“Dramaworld” | Liv Hewson, Sean Richard Dulake, Justin Chon, Bae Noo-ri, Kim Sa Ree, Jimmy Shubert | Writers: Josh Billig & Chris Martin | Director: Chris Martin
There probably isn’t a person alive who has never imagined being a part of a show they absolutely love. One of the most popular formats worldwide are K-dramas. Although they’ve always been a favorite within their native South Korea since the 1960s, the international appeal of K-dramas began in the mid 1990s thanks to the “Korean Wave”. Ever since, Korean pop culture has been a hallmark in generating trends, slang, and innovations in various media across the globe.
Unfortunately, the United States has always been slow in the uptake compared to the rest of the world. But now Viki, the premiere global streaming service, has graced us with its presence and is distributing the first ever English/Korean K-drama production known as “Dramaworld”!
The series follows young Claire Duncan (Liv Hewson), a college student who keeps her head in the clouds and religiously follows the K-drama “Taste of Love”. Probably the most zealous of all fangirls, Claire has little interest in the real world and spends nearly every waking moment watching and rewatching her favorite beau Joon Park (Sean Richard Dulake) display a reserved interest in Seo-Yeon (Bae Noo-ri). This particular series leaves her stressed because according to Claire, a kiss means “true love forever” in K-dramas; and Joon still hasn’t smooched his paramour after 12 episodes (the ninth episode is the usual installment when true love is achieved, as stated by Claire). Due to this uncommon progression in the storyline, Claire’s life becomes a whirlwind of emotion.
Distracted while viewing the latest episode of “Taste of Love”, Claire’s buggy mobile phone and a slip on a wet sandwich shop floor transports the hapless co-ed into Dramaworld, a dimension where all Korean dramas reside.
After her excitement eases, Claire – thanks to her new friend Seth Ko, played by Justin Chon – is tasked to ensure Joon Park and Seo-Yeon begin a romantic relationship… or else something really really terrible will happen to Dramaworld. In the meantime, the world’s biggest K-drama fan becomes accustomed to her new life while attempting to be the ultimate matchmaker.
One would be hard-hearted to not appreciate the lively and spirited performance by “Dramaworld” lead Liv Hewson. Her portrayal of Claire is a familiar sentiment for all of us who have divested more time than we should on the lives of fictional people. Viewers will relate to her in two very powerful ways: Claire’s love for K-drama, though specific to the genre, is universal in its passion and dedication. The exhilaration Hewson exhibits as Claire once she realizes what occurred is quite infectious and a delight to watch. Additionally, her obsession to K-drama throws a veil over her mundane life that lacks considerable color and excitement. After all, this is why most of us binge on shows for hours on end. What’s especially welcoming is Hewson’s rendition feels true to form and never a manic caricature of a cookie cutter fan.
Immediately the most likable moments in “Dramaworld” involve its feeling of whimsy and ability to make fun of the common tropes of K-drama itself. Sure, many programs typically play on the same plots and imagery but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of millions from tuning in on a weekly basis. Expect familiar story lines to occur during the web series’ 10 episode run, but in a light-hearted, humorous fashion. Plus there’s the extra twist of a bumbling American college student gawking in the background like an unpaid extra. Here’s hoping Claire is able to bring Joon Park and Seo-Yeon together rather than accidentally make the story about herself!