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I know I’m being kind of hard on Jang Geun Suk in Love Rain right now (it’s all harmless!), and at some level I know that it’s not his fault that he’s kind of creepy.  He’s been in some pretty fun dramas like Hong Gil Dong, and another Hong Sisters series, You’re Beautiful (SBS 2009 – 16 Episodes), this time as the lead – the perfectionist singer in an idol group.  This was the gender bender Hong Sisters drama (they seem to want to hit every genre out there), about a nun-in-training who has to pretend to be her twin brother, who has just been named the newest member of the pop sensation, A.N.JELL.  So I wouldn’t say this was one of the more realistic dramas out there, but it was still a fun story full of music, romance, and killer pigs.

Gemma/Go Mi Nyeo (Park Shin Hye) is a clear-eyed and pure hearted novice nun who has dreams of going to Rome, and meeting her mother again.  She and her twin brother, Go Mi Nam, were left at an orphanage when they were very young, and her brother vowed to become a famous singer so that his voice could reach their mother.  Since she knows how much these dreams mean to her brother, she agrees to take his place in the band when the slightly mangy manager, Hwan Hoon Yi (Kim In Kwon), comes looking for her.  It’s an emergency since Mi Nam can’t close his eyes – what’s an idol drama without something about the dangers of plastic surgery?  So she becomes Go Mi Nam (a pun on the title) – cue the obligatory hair cutting and chest binding (not as good as the one in Mulan, in my opinion).

The three other members are the playful Jeremy (Lee Hong Ki of the band FT Island), the mysterious (or you could say deadened) Kang Shin Woo (Jung Yong Hwa of the band CN Blue), and the finicky diva-leader Hwang Tae Kyung (Jang Geun Suk), who has a serious attitude problem.  They are suspicious of this new member, but of course she soon wins them over with her angelic voice and sunny disposition.  But what happens when two of them find out that the he is really a she?  Hilarity ensues, of course, as all three can’t help but fall in love with the strangely formal Mi Nam.  Lest the drama become just one big Mi Nam lovefest, we get the evil second girl, another star, Yoo He Yi  (UEE of After School), who is also interested in Tae Kyung, and who certainly does not have a sunny disposition.  Of course she also finds out the truth about Mi Nam, and, needless to say, hilarity does not ensue then.  How could He Yi put a wannabe nun through so much?

As in all dramas (or at least the better ones), there was a strong supporting cast here, starting with Choi Ran, the Hong Sisters stalwart, who probably had a career best with this one.  She played Choi Mi Ja, the kind of bad aunt to the Go Twins, who eventually moves in with the band since she’s on the run from loan sharks (or something – in dramas it’s either loan sharks or the people you’ve scammed).  She was so gross and earthy, that I haven’t been able to take her seriously ever since she first called Tae Kyung “Leader.”  The manager was also pretty funny, if not a little weird, and I wonder how realistic it was that he would have been the manager for a band as big as A.N.JELL.  I felt kind of bad for President Ahn (Jung Chan), the agency head, who was treated like a fool, and who seemed like the biggest ditz ever.  But still, why did he keep wanting to go to the public baths with Mi Nam?  There was also the A.N.JELL fan club (which could have been done better, I think), and Mo Hwa Ran (Kim Sung Ryung, Iljimae), Tae Kyung’s beautiful but cold mother who is notable because her name, when said really quickly, reminds me of a character from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Now I’m all about immature characters and far out plotlines, but somehow this drama just didn’t really work for me that much – it was almost as dumbed down as a Hong Sisters heroine.  The angst felt really forced and extended, and I started to hate Mi Nam for letting herself become a doormat for the second girl.  The music wasn’t the awesome pop heaven it was supposed to be, but I thought it was fun at the time and it was stuck in my head for the longest time, so maybe it did the job after all.  As for the related merchandise that every good Korean drama should make you want to own, I have to say that I didn’t want to buy the rabbit pig plushie as much as the Sam Soon pig, but I wouldn’t say no if someone wanted to give it to me.

The acting didn’t really jump out at me either.  Everyone was fine, and for a while Park Shin Hye did a pretty good job playing the goody-goody, mostly because she made it completely farcical.  I liked how she didn’t play Mi Nam as stereotypically masculine – she was just herself but she happened to be pretending to be a boy.  I guess Yoon Eun Hye kind of claimed the other kind of role in Coffee Prince anyway.  But that did kind of make it even more ridiculous that she could masquerade as a boy for that long.  And now as I look back, Jang Geun Suk’s strange grimaces were unique, I guess – I still remember them, and I can’t accuse him of just copying anyone else.

I also had trouble with the Tae Kyung character – I am so over those emotionally stunted boys who live to be cruel and can never admit their true feelings until it’s almost too late.  They are almost as annoying as the dumb heroine – some would call her naive I suppose – who lets the second girl walk all over her.  I know I hate it, but I honestly don’t know what I would do if the main girl was level-headed and took charge of her destiny.  The whole Korean drama industry might collapse.  I had read that Jang and Park were originally in contention for the leads in Boys over Flowers, and I’m so glad the drama went with Lee Min Ho.  This was probably the last decent thing Jang made, since he followed with the awful Marry Me, Mary!  No, I don’t think I will.  And I also kind of blame this drama for making Jang Geun Suk think that he is a musician.

Shin Woo-Hyung (Jung Yong Hwa) and Mi Nam (Park Shin Hye) were reunited in You’ve Fallen for Me, which didn’t do that well, so maybe there’s a reason the second leads don’t get the girl.  I’ve seen some of his performances, and I’m shocked that Jung Yong Hwa is such a different person from this character, which I had assumed was close to his true self (you know, quiet and sleazy).  So maybe he has some sort of awesome range.  But not as awesome as Kang Dong Ho (Wild Romance), who sang one of CN Blue’s songs and was really good.  I don’t think Lee Hong Ki had much to work with, though Jeremy, with his ties to the British aristocracy, had a lot of potential.  I just think those “childlike” characters are the kinds you would want to keep away from actual children.  I’m sorry Jeremy – you were a little creepy, especially with the second unfortunate haircut you got about mid-way through the series.

And yet, this drama did have many bright spots, and I remember enjoying it a lot as I was watching it, so whatever.  I think the drama did a pretty good job portraying how close the foursome was, and their late night supermarket runs were pretty cute.  And so far this has been the best drama about idols, I think.  This was my least favorite Hong Sisters drama, but it was still harmless, fluffy entertainment, so I would totally recommend it for some good, campy fun.  Hong Sisters dramas are like comfort food – you always kind of know what you’re getting, and it’s never really that bad.  But still, I’m hoping their new drama, Big, will be way, way better.  Though I have to say that this drama’s title is one of the best ones ever.

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Love Rain: Episode 1

Hong Gil Dong: Series Review

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My Girl: Series Review

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