2020 in Kdrama: The Poll Results

What were the best, worst, funniest, most frustrating dramas in 2020? We polled nearly 150 drama watchers to find out.

The Best

2020 was Hospital Playlist’s year, with the drama taking out both Best and Favourite drama in this year’s poll. It had serious competition, however, from It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (IOTNBO), which remained hot on its heels till the end.

The cast of Hospital Playlist
Hospital Playlist won Best and Favourite Drama, as well as Best Ensemble

Despite the nail-biting competition, the popular slice of life drama about doctors made it to the finish line first with nearly one fifth of voters (18%) selecting it for both Best and Favourite Drama. IOTNBO was second by only a small margin with 16 per cent and 14 per cent respectively. Hospital Playlist also picked up the award for Best Ensemble with a definitive 40 per cent of the vote and was a strong write-in vote contender for The One That Made You Laugh the Most, despite not being an option in the poll.

As you can see from the proportions, votes in the Favourite Drama category were spread more widely and there was a noteworthy cluster of dramas sitting right below the top two: Memorials/ Into The Ring (10%), A Piece of Your Mind (9%) and I’ll Find You on a Beautiful Day (7%).

The two leads from It's Okay to Not Be Okay. He's embracing her from behind.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay was only a few votes away from both Best and Favourite

Memorials/Into the Ring also garnered an impressive 18 per cent of the vote in The One That Made You Laugh the Most, despite being outdone by Crash Landing On You (29%). Viewers this year were clearly enamoured of Son Ye-jin’s fish-out-of-water antics in North Korea. But they also awarded the show Best Romance (20%) with Memorials/Into The Ring (13%) and Do You Like Brahms (12%) with only one vote between them at second and third. The dimples win again.

From laughter to tears, almost a quarter of this year’s voters (24%) chose the emotional devastation of Hi Bye Mama! as The One That Made You Cry the Most. But it was the supernatural fantasy Mystic Pop-Up Bar (17%) that came from behind A Piece of Your Mind (15%) at the last minute to take out Most Underrated.

A still from Mystic Pop Up Bar and its flamboyant owner
The colourful, offbeat supernatural fantasy Mystic Pop Up Bar was voted Most Underrated

While votes were obviously close across a lot of the categories, nothing compares to Best Villain where voters couldn’t decide at all: fast-packed zombie sageuk, Kingdom 2; thriller Flower of Evil; and crime thriller, Forest of Secrets 2 all got 13 per cent of the vote. Decimal places were needed to get the clear winner. And… it’s the zombies in funny hats with one more vote than the others.

Notably, the still-airing Kairos (12%) was also in contention as was the wonderful crime thriller Nobody Knows (11%). With a number of passionate write-in ballots across the categories, it seems that Kairos has a rapidly-expanding fan club and could have ranked more highly in this poll if it had aired earlier in the year.

A Joseon soldier runs from Kingdom's zombies
Kingdom’s fast-paced second season won Best Villain

The Worst

If the result of the Best Drama award was clear, it was even more so for the worst. Ji Chang-wook has managed to sweep the field two years in a row. Last year his universally-panned comeback drama Melting Me Softly got a whopping 46 per cent of the vote for Worst Drama. This year he won again with his second attempt at a comeback drama, Backstreet Rookie (17%). At least this year he had some competition in The King Eternal Monarch (TKEM) (15%) and Forest (13%), which were a very close second and third.  

TKEM and Backstreet Rookie also fought it out for Worst Romance with TKEM (16%) nudging out the Rookie (14%) in the end. TKEM also blitzed the field for Most Overrated with a whopping 38 per cent of the vote leaving the second contender, Crash landing On You (23%) in its wake.

The main couple from The King Eternal Monarch
Viewers were unimpressed with the big budget PPL fest that was TKEM, awarding it Worst Romance and Most Overrated

And while TKEM (9%) was second in the category for Worst Ending, nothing could rival the epic record-breaking 60 per cent of the vote for romantic comedy Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol. You think your drama has a bad ending, it said, I’ll show you a bad ending. It’s not surprising then that it also won the category for Best Internet Meltdown (32%), although the Dramaland-splitting shipping war in Start-Up meant it came close (31%).

You may think she ended up with the wrong man. But at least he didn’t [SPOILER].

The Most Important Award

It was a difficult decision we forced you to make but you made it.

I can finally reveal that Forest won the inaugural (only) award for Best Clam* with over 40% of the vote.

The leas from Forest hang out in a freshwater lake that is presumably full of clams
Do not let the clams fool you, they are there. They are everywhere

The Results

How did your favourites fare? Did democracy work again?

Best Drama

Hospital Playlist

Special Mention: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay; Someday Or One Day (which picked up a write-in ballot despite not being Korean)

Author’s Pick: Forest of Secrets/ Stranger 2

Favourite Drama

Hospital Playlist

Special Mention: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Author’s Pick: School Nurse Files (and if you want to know why read my love letter to it on Fangirlverdict)

Worst Show

Backstreet Rookie

Special Mention: The King: Eternal Monarch

Author’s Pick: Meow, the Secret Boy

Most Underrated

Mystic Pop-Up Bar

Special Mention: A Piece of Your Mind

Author’s Pick: School Nurse Files

Most Overrated

The King: Eternal Monarch

Author’s Pick: Crash Landing on You

The One That Made You Laugh The Most

Crash Landing On You

Author’s Pick: Zombie Detective

The One That Made You Cry The Most

Hi Bye Mama!

Author’s Pick: A Piece of Your Mind

The One With the Best Villain 

Kingdom 2

Author’s Pick: Nobody Knows

The One With the Best Romance

Crash Landing On You

Author’s Pick: A Piece of Your Mind

The One With the Best Ensemble Cast

Hospital Playlist

Author’s Pick: Black Dog

The One With the Best Breakout Performance

Kim Seon-ho (Start-Up)

Author’s Pick: Ahn Ji-ho (Nobody Knows)

The One With the Worst Ending

Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol

Author’s Pick: I haven’t seen the drama and even I know it’s the worst ending

The One With the Best Internet Meltdown

Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol

Special Mention: Start-Up

Author’s Pick: I’m surprised there’s an internet left standing after that meltdown

The One With the Worst Romance

The King: Eternal Monarch

Author’s Pick: Too many to chose from this year, I don’t know where to start

The One with the Best Clam!*


Author’s Pick: Forest

*What’s with the clams? I’m sorry to all my readers who do not lurk about Dramabeans but I’m afraid this is a bit of an in joke. The funny thing though is that there really were a weird number of clams this year. The female lead in Forest found some in a freshwater lake, the leads in Crash Landing on You dined on them. In the end they became a way of saying a drama made no sense (only the clams know, the clams know everything). Thank you for bearing with us as we have our fun. And thanks for reading!


17 thoughts on “2020 in Kdrama: The Poll Results

  1. Unlike YY, I’m heartbroken. FOS2 fans need to learn from Kairos fans. That rapidly-expanding fan club is worth emulating.

    And the best meltdown was SO close!!, worthy of a special mention.

    1. Oh, you’re right. It is close enough for a special mention. What’s a small edit between friends?

      I’m also disappointed about FoS2. Even if it didn’t win, I was hoping it would be closer to the other two. It was a first rate drama.

  2. Thanks for working on this LT!

    This was a pretty tough survey to complete as I didn’t get round to watching most of the dramas that aired this year.

    Definitely think that the entry for worst show should go to Good Casting. What a waste of talent.
    Again the dramas I really enjoyed this year were A piece of your mind , hyena, zombie detective and of course Kairos!!

    1. There were a lot of shows this year that could have been the worst show unfortunately. Rugal was awful too.

  3. Ugh. I only voted once and considered going again to give FOS2 a boost, but I thought it would do well because, well, IT’S THE BEST. I thoroughly enjoyed Hospital Playlist, but it is not better than the tautly plotted Forest of Secrets.

  4. I’m deeply unhappy that Was It Love didn’t win Worst Drama, but c’est la vie! 😂
    Everything else looks great! It’s good to hear that Nobody Knows stood a fighting chance in several categories. I didn’t predict that Hospital Playlist would sweep through all the awards, but I’m not surprised or unhappy with that, or was a great show!

    1. I’m not going to make a sweeping comment about 2020 as a drama year but I do think it says something that so many dramas could have been the Worst Drama. Alice and Record of Youth also got a good showing. Men are Men. Born Again…

      1. I can’t decide whether I’m happy I avoided all of those, or annoyed that I actually sat through all of Was It Love and therefore can validly say it was terrible beginning to end. Usually I’m smart enough to drop the bad stuff straight away!

  5. Thanks for all the surveys. Need to power through Signal but have issues when the basic laws of physics are not observed. Radio waves are forever but don’t loop back in time. It’s tough to be a science nerd who loves drama. Currently reading posts while watching Good Detective because it got votes. Just not feeling it. I’m a rookie kdrama fan, but I’m thinking perhaps every year has many, many potential winners for worst drama? Then there are the also-rans.

    1. If you’re looking for scientific accuracy or even consistent internal logic in a show then Korean dramas are not the place to look. Unfortunately, even the ‘good’ dramas that have a time travel or parallel universe component do not deal with those elements well. Writers tend to see these as being supernatural rather than natural and of the ‘anything is possible’ variety. Even established mythologies can go straight out the window when the writer deems it necessary. Nonetheless, Signal, Tunnel and Queen In-hyun’s Man are very popular shows, as is Nine. But all of them have logic fails in their execution of time travel, some more than others. If it’s something that’s really important to you than you might struggle with dramas that have this theme.

      1. I think the concept of time travel is ok as long as it works within the rules the show itself defines.
        Signal was very consistent with the rules it defined for how ‘Time’ as an entity works.

        Even if you take masterpieces like ‘Dark’ or the super crazy ‘predestination’ they don’t technically follow the rules of time travel (in sense that cause and effect would be drastically different)

        But they are perfect as a show. Or rather as a storytelling device since they follow their own defined rule when it comes to treating time as an element rather than an existing concept.

        PS. Signal is a masterpiece.

        1. If you like Dark, then you might enjoy my pieces on it. I’ve written quite a lot on it over the past two years or so. I think it was the best televisual offering this year (although it had some competition from the Taiwanese Someday or One Day). I have some thoughts on Dark and time travel theory but I won’t put it here in case it’s a spoiler for those who haven’t watched it yet. But feel free to drop by the Dark posts if you want to chat.

          In terms of internal consistency in its mythology, Signal is by far the best out of Korea. It at least didn’t ignore all its own established rules to bring about the ending like most of them did.

  6. I loved seeing a piece of your mind everywhere !! it was such a underrated gem and shame it got cut down but had a beautiful beautiful story. It was best drama of 2020 for me with someday or one day very close

    1. Yes, APOYM was a truly beautiful drama, as was Someday or One Day. Both spoke to me deeply and I’m glad that APOYM in particular has such a vocal little fan club, even if the show was the victim of an episode cut. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

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