Kingdom and It’s Okay to Not be Okay Only K-dramas to Make the New York Times Top TV Shows of 2020 List

The end of year lists are starting to come out and this has been a banner year for K-dramas in elevating to a broader viewing audience with a combination of Netflix making a push on the streaming and also COVID-19 keeping people at home without the other forms of entertainment. I actually have friends who have never watched K-dramas reaching out to me, knowing my experience, asking for recommendations. The most prestigious US newspaper The New York Times, the Gray Lady herself, has including two K-dramas on its annual top TV shows of the year list: zombie sageuk Kingdom and mental healthy romance It’s Okay to Not be Okay. Kingdom was produced by Netflix and aired exclusively on the network while It’s Okay aired on tvN with a simul-stream on Netflix. I can see more K-drama productions signing Netflix deals to keep their great offerings on the streaming platform making the most investment in promoting K-dramas. Congrats to these two for getting the recognition, I loved both for different reasons.


Kingdom and It’s Okay to Not be Okay Only K-dramas to Make the New York Times Top TV Shows of 2020 List — 39 Comments

  1. Netflix premiers only two kdramas at a time. Currently they have Start Up and Do Do Sol. The latter was recently concluded and would be followed by Run On.

    What happened to Crash Landing On You? Thought it was more popular?

    • I don’t think The NY Times wrote the list based on popularity but it’s more like an end of the year recommends of that T.V show. Kinda like the Obama end of the year lists

    • Privates Lives is also on Netflix and like Lolol said, it’s not based on popularity, though these two shows are super popular as well.

      • Private Lives, My Ajushi and many other dramas didn’t premier in Netflix.

        So those dramas that didn’t premier in Netflix will eventually land on Netflix depending on each production’s legal obligations to other platforms.

      • Well I don’t know what your definition of premiering is, but it was on Netflix the same time it was airing in Korea. Just like Record of Youth, Start Up, etc.

      • Ahh I mistake Private Lives with other drama. I think Start Up superseded PL. Now I remember it’s about a family of swindlers and romance of Swindlers. The father became a swindling pastor but swindled in the process. Sorry I didn’t even finished episode 2. Was it good? I am looking for a drama that I am bingeing over the holidays. I wonder if it’s worth continuing.

      • Ah I mistake PL with other drama. I’d stop watching even before finishing ep 2. For some reasons the theme about swindling or the execution of it didn’t appeal to me. But it’s hard to make a conclusion with just watching 1 1/2 episodes. Was it good? What did you like about it? I am thinking of continuing but a bit apprehensive.

      • I didn’t watch either, just saw it while browsing through Netflix.It wasn’t superseded by Start Up as they follow the tv broadcast schedule, which both aired around same period. The Uncanny Counter is also on Netflix, so it’s not just two kdramas at a time. Not a kdrama, but I highly recommend The Queen’s Gambit if you’re looking for something to binge watch on Netflix.

      • @MistyEyes
        Personally, I loved Private Lives. It’s one of the few recent dramas on Netflix that I troubled myself to finish. But it’s all subject to the viewers taste. I dropped StartUp, CLOY, Dol dol, la, la, sol, and a host of other dramas for various reasons before their last episode. And only finished Hospital Playlist, Private Lives and IOTNBO. Seohyun and Go Kyung Po were really good in that drama, with a host of solid supporting cast one could root for. It’s a dark thriller, a lot like Heartless City. So if you liked Cruel City, the chances are high that you’d like Private Lives. It’s a shame that Seohyun doesn’t seem to be popular with the general public, compared to other more buzzy, but less talented, idol actresses, I find her acting a lot more solid than more famous idol actresses, but her dramas don’t seem to generate a lot of public interest.

      • @Adal

        I started PL (2 eps) but I wasn’t motivated to continue. It didn’t yet have that crack factor that makes me wanna devour a drama from start to finish. But I read somewhere recently that it didn’t have a good ending. What’s your take on the finale?

      • @ 🙂

        I liked the ending, the bad guys got punished and everybody got what they deserved in the end. Although I do understand anyone who had an issue with the somewhat ambiguous ending. I guess I’m inured by C-dramas who have a plethora of ambiguous endings as long as I like the plot, and it makes sense, it’s all good.

  2. Interesting they both have Dark themes but I’m not at all surprised by IONTBO as it was very American Horror-esq, very similar to Ratched theme, glamorous psychological thrillers theme.

  3. Cool two dramas I like are recognized. They left out Hospitals Playlist because that was a great drama too. Can’t agree more because besides these three dramas, all the rest are meh.

  4. While I loved Hospital Playlist, some of the episodes were a mite too long which might’ve turned off a few people. On the other hand, It’s Okay and Kingdom both are very non-kdrama esque type shows. They’re also very solidly written and acted which all contributes to a wide range of audience loving them. It’s great to have any kdrama on such lists tho. It’s exposure for the industry and also all actors involved.

    • HP caters the Korean audience like the Reply series of same combo PD and writer. Most of the jokes are also only Koreans can easily understood. But somehow their tv dramas are still well-beloved by international fans. And yes most of their episodes are almost a movie time. What I like about HP and other shows of these PD and writer is that it does not only tells the story of the leads but the supporting casts’ and even the guests have story to tell.
      Kingdom is the one of the shows that I was most excited to watch this 2020 and it did not disappoint. I am looking for the spinoff with JJH and hopefully, the season 3.

      • Unpopular opinion: I feel like medical dramas are a teeny bit overrated. Put together skilled doctors but make them human. Throw in life and death cases of patients to evoke empathy. Mix in some romance, bromance, friendship, family. And you’ve got a guaranteed hit.
        Although HP went a step further and infused music into every episode for that nostalgic effect.
        It took a couple of tries to really get into the drama but I liked it overall.

    • Stop getting your updates from lmh’s fansites, then. A quick search on google will take you straight to the list where you can see for yourself that that’s a lie.

      • I don’t know who would think THAT drama deserved to be on an end of year ‘best of’ list unless they were delusional tbh.

  5. Yay for The Kingdom. It’s the right kind of drama to introduce to wider audience. IMHO much better than those US big budget action movies. Hopefully will bring more recognition to Korean dramas.

    • Lol kinda of insulting because I find CLOY really boring and cliche. There are dramas that is very good but didn’t get recognized. But to each their own Kingdom and ITW is ten times better than CLOY.

      • My comment was actually a response to the “What happened to Crash Landing On You? Thought it was more popular?“ comment by MistyEyes above. I liked CLOY but people act like it’s the Messiah of K-dramas.

        Well, these lists are compiled by people who have their own tastes so not every drama is gonna make it. What’s ITW?

    • @smash:: well i think cloy paved way for alot of foreigners who never watch k dramas before to watch kdramas during thispandemic and then those ppl start watching iotnbo king roy etc..

      • @Shake

        Sure, I agree. And CLOY has already achieved so much both locally and internationally. My point is that there have been other great dramas this year as well (like the two on the NYT list) that also deserve their turn in the spotlight.

    • Man, I remember back when IOTNBO was airing… the stress of coming to this site during Koala’s weecaps only to find hateful comments calling it a flop, mocking KSH for the ratings, insulting SYJ’s looks & voice, etc. Even after the drama concluded, they still didn’t leave it alone and used the ratings of SF2, RoY to bash it again and again.

      But look at the accolades it’s been winning now. It’s even managed to go where the smash-ratings dramas those same people used to mock IOTNBO couldn’t go.

      Of course, they’ll come and nag that NYT is trash, joke, scam.

      Congratulations to IOTNBO and Kingdom!

  6. Personally I didn’t like the second season of Kingdom. Too much gore for my taste at the expense of the plot. It reminded me of a Hollywood serial, “gore works! Let’s make it bigger and bloodier, he he he!!!” Not knocking the hard work and excellent acting from the cast that went into making the series, but I have my reservations about the third season, if it’ll be more of the same.

    • I read somewhere that Season 3 is only one episode featuring Jun Ji Hyun. Makes sense since the two JJHs are also filming Mount Jiri.

  7. Can’t disagree with this, I remember the 2017 list featured Secret Forest (aka Stranger). Whoever does the kdrama picks for the NYT at least has taste!

  8. Cloy was so over the top & almost stupid. It wasnt easily to see actors nearing 40 years old crying so much. Itaewon Class started strong but went to hell once Dami started her rudeness is way of smart women.

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