Radio Romance: Episode 1
I really love it when a show’s premiere exceeds my expectations. Radio Romance looks to be more than just a cute show about a plucky writer and an emotionally chilly DJ—this first episode definitely delivers the cute moments, but we also get to see some glimpses of darker concerns that will cause problems down the line. My first impression is very good, and although I’ve been misled by great premieres in the past, I’m really hoping that this time, I can keep saying that all the way to the end.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A woman’s voice is heard on the radio all over the city. She talks about the saying that everyone was someone’s first love, sounding serene and calm, but it’s a different story in the studio. Behind the scenes, she’s told to wrap it up by the show’s writer, who looks angry.
The woman currently DJing the radio show, SONG GEU-RIM (Kim So-hyun), isn’t a radio DJ at all, but a junior writer filling in for their idol host who didn’t show up. During a break, someone finally gets the idol’s manager on the phone — evidently, the idol goes missing on a regular basis.
When they go back on the air, Geu-rim quickly covers for the missing idol by saying that he must be stuck in traffic. Again. Her phone rings and everyone perks up to see that it’s him calling. Geu-rim answers, but she’s so flustered that she accidentally calls him by her rude nickname for him, “Dog Mi-nu,” live on the air. Whoops.
Mi-nu yells down the phone that he’s not doing the radio show anymore, sounding very drunk. Geu-rim pauses for seven seconds so that they can keep that bit off the air (radio shows work on a short delay), then she quickly plays a song.
After the show, STATION MANAGER KANG calls the show staff into his office, where he nearly gives himself an aneurysm. He yells that their idol DJ either doesn’t show up or does the show drunk, so they may as well cancel the whole thing. He’s particularly mean to Geu-rim for her slip-up while on the air, so she promises that he can fire her if she doesn’t get Mi-nu to show up for the next show.
She calls Mi-nu’s manager, but he’s just as frustrated as she is. He tells Geu-rim that he can’t find Mi-nu either, sarcastically wishes her luck, and hangs up on her. WRITER RA yells at Geu-rim some more, calling her a bad writer, which is why she’s in charge of recruiting guests and wrangling the DJ.
While she’s trying again to get Mi-nu on the phone, Geu-rim asks the intern what she’s doing on her computer. The intern shows her an article that’s been all over the internet today about a famous actor’s press conference for his latest drama. Geu-rim just rolls her eyes and criticizes his totally fake smile.
She finally locates Mi-nu (cameo by Block B’s U-Kwon) by his social media posts, which show him partying at a fancy hotel. She heads to the hotel, completely missing the posters that are all over the place advertising the press conference for the famous actor’s drama.
We drop in on the press conference, where top Hallyu star JI SU-HO (Yoon Doo-joon) poses for pictures with his female costar. Later Su-ho answers questions about the show, which is being almost entirely pre-produced, and is about eighty percent finished.
One sharp journalist asks if there’s anything fishy behind the fact that the show’s production company, JH Entertainment, is owned by Su-ho’s mother. His costar looks nervous, but Su-ho smoothly says that it did influence his decision to do the drama, because all of the drama’s proceeds will be donated to charity.
Geu-rim finds Mi-nu’s party and proceeds to take over, deftly constructing soju bombs. She withholds the already very drunk Mi-nu’s drink until he promises to show up for work tomorrow, threatening to hunt him down if he disappears again.
She goes out to the hall when Writer Ra calls, and she fibs that Mi-nu is very contrite and sorry. The elevator opens, and Su-ho is standing inside. Geu-rim doesn’t notice him, but he stares at her for a long time, and he even stops the elevator door from closing so he can keep looking.
His manager asks if Su-ho knows her, but he says he just thought she was getting on the elevator. He takes one last look, and as the doors close, Geu-rim looks up and they make eye contact.
Later that evening, Su-ho and his father take his mother out for a fancy meal for her birthday. They shower her with gifts, each seeming determined to outdo the other, while Su-ho’s mother gasps delightedly at the expensive flowers, jewelry, and shoes.
Mi-nu is too drunk to hold up his own head by the end of the night, so Geu-rim drags him into the elevator. She bellows at Mi-nu and wakes him, and he slurs that he’ll be good on the radio show from now on before passing out again on her shoulder.
On the way down they’re joined by Su-ho, who sees Mi-nu hanging all over Geu-rim, and for some reason the sight seems to upset him. He doesn’t say anything, and Geu-rim finally notices him. She wonders if he remembers her, and if she should try to recruit him for the radio show as a guest.
Mi-nu flops over onto her again, and he says he’s going to go all the way with her and do everything she tells him to do. He means the radio show, but it sounds dirty out of context. Su-ho wordlessly pushes Mi-nu’s head with one finger until he’s drooling on the wall instead of Geu-rim’s shoulder, and she tentatively thanks him.
Su-ho says blandly that Mi-nu seems very drunk, and Geu-rim tries to clarify the situation by telling him that Mi-nu is the DJ of her radio show. Su-ho actually smiles at that, which is kind of adorable just because it’s so unexpected. She asks him if he’d be a guest, and he finally turns to face Geu-rim and says that the show sounds like fun.
Then he asks, “Do I get to take writers to hotels, too?” Oh wow, he actually just said that. Geu-rim is confused, and it doesn’t occur to her that she’s just been insulted until Su-ho is long gone.
She tells the story to her two friends back at the station, who can’t believe that a top star would say something like that to her. Cute chyrons tell us that Geu-rim’s nickname is Raincloud because she’s the unlucky one, and her friends are known as Tornado (the furious one) and Drought (the unpopular one). Evidently there’s a Monsoon, too, but she’s busy tonight.
Drought says that a friend of hers worked on a drama of Su-ho’s and had nothing but good things to say about him. Tornado wonders if the rumor she heard about his family being complete fakes could be true.
In front of the cameras, they seem perfect — Su-ho’s mother is a role model for women, his father is a famous award-winning producer who openly adores his wife, and Su-ho is the charmed son who’s won every acting award there is. But in private Su-ho’s father conducts affairs with young actresses (including Su-ho’s current costar), and his mother keeps close tabs on her husband and is obsessed with brand-name products.
Geu-rim reminds her friends that she had a run-in with Su-ho four years ago at a party at JH Entertainment. She’d been sure he’d tripped her on purpose, and he’d just said she should watch where she’s going and walked away, leaving her sprawled on the floor. Drought thinks that Su-ho couldn’t possibly have recognized her tonight, but Geu-rim worries that he’s angry with her for something.
Su-ho leaves the hotel alone, and he’s annoyed to find his manager waiting with his car. His manager says that it’s his job to wait for him, even if Su-ho tells him not to. Su-ho gets behind the wheel anyway, telling his manager not to bother driving him to his meeting tomorrow either, and he drives home alone.
That night, Su-ho has a nightmare in which he’s running down dark alleyways, blood gushing from a head wound. When three men approach him and throw him into a wall, he’s lucid enough to remember that it’s a scene from a drama he starred in last year. He begs someone to stop the scene, then he wakes with a start. He sits up in bed, shaken to the core, and whispers, “Cut.”
Mi-nu’s no-show is front page news the next morning, and the team wait nervously for him to arrive for today’s broadcast. Geu-rim assures them that he’ll be there, and while they wait, she shows Writer Ra some lines she wrote down for the show. But Writer Ra just says her writing is unnecessarily descriptive, and that it’s useless to do things like describe the guests’ clothing or mentioning the sunset instead of just saying the time.
An oddly-dressed man wearing a huge backpack walks into the station lobby, wishing everyone “namaste” with a beatific smile. He takes a huge bite out of Geu-rim’s sandwich right out of her hand, notes that she’s still fetching lunches, and strides away. Belatedly, she realizes that that was PD LEE KANG (Yoon Park).
PD Lee heads up to Station Manager Kang’s office, who jokes that he sent him on vacation to get himself together and he came back completely nuts. He tells PD Lee that nobody wanted to work with him after what happened, plus the higher-ups wouldn’t allow it, but he worked hard to convince them.
Unperturbed, PD Lee says that he’ll put together his own staff, and Station Manager Kang directs him to get some high ratings with his new show. They tease each other mercilessly, but they seem to have a pretty friendly relationship.
Geu-rim goes back to the studio to discover that not only is Mi-nu not coming to do the show, but he’s leaving Korea entirely. Mi-nu calls her, but only to say that he’s decided to change his name and break out of the restrictive box of being an idol and DJ. She drives to the airport, screaming the whole way, and finds Mi-nu surrounded by a crowd of fangirls.
She smacks him upside the head for breaking his word, and he whines that DJing a radio show is humiliating. He says that the show was only to help him make a comeback after his scandal, but that nobody listens to that stupid show anyway.
Geu-rim screams wordlessly, and informs Mi-nu that that “stupid” radio show is her entire life. She advances on him, poking him in the chest as she says that she hasn’t written a word in two years because she was babysitting him. She tries again to drag Mi-nu to the show, but the fangirls pull her off him and he escapes.
He sends Geu-rim a text from the plane apologizing for not keeping his promise, and she screeches angrily at her phone. Her day gets worse when she arrives back at the station to find that the show has been canceled. She packs up her things sadly, even pulling the lines she wrote for the show out of the trash where Writer Ra pitched them.
Outside the station, she sits on a bench and reads her lines, and she wonders if they’re really that bad. PD Lee walks up and says that yes, they’re that bad, and walks away leaving Geu-rim wondering what his deal is.
She heads home and listens as her mom tells her about what a great day she had at work. Geu-rim has to admit that she got fired, so her mom pours her a soju bomb. As she fumbles, it becomes clear that she’s blind. She’s so proud of herself for mixing the drink; I love her already. She’s supportive of Geu-rim, congratulating her on doing a great job at getting fired and even joking that she wants to get fired, too.
They lie in bed that night listening to the radio together, which they haven’t been able to do since Geu-rim got her job at the radio station. Geu-rim remembers how they listened to the radio on the bus after her mother’s eye surgery several years ago. She’d smiled through her tears and described the sunset so that her mother could see it.
To this day, her mom remembers the beautiful sunset that evening. Taking her daughter’s hand, she tells Geu-rim to keep drawing pretty things with words, and Geu-rim promises that when she becomes a head writer some day, her first show will open with the words she used that night: “It’s time for the blue sky to turn red.”
The next morning, Geu-rim wakes up to a surprising phone call. She runs out to meet with a slightly less filthy PD Lee, and when she says that she heard he was starting a new show, he fires back that he heard that she still sucks at writing. HAHA.
Without explaining anything, PD Lee leads Geu-rim into the radio station, where she notices that everyone avoids him like the plague. He mentions her ability to bring in famous guests, but he’s derisive of her pride in that skill, saying that a writer should write.
He complains that it’s useless training newcomers, but Geu-rim argues that he only taught her for two months before causing trouble and leaving. When he rounds on her, she backpedals and says it was the best two months of her life, hee.
Out of nowhere, PD Lee asks Geu-rim if she wants to work for him. He points to a massive poster of Su-ho dressed in his sageuk garb for his drama, and says that if she can get Su-ho to DJ his new show, he’ll make her the main writer. She’s dismayed at the thought of having to see Su-ho again, but it’s too good of an offer to ignore.
Meanwhile, Su-ho attends a meeting at JH Entertainment, where his mother disagrees with an employee who says that celebrities should be attainable and human. In fact, she argues that being unattainable makes the demand higher, so a star should be mysterious. Su-ho counters that the point is for him to appear attainable but still be a star, to appear intelligent and humble, charismatic and modest.
Geu-rim insists that a huge star like Su-ho would never do a daily radio show, but PD Lee disagrees. He says that you never know and repeats his offer, and Geu-rim’s eyes go wide at the thought of all the writing she’d get to do. She stays up late that night researching Su-ho’s likes and dislikes, the foods he eats, and even his manager.
Back on the set of his sageuk, Su-ho films a fight scene opposite his female costar. Geu-rim loiters nearby, noting that Su-ho keeps rubbing his right temple (which, interestingly, is where his bloody injury was located in his nightmare). She stops the assistant director, claiming a very, very tenuous social connection, and leans close to ask him a favor.
Su-ho spends his lunch break studying the script in his van, and he’s left alone when his manager has to escort a nosy fan away from the vehicle. The van door opens to reveal Geu-rim, and Su-ho blinks at her in surprise for a few seconds before composing his expression and claiming not to remember her.
His bland smile unnerves Geu-rim, but she presses on and starts to ask him about the radio show. He cuts her off with a sharp refusal and dismisses her, but she reminds him that he said the show sounded fun other night.
Again Su-ho says he doesn’t remember, but she says that she’s not asking him to be a guest — she’s asking him to be the DJ for a new show. But Su-ho’s manager returns and drags her off without an answer.
Su-ho forgets his lines while filming the next scene, and the PD complains that he’s never done that before. The scene requires his costar to fall backwards into a lake, but she whines that it’s too scary and refuses to do it. They decide that they’ll have to get a female body double, but it’s almost impossible to find one on such short notice.
Geu-rim overhears Su-ho’s manager telling the assistant director that Su-ho has to leave in an hour for a CF shoot. She gets an idea, and a short while later, she approaches Su-ho dressed in a pretty hanbok. At first Su-ho looks more than a bit gobsmacked at the sight of her, then his expression changes to mild panic when she starts talking to him.
She yammers on and on about helping each other, until Su-ho finally stops her and asks why she keeps hovering around him with these lame attempts. The PD calls for her before she can say anything, and Su-ho watches as Geu-rim performs the stunt multiple times, falling into the water over and over again without complaint.
His manager notices that Su-ho hasn’t read a word of his script and asks if he knows Geu-rim, but Su-ho just asks if he plans to report to his mother how many pages of his script he’s studied. His poor manager — that looks like it stung.
During one take, Geu-rim twists her ankle while walking backwards towards the lake. Su-ho tells the PD that he’s leaving, and he notes that Geu-rim is doing a pretty great job. The PD agrees, and he asks her for one last take. She agrees, then she catches Su-ho looking at her with that intense gaze again, which makes her nervous.
Geu-rim backs towards the lake again, and Su-ho sees her grimace when she puts her weight on her left foot. She tips backwards into the water, only this time she doesn’t resurface right away, since she’s curled up underwater clutching her hurt ankle.
Su-ho stares worriedly at the still surface of the lake, but just as he steps forward, possibly to rescue her, she pulls herself out of the water. She hangs onto the edge of the lake, and she sees Su-ho standing in front of her.
Their eyes lock, and Su-ho remembers a day a long time ago. He’d had the same look in his eyes as he does now, though much more innocent, as he’d watched a much younger Geu-rim playing joyfully in the snow.
I try not to watch trailers or read information on shows before they air (other than the basic premise), so I’m always surprised when a drama turns out to be much different from my expectations. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but in the case of Radio Romance, I find myself much more captivated by the characters than I anticipated. I was expecting the usual Candy/chaebol “opposites attract” setup in a workplace drama, but what I got was a story about a cheerful yet hardworking and passionate young lady who is determined to make her own mark in the world, and a man who’s been forced to hide his true self behind a perfect, happy mask. I’ve always said that the plot of a drama could be anything so long as the characters are interesting and unique, and I’ll like it, and these characters are already making a very strong, very good impression on me.
I think that I was expecting this drama to lean a bit more towards the comedy side, so it surprised me with its themes of loss and sadness, particularly when it comes to Su-ho and his family. It’s an interesting twist to have him turn out to be both a chaebol and a famous actor, and the bleak look we could see in his eyes at times makes me wonder exactly how much he pushes his fake family life out of his mind just to keep functioning on a daily basis. It’s no wonder he’s such a talented actor, if he had to grew up pretending to be the perfect family for the world. He seems so lonely and damaged, and he pushes everyone away. It’s not just Geu-rim that he’s avoiding — Su-ho seems prickly to everyone, his manager in particular, who really seems like he’d be a good friend if Su-ho would just let him.
I like that Geu-rim is a nicely layered character as well, and how she’s presented as a strong young woman who doesn’t need coddling or rescuing. I especially like the fact that her love of radio has a basis in her own personal life — her mother’s blindness. Shes grown up helping her mother connect to the world in ways that don’t rely on sight, so radio has been a strong bonding tool between Mom and the world, and thus between Mom and Geu-rim. It’s sweet the way her mother’s limitations have affected Geu-rim’s writing, and how it inspires her to think of unusual things like describing the guests so that the audience can picture them as well as hear them. I think that the way Geu-rim writes is lovely, so I’m hoping that someone realizes soon that she’s not a bad writer, she just has a very unique style.
But the thing that intrigues me the most is Su-ho’s reaction to seeing Geu-rim — obviously he remembers her from when they were children, and interestingly, his response to Mi-nu’s pawing her seemed almost jealous. It’s kind of incredible that he recognizes her after so many years, and I wonder if there’s more to their childhood meeting than just that one moment we’ve seen. But Su-ho’s reactions don’t seem to be ones of happiness at seeing a long-remembered first love, and he’s been pretty mean to her several times, so it’s hard to get a read on exactly what he’s feeling about Geu-rim. It makes me that much more curious to know what’s going on with him, and why he acts the way he does around her. My guess is that something happened between them when they were young that Su-ho is still angry about, but that Geu-rim doesn’t recognize him.
What concerned me most going into Radio Romance was the chemistry between Yoon Doo-joon and Kim So-hyun, or the potential lack thereof, and on that front I think we’re going to do just fine. I have no worries about their acting skills, and I have confidence that they will bring the best out of their characters, but there’s been some concern about the age difference between them. And yet somehow, once I saw them together, all I could think of was what a gorgeous couple they’re going to make (I mean seriously, could they be any prettier?). In my opinion, Kim So-hyun’s acting has matured by leaps and bounds in the last couple of years, making her seem older than her years. She fits the character of Geu-rim better than I expected. And Yoon Doo-joon has always had a soulful way of looking at his costars that makes you want to scream at the girl to just hug him already! So it’s my prediction that they’ll be able to sell the romance quite effectively, and so long as the audience lets them just be their onscreen characters and doesn’t worry about the real-life age difference (and for the record, this is the one and only time I plan to discuss it), they’ll deliver a sweet love story that will really move us.