Ranking the Hong sisters' 9 dramas
The Hong Sisters' newest drama, Jeju Island Gatsby (aka Warm and Cozy), is coming exclusively to DramaFever on May 13! Become a fan of the series HERE to receive new episode alerts.
As a new K-drama fan, I had the great good fortune to find a lovely little drama called Greatest Love. Or rather, my K-drama tour guide plunked me down on the couch, turned it on, and two days later I emerged blinking into the sun. Wiping the tears from my eyes, looking longingly down at my empty coffee cup, and feeling viscerally satisfied that not all K-drama heroes looked 17 years old, I learned the keys to K-drama happiness were two ladies known as the Hong Sisters.
As we wait breathlessly for their newest installment, Jeju Island Gatsby (aka Warm and Cozy), I thought we could have a little fun and rank the Hong Sisters' catalog. And by "we" I mean "I." OK! I'll put a poll in for you! See how I love you?
9.) Hong Gil Dong - On paper this show has everything going for it. I had immense love for Kang Ji Hwan from his role in Lie To Me, the first non-high school, rom-com K-drama I ever watched. (Side note: The soda pop kiss is on my list of "watch it to feel better" K-drama scenes) From the genre bending to the ending, I felt unable to get a hold on Hong Gil Dong. It's still cuts above many a run-of-the-mill K-drama, but to me it is the weakest entry.
8.) Big - This little gem of a romance sounds so crazy when you try and explain it to anyone who doesn't watch K-dramas: amnesia, strange illnesses, body swapping, noona romance, nefarious relations! Oh and Bae Suzy as the craziest wannabe girlfriend ever! This show has love triangles within love triangles, but it manages to be held sweet and true by Lee Min Jung. The woman who could live chastely with Gong Yoo making goo goo eyes at her is a saint.
7.) You're Beautiful - The wet patter you hear are fans spewing their drinks all over their screens. I'll say it: this show was almost number 9. NINE, yo! She got the wrong guy in the end. Duck Face McGuyLiner had a reason to be pouty, I grant you, but for her to pick the tortured artist over Jung Yong Hwa with his sweet eyes, kind ways, and OH YEAH enough brain cells to figure out she was a girl right away? The only reason this drama clocks in at number 7 is Lee Hong Ki, whose eternal optimism in the face of heartbreak won him a fan for life.
6.) Delightful Girl Choon-Hyang - This rendition of a folktale is leagues ahead of Hong Gil Dong and is the first Hong Sister drama. The sassy Joseon vignettes are a delight in themselves. There are so many funny little things tucked away throughout this show that the see saw of a relationship between Han Chae Young and Jae Hee never lost momentum.
5.) My Girl - I'll be honest: Numbers 5 through 2 on this list could be switched around depending on my mood. They are all strong entries that I rewatch and come back to. My Girl is the first time I honestly didn't care which guy got the girl; I loved them both equally. I knew I'd be crushed on behalf of whichever cousin lost out. Lee Da Hae as Joo Yoo Rin was absolutely believable. Every choice she made from picking tangerines to creating her own tour group underlined the reality of who she was. Every writer who wants to write a "poor girl falls for rich guy" story needs to watch this to see how it is done.
4.) Couple or Trouble - I knew this was based off of the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell movie Overboard when I started it, and I was extremely curious how on earth they would do it. Let's face it: preening princesses are not the most lovable of protagonists. Yet, and yet, they managed to make you like Han Ye Seul's Joanna without changing the essentials of who she was. This is a drama where you spend the time laughing your head off and saying out loud, "I know that person!"
3.) My Girlfriend Is a Nine-Tailed Fox - Lee Seung Gi is as cute as a button, but this is Shin Min Ah's show. The energy and enthusiasm she brings bursts from the screen, and it is her potential heartbreak or death at the hands of No Min Woo's mysterious antagonist that rev up the feels. Like other Hong Sister dramas, this drama is populated by a whole cast of characters who seem vibrant and real with their own concerns, romances and goals — Chicken Ahjummah, the Real Action Director, and Seung Gi's loopy Auntie own their screen time.
2) The Greatest Love - This drama is about what grown ups are like. Too many rom-coms center on young, baby faced people with whom you sometimes wonder what on earth their relationship will do when real life kicks in (I'm looking at YOU High School, Love On). But Cha Seung Won and Gong Hyo Jin manage to impart a level understanding about the difficulties of overcoming the little things, the stuff that crops up after the glossy shine of a new relationship wears off. That you knew Doko Jin was the riskier choice for Ae Jung's heart — and still cheered him on — is testament to the writing. That this is the same choice as in You're Beautiful, and I'm being inconsistent in my approval, is a testament to the performances.
1) The Master's Sun - My regular readers will have guessed that this is my number one pick from before I even wrote this article. It is not, I insist, just because So Ji Sub is miraculously beautiful like a Korean Michelangelo's David. It is because of Gong Hyo Jin's character arc. She conquers her fear. I know it seems like a little thing, but it is a huge thing. Character arcs are often minimal or even static. The bitchy girl becomes less bitchy. The cold hearted guy was revealed to have a warm heart. Someone learns a lesson about kindness. Blah, blah, blah. Overcoming a life lived in fear is major, especially when you really do have something to be fearful of. Her transformation enables the happily ever after. Each episode is packed with humor, chills, romance, and stakes large and small. And a Korean David.
What do you think drama fans? Vote for your favorite in the poll and talk to me in the comments! Look for me in the Jeju Island Gatsby Drama Club.
Where do you think Jeju Island Gatsby will rank? See the latest trailer below:
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