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What K-Drama Tom Thinks Brian Should Watch

Tom Merritt
Tom Merritt
My friend Brian asked me to pick him one Korean drama to watch. He’s already watched Squid Game. So Brian, skip down to the end for the pick.
Here’s some of the things that I considered on the way to that decision.
DP - It’s a short and action-packed story of army draftees assigned to hunt down deserters. It’s a strong story though it does benefit with some familiarity with Korea’s compulsory military service culture and history so maybe not the best for the first view?
All of Us Are Dead - It’s a school zombie adventure that covers bullying, parental relationships and has stakes upon stakes upon stakes. It gets a little silly at points but holds together very well.
Uncanny Counter - This is silly. But it’s damn good fun silly. A young bullied student finds out he’s got powers and is recruited into a small group of superhuman who commune with heavenly spirits and fight demons. And they run a noodle shop.
W - Probably one of the most accessible shows I’ve watched. The daughter of a graphic novel artist and writer is hunting for him after he disappears only to find she can travel into the world of the graphic novel he wrote. Where she of course finds love.
Crash Landing On You (or “into you” depending on where you see it written). I mean. A woman who runs her own company independent of her rich father who has left her out of his own larger corporate plans, crash lands in North Korea and befriends the locals. And of course falls in love. She’s a bougie influencer who has to try to pass as a North Korean, and along the way learns what’s important in life. Also there are lots of spies.
Signal. A detective finds he can communicate with a dead detective in the 1980s over a walkie talkie. They work together to solve a cold case murder and stop the murderer from returning. You know where this is going but man is it fun.
Goblin. (Also known as Guardian: The Lonely and Great God) This is everybody’s choice for the quintessential Korean drama. An ancient goblin becomes roommates with a grim reaper. Along the way the goblin meets a student who might turn out to be the goblin bride that can release him from his centuries-long prison as a Goblin and let him pass on tot he next realm. But they fall in love (of course) and she might not want him to go.
Hotel Del Luna. One of my favorites! An ancient woman runs a hotel for people’s spirits after they die so they can figure out their stuff before hey move on. But she always needs a human to run the hotel (because reasons) and she tricks an up and coming hospitality professional to take over after the previous human leaves. Also they might fall in love.
Mr. Queen. A celebrity chef who has a way with the ladies falls in trouble with the mob and falls out of a window only to land in the late 1800s in the body of the Emperor’s fiancee. He has to pass as the future Queen while trying to figure out what happened and get back to his own time. The anachronisms are funny. The characters have depth and humor and the food is pretty great. This one wins my heart for funniest watch.
Twenty-Five Twenty-One. I mean. This is one of the best stories of any I’ve watched. In 1997 a high school student wants to become a famous fencer but her school’s program is canceled because of the financial crisis. Against her Mom’s wishes she gets transferred to the top school for fencing where she attends with her fencing hero. They immediately hate each other. Meanwhile the disgraced son of a ruined businessman meets her and helps her deal with the troubles of growing up, while he puts his own life back together. This is a complex story that deals with the reality of growing up and has me tearing up writing about it. It does not do what you expect. Also a huge 90s nostalgia bomb, even if you’re not from Korea.
Honorable mentions
Memories of Alhambra - Video game based story set in Spain with lots of intrigue and adventure. Some were disappointed with the ending.
Sweet Home - Great monsters
Lovers of the Red Sky - Excellent period piece with fun demons and deep characters.
Kingdom - Best zombies
Itaewon Class - An ex-con starts a pub to try to take down the big corporate pub-owners.
It’s OK To Not Be OK - A misanthropic children’s book author keeps crossing path with a mental hospital nurse and his autistic brother.
Hometown Cha Cha Cha - A fish out of water about a city dentist moving to a small town and learning to live with he local way of doing things.
Why? This is a risky choice but here’s why I think Brian will like it. He really likes depth of character and complexity and this show has the most of both for any K-drama I’ve watched. I think having three school-age daughters will help too.
And Brian, if you get bored after four episodes switch to Goblin, I guess. It’s the de facto choice in every list out there.
Happy watching folks!

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#438 - New Ruth Rising
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Tom Merritt
Tom Merritt @acedtect

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