Hello, friend, my name's Doom Babe and today we're going to talk about Kpop Extreme Survival. It's a South Korean drama that follows the story of Seung Yeon (Eun Ah Go), a girl that wants to make it big in the pop industry. How does she plan on going about it, you ask? By attending a public audition to join the famous boy band M2's junior group with her childhood friend. Because she's the main character she obviously makes it in, but how long can she hide her true self from both the public and her band mates?
The first thing I really want to mention is just how much I appreciated the inclusion of the insane workload idols have to go through even before they debut. It's not heavily emphasized on but we do see the group sweat their tails off with dance practice, singing lessons and working out at the gym to maintain the so-desired idol body. The Kpop industry is notorious for slave contracts that leave these poor humans running ragged and literally passing out between sets, so seeing the actors portray characters that are barely getting 4 hours of sleep a night was something that genuinely impressed me. Granted, this is a lighthearted show so it didn't get too in depth (Such as the eating disorders and body complications that run rampant) but it's really the thought that counts.
They also accurately covered just how fragile an actor's/pop star's reputation is. The Kpop fanbase is an infamous one - they flit from bias to bias or are so dedicated to their favorite member that they'll viciously attack anyone they feel is hurting that person, both in person and online. So when we see the main love interest Woo Hyun (Yoo Hwan Park) face not one but two different scandals that threaten his career as a Kpop star, and another character lose her career because of it, it sort of shines a light on just what it's like to be on the receiving end of that kind of publicity.
Beyond that, though... I can't say I have a ton of praise for the writing. Woo Hyun's character being the love interest that acts like a total jerk is not just tacky but it's so overdone that it made the overall plot entirely predictable. He softens up to her, they fall in love, blah blah. Then they bring in Seung Yeon's childhood friend who suddenly decides to confess his love to her after 20 some-odd years of friendship, creating an unnecessary love triangle that only lasts for about an episode or two. But don't fret, because there's another love triangle introduced that's caused by the beautiful In Young (Eun Jung Kim)!
Ah, yes, In Young: The flat character that exists solely to cause conflict for about ten minutes. The character that is supposed to be a major antagonist but only appears in the show for a few minutes at a time to say something mean and sassy before turning on her stilettos and strutting out of the room. To be honest, the only real antagonist that felt real was the director's assistant; she wanted to push Seung Yeon out of M2's junior group because it was obvious Woo Hyun was getting close to her and the assistant didn't want to see his career impeded by a scandal.
As for the other characters, who cares?! Honestly there were so many characters introduced that I didn't even remember most of their names; even the childhood friend was forgettable since he only ever showed up to remind the viewer that he's there. Everyone else might as well have been nameless and mute because there was nothing about them that was interesting. Though there was that one guy that tried speaking in English all of the time because, for some reason, the Koreans are obsessed with cramming as much English into media as possible.
And I'd be lying if I said that the acting helped this show at all. I really wanted to like the show because Eun Ah Go performed wonderfully as our heroine, but the acting from all of the other characters was so bland that it made my dry toast seem robust in flavor. This is particularly apparent in Yoo Hwan Park's acting, who was deadpan the entire series with the few smiles he cracked towards the end. Eun Ah clearly tried her hardest to bring life to the script but there was literally 0 chemistry between these two and any romantic interaction between them just came off as awkward. God forbid you had to watch them kiss, which would just be the two of them smushing their faces together. Their lips are so tight that they actually look as if they're both about to sneeze.
Speaking of awkward, there was in incredible amount of, "Thinking aloud," scenes that are common in Korean dramas. The character just sort of walks about aimlessly while having an intense one-sided conversation with themselves. Every now and then it's fine, but when you throw them in every single hour-long episode with bad acting... It's very uncomfortable.
Outside of those instances there were many moments where the actors were supposed to act shocked or angry but played it up so much that you can't help but cringe back into your chair and wait for it to end, while silently praying that the end comes soon. The director's assistant and Seung Yeon's actresses were the only ones that ever reacted like a real human being instead of going so over the top that they made K2 look small.
Hell, they couldn't even dance together in sync. They mostly just looked like a ragtag group of street performers that just met yesterday.
In terms of cinematography and how the show itself was presented, it wasn't awful but it could have been a hell of a lot better. The lighting was bright, the colors popped and overall it was pleasant to look at. I also have to commend whoever was in charge of wardrobe because their clothes were on point. Well, except for Seung Yeon.
A problem faced by a lot of Korean dramas with cross dressing main characters is that they want to keep reminding you that she's a girl, and she's pretty. It's pretty uncommon to come across a show like this where the producers actually let her look like a boy, which kind of breaks the illusion. Seung Yeon not only looked very feminine in her skinny jeans and mannerisms, but there are multiple points in the series where you could clearly see her sports bra through her clothing. If she wasn't showing off her bra, you could clearly see her boobage through t-shirts when she was in dance practice and wasn't wearing thick layers.
This combined with her very high pitched rapping really makes you wonder how we're supposed to believe that the others didn't catch on to her game.
Speaking of looks, let's be honest. Kpop idols are known for being flawless, beautiful creatures. So why is it that the main love interest has less than average looks, when the entire reason M2 held the junior competition was to prove that M2's success wasn't entirely reliant on him being a hottie? I couldn't tell if it was some sort of inside joke or if I was being overly critical, but it honestly just didn't make sense to me. If you're going to make it seem as if Woo Hyun is the embodiment of unrealistic standards for men, at least try to not surround him with supporting male actors that have looks that blow his out of the water.
Then comes the technical stuff. For sound, there was a huge problem with the way the show was edited for performances and singing practice as the lip syncing was very off. I mean it looked like they were singing a totally different song than what was being played. When this is a show that revolves around boy bands and singing, you'd think that the team in charge of editing would have been a little more diligent in making sure everything matched up.
The soundtrack itself wasn't too impressive, either. A lot of the music played seemed a lot more romantic or dramatic than the scene itself was, and I honestly felt like it was to make up for the lack of emotion from the actors because it wasn't like they were going to get me fired up over whatever sassy line In Young delivered that episode.
Reading over this, I realize that I have a whole lot of complaints. If you're new here, this isn't normal! [laughs] But those are my thoughts on Kpop Extreme Survival. Have you seen it? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to suggest some Asian shows/movies to review via Twitter and/or Facebook! They don't need to be just Korean :)
Otherwise, happy unbirthday and I will see you later! Bye!