1. Multi generational layered rich story. The adults, the children, the servants, and the law firm employees all had story lines that were peeled like an onion throughout the series. This was a true ensemble cast. You could feel their synergy grow throughout the series.
2. Clever direction, solid writing and use of music. Director An Pan Seok (Secret Love Affair) constructed a visual path that facilitated the strong story that writer Jung Sung Joo (Secret Love Affair) crafted. The music emphasized key moments. When you heard certain music, you knew a good moment was coming.
3. Secondary characters as strong if not stronger than the primary characters. The staff and employees of the law firm start out secondary but the focus and shifted to them in the second half of the story and they end up as the heart of the show.
4. The young couple that upset the apple cart of the family were true partners. I value couples that respect each other’s brains and treat each other as equals. This couple was a united front for most of the show.
1. Brown colorization of everything. Just like Secret Love Affair the tone of the series was brown. It bothered me less in this series.
2. Father never learned. The all powerful Father simply never saw the error of his ways. For such a smart character, I found it odd, that he could not recognize defeat. In his line of business he excelled in move then counter-move and utilizing a new strategy as needed. But in his personal life, his rigidity cost him. I recognize that was a point the writer choose to made. And it worked, that point was made. But I would have preferred some delta difference in his perspective.
This is a well written, acted, and produced series. I enjoyed watching each episode. You had to think to sort out the bevy of characters, the law firm croonies, and the complex evolving lawsuit story.
What I liked about Heard it Through the Grapevine:
1. Our leading young lady, Seo Bom, played by Ko Ah Sung, was a pleasure to watch. Smart, intuitive, with spirit and morale fiber, Seo Bom was a wife, mother, and friend you’d want to know and have in your life.
2. The wife’s secretary, Lee Sun Sook, played by Seo Jung Yeon, kept her cool professionally but had a off-hours fun and friendly side. The rich wife, relied heavily on Sun Sook. I adored it when Sun Sook would advise the wife who always seemed surprised by her common sense suggestions. Her handling of the wife and her suitor, the tutor, were never boring.
3. All the servants because supporters of our young couple and rooted them on becoming part of the “it takes a village” mindset that allowed our couple to thrive.
4. The rich family was portrayed by a wonderful group of actors. The husband/oldest son, Han In Sang (Lee Joon), wanted out from his father’ shadow and for the most part, he and his young wife, Seo Bom, were a solid team. The father, Han Jung Ho (Yu Jun Sang), was precise, fallible, and interesting. The mother, Choi Yeon Hee (Yoo Ho Jeong), was traditional yet wielded her power effectively when she wanted to (e.g. head butt scene was awesome). The daughter, Han Yi Ji (Park So Young), was refreshingly forthright and supporter her brother and his new wife.
5. Moments and the ending. There moments that were complex, funny, and compelling:
* Nuanced – When our young couple, Seo Bom and In Sang, found each other again after months apart, they had to deal with the shock of the pregancy. They didn’t just blithely assume they would become a couple. They talked about if they wanted to go forward together. What a fascinating taxi ride they had en route to tell his parents. When he weakly tried to end his life in the Han River, furious, she showed him how it was done.
* Funny – The father’s obsession with his hair follicle density was a running gag that never got old. It was hilarious when he got into a physical scuffle with his Seo Bom’s father who egregiously grabbed his hair.
* Compelling cliffhangers for the several episodes – Here’s a sample: Episode 4, In Sang’s parents arrive at the marriage registry office; Episode 6, both fathers literally grapple with each other. Seo Bom’s father grabs a fist full of In Sang’s father’s precious hair; Episode 7, In Sang’s mother finds her son sleeping on the couch due to a fight between our young couple. She yells at Seo Bom to leave the house. The irony? In Sang’s mother made In Sang’s father sleep in the library that evening.
* The ending – In Sang’s father did not see the error of his tactics and ends up alone in that big house with his power intact. I did not think it would be realistic for the independent lawyer to bring down In Sang’s father’s power base, so in that regard I’m ok with the little impact they had. But on the other hand, I wanted In Sang’s father to be punished but his power was his shield. The village of support for our couple was lovely to see if improbable.
What was okay about Heard it Through the Grapevine:
1. The adults friends of the mother were either leeches or rivals and were superficial friends at best. Their shallow friendship was a point being made. For all the money and power true friendship was lacking.
2. I liked but did not fall in love with the characters of this show. All the characters were interesting and this was a true ensemble cast. I gravitate towards rom-coms and often the leading couple grips my heart (e.g. Wang So (Jang Hyuk) and Shin Yool (Oh Yeon Seo) in Shine or Go Crazy). None of the characters in Heard it Through the Grapevine got me emotionally hooked. I liked them but I did not love them. There was a certain emotional distance in the story and the characters followed suit.
3. I enjoyed the common sense forthright style of Seo Bom’s mother Kim Jin Ae (Yoon Bok In), but was not wild about her father, Seo Hyeong Sik (Jang Hyun Sung), sister, Seo Noo Ri (Kong Seung Yeon), and Uncle Seo Chul Sik (Jeon Suk Chan).
What I did not like about Heard it Through the Grapevine:
1. The story started strongly focused on the family in the first half and shifted to the less compelling ethics of the powerful law firm in the second half. 30 episodes is a long series so the story had to expand beyond the confines of the nuclear family household. But that story was not as tight as forces pushed in vain against the powerful law firm. In no way am I saying the story was bad, it was rich and complex, but it did not maintain the same zip and grip throughout the entire series.
2. Brown tone throughout the series. Not my favorite choice for a lighting filter. It does set a tone to the series, so I respect the choice, but I did not like it.
3. No Original Sound Track. Bummer. I would have enjoyed the primary instrumental tracks.
* Thanks to the crew and actors worked hard to create this terrific series. I appreciate their hard work. This was a well crafted watchable series. All departments – production, lighting, styling, direction, casting, acting, did their part to make this a series I recommend.
* Our young couple’s child, Jin Young, was a cutey!
* Shoutout to blogger Kwon Sang Seung who recommended this fine series. Check out the dramajjang blog for recaps of all 30 episodes.