I ♥ the ’90’s: Thoughts on “Star in My Heart” Episodes 1-5 and “The Best Hit”

While recently watching “The Best Hit“–I quickly found that I had plenty of company swooning over Hyun Jae and his hair….yeah, I’m talking about those cornrow braids on the side.

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OMG! **fans self** So hot! Know what’s even hotter? Hyun Jae’s confident persona and positive good humor.

It was a crying shame that his son Ji Hoon didn’t inherit the truckload of mojo his father possessed. The video at the end of Episode 16 was daebak. Here’s the polished version from Music Bank that is subbed in English and Hangul (lower left side):

See that CD to the upper right? The Hangul letters spell out the borrowed word “Lip Sync”. How funny is that?! Guess the Music Bank producers learned from Milli Vanilli:–Honesty in the music world still counts for something!

The song “Say It” seems more reminiscent of the late ’80’s “Freestyle” music than what I thought K-Pop typically sounded like. Give a listen to the Stevie B song linked here and “Say It” from “The Best Hit” and tell me how close they sound. Hmmm. Maybe I’ve been missing out. I usually don’t listen to K-Pop, but I loved “Say It”. Rap isn’t my favorite kind of music either. The old-school tunes are okay, but the extremely misogynistic and violent lyrics of many of today’s rap music songs merit an instant “two thumbs down” from this ahjumma!

That’s when I remembered that there were other kinds of music back in the late ’80’s to mid-90’s–music that I would call rock ballads. (Interestingly, Hyun Jae’s partner Young Jae mentioned that he wanted to sing ballads after HJ’s disappearance.) I recalled a K-drama about a great looking guy with awesome hair who could sing those ballads and had just as much swag back then as Yoon Shi Yoon did playing Hyun Jae—I’m talking about Ahn Jae Wook as Kang Min Hee in “Star in My Heart”.

 

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From Viki.com and MBC. 

 

 

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From DramaFever–they have it dubbed in Spanish only and no subs.

 

“Star in My Heart” must be one of the only surviving dramas from the mid ’90’s (with English subs) that can be easily accessed on a major streaming site. (At least until Viki and DramaFever are driven out of the K-drama business by Kocowa! Grrrrr!) “Sandglass” is another one–but unfortunately, I don’t think I can get around to watching it before the movie “A Taxi Driver” hits the K-movie theater in mid-August of this year. (English subbed trailer here–I saw this at the theater when I went to see “Seo Seo Pyeong”; the theater is showing more K-movie trailers now than they have in the past. Looks right up my alley.)

Before you check out “Star in My Heart” on Viki, be prepared. The video quality is absolutely abysmal compared to what today’s viewers are used to. It might be in the 240p to 360p range. Today’s standards are 480p (minimum for broadcast TV) and the more common 720p and 1080p resolution levels. Wanna know what 240p looks like? The video for “Say It” above can be toggled in the settings to 240p or 360p. Go try it! It makes you want to clean your glasses or check your contacts, consider having the computer monitor or TV serviced, and prompt you to schedule an appointment with the eye doctor!

The videos are so grainy I can only watch one episode at a time before my eyes need a break. I don’t want to have what happened to this binge-watching drama lover happen to me! With this blurry video feed, it might take only 2 episodes and not 18. The lighting in the show itself is dim (worse than “Secret Love Affair”!) and adds to the eyestrain. Maybe it looks better on an old-fashioned tube TV. Heh, too bad I’ll never know! No retro tech here at Shamrockmom’s house! (Exception: My piano. In that case, old is best.) MBC Classic on YouTube has the videos in HD–but no English subs. More technical issues: the transitions between the scenes are anything but smooth. I am sure today’s high school kids in a film class could put together scene transitions at this level, but this was “pro” level for a TV show in mid-’90’s Korea.  The best analogy I can give is that watching the scene transitions in this show is like riding in a car with someone who doesn’t quite have the mastery of driving a manual transmission yet. It’s a ride that’s herky-jerky, but you do arrive at your destination.

Another thing to note before you start watching–There’s a lot of characters who smoke cigarettes in this show. Unlike today where it’s blurred out or the characters just dangle a cigarette (if they even smoke at all), this show features what looks like plenty of RL smoking to me. It’s interesting to me to see how that has completely changed in a 20-year span.

Episode 1 merited two full viewings due to the fact that I had to adjust to the blurry video, abrupt transitions, and flashbacks that gave me several WTH-did-I-just-watch moments. I am also making an educated guess at the names by what I have seen subbed on screen. (in both Hangul and English) Also, the last half of Episode one is really fun and completely hooks me into the show.

(Spoilers ahead, but they are here to whet your appetite for the show! Screencaps are from MBC Classic Channel on YouTube–because they are a little bit clearer than Viki.)

Episode 1 starts with Lee Yeon Hee (Choi Jin Shil) leaving a countryside orphanage:

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Wait a minute! She looks too old to be one of the kids. Is she a teacher? Nope, she’s actually a senior in high school. A mega rich friend of her deceased parent(s) is adopting her, and he takes her to his palatial home.

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As golden hearted as this ahjussi is, his wife and daughter are completely evil and treat YH like dirt a la Cinderella style. Even worse….there seems to be a disgustingly lecherous older brother in this adoptive family who blatantly tries to take advantage of the young and innocent Yeon Hee one evening after she finishes taking a shower. Yes….they actually show a shower scene with a woman! (if you look very carefully you can see the towel wrapped around her in the shower on the video, but I couldn’t get a screencap of it):

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Oh, snap! Wonder if this degenerate is gonna put down his cigarette before he attacks her!

 

Eeek! This scene is pretty scary. This cretin is not gonna take ‘no’ for an answer. YH fights him off by throwing a mug of water and toothpaste suds at him.

 

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#whattabastard  

 

As a dental hygienist, I heartily approve! Nothing like a face full of saliva, bacteria and food particles to stop a potential rapist–when you don’t have a weapon! Pepper spray might not have been available back then….

After a minor time skip, Yeon Hee makes it into college and meets up with one of her orphanage buddies Soon Ae (yes, that’s Jeon Do Yeon, from “The Good Wife”) at Seoul’s Hard Rock Cafe. Soon Ae is trying to make it as a singer but is currently waiting tables.

 

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Jeon Do Yeon as Soon Ae. Age 24.

 

 

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Age 44. She was amazing in “The Good Wife”

 

Also in attendance at the club are our two main guys–BFF’s Kang Min Hee (Ahn Jae Wook from “Five Children”) and Lee Joon Hee (Cha In Pyo from “D-Day” and “Laurel Tree Tailors”) KMH is rockin’ an asymmetrical haircut and multiple earrings, while buddy LJH goes for the more conservative style:

 

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White dress shirts–always a great fashion choice!

 

KMH is definitely in Rebel Territory for 1997 SK, but it’s a more sophisticated appearance than Hyun Jae’s street style look in “The Best Hit”. Both of these dudes were mighty fine looking back then:

 

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Age 29

 

 

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Age 26

 

….and they are still smokin’ hawwt!

 

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Age 49. From “Laurel Tree Tailors”. He might actually be hawwter now. **swoons** Those arms and shoulders….oh, my.

 

 

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Age 46. From “Five Children”. His smile just melts me….

 

 

KMH tells his buddy LJH to pick out a lady in the bar and he will shmooze her over to their table. KMH notes his BFF is looking longingly at YH in the bar. Even though he’s surprised that his broseph goes for a relatively plain and modestly dressed gal who looks more than a little nervous and out of place–

 

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I recognize that record in the background. It’s 1983’s “Synchronicity” by The Police

 

KMH goes over to her table and flat-out hits on her. He uses his best cheesy pick-up lines and some high-level flirtatious charm to see if she will join him and JH for a drink. He pours it on but never crosses the line where he creeps me out or he’s overly pushy. KMH even lightly touches her shoulders, but the physical contact is very minimal and gentle.

 

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My bet is that he’d probably get accused of charged with sexual harassment today. 

 

She declines his offer, saying that she’s waiting for a boyfriend, and he gives up nicely. I’m impressed. He seems to be a gentleman even if he totally gives off the ‘player’ vibe. Also interesting to note: KMH doesn’t take the rejection personally. He immediately moves on, and doesn’t whine about it, or stalk her, or bemoan his luck. He simply goes back to his table and asks his buddy to pick another lady! How cool is that?!

 

 

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The universal sign of “I struck out”!

 

Then there is some kind of altercation with a man who wants YH to leave with him–and she is not in the mood to hang with this jerk. He wrist-grabs YH (there are a ton of wrist-grabs in this show) and YH starts hitting him with her purse as she yells for SA to help her:

 

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There are a lot of physical assault scenes in this drama as well. It feels like YH is not safe either at home or out in public. 

 

SA gets in a strong smack (with a satisfying clang!) on the baddie’s noggin with a metal serving tray. Good guys KMH and LJH rush over and the pushing and shoving starts and then the barstools are tossed around….Ha! Let the bar brawl begin!

They bail out of the bar and hide in a high-end boutique to escape the baddie and his group of thugs:

 

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Love the “Happy Valentines Day” sign in English! 

 

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As the owner lady checks out the double dose of hawwtness that just landed in her store:

 

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Two interesting items in the background here. First, there is a fold-out map of Hollywood and Los Angeles to the right. Yeah, kiddies, that’s what we had to use before GPS! What a hoot! But the most interesting item is the Celtic Cross in the background, upper center left. Heh Heh Heh…..if I was a member of today’s whiny Snowflake Generation that get offended over everything under the sun, I’d scream, “Cultural Appropriation” and “Disrespect”. /extra heavy sarcasm  Kids today must have never learned this quote from Voltaire like I did: “The hallmark of a free society is that I may totally disapprove of what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it until I die.” 

 

While the guys pour on the charm to the owner too!

 

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How can she resist AJW’s smile? That’s some serious acting right there! 

 

It appears that YH reminds JH of a lover he had back in Italy named Sophia (Both roles were played by Choi Jin Shil) who abandoned him for some unknown reason at a humongous castle (?!). He’s pretty tongue-tied around YH, but he’s definitely interested. However, KMH is very interested in YH, but still can’t get her name or phone number! When he asks YH if she’s gonna meet her boyfriend now, she ‘fesses up:

 

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From Viki–so you can see the dual subs. 

 

The word used here for ‘playboy’ is a very interesting word. Lee Seonsaengnim and I had a long discussion about the word the subbers used here for “playboy” (날라리). Google defines it as “bully”. I didn’t buy that. He never bullied her. Naver defines it as “punk”. Hmmm. The subbers give us the indication by the translation that YH uses it to mean “playboy” or (my guess) the more modern “player”. LS gave me a much different definition: a rebel. Someone who doesn’t follow the rules or does so only when it’s easy, profitable, convenient or others are looking. He said that he and his friends used that word to describe Christians who went to church on Sunday….but lived like heathens the rest of the week! Ah, now I got it! This is exactly why I am learning Korean.

(Side note: I also believe having dual subtitles keeps things honest and transparent. Now I can look at the Korean subtitles and match it up with what the characters are saying. Then I can see how it was translated into English. I’m not talking about the exact sentence structure because Korean and English differ greatly in that department. I want the overall intent and feel of a sentence to be correct. This is not a criticism of the subbers either. I’d be lost without them, and I respect their hard work even more now that I am trying to learn Korean.)

 

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Check out that look on LJH’s face–he’s totally smitten with YH! That needs no translation! 

Heh, no Facebook/Instagram/Google stalking back then! Meanwhile, LJH uses an old-fashioned computing device called a brain to recall YH’s name because he heard her friend SA say it.

 

 

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LHJ: “Yeon Hee”  KMH (impressed): “How did you remember that?”

 

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KMH is hassled constantly by his Dad (and Dad’s group of thugs) to forget this music career stuff and get down to real work. Okay, ‘hassled’ is not the right word here. ‘Threatened at gunpoint’ is much closer:

 

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Somehow bullying a successful adult son with a shotgun because he won’t live his life as the Dad wishes seems a tad overblown.

 

KMH is not of a mind to go into the family business. He declares he would rather join the army than work for Dad, which brings out horrified gasps from Dad’s secretary/personal assistant. Seems his dad has already made the phone calls and paid the bribes to get his precious son a military service exemption! (OMG. Can I say how much this broils me?! Poor Seo In Guk and Yoo Ah In…they have legit and documented reasons they can’t serve and the SK netizens roast these guys to a crisp. I hope SIG and YAI both get back to 100% health asap and that their agencies track down and aggressively prosecute any idiots who start malicious rumors. I know it will be  **sniffle**  a very long two years they will both have to fuhgeddaboud any work in DramaLand.)

True to his word, KMH does run off and join the army, leaving his asymmetrical hair behind and he is soon shown sporting a standard military cut:

 

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It’s a bummer when the Army is more relaxing than your own home. 

 

KMH gets called to the office by one of the higher-ups in the military who tries to get him to at least take a cushy position since dad already made the arrangements for the exemption. I have to smile when he politely but forcefully declines the offer, and opts to stay with his platoon. However, his commanding officer gets wind of this deal, and decides to punish KMH through a grueling physical workout in the dark of night with a full backpack–yunno, just because he’s a rich boy!

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Yep, classism is not limited to those at the top, or the bottom, or even the middle of society, no matter which country you might reside in.

While KMH is getting physically beat up in the Army, YH is in college and getting mentally beaten up by her step-mom and step-sister. She works at their fashion design house while going to school, where they treat her like their personal slave. One day, her step-mom lets her pick out some clothing from the racks of garments to be thrown out, and she finds a dress that looks interesting. After she alters it using an ancient and dusty sewing machine:

 

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PPL was a thing even 20 years ago! My mom had a Brother sewing machine, and so do I.

 

….the results are nothing short of outstanding!

 

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Note the camera angle. There are a lot of shots like this.

 

Whether in 1997 or 2017, every girl needs a cute LBD (Little Black Dress) in her closet!

YH sketches out fashion designs, which her stepmom accuses her of plagiarizing. **Eye-roll** Evil Stepmom knows YH’s clothing sketches are amazing, so she steals them and puts them under her daughter’s name to win a competition. LJH is no dummy–he figures this out in about one second. Another awesome thing about LJH–His English skills are top notch. In RL, Cha In Pyo got his degree in Economics at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the plan was for him to take over the family business…Hanjin Shipping! Yes, the same Hanjin Shipping I see on trucks and shipping containers going back and forth on the freeway! Whoa! Talk about chaebol level! Obviously, that family business thing didn’t work out and he went back to acting.

There is also a scene where YH gets smacked around by the stepmom for taking some fabric from the storeroom (IMHO, taking a few yards/meters of fabric from this ginormous storeroom would be like taking a bucket of water from the Han River, lol) and the stepmom flashes back to a young woman sewing with a baby nearby, and she goes over and starts cursing her out and beating her while the young woman protects the baby….ohhhhh!

 

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All the flashback scenes are shot with this yellow-red glow. It must have been a ‘thing’ back in the day. 

 

So is YH the illegitimate child of the kind ahjussi who adopted her? And that’s why he’s so nice to her? Was he secretly supporting his mistress and daughter while being married to someone else until the mistress passed away and left YH an orphan? Can I check off the “Birth Secret” box for this show? Yep, he must be her dad because in DramaLand, if you are a loving and decent parent you will meet your demise sooner rather than later! (See Episode 5 for a cameo appearance by the great granddaddy K-drama White Box Truck of Doom.)

Another thing that makes me stand up and cheer: KMH drives a shiny black Porsche 911 (933) TT Carerra. (TT=Twin Turbo in Car Speak.)  That’s an immediate “TT” (Two Thumbs) up from Shamrockmom!

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It’s definitely a young chaebol’s car–it went for over $100,000 USD back then–and is worth nearly four times that amount today! (The twin turbos drastically increased both the original price and today’s value, plus it was one of the last air-cooled Porsches made. Source: One of my son’s exotic car customers has a 1996 Porsche 911 TT Carerra in his collection, and paid almost $400K USD for it in 2016.) So many wealthy dudes in today’s Kdramas drive a (yawn) luxury sedan or have a driver. I want to see a bad-ass rich boy drive a bad-ass rich boy’s car–especially one that looks as good and goes as fast as the Porsche 911 does here! LJH drives a much more sedate white Mercedes 4 door sedan in Korea and he has a white BMW convertible in the flashback scenes in Italy.  I guess the benefit of owning those larger cars would be that there is plenty of room to make out in the back seat!  ***Cue Wicked Thoughts***

When setbacks happen to KMH (like being punished for being a rich kid in the army) he’s gotta have time to brood like any good K-drama hero. Then he channels whatever sadness, anger and frustration that is going on in his life into making music–

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–and I know that is a tried and true “best method”. Whether it was in the days of Brahms and Beethoven, or in the early ’90’s with Hyun Jae rapping, or Seon Jae pouring his heart and soul into his classical piano pieces to tell his beloved Goddess how he loved her, the music can comfort and encourage both the listener and the creator. How amazing is that?! Ahn Jae Wook gets to sing for 2-3 minutes in nearly every episode, and that’s worth “two thumbs up”! Too bad the music was not emphasized more in “The Best Hit”–but that’s a very minor complaint against an otherwise fabulous show.

Speaking of classical music, this show has a few BG selections too–mostly they are from Chopin and I’ve heard them in many dramas. However, there is one non-Chopin piece that really stands out:

 

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The Evil Stepsister gets called into the Boss’ office and she is so intent on flirting with him that she actually admits she had ‘assistance’ with the design sketches–which her mom stole from Yeon Hee. This confirms LJH’s suspicions that she’s not only an airhead, but a dishonest and conniving brat.

The BG music in this scene is the Intermezzo from the 1911 opera “Jewels of the Madonna” by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari.

 

I’ll let you read all about the 2015 Slovak revival of this nearly forgotten opera complete with Korean male lead here. The super-melodramatic music is an excellent choice IMHO as it feels like the irony is on point for the scene…she’s trying to impress a guy who couldn’t care less about her–other than she’s screwing things up for the woman he does care about.

There are many moments that I find my inner 16-year-old squealing at KMH. He could come off as arrogant and jerky toward YH but the smile and the little facial expressions tell me he doesn’t take himself all that seriously. (Hyun Jae in “The Best Hit” does this too with the exact same results for my inner 16-year-old.) YH is smart and driven, although she keeps it under the radar for the most part to avoid the wrath of Evil Stepmom and Evil Stepsister. YH may let the stepmom and the sis get the better of her for a while, but she doesn’t ever give up and stays true to her strong character. Even better–she gives the disgusting lecherous step-brother another beatdown. He tries to mess with YH again at the end of Episode 4, and she manages to fight him off in a violent knock-down, drag-out staircase fight that strongly implies imminent rape if she loses.

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She hits and kicks him fiercely, including a swift kick to the crotch. Heh, maybe she got some self-defense lessons from Coach-nim (or more likely his dad, lol)  in “Fight for My Way”!

 

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Lots of stores are having “Christmas in July” sales now. So here’s Shamrockmom’s early request to Santa: Please bring me a sweet and dorky straight-arrow guy like Coach-nim! I’ve been a really good ahjumma this year! 

 

YH gets away from the creepy step-brother and runs into KMH’s arms as he walks in the door of her family’s workplace.

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He gives chase to the step-brother, but the scoundrel jumps a balcony railing and escapes a sure life-ending beating from KMH.

While KMH is trying to comfort YH, LJH shows up and sees YH sobbing in KMH’s arms with a torn sweater sleeve and more than a few bruises and cuts:

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He assumes the worst (***facepalm*** Geez Bro!) and the menfolk get into a punching match which YH has to break up!

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They retreat to a pojangmatcha where she sits between the guys (Ha!) and they all have more than a few drinks:

 

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Love the (TP) napkin roll on the table–comes in handy for cleaning up the blood after the fist fight! 

….as KMH wonders why his broseph thought he was ‘that kind of guy’ and LJH defends himself with ‘Well, you are a total player after all’, and they make up like two little boys who fought on a playground. This cracked me up–I certainly wasn’t expecting that end to the scene! If the rest of this show has twists like this, I’m gonna be gleefully running around in circles with my two thumbs permanently up!

 

I’m definitely enjoying this show after 5 episodes, even though the storyline is paper thin. If this show had a complex plot, I’d get lost as I try and study the subs. The pace is slow–much slower than most dramas shown today, but it moves along evenly. The dialogue is not too complicated, which also makes this an excellent watch with the double subtitles to augment my Korean lessons. Lee Seonsaengnim advised me to watch some older dramas if they have the double subs because those shows generally have less complex dialogue and plots. I will need to wait until my skills vastly improve to watch shows like “Chicago Typewriter” (currently being double-subbed on Viki) and re-watch “Secret Love Affair” (already double-subbed) as those shows are exceptionally complex in terms of dialogue.

“Star in my Heart”  also incorporates many tropes viewers have come to know and love (or hate) in K-dramas. Let’s see…..birth secrets, a downtrodden but smart and slightly feisty heroine, a rebel bad-boy lead guy with a heart of gold, a stunning male second lead that screams “Second Lead Syndrome”, an evil Stepmom, a bitchy and evil Stepsister, and parental disapproval issues….Yep, they are all there! So are the 3-4 minute scenes, and camera shots of the expressions on the character’s faces for emotional emphasis. I can see why K-dramas have long had a bad rap in terms of OTT melodrama, but there are also some funny moments in this show that break up the drama–and that makes it a win for Shamrockmom!

If you are looking for something to watch this summer that won’t tax your brain but will make you smile, this would be a “Best Hit”. If you are in Ddabong Depression from not having Yoon Shi Yoon on your screen each week, or if you are counting the days until Park Seo Joon reappears on the big screen with his comedy “Midnight Runner” aka “Young Cops” (which is high on my watch list at the K-movie theater; hopefully it will be here in a few weeks) this show might help “Fight for My Way” out of a summer K-drama slump.

 

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