Monday, April 6, 2015

KDrama Review: KPOP Extreme Survival/The Ultimate Audition

 The Strongest K-POP Survival-p2.jpg

The Gist: When Ji Seung Yeon (Go Eun Ah) fails out of her classical piano training in England, she returns to Korea with a dream of singing her kind of music. She arrives at an interesting time as her uncle, Director of a talent company, is in the process of revamping one of their more popular bands, M2. M2 is headlined by the mega popular star Woo Hyun (Park Yoo Hwan) with the bad attitude, who clashes with his band members. Much to the dismay of their team manager, Director Jang is pushing for graduation of the clashing members. To fill in, he announces an open audition where anyone can apply to be in M2. To help her best friend Kwon Ji Woo (Kwak Yong Hwan), who has stage fright to the point of immobilization, Seung Yeon submits his audition and with it, her own. Due to her boyish looks and style, she passes no problem. Eight candidates make it to the final stages, where they must compete but also form a solid team. While Seung Yeon pursues her dream, she also finds herself thrown together with Woo Hyun, who is confused by the strong chemistry they have together.

1. Smart Choices

So, I'm betting this whole set up sounds pretty familiar. This show's premise borrows really heavily from the framework of You're Beautiful (girl undercover in a boy band with a moody, but so handsome talented leader). Yet, I'm thinking that KPOP makes some smart changes. First, I appreciate that the entire show isn't stuck on Seung Yeon's insignificant girl problems ("OMG! Where do I put my tampons?"). I like that in her relationship with Ji Woo, she plays the protector role and she's not focusing on how to walk and talk like a man. Honestly, she really is mostly just being herself. Although, I think that taping up her chest really doesn't totally disguise her hourglass figure and I found it a little distracting in certain scenes that it's so obvious she's a girl! Anyway, more on her passing/not passing later. I was also totally thrown by how much Yoo Hwan looks like his brother, known by me for his leading role in Rooftop Prince. Yet, Yoo Hwan totally stands on his own as Woo Hyun. He's got a lot of talent. I hope we see more from him in the future. 

2. It's Cute

So, this show is super easy to binge watch. I was sick last week and now that I'm all caught up on Blood, I needed something to watch. KPOP was on Netflix, so I just started it on a whim. Those episodes go down easy as ice cream. They touch on a lot of the standard issues, but always stays pretty light and enjoyable. There's a nice undercurrent of friendship and teamwork, but the romance is also just adorable, if not totally sizzling. I pretty much just awwed my way through this show. I honestly just wanted to keep watching it once I started.

3. Jealousy

So, I really loved that the way Woo Hyun and Seung Yeon work out their feelings for each other is by making each other jealous. It was honestly just funny because neither of them can hide their emotions at all. It's written all over their faces when one of them is hurting and you can see the recognition as they play off each other. While they fight a bit, I think the best moments is when they're a little insecure and they push each other's buttons to get some validation. That's maybe not healthy, but it was still really cute. 


1. Music

For a show that's pretty much all about the music and loving music, the songs weren't great. The juniors go to song was a bit disjointed and Seung Yeon sings in a tenor only dogs can hear. It's so obvious she's a girl! That said, I'm so impressed with the pipes on Ji Woo. There wasn't a point in this show where I thought, I want to listen to this song again or download it or anything, which seems like a missed opportunity for me.

2. Ji Woo

AH! I'm so frustrated. *Minor Spoilers* I was super in love with Ji Woo and Seung Yeon's friendship. It is so rare that shows will allow a man and a woman to be friends without a complicated triangle. While I appreciate they didn't draw it out so much, I felt like Ji Woo's confession came totally out of left field. They seemed so platonic and then suddenly he wants to be her boyfriend. It was weird. Also, isn't there some thing where people who are friends when they're really little and grow up together hardly ever become romantically involved? Anyway, I really wish that they had just left Ji Woo as a supportive friend. It really bummed me out.


1. Director/Team Manager Romance

Ugh. This was really the worst part of this show. It's obvious they're in love and for whatever reason, they won't just work it out. Then there's some bull side plot with the flower girl and honestly the whole thing just had way too much screen time. I just didn't care and wasn't sure what I was supposed to take away from the whole plot. Spoilers ahead. So, I'll get to the ending as a whole in the minute, but the ending for this storyline is just jarring. Team Manager Han bails on the director and the company and runs off to America? I can't believe they never got back to him chasing after her. So what, did he just end up with flower girl? Who he obviously doesn't like? The whole thing was unsettling, but I thought we'd at least get a nice confession. Don't bank on it!

2. That Ending

OK, so I must say I was prepared for this to end poorly. Other reviewers had thankfully warned me that this show got cancelled two episodes short of its original run and the ending really suffers for it. For a typically well paced show, the ending tripped all over itself. We have a quick reveal that Seung Yeon's a girl, but we don't really see or understand how that wraps up. Is she staying in the Juniors? Is she pursuing her own thing? It's all so vague. Also, Woo Hyun's ex taking the fall for that is sloppy and doesn't make sense at all. Really, it just doesn't have time to answer the questions it has asked or have any followup at all for the characters. It's presumed that the juniors will debut, but who knows how it goes.

Honestly, the saddest piece about this whole thing is that this show is pretty meta. These actors really are doing this to pursue their dreams and the show getting cancelled is like double crushing their characters and themselves. I hope we see some more from some of these actors in the future because I actually really enjoyed this show.


So... the ending of this show is a hot mess. There's no getting around it. That said, I'd say the first thirteen episodes are a solid A. The last episode is probably about a D. So, if you go in prepared, I think it's still worthwhile, but it will certainly build up some expectations and then let you down, not very gently either.

Final Grade: B+


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  2. I recently watching this and I totally agree. However, Seung Yeon's character is just really lovable. In some kdramas, I try and try to like a female main, but it's always really difficult because they always act so dependent, which can get pretty annoying. Sometimes, it seems like their only redeeming traits are their kindness and sweetness. This totally wasn't the case here. Seung Yeon's character was immediately loveable and everything did just seemed to be more realistic. :D