The minute Viki.com announced they had this webdrama, I put it in my queue, deliberately waiting until the second week in June to watch it. Why? Because today is the summer solstice, at least it is where I am (in the Northern Hemisphere), and I wanted to celebrate the first day of summer with a review of Summer Guys.
When Summer Guys, an unfrequented bar on a Jeju Island beach, suffers some fire damage, the only three people in the building at the time it started (Seon Woo-Chan, Ma Tae-Oh, and Park Gwang-Bok) decide to band together and help the owner, a young woman named Oh Jin Dal-Rae, not only repair the damaged area but make the entire place even better than it was before. After a lot of hard work, Summer Guys is ready to welcome customers once again but before the grand reopening Dal-Rae is visited by some loan sharks who inform her that her uncle had put Summer Guys up as collateral for a loan and she has one month to pay them back or hand over her bar. Intent on helping Dal-Rae keep ownership of Summer Guys, Seon Woo-Chan, Ma Tae-Oh, and Park Gwang-Bok become her employees and end up living with her at the bar while learning the cocktail business from the ground up. And the summer really starts to heat up when each man begins to fall for Dal-Rae. Will the four-person team be able to make Summer Guys successful enough to pay back the loan in time?
When Oh Jin Dal-Rae was a young girl she and her parents were in a terrible automobile accident. Fortunately, she was able to escape from the car but had to watch helplessly as the fire claimed the lives of her mother and father and, as a result of the traumatic experience, Dal-Rae is deathly afraid of fire. After the accident, she spent the rest of her childhood in an orphanage and when she was old enough to leave, wanting to keep her father’s dream alive, she went back to the bar he had owned and opened it for business once again. Unfortunately, Summer Guys, her bar, isn’t in great condition and customers are few and far between. To make matters worse, there’s a fancy hotel next to Summer Guys and the owner wants the bar gone and out of the way of his resort.
Seon Woo-Chan is a quiet, reflective young man who never volunteers the information that he is a second-generation chaebol. Very few people are aware of the fact that he was adopted into his wealthy family. He held a management position in the accounting department of one of this father’s businesses but recently left to get away from all the pressure. He isn’t extremely friendly but isn’t quite standoffish either. Woo-Chan’s charms don’t end with looks and money – the guy is also brilliant, so much so that he even has membership in Mensa International.
Ma Tae-Oh is a smooth-talking guy with a fairly decent ego. He enjoys the company of women and often hits on the ones that come his way. He has some kind of secret connection to the hotel owner that is trying to close down Summer Guys. It’s Tae-Oh that comes up with the plans to update Summer Guys after the fire, claiming to have studied art in France.
Usually, the first thing people notice about Park Gwang-Bok is the fact that he’s handsome and well-built. He’s the youngest one in the bunch, the only one not old enough to drink alcohol. Although he finds being a waiter at Summer Guys a challenge, he does his best to help out. Like Dal-Rae and Woo-Chan, Gwang-Bok grew up in an orphanage.
The daughter of the man who owns the resort next to Summer Guys is Yeom Ah-Ran. She and Woo-Chan met while at school abroad and she’s had a crush on him ever since. As the only child in a wealthy family, she is used to getting her own way. She is the manager of the bar at her father’s hotel and she isn’t happy that the man she loves is working for her competition.
In 2016, Kang Mi-Na, the gal who plays Oh Jin Dal-Rae, participated in the TV show Produce 101 and finished up in ninth place, which secured her a spot in the girl group I.O.I. However, she later debuted in the group Gugudan and went on to be in two of Gugudan’s sub-groups. Her acting debut came in 2017 when she played the younger version of Han Ye-Seul’s character in 20th Century Boy and Girl. From 2018 to 2020 she was a host on Show! Music Core. You might remember her from her supporting role in Hotel Del Luna. Mi-Na graduated from the School of Performing Arts Seoul in 2018.
Twenty-five-year-old Lee Jung-Sic is the actor who plays Ma Tae-Oh. In 2016, when he had finished his studies at Myongji University (majoring in the Department of Film and Modeling), he signed with an acting agency and made his entertainment debut with an appearance in the music video Because of You. Then he went on to do some modeling for magazines and was even in some commercials. His acting debut came in 2019 when he appeared in four different dramas. He is also part of the cast in the 2021 drama Dear. M, a spin-off of the web series Love Playlist.
The part of Park Gwang-Bok is played by Kwon Hyun-Bin, better known by his stage name Viini. You can read about him in my Part-Time Idol review.
Like Kang Mi-Na, Lim Na-Young also broke into the entertainment world in 2016 through the TV show Produce 101, finishing just one spot behind Mi-Na and gaining a place as a member of I.O.I. When the group disbanded less than a year later, Na-Young debuted as a member of Pristin. She had a leading role alongside Summer Guys cast member Viini in the movie Twenty Hacker that was released last March (2021). I last saw her in the Kdrama Flower of Evil, playing the teenage version of Hyun-Soo’s (the lead male character) older sister. (FYI… I’ve seen Na-Young’s surname spelled Lim and Im.)
There was a time I half-heartedly considered a job as a bartender, mainly because it sounded like a fun and creative profession. I remember being surprised to discover that people actually go to bartending school to learn the trade because it’s a lot more complicated than it looks. In the drama, although Dal-Rae’s father owned Summer Guys, she was quite young when her parents passed away so she wouldn’t have learned her bartending skills from him. So did she attend a bartending school or did she just read books on how to make all the different kinds of cocktails? Did she teach herself how to flip bottles or learn it from someone? Those are questions I would have liked the drama to answer. I also found it strange that Woo-Chan knew how to make any drink that was ordered. Where did he learn to mix cocktails? I think the writer would have done well to address those issues.
My favorite part of the show is very near the end when the four-person Summer Guys team is coerced into participating in a flair bartending competition. We get to watch their bottle-throwing practice as well as their actual performance during the competition. It’s mesmerizing. Some shots are even shown in slow motion so we’re able to see it’s not doubles that are doing all those fancy moves, it’s really the actors. Impressive and very cool.
The drama has ten episodes, each thirty minutes long, making the drama five hours in total. Each episode is titled using the name of a cocktail and sometime during the episode that specific drink is mentioned and we’re given instructions on how it is made. Clever idea, don’t you think?
Although Summer Guys is a webdrama, it definitely has a big drama feel to it and the aesthetics are wonderful. The personalities and backgrounds of the Summer Guys folks are wonderfully diverse (except for the fact that three of the four people spent time in an orphanage). I deliberately chose to not disclose any significant details about these characters because the writer intended to have us discover some surprising things about them a little at a time. I will say, however, that it’s fun to watch folks that might normally have nothing in common become close friends.
Lim Na-Young, who plays Yeom Ah-Ran, lends her voice to the soundtrack with the finger-snappin’ song So So. In the show, Kwon Hyun-Bin’s character Park Gwang-Bok plays the guitar and sings to Dal-Rae. The singing sounded like it was really his voice but his guitar playing didn’t look authentic at all. (Now watch, the opposite will turn out to be true.) Songs on the soundtrack that are extra good include Blue Eyes, Boring Afternoon, Bar Music GT2, Dreaming, and Dive In.
The story takes place on Jeju Island so, as you can imagine, the scenery is lovely. It’s so amazing that the characters can stroll along the beach in the morning and then go for a bike ride through the forest in the afternoon. As for the main focus of the drama, it’s fun to see the bar transform from dark and plain to one that is open, bright, and colorful.
For those of you who live where the weather is hot, I suggest you begin the new season with the enjoyable webdrama – Summer Guys. And if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, give Winter Sonata a try.
Unusual job (bartending)
Awesome flip bartending
Only five hours in length
We’re not told how Dal-Rae and Woo-Chan knew so much about bartending