Tuesday, January 17, 2012

first impression: Wild Romance (Korean)

Another round of K-drama Russian Roulette (sort of) brought me to picking up Wild Romance, currently being streamed by Drama Fever. I guess if not for Drama Fever, there are multiple series I would have never thought to start watching. (Case in point, I've recently finished Once Upon a Time In Saengchori, which I've only seen on Drama Fever. But I digress.)

Wild Romance isn't one of those series that's a must see, in accordance to what little promo there has been. Lee Si Young isn't someone I'm familiar with at all, but Lee Dong Wook has been a dramaland favorite ever since My Girl and Scent of a Woman. And so I couldn't help but to wonder what his next project would entail. After the semi-melodrama that was Scent of a Woman, I figured that it wouldn't hurt to see a little bit of Lee Dong Wook in a true form rom-com with hopeful laugh-out-loud humor, cheeky character personalities, and typical rom-com logic that gets you where you need to be. I was looking for something light-hearted and fun.

Having only seen the first episode so far, I have to say that I'm a little bit disappointed. The premise was a pretty good set-up (as all rom-coms usually are), but the build up and the execution of the main couple's relationship is starting off a bit too awkwardly shaky for my liking. What really makes me wince is that, sometimes what you need in some story lines really IS that initial set up -- the means to bring our two main leads together in some way, shape or form. We can always supply personal relations, forced working and/or living environments, or the infamous contractual relationship.

Wild Romance went for the contractual relationship, except, in this case, the contract happened to be a bodyguard/clientele relationship with no tie-ins to romance. The romance, I'm sure, is supposed to come later on when the two start spending more time with each other. Except, after Episode One's childish debacle, I'm not sure how we expect to get these two people to actually like each other outside of continually pulling each other's hair and throwing someone over a shoulder.

While I saw the set up as necessary, it still ended up dragging quite a bit. That was fine, I sat through it and waited patiently. The only advantage was the rush-rush of the set-up which lasted a whole of around ten to fifteen minutes; that's typically a good thing if the set-up doesn't drag on for two episodes and so this worked in the series favor. Unfortunately, somehow it still felt a bit draggy; maybe there are certain times where I'm actually hard to please. As soon as the set up was done and we've signed our contract, however, I was expecting some lively and interesting interaction. Instead, we get two immature twelve-year-old mentalities battling it out over who's baseball team is the better one by utilizing the most childish antics possible: name calling and a whole bucket full of "anything you can do I can do better."

Needless to say, I got a little frustrated and pretty much stone-faced it until the end of the first episode where I was relieved to see it finished.

It could have been a good bit of bantering, really. Both main leads had great comedic timing (especially Lee Dong Wook, true to form of his multiple random facial expressions). The antics could have been fun and witty. But it was like the series was trying way too hard to be funny and ended up just coming off tacky. I couldn't laugh cause I found the rest of the episode more nonsense than funny (which is usually NOT a good thing).

As I would like to mention, the premise is a good one. Lee Dong Wook is Park Moo Yul, a popular baseball player with a temper and bad attitude (surprise, surprise), and Lee Si Young is Yoo Eun Jae, the tomboy bodyguard for hire with a stubborn, spunky personality (again, surprise, surprise...). Neither of these two characters are anything outstanding and we seem to be taking a safe route in story line progression and character development department. As with all rom-coms, we have an arrogant bastard of a main male lead and the eternally cheerful yet also stubborn and hot-headed female lead. Oh, and she also sports the intelligence of an elementary school student.

Okay, not that I'm asking much, but for once in a rom-com, can we NOT employ the standard female lead with no brains trope? I understand that she's supposed to be a tomboy bodyguard, but does being brawny mean that she can't be quick-witted as well? And just because she's a bodyguard, why does she also have to look like a teenage boy? The short hair? The lack of modern fashion sense? Really?

And, Omigod! The maturity level of BOTH main leads! I could throw fits if I had been anticipating this series (which I'm glad I wasn't).

And then the main male lead: MUST we employ more arrogance, bad tempers and absolutely no charm? I mean, don't get me wrong, Lee Dong Wook is very charming and handsome, but the character role is once again the type that doesn't seem to mesh well with women. He's just ill-tempered all around. I'm starting to get some standard K-drama "Daddy Problem" vibes though, and I'm half hoping that this isn't really his issue.

But I get it; this is standard rom-com device. Even if our main male lead is supposed to be a gentleman, he'll be nice to every other person around him EXCEPT for the main female lead. This is where we lead into "sparks flying as a result of bickering" romance, which I don't mind if it's done correctly. It's a little illogical for the main male lead to be a gentleman to every other woman but the main female lead for the sole reason that she got on his nerves at first impression, but I accept those because of the love line's direction.

Unfortunately, the hostility between our main male lead and female lead in Wild Romance isn't so much "sparks flying with bickering" as it is punches and verbal not-so-witty bantering going back and forth without any sense of meaning, mostly centering around their passions for their respective baseball teams. As I repeat myself, these two are so far, just two kids looking to fight each other for no reason other than the fact that they don't like each other because they both stand on opposing teams. Park Moo Yul is the celebrity player of one baseball team and Yoo Eun Jae happens to be a diehard fan of the opposing rival team.

I personally don't know much about sports team rivalries since I'm not one to really follow sports. I know we get a lot of tough competition between fans (football season in America is pretty antsy). So I don't know if hostilities really run THAT deep to the point that a bodyguard would disregard her post and let her client be egged just because he's an arrogant asshole (okay, maybe he had it coming to him anyway). What I'm saying is, however, that I don't know if I've seen so much childishness within the last ten to fifteen minutes of an episode. I'm almost not even wanting to touch the next episode, but I know I should at least give it a fighting chance. A lot of other netizens seem to be enjoying it, and I'd hate to check out of it so quickly just because the first episode got off on a bad start (in my opinion).

I mean, I'm the girl who managed to sit through Hero, God of Study, AND Lie To Me (even if with little enthusiasm and a lot of frustrated eye rolls).

We shall see where the rest of this series is headed though. Because as I've already stated, the premise is a good one. Two people who start off hating each other end up in a bodyguard/client relationship and antics ensue. It almost made me think of Protect the Boss, but the ultimate premise of Protect the Boss wasn't so much a bodyguard type relationship, and despite the shaky story line, the world of Protect the Boss was still rather uniquely built with each main character being pretty non-standard and lots of fun to follow.

The side supporting characters of Wild Romance seem rather non-existent so far, but I'm a little drawn to Park Moo Yul's manager Kim Tae Han (Kang Dong Ho) who seems the more calm and level-headed part of the series. Lee Won Jong as Yoo Eun Jae's father does an excellently comedic, die-hard baseball fan who is also loud, unreasonable, and a bit manipulative. Oh Man Suk is also a personal favorite and I'm waiting to see what his character role will turn out since it seems he may be more of the secondary male lead with a rather charming and genteel personality. And then Hwang Sun Hee (whom I only recognize from her role in City Hunter as the strangely charming veterinarian) has made an appearance, but not much about her character is known yet aside from being romantically tied to Park Moo Yul somehow.

I'm hoping that Wild Romance can at least rope me in for a good first half ride and then I'll let it spiral out of control after that. I don't like dropping series mid-way in, but I've already had to do it once in K-dramaland, and I know that there is always a possibility for it happening again. But we'll see where this series leads me. There are already a LOT of new series I've been anticipating and I'm not too averse to dropping a faulty series in favor of one that I would be more excited about.


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