Take some ideas from A Thousand Days Promise, Love Rain, and The Time That I Loved You, 7,000 Days and put them together in one Kdrama. What do you get?… Bubblegum.
Park Ri-Hwan and Kim Haeng-Ah were raised together like brother and sister – as close as close can be. For Ri-Hwan, his love for her blossomed from a sibling love to a romantic one when they were in junior high school. As adults they both have come to realize they love each other and want to be together. (The Time That I Loved You, 7,000 Days) You’d think that with Ri-Hwan’s mother practically raising Haeng-Ah she’d be happy for them but instead she’s very much against them being a couple. Why? (Love Rain) Then, while Ri-Hwan’s mother is trying to find a suitable woman for him to marry, one she personally likes, she discovers she has a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. (A Thousand Days Promise) Now, Ri-Hwan has to make a choice – does he cling to the woman he loves or give her up to ease his ailing mother’s concerns?
Handsome Lee Dong-Wook’s character is Park Ri-Hwan. He is a doctor of Eastern medicine, which includes acupuncture. He has his own successful clinic and works with his best friend, Kwon Ji-Hoon, who is also his roommate. Ri-Hwan was raised by his single mother and never knew his father. His mother holds hope of him marrying Hong Yi-Seul, a dentist whose family would financially set him for life, but his heart wants Haeng-Ah. He is genuinely kind, considerate, and thoughtful, the sort of guy it would be easy to fall in love with, and reserved Yi-Seul does just that.
Jung Ryeo-Won plays radio producer Kim Haeng-Ah. She was in a relationship with her boss but called it quits when she decided she didn’t want to take a back seat to all the other things in his life. I appreciated the fact that the writer decided to make her an emotionally strong woman. She makes up her mind and sticks to it, come what may. She breaks up with a man and doesn’t go back to him. She falls in love with another guy and doesn’t give him up. Being sure of herself and her decisions – that’s a refreshing change.
Although I’ve compared some aspects of this show to three other dramas, Bubblegum, itself, is unique. I enjoyed the fact that there aren’t any bad guys and the main characters have unusual careers. Their friends and colleagues are decent folks who genuinely care about each other and we, as an audience, also like them. Dentist Hong Yi-Seul’s mother is overbearing, and criticizes everything about her daughter, however her older brother is caring and supportive and tries to balance out their mother’s emotional abuse.
Throughout the show we learn about Park Ri-Hwan and Kim Haeng-Ah’s relationship with short flashbacks here and there. Then, episode 11 takes all those flashback scenes and puts them together, chronologically, so we can see everything that got the characters to where they are. It is a very clever idea. Usually, writers choose to show us the beginning of a relationship with the first (or in Spring Waltz‘s case, the second, third, and some of the fourth) episode. I’m not sure whether I liked this way or not but the fact that it is original is nice.
There’s also a really fun idea showing Ri-Hwan and Haeng-Ah beginning their day. They are doing the same thing at the same time – showering, putting on their shoes, leaving the house, closing the car door, walking into a building… but it’s done split screen. Her shower head/his shower head, her shoe/his shoe, her taxi ride/him driving his car… It was so different, quite a stand-out scene. A very, very clever, artistic idea.
The soundtrack was all stuff you’d hear on an “easy listening” radio station. Soft, calm, quiet, pretty, ballads and instrumental music. Swedish indie pop musician, Lasse Lindh, sings a nice song in English entitled Because I. He’s not a newcomer to the Kdrama soundtrack scene, previously performing two songs for Soulmate and one for Angel Eyes, but I think the one he sings for Bubblegum is the best.
The scenery is nice. Three separate times they go to a beautiful beach. There’s also a restaurant where a birthday party is held outside. It’s all lit up, looking so cozy and pretty. I’d love to have a birthday party there. And Ri-Hwan’s office is so nice. There’s an outside courtyard with an entire wall that slides back so it kind of becomes a big balcony. I’ve never seen that before. Pretty cool.
Is Bubblegum one of the best Kdramas of 2015 I’ve seen? No, but it is far, far from one of the not so great ones. Both Lee Dong-Wook and Jung Ryeo-Won are on my favorite actors and actresses lists so they, alone, made this show good. There’s nothing really fantastic about it, just a middle of the road kind of romantic drama. However, it’s an enjoyable love story that deserves to go on your “watch” list. I liked it and I think you will, too.
Entertaining love story
Handsome and talented Lee Dong-Wook
Beautiful and talented Jung Ryeo-Won
Too ordinary – not enough that stands out as “wow”