Premiere Watch: Circle, Fight My Way, Lookout

Tomorrow should be a very interesting day, with three competitors launching all at the same time and doing their best to command the most eyeballs right out of the gates. Technically, only two are direct competitors since tvN’s drama airs an hour after the rest, but it’s still going to be a fight to see who garners the most interest and the biggest piece of the pie. All three new shows are quite different in genre and approach, so on the upside, we can start the week with a little variety.

Moreover, today’s crowded premiere schedule also coincides with Whisper’s finale week—which means we’ll have yet another premiere joining us next week with the launch of My Sassy Girl. But first things first!

 

Circle (also Circle: Two Connected Worlds)

Time slot: Monday & Tuesday
Broadcaster: tvN
Genre: Sci-fi, mystery
Episode count: 10

Reasons to watch: There are a lot of factors that make me anticipate Circle’s premiere, like the fact that it stars commanding young actor Yeo Jin-gu (Jackpot), who is great in everything, and Kim Kang-woo (Goodbye, Mr. Black), whom I have realized I like very much when he’s playing intense types, villains, or characters with zero romantic storylines. There’s also the experiemental split structure that I find interesting, with one part taking place in the present and the other in the future.

But really, it’s the drama’s straight-up sci-fi classification that has me the most excited, because dramaland just doesn’t do enough straight-up sci-fi (what sci-fi it does attempt is often tempered with other genres, like vampire thrillers or time-traveling romances). Also, the last series with a strong, clear sci-fi bent that I can think of was also from tvN and ranks as one of my all-time favorites, Joseon X-Files. So I’m looking forward very much to watching this plot unfold about aliens visiting Earth, and seeing through the dual timelines how that develops over the course of 20 years. I don’t expect romance or comedy or horror or thrills, just a single, high-concept narrative that is told in what I hope is a crisp, short-n-sweet story.

(Note: Originally announced as 12 episodes, I’ve seen recent articles also cite 10 episodes. I’m not 100% certain what the true final count is, but heads up in case this number changes again.)

 

Fight My Way

Time slot: Monday & Tuesday
Broadcaster: KBS
Genre: Romantic comedy, drama
Episode count: 16

Reasons to watch: Okay, so Park Seo-joon (Hwarang) doesn’t always pick winners (see: Hwarang), but he does have a pretty good track record of solid projects and he generally does well in them with his warm, relatable appeal; Kim Ji-won has proven herself playing strong second leads (Heirs, Descended From the Sun) and is finally getting her big break as leading lady. I’m eager to see them both on their own merits and as a couple with hopefully strong chemistry as they bicker and fight along the way to finding love.

The premise is fairly low-concept, so it’s difficult to predict how the drama will feel based just on the plot description of young adults struggling in third-rate lives, who’ve given up on ambitious dreams and have few prospects for a better outcome. (The drama seems to have dropped the title’s pun on the word third-rate (sanmai) but the idea of third-rate is still baked into the premise. I suppose the fight (ssam) pun is less esoteric, and as a bonus it’s still applicable to the concept of struggle.) When done right, this kind of youthful coming-into-adulthood story can feel poignant and universal, and the show feels like a refreshing gust of wind, with some parts comedy, some parts romance, and some parts personal growth.

 

Lookout

Time slot: Monday & Tuesday
Broadcaster: MBC
Genre: Action, thriller
Episode count: 16

Reasons to watch: If I had to bet, I’d call Lookout the underdog of this trio (although don’t hold me to that prediction because hey, sometimes you just can’t tell what audiences will like). It’s not because anything about the story is unappealing—it’s got underdog triumph written all over it, and vigilante justice can have a strong feel-good attraction to it.

I think the show will depend on the chemistry of the so-called Lookouts, the ordinary folks who come together to catch criminals when the system fails them, and on the upside we have a good mix of personalities: Lee Shi-young (My Beautiful Bride) as an ex-detective who loses her daughter; Kim Young-kwang (Man Living in Our House) as a cold prosecutor with a hidden agenda; Kim Tae-hoon (Fantastic) as the righteous, idealistic prosecutor; Kim Seul-gi (Second to Last Love) as a young woman who turned into a complete recluse after falling victim to a crime; and Key (Drinking Solo) as a friendly genius hacker. The group is just different enough that I can see them clashing at the start, but with conflict paving the way for a satisfying process of coming together.

I like Lee Shi-young best when she’s being badass (probably because she projects badass so strongly in her real personality), and it looks like she’s got some spiffy action scenes for us—I expect good things from the Two Weeks director! Man, did that guy know how to create heart-pounding sequences and nerve-racking cliffhangers. Dramas that focus too much on institutional corruption can get frustrating for me, but under strong direction, they can be suspenseful and dramatic. I’ll cross my fingers.

 
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