Drama Ratings

Drama ratings are inherently subjective, but I’ve found that my enjoyment and rating of a drama are highly dependent on external factors: when did I watch it? What dramas had I already watched by that point? What was going on in my life and in the world at the time?


Rating Scale

★★★★★: My favorites. Dramas that capture my heart.

★★★★: Enjoyable.

★★★: Somewhere between mediocre and entertaining. Or maybe it wasn’t quite good, but it was unremarkable enough that it also wasn’t bad.

★★: Somehow made my way through to the end. Maybe it was mediocre with no saving grace, or just not interesting. Usually has to be actively bad in some way.

★: Someone should have said “no” before this drama made it out to the public. I don’t expect to have a lot of these because I’ll usually drop dramas that I would rate so low, and I don’t rate dramas that I don’t finish.

And ½ just means somewhere in between.

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Korean

Bring It On, Ghost! (2016): Cute, light-hearted horror-comedy-youth romance. Weak in plot, but full of cuteness and laughs and doesn’t go crazy with drama. Kim So-hyun really carries the cast with her charismatic performance as Kim Hyun-ji. (★★★★)

Circle (2017): A fun, tightly-plotted sci-fi drama. Uses a lot of common sci-fi tropes so it might seem average to an experienced sci-fi watcher, but makes the story compelling by featuring two brothers’ desperate search for each other. Loved the seamless transitions between the two parallel storylines and stellar lead acting performances. (★★★★)

Crashing Landing on You (2020): A beautiful, star-crossed romance with plenty of tears that you’ll want to smile through and plenty of small, touching moments that will warm your soul. Heavy on the rom, but also has some com. Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin star as one of my all-time favorite drama couples that I will forever root for. (★★★★½)

Goblin (2016-17): A near-perfect drama and roller-coaster ride of emotions. We get not one, but two pairs of star-crossed lovers to cheer for and cry for. The story and pacing are spot-on with a healthy dose of meta, tears, and laughter, and it’s more about the power of human will and choice against fate than it is about villains trying to sabotage a relationship. (★★★★½)

Hotel del Luna (2019): Lots of Goblin vibes with the past lives and cute side romance and whatnot. Visually stunning and every single one of IU’s looks are on-point. I didn’t find the chemistry between Man Wol and Chan Seong compelling or convincing, but such great character building, story, and feels. (★★★★)

I’m Not a Robot (2018): A fun, fluffy rom-com with plenty of good feels and cute but cheesy moments. The drama and plot aren’t the strongest, but Yoo Seung Ho and Chae Soo Bin are an adorable couple and the supporting cast is equally lovable. (★★★★)

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020): Can be slow at times, but stands out in its attempts to destigmatize mental illness and neurodiversity. Features a star-powered cast, but it’s really Oh Jung-se who shines as a neurodivergent older brother. Has a little bit of everything: part murder mystery, part medical drama, part fairytale, part rom-com, with steamy kisses and cheesy lines. (★★★★½)

Itaewon Class (2020): Takes itself a bit too seriously at times and is a little slow to get rolling, but sets itself apart with a diverse cast and progressive messaging. A classic underdog tale of revenge that subverts some of the usual drama tropes and is ultimately an enjoyable watch. (★★★★)

Love Alarm (2019): Um, what did I just watch? The premise has a lot of potential, and Kim So Hyun is great as always, but this show is such a hot mess! I’m a sucker for long shots and drawn out music, so the romance and drama tug at my heartstrings, no matter how objectively weird some of the relationships are, but objectively the execution is all over the place. Still, I will undoubtedly watch the second season. (★★★)

What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? (2018): A light, fluffy rom-com that feels about six episodes too long. Park Seo Joon and Park Min Young are equally charming, beautiful, and likable, but most of the show feels like a long, beautiful commercial. Sure to leave you with good feels but not much else. (★★★½)

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Chinese

A Love So Beautiful (2017): A blandly pleasant slice-of-life school drama about five friends and one love triangle. Shen Yue is endearing as Chen Xiao Xi, and Gao Zhi Ting as Wu Bo Song is charismatic and charming, but Hu Yi Tian as Jiang Chen is robotic. Sometimes cute, but sometimes childish; ultimately it feels very inconsequential. (★★★)

A Smile is Beautiful (aka Love O2O, Just One Smile is Very Alluring): Beautiful but forgettable. Lacks any real conflict and feels like a very long commercial (so much product placement!) A story about two pretty, perfect people living their lives together. Does feature a nice, healthy relationship (by drama standards.) (★★★)

Boss & Me: Objectively quite good. A toned down, more realistic spin on the classic Cinderella/CEO-employee romance. Grew on me, but generally lacked an addictive hook and I could not get emotionally invested in the characters or story. (★★★)

Fifteen Years Waiting for Migratory Birds: I was skeptical at first and sometimes the acting feels forced, but it does a great job of focusing on a few main characters and really developing their growth and relationships, and the characters, story, and drama all grew on me. Very well done, especially in making me like and support a character who was so unlikable in the beginning, and it would have been so good if not for the non-ending. (★★★)

Go Ahead (2020): This slice-of-life drama about an unconventional family is so deep, relatable, and feels so real. The opening sequence teases a pseudo-incest love triangle, but really it’s all about growing up and what it means to be a family. Seven Tan, Sun Weilong, and Steven Zhang make a dynamic trio, but it’s really father figure Tu Song Yan who steals the show. (★★★★)

My Sunshine: Not as depressing as the first few episodes would suggest. Turns into a surprising story about two people rediscovering and strengthening their relationship in the face of adversity. Once you get past the tears, it’s full of fluffy romantic moments, and would be great if not for some sloppy storytelling and misogynistic undertones early on. (★★★★)

Nirvana in Fire: Lived up to the hype. A lengthy 54 episodes, but had perfect plotting and pacing so it never got boring or dragged. The characters are compelling and the drama intriguing. Suspenseful, but with just the right amount of humor to ease the tension. Definitely worth the watch. (★★★★★)

Prince of Lan Ling: Features some of the best and most interesting characters, but gets bogged down by slow moments in the middle and tragedy. I felt the true love so much in this drama, and loved the second male lead as well as all our side characters. The villains and complex and complicated. All the elements of a great romance drama, but some mixed feelings about the execution. (★★★½)

Shuttle Love Millennium: A time travel romance inspired by Queen In-hyun’s Man that is not nearly as good and could not draw me in. The drama is beautifully shot and features some beautiful people, but I found some of the characters unbearable and the romance bland. Does have its cute, quirky moments, but overall feels underdeveloped.  (★★★)

Skate Into Love (2020): A fluffy, cheesy, and blandly pleasant sports rom-com that starts off strong, but ends up feeling like a long, patriotic hype piece commercial for the Winter Olympics. The lead couple, featuring Janice Wu and Steven Zhang, and side characters are charmingly charismatic, but that’s about it. Check it out if you enjoy other blandly pleasant dramas like A Love So Beautiful or Love O2O. (★★★½)

Stand by Me: A slice-of-life college drama that is fun, light, and real. A few of the episodes are slow, but if you can make it through them, the show is incredibly rewarding with a full cast of characters you can care about and really realistic and relatable life issues. (★★★★½)

Suddenly This Summer: One of the most realistic, wholesome romances to grace drama-land. A slice-of-life youth drama spanning high school to adulthood that really focuses on character growth and gets relationships so right. Not as addictive as other similar dramas, but so real, relatable, and wholesome. (★★★★½)

Super Star Academy: A surprisingly addicting, fun drama with wacky humor and plenty of meta moments. Reminds me a lot of Moon River in quality and emotional attachment, but takes itself way less seriously. Has magic, action, family drama, fluffy romance, and pretty much all the drama tropes you want without getting bogged down. Features a cast of boy band actors, but it’s just so fun! (★★★½)

The Whirlwind Girl: Your classic story of a plain, hard-working girl who has three pretty boys fall in love with her. Love the sports (martial arts) aspect, and like its Taiwanese cousin (Moon River), it is strangely addicting. Stayed emotionally invested only for the martial arts and two of our pretty boy love interests. (★★★½)

The Journey from Tonight is White (2017, aka The Endless Love): A light, pretty drama with some healthy romance and great friendships. Features one of the most rational and reasonable female protagonists in drama-land, but gets dragged down by poor writing, messy plotting, and poor acting. An idol drama masquerading as a slice-of-life one, in a way that does not work. (★★★)

To Be With You: A fun, futuristic drama with virtual reality, cute, healthy romance, strong female characters, and intriguing corporate conspiracy that will keep you guessing. Watch if you want something light, fun, and can stomach some Meteor Garden-level ridiculousness and stiff acting. (★★★½)

With You: A beautiful and sweet slice-of-life high school drama that feels nostalgic and real. Full of complex characters you can root for and adorable friendships. Watch for warm and fuzzy feels that almost make you want to cry out of happiness. On par with Answer Me 1997 and In a Good Way. (★★★★½)

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Taiwanese

Amensalism (2020): Beautifully shot with a somewhat engaging mystery plot, but that wasn’t enough to make up for mediocre lead acting from Prince Chiu. Its only saving grace is that it’s short and that Yen Yi Wen gets plenty of screen time as a compellingly complicated mom. (★★★)

Back to 1989: I really, really wanted this to be my next favorite drama. But likable characters and heartwarming feels were not enough to make up for the uneven pacing and gaping plot holes, and Marcus Chang’s good looks were not enough to make up for his lack of acting range. (★★★½)

Before We Get Married (2019): A beautifully mature and nuanced look at the deterioration of two relationships. Though it may not look like it, this drama is tonally a rom-com, with plenty of laughs and light-hearted moments. I adore Puff Kuo and Jasper Liu, so I’m biased, but they make a beautiful and electrifying couple. (★★★★½)

Bromance: Enjoyable if you are willing to suspend disbelief and ignore some bizarre directorial choices. Baron Chen and Megan Lai have some of the best on-screen chemistry, the characters are lovable, and the message it sends about love, gender, and sexuality is so important and progressive. Gender-bending done right. (★★★★)

Go, Single Lady: A hot mess. Mike He and Ady An are a simmering couple. The drama never gets too heavy and is cute, fun, and light-hearted, but the plot is rife with bizarre narrative choices and the ending is plagued with petty, unnecessary melodrama. (★★★)

In a Good Way: A feel-good slice-of-life, coming-of-age story about college, growing up, and friendship. Incredibly realistic and relatable, and so nostalgic, despite the generational and cultural differences. Lego Li and Lorene (then Kristen) Ren have great chemistry and make a beautiful couple. (★★★★★)

In Time With You: The show that made me a fan of Ariel Lin and Bolin Chen. Mature, poignant, fun, yet realistic. Another one of those slice-of-life stories that so perfectly captures friendship, life, and relationships. (★★★★★)

Just You: Aaron Yan and Puff Kuo as Qi Yi and Cheng Liang Liang in this are probably one of my all-time favorite couples. They made the show. Puff Kuo always feels so genuine when she smiles or is sad, and this character really brings it out of her. Full of cheesiness, classic over-exaggerated Taiwanese rom-com acting and an incredibly frustrating antagonist, but I’d watch it all over again just to see more of this adorable, feel-good couple. (★★★★)

Lost Romance (2020): Has its ups and downs and kind of feels like two different shows mashed into one, but in the end I adore Vivian Sung and Marcus Chang as Zheng Xiao En and Si Tu Ao Ran/He Tian Xing. It’s self-aware and leans into the genre’s tropes and can be so cheesy, but it kept me entertained and left me with all the warm and fuzzy feelings. (★★★★)

Love and Pi: A cute, character-driven look into the lives of 3 orphans and their friends as they move from the countryside to Taipei and struggle to find themselves and their morals in the big city. Lots of feels and character development, but a little draggy in parts and I never really felt convinced that the main couple were right for each other. (★★★½)

Moon River: Meteor Garden 2.0 but with martial arts and a stronger female lead thrown in. Objectively, there are plenty of flaws — acting can get a bit stiff and the plot isn’t the most complex or innovative — but emotionally had me hooked and still leaves me feeling so much love. Rough in the beginning and ending, but that middle journey was so beautiful and made it all worth it. (★★★★)

Pleasantly Surprised: Would watch for the food alone, but I also got very emotionally attached to our characters, especially our lead couple. Gets very melodramatic, but the drama never lasts too long, and the dark moments are relieved by moments of great comedic timing and a stellar supporting cast. Overall has a very light atmosphere (you can tell from the opening theme and posters.) Watch if you love food, nice guys, cute couples, lovable supporting characters, and can stomach some drama and tears (there are plenty of laughs to balance it out!) (★★★★)

Someday or One Day (2019): One of my favorites. Has a little bit of everything: school drama, a beautiful love story, mystery, time travel. Poignant, mature, nuanced, and brilliantly executed. Alice Ke and Greg Hsu play one of my favorite drama couples. (★★★★★)

Sunny Happiness: Classic poor, hard-working girl meets rich guy sort of Cinderella story with some good doses of reality. Multi-dimensional characters, great friend and romantic chemistry, and happy endings make for a nice feel-good drama. (★★★★)

The Perfect Match (2017): Feel-good, enjoyable rom-com about a night market cook who challenges a Michelin-star chef’s notions about food and family. Chris Wu and Ivy Shao are a charismatic couple, and Lawrence Liu as the ultimate wingman Xiao Bin gives this drama comedic life. (★★★½)

Triad Princess (2019): Cheesy, silly, rom-com with a gangster twist on the usual celebrity-fan relationship trope. The celebrity fantasies are predictably cringe-worthy and you can’t take it seriously at all, but it’s full of likable characters, good feels, and laughs. Also, I can’t not love Jasper Liu. (★★★½)

The Way We Were: Contemplative, but more nostalgic, bittersweet, and sad than I thought it would be. The characters and relationships grew and changed over time in a real way that is beautiful but tugs at your heartstrings. More realistic than most, but still had a lot of formulaic drama tropes. (★★★½)

The Wonder Woman (2020): Feel-good workplace rom-com that focuses on the double standards for professional working women. Aviis Zhong shines as Du Ai Sha, a badass business woman who refuses to let anything get in her way. (★★★★)

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1 thought on “Drama Ratings”

  1. Hi, you mentioned about Answer me 1997 and of how good it was. I wonder if you happen to watch Reply 1988, as well. I found it that series really good… Would love to hear your thoughts about the two series if you’ve already watched both. 🙂

    Like

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