KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

a landing site for quick, completely biased, and totally snarky korean drama reviews


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Princess (2011)

My Princess
마이 프린세스
(Jan – Feb 2011)

who’s in it
Song SeungHun (East of Eden, Autumn Fairytale)
Kim TaeHee (IRIS, Love Story in Harvard)
Park YeJin (Queen SeonDuk, Something Happened in Bali)
Ryu SooYoung (Lawyers of ROK, Bad Couple)
Lee SoonJae (Flames of Ambition, High Kick 2)
Lee KiKwang (High Kick 2, member of B2ST)

what’s it about
Background: ROK (Republic of Korea) wants to become CMOK (Constitutional Monarchy of Korea, or something like that) and reinstate the crown by heralding forth a long hidden blood descendant of Emperor Sunjong, the last monarch of the Korean empire. Emperor Sunjong apparently has one of his true bloodline living strong in contemporary times due to a heir he kept secret back in the day, this fact validated by a document long thought lost but now found and presented to the baffled public. This push to give rebirth to the royal heritage of Korea’s past is the result of diligent efforts by varying people with varying motives.

A student and a part-time historical reenactment photo-op princess (whoa, mouthful), Kim TaeHee, doesn’t know it when she first meets the rich Daehan Group heir Song SeungHun, but she’s a real princess that Song’s own ailing grandfather has been longing to enthrone all his life. As far as Kim TaeHee’s aware, she’s little more than an orphan-turned-innkeeper’s daughter…and Song SeungHun’s the kind of rich kid that has a friggin’ museum named after him…so the two have very little in common when their universes initially collide. Well, little in common but for their mutually ridiculous cuteness. When his dry and condescending type of charm mingles against her loud, in-yo-face brand of all-encompassing vortex type of charm, there is surprisingly good synergy.

The darling prince of the Daehan Group, Song SeungHun, is actually a pretty nice non-stuffy guy who is working against a one-sided crush on the curator of his namesake museum, played by the fab Park YeJin. She’s just adorable, this woman. She should have been the lead gal. Hahaha, I joke, I joke, I’m just teasing you Kim TaeHee fans. Anyhow, YeJin’s already got her love triangle going when we meet the characters. Her first love, played with professorial dignity by Ryu SooYoung, is still madly in love with her, incidentally, this is to the chagrin of our princess-in-secret Kim TaeHee, who is also crushing hard on this intellectual sweater-vest type of gentleman. By the by, Kim TaeHee is also a nice gal, who despite her financial instability and slightly lonely life, doesn’t struggle with an inferiority complex (thank goodness!). She’s got a healthy helping of pride, and this next thing is pretty rare, she’s got a nose for self-preservation. This is a young woman who looks out for number one (but not in a nasty way) and she doesn’t seem the sort to be sacrificed on the alter of Kdrama “pitiable girl” syndrome. Or maybe I’m just hoping. We’ll see.

(what’s it about initially posted Jan 12, 2011)

Kwon SeokJang (Pasta)

Kim Eun Sook (Secret Garden, On Air, City Hall)
Jang Young Shil

16 episodes


first impressions
Oh, the handsomeness.
The Handsomeness. The Handsomeness.
Be still, my beating heart. ^^ To say I’m somewhat partial to Mr. Song SeungHun’s brand of yummy would be like understating my love for fried foods. Doesn’t he totally look like a real life prince, or what?! Seriously now, let’s all have a moment to revel, didn’t Mr. Autumn Fairytale guy grow up oh-so very dreamy? Drooool.

Basically this beginning felt like the drama I was waiting for all last year, the kind of casual romantic comedy that takes immediate advantage of the really snappy chemistry between two main leads. Zip is hard to predict when casting the main couple, obviously, otherwise every show would be a hit. Here, however, it seems we have a real win. Pretty A-listers who don’t negate one another’s charms, fangirl-tastic Cinderella fairytale, lots of twinkling rapier wit and physical comedy; I especially liked the duo’s friendly gravitational reaction to one another, their immediate touchy feely coziness due to their innate meddling personalities (they resorted to banmal - casual language - pretty quickly with one other, Kim TaeHee often calling him “dummy” in affectionate teasing).

Helmed by the director of Pasta (a 2010 winner in my book) and the screenplay writer who scribbled On Air (another winner), I had some rather high hopes. The best part of this drama was that despite its type of humor, when it turned serious, it didn’t feel out of context and managed to be fairly real (well, minus the whole reinstatement of the monarchy bit, that’s quite a leap of faith, but I’ll bite). Considering the director and screenwriters involved, things boded well for Kim TaeHee and Song SeungHun’s fate. I’m definitely not minding a visit with this “adult” Goong…and obviously when I say adult, I’m not implying a pole dancing princess, but a more grown up interpretation of everyone’s favorite fantasy: orphan girl learning she’s really a princess. My Princess managed to find the appropriate tone in blending fairytale and reality.

Kim TaeHee is taking a page out of the Shin MinAh’s acting textbook and trying her spin on bubbly comedy (Shin rocked last year’s My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox). Kim appears a natural for this kind of comedy (versus, imo, her more creative ventures...like 2006 movie The Restless, cringe cringe cringe! Or her mediocrity in the drama IRIS, snore, snore, snore! But that’s neither here nor there). As the Gumiho role did for Shin MinAh, this earthy and vivacious part suits Kim and shows fans her more approachable, down-to-earth side.

One small concern from me: for now, while Kim TaeHee is the cuter of the two, it’s Song SeungHun who delivers more for me when the plot twists become more serious. There are small moments when it feels Kim is trying a smidge too hard to please, when she feels just slightly off key, but it’s not a distraction, and she’s quite charming enough to make the misses inconsequential. I’m sure she’ll settle into her role once this really gets going. I’m looking forward to seeing her shine.

How much do I love this drama’s introductory steps? A LOT. My energy was sapped by the end of 2010 by holiday and cold, and it took all my last reserves to post my year end review but this drama has sent new energy coursing through me. What a pleasant way to kick off 2011. As of now, our lovable princess is trying to help the dashing prince win another girl’s heart…I wonder which of the two will fall for the other first?


(first impressions initially posted Jan 12, 2011)

Well, this one was more about the pretty than about achieving any kind of profundity.

Be warned: while Princess did manage enough enjoyment to manage a respectable fan base—due to its successful packaging of Song SeungHun as the most handsomest man in all of Korea (nope, nope, I don’t want to hear any arguments on this, not today) and Kim TaeHee as a nicely wrapped fairy who wore poofy-skirts-too-short-for-winter—yet in the end, it lacked for a lot of plot logic. Now I don’t want to discourage anyone from giving it a try, as it was generous in its own way (as I mentioned, it gave us a lot of the pretty), but inevitably it cannot be ignored that Princess lived too far into self-centered confusion to be wholly recommended. The premise had a lot of potential, but the actual development of the story did not live up to it.

gave up

snoozer moments
I do commend Princess for at least wanting to aim for something more than just popular fluff; however, its intention to explore the complications, even the darker side, of becoming a modern day royal wasn’t all that well thought out. The story ranged somewhere between boring and really boring…

…so I decided to do what any lovestruck kdrama fangirl does when faced with adorable characters trapped in a drama that started to put me into a drowsy trance…I ignored the plot altogether and let Song SeungHun’s beautifully twinkly “I’m going to suck you into my world” puppy-brown eyes pull me through the swampy story muck and suck.

I did finish the drama, so Song was obviously love affair enough to justify 16 hours of Princess. On the downside, watching a show with this mindset unfortunately makes for very bad recall when reviewing as I have little to say about Princess except that Song SeungHun looked darling in HD, which really, is nothing revolutionary to write…as I think a $100 Nikon in the hands of a crass amateur could probably have yielded the same results. Michelangelo’s David, you see, in any exposure still comes across as an impressive example of male form. Heh.

soju-guzzling (angst factor)
The unnecessary (and incessant weeping) from Kim TaeHee’s character was too much, too often. There were waterworks almost every episode.

what didn’t work
The character most wronged throughout Princess was Park Yejin’s, who had the misfortune of having a fabulous pixie-styled coif and an exceptionally fashionable wardrobe of streamlined style, as that seemed to translate into being a two dimensional mindless evil bitch, and a meaningless one at that. When we were first introduced to her, she was presented to us as an ambitious person, and yes somewhat self-absorbed, but above all else, she felt a capable woman. I did not get the sense that among those traits she was also supposed to be irresponsibly stupid.

This woman was intelligent, driven, and she cared about both of the leading men in the show; these I believed as truths about her character. Princess turned her into everything counter to those tenets. It never made any sense that she would cause so much trouble to hurt the men she loved when there was nothing for her to gain in doing so. At one point, she herself asserted that she knew her vendetta against the princess was a losing venture, but she wanted to do it anyway. Bitterness is one thing…but I simply could not believe a woman in her position would push the self-destruct button so brazenly, so impractically.

She was at the top, but certainly not alone on a list that featured many contradictory characters that seemed to act against what we were told to believe of them.

Viewers wanted more focus on the cuteness between characters instead of delving more into the politics of the story (myself included), but that, I believe, was a side effect of said plot being such a mento-bento. If the characters had been better explained and not driven purely by knee jerk tv-drama reactions but written to reflect intelligent adult feelings (as they were adults!), perhaps an excess of Kim TaeHee and Song SeungHun’s cuteness would not have been in such a desperate demand.

what did
By the end of this one, my favorite parts of the drama probably made up about only one hour of show. The unexpected romance between B2st’s Lee KiKwang (palace sous chef) and Son SungYoon (palace maid) was a breath of fresh air. Cute, flirtatious, and wondrously devoid of emo-antics.

Also worth mentioning, the quality of the soundtrack was very good. Probably even better than the drama itself.

notable scene(s)
I really enjoyed a cute little scene where Song SeungHun surprised Kim TaeHee with a small party of her friends to cheer her up. It was one of the few light-hearted moments where a lot of the miscellaneous but fun characters shared a screen.

But this, now this was my favorite scene (ep 7):

Despite the risk of vomit down his back, Song SeungHun found himself giving a drunk Kim TaeHee a late night piggy back ride. She flirtatiously giggled over his warm back and his pretty eyelashes.

what made me want to gouge my eyes out
Park YeJin’s and Kang YeSol’s characters, the latter being Kim TaeHee’s vengeful and petty sister who really never made any sense. These two ladies were victims of a show’s desperate attempt to dig out half-assed conflicts in order to create false tension between the two leads.

In fact, since I’m on the subject, Kim TaeHee and Song SeungHun also suffered from petty writing as well. These two lovebirds had been painted as two relatively well-adjusted people in the early episodes (which is why I fell for them initially) so their later emotional games felt groundless. They kept secrets from one another for no reason, did things behind each other’s back, and made several fake-out exits to the airport…oh, oh, oh, it was a fuck-all basket of story contrivance.

And don’t even get me started on the whole “mystery” of whether or not Kim TaeHee’s father had been murdered, and the hullabaloo over the culprit. Song SeungHun’s daddy issues ate up a large bulk of time on the show. How was it at all satisfactory to ultimately have that emotional struggle resolved off-screen, the only real emotional struggle of the show, if we’re being honest? Major spoiler alert: {All we got in way of a conclusion was a line here and there of exposition about how Daddy had been repenting in the States all this time and therefore willing to sign away his inheritance to his estranged son, so that it could all be given back to the monarchy. How convenient.}

what kept me going
Kim TaeHee and Song SeungHun’s good couple mojo. Overall, Song did great, Kim as well, although I give her royal highness more of a so-so palm clapping rather than a standing ovation.

Other factors:
predictability Yes
engrish Sometimes
originality I had hoped, but not so much
eye-candy Kim TaeHee and Song SeungHun both had THE PERKIEST eyelashes.
hair and fashion Song looked positively dashing from start to finish. Meow.

is it worth trying to find?
For fans of Kim, Song, or B2ST’s Lee KiKwang, worth a check-out.

total enjoyment factor 

I had such hopes at the start…so my disappointment factored heavily into my final score.

total disdain factor

why this review is completely biased
I developed some major love fits for Song SeungHun. He has the most dramatic face—dramatic eyebrows, dramatic lips, dramatic nose. His nose is—there’s no other way to write it—simply divine. The most beautiful nose in Korea! I mean, who else has a nose that could compete? I watched this one for you, oppa!

Is it spring or did it just totally get warmer up in here?

Disclaimer: Maybe Takeshi Kaneshiro’s nose could compete...

could a non-kdrama fan like this

Two hot leads, one fizzle flat story.

The show ran out of plot fairly quickly and spent the remaining ten episodes trying to pick a fight.

I know politics can feel pointless, but it isn’t, not really. Politicians engage in policy warfare for the betterment of society…at no point did I feel any of that kind of gravity in this drama. Lots of useless dialogue was wasted preaching about it, but it felt like lip service. From the South Korean president to the princess (Kim TaeHee’s adorableness aside), the characters were supposed to be important movers and shakers in the government but behaved as children. The show had initially managed the right balance between fun and sobriety, but that copacetic drama tone lasted about five episodes.

Perhaps the heavy concept was simply too much for a 16 episode romantic comedy, but instead of rising to the challenge, Princess dragged its story into the gutter, clearly confused as to which direction to proceed: head for deeper waters, or stay in the shallow end? The show made it hard to care about any of the plot when it all started to get so contrived and so obviously destined for an easy solution. Princess had wanted to give us a more gritty version of the princess fairytale, but in the end, buckled to clichés and superficiality. Kim TaeHee, likable as she was, would make for a horrible political figure because she, as a person, lacked any real substance.

The drama started really well, gave us very warm and fuzzy feeling characters that could have really been interesting had the story given them some real twists and turns, but Princess ended up being like all the rest, nothing more than another mindless time admiring the pretty people. Which is not necessarily a bad thing...if you hadn’t expect anything more. Sadly for me, I had expected a lot more.


  1. What i found odd, yet loved about My Princess is that the 2 leads never got angry at one another. Even if they did fight they were back to their old selves the next morning. Kinda unrealistic but at the same time I could understand since they never thought they had a chance with one another. IA about the overflow of evil from the witchy twins, the sister was just unrealistic and Lady YeYin should've given up a while ago or just taken up with the professor after a while. But I love being swept away in Kdrama fever (which is why i love watching on viki with the comments) so I enjoyed this run. Sorry for the long review/comment/word vomit.

    I've decided that I like this review site. So I'll be lurking around and commenting from time to time. Although I'm surprised at the absence of my favorite Kdrama of all time I'm Sorry, But I Love You MISA (tearing up just at the name). Fellow VIP here (although mini no.4 is nowhere near the perfection of Hot Issue)

  2. Hi there, my fellow VIP! Thanks for commenting. No worries, I love reading word vomits! <--love how that sounds! ;)

  3. Hi there, it's been a minute...hehe...when is your comeback?

  4. Heheh, very soon, I promise! Things are getting less busy!


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