International Dramas: Part-Time Idol

Promotional image of (from left) Hwang Seungeon, Kwon Young Deuk, Kim Heejung, Lee Suhyun, and Kwon Hyun Bin. Copyright goes to SBS and Netflix.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I’ve been on the look out for dramas that address K-Pop as a topic, and have slowly been making my way through the ones on Netflix. So when this popped up and I realized that it was only five episodes that were each thirty minutes long, I decided to give it a shot. It’s more like the length of a movie than an entire series, but it is separated into several episodes. And this does cover the story of a co-ed K-Pop group, from each member being chosen to their eventual debut at the end. And it wasn’t what I was expecting. I still can’t say completely how I feel about this drama. On one hand it was a cute lighthearted drama about a group of friends, but there were also times where it got insanely cheesy and ridiculous. It’s also not a serious look behind the scenes at K-Pop. Without further ado, I’m just going to get into it! This is your MAJOR SPOILER WARNING!! if you’re thinking about just going to watch it first, I would recommend it. It won’t take much of your time and I found it to be entertaining enough.

Summary:

A former popular K-Pop producer barges back into the K-Pop scene with the intention of making the next big group. But his training methods and reasons for choosing members are widely questioned, causing the company to attempt to stop the debut of the group. Meanwhile, each member of the group must learn to overcome their worst fears and flaws in order to debut. Sooah must overcome stage fright, Suhyun has difficulty hitting high notes due to anxiety and low self esteem, Hyunbin is fame obsessed with no real talent, Heejung has a bad temper, and Youngdeuk is a former trainee who has given up on his hopes of debuting.

The Good:

Sooah- I loved her energy right off the bat. The moment you see the pink streaks in her hair you know that she’s going to be the energizer of the group. She is shown to be incredibly sweet and considerate as well as the peace maker of the group. I think my favorite moments with her were when she was bonding with Heejung. Heejung begins believing that her losing her temper is never valid, so Sooah telling her that she would also be angry in similar situations helps her out a lot. And she’s grateful when the others help her with her stage fright. She even chose the group over money despite her poor prospects. She’s centered less than some of the others in the group, but I enjoyed watching her.

Suhyun- I think she has the most characterization of anyone else in the group. She was originally part of a group with her brother but when her brother went to enlist in the army, she found herself completely alone in her singing career. This caused her to lose her self esteem. She’s the quietest of the group, but she’s also incredibly observant of everyone else. She’s the makane of the group, which comes across well, but she’s also possibly the smartest person there. And she definitely has the most rehearsed talent. When the plot follows a singular member, it often follows her. And she’s extremely layered, so she’s always really fun to follow in the story.

Hyunbin- This was a character that I was annoyed with at first. He comes off extremely self-obsessed and believes he’s a wonderful singer and dancer when he’s actually horrendous at both. At first it’s difficult to understand why Taekyung chooses him to be a part of the group when he has such a big ego. But later, you realize that he may not be as self-obsessed as he appears. He wants fame, but mostly because he likes people. And it’s his passion that gets many of the members through difficult or embarrassing situations. Even if he isn’t the brightest tool in the shed.

Heejung- For someone so unreasonable with her temper, she often becomes the voice of reason. That is, when she’s not on the verge of beating up Hyunbin. When it happens that the company sabotages their music video, Heejung is the one who finds a way to make do with what they have. She also often has the best opinions when it comes to group decisions. She suggests they create hip-hop music while the rest suggest some much less popular and more odd genres. Her general music knowledge as well as her calm advice in difficult situations makes her stand out.

Youngdeuk- He comes in much later in the series than everyone else, but the group doesn’t feel complete until he shows up. First off, none off them are particularly good at dancing until Taekyung pulls him in as a dance captain and choreographer. It’s only when he too shows that he can go too far in practice that Taekyung reveals that he’s the next member of the group. He’s definitely the most experienced and the most mature of everyone else, as well as one of the only members who cooks. He feels like a needed member of the team.

The Romance- I actually really loved the small and cute romance between Suhyun and Hyunbin. She’s often too shy to speak, while he doesn’t know when to be quiet. They both learn from each other as well as care for each other and it was frankly adorable every time they were on screen together. Despite the short nature of the show, their romance didn’t at all feel forced. I wasn’t expecting a romance in this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. They were both so cute!

The Bonding- Over the course of the show it really feels like they all become close. Bonding between characters is actually what the show focuses on the most, which makes the characterization and the bond between them feel that much more realistic. I especially liked when Taekyung left the group to their own devices because you could really see how the members worked as a team. A group doesn’t work unless the members are in sync, and the show spends much of its time making sure that they are.

The Music- It sounded like legitimate K-Pop music and I have to give it props for that.

The Bad:

Taekyung- He was the producer and he felt pretty inconsistent. There were times where the show showed you how kind and wise he was and you couldn’t help but like him. But other times he was nothing but the butt of the joke or he felt as though he was intruding on the bonding of other characters. I barely put him in this category, but he wasn’t my favorite over-all.

The Humor- I once again have to ask- who is this humor for? The comedy felt like it was for five year olds when the show itself seemed to be attempting to appeal to youth in their teens and twenties. I definitely appreciated the more serious or general bonding scenes over the comedic ones for just this reason. I cringed almost every time a character made a joke because it always was painfully unfunny. It was almost as if whoever wrote the jokes were accusing their audience of being immature. It just didn’t fit.

The Cheese- Sometimes I like some cheese in my shows. But sometimes this show got overly ridiculous way too quickly. The entire series of scenes that introduce Taekyung as a character just made me cringe the entire time. If it was a bit more well placed, I might have been able to stand it, but it always seemed to occur out of nowhere without warning. And this drama is packed with sometimes cheesily delivered messages about friendship or perseverance. If you watch this drama you definitely have to be prepared to cringe. And because of that, this drama also doesn’t realistically cover K-Pop or many of the struggles involved with it behind the scenes. I wished they had at least attempted a more serious subject.

The Treatment- There were several things that Taekyung forced the idols to do that I really questioned. Especially because the conversation about the treatment of idols by their companies is becoming more and more of a topic of interest, specifically because of how specific companies handled Covid. In the show Taekyung forced the group to go through an absolutely cruel boot camp. And it was supposed to be comedic, but to me it just made me wonder about the morality of Taekyung. There’s also a point in time where Taekyung leaves for the day, so the group decides they should take the day off because they haven’t had one yet. And he threatens to fire them when he comes back. The drama treated his actions as justified, which made the situation worse. Mistreatment is never justifiable. It almost ruined the character of Taekyung for me. There’s a reason he’s my least favorite main character.

The Dancing- They needed more practice in that. Sometimes the dancing looked amazing, but specifically their debut performance at the end felt way out of sync. It almost made me wonder if they filmed the debut performance really early on in the process. It made an otherwise fun looking performance feel a little messy.

The Acting- This is where I had some of the most issues. Many of the people hired for this project were idols, and for good reason. It seems like the initial idea was to make this an actual idol group. Some of the idols used their real names as the characters because of this. I’m not sure if this just never came to fruition or if it’s still in the works. Considering there’s no word on any of this, my guess is that the idea was abandoned. Being an idol first and foremost doesn’t automatically mean that you’re a bad actor. Though I didn’t like ‘Imitation’ as a show for the most part, I thought the idols did a great job acting! But here, the acting often felt pretty wooden. It’s probably one of my biggest gripes with the show.

As you can tell, I really liked the characters in the show and I loved the synopsis. It was not a realistic view of a K-Pop group necessarily, but it was still entertaining. Just don’t expect it to get into many actual serious subjects and also expect it to be chock full of cringe. Personally, I have a soft spot for shows and movies that focus on the gradual bonding of a group of people. And this show has all that lighthearted fun, even if it is not the best drama I’ve seen by a long shot. If you’re looking for something quick, lighthearted, and fun, then this definitely covers that! But if you’re looking for a realistic look at K-Pop or the next great K-Drama to become obsessed with, then maybe skip this one.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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