(Jan – Feb 2011)
who’s in it
Kim SooHyun (Giant, Father’s House)
Taecyeon (Cinderella’s Sister, 2PM-member)
Suzy (Miss A-member)
Ham EunJung (T-ara-member)
Uhm KiJoon (Hero)
Lee YoonJi (Goong)
what’s it about
The entire drama is actually a flashback about an artist called K who rises to international fame—WORLD STAR fame (oh, Rain, you better watch yo back!). Right away, we know K is a [money-making] big deal because our first introduction to K is at a Grammy awards ceremony, and we all know only the best of the best [who sell lots of albums] get to go to the Grammys [don’t mind my raging cynicism =)].
But K’s real identity is kept secret from us because...
Alright, let’s travel back in time and get to the facts. The director of Kirin Art School gets the story rolling, and he is played by Bae YongJoon, aka Mr. Winter Sonata (that’s what I call him, the show calls him Ghost…I like my nickname better). Real kpop idol-con Kim HyunJoong makes a quick cameo and gets named-dropped as a former student of Kirin, so we know two things right off the bat: 1) Kirin is a well-known performing arts academy in Seoul, and 2) this is not a violin and ballet kind of education, they totally do the kpop at this school.
Back to Mr. Winter Sonata, who is a man who wants to encourage aspiring young talent—which is…not too far from real life, actually. He handpicks three “special” students, letting them bypass the school’s traditional selection process, which sets off sparks between the jealous incoming freshman and these leapfroggers. There is also some mythology and wonder about some kind of pendant that supposedly gives good mojo to its owner…it is symbolic of dreams, I believe, but these kids take it more literally. It is the shape of a K. Dun-dun-dun.
The drama is about these Kirin students and their struggles to overcome their personal and professional growing pains. During Kirin’s open auditions, Mr. Winter Sonata tells all the hopefuls, “The contest has now begun. Don’t fear it, enjoy it.” It’s like he’s talking to us, the viewership.
Not unlike a sitcom, this one is an ensemble cast with multiple story threads intersecting a million different ways. Here are your main
Relatively new, and real female kpop act Miss A donates Suzy (who plays Go HyeMi), a richly voiced girl with a richly bitchy attitude to match. When her comfortable world comes crashing down around her due to her father’s business failures and loan shark debts, she is forced to give up her dreams of Juilliard and head for Kirin instead. Her main motivating factor to attend a school she considers crappy is her fear that the loan sharks will focus their terrorizing intent on her little sister if she doesn’t somehow get rich and pay them back their money. Yet again, a kdrama Dad has run away all by hisself and left children to deal with the bag of horse pile.
Alrighty now, I’ve saved the best for last. Our lead-lead is played by the only actor-actor among the main cast (thank you drama gods), the natural talent-overflowing Kim SooHyun (Song SamDong). He plays a musical genius trapped in the package of a “country bumpkin,” but the sage Mr. Winter Sonata recognizes his musical talents and recruits him as one of his special project kids. Our country boy immediately falls for Suzy, the tough-talking city girl, and follows her to Seoul to join Kirin. Oh right, he also goes there to pursue his dreams of becoming a big star so he can make lots of money and take care of his mother.
(what’s it about initially posted Feb 4, 2011)
Produced by K-entertainment industry bigwigs Bae YongJoon and Park JinYoung
God of Study meets Boys Over Flowers meets I Am Sam…meets Glee. Wrap that around your heads, people!
First off, I will be honest, I struggled through the first two episodes. This show was already flying along fast and high, riding on a fuel of love from its adoring fan base before I found some time to sit down and give it a try. Well, I immediately started to sweat bullets and get really nervous. I was biting my nails as the show entered its second episode…omfg, am I going to have to write a negative first impression? 2PM fans are going to kill me! And Hottests have proven they are a formidable bunch. Look, I tell you what, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I am somewhat fearful of hardcore idol fans. It won’t stop me from being honest, obviously, but I have a healthy dose of respect for them. Anyhow, I worried. There were A LOT of idols in here…this was a reviewing landmine!
But then something strange happened after the second episode...I started to really get addicted! I could not stop watching! The awkwardness and the cheese were still present, but it became a kind of clumsy charm. Also, Suzy got better, more likable. The story was actually pretty riveting. The characters were enough complicated to keep me questioning the direction of their stories…and of course, I wanted to know which of these kids would grow up to challenge Rain’s
The obvious wobble-factor for this show was the acting because the largely idol cast could not be ignored. Because of the wide range of previous acting experience in Dream, the acting deliveries were accordingly a wide range, from passable to fantastic, but overall, no one made me want to pull out my hair.
This post has already gone too long, so to wrap:
1) This show was all about the wunderkind Kim SooHyun!
2) Why does Mr. Winter Sonata look so eerily like Kim HyunJoong?
3) Dream reportedly spent $800,000 USD to build a whole building as their set…but did they forget the heating or what? I was constantly distracted by the billowing steam from their mouths whenever they were at Kirin Art School. I mean, seriously, those poor people looked like they were freezing their asses off. It’s either that…or they were too hot for this show??? Check out that fog of hazy breath around them!
4) JYP wearing neon green track pants…is surprisingly not a bad thing. Park JinYoung plays an instructor at Kirin and he is stealing some of the thunder from his own artists. How so? He’s pretty damn awesomely funny in here. I demand more scenes with JYP instructing more students! For kpop fans, me thinks this is especially amusing as many are real life artists under his agency.
5) The music featured and performed in Dream is done very well. Well, that would be fail, wouldn’t it now, if the music was bad in a drama about musical geniuses?
And finally, one last funny fun fun...for fun:
(first impressions initially posted Feb 4, 2011)
Mr. Rising Talent: Kim SooHyun!
This young actor was thrown into the
...and not only did he survive, but conquered the beast (of expectations).
Think about it, surely it could not have been exactly calming to read a cast sheet littered with music industry pop stars like IU, Taecyeon, Ham EunJung, WooYoung, Park JinYoung, etc., but Kim showed how an actor throws down, and he made it look like a walk in the park. He gave this show some real marrow, the kind of integrity I don’t think many of us kdrama diehards expected when we first read the cast sheet! Glitter is glitter, but a natural acting talent is a talent too, just like singing, and while his musical costars may rule an Inkigayo or M-Countdown stage, Kim proved that true acting talent also cannot be bought, borrowed, or faked. I have no doubt Dream will be remembered as a highlight of 2011 when December comes, and it ain’t subjectivity when I say that it would be very much thanks to Kim.
And if the rest of the kpop idol cast makes you wary, think of it this way: the idols are portraying idols. They are, if nothing, very credentialed for their parts.
NOTE: Usually I just use actor names in my reviews, but since this drama had idols playing idols, in an effort not to confuse further an already blurry line, the rest of this ramble will use Dream High character names instead:
Wooyoung = Jason
IU = Pilsook
Taecyeon = JinGuk
Ham EunJung = Yoon BaekHee
Kim SooHyun = SamDong
Suzy = Go HyeMi
Uhm KiJoon = Teacher Kang
Lee YoonJi = Teacher Shi
Aside from the first few episodes, Dream rarely fell into dullness. And I really mean that. I’ve really fallen behind on reviewing dramas I have watched but I wanted to get this one off my brain while it was still fresh, floating around in my gray guck with all kinds of heart-shaped clouds.
soju-guzzling (angst factor)
There was a moment of personal crisis for SamDong where he struggles with whether or not to continue pursuing his dreams. Naturally, he ends up as a busboy at a bar during this meltdown. Netizens who clearly never miss their yearly eye exams zeroed in on a list of shots at said bar. And I must say, the list was completely inappropriate for this drama’s age demographic, but also pretty fricken funny and awesome!
Is it just me or does this list sound like a brain storming session for a Quentin Tarantino film?
Freddy Kruger (sic)
Tequila Slamma (sic)
Seems this club excels at making creamy Baileys shooters. Heh.
what was superfluous but fun
The occasional cameos were nice bits of bacon. To name a few: 2PM’s NichKun and Chansung, SS501’s Kim HyunJoong, and Super Juniors Leeteuk and Eunhyuk.
The peripheral relationship combinations were definite wins:
1) PilSook’s friendship with HyeMi. These two girls were both socially awkward in their own way…the camaraderie and loyalty that developed between them was a very rewarding one to follow. Their “girl-talks” were adorable.
2) Fact: Jason and PilSook’s flirtation wasn’t the most intricate storyline, but it was the easiest to enjoy. With big rainbow colored lollipops, heart shaped post-it notes, and some tugs of PG-jealousy paving the way to l’amour…it sometimes ventured into cringy-icky sweet romantics, but it was still a welcomed diversion from the main story following HyeMi, SamDong, and JinGuk.
3) Oppositional attraction was the theme of the show: Teacher Kang and Teacher Shi played antagonistic Kirin instructors who got to enjoy a cute little loveline. Amidst the young puppy love, Dream was thoughtful enough to give the viewership just enough but never too much grown-up puppy love. Like PilSook and Jason’s, this was also a nice diversion from the main story.
This juggling of many enjoyable sub-plots was one of the best parts of Dream. The writers did a good job managing time for each one.
There were so many I’m just going to throw pics at y’all:
What is funny about this pic (above) is that PilSook’s guitar matches the graffiti behind her that so prettily says: DIE
Heheh. I dunno, it gives me the funnies.
And finally, the show gave us bookends of a Bus Bussing. I know some fans were left unsatisfied by the ending...but me liked it. The whole show was a flashback, so technically everything had already happened. That last kiss told me our main couple ended up getting the happy ending they deserved, but did not have to sacrifice success for love. Because really, why can’t they have both?
And also, if K is an idol in ROK, he has to keep the lovey-dovey on the down low anyway. That is realistic depiction of kpop! =P
wobble-factor: acting v charisma
There were negatives, of course, but they seem terribly unimportant in a show like this. I’m gonna defer to my fangirlism and go with character grades instead:
The character Jason had as much personality as a cucumber, not completely the fault of Wooyoung’s acting, but mostly because Jason was written that way. But luckily, the character was as cool as a cucumber, too. I’m not hating. Cucumbers are really tasty and are an important component in Korean cuisine, they do great in kimchee form, they taste good with cold bibim noodles, make a healthy crunchy snack when dipped raw in chili pepper sauce, etc. My food analogy is running away from me and making me hungry so I’ll knock it off. Anyway, while Jason wasn’t an exceptional character, he made for great fan service when coupled alongside his other half in the show, IU.
Well, this petite singer turned out to be a pretty good actress as well. That was pleasantly surprising and completely unexpected. She must be one of those annoying people naturally good at everything they do, you know the type. Annoying! =) My fave line her PilSook gave us in the show was, “Don’t hit him. It hurts me if you hit him.” Him being her guitar. It summed up her personality so perfectly. Because of this show, I looked at IU with new appreciation, in that, I actually paid some attention to her the next time I saw her step onto a music stage.
I give Ham a lot of cred for daring this role at all. This was a somewhat risky part for a female idol to wear, with accessories like vindictive, selfish, murderous, catty, and simpering all sewn into the outfit. The challenge for an actress faced with an anti-heroine such as this one would be to find a way to portray the character as broken but redeemable, and not just a caricature villain. She needed to strike that chord we would understand, that inner mean streak in us all, so that we could relate to her as being real if not pleasant; a task difficult for even the most experienced of actresses. Yoon BaekHee was an exaggerated, but nuanced character. If not always sympathetic, she was still the most interesting because of her duality, with her extreme innocence and yet her easy willingness to corruption. It was the kind of character that could really have been a wonderful watch.
While I cannot give Ham EunJung my full praise for her delivery, I think she did pretty decently. I have decided, however, that Ham is not a natural at acting. The problem I had with her in Coffee House was an issue here, too. This young idol actress is extremely likable and watchable and has many of the vibrant characteristics that would make for a good kdrama lead, but she doesn’t deliver in a way that allows me to commit to her characters or believe them fully. There is still something about her execution that strikes me as too emotionally false.
If we break down Dream’s plot into ranked storylines, such as Plot A, Plot B, Plot C, JinGuk was a Plot A player. But somehow, he felt more secondary than the other supporting characters, especially since his minutes onscreen seemed to diminish midway.
Oh, Suzy, Suzy, Suzy.
You won me over.
I thought Suzy was pretty flat in the beginning and wondered why she got cast as the lead over a more experienced Ham, but the casting director made a good call. When the writers cleverly capitalized on her “robotic” charm by facing the challenge head on and shining a light on it, instead of trying to ignore it, Suzy was able to find the needed connection to the role and when she started to enjoy being HyeMi, the viewership was able to enjoy it, too. The incorporation of that quirk into HyeMi as a character flaw was a real winner. Some of her deadpan lines regarding the lack of emotion in her facial expressions became a great inside joke for the show. I gave her a [very] generous score because in the end, this girl had some real moxie, and she really did bring Go HyeMi to life, which was parallel to the show’s goal of following a young talent on the road to stardom.
Speaking of irritating people who can do everything… this guy can act, doesn’t fail in the looks department…and seems to have a voice some of these idols should envy. And the actor has proven in real life to be fairly witty. I won’t bore by going into a detailed drone about his depiction of SamDong, since it’s all praise and would be pretty gushy. He made this country bumpkin fuzzy squirrel a dreamy leading man. And that was impressive.
I’ve always liked this actress, she has a contagious bubbly charm. It was well used here.
I’ve seen him in plenty of secondary roles...and that makes sense to me. He’s a decent actor, but more capable than astounding.
How can I not mention this dude? I don’t know about anyone else, but watching someone who is of a somewhat grand reputation in kpop delivering what was essentially a cowardly drama queen of a role was simply comedy gold. Who knew Park JinYoung could make fun of himself like this?
what kept me going
Dream High was a quick hustler. This show seemed to communicate briskly, a wonderful trait in the real world and fictional world both. A good storyteller will use all the tricks available to get a story across, and Dream pulled out confetti, song, dance, and other flashy bard tricks to secure its audience, which it correctly assessed to have short attention spans.
I had my moment of zen halfway through the show when Ham EunJung’s character Yoon BaekHee had her own moment of zen: “I was pulling the rope with all my strength, but come to find out, my opponent had already dropped it and left.” It was then I realized that this drama was actually good, not just fun.
Dream wasn’t going to beat to death a tired plot but give these characters some Darwin style evolution, through obstacles, the strong were going to survive. Maybe it was because JYP and the cast of young stars here personally understood the true struggles of an aspiring idol, but the product as a whole really conveyed the feeling that despite times when things turned ugly and unglamorous between friends/rivals, no matter the stumbles, it was never too late to learn from them to better onself. There was an underlying melody played throughout this show and that pitch was true and clear. And perfectly hit. Where it lacked in overall sophistication and acting distinction, it made up with a feeling of heart.
predictability The old cliché of “fat girl” losing weight to win the stud was kinda…well, you know, it was very typical. But while I didn’t particularly love the device itself, I appreciated that Dream aspired to deliver it with some class, and ultimately sent us off with a good message for young girls: it’s about health and self-love, not about pleasing some guy. And in Jason’s defense, it did appear that he liked PilSook before she lost weight, so let’s just chalk up his initial resistance to her love as Jason being too “guy-dense” to realize he was in luuurve. The important part is that Pilsook kept her self-respect until the very end.
engrish Yes, but forgivable
originality Only a drama such as this—full of meta, dash of satire, and loaded with sincerity—could have successfully worked a flash mob dance scene into the story without it feeling stupid.
hair and fashion Lots of aggressively spiked and highlighted hair…and quite an assortment of fleathery kpop wear (fleathery = feather and leather bastardizations that would make no one proud...but for perhaps Kanye West and Lady Gaga)
is it worth trying to find?
What if a guy confessed his love to you by declaring that you are his music? Cheesy right? But, at the same time, insanely romantic. That’s this drama’s charm. A cheddary romantic dream.
total enjoyment factor
My biggest gripe with Dream?
I kept waiting for a Rain cameo. No, seriously, I did.
Besides, it’s the least he could do after Fugitive: Plan B last year. It’s not too late to start making amends, you gorgeous, lanky world star, you. I’m willing to forgive but you have to meet me halfway! And if halfway is [figuratively] somewhere in the middle of the ocean, such as making cheesy cameos on popular dramas, so be it!
why this review is completely biased
In actuality, at my core, I am an indie rock girl and don’t follow pop music in my own backyard. You could tell me a list of Top 40 mainstream artists here in the States and I would look at you blankly. But I do love music, good music especially, and all convention seems to be broken when it comes to me and Kpop. I dabble in it, or more accurately, you could tattoo VIP on my forehead and it would be truth.
So, while far away from being the most avid kpop fan, I wade around in the shallow end of it and keep updated, you know, keeping my Big Bangin’ toes in there, so I found this fantastically dramatized look into the idol
could a non-kdrama fan like this
Kpop is really gaining some worldwide appeal. Kdramas are also gaining a global following. It is difficult to say which of the two is gaining more ground in their aim for Dr.Evil-like domination, but one thing is sure, the audiences for the two aren’t always from the same pool. Often I hear fans of kdramas say they don’t follow kpop, and worshippers of kpop eschew kdramas. But lately, there has been a growing marriage between these two worlds. Personally, I think it is pretty wonderful when one success story can help another medium gain new fans. I know this seems an obvious statement, but I shall say it anyway: this drama has that crossover appeal, and in both directions. It is the kind of show where Martians and Neptunians could watch in harmony while vacationing on Earth.
Good Music – check
Great Cast – check
Engaging Story – check
Check, check, check!
This was a rewarding journey all around. Dream had three main lessons to share with all of us:
I) You can’t sacrifice integrity to succeed,
II) Real success is friendship found in a grand journey,
III) Enjoy the moment, don’t hold a breath until it’s to late.
This was a popular drama and fans obsessed over all kinds of silly nilly things, as they do when love is in the air, such as Taecyeon’s big ears (they said it was distracting, I say mayhap their eyes were just too big), but all that fuss only made it feel all the more idol-rific. That level of frenetic fan frenzy is so fun! It could not truly be considered a success if netizens hadn’t wasted time ripping it apart over something normal human eyes missed.
Dream High truly truly captured the kpop spirit; it had moments of fashion insanity that made me shake my head, but also the feel-good bubbly sparkle that made me involuntarily smile. I felt light, airy and happy. As Mr. Winter Sonata advised early in the drama, I let go of my fear of the cheddar and just enjoyed it. Now that it’s all over, I can’t believe this drama was only 16 eps. It felt as if so much content happened for such a short run.
Now, What’s Up, Daesung? It is already March. When’s your drama about young people singing for a dream gonna drop!? You’re my #2 fave member, y’know. I’ve miiiiiissssssed you like February misses sunshine!
I went a little picture nuts, so I’ll end with more: