Someday, Taiwan will make the year’s best drama, One Day

Someday or one day

No, you’re not imagining things. I really did write that headline. It’s not from a parallel universe or some strange land far away. Taiwan really has made what may be the best drama of 2020.

For the last decade, Taiwanese dramas have been output from the same mould: a simple rom-com premise that could sustain a maximum of 3 hours of storytelling; a billion episodes to fill; and the inevitable resort to crazy (but no less tired) Makjang tropes to fill their episode count.

It didn’t matter where a show started; by the end it was a madly frustrating (and often hugely sexist) parade of crazed second female leads, scheming mothers-in-law, birth secrets, unplanned pregnancies, cancer scares, scooters-of-doom (the low-rent Taiwanese version of Trucks of Doom), and some hard-core character assassination.

But despite their inevitable unravelling, Taiwanese shows have always been the best at portraying small, ordinary moments in people’s lives. Korean dramas may be slick and densely metaphorical while Japanese dramas soar when examining philosophical questions on the nature of humanity itself. But for people who have real conversations? For people who talk to people like people? Taiwan was definitely the best. It was just a shame that almost all of them were forced to ditch their verisimilitude at some point to fill episodes.

In the last year or two, there has been the small subtle hints that this is changing. Shorter seasons, tighter storytelling, delightful meta references to their own shortcomings. All of which have allowed their dramas to finally canvass their best qualities – small, nuanced, real human interaction.

And now – rather improbably, unexpectedly and delightfully – Taiwan has burst into 2020 with Someday or One Day: a beautifully and surprisingly-subtle supernatural romance that is already a likely contender for Best Drama of 2020 – and possibly one of the best ever made. With only two episodes left to go, Someday or One Day has barely made a misstep and feels both quintessentially Taiwanese while being completely fresh and brilliantly new.

A tight 13 episodes, intricately and perfectly plotted, and with lovely layered performances by the veteran actor Alice Ke and the criminally-undercast Greg (Han) Hsu, Someday or One Day is by far the best show airing at the moment and is busy setting a standard for this year that will be hard to top.

A love story between Huang Yu Xuan (Alice Ke) and Wang Quan Sheng (Greg Hsu) across space, time and reality, Someday or One Day might be a time travel drama or a parallel universe drama or a doppelganger drama (or possibly all three). For me to outline the plot would be for me to spoil the plot. And that says something about just how ambiguous and enigmatic the show is.

It’s rare for a show with a supernatural element to be so real, so emotional and so raw but Someday or One Day is as heartwrenching and bittersweet as it is intelligent and challenging. It will have you speculating wildly and attempting to puzzle out its mysteries, while agonising with its characters and feeling their every pang of love, pain, loss, grief, confusion and joy. Someday or One Day manages to be complex and intriguing while never compromising on the very real human emotions being experienced by the characters. Verisimilitude within the magical is almost impossible to adequately capture and yet these writers have done it.

In the midst of the unreal, these people feel real. And they feel real in a way that is truly raw and truly human. And that is possibly something that only Taiwan could have pulled off.

Someday or One Day is airing now and is available to stream on Viki.

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7 thoughts on “Someday, Taiwan will make the year’s best drama, One Day

  1. Interesting comment. There isn’t a single thing in the description of this drama that doesn’t sound like a tired, over used, already done dozens of times trope. I’m afraid even your rec – which I have to respect – can’t get me excited about this one.

    Best currently airing drama to me is, hands down, Stove League. I love a good baseball film, and this drama has shot to the top of my list like a rocket.

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    1. Yay, a comment! Thank you for commenting on my blog. It’s always so good to hear from you.

      Re Someday I don’t know of anybody who has picked it up who isn’t enjoying it. But tastes differ of course. I don’t like baseball films, for example, so Stove League couldn’t interest me. I’ve tried to watch the first episode about three times.
      There’s not a lot of tropes in Someday, even Taiwanese ones. It’s relatively trope free.

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