Dear Drama Overlords,
Another year has passed, and once again I spent an absurd amount of time watching and writing about your mighty works. In this light, I feel entitled to make a few small requests this holiday season. So here's my 2014 wish list, which should be considered a supplement to the you essentially ignored. (Although I suppose that it's possible the character of Young Do was created specifically to punish me for requesting that the second lead get the girl for a change?)
PRODUCE A SHOW THAT I'LL LOVE AS MUCH AS I LOVE COFFEE PRINCE. This is a tall order, and may in fact be impossible. To paraphrase a line from Edward Cullen, Coffee Prince is like my own personal brand of heroin. I've watched it again and again, and written reams about its various types of perfection--its premise, script, cast, and production values add up to a gem of a show that I will literally never forget. Making me feel that way again won't be as simple as just replicating Coffee Prince; if you do that, I'll spend all my time comparing the two shows. But you could borrow some general things, like the drama's low-key, everyday vibe. I like a show that feels lived in, and that's just what Coffee Prince's quiet moments and no-fuss settings achieved. Also, give me a heroine I can love, someone funny and real who doesn't need six pounds of makeup, a brand-name bag, and a sky-high skirt to to be happy. Another key ingredient is a hero who's cute and sweet without being a Kim Eun Sook-style jerk. (And don't forget the great skinship! A lip butt can really ruin a drama for someone with Western, tongue-kissing sensibilities.)
MAKE THE AMERICAN REBOOT OF NINE GREAT.Tumblr is abuzz with the incredibly dreadful , and appropriately so. It's so amateurishly done that it doesn't even merit discussion--it's like watching a dog try to drive a car. It may be a momentary distraction, but you know it will never work out in the end. I'm sure you would love to see one of your shows succeed in the States just as much as I would, but it definitely won't be this one. (Unless Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes a comeback. In that case you might just have a cult hit on your hands.) There is some hope, though: the possible actually sounds promising. Although this show is technically out of your purview, could you please use whatever sway you may have to make it watchable? Everyone I know thinks I'm odd for loving Korean drama. What a delight it would be to say, "That series you like on Tuesday nights? It's based on a Kdrama I watched last year. The original was better, of course." (Then I'd probably spoil them just out of spite.) I'm a little suspicious about the involvement of the production company behind The O.C. and The Carrie Diaries, but on the bright side Chuck Lorre isn't on the team and the show is under consideration by ABC, which means it might involve something more sophisticated than teen wank.
CAST KIM WOO BIN AS A ROMANTIC LEAD. Thanks to his treacherously charming performance in Heirs, Kim Woo Bin is all the rage on the Internet right now. If there's anything his newfound fans can agree on, it would be that it's time for him to become an on-screen man--he's paid his dues as an ensemble player and second lead, and is ready to tackle a starring role. At twenty-four, he's just old enough to play a true grownup in a romantic comedy. (Although that's perilous waters; as his Heirs castmate Lee Min Ho taught us, it's hard to go back to high school once you start taking on adult roles.) Typecasting is bad and all, but I'd love to see our Kim Woo Bin as another snarky bad boy who eventually develops a heart of gold--but whatever role he plays, just make sure he gets the girl this time around.
VISIT THE COUNTRYSIDE. I know that there's a huge movement toward city dwelling in Asia, but does that really mean that Korea's rural areas are as utterly vacant as they seem on TV? Nowadays, most dramas focus on cosmopolitan city folks who are rich enough to provide product placement opportunities for big-ticket items like cars and the latest tech devices. But once upon a time, you told stories about regular people with regular means living in regular places, and that made the drama landscape all the more varied and appealing. Would it kill you to set a drama somewhere other than Seoul or Busan? (I guess it probably would, as it might require shooting on location away from your production facilities. With your tendency toward live-shoots, this must be pretty difficult. Still. Give it a try!)
ENCOURAGE NEW VOICES IN THE ENGLISH-LANGUAGE KDRAMA COMMUNITY. When I started Outside Seoul in 2011, I was part of a new wave of international drama bloggers. Most of us had been exposed to your work via Netflix streaming, and we quickly became passionate consumers of all your programming. But this wave has pretty much subsided, and I rarely come across new drama blogs these days. This is probably because the newness of Korean drama has worn off for a lot of people, and also because blogging is actually really hard (if rewarding) work. Another possible reason? When a site like Dramabeans--the bible of the international Kdrama community--is for posting some images, people can get pretty spooked. And that's on you, Drama Overlords, for not policing your minions in the States. We Western fans are only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to marketing your shows, but we do contribute to your bottom line and will continue to do so as long as you make us welcome. I'd especially love to see more bloggers with alternate veiwpoints, like Black Cat from . In spite of our many differences, we Kdrama fans are actually a pretty homogenous lot when it comes to our tastes in television. We need someone to challenge us and shake us up, even if we don't always agree with them.
INCREASE THE STREAMING AVAILABILITY OF OLDER DRAMAS. It's great that streaming sites are carrying so many new shows these days, but I also want them to keep acquiring older ones. Classics probably don't drive traffic the way currently airing series do, but hosting them is still a service to the wider drama community and a good enticement for us to sign up for premium memberships. There are lots of great shows out there that are hard to find because their availability is so limited--Time between Dog and Wolf and White Christmas spring immediately to mind. Instead of letting something rot on a site like Mvibo that's never going to promote it properly, spread the love around. (And your YouTube channels don't count. It's through no real fault of your own, but they're horribly organized and all but impossible to use.)
ALLOW I NEED ROMANCE 3 TO BRING BACK THE ORIGINAL'S EDGY CHARM. While its sequel was a slightly sexier take on the standard drama, the first installment of I Need Romance actually had something to say about the lives of empowered women. I'm eagerly anticipating the third title in this series, especially because it stars Sung Joon as a besotted puppy in the midst of a romance with an older woman. Speaking of which, I don't want this to be one of the silly pseudo-noona romances you've been cooking up lately. He's not a 400-year-old alien and he can't read her mind--let the power differential tilt in her favor for a change. She's a grown up who has already figured out how to live life and he's a young buck still sorting out the details; it's only right that she should be the one to take the lead. (And maybe lust after his hot young bod while she's doing it. Because we all know that you're eternally kowtowing to female desire, even if you never acknowledge that such a thing exists.)
We spent 2013 laughing and crying together, my sweet Overlords. I look forward to another year basking in your glittery world of hot boys, melodramatic plot twists, and fated loves.