I struggled with what to call this category, because for me dramas tend to fall into three categories: Thriller, Rom-Com and “everything else”. Which is terrible, I know. I suppose there’s one other category “slice of life”, but I didn’t really love any of those dramas this year. So I ended up calling it the Melodrama award, even though I know these aren’t really makjang dailies when you get down to it. So it’s a bit of a mishmash, but I think they each fit the category (unlike our previous two awards, which have had some trouble). Let’s meet the nominees, shall we: Entertainer, Marriage Contract, and Romantic Teacher Doctor Kim.
Entertainer was the surprising nominee for me, because the drama has some very light, bright moments to contrast its heavier themes–giving it the watchability of a rom-com but the great fulfillment of a heavier drama. That’s not always a good thing, though, and I didn’t connect to the characters so well here as in one of the other nominees, which is hard for what I consider to be a character driven category.
Marriage Contract has the emotional connections down. It is home to one of the best romances I think I’ve ever watched, with acting that does the story and feelings justice. Whew, I cried a lot watching this one (or at least I remember doing so–don’t make me a liar!) As a melodrama it takes a lighter approach, siding more on the slice of life side in terms of intensive plot. The show was really about character development, and so that was the lens I saw the plot through rather than the other way around.
Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim does just the opposite, its strengths coming through in how the characters react to events surrounding them. This is a perfect fit for a medical drama, where new patients complicate their lives on a daily–sometimes hourly–basis. They zoomed through a lot of development in the first episodes, and now the melodrama comes in as the audience tracks how the characters interact amidst the complicated relationships and circumstances surrounding them. It’s definitely the heaviest tone of the three, although Entertainer discusses the meatiest philosophy.
With these three heavy hitters, I had to turn to what one of these dramas really had above the others. And so the best melodrama of 2016 is:
Melodramas are all about the characters for me, and that was where Marriage Contract absolutely shined. Our leads really rose above the mark for Marriage Contract, with complex and layered acting not just together–they’re chemistry was off the charts–but also alone. Tracking their emotional journey was a joy to watch every single time, whereas the other shows each had their slower, draggier moments.
Entertainer was the next runner up, for its interesting presentation of some very sensitive topics in Korea. Not only did it frankly discuss single parenthood without marriage, adoption, and the schooling system, it also tackled the sometimes overbearing nature of the entertainment industry and netizens in Korea. It did so with heart and warmth and one of the sassiest presidents and best noonas ever. However, the light tone was a bit distracting, and I just decided Marriage Contract had that special something extra.
Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim has yet to finish, but I don’t think that it will gain enough ground to overtake Marriage Contract during the rest of its run. It’s intense and character driven, yes, but I while the chemistry is absolutely insane between our leads and other cast members I haven’t yet connected to the characters like I have with the other two dramas. (Update since I wrote this: episode 10 hit the absolute sweet spot for me. Good job, show!)
Still, Marriage Contract hit that sweet spot for its entire run, combining a high standard of production with an easy watchable tone and heartbreaking characters. So the award, obviously, still goes to you, show.
Thanks for reading and tune in tomorrow for another day of Christmas!