Monday, August 12, 2013

Summertime Funnertime: Dating Agency: Cyrano Review

Dating Agency: Cyrano just finished its run in July of this year.  Looking for something light and fluffy to watch in what feels like billion-degree weather, I started watching it pretty soon after it ended.
Doesn't this poster just scream "SUMMER!" to you?
Source
The posters didn't lie.  This drama was like a little creamiscle: a light snack for the summer, but so light that it won't stay with you for long.


Your Typical Flower Boys

This show is actually part of tvN's larger Oh!Boy series (which also includes Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, Shut Up! Flower Boy Band, and Flower Boys Next Door).  In line with the other shows, this one was originally called Flower Boy Dating Agency before they settled on Dating Agency: Cyrano.  This change might have been a way to connect it to the 2010 film on which it was based (Cyrano Agency). Either that, or the producers realized that a title containing the term flower "boys" was a little misleading since both of the male leads are in their 30s (and Flower Boys Plus a Couple of Flower Ahjussis Dating Agency doesn't have quite the same ring to it).
Some Flower Boys is better than none!

Even though there aren't flower boys in the title, this series still captures the same spirit that fills the other Oh! Boy shows.  It's a breezy comedy bursting at the seams with quirky side characters and cute romance. In fact, fans of Jo Yoon Woo's "Angel Boy" in FBRS will be thrilled to see the same actor play Do Arang, who is basically the exact same character--nerdy sweaters and all. 

This series amps up the fun factor with a million different cameos from other kdrama stars. Since the series revolves around a dating agency, each new "case" features a new set of actors as the agency's romantic targets.  I didn't recognize all of the cameos, but the ones I picked up were pretty enjoyable.  My personal favorite had to be Gong Yoo because, well, it's Gong Yoo.  'Nuff said.
Boom.  Doesn't this basically make the whole series worthwhile?

The Leads

I was pleasantly surprised by Sooyoung's portrayal of Gong Min Young.  She has a smile that absolutely lights up the room, and Gong Min Young was delightfully confident and pleasant and normal--almost unheard-of in a kdrama female lead! She was comfortable in her own skin from episode 1 and didn't feel the need to apologize for her personality.  Even though I would probably be initially intimidated by her snazzy style and outgoing personality, she's definitely someone I would want as a friend in real life.
Wait, she knows basic personal hygiene?  What kind of kdrama lead does she think she is?

I also appreciate the way she initially handled the relationship. Yes, she confessed her feelings first, but instead of staring into space and crying after Byung Hoon ignored her, she told him to just man up and be more mature about the whole thing.  In fact, every time he used a trick that would make most kdrama females freeze up (firing her, asking if she likes him, etc.), she turned the tables on him.

As great as Sooyoung was, I had a hard time with the chemistry in this show.  Part of this is my own fault.  Yes, the drama recognizes the age gap between Min Young and Seo Byung Hoon (15 years between the actual actors, in case you're wondering), but they don't ever spell out the difference, and they try to balance the characters in terms of emotional maturity.  For me, though, the age gap was a little distracting.  It wasn't the actual age so much as the difference in life experience.  She is a bubbly youngster just out of college, and he is a jaded middle-aged man with an increasingly ridiculous bowl cut.  It didn't help that the last time I watched Lee Jong Hyuk was in A Gentleman's Dignity, where he played a cheating 40-something-year old (who, if I remember correctly, checks out Sooyoung's legs at some point in the show).  Even in the final scenes of the show, it just felt more like a teacher-student relationship than a sizzling partnership of people on equal levels.  They had some cute moments (like the play fighting below), but most of the chemistry just didn't fall into place for me.



Out of curiosity, I asked Coco what she thought about the pairing after watching the first episode.  She had never seen A Gentleman's Dignity, and she didn't really register the age difference, so I really might be the only one who felt this way.  I can't help it!

I'm also starting to realize that I will probably never get through a Flower Boy series without a serious case of Second Male Lead Syndrome. I don't know what it is about these shows, but it happens every time (except for maybe FBRS, where the second lead was nice, but the random narcolepsy threw me off).  How can I possibly appreciate Seo Byung Hoon when Master is around?
I think he should win just on the basis of all that delicious food he made.

Short answer?  I can't. 

The Plot

As I said before, the basic premise of this drama means that we get a new love story (with new star cameos) every 2-3 episodes.  These side stories were adorable, and they helped keep the show moving at a decent pace.  I didn't notice the time dragging in the middle like I sometimes do because I was excited to see what each new case would bring.

The big exception here is the last few episodes, where the show's writers made a beeline straight for Crazyville and didn't stop until it was time to wrap up the series. If you're writing a fun, lighthearted series about the hijinks in a dating agency, WHY would you think that tossing in a kidnapping with two episodes to go is a good way to wrap things up?  I can understand using kidnapping as a last-ditch plot device if you have to fill 50 episodes, but this series only has 16 episodes, and they're only 45 minutes long. Now that's just lazy!  

I sometimes wonder if kdrama writers have a giant wheel of plot twists sitting in their office, and every time someone gets writer's block, they just gather around and spin the wheel, a-la Wheel of Fortune. "Come onnnnnnnnnnn, amnesia! Awwwww, man! Not another illegitimate child!"

I also felt like the underlying conflict was a little underdeveloped for the amount of drama it caused in the show.  Seo Byung Hoon kept agonizing over things, and then Yi Seol would just be like, "Yeah, I knew that 15 years ago.  NBD."

Random Observations

  • It's hard to choose a favorite side character in a drama filled with side characters, but I have to give a shout out to Master's bumbling henchmen and their attempts at matchmaking.
  • What's with Seo Byung Hoon's trench coats?  Everyone else is wearing shorts and t-shirts, and he's decked out like Inspector Gadget. 
Is this supposed to help him blend in?  Because it's definitely not working.
  • (Spoiler) Can we please talk about that scene with the bomb?  Master is BLEEDING ON THE FLOOR, and everyone else is just going all starry-eyed in love? SOMEBODY CALL KOREAN 911! But nooooooo, they go ahead and stab him in the heart right after he's been stabbed in the stomach.
Wait, remind me why she chose the other guy again?  Because I forgot.
  • Another entry into the "things I shouted repeatedly at my computer" column: "NO! DON'T TURN YOUR BACK ON HAWAIIAN SHIRT GUY!" If somebody is cray-cray and straps a bomb to the love of your life and then tries to hit you in the head with a board, how about you don't turn your back on him unless he's tied up somehow?  For being a gangsta, Master was an idiot with that one.
  • I want someone to let me deejay a high school prom so that I can play this song.  Something about it just screams awkwardly shuffling teenagers.
If you love the Flower Boy shows, Dating Agency: Cyrano is a good choice!  It might not suck you in quite as much as other shows do, but it's some bright summertime fun.

13 comments:

  1. I liked this series alot! I didn't have a problem with the age gap, and I saw Gentlemen's Dignity (but I dropped halfway). I agree it's not addictive, but it hits all the sweet spots if you like breezy rom-coms.

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  2. I loved this drama, but my LORD I will never understand why she didn’t pick Master (Mass‘tah ^_^). As pointed out in the article/review, the chemistry between Min-Young and Byung-Hoon was way off. Uninspiring actually. I couldn’t think of anything romantic worth pursuing between the two, despite the attempted development of Jong-Hyuk’s character. Whereas with Master the sky was the limit with all headaches aside.

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  3. So there's no real connection the film? I found the movie surprisingly strong, especially the end, and was hoping the series might have more in common than just the name.

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    Replies
    1. I haven't seen the movie, but from what I hear, they have the same basic premise and some of the characters are the same (though played by different actors). The story isn't quite the same, though. Still a fun watch, though!

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  4. You're so right about that song. I kind of wish that I were a Korean teenager and you were a DJ at my dance so I could shuffle to it.

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  5. Now that I've watched it, I agree with your summary, except that I think you were a little too kind to the kidnap/bomb plot. I found it jarred tonally with the rest of the series, and smacked of a lazy way to force Seo Byung to admit his feelings. I was reminded of your K Drama Writer's Wheel of Fortune, actually. A pity, because other than that, it really was enjoyable fluff, especially Sooyoung's character, for all the reasons you've outlined.

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    Replies
    1. You're right about the bomb plot. It WAS lazy, and it was a waste of time in such a short series.

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  6. It is honestly like you took the words out of my brain! I thought all the same things as I was watching.

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  7. I loved Dating Agency Cyrano....
    In my opinion Sooyoung and Lee Jong Hyuk had a sizzling chemistry right from their first meet....they looked so comfortable with each other...and that was one of the reasons this drama was so addicting to me :)

    ReplyDelete
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