Thursday, April 12, 2012

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

Read Episode reviews for:

Dream High--Episodes 3-4
Dream High--Episodes 5-6
Dream High--Episodes 7-8
Dream High--Episodes 9-10
Dream High--Episodes 11-12
Dream High--Episodes 13-14
Dream High--Episodes 15-16

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 1-2

Thanks to sm1985, Linda, and Shanise for encouraging me to watch Dream High. If this show breaks my heart...I am holding you responsible! :-)


It was time for me to watch Dream High. All K-drama fans must succumb at some point--it is only a matter of time. I had seen Dream High 2, and wasn't really eager for a second serving of it, but everyone said that the first show was a better production. And I was also promised lots of scenes of Suzy, IU, Taecyeon, and other K-pop stars that I like, so I took the plunge.

The show opens in the future with an unknown artist named "K" receiving a Grammy Award in 2018. "K" is the first Korean artist to receive a Grammy, and though he's a world famous and multi-platinum artist, they don't show us who he actually is. But after seeing repeated shots of the special K-logo, I think we all know who this globe-dominating "K" is going to be in the future--Kai of EXO.

Did Someone Say, "Grammy"?

These glamorous future scenes make the music industry seem very mystical, and everything takes on a sort of epic significance. Then we flip back to the past to find out how one class of music-academy students reached the top of the entertainment food chain.

Suzy of the band Miss A plays an accomplished young classical singer named Hyemi, who is constantly shadowed by her plain buddy Baekhee, played by Eunjung of T-ara. I find this friend pairing funny because Eunjung's playing a shy, mousy girl when she herself is a stunning beauty--but honestly, her acting is nice enough that she pulls off the role without being unbelievable. Anyhow, snotty rich girl Hyemi's dad in serious debt, which leaves her being pestered by a loanshark (just like Suah in Shut Up Flower Boy Band). Loanshark offers an ultimatum: Hyemi must go to Kirin High school so she'll succeed and get a quick record deal and thus pay back her dad's debts. But when Hyemi auditions, her mousy friend Baekhee is admitted instead!

But though Hyemi's out of the streets, she's not helpless and she also has a bit of  assistance from her knight in grungy armor, homeless hip-hop dancer Jinguk, played by Taecyeon of 2PM. Jinguk has a soft spot for Hyemi because they met when they were children and she cried when she heard he was going to an orphanage. (This is a popular K-drama theme--love interests who met as children.) He wonders what kind of person Hyemi really is: the vicious shrew who publicly tore apart her friend, or the gentle girl whose heart broke for a stranger. We're given to understand that Hyemi's hardened nature only developed after her parents' divorce, when she had to get tough or die.

Hyemi has one last chance of being admitted to Kirin as a special student, but only if she can find another special recruit, Samdong, and get him to the school. Samdong is our hero, I think, but I'm surprised that they took so long to introduce him. Finally, all our kids have been introduced and the real plot can get underway!

Already, I think that Dream High the original is shot infinitely better than Dream High 2--we get long-distance shots, aerial shots, and panning cameras. *drool* And I get the sense that this original show has a bigger budget than the sequel did. Not that DH2 looked shoddy, but if you compare the two, the original looks more like a film and the sequel looks like a direct-to-DVD show.

Things I Loved:

1. Taecyeon getting into a fire-extinguisher fight. Few things can top that sight. Though I expect that his future dance battle with Wooyoung will be a sight to behold.

And He Can Emote, Too.

2. Eunjung. I don't know what her character Baekhee is going to do now that she's gotten all brave and vengeful, but I do appreciate seeing one of my favorites from T-ara performing so nicely in a role, especially since I didn't quite jive with her character in Coffee Shop.

Eunjung, the Very Definition of Geek Chic.

3. Hyemi. Suzy may not be a skilled actress yet, but she gets into Hyemi's skin pretty well and while I'm watching, I do forget about Suzy the star--I only see Hyemi, the brat with great potential. And actually, I kind of like the "nasty-tough rich bad girl" type of character when she's the lead, not the villain. I can't wait to see what Hyemi ends up doing in this show, because she can either crush her competition or step in and save the day--there's no telling which it'll be.

All Fear the Braided One!

4. JYP. He's just got a little screentime in episode 2 as a wild and free English teacher, but it's all good because I love JYP in this show already! I appreciate him more than I did in Dream High 2 because he's a lot better as the funny guy in a "serious" show than as the funny guy in a loosely arranged comedy.

Don't Bother Denying That He's Awesome.


1. Slow Pace. The first half of the first episode is deadly dull. I can attest to this because I tried to watch Dream High on two separate occasions before now--and I quit before the half hour mark each time, because I was bored by the story.

But It Does Get Better.

2. Prolonging the moment. Many scenes over-establish important information. Hyemi has to get irrefutably turned away from Kirin three times in a row, and Baekhee has to have a very lengthy session of approval and reassurance from the Principal.

3. Dramatics. Hyemi getting kidnapped by a loam shark and being sorta-almost forced into a career as a shabbily dressed lounge singer?  What?

Was This Scene Really Necessary?


Hiding From Sight: When Hyemi is crying, she fights to keep her borrowed motorcycle helmet on, so that her tears and her vulnerability will be obscured from sight. When Pilsook auditions for Kirin, she wears a giant sushi-roll(!) suit to hide her face and body, which are very plump. These two drastically different girls are similar in their desire to hide their points of weakness.

Changing Appearance Shows Changed Attitudes: When Baekhee changes her outlook on life and loses faith in Hyemi, she gives herself a severe hairstyle change as part of the transformation process.

Haircut of Angst.

Cultural Observances:

New words: "Jebal" sort of means "please," but what it really means is "I'm begging you." Hyemi says this to Kirin's principal when he turns her away.

Trot music: Hyemi fails her audition because she doesn't recognize the famous trot song played for her. Trot is a Korean music genre that does not sound like American country music, but it's a sort of country-western equivalent because it's local, folksy, and popular music, but is not considered sophisticated.

Watch episode 1 of Dream High on DramaFever

Episode Evaluations:

Nothing too exciting yet, but I'm already liking this show better than Dream High 2. These first two episodes are two hours' worth of setup, but now that we have all our musical chess pieces on the board, they'll probably get down to some cool stuff in the next eps. Here's hoping that we get some real sing-offs and dance-offs soon!


  1. oh your finally reviewing this. I am so here and will be commenting.

    I was like you too, when I first tried to get into it while it was being subbed per episode, I gave up half-way through episode 1, I wasn't a fan of any of the idols so I just couldn't sit through the slow pace.

    After 6 months, I chanced upond a clip of the bird scene in episode 9 I think and decided to give it another go. By the 4 episode, I was hooked.

    I liked both Hyemi and Baekhee from the start, Baekhee because of how quickly she could turn and Hyemi because she was an A class bitach. I prefer my characters with more backbone.

    IU's Pisook was probably and still is my least favorite of the girls but I went from disliking her character to likely her by episode 10. I think episode 8-10 are the transition episodes when they evolve from who they were to what they are now with glimpses of what they can become.

    Looking forward to your future recaps.

    1. Thank you, Linda! I am really excited about the potential all these characters have. I think that once these personalities all get forced into close proximity, we're going to get some great tension.

      That's what I was missing in DH2...the tension! :-)

    2. The tension in DH1 surpasses the second season not only between the characters as in the music showdowns.
      It's not even my type of music but the dance routine based on the animals that appears in later episodes is very well crafted.
      And Rian could only hope to fill Hyemi's shoes when it comes to acting above everyone else.

    3. I could never even decide if Rian was supposed to be a villian or a protagonist in DH2! Hyemi is a flat-out awful person, but I root for her anyway because she's strong, while Rian was just whiny enough for me to dislike but not hate.

    4. In truth i gave up on DH2 half way through and just stuck with your reviews. The only main character i liked from DH2 was Rian. I liked some of the supporting but they weren't there enough for me to feel any attachment.

      Rian, like you said, is not a villain or a protagonist, she was still the only character I felt who wasn't in denial and was the only one that seemed to really make an effort for what she wanted.

      I guess having watch DH1 and DH2 so close together, I was comparing the two way to much so DH2's lack of direction, character development and even likable characters was very obvious.

    5. "the only one that seemed to really make an effort for what she wanted."--- I like what you say here, because that was a big issue for me in DH2, everyone giving half effort regarding their dreams. They seemed so quick to give up what they wanted. *cough*Yujin*cough* What happened to all that rock spirit?

      Oh, I am sooooo glad I watched DH2 first, because I think it would have broken my heart to watch the awesome DH1 and then expect more of the same, only to get the disjointed cuteness of DH2.

      DH2 had some quite pleasant moments, but they pale in comparison to the original.