Since I am laid up this afternoon, decked by the intense heat and a sore jaw, I decide to tackle another show on my List of New Shows to watch. Today, it’s “Twenty Again”. No joke, this show has been on my radar for months. I loved the premise: the mother of a college freshman decides to go back and get the college education she has always wanted in spite of her disapproving son and pompous jerk husband. It has one of my favorite actors from “Angel Eyes”, Mr. Dimples aka Lee Sang Yoon. How could this get screwed up?
Answer: In an abundance of ways, and Show is flirting with all of them. But so far, the show has evaded disaster as it careens around like a frightened 16 year old learning to drive for the first time. It can’t seem to find the center of the lane–so it lurches from one side of the street to the other. From Melo to Slapstick, this is one show that can’t make up it’s mind. It’s a quirky mix for sure.
The whole “returning to college as an adult” hits Shamrockmom right in the heart. I took a Music Theory course last semester at the local community college–the same one I attended when I started out 30+ years ago. Yeah, some things have changed….and some things are just the same. Being the oldest one in my class by 25+ years, and even being older than the teacher–I totally get what No Ra is going through. I also took some minor heat for going back to school, but nothing like No Ra faced. I wish I was only 38 and going back to school. Try tacking another 12 years on that!
The writer of the show must have received the memo that adding a piece of Musical Drama Crack in the first minute of the first episode is a great way to get and keep Shamrockmom interested….and as we see a very young No Ra and Woo Chul waltzing to Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite Waltz #2, I find myself immediately choked up. Is is perhaps the pain meds? No, Advil shouldn’t have that effect. OMG, is this show going to have some tragic first love triangle issue that has now made the time jump into the present? Will other BGM/soundtrack choices be winners as well? Music can make a show that is already good into a masterpiece. Could I get this lucky?
I also like that we get the adultery question out of the way immediately too. In fact, No Ra and her husband Woo Chul (aka winner of the A-Hole Husband of the Year award) are keeping up a sham marriage for the sake of their only son, Min Soo. He is a senior in High School, and about to start college. He’s learned well from his father to treat his mother like dirt. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The divorce negotiations started two years before MS starts college, so there is no question that No Ra and Woo Chul are not meant for each other.
Hyun Seok is the geeky first love of No Ra, and the current College Theater professor. He’s quite an interesting character. He must have loved No Ra a whole lot more than she cared about him back in the day, because it sure seems like a one-sided love on his part to me. He is also all over the place, as he can’t sort out his own feelings. Miffed that she “left him” to marry the jerk who knocked her up, he has nursed the hurt for 20 years. He retaliates in petty, ridiculous ways, like calling her “Ahjumma” in front of the other students, and knocking her hat off when he bikes past her. #whattabastard! My first thought was that he was almost as bad as the husband. I was shocked and disappointed he seemed to be so insistent on hurting NR. I was ready to dump this show–who needs to see more dudes treating women badly? But then, HS did a couple of things that made me feel like I needed to give him another chance. I cheered as HS defends NR’s presence in the “Marriage and Family” class (taught by none other than the lady professor who is having an affair with Woo Chul!) and then I felt my heart clench as he rehearses all the things he wants to say to No Ra, but can’t bring himself to say to her face….in front of the “Little Theater”. *heh* HS hits a perfect note of reality for me. I should be less sympathetic to him, but I’m not. My feelings for him in two episodes were as all over the map as the rest of this show.
This show has many of the side characters that Shamrockmom enjoys in a fun drama. Yoon Young is the BFF for No Ra, and the backbone that beleaguered No Ra needs. Her moods range from mostly bitchy to totally bitchy; good thing she’s on No Ra’s side. Sang Ye is HS’s insightful assistant and a possible friend/ally for No Ra. Soon Nam (aka Beats Headphone dude) is No Ra’s classmate. Initially he seems exasperated that he’s paired up with her in the Marriage and Family class, but I have a suspicion he’s gonna change his mind at some future point. I don’t expect a “Noona” Romance, but I’d be down with him thinking she’s a cool and fun person.
There are some really weird moments in this show. The medical mix-up that makes NR think she’s got pancreatic cancer and six months to live seems totally out of place. Why add this melodramatic and overused trope into a fun and light show? NR needs no extra motivation. Just the fact that she wants to change herself is fine by me. The whole sequence where she runs across the campus to the library, leaping over things like a superhero is also out of place. It’s too silly and unrealistic, and gives this show an over-the-top slapstick vibe.
I could go on for days about the way NR is treated by the other students. I can’t speak for all colleges/universities here in my area of SoCal, but I can tell you from my own personal experience both in the ’80’s and today, I have never seen an older student dissed as badly as NR is by her classmates. It’s totally excessive. Younger students might not go out of their way to be super-friendly to an older student, but there would be no disrespect. I had older classmates all the time while I was in my early 20’s at college. I didn’t really think too much about it, except I remember feeling bad that their families and workplaces seemed to make things extra difficult for them to get to class or have time to do projects and homework.
Then there are the moments that give Shamrockmom the hope that this show will be amazing and great, and not just a pile of melodramatic moments mixed in with some goofy slapstick scenes. Back in the day, both No Ra and Yoon Young were dancers. Somewhere, buried in 20 years of debris from her husband putting her down constantly, that memory still remains. After No Ra finds out she has cancer, she decides to un-enroll from school, and get her tuition back. Then she sees some high schoolers doing a modern dance routine, proclaiming that they are not just going to school to get a job, but to learn…and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. She goes back home, finds a stash of cash her grandmother saved for her college in a pillow–and pays off her tuition. Yes! There is something left in her tank…she’s not finished yet! But the scene that really grabbed me was when she was dragged into the dance scene in the street by the other students. For just a moment, she forgot she was the mother of a 20 year old, an ahjumma, and sick with cancer….she was 19, a dancer, and free, with her whole life in front of her. I could see the spark in her eyes…no disapproving husband, no disparaging son to rain on her parade. It was inspiring and uplifting to watch, and for those two scenes alone, I am on board for now with this crazy show, hoping against hope it will find the right tone.
I will say it right now: If No Ra goes back to that jerky husband at the end of this show, I will be extremely disappointed, and will have to relegate “Twenty Again” to that ever-growing heap of dramas with horrible endings. That will be an automatic “F” grade! Can this show pull off an “A” or even a “B” grade? I sure hope so!