were to become the bodyguard for the star player of the rival team? Who just singlehandedly ensured your team lost the most recent championship game. For Yoo Eun Jae, female bodyguard and lifelong Blue Seagulls fan, it’s a fate worse than death to guard Park Moo Yul, asshole and star player of the rival Red Dreamers.

I watched episode 1 of WR today and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was deftly presented and at times hilariously sidesplitting. The drama has shades of a buddy story blended with a rom-com, in which two characters who loathe each other are forced to spend time together, potentially resolve some matters, and in the rom-com way, eventually fall in love. It’s not fresh or innovative, but what makes WR work is how thoroughly the drama sets up the two characters and commits to its premise. This drama doesn’t feel cobbled together or half-baked. It wants to tell a specific story in a unique way, and succeeds so far in doing so.

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed watching Lee Dong Wook this much before in any of his previous dramas. It’s like he’s consumed a few Red Bulls and is suddenly awake and alive. I’ve liked Lee Shi Young since her steady and sure performance in Playful Kiss (in a thankless role), but here she is firing on all cylinders and nailing the character more than I thought possible. If anyone is even remotely a fan of either actor, this drama is worth watching for them alone. Their comic timing is delightful and impeccable, plus they have fabulous chemistry that goes beyond the sexual or romantic genre. They actually nail the “I hate you” element of their relationship with such believable gusto I almost don’t want them to fall in love.

The drama starts off with a viral video unleashed on Korea which shows ace baseball player Park Moo Yul of the Red Dragons getting back flipped by a girl who we see is Yoo Eun Jae. When confronted by their respective handlers, Moo Yul by his manager and Eun Jae by her boss at the bodyguard agency, both confess it was a random run in at the local noraebang.

Turns out Eun Jae, plus her father and brother, are die hard true blue fans of the baseball team Blue Seagulls. It also turns out that the Blue Seagulls recently lost the baseball championship to the Red Dreamers, mostly on account of Moo Yul tossing a bat at the pitcher and starting a dug out clearing brawl that ends with both Moo Yul and that pitcher getting tossed. Ergo the Blue Seagulls lose the game without their star pitcher. Back to the night of the noraebang, Eun Jae thinks Moo Yul is beating up her dad, plus she’s drunk as a bat, so she rushes Moo Yul and tosses the poor sucker flat on his back.

The video is recorded by the noraebang guy and posted online immediately. To salvage what little is left of Moo Yul’s reputation (which is already bottom dwelling what with his terrible personality and string of scandals on and off the field), his manager hires Eun Jae to be his bodyguard. They concoct a story that a crazed anti-fan is out to get Moo Yul, so a bodyguard was hired to protect him. And said bodyguard happened to be teaching him fighting techniques at the noraebang that night. The media reluctantly buys into this hogwash explanation.

Poor Eun Jae is forced to guard Moo Yul otherwise her bodyguard agency might go under for the lack of clients if the world knew she beat someone up. The ensuing hijinks of episode 1 involve Moo Yul and Eun Jae genuinely hating the guts out of each other but forced to endure each other’s company. Both end up doing things that exacerbate their already volatile relationship. Turns out Moo Yul might be fooling around with the wife of his teammate Jin Dong Soo (Oh Man Seok), and in one rendezvous with her, he dumps Eun Jae on a mountain top and she’s forced to walk home and suffer the bitter cold. Score one for Moo Yul.

At an autograph signing session, Eun Jae’s temper grows increasingly short when she sees fans fawning over Moo Yul and criticizing her beloved Blue Seagulls. To make matters worse, Moo Yul is loving it and encouraging the fans to keep ridiculing her team, so Eun Jae lets a flying egg whiz past her head and land right on a laughing Moo Yul’s face. Score one for Eun Jae, though minus one for intentionally shirking her bodyguard duties.

The directing is very solid and fun, with lots of quick cuts and fluid camera angles. I enjoy how the PD splices scenes together so there are very few track shots but the quick cuts are not jarring and instead feel energetic. There are times the directing reminds me of the work done when a drama is a manga adaptation, with a bit of exaggeration and more cuteness than realism. The final scene in episode 1 has Eun Jae and Moo Yul at an online chat room at their respective computers. Eun Jae mocks Moo Yul, while Moo Yul anonymously speaks up for himself. Their words literally go flying at each other, and both of them use their hands, feet, and head to slap and kick those verbal jabs away.

It was splendidly entertaining. Even moreso when online Eun Jae calls Moo Yul the same crass phrase she uses to refer to him, which alerts Moo Yul as to the identity of his online opponent. Both of them have zero respect in addressing each other, which makes their sparring more fun to watch since it’s always gloves off.

What I enjoyed about episode 1 is how strong Eun Jae is, both physically and mentally. She takes as good as she gives with Moo Yul, never one being missish or falling on her gender as a crutch. Doesn’t hurt that Lee Shi Young is really suitable for this role, making herself very androgynous and downplaying her prettiness. She’s not afraid to look dowdy or manly, and the result is that Eun Jae looks cute to me, with her quick temper and insane love of the Blue Seagulls. Lee Shi Young’s hair doesn’t bother me at all because her character is so charming to watch my attention is never on any detail of her attire or hair.

Same goes for Lee Dong Wook as Moo Yul, who comes across as genuinely dim and boorish. He’s like the stereotype of the thuggish ballplayer, but having the hot looks of Lee Dong Wook. That works for me! Honestly, the two leads are great in their respective roles and even better when they have scenes together. I’m loving Lee Dong Wook’s entire character portrayal, and his sleazy pornstache is totally a winning addition to complete his overall loutish look.

The supporting cast is just alright, and none of the other characters stand out at all. Not even Oh Man Seok. And especially not Hwang Sung Hee as his wife Oh Soo Young. I’m hoping that Moo Yul isn’t fooling around with his hyung’s wife, because that’s a really crappy thing to do. There is a hint that the fabricated anti-fan story might actually be the truth, so Eun Jae guarding Moo Yul might ending up being necessary rather than to salvage his reputation. I would love if this story went so far as to have Eun Jae repeatedly saving Moo Yul’s hide from his anti-fan, because I love me a kick ass heroine who saves the hero. Rather like the possibility inherent in Spy Myung Wol before that drama went to the wolves.

Thus far the drama doesn’t try to create likeable characters, with the two leads currently tied for having equally bad personality issues. That makes the character’s fighting feel less fake and contrived, since it’s possible these two bad tempered folks with diametrically opposite aligned interest would rub each other the wrong way. It’s like two scrappy street dogs fighting, as opposed to so many rom-coms which try to make two very genteel normal characters act like they hate each other and engage in poodle fights to simulate conflict.

WR doesn’t have much of a premise aside from bodyguard assigned to protect most hated baseball player. Not sure this drama actually needs a premise, as it’s coasting by quite fine on funny scenarios alone. I suppose the drama can drum up believable emotional angst later down the line. I hope the story sticks with the baseball setting AND doesn’t pull a girly makeover on Eun Jae. I want her to stay an accomplished bodyguard with great skills who doesn’t care about her looks. Same goes with Moo Yul, who I want to see grow some empathy and maturity, but not have a complete personality transplant and become some do-gooder. Right now the two leads are well-matched to ignite the sparks of their hate-hate relationship, so that means I’m along for the fun ride.


First Impressions on Wild Romance with Lee Dong Wook and Lee Shi Young — 29 Comments

  1. Loved the first episode 🙂

    “They actually nail the “I hate you” element of their relationship with such believable gusto I almost don’t want them to fall in love.”

  2. I loved, loved, loved the first episode. Lee Shi Young slightly reminds me of her character in The Birth of the Rich (who I loved), with her crazy obsessive ways. I like her in anything, but her comedy roles are pure genius. I’ve always liked Lee Dong Wook, but being shallow I have to admit that it’s been more for the pretty than the acting (apart from Bittersweet Life which was fab); however, he’s killing it in this. This drama is definitely top of my list of the new Wed/Thurs offerings.

  3. Ok !! so I was not in fan of Lee shi Young.
    But after watching the first episode I am sold, She is GREAT !!!!
    I watch the first episode with out english subs and I totally ENJOYED it !!!!
    thats to tell you, who needs english subs when you got GREAT ACTING !!!!!!

  4. This is the kind of story I really like and it seems really fun to watch. Everyone in my country is a fanatic of one team or another and I can relate 🙂

  5. Thank you, I haven’t watched it, I will shortly…to put thing in my perspective, so she’s basically a liverpudlian but has to be Wayne Rooney’s’s just so cruel..

  6. Hilarious pilot, loved it right off the bat. Lee Shi Young is so natural in this wacky role and Wookie is kicking ass as the sleazy jerk, I had no idea he had such a comical side to him. LOL

    Already love the OTP’s chemistry here, plus the funny BG music, major PLUS!~~

    • I agree, the OTP totally have chemistry! I can’t wait until they start to have feelings for each other. Though I do agree that this hate-hate relationship is a hoot to watch!

  7. totally love this drama! hope you will continue to recap this. the lead actors are very good in portraying the characters.

  8. Wait… you mean to say you only saw her in Playful kiss ? Not in Birth of the rich as Bu Tae Hee? What ?!? !! She was insanely hilarious in that drama ! She was the evil witch there but you just can’t help NOT hate her because she was freakingly great !!!! So hilarious that she shines more than any of the leads…. you have to watch her there, you’d be amazed!

  9. I LOVED the first episode! So I just had to watch the second one raw. I really hope someone out there is planning on recapping it because I don’t think I’ll have the patience to wait until subs are complete.

    I’ve been in love with Lee Dong-wook since My Girl. So, I had been waiting for him to play a similar role for ages. If you haven’t seen My Girl, his character is no where near as crazy as Moo Yul but he’s pretty hilarious in that one too. And I just love Lee Shi-young in this. Before this, I had only seen her in Playful Kiss and parts of Poseidon. I found her kind of annoying in Playful Kiss (result of good acting??) But she’s doing such a great job with this role that I don’t even notice the hair either.

    YAY, new drama! I can’t wait for next week.

  10. this drama is just what I need
    it is so funny
    LSY is daebak
    Makes me wonder where she has been all this time? It seems she only started to act about 4 years ago. Saw her in Boys Of Flower and bit in WGM. Looks like I have to watch her other work now.
    Hope they will keep the funny in this drama and not go too melo. I would not mind if no melo at all.

  11. Like you Miss K, I watched the episode RAW, and I laugh so hard that I think I was going crazy!! I LOVE IT!! It had me at Wookie and I’m staying here for the long run!! Love everything about it, except that IF he is really having a thing with his hyung’s wife, I’m gonna go bersek, fly to SKorea and b!tch slap someone!! SERIOULY!!!

    Waiting for the recaps!! Fighting!!!

      • You really think is the hyung, doing the back stabbing!! Ewwww that is grossest than gross!!!

        Maybe Wookie is trying to keep the peace, between them, and just hang in there to support her… Just maybe he is a good friend… We have to watch and see what is the truth behind that…

        I sooooooo want to see this kdrama!!! fighting!!!

  12. I was tearing up laughing my head off with the sparring between LDW and LSY’s characters. Wild Romance is refreshing, love your first impression, same thoughts. Like some, I’ve been watching raw. It would be hundred times better if subbed. Will be glued to this kdrama throughout. Thanks once again.

  13. “Thus far the drama doesn’t try to create likeable characters, with the two leads currently tied for having equally bad personality issues. That makes the character’s fighting feel less fake and contrived… as opposed to so many rom-coms which try to make two very genteel normal characters act like they hate each other and engage in poodle fights to simulate conflict.”

    Thats exactly it!! what makes this drama works better than any I’ve seen b4 Both main characters go at it without reservations or anything! they DON’T CARE what each think of the other, and get back at each other, so its not one sided, you don’t really feel bad or side with anyone of them and just sit and enjoy they’re battle wondering who’s gonna have the last laugh of or what’s gonna be their next move!!

  14. oOOooo
    yep i luvs this! I actually fell inlove by mistake with LSY as half of the Gundam couple on WGM. I thot, wow… she’s honest about her plastic surgery & collection… what else.
    she nailed PK and now, this! LDW finally came alive indeed! I have trouble w/the pronstache but… if it helps his character LOL
    i also hope it wont go down like SMW… sigh. im still sad it died a slow painful one…
    keeping fingurs crossed

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