My Year in Kdrama 2023 – The Soufflé Year

The soufflé.

So ostensibly simple yet widely considered the benchmark for baking. Simplicity and complexity. The simple masking the complex (or is it the other way around?).

To bake a soufflé – or rather to successfully bake a soufflé – one needs the right ingredients, the right preparation, the right cooking time, the right temperature and then, oh then, it will rise but never fall.

In a way, soufflé is like television. The core ingredients like script and actors, a binding agent to bring everything together, like a P.D., and a leavening agent to make it rise into something beautifully light. In a way, though, television can be like a soufflé. Get it right and people will call you a genius. Get one thing wrong and it’s a few minutes between genius and disaster.

While not every metaphor is perfect, I can’t help thinking that 2023 was the Year of the Soufflé in Kdrama. So many shows started well and seemed to be baking like they should. Then they collapsed at the end.

Of course, not all 2023 dramas are soufflés. I also watched shows like Heartbeat this year. Dramas like this are more like ice cream. There’s nothing wrong with how sweet and light they are in small doses but, after a while, you feel a little ill.

The 2023 Soufflé Fail*

*apropos of nothing, today I learned that souffle in English is a low murmuring or blowing sound heard through a stethoscope. The accent is needed to make it into the baked good, soufflé, although both words are based on the word ‘breath’. Stay tuned for my deeply profound metaphor based on this concept, which I will hopefully have devised by the end of this post.

Crash Course in Romance

Soufflé: Classic cheese

Was there ever a rich, cheese soufflé of a drama than Crash Course in Romance? All the elements of a classic, character-driven romance from the writer of the enjoyable Oh My Ghost! and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo. Industry heavyweights, Jeon Do-yeon and Jung Kyung-ho in a mature romance between middle aged adults. The acting! So good!

The world’s greatest Ahjumma outfits, the fight with the office plant, the commentary on the Korean education system. Everything was there.

But this show collapsed faster than an overwhipped soufflé. While wiser viewers were side-eying the serial killer plot from the beginning, it was instead the eggs that were the problem. Metaphorically speaking. I blame a writer who decided that the romance was an end in itself and lost track of their other themes.

Call It Love

Soufflé: Raspberry

Because it’s pink. It’s so very very pink.

There are some, no doubt, who will disagree that Call It Love collapsed at the end. It’s possibly more accurate to say that it sagged. With a bit of a finesse, your guests viewers may have been polite enough to pretend the indent of the dessert’s former glory wasn’t there. But while Call It Love looked fine when you first got it out of the oven (it ended well, at least), there was definite sagging there in the end.

Despite a rookie team with little experience baking anything, it rose quickly in the oven and seemed to hold its shape. But, as the show came into its final week, it seemed ill-equipped to deal with its central conflict. Instead, it did a time jump and separation so it could pretend the conflict didn’t exist anymore. So, despite the happy ending, the whole thing felt vaguely dissatisfying.

Pink and sweet and pretty. But a definite sag at the end. Call It Love is the definition of something that came so close to glory but didn’t quite make it.

Twinkling Watermelon

Soufflé: Classic Lemon

Bright, zesty and with a twist of citrus, Twinkling Watermelon made it to the bench as a light and fluffy dessert that looked as good as it tasted. With a great cast, good music and a sense of exuberant joy, Twinkling Watermelon had just the right mix of sweet and sour and its ingredients were whipped to perfection.

But despite everyone’s best efforts, the show simply couldn’t hold it together and feel apart at the last minute. The show’s happy ending that ignored much of its conflict and sidelined the female lead was like adding too much sugar and the whole thing was unstable.

In the end, Twinkling Watermelon collapsed suddenly and spectacularly, although the first few bites were delicious.

Castaway Diva

Soufflé: Mocha

Chocolate sweet on the tongue with a sharp tang of bitter coffee, Castaway Diva seemed to have the perfect mix of ingredients. An experienced writer of such classics as I Hear Your Voice and with award winning actors like Park Eun-bin, Castaway Diva rose quickly in the oven and promised a bittersweet and fluffy dessert.

But Castaway Diva didn’t even make it to the bench. Instead, it started collapsing while it was still baking and by the time it made it out it was flat as a pancake. In the end, the show’s ingredients weren’t as perfect as had first appeared or perhaps it was a problem with the preparation (soufflé, afficiandos will tell you, are all about whipping the eggs).

The coffee and chocolate competed with each other instead of merging, bits of it got burnt, other parts were undercooked, and the writer got distracted at some point and forgot what it was they were baking in the first place.

In terms of failed potential, Castaway Diva was definitely this year’s biggest baking fail.

[Insert brilliant souffle metaphor here, something about breathing life into dramas]. Sorry I got nothing.

See you in 2024. I hope next year’s dramas are brownies. Or possibly cheesecake.

Voting for this year’s Dragon Poll is still open if you want to vote for any of these Soufflé dramas


3 thoughts on “My Year in Kdrama 2023 – The Soufflé Year

  1. Call it love was a favorite of mine this year! I’m glad it came the closest to making the grad for you!

  2. A perfect metaphor – especially when it comes to Castaway Diva, whose bold and delicious ingredients were all half-baked. Your year in reviews are always pitch perfect, LT, even when the dramas aren’t!

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