We are in the last week of 2019 which means our End of Year reviews are about to come to an end. Come discover what made us laugh, cry, and cheer in 2019 as we prepare for 2020.
Telzeytalks: If we are looking for a swoony actor who is lovely to look at, then it’s Kim Jae Wook, and probably has been ever since Coffee Prince. This time he’s in Her Private Life. If we want a side trip to the guy next door with a gift for comedy, then it’s Choi Siwon in My Fellow Citizens.
Karie the Maknae: Xu Kai in Arsenal Military Academy. He showed such incredible range in just one role (okay, so he had a HUGE number of episodes to work with, but still), going from a cocky rich boy who loved messing with Liangchen to a smart man who was dedicated and loyal and a force to be reckoned with.
MiataMama: Yeo Jin Goo was absolutely amazing in his dual roles in Crowned Clown! His ability to control subtle nuances in each of his characters and the deep emotions that he conveyed from both was phenomenal.
Clkytta: I’m going to go with Kim Nam Gil. I adored his role in Fiery Priest. He made me laugh and cry. I loved that he was someone who went through so much and showed the power of redemption.
Drama Geek: Since Kim Jae Wook and Yeo Jin Goo are taken. I think I’ll go with Yang Se Jong from My Country. I know Kmuse & Kdrama Jen loved the other two actors who round out the love triangle (wink, wink), but I was so impressed with how much Se Jong did not resemble his Still 17 character. He was fierce and such a total badass in this drama.
Kdrama Jen: I feel like I cannot let it go. Woo Do Hwan made me feel so many emotions. I wanted him to win our podcast battle, so I have to wave my flag of appreciation here. He continues to grow as an actor. I loved how he was able to use his eyes to show his transformation from young boy who wanted to please to almost dead inside. He was among my favorites this year. I also want to give a nod to Song Joong Ki. I did not appreciate the ending of Arthdal Chronicles, but his portrayal of Saya was masterful—especially in contrast to the way he played Eun Som.
Telzeytalks: I loved Chun Woo Hee as the scriptwriter in Melo Is My Nature. Her expressions fascinated me enough that I kept my eye on her the whole time she was on screen. She is even interesting when she sits still, like she did for most of one episode while waiting for a verdict on her drama. That was intense sitting.
Karie the Maknae: This one isn’t even a contest for me. IU was INCREDIBLE in Hotel Del Luna — that role stretched her range, showed off her chemistry with the entire cast, and she even made her wardrobe feel like a character by itself.
MiataMama: I absolutely loved Kim Hye Ja‘s performance in The Light In Your Eyes. I don’t want to give spoilers to those who haven’t had a chance to watch this drama, but her portrayal of the older version of Kim Hye Ja was truly beautiful and brought me to tears.
Clkytta: IU carried Hotel Del Luna. I have to go with Park Min Young in Her Private Life though, that girl doesn’t pick bad roles. She is so good at skinship that her acting feels very natural.
Drama Geek: DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE! I thought 2018 was full of strong female performances, but dang, 2019 was just a parade of amazing women. I second the three choices before me. I think I have to go with Gong Hyo Jin who played the sassy single mom Dong Baek in Camellia. She did so well and portraying that deep strength her character needed to survive everything life threw at her.
Kdrama Jen: I am going to choose Kim Sun Young as the top actress of 2019. Although she has been a supporting role over and over, her performances always catch my eye. She also showcases her acting ability by playing a wide range of roles. In 2019, she was the wife and mother in Romance is a Bonus Book who wanted a divorce, but still clearly had feelings for her husband. She wore the awful bangs in Her Private Life, and made me cringe at the way she manipulated her way through life. She was a caring, yet conflicted mom in Moment at Eighteen. She was in Vagabond. And then she rounded out the year playing two very different neighborhood bullies—one in When the Camellia Blooms (set in a small community in South Korea) and the other in the currently airing drama Crash Landing on You (set in a small community in North Korea). I have been thoroughly impressed by her acting ability in each drama, but certainly when viewed collectively the breadth of her talent cannot be ignored!
Telzeytalks: I would say my favorite men together were Secretary Cha and the President in Designated Survivor. They were both sincere yet sometimes at odds, and Secretary Cha had a secret marshmallow filling.
Karie the Maknae: I loved the bond between old friends Shang Yan and Shao Fei, who came together again in Go Go Squid. As the past collided with the present and they started overcoming challenges together again, I could see the foundation they had built that had survived a 10-year separation. Their friendship was amazing.
Clkytta: I have to agree that the best bromance goes to Go Go Squid. The whole team had this feeling of brotherhood and I loved how they cared for each other. When Gun includes Demo in his family’s festivities it goes to show how much he cares for the younger boy.
Drama Geek: I will be nice and leave the most epic bromance trio of the year to my kbesties. I’m actually going to pick two other tragic bromances. The brothers in He is Psychometric really hurt my heart so much. Their relationship was twisted and messed up from the beginning, but the older brother did the best he could with the life skills he had. The other one is the Chief Royal Officer and the dual characters that Yeo Jin Goo played in The Crowned Clown. My heart was ripped out when the king was killed. And I wanted to hate what the Chief Royal Officer did, but you could tell he really was trying to do what was right for the country and for the king.
Kdrama Jen: My Country had an amazing bromance. It was tragic and epic. I wanted Woo Do Hwan’s character to be better and to overcome his bitterness. I wanted them to just be besties and take baths together like they used to do—is that too much to ask?
Telzeytalks: Of course there are the women from Melo Is My Nature, but I’ll add also Deok Mi and Sun Joo from Her Private Life. The two from Spring Turns to Spring, Bo Mi and Bom, were hilarious impersonating each other, and ended up completely loyal.
Karie the Maknae: I have to laugh. It is REALLY the year of the Chinese drama for me. I’m loving the friendship between Miao Miao, Lin Xia, and He Xin in A Little Thing Called First Love. They support each other through the difficulties of senior year and college, going through ups and downs and overcoming obstacles that would crush weaker friendships.
Clkytta: Hands down it’s gotta be Ta Mi and Scarlet from Search: WWW. These two women have each other’s backs literally. When a friend grabs a baseball bat to go help a sister out, well that’s a true sismance right there.
Drama Geek: Totally agree with WWW, Melo & Her Private Life!! My vote goes to the female historians in Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung. I have never enjoyed the female leads story so much in a sageuk. These women worked together and never turned on one another. I loved them so much.
Kdrama Jen: I will just say, “What Drama Geek said.” All of my favorite sismances have been named!
Favorite Secondary Characters
Telzeytalks: Secretary Cha from Designated Survivor and Historian Min from Rookie Historian were both sincere and grabbed our hearts. On the other hand, Park Hoo Ja from My Fellow Citizens and Veronica Park from The Secret Life of My Secretary were irrepressible and hilarious!
Karie the Maknae: One of my favorite things about Hotel Del Luna was the secondary characters! Bellhop and Intern 4EVA!!
MiataMama: My fellow fangirls told me I licked too many cookies for this category! But all these awesome supporting characters were so memorable: Chun Deok Goo was a hoot as the thug boss (but really a good guy at heart) sidekick in Special Labor Inspector Jo. Teacher Oh Han Gyul absolutely captured my heart as he stood his ground against crazy parents and cared for his students as his own in Moment at Eighteen. No, he wasn’t evil and Squid Fairy had my all my attention from beginning to end in Extraordinary You. And I think cute, yet wizened Hwang Aeng Do absolutely stole the spotlight in all her scenes in The Tale of Nokdu.
Clkytta: My favorite secondary characters were actually the moms in Her Private Life. I’ve mentioned it before, but I loved how different these moms were. We have one who is a flamboyant businesswoman, and the other who is a quieter homemaker. The mom showdown where Dok Mi’s mom tries to protect Cindy from her mother is one of my favorite scenes.
Drama Geek: I LOVED everyone in Melo is My Nature. The producer who lost her boyfriend was possibly my favorite side story. It was hard to watch her struggle through delusions and depression, but she managed to come out the other side stronger. Not completely healed, but able to navigate life again. But I also loved the actress and her manager boyfriend, the product placement team, and pretty much everyone.
Kdrama Jen: I agree with everyone above, but will give a shout out to the full cast of Secret Boutique. Noir bitch bobs for the win!
Best Cinematography in a Drama
Telzeytalks: Having rewatched several first episodes to refresh my memory, I’m going to give this one to Her Private Life. Besides using a lot of different camera angles, they used a lot of fun tricks like split screens, cartooning, fast-forwarding, and especially the aerial shot of the motorcycle speeding down narrow city streets. They created a cheerful atmosphere for most of the episode with bright lighting and contrasted it with a dark set and harsh side lighting in the imaginary hospital scene. The most memorable effect was when Deok Mi first sees Ryan, and he is romanticized by soft backlighting. That’s the only one I really remembered, but the rest made for an interesting watch.
Karie the Maknae: Here goes my vote for Hotel del Luna again. The way they shot the tree that was central to the plot ALONE had me captivated.
Clkytta: I’m going to vote for When the Camellia Blooms. I loved the way they used the setting in that drama. Camellia, Dong Baek’s cozy bar was a refuge for many people. It was actually more pub than bar but they called it a bar.
Drama Geek: I will share this choice with Kmuse. LOL. This award goes to My Country, hands down. They had battle scenes in there that I didn’t think were possible in a kdrama. They also made Woo Do Hwan about the most handsome man that’s ever lived in a mane of glory.
Kdrama Jen: So… This one is no contest for me. Drama Geek, you will be sharing with me too. My Country was simply the best. From battle scenes to anguish-filled personal moments, the camera angles captured every detail.
Best OST in a Drama
Telzeytalks: I really liked the instrumental music for Designated Survivor 60 Days. “Answer to the Agony” was the theme song we always heard. Most of the pieces, like “In Smog,” were generally quiet and suspenseful background music. Some of it, like “Pressure,” is the kind of thing my daughter’s friends would do modern dance to in high school. “Him” was a very pretty violin theme. They all fit seamlessly in with the drama.
Karie the Maknae: The OST for Go Go Squid has stayed with me for MONTHS. I even wrote a whole post on it. Excuse me while I go reminisce….
MiataMama: I have all the songs from the My Fellow Citizens OST on my ‘Kdrama soundtracks’ playlist. Upbeat with some awesome trot tracks too – so much fun!
Clkytta: The OST for Moment at Eighteen was the only drama that sent me to the internet to find the songs. Ong Seong Woo totally pulled me in with his voice.
Drama Geek: I think I picked Search WWW on a different post (podcast?) so I’ll Melo is My Nature because it’s a really funny OST. Mostly it’s just different versions of the shampoo song. Fits the show perfectly.
Kdrama Jen: I really enjoyed the music from My Country. I especially liked the anthem they played every time they were about to kick butt. I totally play that in my head right before I have to give a presentation at work—and I imagine my backup fighters right next to me.
Best Breakout Performance
Telzeytalks: The best new actor this year to me is Lee Jae Wook. He has only been in three dramas and was very different in each one. He was Marco, who chased Chanyeol around in Memories of the Alhambra, and was an unequivocal bad guy. He played Seol Ji Hwan, a shy young actor who caught Scarlett’s eye in Search:WWW. And he is ending the year as Baek Kyung, a rogue manga character in Extra-Ordinary You who is just electric to watch.
Karie the Maknae: JinYoung in He is Psychometric was fascinating. He managed to make a good-humored character still have the gravitas needed to carry this psychological thriller. I was thoroughly impressed.
MiataMama: I had no idea who Ong Seong Woo before Moment at Eighteen. But now I can’t wait to see his next project! His ‘eye acting’ was amazing for such a novice actor – so much talent!!
Clkytta: Second vote for Ong Seong Woo, actually I’m going to vote for the whole cast of Moment at Eighteen.
Drama Geek: We have a podcast for this… it’s pretty funny. We are not nice to each other, and we are forced to choose between all of our favorites. But I’m going to pick an odd choice here because Korea is crazy about him. Kim Hang Hoon. He was Kang Pil Goo, he played Dong Baek’s son in Camellia. He was adorable and is totally a child actor to watch out for.
Kdrama Jen: I was drawn in by Kim Jae Young in Secret Boutique. I even started watching the 100 episode family drama he is in just to get my fix. I know I said someone else on the podcast too, but that is the beauty of podcasting and blogging weeks apart. I can change my mind!
Worst Drama of 2019
Telzeytalks: I Picked Up a Celebrity On the Street. Nothing about it makes any sense, right from the start when a tiny woman carries a tall man down the street and then bundles him into a taxi. How can she think he’s dead? Why didn’t he escape immediately? I watched five episodes hoping it would pick up but it didn’t.
Karie the Maknae: It kills me to say this, because Angel’s Last Mission started off SO strongly, but the ending completely went off the rails and killed it for me.
MiataMama: I feel torn about putting this here because I was actually captivated by Arthdal Chronicles most of the way through. But bad endings are the kiss-of-death for me and this one was so abrupt and left SO many unanswered questions.
Clkytta: I dropped so many dramas this year! I think the one I was the most disappointed in was Perfume. I dropped that drama like a hot potato because of the way it approached suicide and fat-shaming. I know several people loved it and said that it got better, but I just couldn’t finish it.
Drama Geek: I’m turning over a new leaf. Every drama has someone that probably loved it, and since I dropped anything that annoyed me, I’m going to leave this empty.
Kdrama Jen: I had a couple I would have put on this list, but I went back to them at a different time and found redeeming qualities. I am also going to abstain in this category.
Best Drama of 2019
Telzeytalks: If you haven’t guessed from how many times I’ve referenced this show in the wrap-ups, my favorite is Melo Is My Nature. I loved the characters and I loved the way it was written, with the drama Jin Joo is writing turning out to be the one we are watching. I also appreciated how good Eun Jung’s therapist was, and how her story progressed.
Karie the Maknae: It’s a tie for me. He is Psychometric for a well-written heavier drama, and Wait, My Youth (aka My Youth) for a fluffy romance. I loved them both for different reasons.
MiataMama: The Crowned Clown took an early lead, but ultimately Moment at Eighteen won out as my number one drama pick this year. With it’s beautifully written story and fantastic acting (from both the leads as well as the ensemble cast), this drama left a lasting impression on my heart.
Drama Geek: I originally had Melo as my number one. It was new and fresh, and made me laugh harder than I have in a long time. It was also deep and poignant. But it’s taken AND a drama swooped in at the last moment and made me SOB my eyes out for the last 6 episodes while warming my heart at the same time. When the Camellia Blooms was just a beautiful drama that will stick with me for a long time. The found family wasn’t perfect, but they felt so real and raw. We’re all a little screwed up, but at least we have each other. (Clkytta: Thanks for pushing me to go back and watch this one!)
Clkytta: My favorite drama this year was the one drama I took the longest to start, When the Camellia Blooms. I started it, didn’t like it, and then all my kbesties kept saying that I needed to start it again. So I adjusted my attitude, sat down and really focused, and Oh my gosh! I loved this drama so much! We had a strong OTP, great side characters, and a story that sucked me in.
Kdrama Jen: Melo is My Nature is my top drama this year. It made my laugh and it made my heart ache. I looked forward to it each week. I also want to say, though, Beautiful World was incredibly well-done. It was hard to watch, but amazing. I have not finished When the Camellia Blooms yet, but I do intend to finish. Still, when I think about the drama I sub-stalked, then it was Melo.
There you have it! Be sure to let us know your own picks in the comments and be sure to join us for a ton more drama fun in 2020.
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi