These reviews are intended not only for K-drama fans but also for a general audience. Let’s face it, we live in a global world. Whether you watch K-dramas or not, you’ll be more cosmopolitan if you have a nodding acquaintance with Coffee Prince and Boys over Flowers.
Here’s an alphabetical list of reviews available so far. Note that these shows often have several variant titles! (I ponder this puzzle in my K-drama FAQs.) I’ve tried to list the alternate titles in the reviews, but sometimes I miss a variation.
I tend to write about shows I really like—or strange or controversial shows. For that reason, lots of shows don’t have reviews here. If I haven’t written about a show you’re curious about, forgive me. I might not have gotten around to it yet.
If you wonder why the reviews here tend to be positive, it’s because it’s more fun to write those reviews. Scroll down, however, and you’ll find a few of my first episode or “first quarter” (Q1) reviews, and sometimes I’m less complimentary there. Ultimately, though, my goal is to find out what makes these shows work, not to make fun of them.
I marked my favorites or particular recommendations with a ♥.
Spoiler-Free Reviews of Complete Series
Boys over Flowers (Boys before Flowers): The flashiest of shojo manga adaptations, soapy and absurd, but totally in touch with the 12-year-old girl inside everyone (yes, even you boys). The show that made Lee Min-Ho a major Hallyu star.
City Hunter: Zippy adventure with a side-serving of romance, an epic father-son conflict, and Lee Min-Ho at his most charming. ♥
Coffee Prince: The show that launched a million K-drama addictions with its quirky, character-driven combination of Shakespeare, Jane Austen and shonen ai comics. ♥
Descendants of the Sun: This disaster-ific mega-hit kept the bullets flying, but remained curiously boring.
The Entertainer: Mediocre show business comedy with a likable bromance at its center.
It’s Okay, That’s Love (That’s Okay, It’s Love, & variants): Hands-down the sexiest public service announcement you’ve ever seen. Some will passionately love it, some will find it irritating beyond words, but we can all agree this 2014 melodrama of lovers with mental illness was ambitious. ♥
King of Dramas: One show-business satire to rule them all. ♥
Lie to Me: A satisfying, though ultimately forgettable, romantic comedy that demonstrates how a K-drama can pull off an absurd premise (having charismatic stars like Yoon Eun-Hye helps).
The Lover: The weirdest thing ever to appear on Korean television, this adults-only cable comedy gleefully violates all the conventions of K-drama decency.
My Lovely Samsoon (My Name is Kim Sam Soon): The beloved classic from 2005, starring Hyun Bin and Kim Sun-Ah. This show challenged K-dramas to start telling stories about adult, professional women and heroes with more than money to offer.
Pride and Prejudice: Guest review from Saya. I wasn’t the only viewer fascinated with this noir show about prosecutors investigating a forgotten crime.
Protect the Boss: Bouncy, sweet screwball comedy with Ji Sung and Choi Kang-Hee at their goofiest. Lots of smiles. ♥
Royal Family: A great example of how to turn “useful plot elements” into deadwood clichés. But darn it, it starred Ji Sung! This poor-quality series is the kind of thing many non-Koreans may expect when they first hear about K-dramas, but believe me, this show is uniquely dull.
Secret (Secret Love): Darker-than-black melodrama of hatred that develops into twisted attraction. The talented leads make every scene count, but this disturbing story isn’t for everyone.
Secret Love Affair: Not to be confused with Secret! This 2014 award winner starts out as a tale of forbidden love between sexy piano players, but grows into a beautiful, understated meditation about art and beauty. Pay no attention to the repulsive promotional poster—this one is truly exceptional. ♥
Shut Up! Flower Boy Band (Shut Up and Let’s Go): A high-energy, heartfelt coming-of-age story about a high school rock band, which doesn’t stick to a simple formula despite its familiar initial premise. Stars Sung Joon and L (from K-pop group Infinite). ♥
Signal: Outstanding police drama with an eerie supernatural premise. ♥
Swallow the Sun: Atmospheric melodrama set in the casino and hotel industry on Jeju Island, featuring crackling father-son rivalry and a solid revenge narrative.
Commentary, First Episode Reviews, First Quarter (Q1) Reviews & Epic Discussion Threads (Risk of Spoilers):
Answer Me 1988: Though many loved this nostalgia fest, its slow pace made it hard to watch.
High Society: I was looking forward to this 2015 romantic comedy starring Sung Joon, but it ultimately disappointed.
Hyde, Jekyll, Me: We’d all like to burn a magical Tibetan incense stick, go back in time and forget this show happened, but since it’s too late, I did write down a few thoughts.
I Remember You: Creepy little story about having a murderer in the family, this show blends thriller, mystery and romance in a perfect balance, and even raises questions about the nature of evil and the challenges of forgiveness. ♥
Mask: Outrageous doppelganger melodrama. From the writer of Secret, and almost as compelling, thanks to the Yeon Jeong-Hun as a diabolical second lead.
Oh My Ghostess: Enjoyable, well-done supernatural romance, perfect for summer days when you’re not going to think too deeply about the plot. ♥
She Was Pretty: This show is driving me nuts, despite the perfect cast.
Yong Pal: Insane medical melodrama with high-powered stars Joo Won and Kim Tae-Hee, this show takes K-drama implausibility to new heights.