Park Bogum. That alone might just be reason enough to watch the show but the endearing, heartwarming plot will have you head-over-heels in love with the drama.
Based on a web manhwa of the same title, it's a light-hearted story centred aroud the budding romance between the cheeky, swoon-worthy Crown Prince Lee Yeong (Park Bogum) and his adorably big-hearted eunuch Hong Ra-on, who turns out to be a girl in disguise. Ra-on is played by Kim Yoo Jung, whom you might fondly remember as the amazing child actress in "The Moon That Embraces The Sun"
Think of it as a cute, romantic comedy that's set during the Joseon dynasty. It may be a sageuk (historical drama), but there's none of the hand-wringing politics and angst.
It's a good mixture of funny hijinks (the Crown Prince's mischievous pranks on his favourite eunuch), heartfelt romance (Park Bogum is ace at those moony eyes), and the right amount of political intrigue.
There's always a sensitive balance between delivering tension and resolving conflicts in a satisfying, often-times heartfelt manner ─ you never feel like your heart's put in the wringer for sadistic plotlines.
And *ahem*, there's also a generous dose of check-out-that-physique sneaks at the Crown Prince's swashbuckling bodyguard Kim Byung-yeon for fan-service.
As much as every aspect of the drama seems spot-on, down to the the balance between conflict and mood-soaring happy moments, the best thing about the show is really Park Bogum.
He's so expressive that you can trace his every changing emotion from his face alone – a bemused twitch of the eyebrow, a shift in the jaws to convey stonewalled anger, a tender look in his eyes that betrays love and concern.
Spoiler alert: If you're rooting for our on-screen couple, you'll really want to speed up to episode 7 and 8.
Also known as: "Love in the Moonlight"
This is no chick flick where you can settle in for a good pick-me-up that doesn't involve brain power.
In fact, you might even be inspired to grab a notebook to start keeping track of timelines... but that's only because the plot is so swift and unpredictable, you'll be eagerly trying to sort it out all for your personal gratification.
Cardiothoracic surgeon Oh Yeon-joo (Han Hyo-joo) suddenly finds herself pulled in ─ literally ─ into the manhwa world of her father's webtoon "W". It's a race against time to save her beloved protagonist, the righteous go-getter Kang Chul (Lee Jong-suk), from his nemesis.
She thought she'd saved the day, only to find that their worlds have now collided, with her thoroughly wrapped up in his storyline.
It's a pretty complicated plot to deliver, but thankfully, it's in good hands. The writer, Song Jae-jung, is widely respected for dreaming up the likes of "Nine" and "Queen Inhyun's Man" original, fantastical stories that bend space and time. So no, none of those trite melodrama tropes and poor-girl-meets-rich-boy plots
Lee Jong-suk, who got his big break with the dramas "School 2013" and "I Hear Your Voice", is en pointe as the suave hero, but Han Hyo-joo delivers a convincing portrayal of the wide-eyed, unwitting heroine too.
The story is extremely fast-paced, with twists lurking at every corner. Just when you think you've got the story arcs figured out, Song throws another curveball. And it's this powerful storywriting that gets you totally immersed, sharing the characters' bewilderedness, frustations, fears and jubilation.
The production work is a real marvel too.
Every development in the manhwa world returns to the real world as a cartoon frame, and the likeness between the drawings and characters are remarkable too. But most salute-worthy of all, is the way they weave transitions between vivid cartoon drawings and real-life scenes. It's equal parts mind-boggling and spine-chilling.
Given the intersecting parallel universes, it's not surprising that there are a lot of meta references. But it's also among the few dramas that get that element right without seeing deliberate and clumsy. You might just be questioning your own reality afterwards.
Warning. This one is strictly only for those who thrive on melodrama.
If you typically roll your eyes whenever a character discovers he/she has a life-threatening disease, skip this. If you hate it when the main couple spends 10 episodes taking turns to be the noble idiot ("I don't deserve you", "you'll be happier with him" etc), don't come near this with a pole. If you find it frustrating when lovers are kept apart by inter-family feuds, run far away.
But if you secretly (or not) enjoy all that teeth-gnashing and crying, Uncontrollably Fond is way up your alley.
Boy meets girl. Girl doesn't give a hoot about the boy. Boy gets intrigued and starts to fall for her. Boy discovers a big secret that necessitates him giving her up. Boy and girl cross paths again after many years. Boy suddenly finds out he's dying and goes all out to live his life to the fullest...
Something like that.
In this case, the broody Kim Woo Bin (the enigmatic second lead in the trainwreck otherwise known as "Heirs") takes on the title role. Shin Joon Young was the most good-looking, most sought-after boy in high school and now he's a top star, worshipped by screaming fans and arrogant as hell.
Singer Suzy is Noh Eul, once a plucky, stand-up-for-the-weak high schooler who's now a money-obsessed documentary producer. She's changed so much, she's willing to accept bribes to keep mum on shady industrial misdeeds.
Thankfully, the crazy makjang tropes surface really quickly... all the better for leaving plenty of time for the heart-wrenching angst and sweet melancholy, accompanied by the achingly poetic cinematography.
Also known as: "Lightly, Ardently"
It's a heist story, but get this, it's about heists pulled off by a dogged taxman and his ragtag bunch of swindlers and gangsters, targeted at rich tax evaders.
The tax man premise might have been yawn fest, but at the hands of veteran Ma Dong-seok who plays our ajusshi hero Baek Sung-il, and the charismatic Seo In-gook as the lead conman Yang Jung-do, it tugs at our heartstrings about the tough, thankless job that tax collectors do.
Baek Sung-il and his tax collecting team may be working in one of the most hated jobs, but their moral compass is right. They're appalled by the injustice of having to "steal" every last possession from the destitute when the affluent ones bully, fight, trick and bribe their way out ─ often, through their bosses' shady compliance.
Sung-il's doggedness finally lands him in hot water when he's framed by a disgruntled wealthy man as taking bribes. He's at the end of the line, until the very conman (Jung-do) who cheated him out of his pitiful savings, offers to help in exchange for Sung-il to drop criminal charges.
It's his best shot, since the "legal" route is rife with corruption, and Sung-il grudgingly, warily starts to fight back with his squad of conspirators.
At times, the show is bleak and cynical, but then the modern day Robin Hoods gets us rooting for their brand of social reforms, and watching the way their every success betters the life of the man on the street simply elicits gratifying tears of joy. Of course, the caper's cleverly planned jobs makes for a great adrenaline rush too.
Also known as: "38 Task Force"
If you caught Nam Goong Min's chilling portrayal as the impassive psychopath in "The Girl Who Sees Smells", well, you're in for a surprise.
He's adorably dorky and eccentric here as Ahn Dan-tae. As a lawyer who's all for the underdog, his earnestness gets the thumbs up from us... but he's also extremely loopy, tucking into his convenience-store food with gusto and Japan Hour-esque sighs and moans. Nam Goong Min has really embraced all of his character's social awkwardness and dialed up the crazies to great effect.
Singer-actress Minah of Girl's Day is the perfect complement to the oddball Ahn Dan-tae, portraying all of Gong Shim's quirks, and vulnerabilities convincingly. Gong Shim has spent her whole life in her successful big sister's shadows, taken for granted even by her family. Her artistic soul adds to her child-like naviete and unfortunately, often earns her derision, but it's her heart of gold that gets our two male leads, Dan-tae and Seok Jun-su fumbling for her attention.
Ohn Joo-wan (last seen in "The Village: Achiara's Secret") joins the main cast as chaebol heir Seok Jun-su. No matter how hard he tries, his step-grandmother would never acknowledge him, pining endlessly for his cousin who was kidnapped as a child. Naturally, he makes it his mission in life to track down his elder cousin. After all the rich-bad-boy types, Jun-su's sensible, good-natured personality makes him all the more charming to watch.
It's a bit of a genre mashup ─ the thriller thread comes from the hunt for the kidnapped cousin, and there's a dash of romantic comedy in our heroes' chivalrous efforts towards Gong Shim, but at the very heart of the show, it's a sweet, coming-of-age story of sorts about three lonely souls who grow and blossom from their unlikely friendship.
Also known as: "Pretty Ugly" and "Dear Fair Lady Gong Shim"