[2017 Year in Review] My queue in 2017: Where dramas go to die
by Guest Beanie
Legend of the Blue Sea
Earlier this year, I wrote about how my father’s cancer diagnosis affected my drama watching. During the time that my dad was in treatments, I slurped up shows indiscriminately, gulping dramas in giant, bingey draughts. My drama consumption was constant, and I was endlessly sated. It was glorious. I should have known it wouldn’t last.
Since my father’s recovery and my subsequent return to emotional normalcy (things I’m both endlessly thankful for!), I’ve found that my interaction with dramas has shifted yet again. I’m now sampling shows with the highbrow haughtiness of a wine connoisseur. I can’t say this is a good thing.
The thing is, I’m not trying to find something wrong with dramas. Quite the opposite! I want them all to be amazing. I eagerly scan premiere watches, swirling each new show in my glass, admiring the look, feel, and fragrance before taking my first sip. Then the show actually hits my palate, and it all goes downhill. At least, that’s been my experience during the bulk of 2017. Of the twenty-six shows I sampled over the past year, I only finished eight of them. That’s right. Eight.
Somehow, my queue has become the place where dramas go to die.
I really don’t know how this happened because honestly, I am not that picky. All I want are a few likable characters, some emotional heft, and a comprehensible narrative through line. Really, is that too much to ask? Apparently so. The eighteen unfinished dramas in my queue stand in silent witness.
Some of the worst disappointments this year came from shows that started out strong before mellowing into utter blandness (Temperature of Love). Others served up lovable characters and memorable performances but somehow lacked sufficient tension to keep me hooked—even with exotic locales, sweeping historical backstory, shenanigans, swoony romance, and murder (Legend of the Blue Sea). With some dramas, I didn’t keep up because I only cared about one tiny storyline (Father, I’ll Take Care of You), while others I quit in a door-slammy huff over what felt like a narrative bait-and-switch (The Best Hit). There were dramas I liked but forgot about and somehow never finished (Live Up to Your Name), and dramas that left me shrugging because while on paper everything I wanted was there, in execution the show just didn’t do anything for me (While You Were Sleeping).
The shows I actually finished weren’t perfect either, but when I took a step back to evaluate, I realized that all the dramas I actually finished had something in common. Each was, in some way, deeply satisfying.
In one instance, small plot payoffs served to foreshadow even greater emotional growth and delightfully satisfying victories (School 2017). In another, I discerned crystal-clear trajectories for each character and cheered them on as they worked their warm, quirky ways toward personal fulfillment (Because This Life Is Our First). In one drama, I cared much less about the somewhat nonsensical serial killer plotline and much more about the main couple’s issue-riddled emotional arc—an arc that ultimately came to a satisfying conclusion (Suspicious Partner).
In at least one case, I made it through an entire drama because, come hell or high water, I simply couldn’t not know how everything turned out (Rescue Me). Though the ultimate dénouement left something to be desired, the show’s driving intensity—not to mention my sheer emotional investment in the characters (okay, my sheer emotional investment in Dong-chul)—dragged me inevitably to the finish. And while I didn’t find the conclusion completely satisfying, I derived great satisfaction from knowing that after so many disappointments during 2017, dramaland was still capable of sucking me in.
And isn’t that what we all want? To find a show that drags us out of our own heads and transports us to other realities, other lives? Ultimately, I’m thankful that in 2017, I was able to find eight shows that did just that.