I swore that I would never watch another daily drama after the painfulness that was Happiness in the Wind, but I started watching Sent from Heaven (Seonnyeo ga Pilyohae, literally I Need a Fairy) on KBS America without really thinking about it. This is a shorter (60 episodes, I think) sitcom, not a downery, depressing daily drama about how hard marriage can be or how a student can later fall in love with his ahjumma teacher. So I can be excused for watching a few episodes of this.
The basic plot comes from the famous Korean fairy tale, “The Fairy and the Woodcutter,” which is about how a wily woodcutter traps a fairy into becoming his wife. Briefly: Once upon a time, a marriage-minded woodcutter spied some fairies bathing at the celestial springs and decided to steal some of their magical clothes which allowed them to fly back to heaven. He knew that all he would have to do is help a fairy, bring her back home, and once they had been living together she would fall in love with him (so that’s where the K-Dramas got that idea from). But if she were to get her clothes back, she would leave. And she does (leave, that is). And that’s it. The end.
This drama takes that basic (kind of depressing) framework, and makes some additions. Like, a lot of additions – like, there are too many people in this drama. The woodcutter is now Cha Se Joo (Cha In Pyo, Gye Baek), a director who likes to carve wood and who is filming a movie called Sent from Heaven. He lives with his brother, Cha Se Dong (Lee Doo Il, President), and his two children, a wannabe actor son Cha Guk Min (Park Min Woo, Flower Boy Ramyun Shop) and a smart and pretty daughter in high school, Cha Na Ra (Woo Ri, You’ve Fallen for Me).
And then there are two fairies, Chae Hwa (Hwang Woo Seul Hye, My Love, My Family) and her mother (Shim Hye Jin, Stormy Lovers), who get stuck on earth once some movie extras steal their clothes. And then for some reason there’s a fried chicken place which featured pretty prominently in the first two episodes, owned by the comic relief character of Geum Bo Hwa (Park Hee Jin, The Miracle of Love) and run by her long-suffering employees, including delivery girl Lee Ha Ni (Min Ji, The Princess’ Man). I’m sure it’s there for a reason.
I don’t love any of the actors enough to continue watching just for them alone. I’m the most familiar with Hwang, having seen her in the disturbing weekend drama My Love, My Family. Her creepy, vaguely incestuous character did not recommend the actress to me. But she seems fine here, where she doesn’t have to play someone in love with a kind of relative. I guess that’s a benefit of a fairy falling in love with a human – they can’t possibly be related.
I don’t actually know why Cha In Pyo is in this role – I don’t think he’s generally a comedian. Something new, I guess. I’m probably next familiar with the director’s brother, Lee Doo Il. He was great in the 641 Family where he played a genius inventor with genius kids. Have you not seen it?
As I was watching I kept comparing it to My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho (a super fun drama) which has a similar plot – supernatural being plopped down in a less than friendly new world. It looks like they’re going for high camp here, which isn’t too surprising considering the PD team did Hello Franceska, a high camp sitcom about vampires. Many of the actors here were also in Franceska, so they probably have a built-in sense of camaraderie. And that must mean that they’re also used to the laugh track of a Korean sitcom. I couldn’t get over how jarring the laugh track was – why would Korean sitcoms have laugh tracks? I refuse to laugh when they tell me to.
I hope that the drama doesn’t follow the fairy tale too closely and ends with Chae Hwa and Se Joo getting together. I don’t think I’ll continue to watch this drama that faithfully, but it was ok so far. If I need a fairy, I’ll know where to go.
The Secret of Roan Inish (for more on “The Fairy and the Woodcutter” and related fairy tales)