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A Year of Disappointments and Pleasant Surprises

I started writing this blog almost five years ago (Five years!!! Quick, someone give me awesome ideas on how to celebrate when our blogiversary hits!), and I have to say that 2017 was an off year in K-dramas.

Maybe it was just me being busy with real life and getting jaded with dramas, but based on the responses to my two K-drama slump posts, I tend to think this was an off K-drama year for quite a few people.

Like 2016, which I dubbed “The Year of the Dropped K-drama,” I dropped a whole bunch of shows without making it remotely close to the end. Even worse, I didn’t even start a whole bunch of shows for several K-drama cycles.

Unlike 2016, though, I also found myself at the opposite end of the spectrum this year, pleasantly surprised by a few gems I didn’t expect to like nearly as much as I did.

To cover the year of mixed bags, I’m reviewing the best and worst things about every drama I watched (or attempted to watch) in 2017 as I rank them from best to worst (according to my own very subjective enjoyment, of course).

Note: I’m counting anything that mostly aired in 2017, even if it started in 2016 or will end in 2018. 

The Best and Worst of Every 2017 K-drama

1. Because This Life Is Our First
Episodes watched:  All
Highlights: Everything. Every. Single. Thing. This is one of those rare dramas where every time you brace yourself for disappointment, you end up pleasantly surprised by thoughtful writing and delightful characterization. This ranks as one of the top dramas of 2017 for sure. It wins for best writing, best feminism, best friendships, best cat, best everything.
Disappointments: Okay, so maybe not everything. Those last two episodes let me down with a separation and time jump for no apparent reason. And then she has the nerve to laugh? No.

2. Radiant Office
Episodes watched: All
Highlights: I’m getting a little depressed seeing other year-end posts and realizing that apparently no one else loved this drama nearly as much as I did. LISTEN UP, HUMANS OF THE INTERNET: RADIANT OFFICE IS A MAGNIFICENT GEM, AND I WILL FIGHT ANYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE.
Disappointments: Yes, some small nitpicks exist. I do not care.

3. Age of Youth 2
Episodes watched: All (ish. I watched the last two raw while waiting for subs and never came back around to them later.)
Highlights: The girls are back in top form! Everything I loved about season 1—camaraderie, romance, slice-of-life scenarios—all returned in season 2. I could watch a zillion episodes of my Belle Epoque lovelies.
Disappointments: Much of Eun Jae’s arc irritated me this season. Couldn’t have cared less about Heimdal. Couldn’t have cared more about squeezing in a few extra scenes with Ji Won and Sung Min. Don’t get me started on that epilogue.

4. Buamdong Revenge Club
Episodes watched: 7 (I’m finally finishing over Christmas, though, so this won’t be a dropped drama!)
Highlights: Lee Yo Won. Ra Mi Ran. Myung Se Bin. 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍
Disappointments: Some of the episodes feel repetitive from a plot perspective, which is why it’s taken me a bit to finish. But unless everyone dies in the last episode and the husbands win, I feel pretty confident in this ranking.

5. Fight My Way
Episodes watched: All
Highights: Talented leads playing unique, interesting characters. Friendship turning into romance. Kim Sung Oh! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM A SHOW?
Disappointments: Oh, yeah. We want to not be distracted by a bunch of pointless side characters and birth secrets.

6. School 2017

Episodes watched: All

Highlights: I almost didn’t watch this, but who knew my favorite couple of the year would be this pair of high schoolers?

Disappointments: Sure, the X mystery dragged on too long, but we’re all in this for Tae Swoon anyway.

7. Suspicious Partner
Episodes watched: All
Highlights: Oh Ji Chang Wook, how I do love thee.
Disappointments: A sludgy second half not nearly as strong as the first. 

8. Go Back Couple
Episodes watched: All
Highlights: As someone whose mom died at a young age, I ugly cried over Jin Joo finding herself and reuniting with her mom every single week. This was the 2017 drama that hit me in the feels and got me emotionally invested way more than the drama probably deserved.
Disappointments: If you have only 12 episodes to tell this story, how about you don’t spend more than half of them with the male lead being a total dirtbag? Also, literally no one cares about the cheerleading couple. NO ONE.

9. 20th Century Boy and Girl
Episodes watched: All
Highlights: Female friendship abounding. The best cameo of the year in the form of Kim So Yeon. Also, Kim Ji Suk as the sweetest, most supportive male lead in a long time. It’s very rare that I say this with all the emotionally broken, extremely wealthy man-children running amok in K-dramas, but he is someone I would encourage my friends to date if he existed in real life.
Disappointments: Pretty lightweight on the drama side of K-drama, if that’s what you’re into.

10. Chief Kim
Episodes watched: All
Highlights: Namgoong Min having a grand old time. This show also introduced me to the delights that are Junho and Dong Ha.
Disappointments: I mean, I don’t actually care about office politics in basically any show, so there’s that.

11. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
Episodes watched: All
Highlights: And IIIIIIIIIIIIIeeeeeIIIIIIIIIIII will always love youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.
Disappointments: How they managed to make everything other than the central romance so incredibly bad is impressive.

12. Goblin
Episodes watched: 5
Highlights: Easily the most sweeping, captivating premiere of any show all year.
Disappointments: This show is a paradox. How can it simultaneously be so magnificent and so boring?

13. Chicago Typewriter
Episodes watched: All
Highlights: That kiss, which encapsulated so many of the best parts of this series (minus hot ghost Go Kyung Pyo, of course).
Disappointments: Is there a cut of this show that’s just the 1930s parts minus all the whiny modern-day parts? I want that, please.

14. The Best Hit
Episodes watched: 10
Highlights: Harabeoji and Mal Sook making me ugly cry. The OST, including this Yoon Mi Rae song that got stuck in my head for like a month.
Disappointments: They should have skipped the romance and stuck to the father-son relationship.

15. Strongest Deliveryman
Episodes watched: 8
Highlights: Our clueless chaebol couple.
Disappointments: After Chicago Typewriter, I thought for sure Go Kyung Pyo’s first role as leading man would be amazing. Instead, I found his character self-righteous and boring.

16. Tunnel
Episodes watched: 4
Highlights: Emotional punch from the beginning, and a good balance of humor against the darker subject matter.
Disappointments: No disappointments—I just forgot to keep watching.

17. Voice
Episodes watched: 6
Highlights: Kim Jae Wook being creepier than I ever imagined possible.
Disappointments: See Tunnel. Maybe no one should ever trust my judgment on crime shows because apparently I am terrible at finishing them.

18. Live Up to Your Name
Episodes watched: 6
Highlights: Solid actors
Disappointments: Meh, I couldn’t get into it. I think I finally have to give up on pretending I like Kim Nam Gil’s slapstick acting.

19. Tomorrow with You
Episodes watched: 6
Highlights and disappointments: I have to collapse these categories because I genuinely can’t remember a single scene from the series, aside from maybe Shin Min Ah wearing some horrifying socks with heels. It ranks so high in the list only because there weren’t things I actively hated about it.

This is where the really bad ones start! Ranking #20 is not an accomplishment in this list!

20. Bride of the Water God
Episodes watched: All
Highlights: Shin Se Kyung’s wardrobe. Nam Joo Hyuk’s sky palace costume.
Disappointments: Pacing. Plot holes. The ending. Nam Joo Hyuk’s human mullet.

21. Missing 9
Episodes watched: All
Highlights: This would be dead-last on the list if not for a wonderful romance built on mutual respect and friendship.
Disappointments: A wonderful romance where they never actually get together and instead you have to watch a murderer wandering around for no discernible reason for a zillion episodes. What the hell, show?

22. Revolutionary Love
Episodes watched: 6
Highlights: Siwon and Kang Sora are so, so lovely.
Disappointments: This series as a whole was written so, so poorly.

23. Lingerie Girls’ Generation
Episodes watched: 4
Highlights: An interesting view into a period of Korean history I know very little about.
Disappointments: A more boring and less good version of Answer Me 1988.

24. My Secret Romance
Episodes watched: All
Highlights: Sung Hoon in a suit. Sung Hoon playing with children.
Disappointments: Pretty much everything else.

25. My Only Love Song
Episodes watched: I don’t remember. It’s a blur.
Highlights: I get weirdly excited about K-dramas on Netflix.
Disappointments: I didn’t actually like any of the characters. Bad sign?

26. My Sassy Girl
Episodes watched: 4
Highlights: Pretty costumes?
Disappointments: Just because Oh Yeon Seo can do over-the-top doesn’t mean she should.

27. Judge vs. Judge (aka Nothing to Lose)
Episodes watched: 8
Highlights: A truly impressive cast
Disappointments: Nothing about anything on this show makes sense.

28. Temperature of Love
Episodes watched: 4
Highlights: Seo Hyun Jin
Disappointments: Me watching this show. 

29. The Liar and His Lover
Episodes watched: 1.5
Highlights: …Other people seem to enjoy it?
Disappointments: Every once in a while, you watch a show and think you’re on crazy pills because your feelings do not line up AT ALL with how everyone else in the universe seems to feel about it. That’s this show for me. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

30. Manhole
Episodes watched: 4
Highlights: The premise was interesting
Disappointments: Whyyyyyy are we supposed to be rooting for this couple in the first place?

31. Introverted Boss
Episodes watched: 2
Highlights: …….
Disappointments: Sigh.

Dramas I Wish I Had Watched in 2017

With weird licensing, waiting for subtitles, and having to scrounge up illegal streams in some cases, here are the dramas I still have on my watchlist from the year:

  • Forest of Secrets (Update: I kicked off my Christmas break last night by binge-watching the first four episodes now that it’s on Netflix. I get it, y’all. I finally get it.)
  • Seven-Day Queen
  • Smart Prison Living
  • Argon

So I’m sorry if I left them off the list! I have been shamed for my lazy drama-watching ways and may someday catch up!

What Were Your Favorite Dramas of 2017?

How did you rank your favorite dramas this year? Where did I get it right? Where did I get it horribly wrong? What dramas did I totally miss out on? Let me know!

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