Like most drama addicts, I am watching several dramas right now. And the thing that keeps an addict coming back for more, really is the rush of the drug(and mainly with dramas, the memory of the rush). Also like most addicts, I stay abreast on new shipments and designs, different concoctions and flavors and at times I even get excited about their distribution dates and releases to the public. This is how I felt for months waiting and anticipating, Kang Ji Hwan (Hong Gil Dong, Coffee House) and Yoon Eun Hye (Gong, Coffee Prince) on the small screen.
Unfortunately, I had a bad reaction to something, that once, felt so right. In their new drama Lie To Me, I have to admit, I feel a little, decieved. And this isn’t a Cheryl Crow situation, I honestly didn’t ask for it. Before I started the drama, I never imagined it would be a total H.A.M. Really, I didn’t. Sure, I’d been burned by Take Care of the Agassi and liked, not loved Coffee House, but I contend even now, that those projects weren’t the actors’ failings but the writers’ and PDs’ that really needed to get a few things together. The odd thing is, that yet again, here we are. And ironically, again, I don’t blame the acting, actors, casting or direction just the writer. Honestly, I don’t like to gripe about dramas. For the most part, I’m pretty easy going and at times when a drama is so bad, like Playful Kiss, ATHENA or Runaway: Plan B(i) , it may be annoying and upsetting but not worth complaining about (well, ATHENA a little bit).
After 3 weeks of airing, I am now at the point of exhaustion with my ideas concerning this drama. I don’t hate it, it’s worse, I’m disappointed. Love and hate are easily identifiable emotions that pretty much occur within the first hour of showing, but other emotions; confusion, annoyance, boredom, sometimes take longer to pinpoint if you love the actors involved or had high hopes or are just plain delusional. Now hear me when I say, I don’t share these things to put you off watching L2M, no, more to be prepared and know, if you feel like I do, you are not alone.
1. Thought this drama was 16 episodes.
Lie to Me(L2M) is a rom-com, therefore there should be romance and comedy. These two are essential. Chemistry between actors is a must and well that’s pretty much it! Seriously, what romantic comedy is original or earth shattering? Sure, there are some that are refreshing and stinkin’ fun to watch but nothing you haven’t seen(or read) before… So, of course this isn’t a gripe. What is an issue, is the fact that L2M takes two wonderful actors and puts them through 4hours of narrative setup. It’s almost like the writer thought that all us viewers were such die-hard fans of YEH and KJW that we just tuned in cause they were in the drama without watching a preview, reading a synopsis or checking out a few promo pics. As a person older than 3 years old, I was a little insulted. I’m not sure about you, but I turned L2M on, not only because of the actors but because the premise sounded full of potential hijinks and wacky, laugh out loud fun. I couldn’t wait to see who lied, when, how big and what about(exactly). Plus, on top of that we get to see two characters, played by adorable actors, create a drama lover’s dream of falling in love on-screen. Was I wrong? Did I anticipate too much?
One of the things I adore about the Asian drama format, is the shorter run for dramas with little to no hope for a 2nd Season. Don’t get me wrong, there are some dramas I would give my right knee cap for a glimpse at another season but for the most part, the story ends, like it or not and we move on. Its refreshing. In the Western format, the BBC comes close but distinctly different. This is why, when a drama that is only 16+ hours long, takes 4 episodes reminding me (or making me regret) why I tuned in to begin with, it’s beyond annoying. When this kind of thing happens, it makes one believe that the writer doesn’t really have much to say; that he/she hasn’t really thought too much beyond what I read on dramawiki.
2. One lie, weaves no web.
The thing about a “lie” is that they don’t come in singles. When we’re young we realize rather quickly that the reason we’re told not to lie isn’t really to promote honesty but to know what Truth is. A lie always begets another and another and another, diminishing the reality in which the original thought derived. L2M does not build or benefit from this fact. Initially, when Gong Ah Jung ( Yoon Eun Hye)lies, its relatively understandable. Childhood friend, Yoo So-Ran(Hong Soo Hyun) is a complete hater, who lives to stick it to her and purposefully eggs on and belittles her, resurrecting insecurities and failures she’d buried, not confronted. Therefore, when they meet in a salon and So-Ran insults her, Ah Jung leads her to believe she’s married.
Later, another friend sees her with Hyun Ki Joon(Kang Ji Hwan), believes them to be intimate and assumes he must be her husband. News travels quickly and its quite interesting how the people around both parties react but that’s about it. The “lie” does continue through another slip and a purposeful “yobo” or two, but again, that’s it. There are no stakes, no other entanglements, misconceptions or miscommunications. Hyun Sang Hee even says to Ah Jung, “Just come clean.” And the thing is, he’s right.
I’m not saying that one lie means nothing, cause if you’ve seen enough dramas, or told a big juicy one yourself, you know, it’s the one lie that moves the machine. Lies connect relationships and lives that were never meant to fit together, like forcing or shaving down a puzzle piece because you’re too lazy to find or have lost the right one.The end result is a little confusing and a whole lot jacked. Same with lies on lives. However, this drama creates no such bonds or entanglements. If the truth were revealed, people would be surprised, perhaps disappointed, So-Ran would cackle and Ah Jung would be a tad embarrassed. No harm, no foul. L2M may be a rom-com but the ways in which the writer is choosing to set up the intertwining of the central characters’ lives is something beyond flimsy. In almost every episode, Ah Jung or Ki Joon says, “There’s no need for us to meet again,” and I’m sitting, thinking, “Well yeah– I don’t see why you still are.”
3. Too many crabs in the bucket.
In most stories there is the OTP, the anti-OTP(or alternate pairing) and a few side characters to round things out. However, in this drama setup, it seems we have several dramas in one. I suppose that this could be cute if this didn’t encroach upon all the actual screen time the central couple gets per episode. I, for sure, haven’t counted but for the 6+ hours aired of this drama, the leads have spent more time with everyone else but one another. If this drama was in a “slice of life” format I could forgive this, shoot, if the drama was more entertaining, I’d let it go but alas, not the case. For now, Gong Ah Jung and Hyun Ki Joon are just two people in Seoul with little connection outside this rumor (the “lie”) that could be resolved with a couple phone calls.
The drama spends tons of time, however, linking Ah Jung with friends she hasn’t seen in years, Ki Joon’s vagabond younger brother, Hyun Sang Hee (Sung Joon), and her father’s(Kang Shin Il) almost(but probably never will be) wife (Lee Kyung Jin) and her hopelessly lovesick chef (Kwon Hae Hyo), who just happens to be Sang Hee and Yoon Joo’s former “older” classmate.
Though I believe all these situations and relationships could do alot in shining a little light on who Ah Jung is and was, scenes spent on them, without our leads or even their mention is a waste of time and frankly boring. I do believe that in every drama there are a few characters you are indifferent to or could care less about (recently for me, Shin Injung–49Days ) but dropping them in scenes here and there moves the narrative and plot in most cases, therefore, their existence is fairly necessary. The problem is, its close to 10 characters sitting around watching paint dry, who then decide to liven things up and record themselves do it!
4. Repetitions and do-overs.
On top of all of this, there is the other woman, a certain Oh Yoon Joo (Jo Yoon Hee), who from what we gather is the love of Ki Joon’s life who has just set foot back in Korea after 3 years absence due to a broken engagement(perpetuated or rather induced by Sang Hee). There are times in rom-com history, where the 3rd wheel poses little to no threat on the future of the OTP but it’s rarely due to the fact that they never share actual screen space with their partner (if they’re alive— and given recent events, now, death isn’t even an excuse). Clearly, given episode 5, Ki Joon and Yoon Joo actually loved one another and we get (1) 2 minute scene of them brought together (finally) after their break up. Yoon Joo’s existence, even at this point seems relatively unnecessary, even though Ki Joon seems to have/had true, real and deep feelings for her. Thankfully, episode 6 gives us equal Yoon Joo time as the previous but overall her character seems an afterthought of the past, not an obstacle in the present or future. Ki Joon seems to lay their relationship in the past, regardless of his feelings for her, though, this isn’t necessarily her deal, nor is she convinced they parted irreconcilably.
Unfortunately for her, Sang Hee has also returned and doesn’t seem to be “over” his past either. What makes this sticky is the budding relationship between Ah Jung and the Hyun brothers. One would love to think that Sang Hee, seeing the relational connection between his brother and new woman, Ah Jung, would steer clear of repeating the past but can we be so sure? Their relationship is playful, light and fun and we already know he loves to love girls who don’t love him. Ah Jung, on the other hand, doesn’t seem the slightest bit interested in Sang Hee. Then again, she has spent more time bonding with him than Ki Joon, therefore is it healthy to trust something we have no evidence to substantiate?
5. 5 ingredient fix: 1 mic, 1 party, 2 duck boats, cherry blossoms and a bar.
If you’ve taken the time to watch this drama, you know that Ki Joon and Ah Jung are going to end up together. The issue is you just don’t know how. At least not yet. Ki Joon and Ah Jung have spent very little time together and even less time giving the audience indication that they want to but somehow they end up making out at the end of episode 6! Now in some dramas, this wouldn’t be surprising or affronting. In those dramas, the characters(and actors) have such blazing tension, you’d rather for them just to have sex, in order to function properly around one another. L2M? Not so much. Don’t think there isn’t great chemistry, cause there’s plenty (on and off-screen), but the audience is more caught off guard by Ki Joon’s sudden urges to kiss Ah Jung than satisfied. It’s just odd. The idea of the kissing is wonderful (this is KJH we’re talking about) but there’s no basis for it, no evidence of substantial attraction, nothing; it’s so random, I scoff rather than giggle (and I love to giggle).
It’s confusing to watch Ah Jung is puke on his jacket, one minute, which wasn’t played for a laugh ( I don’t think, cause I didn’t), then, the next, them caught up in a pink flurry of petals, glazed over by the ambiance. If at the bar, the lake, the café, the hotel or in the street, there was hint of flirtation or flippant but valid (physical) interest between them, or he had been drinking too, I could understand. There have been specs here and there but so small that such bold action just doesn’t warrant. If I didn’t like Ki Joon so much, I’d be very, very afraid. It’s cute, I suppose, that he seems to act on his physical attraction before thinking it through(which clearly isn’t an innate trait) but ultimately, its extremely off-putting. Unfortunately, his actions, smack more of a lack of self-control, that I would definitely be all for if he seemed to bubble and simmer around her (though better played in episode 6, than 5), but again, not the case.
6. White Gold: when silver lining met drama gold
Even with all the things I just can’t stand about this show, there are things that I enjoy. Ki Joon and his Assistant Park Hoon(Kwon Se) have a brilliant budding bromance, Ki Joon’s mysteriously platonic friendship with Manager Park ( Park Ji Yoon), Ah Jung is annoying but has emotionally relatable moments and just like Personal Taste and Plan B(i), I will probably spend the entirety of this drama praying a certain star will return, for yet another cameo. But by far, the standout thing has to be the Hyun brothers, Ki Joon and Sang Hee. This set of brothers are characters that grow more and more endearing with each passing episode.
Orphaned and 5 years apart, brothers Hyun only had one another and I’m positive Ki Joon always felt a great responsibility not only to be an example but to protect Sang Hee. In order to do that, Ki Joon gave up his love and future wedded life (happiness) for Sang Hee’s sake and sanity ( and probably for a little of his own as well). No one has the family they want but I venture to say, that most love the family they have, whether it encompasses 1 person or twenty. Therefore, the idea of purposely choosing a stranger over that family, is unfathomable. I can’t say I believe either brother was right; the request or compliance but I definitely understand Ki Joon’s actions and reasoning. His commitment to his family is sincere and sacrificial, yet not self-effacing or self-pitying. Sang Hee, as the younger, recognizes how great Ki Joon is and isn’t begrudging, while also doesn’t sell himself short. Instead, he knows and understands that due to Ki Joon’s consistent upright and responsible choices, he’s had the luxury to be the spoiled, playful dongsaeng turned wastrel artist, with a twist of fairy godprince.
In episode 1, I had little hope that Sang Hee had changed and didn’t like him at all but spend more time with him and you can’t help but love that cheeky kid. His time spent away seems to have grown him slightly, tempered and offered him much-needed clarity. There are certainly issues between the brothers but nothing they can’t handle by stepping back and taking a good look at one another. One thing to be grateful for, concerning the mold of their relationship, is they don’t seem to be resistant to maturing in their relationship as brothers and building on that to create an adult friendship.
Beyond love relationships, I hope the drama gives them an even stronger friendship by episode 16. Ki Joon needs to stop parenting Sang Hee and just be a brother and friend. While Sang Hee has to stop running away and throwing tantrums and live in a way that demands respect. This is where I believe the crux of the drama may lay; the effect of true love. Sang Hee’s love for Yoon Joo seems to actually be real but immature and in order to win Yoon Joo or at least throw down a valid gauntlet, he must grow and step up. This also applies to any evil attempts at setting Ah Jung and Sang Hee as serious romantic pairing. Being that the drama is actually about Ki Joon and Ah Jung, both parties will have to change in order for it to work out, however, I believe that being faced with feelings and desires he’s never had before will cause Ki Joon to be willing to fight for a future with Ah Jung, which staunchly contrasts his past with Yoon Joo. Perhaps, this time, if Sang Hee fancies himself in love, Ki Joon will be game enough to treat and consider him as an opponent and rival rather than withdraw. Their relationship is the best thing about this drama and worth checking out just to see how wonderful they can become.
But is there hope…
Frankly, it wasn’t until today, after viewing the 6th episode and reading a great recapper’s opinion, that I say, tentatively, perhaps! Perhaps, there is a chance that regardless of all these things L2M could screw around and be decent. For the problem was never, the actors or their chemistry or even the desire to watch but rather the purpose, pace and believability of the characters and their actions. In this last episode, we finally have a little light, a glimpse of promise; just a little, but light all the same and though my eyes are sore, I’m going to bear it. As I said at the beginning, an addict remembers the high, therefore, there’s always a chance.