When making the list of the best dramas in 2019, I was guided by very subjective feelings. The most important criterion was how much I was waiting for the next episode and how much this particular drama was in my head. Recently, I’m very picky and it was hard to find something interesting. Many dramas from this list were a great positive surprise for me. I didn’t watch many popular titles because I didn’t have time. I watched Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese dramas this year.
1.”Before We Get Married”
Zhou Wei Wei has been in a happy relationship for 3 years. Together with her boyfriend, they plan every expense to ensure a better future. Chu Ke Huan is a capable and rich stock broker stuck in 10 years in an unsatisfactory relationship with his wasteful girlfriend. Pure coincidence makes Zhou Wei Wei and Chu Ke Huan cross the road. He teases her and tries to seduce, for pure fun. At first, the girl considers him an ordinary charmer and pervert, so she resists with doubled strength. Her resistance arouses his even greater interest. Over time, after many turbulent conversations and moments spent together, the girl begins to doubt whether her long-term life plan makes sense. The worst part is that she begins to notice numerous features on her relationship with Li Hao Lyn, who doesn’t seem as perfect anymore.
With this drama, I felt painfully that Taiwanese dramas are released only once a week. The greatest asset of this drama was the extraordinary chemistry between the actors and their passionate kisses. It’s one of those dramas where it was getting really hot. The drama’s action is primarily focused on the main characters and their love dilemmas, obligations towards the partner and possible betrayals. There are no unexpected twists and turns, just a lot of thinking about male-female relationships. For some, the dilemma of the main heroine was very annoying, but for me all her doubts were very natural and very human. Sure, it’s easy to have an affair, but then what. I have the impression that thanks to the doubts that Che Ku Huan has planted in her, she matures and for the first time begins to think about herself and what she wants from life. A very cool, romantic drama with hot scenes and a crazy friend of the main character. I consider the ending to be the perfect finale of the whole story.
(13 episodes x about 70 minutes)
2.”He is Psychometric”
At the age of 8, Lee Ahn loses his parents in a great fire. Miraculously rescued, the boy discovers new and unusual skills. When he touches another person or an object, he can read memories associated with them. At first he does not understand his new powers, but as a teenager, he is going to use this to catch criminals. Thanks to this, he wants to help his adopted brother (prosecutor) and friend (policewoman) who always helped him in difficult situations. One day at school, a new girl appears, an extremely bright Joon Jae-In, who at all costs tries to hide her true identity. Despite the difficult beginnings, a thread of understanding is born between her and Ahn.
I have to admit that I wasn’t interested in this drama at all until I read many favorable reviews on the Internet. I started watching it when all the episodes were available, so I could afford a weekend marathon. I watched the first few episodes in a flash. The series begins lightly and comedically, but with each episode there are more and more mysterious, difficult to explain situations. The atmosphere thickens, tension increases, and the series gets really dark. Big applause belongs to the whole cast. Even the smallest roles have been well portrayed. The end surprised me a lot, but I also liked it a lot. I totally didn’t expect this finale. Many viewers were very disappointed in this ending, but I think that thanks to this drama gained some deeper meaning. I recommend this drama to people who like surprising twists and emotional rollercoster.
(16 episodes x about 60 minutes)
SKY CASTLE is the name of a closed and exclusive estate where mainly families of doctors and lawyers live. In the drama we learn the fate of four ambitious wives and mothers. The sense of their lives is to support their husbands in their careers, and to provide children with ideal learning conditions so that in the future they can become students of the most prestigious universities in the country. A sudden and unfortunate event destroys the peaceful and perfect life of these families. Numerous hidden secrets begin to come to light, and new tenants confuse people with different values and a look at life.
“Sky Castle” is a huge commercial hit of JTBC station, which achieved the highest viewership among cable television. I started watching it while the episodes were being broadcast. It was one of the few series in which I did not rewind a minute, because I was afraid that I would miss something important. I admit that I liked the scenes with the ambitious Kang Ye Seo (the sensational role of Kim Hye Yoon) and the cunning Kim Hye Na (Kim Bo Ra) the most. Both figures were black and white, both girls I felt sorry for the life they led, both were innocent in their own way, entangled in the dirty and ruthless world of adults. “Sky Castle” is a story perfect for those who like drama with elements of black comedy, thriller and secrets. In an unusual way, it shows the unhealthy ambitions of upper-class parents who turn education into a brutal game in which their own child is usually the biggest loser.
(20 episodes x about 60 minutes)
4.”Failing in Love”
Kang Pa Rang suffers from anxiety disorders associated with separation after traumatic childhood experiences. He desperately wants to be in a romantic relationship, so every week he confesses his love to another girl, even his best friend and neighbor, Lee Shi Woon. Unfortunately, every one, without exception, rejects it. A depressed boy also can’t count on the support of his two classmates – Kim Geon, who takes up a lot of jobs to support his family, and anti-social Lee Shi Eon, whose friends consider him a psychopath. They are all 18 and enter a difficult period in their lives, in which they have to answer many questions, and one of them is: where is the border between friendship and love?
This drama surprised me very pleasantly. It is a warm and funny story about young, lonely and lost people, hungry for the feelings of another person. I liked all the characters very much. I admit, that I was supporting LEEx2, but the drama leaves us at such a moment that we do not know what will happen – such open ending. The whole cast, despite their young age, did a great job. Kang Pa Rang was simply charming in his naivety and simplicity, and Lee Shi Eon had that mysterious magnetism that was hard to resist. Each of the characters conducted an internal monologue, so in fact the viewers had the chance to enter the heads of the main characters and could find out what they really thought. You can see that the theme of this drama is not love, but unconditional friendship. At first, it seems that each of the characters had some hidden motives establishing friendship with others, but at the end it turns out how this feeling can be selfless. The only bad thing about this drama is its length. It’s definitely too short for such a great production.
(10 episodes x 25 minutes).
Bae Ta-Mi works for Unicon, one of the largest web portals in Korea. She devoted her whole life to work, which translated into numerous successes in this sphere. Unfortunately, a scandal breaks out in which Unicon is accused of manipulating the keywords in his search engine. Bae Ta-Mi is forced to take full responsibility for the situation. She is dismissed from work immediately. The owner of Barro – a company competing with Unicon – comes to the rescue. He employs Ta-Mi at his place and together they create a plan on how to become number one on the search engine market and beat Unicon. In the meantime, Ta-Mi meets the much younger composer of the game music for Park Mo-Gun, with whom she is having an affair.
If you are looking for a drama with strong female characters, this is the drama. This production destroys all stereotypes of Korean dramas, where the woman’s goal is to find a rich husband and give him a bunch of sweet children. Men create a second plan here, and women in this drama are beautiful tanks in skirts. If they wish to destroy you, you’ll get a blow between your eyes and you won’t even know when. Scarlette, Tammy and Song Ka-Kyung know what they want from life and do not ask others for their opinion. I watched with great pleasure women who are passionate about life and work, but at the same time miss the closeness of a man who would be their partner, not their master. This drama shows that despite many differences and world views, women can fight for a common goal and be in solidarity. A huge plus is the great soundtrack.
(16 episodes x about 60 minutes)
Eun Dan-O is a student at a prestigious high school. She comes from a rich house, has a rich fiancé who, unfortunately, doesn’t reciprocate her feelings and is terminally ill with heart disease. One day she starts to hear strange sounds, have holes in her memory and behave differently. A mysterious cafeteria employee explains to her that she and all her friends are characters in the comic book “Secret”. But this is not the end of surprises. Eun Dan-O experiences another disappointment when she finds out that she is not playing the main role, but is only a side character. When she loses hope for a better fate, the mysterious student unexpectedly changes her destiny. The girl at all costs tries to find her savior and persuade him to try to save her life, threatened by an incurable disease.
Nobody expected such a great success of this drama. In my opinion, this is more than a simple romantic comedy. I have the impression that many viewers did not pay attention to the other bottom of this drama. Personally, this series forced me to consider many things. Each of us is set in a life role that has a specific character (mother, daughter, friend, boss). Not everyone wants to behave as his social role commands him, just like Eun Dan-O. It’s just that, unlike most people, she tries to fight her destiny, she doesn’t agree with her fate. It shows us that small changes are possible if you want. A beautiful picture of love also flows from the way Haru treated Eun Dan-O. True love is when you are the main hero for this chosen person, when that person respects your choices and independence and listens to what you have to say. In the art lesson, a simple image of shoes forces the viewer to consider existence. What is real and what is false? Who decides about it?Just like they are characters in the comic book – are they real or not? It turns out that everything can be interpreted in many ways. “Extraordinary You” is beautifully filmed, well played, and wonderful instrumental music only completes the whole. Of course, we will find many holes in the story here, but that did not bother me at all. I was totally enchanted by this drama. I often laughed but cried too. I like that it is not entirely clear where the author’s power ends. Is what our heroes take for their free will is also included in the comic book script? What fate awaits them in the next story?
(16 episodes x about 60 minutes)
Im Jin-Joo, Lee Eun-Jung, Hwang Han-Joo live together and have been friends for a long time. Now that they are 30 years old, they began to look at their lives. Jin-Joo is an assistant to the popular drama writer. Stuck in this job, although she always had greater ambitions. When the eccentric director is interested in her original script, Jin-Joo abandons her full-time job and starts working on her own. Eun-Jung is an outstanding documentary film director. She tries to rationally treat her life, but her beloved’s death causes her deep depression. Han-Joo is a single mother of a small son and works hard to support them. Despite hard moments, he tries to be positive about life. Their friendship is their infinite source of strength and support. They know that together they will survive everything.
This drama is a great example that low viewership is not always a sign of low production. “Be Melodramatic” is a wonderful story about life, hard times, sadness, closeness and love in many colors. The subject seems to be heavy, but given in an interesting way. On the one hand, the drama is full of malicious, sarcastic humor (I haven’t laughed that long in a while), and on the other hand it shows how difficult and painful love can be. The big advantage of this drama are the wonderful characters (there is not one that I could not like), a beautiful soundtrack, but above all brilliant and funny dialogues. I love all the scenes of Jin-Joo and her eccentric director, or when she talks to her mother. It is also interesting that this series shows the whole process of creating Korean drama as a television product, from finding a cool story through script writing, to looking for actors, music and product placement.
(16 episodes x about 60 minutes)
8.”Arsenal Military Academy”
Year 1911. Xie Xiang goes to military school dressed up as her brother, who unexpectedly lost his life in an accident. His dream was to study at the academy and fight to defend the country. To honor his memory, Xie Xiang decides to survive the murderous two years and become a soldier. Only her close friend knows her secret. Pretending to be a man in a male school is not easy, especially when you have an unbearable roommate – Gu Yan Zhen, who always gets them in trouble. Thanks to strict rules and hard training, most students establish a strong bond and friendship that is invaluable in hard and politically troubled times. In addition, Xie Xiang becomes the object of feelings of several men, and her male disguise adds extra chaos.
Another pleasant surprise this year. The number of episodes discouraged me from starting this drama for a long time, but very good reviews on the Internet left no doubt – I had to give this drama a chance. From the first episode I loved this series and all the heroes. I’ve seen a lot of stories about girls disguised in the men’s world, but none of them was as addictive. Xie Xiang is noticeably shorter and weaker than her schoolmates, but with her determination and great will to fight, she earns their respect. More than once she kicked (literally) male butts and saved her friends from oppression. “Arsenal Military Academy” is a historical drama, very patriotic, but also very funny and charming. Her conflicts with Gu Yan Zhen are hilarious, and the beautiful Qu Man Ting has won my heart with her direct lifestyle and full independence. This drama is full of strong and determined female characters, which was a big surprise for me considering the times in which the story takes place. The first half of the series is more light and fun, and the second half is definitely more serious. It is then that our heroes, relying on their brotherly friendship, must face together the greatest enemies of the country they swore to serve.
(48 episodes x 45 minutes)
9.”Put My Head On My Shoulder”
Si Tu Mo is in the last year of accounting, but her dream is to work in the advertising industry. Unfortunately, looking for a job does not go as if she wished. Since high school, she has a crush on her friend Fu Pei and hopes that in the future their relationship will become more romantic. Unfortunately, Fu Pei is quite reckless and often disappoints her, and difficult situations are increasingly saved by his roommate from the dorm, a pragmatic physics student Gu Wei Yi. Thanks to her mother’s acquaintances, Si Tu Mo moves to an apartment, from which she has a closer distance to her apprenticeship. Over time, it turns out that her roommate and owner of the new apartment is a new friend – Gu Wei Yi. Against her will, after her mother’s intervention, Si Tu Mo is forced to live with him for a longer period.
If you want to watch a very nice, calm and sweet drama, I recommend “Put Your Head On My Shoulders”. This drama will brighten even the darkest winter day. Si Tu Mo is very optimistic about life and cheerful, but she lacks the annoying naivety that often characterizes heroes like her. However, Gu Wei Yi is almost a walking ideal – tall, handsome and very clever. His only weakness is rarely showing emotions and being too practical. Despite his very stoic attitude on a daily basis, he can be terribly cute and sweet, especially when Si Tu Mo needs help. Such small gestures, such as the case of a hair elastic, mean that you can’t not love him. I like that their feeling is building slowly. Each of them develops it slowly and at their own pace. Remember to watch each episode to the end, because there is an epilogue to the episode, which often explains some situations.
(24 episodes x 45 minutes)