“Royal Family” (Series Review)

Some viewers say the ending of 2011 drama Royal Family is confusing. After watching some of it, I’d have to say the beginning and middle don’t make much sense either.

But such is the sad life of a fangirl. Because Ji Sung plays first lead in this 18-episode stinker, I watched the entire first episode. I also clicked through most of the episodes—stopping to watch the scenes with Ji Sung, of course. And I watched the last episode, to discover that Royal Family doesn’t get any more entertaining or coherent as it goes along.

Royal Family may have even made it possible for me to enjoy dramas without Ji Sung again. Because I badly need to watch something new and creative to clear my head.

Since I don’t recommend this drama, I’m hereby passing on the knowledge I gained during my afternoon spent with it. I’m also posting a few good screenshots and a cute clip that will appeal to Yoo-Na fans.

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The Ji Sung-only review of Royal Family:

♥ Ji Sung plays Han Ji-Hoon, an orphan turned star prosecutor. He’s a K-drama hero of the hard-working, virtuous sub-species. The upstanding guy facing a world of corruption. To help the woman he loves. It’s one of my favorite clichés and it suits this actor to a tee.

♥ The editing is confusing and the secondary characters vary from uninteresting to repellent. But the cast includes a lot of K-drama stalwarts, including Kim Young-Ae, who plays the evil chaebol grandmother in Kill Me, Heal Me. She plays an evil chaebol mother in Royal Family. You know, for a change.

♥ The premise has potential: Ji-Hoon falls in love with his old friend and mentor—a woman a decade older than him—after she’s suddenly widowed. He helps her regain some dignity when her (evil chaebol) in-laws try to cut off her inheritance. But sadly, Yum Jung-Ah, the female lead, doesn’t allow any emotions to cross her face for 18 episodes. Given Ji Sung’s talent for long, piercing, amorous gazes, I thought he could pull off a little chemistry with any costar. But this romance is doomed.

♥ The plot is a jury-rigged rehash of formulas: chaebol family warfare, birth secrets, first love, self-sacrificing females. You know how I like to say clichés aren’t bad unless they’re used badly? Royal Family brings out the weakest, least compelling aspects of every cliché it touches. It’s a museum of clichés used badly.

♥ The characters are so one-dimensional that even Ji Sung can’t save this dialogue. But he does give Ji-Hoon some smartypants swagger and intensity, making him a distinct character. He’s done his best to make the character real. Maybe it would be a better show if he played all the characters, including the evil mother? No. Alas, the real problem is the script.

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♥ Behind-the-scenes: For a large part of the series, Ji Sung has a cast on his wrist. Not sure what happened, but it’s clearly a real-world injury. Darn it, he’s trying so hard to make this show work, he’s showing up with broken bones! Somebody, please give this guy a decent script!

♥ Ji Sung’s character sports some great looks when he isn’t wearing fancy lawyer suits. In blue jeans and a leather jacket he looks practically American. One reason I watch K-dramas is to see men in suits—an endangered species around here—but I won’t complain about the occasional casual day at the office. And the show includes an impressive wardrobe of gorgeous leather jackets—so many stylish and expensive bits of leather that the producers must have had a sponsorship. I wanted to buy a leather jacket after watching this. Even though I’m a vegetarian.

♥ Last but not least, episode one has several scenes that are actually pretty good. One of them is the opening scene—it starts with a well-written monologue for Ji Sung, so I can see why he got reeled into this show. Another worth mentioning is a dance routine that shows Ji Sung can pull off a polka-dotted apron as well as a pink schoolgirl outfit. (Video below.)

His character in this scene is helping out at the school where he volunteers. The only thing cuter than the bow in Ji-Hoon’s hair is his rapport with the little girls. After seeing lots of Yoo-Na, who is unmistakably a girl, it’s a treat to see him here in a very different part—unmistakably playing a slightly self-conscious man dressed as a girl to goof off.

As if we needed any more evidence that Ji Sung works hard at his characters. Even when the writer, directer and his costar are phoning it in. ♥

[youtube https://youtu.be/MzwICLfHf-M?t=1m1s]

The low down:

  • Overall: 2/10
  • Writing: 2/10
  • Acting: 4/10
  • Production & Directing: 2/10

Full cast information for Royal Family at Asian Wiki and Drama Wiki.

4 thoughts on ““Royal Family” (Series Review)

  1. I must say I salute your dedication, but (apparently happily) have little else to add. The leather was definitely a nice touch. I bet the men in suits is one reason I transitioned pretty neatly from mostly classics to dramas. And not to backtrack your progress on watching-not-Ji-sung shows, but have you seen Confession/Good Friends?

    • It was totally worth it for the leather jackets. They were consistently awesome. It was a lot of fun to watch a show entirely by fast-forward, especially when I’m used to watching things so closely for recaps. But I couldn’t believe how boring Yum Jung-Ah was. And I feel bad for the second female lead, Cha Ye-Ryun, because she was also second lead in “My Lovable Girl”–it’s like she gets parts, but only in the boring shows. I keep almost watching Confession but I haven’t got to it yet. Is it good? I’m ready to start watching things without Ji Sung–at least occasionally. Don’t want to rush things! Nothing catching my interest right now, though.

      • It’s pretty solid but for some reason I can’t think of much to say about it. It’s pretty straightforward, his buddies misguidedly help his estranged mother perform a misdeed and it escalates quickly in the wrong direction, the fall out, of course is their broken bond as he slowly uncovers the truth. I found it kind of wryly humorous but I can’t remember if it was meant to be or if that was because I’m just twisted like that. I watched it in b/t KMHM’s eariler episodes, so it was a nice display of Ji Sung’s range since the two projects are different tonally. Though he doesn’t do much till the latter half of the movie, he’s in fine form when he does.

        It also restored…well, created a grudging respect for Joo Ji-hoon whom I’ve disliked (somewhat unjustly) since I saw The Naked Kitchen early in my K-ent career. He pissed me off so this movie (minor spoiler though it’s inevitable if you’ve seen enough of these types) assuaged that bloodlust and I could suitably evaluate him as a performer. He’s good at being bad; I prefer it unromanticized (says the gangster epic lover). Oh, Lee Soo-kwang’s in it too. I prefer his character here to the one in IOIL, which is not to say his acting’s any worse, just less I disagreed with. I’m not sure this is helpful but it’s all I got lol. This is why I don’t write reviews.

  2. Odessa, Yum Jung Ah is currently playing Hong Joo aka the evil witch in Mirror of the Witch. She is so damn good in it that I went on to research a bit about her and found this here. Check that out, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed this time around.

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