The turn of the year seems to always bring the desire to classify things and we end up with a ton of ‘Best Of’ lists. And I guess I’m no different.
I do, however, always have issues with these types of list as they are based so much on the subjective tastes of the watcher, listener, or reader. Some one else might positively loathe a book that I thought was amazing and so please understand that these are the Kdramas I enjoyed most in 2019 since I know of no objective way to rate them. Even official ratings are still based on viewers likes and dislikes.
I wrote about some of them back in August and September but will briefly include the ones that are still among the ‘best’ of the year here as well. Korea produced over 130 different Kdramas in 2019 which is a lot. I only managed to watch 14 the whole way through, with another 12 only partially watched, and am watching 4 newish ones that are still on air right now.
The dramas that air over the cusp of the New Year often go on to be on everyone’s best list. Think Goblin 2016/2017. So when Memories Of The Alhambra starring Hyun Bin, Park Shin Hye and Chayeol was announced at the end of 2018I was sure it would a hit. Especially as much of it was filmed on location in Spain. Sadly I barely made it through the first 4 episodes before I gave up. And in a way I’m glad as apparently it didn’t have a ‘proper’ ending and left many disappointed fans. ( Heads up. If you watch Kdramas on Netflix please be aware of their new trend of ‘seasons’ although they don’t tell you ahead of time. Kingdom, Love Alarm, Memories Of The Alhambra, and Vagabond all have non ending endings with their future ‘seasons’ only announced so far for Kingdom.)
A surprising national hit in Korea was Sky Castle and it got great ratings. In fact it is the highest rated series in Korean Cable TV history. I watched a few episodes and agree it was an interesting drama with solid acting and a topical storyline, but I tuned out after a while.
In 2019 proper I think I had a top four dramas in no particular order, and then a few decent dramas that I would still suggest watching.
The Secret Life Of My Secretary, starring Kim Young Kwang and Jin Ki Joo followed some tried and true Kdrama tropes. The stand offish boss, the likable secretary, someone trying to take the company away from the boss etc, but even though bits of it felt familiar it was actually a different story. Yes it followed some tropes but the circumstances, attitudes, and outcome were just different enough to make this an enjoyable drama.
Be Melodramatic is one I really wasn’t going to watch and in fact a couple of times almost stopped watching in the early episodes. It is the story of three friends in their 30’s who have careers in different aspects of the entertainment business. They all have different issues and troubles in their lives, but they manage to get through them with the support of each other. The main heroine is perhaps a little unlikeable in the beginning but by the end of the series I loved them all and particularly their interactions, support, and love for each other and towards the men in their lives. The romances are quirky and odd yet still relatable. In some ways Be Melodramatic may be best classified as a ‘slice of life’ drama and as such it perhaps slipped under people’s radar but give it a chance and I think you’ll enjoy it.
Her Private Life was an unexpected pleasure in the world of Kdramas. It was a love story where the main leads acted like adults. Kim Jae Wook as the main lead Ryan Gold the boyfriend we all wish we had. Sexy, yet understanding, he was also a great kisser and he definitely made a few hearts flutter. Park Min Young played Sung Deok Mi, an art curator who has a secret life as a Kpop fan running the fan-club for singer Cha Shi An played by the singer One. The fact that the drama allowed Sung Deok Mi to be a fully functioning adult while still having her own private life as a fan girl was quite refreshing particularly as she didn’t have to give it up once she had a boyfriend. Oh, Ryan Gold if only there were more of you out there.
Search: WWW could also perhaps be considered another slice of life drama this time set in the world of internet search engines. It also had three strong women as lead characters, but this was the story of ambition, power, betrayal, and friendship with love almost being of secondary importance. It also had one of my favorite characters of the year, Scarlet. The cast were all good and in some ways it was an ensemble piece except for the dynamism of the three main leads. Hye Jin jeon, Lee Da Hee and Im Soo Jung all did a great job bringing out the passions of their characters as well as our feelings towards them.
Then there were a few other dramas I enjoyed.
He Is Psychometric was an interesting journey into the unexplained. Park In Young of Got7 fame did a good job portraying a young man who can ‘read’ someone’s past just by touching them.
Hotel Del Luna was a fairly lavish extravaganza of a drama. Gorgeous outfits, lush layouts and pretty good special effects enhanced a twisted storyline. I.U. Yeo Jin Goo and a stellar ensemble cast drew everything together to make this an enjoyable watch. It did stutter along a couple of times when the individual ghost stories happened, but overall it came together. Not the best of the Hong sister’s dramas though.
Angels Last Mission: Love was quite popular with a lot of fans, but it was a bit too sad for me at times. A love story.
Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung was a fairly light and entertaining drama, perfect for when you want to get away from your real world problems.
Vagabond starring Lee Seung Gi and Bae Suzy was pretty much everything you could ask for from an action thriller, BUT for the ending. I’ll be careful from now on watching any Netflix produced Kdramas as quite a few of them stop without an ending.
The others that I completed were, Clean With Passion For Now, Level Up, Kill It, Love Alarm, and Extraordinary You. All of these were enjoyable, although not necessarily ones I would watch a second time. Dramas that I’m in the process of watching, The Tale Of Nokdu, Queen: Love and War, Crash Landing On You and Stove League which I’m really enjoying.
As for other Kdramas to consider Romance Is A Bonus Book with Lee Jong Suk and Lee Na Young didn’t particularly grab me, although it had the 4th highest viewership on a Korean Cable channel so a lot of people did enjoy it. Doctor Prisoner, The Fiery Priest and The Crowned Clown were also popular.
I hope you found a Kdrama from my recommendations to enjoy.
Have a great day everyone.
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