Nine reasons to watch Royal Family

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.

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21 thoughts on “Nine reasons to watch Royal Family

  1. I’m glad you decided to watch this drama Thundie. It’s really juicy stuff.
    I actually finished it 2 days ago, and was satisfied. Not the best I’ve seen this year but definitely one of the most intriguing and mind-thrilling. Makjang elements thrown in here and there but I liked that they didn’t make it an oh-so conventional revenge type of drama.
    Had major gripes with in the middle and towards the end but overall, a very solid and well-made drama. Mind-provoking in a sense, at least you don’t feel stupid watching it hehe..

  2. Hmm, you make it sound so tempting with your wonderfully written post, thundie.

    And yet, their relationship sounds kind twisted and creepy… not really my thing. Maybe sometime when I’m not biting my nails anticipating a certain pair of upcoming dramas. (And NOT one with Micky in it, lol.)

  3. Hi , Thundie ! It appears that we have similar likings once again . I have followed Royal family until episode 14 , the last ones are not subbed yet ; and I have had a nice time . Of course I first watched for Ji Sung whom I love a lot since King’s woman , my first k – drama . He has a tendency to overact ( swallow the sun ) and he needs good actors to hold him . Here Yum Jung ah is absolutely perfect ; she is one of the best actresses actually and her little sister-in-law who has been so criticized in Dr . Champ is here again a good actress . I had seen her with YJA precisely in Working mom and she was really doing a good job . And the other veteran .actors and actresses are indeed a pleasure to watch acting
    It will be a pleasure to watch a recap of one of the may dramas , waiting for Micky or CSW
    Again a brilliant post, Thundie but I suppose the lizards have already given you a big award … Thanks so much and don’t forget NTOG which I am longing for .

      • Waiting for it . I know , since one of your previous posts , that it is a very difficult task . Let’s say it is for Damo’s sake … I really love your blog ; it has a warm heart – I wouldn’t tell why – that I don’t find elsewhere . Have a nice week-end !

  4. This one is in the top of my list. I was waiting for it to finished so I could download it complete.
    Thanks Thundie!

  5. I will watch but only if the show will actually give me the explanation for why Ji Sung is holding that damn teddy bear in the posters?! I’ve been curious about that one for months.

    • It will give you the explanation ; this teddy bear plays an important role in the story ; so give the drama a try !

  6. Hi Thundie,
    Loved this new post! Because I revere you as the god of Kdrama reviewing, whose mere utterance of the word “watch” sends me to the computer for instant downloading, I immediately obliged and watched the first episode of Royal Family. Wow. I’m hooked – this is my kind of drama! I must admit it comes at a good time, as I’ve been trying to find something to sink my teeth into for midnight marathoning. I’ve started the Devil, but episodes 2 & 3 are still languishing on my computer. City Hall was my second choice, and I’m trying to stay open minded, but after two episodes I’ve decided that I’m just not as taken with Kim Sun Ah as the rest of the masses. (Dare I admit that MNIKSS left me kind of bleh?) I mean I love a good comedy with a naive and clueless girl like Go Min Nam in YB, but a 36 year old who paints houses the color of a rainbow and thinks she’s irresistible to men even though she looks like an idiot (flashbacks to the dancing scene in MNIKSS), makes me cringe more than laugh. I’m not giving up on City Hall yet, but if she doesn’t wash her hair soon, I’m out. (I know, so opinionated for one who is so new to Kdramas!) Royal Family, on the other hand, grabbed me within the first 15 minutes – maybe because it is slightly reminiscent of the great American “classics” Dallas and Dynasty with characters so incredulously evil that you have to keep watching, but without the incessant violence of the Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire (at least I hope it doesn’t take that kind of turn!) I think I’m going to try (TRY being the operative word here) and savor this with an episode a night so I don’t end up chomping at the bit waiting for the newest subbed version like I am with NTOG. Once again, Thundie, thanks for a great suggestion! Hopefully you’ll give us a few more thoughts on it down the road.

  7. Didn’t know that you would pick this drama thundie! I’m up to ep.15 and enjoying it to the max! I’ve been complaining about how Ji Sung stuck with chaebol characters recently. However when he did a sageuk, I couldn’t even finished it. (Kim Su Ro’s plot was a mess) I guess he was meant to wear suits XD
    My 1st time watching Yeom Jung Ah and she ROCKS! I’m so sick of innocent, weak, timid type of female leads and she sure fascinated me! Also I suggest you to read the interview with the writers on soompi page 28 ^^
    Looking forward to your review. Would like to know your final thoughts. Thanks as always~~

  8. Thanks for this review/ advertisement/?, thundie. It made me watch the first episode and I’ll probably marathon the drama this weekend.
    BUT your approach to advertising is a bit off me thinks. :) You could have saved yourself the trouble and just written: JI SUNG DANCING TO SNSD’S “HOOT” WHILE WEARING CUTE RED POLKA DOT APRON !!!

    Maximum impact with minimum efforts. :)

  9. oh thundie know that i am easily swayed by you. am watching now before my easter holiday ends. so far it’s all good, and finally i watch something w jisung in it

  10. i watched this drama after reading your post…and you were totally right. i downed 6 episodes in one sitting!

  11. Hi thundie,
    Made it back. I am still floating on the air of Sungkyungkwan Scandal. Lovely drama with an interesting plot that was close enough tp historical possibility for me. The leads were delicious and they all blended so well as pals and co-conspirators and students. The older experienced actors made a solid base for all the devious plotting. One I can watch over again more than twice.I give it a 10

    For something really different I am just finishing the last episodes of ‘Flames of Desire’. Such a drama…! Strong cast and interesting settings. lush chaebol houses and all that money and power being coveted by devious daughters in law. It is one drama to be watched carefully because lots of twists and turns and much emotiional storm. I love it but I can see where many young watchers would hate it and drop it. Must say the last episode but one or two gets a little ‘Oh get on with it and die’. However I want to see how it ends because it is still very uncertain for the watcher. I give it a 9.0

    ‘Royal Family’ is great to watch. Just seeing all that power in the houses and buildings makes you realise that there are people in the world who honestly do not know how rich they are. ( Many of the guests at the recent Royal Wedding in UK are actually decendants of Croesus I am sure.)

    In the drama it seems that wealth can definitely be an anchor around the neck. Several in the cast can be loathed with glee. They are all tainted by greed it seems. Good Stuff to watch. So far I give it about an 8.5 but I think it has a way to go yet so may change.

  12. Oh, you totally had me here:

    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?

    Loved this. I soooo cannot afford another overnighter, but you make this sound so worth it!

  13. Thundie, I’ve finished up till Ep. 14 and am still waiting for the subs for the rest. I wasn’t too interested in “Royal Family” when it first aired, but after sampling the first episode, it whetted my appetite to know what was going on, and I kept watching the drama. Even though I watched up to Ep. 14, I’m still not sure who killed Johnny. I can’t believe a mother can kill her own child, and “K” is not the vicious type though she’s steely when facing her in-laws. Another drama which changes my mind is “Midas”. I read your recaps first, and when you stopped recapping them I stopped watching Midas after reching Ep. 2 or 3. Then it piqued my curiosity about the relationship between KDH and IH, and I found the drama really absorbing in spite of all those terminologies that must have given a lot of trouble to the subbers. I thought the actor has turned into a good human being, but his voiceover at the end of Ep. 18 really riles me. I wish the fiancee will really kick him out for good if he ever finds the temptation of the money game too much to resist.

  14. Hi Thundie,

    Read this and got excited, am now at Episode 5 and loving it.
    Wondering why the Ahjussi is helping K and if she is using Ji Sung ( who I feel is at his best here )

    Anyways, do you know where I can find recaps for Royal Family?
    Appreciate it as my DVD, the subs really sucks after Episode 3!

  15. Hi Thundie,
    Well I must say I did not enjoy Royal Family as much as Flames of Desire. Actually they both got loose in the writing in the later episodes. I thoroughly liked the evil women in Family and appreciated the way we were not allowed to know who was the spider in the middle of the web, and even at the end it was still not sure who was the worst villainess. Very uncomfortable with the implied relationship between the evil cougar and the younger game player. Without that fine cast this would have been a disaster.
    As for Flames…the ending was weak as regards the way the brother/sister bump in the road was dealt with. I never could understand the way that was done because they were not brother and sister at all. However, the rest of the plotting was delicious between the various daughters in law. I did not expect Nayoung to come out on top but she definitely was like glue. the very last scenes with grandpa were so edgy. I almost expected to see him rolling over the cliff in his wheelchair. That old man still had the reins in his grasp and it would be nice to see just how Nayoung and he used one another in the future. For sure Min Jae will eventually be where Nayoung wants him as CEO because grandpa loves him and wants that. Min Jae was still a boy and he had a lot of growing up and much hardening in the business ahead of him. This was also a fine cast making the outrageous script come to life. Made me accept it all and really wold have liked more. Still give it a nine. Would drop Royal Family down to a seven.
    At the moment there is not much worth watching in my neck of the woods on TV at least. Hoping for better things soon.

    • A lot of places … but I’m watching it on http://www.dramacrazy.net

      I agree, I like Ji Sung’s acting and appearance here (I love his hair unlike his curly ‘do before). This, together with Protect the Boss, make 2011 a good year for Ji Sung. I’ve watched Swallow the Sun and Kim Su Ro before, but this drama made me sit up and google him. I watched New Heart last month and he’s become my favorite Korean actor (well, sorta, he’s tied with Uhm Tae Woong).

  16. Over a year later, whenever I can’t sleep at night, or don’t know what to watch, I always go back to revisit this pure-sweet love between Ji Hoon and In Sook. Especially the eps when they secretly met at the church and prayer’s room… And definitely ep 5 where they share their kiss..

    Duh! His eyes that always riveting on her are just simply smoldering, arresting, captivating. They are blessed to have one another to heal their wounded hearts and be the strength to continue to live…Just like a year ago, tonight, I fall madly in love with Ji Hoon all over again.. And keep envying their love and trust..

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