Last year was a crazy, beautiful, overwhelming drama year: a horrible year for me personally. The latter definitely contributed in part to the volume of dramas I watched. At one point in 2018 I was watching 12 airing dramas and, if I hadn’t have taken a two month hiatus, the number I completed would have been even higher than the 36 finished from Korea alone.
You can tell from that opening statement that I have a problem.
A serious one.
I can’t drop.
Apart from a few glaring exceptions, if I press play on a show, that show gets finished. Even American shows where they end up at season 8 despite having only two good ones, well, I still see that thing through.
It’s sometimes difficult to explain why I keep watching. Sometimes it’s habit, sometimes it’s community. Sometimes it’s just that I just want to know how the story ends – even if that story isn’t a particularly good one.
But after 2018 reduced me to a vibrating pile of furious goo that randomly screamed at passersby for little reason, I had to make a clear and definite decision for my own mental health.
I was going to have to Learn To Drop.
And so 2019 became my Year of Dropping.
It might be strange to write a piece on my 2019 drama year by talking about dramas I didn’t watch. However the evidence is in. Dropping has made my drama year better. Because sometimes what you choose to stop watching is as important as what you finished.
Admittedly I made a few missteps along the way – I finished Abyss after all – but I’m measurably less crazy this December than I was last year, even on a scale constructed around my normal level of insane.
And here are just a few of the dramas that made my 2019 great – entirely by being dropped like a giant hot potato.
Number 5: Memories of the Alhambra
This mind-bending, reality-warping sci-fantasy extravaganza started off well with some epic cinematography, a great use of location shooting, and a compelling mystery. It soon unfortunately collapsed into a nonsensical mess. But more than that, its female lead was a pot plant of such egregious passivity that I was never quite sure which version of the character was supposed to be the lead and which the non-player character (NPC). Deciding not to watch anymore of this was my first big dropping decision of 2019 and I am so glad I did. Based on the internet meltdown over the ending, I was very glad I was Learning To Drop and had started here. I have great Memories of the Alhambra – mostly of it being in my rearview mirror.
Number 4: The Crowned Clown
This doppelgänger palace-based Sageuk was an interesting pickup for me anyway, since I don’t usually watch historicals. But Yeo Jin-goo’s performance in the first half was so extraordinary that I tuned in and enjoyed every minute up till the end of the first half. I still remember that powerful scene on the beach when the King – affectionately dubbed Cray Cray – was poisoned. It was powerful, emotional; a tragic and pointless death on a location so beautiful it almost mocked the ugliness of the murder framed within it. But after that scene I realised I just… didn’t care anymore. Unsure what the drama was about and not looking forward to the show descending into the usual palace intrigue and scheming, I decided not to continue and just let the first half sit as is in my mind. Like all the dramas I dropped this year, it’s not a decision I regret.
I enjoyed The Crowned Clown a lot – all eight episodes of it.
Number 3: Joseon Survival
Park Se-Wan really made her mark in 2018 with her role as the only female scientist in I’m Not a Robot as well as the lead in the criminally-underrated gem Just Dance. But not even she could keep me watching this horrible little show about a group of modern-day Koreans who end up on a camping trip in Joseon for the sole purpose of resolving the male lead’s masculinity issues. I thankfully dropped this before Kang Ji-hwan was fired after his arrest for sexual assault. I can only hope that Park Se-Wan’s current weekender Never Twice has far more success because she’s an actor that’s worth it. And I’m worth more than watching… whatever this was.
Number 2: Arthdal Chronicles (Part 1 – maybe?)
Should I be glad I dropped Arthdal Chronicles because its first episode came across as an apologia for colonialism and genocide? Or because its second episode seemed like the cast was shooting a centrefold for Tribal Chic? Or because it is apparently three seasons; the first of which was cut into three parts leaving people confused and upset when it “ended” only to discover it hadn’t ended at all? Or just because it was bad storytelling? Either way, this high fantasy [cue genre argument] piece of epic storytelling was just a bit too Game of Thrones redux for me, among many many many other things. And while there was a certain enjoyment from weird conversations about ‘Neanthals’ and different blood colours, I did not miss it in my viewing scheduled once it was gone. Nor the inevitable internet meltdown when it ended.
Number 1: Melting Me Softly
I almost have no words to describe the experience of watching the first six episodes of Melting Me Softly: a show I genuinely believe was the worst of 2019. I have never watched a show before where, from the very first scene, not one decision made by anyone involved was the right one. The writing, direction, costuming, set design – even the music – was all wrong. The show seemed to exist for the purpose of getting Ji Chang-wook in a make-out shower scene to ‘cool down’; something that will only justify 16 episodes of television for the most ardent Wookie fan. As I felt my hold on sanity slip for the first time this year, I suddenly remembered: This is my Year of Dropping. And so I did.
While I can’t say my dropping skills are now well-honed, they are definitely improved. I even kickstarted my 2020 by dropping Crash Landing On You (mostly). Okay, so my dropping skills still need some work. Hopefully in 2020, I can become an expert.