Here’s my theory about why Kim Eun Sook – the famed scriptwriter in Kdramaland that is – is simply no longer It:
- Fame’s gotten to her head
- She wants to portray particular scenes in mind and insists on all of them making an appearance, but they don’t all necessarily flow together as a cohesive story
- She’s all about the glitz and ratings hit, but lacking in the overall flow
I’ve followed her work since On Air (2008) and while I loved that show and her subsequent show City Hall, everything after them were… terrible. A Gentleman’s Dignity, her latest project that I gave her the benefit of doubt because of the cast? Aw man, I can’t even.
I just wrapped up A Gentleman’s Dignity after weeks of being stuck at episode 14 and not finding the interest and now I’m thinking real hard about why this drama sucked so bad and just why it fell short on so many levels – and really, I keep coming back to this, the one and only: the writing.
Caveat: I’ve never been great about noticing whether directing/editing sucks or not so I won’t comment on that and in terms of casting, I think the production team had a solid ensemble overall. Except of course, everyone was pretty much wasted because the story was superficial, empty and unrealistic. Seriously, only in dramas do things play out as they did in A Gentleman’s Dignity and I hope to God that Real Life men aren’t like the 4 men when it comes to their women. The over-controlling, over-protective and whatever disgustingly alpha male without reasons actions were … Appalling, to say the least. It’s seriously like, no lady-writer, no – those actions don’t at all make them manly; they make them literally control freaks.
I can guess why it was such a ratings-hit in Korea: billed as Jang Dong Gun‘s comeback drama after 10 years or more doing films exclusively, scoring other A-listers like Kim Han Neul, Kim Suro and the rest and finally, all of them teaming up with star scriptwriter Kim Eun Sook – power combination and definite hit, no? Unfortunately, not at all.
Here’s the primary reason behind my frustration at the writing: although everyone was supposed to clearly be and act like adults – hardly anyone did. Im Me Ah Ri and Yoon were adorable for oh, the first six episodes perhaps. All other scenes after that would play out the same: him acting aloof and cool trying to resist her, her acting like a world-class stalker and therefore once ignored she’d bawl in front of him and anyone within sight. By episode ten or so, it finally hit me: oh God, GET OVER IT GIRL. I’m glad they had their happy ending, but seriously given the grievance they gave me, I don’t even know if I’m happy because at least all that bawling amounted to something or if I sincerely did root for them to be together. Either way, I checked out emotionally less than halfway through and wished I’d realized my waning interest as early as then. Had I realized, you can damn well bet I’d drop this show before I reached the halfway point.
I’d another issue with the Lee Jung Rok – Park Min Sook couple. I do like him as a character because he was basically The Funny Man in the quartet and story but as a man? What a weakling, playboy b*stard so unworthy of any woman. I mean, divorce threats 40 times? Dude, seriously you can’t be serious… I don’t know how they could actually stay together and more than that, why they would. Their story was another one that could’ve gone somewhere but never did. Instead, it circled between the “I really was not cheating!” to “What’s your alibi this time around?!” over and over that both characters when together were laughable. The story sort of had an inkling in going somewhere when she finally realized what was becoming of her – lady, I’d been questioning that since episode 4 – and wanted to divorce because whatever the outcome, she simply can’t trust him. …Except amazingly she gave in – AGAIN – and they went back to square one at the end of the series. Why the hell did I stay on again?
Oh wait, I know why.
Jang Dong Gun, he’s why. I loved him in All About Eve and has been a fan ever since, so I sincerely looked forward to him gracing the small-screen again. Except his character turned out to be grossly unrealistic, had illogical amnesiac lapses, acted like a kid when he’s supposed to be a 41-year old man, said and did incredibly tacky things and oh crap, believed so much that he’s literally Cool Kid On The Block that across the screen, I’d lost count on the number of times I felt embarrassed for him. Plus, the so-called conflicts about having a kid and that marriage proposal dilemma were so poorly written and presented that where they could’ve been organic and explored with depth; those stories fell flat and felt fake and contrite instead. Shame.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m aware and don’t think A Gentleman’s Dignity had incredible potential from the get-go to be billed as extraordinary or anything requiring high expectations, but I had personally hoped that it would present itself to be a solid romantic comedy. It need not be moving and epic ala The Princess’ Man for instance, but what it could have achieved within its genre – I had really hope it would. So when it turned out to be glitzy but empty and superficial, the characters so shallow and the story nonexistent: aw man, what waste of talent all around from the director to the once-was captivating scriptwriter and the overall cast ensemble.
In short: I’ve lost hope on Kim Eun Sook‘s credibility to deliver a zippy and solid romantic comedy as she did with City Hall. The zippy aspect was still present in parts in A Gentleman’s Dignity but everything else was trivial and completely lacking of any substance.
I would really like my 20 hours back, dear writer. No wait, I’ll discount an hour because the opening of every episode were cute – they displayed your writing strength, I’ll give you that. There were small instances like the depiction of the camaraderie between the 4 men (I do think they must be good friends in Real Life) but unfortunately even then they simply weren’t enough to sustain neither the show, nor my interest.
If you were to ask for my opinion: nope, I would not recommend it.
Final Verdict: 3/10.