I really had high hopes for Radio Romance. Although Kim So-Hyun’s not on my favorites list, she is a very good actress and I was excited to see her take on an adult roll. Also, the story being set among the backdrop of radio broadcasting was an original idea that sounded interesting to me. But, sadly, I didn’t get the drama I was hoping for. It’s not a bad show, by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s just nothing special about it.
This show leans more on its characters than it does on a plot. The story is about the people who work in radio.
When Song Geu-Rim was a young teenager her father passed away and a few years later her precious mother received an eye operation that left her blind. In order to understand the situation and empathize with her mom Geun-Rim would spend hours wearing a blindfold, walking around the hospital, tapping a white cane in front of her. Ever since then Geu-Rim hasn’t watched TV and because she and her mom listened to the radio together her career goal was to be the writer of a radio program. For the past four years she has been an assistant writer with a special talent for booking important people on the show. Although she sees PD Lee Kang as a bit eccentric, she has a great deal of respect for his abilities when it comes to radio.
Hallyu star Ji Soo-Ho is one of the biggest names in South Korean entertainment. He has worked in movies and dramas since he was a child and is still one of the most sought after personalities for commercials. He possesses an amazing talent of being able to memorize lines almost instantly. Because of an accident that happened when he was a teenager he has been secretly suffering with depression and insomnia. Jason, a friend from high school, is a psychiatrist that has come to live with him in order to help with these issues. His manager has been with him since he was a child and is more like a friend than an assistant. As for family, Soo-Ho’s is picture perfect… or is it?
Just back from a stint in India, Lee Kang is once again in South Korea and ready to resume his job as a radio program director (PD). Although no one can hold a candle to his abilities as a radio PD, he often comes across as a bit weird. Work is his first priority and he accepts only the best from those who work on his team. He wants superstar Ji Soo-Ho as the DJ for his program and has promised Geu-Rim the position of writer if she can actually make it happen. Professionally, he has taken Geu-Rim under his wing, but could there be a little more there than just wanting to be her mentor?
Once a big child star that often worked with Ji Soo-Ho, Jin Tae-Ri is now an adult actress who has fallen from grace. She wants to ride on Soo-Ho’s coattails all the way back to the top but when he refuses to work with her on his upcoming drama, she decides to resort to blackmail.
JH Entertainment’s CEO is Nam Joo-Ha. Although Ji Soo-Ho is her son, she sees him as her top money maker and refuses to allow him to hide his multi-million dollar face behind a radio microphone. You don’t want to get on the woman’s bad said, that’s for sure.
Beginning her entertainment career at the young age of seven years old, Kim So-Hyun, who’s character is Song Geu-Rim, debuted in a supporting role in the Drama City special entitled Ten Minute Minor in 2006. However, it wasn’t until her role as the younger version of the second female lead in the drama Moon Embracing the Sun that she garnered public attention. The first of 15 acting awards she has earned came in 2012 by way of the drama Missing You in which she received the Best Child Actress award. Years later her performance in Who Are You: School 2015 won her the Star of the Year award! So-Hyun was born in Australia and moved to South Korea when she was seven. After she graduated middle school in 2015 she was home schooled during her high school years. This year (2018) So-Hyun plans to enroll at Hanyang University, majoring in Theater.
Originally, Yoon Doo-Joon’s (whose character is Ji Soo-Ho) dream was to become a high school P.E. teacher but that all changed when he saw the MTV Big Bang Documentary. Although his parents and teachers didn’t agree with his choice, his pleading changed their minds and he was registered for music school and began auditioning to become a singer. He was first a JYP Entertainment trainee and then moved to Cube Entertainment where he later debuted as the leader of the boy group Beast, now known as Highlight. He graduated from Kyung Hee Cyber University in post-modern musicology and now attends, under a full scholarship, Dongshin University as a Broadcast Entertainment major. Before he debuted with Beast he auditioned for a role in High Kick Through the Roof and was even offered a part but turned it down in order to focus more on his music. He became a model for Buckaroo jeans and his acting debut was through the daily sitcoms More Charming by the Day and All My Love, in which he received the Rookie Comedy Award for his performances. He starred in the 2013 Kdrama Let’s Eat and revised his role two years later in Let’s Eat 2. Watch for him later this year as the same character in Let’s Eat 3.
What do the dramas Adolescence Medley, Good Doctor, Discovery of Romance, Reset, Please Come Back, Mister, Uncontrollably Fond, My Shy Boss, and The Package have in common? They are all entertaining shows actor Yoon Park has been in (among many, many others). He’s also acted in several films, some music videos, and a theatrical production. Thirty year old Yoon Park began his career in the entertainment industry as a drummer for the band Can’t Play Well, which won the Bronze Prize in the 34th MBC Campus Song Festival. I think he is wonderfully, charismatically fantastic in his role as PD Lee Kang. I’ve got my fingers crossed someone will cast him in the leading man role of a delicious love story soon!
The three main characters in Radio Romance are strong-willed, feisty people who don’t fall apart when life slaps them in the face. They’re not shy when they have to go up against a problem or an enemy, and that’s quite rare in Kdramaland. Way too often a writer is able to squeeze several episodes out of a character who gives up, or gives in, but these characters are refreshingly resilient. I really liked that.
One thing that bothered me is the fact that no one said a single thing when both Ji Soo-Ho and Song Geu-Rim changed their hair color, at the same time. When the show starts out she has very wavy, light brownish red hair and his is bright pinkish red. Halfway through the show her hair is straight and dark brown and his also changes to a chocolate brown color, yet no one mentions a thing about it. “No more red hair, Soo-Ho? Did you dye it for a part in an upcoming drama?” “Hey Writer Song, your hair is straight. Looks nice.” Nothing like that at all. That’s not real life, folks. People in the U.S.A. notice physical changes like that and mention something about them. But maybe that’s not something that’s done in South Korea. Anyway, I thought it was strange nothing was said about it.
My favorite character in this show is PD Lee Kang. He is an intelligent, confident, take-charge kind of guy that definitely stands out in a crowd. He is kind and sympathetic in a covert sort of way yet doesn’t mind challenging authority when he thinks they are wrong. I couldn’t help but put him on my ideal guy list right along side Choi Seung-Hee from Which Star Are You From? and Min-Hyeong from Winter Sonata.
Radio Romance didn’t do too well in my rating system and faired even worse with South Korea’s AGB Nielsen ratings. Sadly, the show averaged a very low 4.1% nationwide, with its second to the last episode only squeezing by with a sorry 2.6%. I think the problem is that it’s just an even keel show – there aren’t any really scary bad guys, there isn’t an edge-of-your-seat mystery to unravel, and there’s no heart wrenching love story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. While watching the dramas The Package and Triple I felt like I was observing real life. However, in contrast, while watching Radio Romance I was very aware it was just a show. Maybe the difference is characters. The characters from the first two dramas I mentioned came across as people you’d work with or folks living in your neighborhood but Radio Romance‘s characters are very two-dimensional.
I wasn’t sold on the idea of such a young looking actor playing the part of Soo-Ho’s manager. He’s only five years older than the man he works for and he’s been managing Soo-Ho since he was a child star. Does that sound believable to you? Oh well. It doesn’t ruin the show but it does cause some conflict in the way I viewed their relationship.
Sadly, there were three “oops” I picked up on. The first shows Geu-Rim picking up bottles of soju (or beer). She grabs two with red caps and all the rest she picks up have green caps. But when she brings the basket to the counter to pay for her purchase, there’s only one bottle with a red cap. Ha! The other two problems both come with a kiss. We can tell they were different takes of the same shot because arms change positions during two different kisses. Soo-Ho puts his hand on the back of Geu-Rim’s head but his hand is down when it shows the kiss from a different angle. The same thing happens with another kiss, this time with his hand on her arm. It’s noticeable.
You’d expect a drama about the life of people who work in radio to have a lot of great music in the background, and Radio Romance certainly doesn’t disappoint us there. Throughout the entire show we hear lots of Korean and English song, oldies and current. The Covered Up Road (aka Hidden Path) sung by Nakjoon (the winner of SBS’s K-pop Star Season 3) is not only a simple yet pretty ballad but it ties into a very important part of the story. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see the end of the show. So, so clever – and emotional. Migyo sings Bygone Days, a lovely little song that stays the same from beginning to end (no crescendo, no piano). Radio Romance and Story are two songs that are often played throughout the show. They’re nice but not special.
As far as scenery goes there’s a huge glass wall in the KBC Radio building that overlooks the big city of Seoul and the view is just stunning. Nighttime, daytime – it’s breathtaking. Ji Soo-Ho’s superstar house is very big but not lavish at all. The interior says “new and comfortable” but not “show off”, while Song Geu-Rim’s house is small and clean, with basic necessities. I loved the cozy broadcasting booth. It made me want to be a radio program writer.
There’s nothing really wrong with this show, it just isn’t spectacular, but that’s not a good enough reason to scratch it off your list. Even though Radio Romance isn’t a 10, it’s definitely not a waste of viewing time.
The lovable character PD Lee Kang
Great songs played on the radio
How the song Hidden Path ties into the plot
Heartwarming radio programs
Kisses are nothing special
No one mentions the main characters’ hair change
A few “oops”