I thought the beginning of Hit the Top (aka The Best Hit) was a bit slow. Not a slow start to the plot, it was just slow to catch my interest. But once things got going, I was anxious to find out what would happen next and, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t able to guess who would end up with whom until things were fairly close to winding up.
In June of 1993, a double typhoon hit Seoul Korea, miraculously sending J2 idol Yoo Hyun-Jae 24 years into the future. Seconds after he appears in 2017 Lee Ji-Hoon and his friends, Drill and Woo-Seung, almost run over him with their car and, when Hyun-Jae passes out from shock, they take him to a hospital. Later, they go back to check on him and discover he already left. Their paths coincidently (and hilariously) cross once again, though, and when Hyun-Jae pretends to have amnesia because of the accident, Ji-Hoon feels responsible and offers to let Hyun-Jae stay with him until he regains his memories. But that arrangement proves to be a challenge when Hyun-Jae realizes he knows the folks living right below him. What will happen if he can’t stay hidden from the friends that mourned his death over 20 years ago?
Hit the Top has two less than a dozen main/semi-main characters…
Park Young-Jae and Yoo Hyun-Jae were J2, a tremendously popular singing duo in the early ’90s. Although both had their own fans, it was Hyun-Jae’s talents and personality that shot the duo to stardom. He was responsible for lyrics, songwriting, choreography, and style. Because he did so much he felt entitled to more of the group’s profits so he stole a bunch of money. He passed away while in his early 20s.
Lee Ji-Hoon’s dream is to be a pop idol but his foster father, Lee Gwang-Jae, is dead set against it. So while his family is under the misguided impression he is diligently studying to take the civil servant exam, he has secretly been a trainee at Star Punch Entertainment for the past three years. He lives in the rooftop apartment of the building Gwang-Jae is struggling to keep up payments on.
World Planning Entertainment’s CEO is Lee Gwang-Jae. He was Yoo Hyun-Jae’s manager all the while J2 was rising in popularity. He now manages only one trot-singing duo and runs a bakery at the same time. He is far behind on his loan payments to the bank and is struggling to find a way to hold onto the building his “family” works and resides in. Gwang-Jae has loved Hong Bo-Hee for over two decades but has kept his feelings secret out of respect for her feelings for Hyun-Jae.
Over 20 years ago, Hong Bo-Hee was a Kpop idol known as the Pure Fairy but she left the industry due to a scandal. She and Hyun-Jae were in a secret relationship and she was devastated when he passed away. Gwang-Jae took her in and has cared for her and her son, Ji-Hoon. She helps Gwang-Jae run the bakery but wants desperately to get back into the entertainment business, mainly to help lighten Gwang-Jae’s financial load.
Ji-Hoon’s best friend, also a trainee at Star Punch Entertainment, is M.C. Drill. He has been secretly living with Ji-Hoon for quite some time. Although he really wants to be a rap star, he suffers from a bad case of stage fright which has kept him from debuting.
Choi Woo-Seung and Ji-Hoon grew up together and Ji-Hoon has been in love with her ever since high school, however he’s never told her of his feelings. She is studying for the civil servant exam, using Ji-Hoon’s name. She has several part-time jobs (cleaning up in a karaoke bar, a clerk in a convince store, handing out fliers in a cat suit…) just to make ends meet. When she finds herself homeless, Ji-Hoon allows her to secretly live with him and Drill in his rooftop room.
Twenty years ago Lee Soon-Tae was the president of Entertainment Management Association but when Hyun-Jae stole a bunch of money and his top money maker, J2, dissolved soon after that, so did his business. His daughter passed away in a car accident so he took over raising her very young daughter and moved in with Gwang-Jae and Bo-Hee.
The other half of J2 was Park Young-Jae. Because he wasn’t multi-talented like Hyun-Jae, his spotlight wasn’t quite as bright. Not getting the same recognition as Hyun-Jae bothered him but not enough to leave the duo. Right before Hyun-Jae died Young-Jae secretly took his composition notebook and has made a fortune off the songs in it. He is the manager of Star Punch Entertainment and married to its Chairwoman.
Star Punch Entertainment’s biggest idol is M.J. He rose to fame singing the songs from Hyun-Jae’s notebook and was forced to claim he was the original composer and lyricist. However, the deception bothers him and he wants to come clean and tell the world the truth.
Do Hye-Ri is the prettiest and most talented female trainee at Star Punch. She’s a loner whose focus is only one thing, debuting. When Ji-Hoon isn’t afraid to give her a little attention and try to help when he thinks she’s so depressed she’s ready to give up on life, she falls for the kind-hearted young man and tells him so.
Born Yoon Dong-Goo, Yoon Si-Yoon, who plays the main character Yoo Hyun-Jae, didn’t officially change his name until his agency recommended it as he entered college. He was an only child who was raised by his grandparents. Instead of being sent to kindergarten and learning English, like most kids his age, he was sent to seodang, a traditional school, where he learned Confucianism and Chinese characters. His entertainment career began in 2009 when he was cast in the daily sitcom High Kick Through the Roof. Then, the following year, he played the main character in the immensely popular King of Baking, Kim Tak-Goo, winning five different awards for his performance in that drama. His fourth Kdrama role was in Me Too, Flower! which received very poor viewership ratings, but was one I happened to enjoy. I saw him play opposite Park Shin-Hye in Flower Boys Next Door and, although I wasn’t a huge fan of the show, I thought he played his part extremely well. I’ve also seen him in Prime Minister and I. Si-Yoon became a regular cast member on the variety show Barefooted Friends in 2013. He has been part of the reality-variety show 2 Days & 1 Night‘s cast since last year.
Twenty-four year old Lee Se-Young, who plays the part of Choi Woo-Seung, entered the entertainment industry as a child actress. She has been in both movies and TV since 1997. I’m most familiar with her as the evil, selfish trainee in the music-themed drama Trot Lovers and the hero’s female sidekick in the mystery drama Vampire Detective. The girl has absolutely gorgeous eyes.
When he was in middle school, Kim Min-Jae, aka Real.be, studied composition and piano at a music academy. He later auditioned for CJ E&M and, starting with his first year in high school, became a trainee for the next four years. He has been featured on music stages as a rapper since 2014, also making his acting debut that same year in the South Korean- Vietnamese drama Forever Young. I’ve seen him in Twenty Again, Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim, and he made guest appearances in several episodes of two fantastic dramas, Producer and Goblin. In 2015 he was in the rapping competition Show Me the Money 4. His character, Ji-Hoon, does some amazing rapping in Hit the Top. He has written songs and performed on the soundtracks of a few of the dramas he been in – including this one. Min-Jae attends Chung-Ang University.
I wasn’t impressed with Cha Tae-Hyun when I first saw him in the 2004 drama A Prince’s First Love and the 2001 smash hit movie My Sassy Girl, however, time, experience, and the right roles have changed the way I feel about him. He really is a superb actor! If you want to know a little about Cha Tae-Hyun, who plays Lee Gwang-Jae, you can read what I wrote on my Producer review.
It broke my heart that Yoon Si-Yoon wasn’t allowed to show off his spectacular kissing ability in this drama. There’s a kissing scene in Me Too, Flower! that is one of the best of the best out there. He’s trying to convince the police officer girl he likes to not arrest him (he’s innocent, by the way) and he ends up almost swallowing the girl – tongue, lips, mouth open… it’s a delicious, long kiss! So with that in mind, I kept waiting for a kissing scene in Hit the Top and all he was allowed to do was put his closed lips on the girl’s. So sad. The last kiss of the show has a bit more movement to it but nothing compared to what he’s shown he’s capable of.
The only major problem the show has is the fact that people dry off miraculously fast. There’s a scene where Woo-Seung falls into a lake and Hyun-Jae jumps in to save her. Both are soaking wet but are dry and looking fresh as a daisy in a very short time. Later, melancholy Hyun-Jae is roaming around in the rain without an umbrella. Woo-Seung finds him and takes him to a little restaurant (which happens to have a blanket for him to wrap up in) and by the time they leave, not only is Hyun-Jae completely dry but the streets show absolutely no sign of there ever having been rain. How is it actors, directors, and editors don’t notice glaring mistakes like those? I just don’t get it. There’s also a scene (I think it’s at the very end of episode 21) where Ji-Hoon’s shirt is not buttoned completely. The buttonhole on top is buttoned, the next one’s not, and the one underneath is. Funny no one caught that. I happen to like honest, human mistakes like missed buttons, though, because it adds realism to the whole thing.
Cha Tae-Hyun not only stars in Hit the Top, it is also his directorial debut. How do I think he did? Fantastic, minus the nothing kisses and the amazing quick-drying clothes and streets. Maybe the chemistry between the actors/actresses works so well because they were already familiar with each other before filming began. Cha Tae-Hyun and Yoon Si-Yoon are cast members on 2 Days & 1 Night, Tae-Hyun and Min-Jae were both in Producers, and one of Hit the Top‘s three directors was a director on 2 Days & 1 Night.
Each of Hit the Top‘s 32 episodes is a half hour long so it winds up being the same time commitment as a 16 hour drama. I thought they could have wrapped it up a bit sooner but at least it didn’t drag and the ending was good.
I enjoyed Hit the Top‘s music. There’s a song that kept playing that made me think the performer’s voice belonged to Kyuhyun of Super Junior. Of course it was him. I’d know his voice anywhere. Then I remembered Kyuhyun’s in the army so it had to be a person that sounded like him. But nobody sounds like Kyuhyun and ,in checking, I found I was right. Kyuhyun is the artist that sings the song called If You. He must have recorded it before he left for duty on May 25th of this year. I need to trust my ears more. Here’s a fun soundtrack fact, Kim Min-Jae (Ji-Hoon) wrote the lyrics of the song Dream and performs it with Younha.
As for scenery, the show mostly takes place in Ji-Hoon’s rooftop apartment, Gwang-Jae’s house/bakery, and the Star Punch Entertainment building. I appreciated the fact that the rooftop apartment didn’t look the same in both 1993 and 2017. Even the outside of it is different.
Although this drama’s ratings didn’t Hit the Top it’s still a show worthy of adding to your watch list, and it gives us a bit of encouragement when, at the show’s conclusion we’re told, “All of us has our best hit still lying within us.”
Time travel plot
A few “warm” moments
Decent directorial debut for Cha Tae-Hyun
Water that dries too quickly
Some “forced funny” spots
Not great kisses