I love Koreatown in the springtime…

Wherein I blog about all things Korean in Los Angeles

Sang Doo, Let’s Include a Plot March 26, 2008

Filed under: kdramas — Raven @ 3:18 pm
Tags: , , ,

Yesterday I finished watching the kdrama Sang Doo, Let’s Go to School (상두야,학교가자!), starring Bi/Rain and Gong Hyo Jin. It had a promising setup: guy working as a gigolo in order to pay his daughter’s hospital bills meets a girl from his past who has no clue what he’s up to now. Naturally, she was his first love and he’s still in love with her. As cliched as the whole “first love” thing is, I thought it worked here. But someone needs to tell the writers of kdramas that it can’t all be about the love story. Dramas really work much better if the characters have external goals beyond getting together.


The characters played by Bi and Gong Hyo Jin have no external goals, and the plot is further watered down by the addition of love interests for each of them. I suppose the love interests are intended to increase the conflict, but there would have been plenty of conflict if the writers had come up with a storyline that forced Bi and Gong Hyo Jin to come into constant contact with each other whether they liked it or not. He’s ashamed of his present life and they both have secrets from their past that they’re hiding, so in terms of emotional content there’s already plenty. I would have liked to see the writers do something like have Gong Hyo Jin set up an amateur sting operation to catch Bi and/or his uncle (also a gigolo). Based on the first episode, the drama could totally have gone that direction. It just didn’t.

There was nothing wrong with the acting. I particularly like Rain when he’s doing sad scenes. This drama didn’t make me cry, but it did have some poignant moments. But ultimately I foresaw virtually every plot twist, and it felt like most of the stuff was being added in to fill up the full 16 episodes. The only thing they didn’t put in? You guessed it, a plot. I wanted to like this drama, but ultimately it was a disappointment.

P.S. On the bright side, this was the first kdrama I’ve seen where a character gets a nosebleed from working too hard and lack of sleep and doesn’t end up having leukemia.

P.P.S. Also on the bright side, I’ve now learned how to say “gigolo” in Korean. I’m sure this word will stand me in good stead…


24 Responses to “Sang Doo, Let’s Include a Plot”

  1. youngkim Says:

    i have this on dvd and never got around to watching it.

  2. Raven Says:

    I was hoping for great things… but then, I always am when I start a new drama. Kdrama writers really need to work on external goals. Seriously.

    Or else just hire me to write kdramas. 🙂

  3. youngkim Says:

    I do think that Jung Ji Hoon is a great actor. He was really enjoyable to watch in Pull How-Soo.

  4. JT Says:

    Well, I haven’t seen the drama in question, but the title would indicate that going to school would be the external goal, no? Going to classes. Graduating. No? 😛

    BTW, I have written about 45 pages of my screenplay–giving my characters the right external goals was the hardest part. The emotional story I have down. This is the hardest I have written in so many years. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Raven Says:

    Young, I agree. You need to watch him in A Love to Kill. It’s a flawed drama in terms of plot, but he gets some great emotional stuff to play with. That’s one I’d like to own. I need to look for it on eBay.

    His acting skills are part of why I found Sang Doo LGTS so disappointing; I knew that if the story had been better, he would have had much more opportunity to show what he could do. *sigh*

  6. Raven Says:

    JT, the “let’s go to school” part actually refers mostly to the two leads’ shared past as schoolmates (I say mostly because a school does figure in the present-day story, but only to a certain extent).

    Congrats on the first 45! I’m delighted that your characters have external goals, and I’m happy if I provided inspiration. If you need a read at some point, let me know.

  7. youngkim Says:

    Prepare to throw up!!!

  8. Raven Says:

    Okay, despite having dial-up I loaded and watched that trailer. I see a lot of scenes I recognize, but where’s the emotional content? I didn’t see any indications that the incredible second half of 엽기적인 그녀 is in this movie. Maybe it is, but I didn’t see any signs of it.

    Who was it that made the point that Hollywood sometimes adapts successful Asian movies for the American market but fails to include the elements that made them successful? Did someone say that at the CAPE/KOFIC film panel? I forget. But I know that without the emotional content of the second half, My Sassy Girl is nothing.

  9. JT Says:

    I think they left the emotional part out of the trailer so that audiences might be pleasantly surprised at how poignant the relationship actually is. You can’t give away everything. I thought The Lake House was a decent remake of Il mare, btw. It makes me so proud to see Korean movies being remade.

  10. Raven Says:

    Seriously, you thought The Lake House was a good remake? I thought it totally omitted some of the chief elements that made Il Mare memorable, namely the girl’s role in what happened in the third act (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here in case somebody reading hasn’t seen Il Mare). Without that the story is much less rich emotionally, much more on the surface and blah.

    I dunno about them leaving the emotional part of MSG out of the trailer. One can hope, but I can’t help thinking I would have seen some hints in the trailer if it was in the movie.

    It actually makes me sad to see Korean movies being remade when I don’t like the remake. If they do a good job, I’m fine with it.

  11. JT Says:

    hmmm… i guess this is why you are the movie critic… lol… I don’t think remakes are ever as good as the original, especially if we’re remaking across cultures (I’m sure you can think of an example to prove me wrong here, too…) but I really did not mind the Lake House. Of course, I’ve always loved Keanu and Sandra, so….

  12. Raven Says:

    Do you think Keanu kinda looks like the guy in Il Mare? I just rewatched Il Mare the other day, and I think he does somewhat. For what it’s worth.

  13. JT Says:

    Hmmm…. I never thought they resembled each other, but maybe that’s because I have seen Lee Jung Jae up close and personal several times and that makes him less movie-starry and more human. Whereas Keanu is a figure from Hollywood Dreamland. Lee Jung Jae was probably my favorite actor while I lived in Korea. He was on the cover of the first men’s magazine that I bought there. I used to eat at his Italian restaurant in Seoul all the time. Good times!

  14. Raven Says:

    I’ll see your Lee Jung Jae and raise you a Keanu… Keanu is one of the few celebs I’ve actually seen and recognized here in L.A. (the “and recognized” is very important, because I’m terrible with faces out of context). Some friends and I were at the movies, and when we came out, there he was. He’d arrived on his motorcycle and had the helmet hair (and helmet + motorcycle gear) to prove it.

  15. youngkim Says:

    i liked the interaction of the characters in The Lake House whereas in the other one, there wasn’t as much cause and effect.

  16. Raven Says:

    I can see I’m in the minority here. But the girl caused huge problems for the guy in Il Mare. It was mostly because of that that Il Mare tugged at the emotions, I felt. The Lake House left all that out.

  17. JT Says:

    lol Raven… I’m going to see your Keanu and raise you a Pierce Brosnan who I saw shopping in Malibu once, and I looked at him with a “I-know-you, so why-don’t-you-know-who-I-am” face…

  18. Raven Says:

    LOL, I’m sure he appreciated that. I’m tempted to see your Pierce Brosnan and raise you a Jack Nicholson, but then we might keep trying to one-up each other all evening. 🙂

  19. JT Says:

    You would have won if you played the Jack Nicholson card… 😛

  20. Raven Says:

    Then consider it played! 😀

  21. docmitasha Says:

    eww to the american rip off of sassy girl…its going to be bad.
    and i remember admiring bi’s acting skills in sangdoo…yesterday a friend said that for somebody who can be so dumb in life, he sure can act well ;)! I totally agree, I actually like his acting best. But the ENDING OF SANGDOO WAS TERRIBLE! Wasn’t it? I think I gaped for about 10 minutes. I won’t give it away, but I’ll agree with your points.

  22. Raven Says:

    Yeah, the ending was very strange. I don’t want to give it away either, but I couldn’t figure out what was supposed to have happened. It was head-scratchingly bad.

  23. Angry Goblin Says:

    My mom and I just finished watching this drama, and after reading the ending comments on other sites, I disagree with most of the reviews.
    I think, in the writers’ clumsy attempt at suspense, they wanted us to think one way, but actually, the show ended happier.
    I think there was a fresh start where it all began. (I’m trying to be as ambiguous as possible. I HOPE that doesn’t give away anything! If it does, don’t print this comment).

  24. Raven Says:

    Hmm, I have trouble seeing how they could make a fresh start, though. And… Now I’m the one who really wants to include spoilers and must bite my tongue to keep from doing so. Let’s just say that if Bi’s character made a fresh start as shown in the drama, a certain person would no longer have been in his life, and I just can’t see him choosing to go that route.

    It was clumsy, yes. I agree with you there. 🙂

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