The best TV is Korean TV: A guide to awesome K-dramas


Game of Thrones isn’t on, you’ve finished Orange Is The New Black, and fall TV hasn’t kicked in yet. You need something to get obsessed with. Allow me to suggest a Korean drama, or K-drama, as they’re called. You may have heard about them, or seen that American TV networks are considering remakes, or read the New York Times report that China’s fallen in love with them (2 billion views!), or read about how North Koreans are smuggling them in. You may be curious, but not know where to start. Well, I’m obsessed. So allow me to gently guide you.

First things first: These are all love stories. I LOVE LOVE STORIES. The K-dramas listed below are basically extended remix rom-coms. The beauty of K-dramas is they are self-contained mini-series: There’s just one season. So folks fall in love, there are hijinks and unexpected plot twists, but it all gets wrapped up in 15-25 episodes. No need to commit to one zillion seasons and episodes! Still, getting absorbed feels so good—if you’re in it for the ride. And you are. You should be.

Ready? Let’s go:

If you like: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night or the Amanda Bynes movie She’s The Man

Watch: Coffee Prince and You Are Beautfiul

Coffee Prince involves a hardworking tomboy and a lazy coffee heir. The rich dude’s mom wants him to get married and get serious, so she puts him in charge of a struggling café the family owns. He comes up with a concept — call it Coffee Prince, hire hot guys to serve the java — and winds up employing a tomboy. She’s got her motorbike helmet on when she approaches him, so he thinks she’s a guy. Trying to hide her secret at work is the least of her problems — she finds herself falling in love with the boss! He, too has feelings for her, which he finds troubling, since he’s not gay. Super romantic scenarios and mixups ensue. (Available on Netflix and free on DramaFever)

In You Are Beautiful, an innocent young nun is minding her business, singing hymns in the cathedral, when her twin brother’s manager shows up. See, her brother — also a singer — has just landed a spot in a hugely popular boy band, but he went in for some plastic surgery that went awry and needs to heal, so he won’t be able to make the big announcement and photo shoot. The big-hearted nun agrees to cut her hair pose as a boy for the photoshoot, but her brother is slow to recover and one day turns into weeks. She ends up moving into the house with the three other dudes in the band: the grouchy lead singer, the sensitive guitarist, and the wacky drummer. She’s stressed about keeping her secret, and there’s tension in the group because all the guys are falling in love with her. Cue the glaring at each other. Meanwhile, one paparazzo is suspicious of the new “boy” in the group, and a famous actress is blackmailing the lead singer into dating her. Plus: The nun was raised by Mother Superior, but who is her real mom??? So much dramz. (Available on Netflix and free on DramaFever)

If you like: Gossip Girl, Pretty In Pink, Mean Girls or She’s All That

Watch: Boys Over Flowers and The Heirs

Boys Over Flowers JanDi, a lower-class daughter of dry-cleaners, winds up getting a scholarship to a seriously fancy prep school full of rich kids. She’s immediately hazed by F4, an aloof, hyper stylish gang of wealthy sons-of-CEOs-dandies who have their own entrance music. Though JanDi and F4 start out as enemies, eventually a love triangle emerges. Should she be with the spoiled-brat leader of the group? Or the ennui-filled brooding violin player who always wears cream-colored clothing? They call this “the Korean Gossip Girl” and that’s all you need to know. (Available on Netflix and free on DramaFever)

The Heirs Devastating right from the very beginning, The Heirs, like BOF, involves a poor girl going to a high school for the super wealthy. It’s the other Korean Gossip Girl. She’s drawn to a rich guy—and wouldn’t you know it, her mother (who cannot speak) ends up becoming a housekeeper for his family. Themes explored include duty, love, loyalty, shame and family sacrifice. Is it better to be broke but have a mother’s attention in your life? Or rich and lonely with a hyper-disfunctional family? And when two hot rich dudes fight over you in the school hallway, don’t we all win? (Available free on DramaFever)

If you like: Almost Famous or Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Watch: Mary Stayed Out All Night

Mary’s a good girl torn between an indie rocker and super sad rich dude. This boozy romp (seriously, the characters stay drunk) with a fake-marriage plot has a million twists and turns, and the ending may surprise you, since it deviates from the classic rom-com formula. (Available free on DramaFever)

Want a deeply romantic adult love story that will rip your heart right out?

Watch: Fated To Love You

In an epic mix-up involving a sleeping potion and a mistaken hotel room, a mousy, coffee-fecthing office assistant and an eccentric rich dude accidentally have a one night stand. After she discovers she’s pregnant, they get married to keep things legit. Then they start falling in love. (Available on Netflix and free on DramaFever)

Want to be ahead of U.S. TV trends?

Watch: My Love From Another Star

This “epic supernatural love story” is slated to get a remake on ABC, according to The Hollywood Reporter, but why wait for the American version? It’s never too soon to get swept away by a hot alien dude who can stop time and save your life. The heroine in this romance—a vain, wisecracking K-drama actress—is immensely charming, and the subplots (a ticking clock, a villainously murdery villain and a desperate love square) will keep you on the edge of your seat. (Available free on DramaFever)

That should hold you over for a few months. Let me know if you’re enjoying all the drama — tweet me!

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