Dec 7, 2017

This has been a good year for Korean drama. Kdramas have long excelled in production values, to the point where they dominate popularity in the Asian market and have an increasing following overseas (there is even a current American remake of the kdrama Good Doctor).

But this year two shows: Forest of Secrets (also known as Stranger) and Because This Life Is Our First are now among my favorites and have raised the bar in polished acting, storytelling, and emotional engagement.

Yet somehow the NYT managed to make it’s inclusion of Stranger (listed by that title on Netflix) on it’s best TV shows list seem like a gimmick, calling it an affirmative-action move (I don’t even understand that – if that’s affirmative action, then so is going to Panda Express for dinner) and listing it’s eight-episode run as an improvement over the normal sixteen episodes, evn though it actually is sixteen episodes, begging the question of whether the reviewer watched the entire series (or perhaps got it confused with the first season of Stranger Things).

After the inevitable Internet complaints, the affirmative-action part and the incorrect episode count were quietly removed, so now the entry is just one sentence and less stupid but still stupid: “Hey, it stars Bae Doona, the only Korean actor I’ve seen in American movies, and it’s not as silly as other Korean shows”. I’m a Bae Doona fan and she’s a co-star of the series but the main lead is the excellent Jo Seung-woo (who costarred in another of my favorites, God’s Gift: 14 Days)Also it’s the only entry without a link to the show, it really looks like they mailed this one in.

The entry is listed under International Shows, so I don’t know why it’s the only one that merits the “cultural differences” treatment, but I do know: it’s the golly gee white American tourist in Asia (“you guys eat dog, right?”). So maybe they should have an additional category: Stranger Shows. As for affirmative action, let’s see some more Asian Americans on American TV, then we can talk.