End of a Decade of Drama Watching


Trotwood: As usual, at the end of every semester, I make a list of things I need to do or about which I need to think or things I need to not forget. On that list was this blog's end of year post. I hadn't heard anything about it, so I innocently messaged our fearless leader, worrying that I had forgotten a message about it. But you know how that goes. If you ask a question, you end up being the person in charge.😊

Thus, if you were looking for our usual best/worst dramas of 2019 and are disappointed, don't blame anyone but me. I'm the one that wanted to look back long-term. It is the end of a decade after all. I don't know about you, but my life both personally and professionally is completely different than what it was ten years ago. Much of it has to do with the influences that dramas in general and this blog in particular have had on me. I want to thank all the writers here for the warm welcome and our readers for indulging my less than popular drama contributions. It's been a ride.

So I asked our regular contributors to for their input in the categories below. I can't wait to see what our readers say and what dramas you recommend. If we recapped a show mentioned in the blog, I provided a links to the first recaps. Just click on the titles below to go see them if you're curious. For the amount of times I had to link it, we really really want people to take a look (or another one) at Pied Piper.


kakashi: My top drama experiences have a lot to do with this blog and the interactions I had with people who either blogged with me or came here and commented. Love you all!

Number ONE: Three Lives, Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms. OF COURSE :D We did a crazy schedule back then, recapping one episode a day! It was almost like a full-time job for a while, and the number of comments!!! Insane!!! And then, the fanfiction writing started! I immensely enjoyed that, all aspects of it.

Number TWO: Cruel City. I'll always remember the feeling this drama gave us when we watched much more than the story. It is rare that a drama manages to give you not one, but about 10 characters you connect with deeply. The noir-feeling in this one is phenomenal and the OST will always make me shout: "Paksa Adeul"! (There were others like Beautiful Bride that fall in the same category)

Number THREE: Hmmmmm, this is hard. I looked through the list of dramas we recapped and there are so many that should be mentioned!!! Age of Feeling, Bad Guys, Ice Fantasy (hahaha, I had fun), Old Nine Gates.... but of course, it has to be Nirvana in Fire. The first Chinese drama we recapped and wow, we learned so much from the translators and subbers that came to the blog back then.

(A) Hating Heirs He Who Wears The Crown Must Bear The Weight. Also known as He Who Wears Ugly Sweaters Gets Laughed At. I had the most fun of any SqueeCap we did, just bashing everything from the sheer number of characters scurrying around, to the execrable fashion, to a bad bad case of Second Lead Syndrome. I'm still mad - why didn't Young-do get the girl in the end? Okay, she kissed like she was touching her lips to a frozen salmon covered in acid, but hey, if that what he likes, that's what he should get. Plus we all got turns writing the episodes. Plus the show spawned my first fanfiction. Fun!

(B) Multiple Adaptations: I love watching the same story from the perspective of another country / culture. This decade gave us a lot of those. A good example is Fated To Love You (Taiwan 2005), which gave rise to You Are My Destiny (South Korea 2014) and Prom Mai Dai Likit (Thailad 2018). And let's not forget our dear pineapple in 2018's Mainland China version of Meteor Garden!

(C) A Fundamental Switch in Watching Habits: As I review my watchlist (which numbers in the hundreds of shows), I realize that my viewing has shifted from South Korea, to Thailand, to Mandarin language (Mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore). It's also moved from rom-coms, through police procedurals and mysteries, to BL and fluffy coming-of-age storylines. 

SakiVI: It wasn't made in this decade, I don't think, but I saw it in this decade and fell for Asian dramas because of it, so Great Queen Seondeok. Lord Bidam, you will ever be my Drama Dream Man. Then Cruel Palace, with the best anti-heroine and the most saintly Crown Prince and Crown Princess that I ever loved and rooted for all at once togetherImagine a show where you want both sides to win!

Plus, those two historicals got me reading and learning about Korean culture and history and loving it like I used to with French and British history.  If learning makes a person more complete, then I'm more complete because of Queen Seondeok and Cruel Palace, especially the latter because it gave little historical notes.  

And oh, good Heaven Above, The Lost Tomb. It got me recapping and falling for my other great love in dramas after historical costume shows, fantasy tomb-raiding/underground, like literally, with a touch of history and a lot of mystery.  

Panda: I thought I would struggle with this section but it was surprisingly easy πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ

#1 Fated to Love you: This drama brought me fully into the online kdrama watching community. I had been watching dramas and talking with a couple of real life friends, then FTLY started and I couldn't help myself from writing thesis long comments and replies on DB. I was all in with Snail and  her crazy laugh and hair hero. The drama concluded, me and my merry band moved finally to twitter and the rest is history.

#2 Nirvana in Fire: The feels men! The feels!!!! My first cdrama was a home-run straight out of the park. I remember getting hooked and having long conversations both on TL and in DMs with Issy, looking for translated bits of the novel, watching raw unsubbed episodes and crying my eyes out at several places. It was such an intense memorable experience that still stands out to me till this day.

#3 Three Lives, Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms: And finally of course Peaches!!! This raised the bar to lofty heights. Loved the TL conversations, then moved to this blog and the comments and discussions (love and miss them). This drama gave me an unforgettable watching experience when I and about 12 other twitter chingus had a google hangout to watch the finale. That was such an amazing experience and it will always have my heart for that. It also lead to me writing fanfiction!!!

Honorable mentions: Story of Yanxi Palace: Because not only did it give me the incomparable Yingluo, but it is also the first drama I watched with my husband. And he was totally invested πŸ˜ƒ Others include: Punch, Nigeru Haji, and Nobunaga Concerto.

Jo:  I started watching dramas in either late 2009 or early 2010, can't really remember.  I know I watched Goong first, and then didn't watch anything for a little bit, but when I picked up dramas again it was like crack.   For this reason, two of my Top 3 Experiences have to be very early:

1.  Goong - It was such an eye-opening thing for me.   I had to know about the clothes, the language, everything.  Was there a connection between hanbok and hanbokaeyo?  What was that word, sarang, that I kept hearing?  What was wrong with people's HAIR styles?  (Actually, that question continues today, but to a lesser extent.)

2.  Let's Go to School, Sang Doo - Drama Baby Jo was completely unaware that in a Korean drama, a heartwrenchingly sad ending won't necessarily be hinted at forever, like in an American drama. Or maybe it's just that DBJ wasn't savvy enough to pick up the hints, but anyway, the ending here wrecked me.  Like, 'I may have to stop watching these dramas' wrecked me.  I mourned Sang Doo like he was a member of my family - cried so hard my daughter became concerned, so hard that I actually stayed home from work the next day.  I was too upset TO GO TO WORK.  Over a fictional character.  Drama Me now has a harder heart, but every now and then someone gets through.  *sobsMyWolfsobs*

3.  It's a toss-up here between Cruel City and WTF ParisThe first because we lost our collective minds over that drama, and not just for Paksa Adeul.  It was stylish and slick and the MUSIC, oh my God.  Plus, Paksa.  And Safari! And Cutie Soo - where IS he these days?  THIGHS - can't forget Thighs, can we?  And then, WTF Paris because hello, W the F was that?  We loved it even as it horrified us with how terrible it was, and this is where I learned that a terribly bad drama done with full conviction is probably my most favorite thing to watch.  Of note, by the time these last two played I was involved here, with PotUp - and that group experience definitely brought significant enjoyment.

1)Being Asked to Participate as a Contributor to this Blog: This has got to be my best experience of the decade and probably why I thought of this category. Participating in the blog made drama watching much more than just liking some shows with subtitles. I had commented on lots of rooms before, but to participate and get to know people from around the world that also had the same passion for dramas and wanted to have conversations about them the way I had conversations with colleagues about literature really got me through a lot of hard times.

2)Thumping Spike: This was the first recapping/squeecapping project I had ever done, and I sometimes reread them not because I think they are especially good but because I need to recapture the feeling I had doing it. We had so much fun. The warmth and the snark and those tight white jeans on Lee Tae Wan and finally Song Jae Rim got the girl he deserved. Plus there was volleyball, and I'm a sucker for the losing team trope.

3)The BL Word: If you would have told me when I started my Thai drama journey that what would rescue me from being burnt out from 90-minute episodes would be angst-filled stories about young men facing the angst (and sometimes the goofiness) of recognizing they may be gay a decade ago, I would have raised my eyes at you. It's not like I didn't watch such shows before, but I think the proliferation of the number of the shows, the worldwide community and frankly support network that I've used to even help some of students does not cease to amaze me.

TOP 3 DRAMAS OF THE DECADE (not necessarily the same as above)

kakashi: Those would be my top 3 dramas, huh. Well, that's Chuno (KBS 2010), Joseon X-Files (tvn 2010), and The Princess' Man (KBS 2011). Honorable mention to Pied Piper and It's Okay It's Love.

SakiVI: There are so many good ones, so let's say Secrets of the Three Kingdoms, Old Nine Gates, and Ice Fantasy.

Panda: This is extremely hard. Hmm, I will say my top 3 will be Nirvana in Fire, Border, Secret Forest/Prison Playbook/Punch.

Jo:  This is impossible for me.  I just can't choose.  I don't  want to choose. If I did choose, it would be for love, and I love too many dramas to count, and I love them all for their very own specific reasons.  Goblin, Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Sang Doo, Dream High, What's Up, Shut Up, the first Return, Mr. Sunshine, My Country...come on.  The list is too long.  Pass.

Shuk: (1) Greatest Love (South Korea 2011) - Arguably the Hong Sisters' best work. CSW is absolutely perfect as the over-the-top entertainer with the big mouth and the tender heart. I don't think there was a single dry eye for our poor Eastern medicine doctor. (2) Morrasoom Sawat (Thailand 2015) - One of the best gangster love storylines I've watched.(*butts in*and it introduced me to Weir!!*runs out*) (3) The Untamed (Mainland China 2019) - Because, well, everything. Long live dual cultivation! lol

Trotwood: Why did I suggest this category? Should I have at least asked for top three from each country/region? Sigh. If I have to pick for the decade, I'd have to pick Secret Forest, Signal, and Crisis (I promise I will finish recapping that, Panda!) with My Beautiful Bride getting honorable mention. These are the best but I wouldn't necessarily say they are my favorite rewatches though. They are painful. My top three favorites to rewatch (probably should have been another category are Oh, My Lady, HIStory2: Crossing Boundaries, and Splish Splash Love with Queen InHyung's Man as honorable mention.


kakashi: Drawing a blank.

SakiVI: I never think about tropes,  I just think, oh that old cliche.  And if there are too many and it's not used in a fun way, I drop the show.

Shuk: South Korea's 2016 Signal for the use of The Butterfly Effect. Our 1985 Detective changes things in 2015 for a little bit better (and a heck of a lot worse) as our 2015 Profiler tries to break and fix events for a positive outcome. I thought the episodes were well-paced and well-performed as the dizzying changes become more and more profound, leading to our big explosion and final ending. 

Panda: Dong Yi: For using the "I am a King but I am going to lie that I am just a Lord" trope in a fun unforgettable way. This is one of my most favorite dramas ever, and I rewatch about 80% of it every year. The Greatest Love: For giving me a realllly strong love triangle. Like the only person our second lead could  lose to was that man-child Dokko Jin. Nine: Nine times time travel: For using time travel in a very unique and inventive way (at least for episodes 1-19).

Jo:  If I like a drama, I like it.  I don't think in terms of tropes other than to know I enjoy some more than others, but picking the best USE of one...meh.  I guess...I very much enjoy contract marriages, and for that reason even if it's not particularly inventive I would have to say Full House because that's how I discovered that I liked them. It's also how I discovered My Beloved Rain.

Trotwood: I guess my favorite one is the put upon underdog that comes back and gets revenge. This is used a LOT, but I'm not always satisfied with the revenge or the punishment that people get or the suffering of the leads or the fact that there often becomes a whole revenge is bad so we must learn from this business. Pfft. You can combine vengeance with justice, people! Anyway, I'd say people getting past their victimhood to win at life are what I like best. So I'd say Secret, Happy Sisters, and Mad Dog come to mind.


kakashi: Ah, I often grapple with the notion of "underappreciated dramas" and how we think we know that they are underappreciated. Because of ratings? Korean ones or Western viewers ratings on some platforms? How much T-list raves about them? Is something underappreciated if we love it and someone we care for does not? Anyway, the drama that comes to mind here is Pied Piper

SakiVI: For me, it would Spring Turns To Spring.  Crikey, that show was funny!  Lee Yoori, I always love you, if I don't always love your shows, and this was was just genius.  I plan to re-watch come this spring.  Maybe I'll make it a Spring Thing.  

Shuk: Me, Too Flower! South Korea 2011. Staring Yoon Shi-yoon. and Lee Ji-ah. This poor thing started out behind the 8-ball from almost its inception. It was supposed to be Kim Jaewon's triumphal first drama post-MS, until he ended up with dislocation, fracture and ligament damage to his shoulder while filming. This led to a last minute shuffle to our new lead, who lacked the musculature for the shower scenes but more than made up for by acting his little heart out. The entire production suffered from live-shooting issues, off-screen dramas, and a scriptwriter that gave up half-way. But I loved the interactions and synergy between all the characters and their true-to-life problems. I felt the depression that weighed down our heroine's heart. And I genuinely cheered for the entire RL scooby gang when the ending credits rolled. (It's one of my favorite shows, too, and was on my short list for this category)

Panda: Pied Piper hands down. The drama was not only underrated by folks but also by tvN. It felt like the poor orphan of the network. Sob

Jo:  Going out on a limb here and saying WTF Paris.  That drama was sheer genius in its stupidity.  I'd have to say that Cruel City and Bad Guys (the first one) were sadly under-rated.  Couldn't even find subs for them, half the time. Also:  the first half of Inspiring Generation.  Sigh.

Trotwood: I know why I put this here because I wanted to give some love to shows I thought were forgotten, overshadowed, or not promoted enough at the time (cough Pied Piper). I'm glad I'm going to last because many of you already talked about shows I would have put on list.I will add Guardian/Lookout to this list. It seemed to fly under the radar, but I loved this supportive vengeance group.

DRAMA YOU: 2009 vs. 2019

kakashi: Do you guys know I grew up without a TV? The first TV series that made a huge impression on me when I was a child I saw at the neighbors: Robin of Sherwood, BBC (1983-1985). Still one of my favorite. Anyway, in 2009, I probably watched Supernatural. Asian dramas came later (and it all started with Full House :) blame Rain). The dramas that got me to blog were Faith and Arang and the Magistrate - in 2012! I used to watch quite a lot of Asian dramas and now I'm watching almost nothing, that is the biggest difference between now and back seven years ago. It's a bit ironic: blogging (especially recapping!) takes time and that is time you then don't have to watch things.

SakiVI: We always had a TV because my parents loved to watch it with dinner.  And then play it in the room at night before sleeping.  Now, something is always blasting with youtube in a family house.  In 2009: I was a comedy show junkie who watch Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, repeats of Arrested Development, any and all Britcoms, and South Park.  I also watched nearly all Dr Who and its spinoffs.  I can't remember much of the Dr Whos, though.  

Panda: Drama me is so much more picky.When I think about the fact that I watched all the episodes of Oh la la Couple, I actually shudder. In ten years there has been a lot of changes both in my viewing habits and the dramas themselves. I feel like I have seen just about every cliche there is and know all the beats. This doesn't take away my interest in dramas though, but it has made me much more focused in how I choose to view them. I still love dramas (that has not changed), and am always on the hunt for my next crack. Onto the next drama decade people! May we enjoy it.

Shuk: Whew! I had to go through rows and rows of dramas. I started out by writing down all the ones I could remember. As the list got bigger and bigger, I realized that, for various reasons, the number of shows I watch has precipitously gone down. But the quality/popularity of the shows has increased. Also, I changed from being a pure watcher, to an online commenter (no more lurking!), to a SqueeCapper. Now I belong to a team of wonderful and dedicated people who actually generate and post the subtitles needed for those upcoming international lakorn fans. 

Jo:  I began with the most tear-jerker love stories and for years, that's what I wanted most.  Give me heartbreak! I thought I'd never ever watch a dry, stuffy sageuk and now I love them.  Drama Me Now can watch with half an eye and knit or embroider while I watch.  Drama Me then couldn't take my eyes off the screen without getting lost.  Drama Me then was captivated by the strangeness of everything, but Drama Me now has about 300 dramas under her belt, so it feels like home. And finally...Drama Me then blindly used two spaces after a period.  Drama Me now knows that's no longer required, but doesn't care.  Drama Me now watches and loves exactly what she wants, no longer needs recaps to make sure she understood nuance, and punctuates with abandon.  Drama Me now is a bad ass. (I think you were probably always a badass)

Trotwood: My favorite drama in 2010 was Secret Garden. I loved that show. I ordered the cd of the OST. It got me hooked on Sung Si Kyung. I watched every special about that show I could get my hands on. I laughed out loud and I cried copious tears. I know drama me now is very different because I can no longer watch that show. In fact I now only love it because of the fond memories of me watching it and loving it so much. But it has a lot of the things that I now no longer like. I also don't enjoy sob fests like I used to and became bitter about last minute and or unnecessary deaths (looking at you, Iris!). I no longer have patience for long episodes, so even though midway through decade I was watching more lakorns than Korean dramas, I am now watching more web dramas and Japanese dramas (when I can get subs). I used to do rom-coms all the time, but often I just find them depressing. Much more into crime, suspense, and revenge.