Not that you are going to be easily swayed, I know, but here are nine reasons why you should check out Royal Family (2011). Whether you think these reasons weighty or flaky, at the end of the day it really boils down to this:
I’m just a drama, standing in front of an audience, asking them to love her.
(So says a certain Thundie Scott from a certain movie Prattle Hill. And yes, a drama takes a feminine pronoun, you have issues with that?)
Okay, now that we’ve gotten grammarians and Julia Roberts’ fans in a flap, here are the nine reasons in no particular order of weightiness or flakiness. (Why nine and not ten reasons, you ask. Because even numbers hog the limelight way too often, that’s all.)
All in a day’s work
Are you one of those who abhor dramas that take forever to move into gear and where the end is at least fifty episodes beyond yonder hill? Are you one of those who have declared to all and sundry that you will never touch a drama that’s longer than twenty episodes?
Well, you’ll be pleased to know that Royal Family’s a breezy eighteen hours. In fact, you can watch the whole thing in a day! Never mind that you’ll emerge looking like something the cat dragged in, but that’s the whole point of kdrama addiction, isn’t it? To look like something the cat dragged in. Wear your eye bags proudly because that’s how we addicts recognize each other.
Not that I finished Royal Family in a day, mind you, but I did gobble up five episodes in one sitting and could have finished more if I didn’t feel a pang of guilt for neglecting a certain fifty-episode drama. (Soon, dear crack, soon.) With its scorching pace, you’ll watch this like you read a page-turner, eyes peeled to what’s unfolding before you. If you slow down to reflect, you might realize that sometimes pace trumps logic in this drama, but who cares? You just want to know what’s going to happen next! That, my friends, is the hallmark of good storytelling: to hook you in from the onset and to keep you engaged (and entertained) hour after hour.
It’s now or never
April slipped away without fanfare (or permission) and we’re now in the month of May, when a slew of new and highly anticipated dramas will hit our screens. Are you one of those waiting impatiently for Micky Yoochun’s second drama or the Hong Sisters’ next offering? Do you grin in your sleep as you dream of the hotter-than-hot pairing of Kang Ji-hwan and Yoon Eun-hye? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this superb post gives you a good inkling of what to expect with the upcoming May-June lineup.)
If all you can think (and talk) about now are the new dramas, then all the more reason you should watch Royal Family. You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot! If you don’t, there’ll be way too much stuff to iron later and not enough time to do it. Get what I mean? (And the lizards in my room snigger before chiming in one voice: “Keep talking, sister, keep talking.”)
By the way, I guess this post is an opportune time to announce that live recapper extraordinaire Softy will be back on Thundie’s Prattle with transcaps (transcript + recap) of one of the May dramas. It’s gonna be a fun ride so stay tuned!
One of a kind
Unless you’re some recluse, you’ll know that AWOII (a wedding of immense importance) recently transpired in the land that birthed many of my favorite authors. That’s right, on April 29, Prince William and Kate Middleton walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey (and I missed the whole thing on TV, waaahhh!). Doesn’t that put you in a right royal mood and make you want to run out and grab a kdrama, any kdrama, with the word “royal” in its (English) title? And when you do dash out, you’ll realize that there isn’t such a drama in the stores, bwahaha!
Because… *insert dramatic pause* the only kdrama with “royal” to its name is the one that we are talking about here. Dramas about kings and queens we have seen aplenty, but none was deemed “royal” enough to be called royal anything until… Ta da! Presenting Royal Family, a drama that aired its last episode just a week ago. (No, don’t tell me how it ended, please!) Does it live up to its name? Well, you’ll just have to watch and find out.
(Should you roll your eyes at what I just claimed, kindly refer to this site that lists all kdramas, supposedly. If their lists are incomplete, then someone go update them!)
For old times’ sake
Are you a Sungkyunkwan Scandal fan? (And the thunderous “Ayes!” threaten to burst thundie’s eardrums.) Do you miss the cast of that drama? Do you especially miss a certain dear professor who made the Analects of Confucius hip and cool?
Ha, what do you know, said professor reappears in Royal Family, as someone totally unhip and uncool! *wails* Playing the eldest son of a feuding chaebol family, Ahn Nae-sang’s character is blessed with a bitch for a wife and an airhead for a daughter. He’s also not particularly favored by his mom, which makes for all kinds of complexes, and also makes him an easy target for nefarious schemes. For instance, is he really guilty of licentious conduct (ogling one of the 150 housekeeping staff in the family’s labyrinthine abode) or was it a set-up? Who knows? This drama keeps you guessing about motives and personal agendas. In five episodes, I still can’t decide if our male and female protagonists are white or enigmatic shades of gray, or if the villain they are up against is really as evil as the drama has painted her thus far.
Still on the subject of old favorites, remember the two chief sycophants in Queen Seondeok, the ones who served Mishil ardently and also got to enjoy her in ways that would make prudes blush? Well, guess what, they are back here as sycophants again! This time, however, they aren’t serving or competing for the same woman (not that they were ever competing in Queen Seondeok, since that drama takes sharing to a whole new level) but are instead on opposing sides, each servile to a different woman. How low will they stoop this time? You’ve got to watch for yourself.
Mama rocks the roost
Speaking of Queen Seondeok’s Mishil, I bet she’ll be pleased (or jealous) to know that someone’s giving her a run for her money in the Most Unforgettable Villainess department. This someone may not be as young or as ravishing, but she will match Mishil stride for evil stride. Meet Gong Soon-ho, my shoo-in for villain of the year. Played chillingly by Kim Young-ae, Gong’s glare alone will make you quake in fear, like how the lizards in my room drop from the ceiling and lose a tail when my dogs suddenly growl in their sleep.
Not only is Gong the matriarch of her family and the guardian of its immense wealth, she is witch, tyrant and control freak, all three. Should she take an inexplicable dislike to you, good luck. Even if you’re her daughter-in-law, you cease to be a person and don’t even have a name anymore; you’re just called K. You can’t breastfeed your baby because your breasts will sag and that will not do, nope, because how then can you live up to the old lady’s mandate, that you are merely her darling son’s plaything and nothing else? Everything you do is tracked; guards stand outside your door; you can’t even sneeze without that fact being reported and thrice verified. Your disappearance, preferably forever, will be your mother-in-law’s greatest pleasure.
To be so reviled by another human being, is it any wonder that K is slowly going a little batty? But is her behavior real or just an intricate front for a revenge ploy that will rock Mama Gong’s empire and cause it to eventually fall into the younger woman’s hands? Who’s the real villain here, the matriarch or the meek daughter-in-law with an initial for a name?
Doggone it, watch the fangs!
If you’re tired of watching insipid female characters in your kdramas, you’ll rejoice to know that the women in Royal Family are, for the most part, made of steely stuff. But whereas steel is hard and unbending, the women in this drama are not above crooked and conniving ways to achieve their goals. No one is overtly virtuous, at least not in the first five episodes. In short, everyone is capable of bitchiness. That makes for some exciting drama, no?
Take Yum Jung-ah’s character, Kim In-sook. Also known as K. On the surface she’s a devoted wife to her doctor husband, the matriarch’s beloved second son. So why does her mother-in-law hate her so much? Are there old grievances, sins and secrets, yet to be unearthed? And what exactly is her relationship with the two men who seem ready to lay down their lives for her, neither of the men her lawful husband? Why does she, who seems all delicate on the outside, wield such power over them?
See now why I said earlier that the drama’s like a page-turner that you can’t put down? In some ways it’s akin to watching a thriller; the suspense keeps you engrossed and craving more. Backstabbing, bribery, boardroom tactics, even bathtub romps. Sister-in-laws sharpening their claws and licking their fangs. Get all that and more in Royal Family. (Yes, I’m aware that I’m sounding more and more like a commercial for this drama. Can you imagine what I would write were I to be truly smitten?)
Eat your heart out, Flames of Desire
Friends have christened Flames of Desire, which ended its 50-episode run about a month ago, as haute makjang. (For a definition of makjang, go here.) That means high-class or fashionably elegant makjang. Not the inferior versions that are a dime a dozen.
I don’t know about you, but any kind of makjang, crass or elegant, sends me scrambling in the opposite direction. It took me about eight episodes to like Flames and that was months ago; I’m still stuck in the mid-teen episodes and haven’t felt much urgency to continue. (I will, so stop hurling used cat litter at me!) In contrast, Royal Family was addictive right off the bat. It’s also way more haute in the strict sense of the word. That’s because the Jo family is super rich and everything about them is opulent to the max. Their living quarters (aka JK Garden aka JK Headquarters) are not only sprawling (hence the obscene number of employees in just housekeeping alone) but so luxuriant, Hyun Bin’s house in Secret Garden looks shabby in comparison.
Obviously the writer and PD want to make sure that they do justice to the “royal” in the drama’s title and have gone to great lengths to showcase a setting that’s almost fairytale-like. Maybe that explains part of the drama’s draw; half the time I’m gawking at the shameless display of wealth.
Forget haute, give me hawt
If the above seven reasons have not persuaded you to give Royal Family a shot, how about this one? Watch the drama for The Hot.
When Episode 1 of Royal Family opens, it is Ji Sung’s face that we see, in a close-up that’s too close for comfort. (I watched this immediately after checking out Episode 1 of Thorn Birds and was flabbergasted that both dramas had the same sort of opening, with a character’s face filling the screen and yelling his or her head off. Sure frightened the hell out of me.) Turns out Han Ji-hoon’s just being the usual arrogant and thuggish kdrama public prosecutor, resorting to threats and physical violence to elicit a confession. As the drama continues and we are assailed by flashback after flashback, we begin to piece together the guy’s past: He was raised in an orphanage, he was accused of murder, he was aided by a benefactor, he grew to become a lawyer.
I confess that I’m mostly watching the drama for Ji Sung. Now, it’s not what you think; it’s not because he’s cute or hot (although he’s a good actor and also a screencapper’s dream, what with the endless
posturing photo-shoot opportunities, the camera lingering longer on him than on any other character). It’s because I keep getting the feeling that Ji-hoon’s being a tease and is more shady than straight. How, for example, did he manage to be prosecutor for a murder case where he’s also the defendant? (Writer: Everything and anything is possible in a drama, you didn’t know?) Is he really innocent, as he claims, or is he actually a monster in disguise? Is he, God forbid, in love with a woman who was already a young adult when he was still sucking his thumb and wetting his pants?
The allure of forbidden fruit
Like a makjang worth its histrionics, Royal Family is replete with secrets and shenanigans in low and high places (mostly high). But what keeps me simultaneously riveted and repulsed is the strange relationship between Ji-hoon and his benefactor. Yes, the woman called K. They spout words that make me cringe, declaring in no uncertain terms that each is the reason why the other lives (and puts up with all kinds of shit in life). She will save him, he will protect her, they behave like they are…
Oh, I don’t know what they are! Is theirs a relationship so pure it puts dirty and suspicious minds like mine to shame? Or do they harbor desires illicit and incestuous? (Although strictly speaking, it can’t be incest since they aren’t related. But still, she practically raised him, even if it was from a distance!)
From the flashbacks, it’s clear that K’s hiding the truth about when she first met him (a lot earlier than he thinks). What did K do to Ji-hoon’s mom? How did he end up in the orphanage? How did she conveniently “save” him from a life of crime? Why is he putting his cushy prosecutor job on the line in order to enter the JK fortress and be near K? Where does her sycophant figure in all of the twists and turns so far, and is he really serving her best interests or that of her enemy, the fearsome matriarch herself?
As you can see, the drama’s full of intrigue. Doesn’t that make you want to check out the first episode pronto?
Deafening screams of “We want Micky, we want MICKY!!” erupt, silencing thundie for good.