Wednesday, February 29, 2012

K-Drama Review: Dream High 2, Episodes 1-2

Read episode reviews for:

Dream High 2--Episodes 3-4
Dream High 2--Episodes 5-6
Dream High 2--Episodes 7-8
Dream High 2--Episodes 13-14
Dream High 2--Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 1-2

I didn't watch the original Dream High TV show last year, but I did hear the leftover buzz from the show. It sounded like a Korean High School Musical, but with more natural music numbers because the kids are attending a special arts academy for singers, actors, and musicians. On Korean television, shows only last for one season, but on rare occasions when something is massively popular, they'll continue the same basic idea with a different cast, so this show is not quite a traditional season 2--more like a spinoff show of the original.

The real reason I wanted to watch Dream High 2 was because some real life K-pop singers are in the show, and I wanted to check out their acting. T-ara has recently become one of my most liked girl groups and Jiyeon from that band is in this show. Then there's Hyorin from Sistar, and while I've never heard their music, I have heard many times that Hyorin's voice is amazing. Thirdly, there's actress Kang Sora who I'd seen from her stint on the reality show We Got Married, where she was precious. Finally, this show features Korean-American signer Ailee in a side role, and I'm already a serious Ailee fan, just after hearing her debut single. Basically, I started this show because it promised four leading ladies I was sure to like.

In this show, the K-pop world is abuzz with the new "age law" regarding underage singers and celebrities. Minors are now required to spend 20 hours a week in school, and they can't work after 10 pm. Some people are protesting this law because it means they'll see less of their favorite young stars, such as the three girls in the band HershE or the 2-member boy band Eden, both managed by OZ Entertainment.

The OZ agency transfers all their young singers to Kirin School of the Arts to work around the new minor rules, and the students at Kirin High are thrilled to be around real celebrities, especially Hyesung, a super-cute klutz of a girl who is on a mission to get closer to her fantasy love JB, one of the two members of Eden. JB himself is massively insecure and doesn't want to attend Kirin because it means he'll have to face his old nemesis,Yujin, an indie singer-songwriter. OZ is also purchasing the school itself and they have some new rules--no cell phones, no internet, no snacking, no dating between other words, anything personal is off-limits. So, thus far we've got the Kirin school takeover plot, the Yujin vs. JB plot, and the Hyesung trying to win JB's heart plot.  Let's see how it goes!

Things I Loved:

1. The meta-commentary. In the opening scene, Rian of HershE is being fussed at for not crying on cue. It's funny and awesome because her director throws a fit and says "See if I ever work with pop stars again!" But the actress playing Rian is a pop star herself, so Dream High 2 kind of  protects itself from criticism against the acting done by singers. And actually, I think Jiyeon's acting as Rian is just fine.

Her Acting is Now Criticism-Proof.

2.The star-studded cast. Eventually, I will care whether the plot is interesting and whether the main cast can actually act, but for now I'm plenty thrilled by just seeing so many people I know. There's even a brief cameo by IU! And as a complete bonus, Kahi from After School is in this show! I was not expecting her, but she's a fair actress and she's considered one of the better dancers in the K-pop biz. Her character is cold, efficient and all business, and there's a great scene with Kahi teaching a dance class. That's like a dream class, except she's sooo tough on her students.

Glorious, Glorious Kahi!

3. JYP! Famous producer/record label manager JYP is in this show as a teacher, and his hammy acting is wonderful. An understated performance from him would be unthinkable.

This is a JYP Production.


1. The boys are dull. The boy-band members JB and Shiwoo are kind of boring, but maybe that's intentional, like the show is trying to tell us that they're just going through the motions and enjoying the fame without being genuinely happy, 3-dimensional people. The boys are flat when acting opposite each other, but they do seem to take a step up when they're interacting with a girl.

And They Do Have Very Pretty (and Gravity-Defying) Hair.

2. Hyesung. I like her character less and less as the show progresses. People tell her she doesn't have talent and in the context of the show, she is proven to not have talent. She isn't even pursuing her dream of singing because she loves to sing--she's trying to succeed so she'll be able to get closer to her celebrity crush JB. I can't appreciate her valiant efforts when her goal is so small. I really, really like Kang Sora as a person and an actress, but I don't connect with Hyesung as a character.


Overworking: The celebrity kids want to be free to work overtime and to perform after 10 PM. It seems like a counterproductive attitude since they'll be allowed to work super-hard as soon as they turn 18 and cease being minors, anyway!

 Classic Overachievers.

Unrequited Fan-love: There is a tender, delicate and oftentimes terrifying relationship between celebrities and fans. Poor Hyesung confesses her love for JB (in the polite, honorific language, no less), and he barely glances her way until he needs to manipulate her for his own benefit.

Reversal of Fortunes: Yujin once aced his Kirin auditions and clearly had starpower while JB didn't have any charisma at all, but now JB is a superstar while Yujin is just an ordinary high school student. Also, OZ president Kangchul used to be the Kirin Principal's errand boy, but now his company is taking over the school.

Cultural Observances:

Treatments of Stars: Mistreatment and bad working conditions for young actors and singers has been an issue in K-pop for a while. I hear it's improving every year--I hope so.

K-Pop: Hyesung dances to "Abracadabra" by the Brown Eyed Girls. A boy at school says he'll grant Hyesung's wish by helping her, saying the word "sowon" for wish, then he sings SNSD's "Genie" which contains the word "sowon" many times. He's really good at the song, too. Give it a listen:

Later, students sing "Roly Poly" by T-ara, and it is great to see JYP singing "I Am the Best" by 2NE1. Too bad that Hyorin and Ailee had to sing "Top Girl" by G.NA because I think it's just an average tune--great for noraebang (karaoke), but bad for standout vocalists like these two.

New words: "saranghamnida" means "I love you," but it's not the only way to say I love you in Korean, depending on your relationship to the other person and how polite you need to be. In ascending order of politeness/formality [according to my understanding as a new learner]: Saranghae (casual, informal I-love-you, the one most commonly heard in K-pop songs), Saranghaeyo (informal yet still polite I-love-you), Saranghamnida (formal, polite I-love-you to someone much older or someone whose station in life is notably above your own). The fact that Hyesng uses the latter term with JB shows that she's not personally acquainted with him at all, and that she considers herself to be beneath him, despite the fact that they're the same age.

Watch Episode 1 of Dream High 2 HERE at DramaFever

Episode Evaluations:

Now that my initial fangirling over singers is out of the way, I still like the show. It's not deep like 49 Days or hilarious like My Name is Kim Samsoon or full of characters you can wholeheartedly love like Shut Up, Flower Boy Band, but it's fun and quite watchable. I don't love any of the characters yet, but I like watching them trying to find their way.


  1. I've read some of your reviews and really like them. :) Just wanted to say that I'd be interested in reading your reviews for Dream High 1 sometime too, if you ever get around to it, since a lot of ppl say that it's so much better than the second season. I'd like to see your oppinion! :D

    1. Thanks so much! The original Dream High is on my list of old shows to catch up on--I'm really trying to figure out what to review when Shut Up, Flower Boy Band and Dream High 2 are over, so there's a decent chance I'll get around to the first Dream High show. :-)

    2. Oh i feel the same way as sm1985. I love reading your reviews, it has such an organic feel to it. Please do review Dream High 1. I wanted to watch Dream High 1 but since I watched Dream High 2 first...I don't know if I can sit through another one.

      If you think its worth it then its worth it to me.

  2. Well i've watched dream high 1 and its really good,i just started watching dream high 2 and i have to say i was really disappointed. The original dream high also has a few famous idols like IU for example. And JYP person is also in the original series.

    1. I love JYP! I was surprised at how funny his acting is.

      Yes, Dream High 2 really started to disappoint me, too, as the episodes went on. I still need to see the first show, because everyone tells me it was a genuinely fun K-drama. And if IU's singing in it, I want to watch.

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