After the rise of cable channel dramas in South Korean television output, the changes are visible. From the very foundations of how production works to the topics explored, everything is changing and it seems to be changing quite fast. Along with new concepts, different approaches emerge to familiar stories and genres. "Bubble Gum" plays out like a typical romantic comedy, but at the same time handles its characters and story very differently to most and so far much more intimately.
Most romantic dramas and dramas in general rely on events, misunderstandings and tangible outside obstacles to build their couples and plot. The inner world of the characters is rarely important past their emotions, and their behaviors serve as means to make things happen, rather than as material to explore. "Bubble Gum" instead looks into those self-made obstacles and opportunities of human beings, which keep us struggling to live and love and which move us.
For a show of this type, that is also the best approach. The drama is not a pure romantic comedy, at least not in the sense most viewers are used to. While mostly light in tone, it takes a more human, less idealistic look at people's emotional baggage. This creates material we do not often experience in other works. Rather than having the characters remain blind to their own problems and the writing ignore them, everything here is faced head on for what it is. Bad behavior and emotions, good behavior and emotions.
This means that the plot feels rich, even though not many things happen in the world presented in terms of events, as most of what happens is within the characters themselves and the relationships between them. This creates more engaging drama for those who are interested in romance and people, but at the same time will likely turn fans of the easier to digest and wish-fulfilling aspects of romantic works away. The more practical parts of the series leave little to be desired, as this is a beautiful-looking and well acted work.
The temptation of falling back on known habits is always great and despite its so far satisfying progress, the show does have certain elements which can become problematic depending on their use. Such is the family cancer history of one character and the obviously deteriorating memory of another. While certain issues of the characters can be explained by these things, illness in Korean drama is often placed for the sake of "easy" dramatic tension and plot thinning later on. The show is handling tricky subjects and has no room or need for contrived drama.
The romantic side of things is not without its flaws as well. While the writing mostly remains focused, its occasional adherence to certain romantic plot devices does not fit its approach. An example being the rivalry between two romantic enemies drifting into sensationalist territory, with the person being fought over and the character development being sidelined in favor of displaying perceived masculine appeal. Giving these behaviors appealing presentation harms the very point of the show so far, which is the messiness of these emotional blockages.
"Bubble Gum" is a very honest, human and endearing series. The characters face real issues and face them in ways which make sense to the real human beings watching them. At the same time, it is a romantic series in an industry which gives new approaches a hard time and in a channel which still needs its ratings to make profit. The drama can hopefully remain as honest throughout.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama First Look] "Bubble Gum""
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