A Gentleman’s Dignity: An Overall Review.

AGD ep 20 last scene
A Gentleman’s Dignity – scene from ep 20 (2012)

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.

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18 thoughts on “A Gentleman’s Dignity: An Overall Review.

    1. Nope, fantastic childhood thanks very much. Can’t be the only one and know I’m not regarding my sentiments towards this show – but I’d rather agree to disagree than insult another. Cheers!

  1. I agree with your thought. I heard people said good things about the drama so I want to give it a try. Well , the first eps is ok but it gets more and more boring afterward so I stop watching it finishing eps. 4.

      1. Hey there Jandoe, IMHO it gets better! And I have not even finished watching it (on ep 17 now). It must be the context – I’m a fifty something dude. Naaaah. . .it’s Miss Han’s smoky eyes and laugh and the way she keeps on saying “seriously” and keeping off that bonking event and her up-to-here long legs and . . . ok I’m smitten by her

    1. Hello there, I’ll take the first sentence square and openly but the second – unnecessary, in my opinion. Let’s not resort to personal jabs when we’re strangers. Cheers!

  2. I don’t know but I enjoyed watching it. Maybe I’m just to shallow. Hahaha. But I guess you’re right in some aspects. There are times that I got bored while watching it.

  3. Hey I just want to tell you that i didn’t know at all both Secret Garden and A Gentleman’s Dignity are written by the same writer. I just wrapped up AGD, and it is wonderful, just like SG. If it isn’t good, i won’t have wasted my time watching as i can’t curb my addiction, and there is a series of exams waiting for me next week. I only know about it when I am reading your article, and i strongly disagree with you. If it isn’t great, SG and AGD would not have been so successful. I think the writer can come up with brilliant lines, where each line portray the characters’ personality and relationship very well, sometime even making me having goosebumps from hearing those sentences. They make me reflect too.
    However, I admit there are flaws in AGD. At some point of the drama I was confused too. Especially Yoon and Me Ahri’s relationship. I think the writer could have brought up the fact that Yoon likes Me Ahri too, and their’s is not a one-sided love. The drama tends to be a little lengthy for me too. It is not as cohesive as SG. I feel some parts are irrelavant, like Dojin’s short term memory. I feel that the writer simply put it in so that it makes sense when the teacher knows Dojin’s true feelings.
    But overall, it is a good drama worth watching. I give it 7/10!

    1. Hey! Thanks for your reply, love it – always in for discussions to agree/disagree.

      Sometimes I do wonder if I were too harsh on this show, and though partly that may be true – clearly I’d over-expected from the show, which under-delivered – in hindsight, personally there was nothing in the show which stayed with me or which I could reason and accept. No one felt realistic and then as the story progressed, I thought any semblance of realism just kept being trampled where men continuously acted like boys and ladies circled around the men. I think I was doubly critical because I’d watched her previous shows – not all of which were stellar, but those which were really stood out – so I found it such a shame that these shortcomings came from the same writer who did such-and-such.

      Having said all the above though, I really am glad you found enjoyment in the show, as I’m sure plenty others did too. Hopefully any on the fence drama-watchers will weigh your comment too as they come across mine here, decide to give it a go and form their own opinions on which camp they’re on in terms of this show!

      1. Yes darling you have been too harsh and quick to nit-pick! Perhaps you were expecting too much? What do you mean “no one felt realistic”? Their fictional life can be real. Maybe you have not lived long enough to experience such tragic lives?

        Asian men were and still are “over-controlling, over-protective” bastards. Seriously. You must be a Caucasian lady (for want of a term: white thrash lol…bad joke) so I forgive you Jan.

        1. Did you just call me white trash? … Wow. Do not appreciate that.

          Honestly I wrote this over a year ago so I can’t remember the details of the show or even my reaction… I just remember it didn’t leave an impression on me – I got bored very quickly but I’ve noticed that generally people seem to have really enjoyed the show. Good for them (and you too, since you sound like you’re clearly digging it) and I’m happy to stay in the minority who didn’t. Some of the screenwriter’s older works are definitely my rom-com gems though.

          1. Yikes…apologies. Didn’t know you are 22 and a Muslim. *runs for the hills*

            What a 22 girl (you are one right?) you are too. Such matured writing.

            I’m currently ploughing through “Coffee House”. I read some where that if I get through the toilet humour in the first few episodes I should finish it. Garrr.

            Some other writer wrote that the Female Lead is like the second lead which is so true. Up to now anyway. Have you seen CH? What are your thoughts?

            *goes off to search for Jan’s review of CH*

            1. Hey Kahong, yup I’m 22 haha – not lying in my profile! – and apology accepted, also thanks for the kind words about my writing.

              I actually never did a review on CH, I only wrote a short blurb for my Kdrama Collection. I watched it about a year or two after it was released (and even then, the hype on it never did die) but I dunno if I was too young then, or not as “seasoned” about Kdramas at that time – but I couldn’t relate. I liked it, but I don’t ohmygod-I-love-it kind of reaction like so many others on the blogopsphere reacted. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air in the sense that it takes so many of the cliched Kdrama tropes but break the conventions each time. Plus the romance really was pretty awesome, but… I dunno, personally for me something just didn’t connect. I really do wonder if it’s an age and perception thing on my end, but there are so many dramas that it’s hard to convince myself to rewatch something just to prove myself wrong haha. I am glad you are giving it a go though, because while I do think it’s more of a you either love it or you don’t case – there is something about CH that stands out and why in some ways, it’s timeless and still so popular.

  4. I respect your opinion about AGD. But disagree with you. You made a point on some spects though. But those small glitches did affect much the show. Probably, the reason why few people wouldn’t like it is because they are expecting too much from this drama when in fact this drama is made to entertain. It is intended to be a light and simple just so viewers can have something to watch after a very tiring day at work without giving viewers to think about burdens that each character must carry. The show wants to tell everyone that age is just a number. Although they are on their 40’s they let loose and have fun like how they were when they are younger. It’s like telling us that you shouldn’t always take life seriously you can sometimes twist it around and just have fun. They acted immature in some instances but aren’t we sometimes like that in real life. But when it comes to a point when we should face life seriously we put ourselves together and take some responsibilities. Like how Do-Jin did when he found out about his son.

    I’m not good with giving comments but I couldn’t let this pass without coming into AGD’s defense. AGD is one of the best things that happened in TV Land. The cast were great. The song are well–suited to each and every scene. The characters were great too. I was surprised that I’m gradually drawn to the DoJin-Yisoo tandem, which at some point I was worried if they click but they did have that chemistry..

    Although, there were things which I thought were left unresolved just like yisoo and her mother and what happened to dojin”s amnesia??? Overall, I was satisfied. I even watched it times now and I still want to watch again. I’m giving it a rating of 9/10.

    Jang Dong Gun, for a first-timer in a romantic-comedy kinda show, was good. He was able to deliver it. He gave life to DoJin.

    1. Hello hello, always great to get long comments like yours here that is opposite to my review/impression. Gives a more wholesome view to others dropping by :) I agree on all the aspects you’d said and in fact, I’ll be the first to openly admit that I’d over expected from the writer and thus, this show, which is why I’d been obviously disappointed. The only one part I’ll touch upon in particular is this: yes it’s a rom-com thus yes, it is on the lighter fare, but light doesn’t equal stupid you know? It may be more fluff, but even love has depth; similarly, a love story slash romantic comedy like this show could too. AGD is not outright lousy or empty, but where she’d struck a realistic chord tonally and plot-wise in say, City Hall, I really thought that in AGD it’s mostly just barely scratching the surface. However, I do agree and especially looking back now, see that perhaps I was too harsh on this show through this review but personally I still stand by the qualms I have about it, especially storyline-wise and characterization-wise.

      But as I always say, there’s plenty room to agree to disagree! Politely conducted discussions and arguments are always welcome. I am glad you felt very strongly about the show and thus, wrote this! I really think it provides a more wholesome perspective overall about AGD to anyone who comes across this review. So yes, thanks!

  5. ur idea is so irrelevant…. if u want to be a writer try writing ur own story.

    i want also 60 seconds of my life back!!!

    1. Maybe my ideas are irrelevant, but her storytelling for this show just didn’t make sense and connect with me. I don’t see why you’ve to discredit my writing because I disagree with the mass on this show – now that’s irrelevant. You mean 60 seconds back for reading this? *hands over* here, all yours. Cheers!

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