One of my favorite shows this last year, On the Verge of Insanity, didn’t get much attention when it originally aired. Fans were watching and commenting, though, and after a lot of hilarious comments about defective dishwashers, I just had to try it out.
This is a story about a consumer appliance company that is doing poorly and reducing its workforce. Everyone is impacted differently, from the people getting laid off to the HR staff that has to cope with employee reaction – including the fights. It’s a stressful premise, but there is a lot of humor to keep us going. After tangling with something for an episode or two, there is always a surprise or a win of some kind.
We first see things from the point of view of Dang Ja Young, who is team lead for HR and gets moved from site to site to manage the layoffs. She’s played by Moon So Ri, who is really good; she lets us see how smart and resilient she is, but that it’s taking a toll on her. She keeps her cool really well but loses it when she goes to the break room to refill her water bottle and finds the dispenser empty.
Choi Ban Seok is a senior engineer who is laid back and runs around in jeans and plaid shirts, and yet is competent and stays up to date. He first meets Ja Young in the break room when he brings in a cart of drinks. She kind of explodes at him – I think because he talks informally to her – and they get off to a bad start. But he helps most of the product teams fix their tech problems, and actor Jung Jae Young does a solid job with his character.
Han Se Kwon is the first name you learn in this show because Ja Young calls him out so often. He’s not too good at his job and indulges in dirty tricks and crooked business deals, but can’t be fired because his cousin is the CEO. Lee Sang Yeob portrays him in a pretty entertaining way for the first half of the show because you almost admire his tactics, but you eventually just want to drop him off a long pier.
The Support Team
You’ll probably recognize these guys from a lot of dramas. They are Ban Seok’s friends, who have all worked at different jobs together. The one in the middle is from Purchasing, who gets Ban Seok in trouble with Han Se Kwon by gossiping about his faults.
These two become favorite characters over the course of the show. The one in glasses is on the Quality Assurance team and helps Ban Seok learn to program appliances. The other one is in Accounting, and is Ja Young’s roommate, and has an acerbic wit that I enjoyed a lot. I’m always happy whenever she shows up in a scene!
The Appliance Wars
Ban Seok is originally put on a team that is developing a robot vacuum. He has good advice for the development team, but there are some behind-the-scenes shenanigans and he ends up holding the sample vacuum hostage just when upper management is expected to come to see how well it works. Notice what he has in his hand? This scene is so unexpected and dynamic that it locked me in as a fan of the show!
One of the more important story arcs is, of course, about the dishwashers. Han Se Kwon led the design team and is proud of selling so many of them. But drama watchers made a lot of jokes as several characters found out about a dirty little secret and dealt with it in different ways. (“Who knew a dishwasher demo could keep me on the edge of my seat?”) Ban Seok, of course, got involved in devising a technical fix. That screen on the right shows the inside of the dishwasher.
This drama does a good job of depicting a big company and the issues people face. I got fond of the characters, and enjoyed following their stories; they are really the big draw of the series. This is a good show if you are looking for strong female characters. My husband verified that the remarks about computers and programming were correct, which was nice to see. There are people in the story who keep up with the latest tech and some who fall behind. There’s conflict, but not much violence except for a few impulsive fistfights. There’s a story thread about sexual abuse that I thought turned out very well. And there’s humor: Ban Seok’s mom buys a new fridge and it’s not from the company he works for. She knows they aren’t as good! He doesn’t say anything.
I hope you enjoy this show as much as I do!
Until the next hidden gem,
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi