The first episode of “Drinking Solo” did not win me over.
The premise is a K-Drama classic. Poor harassed, financially insecure girl gets involved with arrogant better-off jerk in the office—or anywhere else—and they somehow transform each other. He becomes less of a jerk. He sees her true worth. She becomes more poised. They fall for each other.
It’s a man-woman premise that can work quite well. But Ha Suk Jin’s character was a particularly annoying jerk. The only moment when he seemed human was when he enjoyed that solitary anti-social drink. He is so unlikable that his fellow employees call him “premium trash.”
And as the female lead, Park Ha Sun’s character is initially too sad, irritatingly unable to stand up for herself. Add to that the concept of drinking alone—so sad. The solo drinking turns out to be metaphor about how people live alongside each other and don’t really know each other. Still, sad.
By Episode 3, the story had become more appealing. Should you give this drama a chance? Here are five reasons why it might be worth your time.
- The office dynamic is fun. The main characters are teachers, working in a school, where Ha Suk Jin’s character is a star. Park Ha Sun is the newbie teacher with a less-than-stellar background. She’s annoyingly insecure but her co-workers, played by Hwang Seul Woo Hye and Min Jin Woong, are fearless in their pandering and scheming.
- The drama refers to and parodies other dramas. Most dramas reference the existence of dramas and even comment on their unrealistic nature. Often a drama character will say that life is “nothing like a drama.” This TVN drama references specific K-Dramas and K-Movies. Min Jin Woong’s character tries to interest his students by dressing like a series of characters, Lee Byung Hun in the film “Inside Men,” Song Joong Ki in the drama “Descendants of the Sun” and Lee Je Hoon in “Signal.” He teaches in character. And those characters were just in the first four episodes. If this riff continues for the rest of the drama, it will be fun to see how many he can name and act out. Also, Ha Suk Jin keeps referring to Park Ha Sun’s character as No Geu Rae, an adaptation of Jung Geu Rae, the downtrodden temporary office worker with no hope of success in the drama “Misaeng.”
- Ha Suk Jin begins to be less irritating by Episode 3 when he warms to Park Ha Sun and realizes he misjudged her. Like so many K-Drama heroes before him, he might turn out to be nice after all, just emotionally stunted. It makes him less of a jerk but he has a long way to go.
- While the drama’s female fashion seems bland, the men’s fashion is conservative fun. In the fourth episode Ha Suk Jin wears a blue and white floral shirt and blue and white op art tie. Gong Myung looks good in his long striped sweater. Even veteran actor Kim Won Hae matches a pink patterned shirt and tie with a pale green jacket. It’s not K-Pop bold but it’s interesting.
- Park Ha Sun gets her relationship advice from her phone. She often discusses her lack of relationships and work success with the Siri equivalent on her phone. Most of the time the advice app on her phone has no idea what she’s talking about and thus no idea how to respond. But since Park asks so often, sometimes the app comes through. When Park Ha Su is not sure she can endure any more, the app tells her she has to persevere, which is of course the lesson found in so many K-Dramas.
While “Drinking Solo” is no “Descendants of the Sun” or “Misaeng” it is fun.