Ever so rarely comes a drama about young people and their passion for music that overcomes a horrifyingly nonsensical title, a trite premise, a newbie writer and cast, to become a true treasure. Said drama is not K-POP Survival (try Shut Up Flower Boy Band
The first episode of this gem was truly a marvel, in that it was so horrifyingly, appallingly bad that it almost transcended badness to achieve enlightenment and emerge on the other side. There are many a kdrama that doesn't work for me or even that I have problems with, but rare is a kdrama that is truly, spectacularly bad. K-POP joins that rare breed. It's as if someone thought "how about we remake You're Beautiful without a coherent script, decent actors, or budget?"
I was not one of YAB's ravening fangirls but while I found some of it problematic, overall it was a cute, occasionally clever trifle, which was elevated by Jang Geun Seok's star-making performance. Anything that was charming, cute, romantic or worthwhile in YAB is gone here.
First off, let's get the smallest problem out of the way - the budget. Or lack thereof. This looks like a particularly impoverished Taiwanese drama from circa 2002. I understand that Channel A is cable and not one of the big-budget ones, and there are no A-list stars to lure the investors, but I am not expecting it to compete with Padam Padam's cinematography, budget or star-power. However, I would have appreciated it if it didn't look like a high-school production.
Lack of budget could be overlooked if something else appealed - I am, after all, a big fan of those aforementioned early 2000 Taiwanese dramas. Sadly, there is nothing there. There is not much to the story itself - girl cross-dresses to join an idol band that is either complicated, irresistible or novel. What will save or damn this sort of thing is execution, and execution is sadly lacking. There is precious little charm or whimsy to be found here, or any fresh air at all. None of the characters except for the two protagonists even register, and the protagonists - well.
Park Yoohwan is about the best thing about this sorry mess, but it's not saying much. I've heard good things about his performance in A Thousand Days' Promise, but nothing of the sort is evident here. He's competent enough (which is more than I can say for his leading lady, about whom more below), but there is nothing memorable about his acting, nothing that makes his character feel real, or to make me want to give Park Yoohwan another look. It doesn't help that he doesn't help leading man charisma (which is separate from acting ability - few people would argue that Song Seung Heon is an amazing thespian, but he has charisma and star power to burn). More importantly, his character is such an unrepentant, unredeemable jerk that it would take an actor with a lot more experience or a writer with a lot more nuance to make him even mildly tolerable. I spent most of the episode wanting him to be hit on the head.
But Park Yoohwan and his loser jerk of a character is an amazing thespian portraying a male Mother Teresa compared to Go Eun Ah, who portrays our heroine, Seung Yeon. SY is a heroine trope fairly common in dramas - not too bright, tomboyish, cheery, clumsy. There is nothing wrong with this trope but what is horrifying is the way GEA interprets this character. It seems she didn't just steal Ella's haircut and facial features, she also borrowed her acting in Hana Kimi. Now, I find Ella cute and, while she mugged as if her life depended on it, I never really got why some people were allergic to her. Now I finally get her. GEA in this drama is pretty much Ella without (to me) Ella's charm and she is unbearable. It was loathing at first sight. I am worried for the wrinkles she is going to get from scrunching her face like this constantly, and her grimaces make me worry she is actually auditioning to be a mime. This is, quite simply, by far the worst acting job by a leading actress in any kdrama I've ever seen. And seeing that I've seen Dream with Son Dambi, that is saying quite a lot.
The leads also have no chemistry beneath their cartoonish antics. Many a twdrama had a paper-thin premise and leads who wouldn't win any acting awards but won me over by the sizzling chemistry of its leads, glimmers of emotional realism and a consistent shoujo sweetness (anything starring Mike He and Rainie Yang). All of this is utterly absent here.
Basically, this just might be the worst kdrama I've ever seen. And that's impressive. Well done, K-Pop!