Different is not always good, but its existence always is. For a largely limited medium such as Korean drama, shows which step outside of the norm in some way are a push towards programming which covers not just one group's preferences, but those of many. "Midnight Diner" is a unique little show which has done poorly in the ratings, but might just offer the few who watch it a much needed breather and some comfort.
Regular dramas can be relaxing in the sense that they offer stress relief by creating overly dramatic and attention-grabbing situations for viewers. This series is not quite like that. Rather than offering exciting drama and conflict, grand romances or revenge stories, it simply presents pieces of everyday life and everyday struggles, uses delicious meals to frame them and gives them a hopeful conclusion. This is all about comfort. Comfort food, comfort stories, comfort atmosphere and coziness.
This atmosphere is one of the best things about the drama. From the visuals to the set and from the music to the writing, everything is so very relaxing. The diner itself is small and beautiful, the alley feels like a world of its own. The music is simple and fits the style. Kim Seung-woo is an excellent choice for the benevolent, but mysterious figure of the Master. His deep voice and sweet narration add to the feeling that the series gives off. He is a perfect character to observe and experience the people who visit. He is quiet, yet with his own thoughts.
The characters he observes might not be as rare for Korean drama as they could be, which is one of the flaws in this series, but they are still interesting and most importantly, diverse. People from both sexes and of different age, social status, with problems ranging from personal to work- to romance-related. The dishes they choose also have a story to them for the most part and the series is obviously selling the culinary part by featuring one dish per character and sometimes per episode. This is an episodic format show with recurring main characters.
As mentioned before, the characters are realistic and easy to sympathize with, but the series has a few problems which need to be addressed. For one, half an hour is too little time to really go deep into each character's story. At least the way this is being written. There needs to be time to show the dishes, time to work on the atmosphere. The stories are also too sugar-coated and happy. Yes, this is good for the comfort part and to create positive emotions, but it also feels unrealistic at times. They seem to be addressing the former, as the story of episode 4 featuring Ji Jin-hee will expand to 5.
Another element which is great, but needs to evolve is the Master himself. Right now, he is a caring, sweet, but also shrouded in mystery man. He often smiles at people's remarks and he clearly thinks about the things he witnesses. He is helpful and compassionate and interesting. He needs a backstory and development, however. Because he is not entirely an observer and substitute for the audience, his presence will get frustrating fast if they do not give a little more by the end.
"Midnight Diner" feels like a Korean drama, but at the same time it takes things much more slowly and keeps them understated. Perhaps this is influence seeping over from the Japanese original and drama or maybe the creators just want to make a calming and endearing show. Whatever the case, if you like good food, people and just want to relax, this is the drama for you.
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 email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama First Look] "Midnight Diner""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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