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1st Place Winner - JangHaven's 2021 Most Anticipated Drama Korean Broadcast: tvN US Broadcast: Netflix Broadcast Schedule: 2021 About the Drama: Season 2 of Hospital Playlist continues the story of five surgeons who had become friends in medical school as their lives and careers intertwine. With episodic stories of the various patients who are treated by these surgeons as well as the hospital staff of doctors, residents, interns, nurses, and others, this drama presents a slice of life accounting of the lives of this group of friends who are dedicated to each other and their calling. In Season 1, the five friends were pulled together by Ahn Jung Won (pediatric surgeon) to all work at Yulje Medical Center, a teaching hospital, together as well as reforming their medical school band which was one of Yang Seok Hyung's (obstetric and gynecology) conditions for joining. But as life continues, there are challenges in store for both of them as well as for Chae Song Hwa (neurosurgeon), Lee Ik Joon (general surgeon) and Kim Joon Wan (cardiothoracic surgeon). While the setting is a hospital and there are plenty of medical cases, this drama is a slice of life drama which happens to be set amongst the staff of a hospital rather than a medical drama per se. Genre: Slice of life, Medical, Romance, Comedy, Drama
Once upon a time a hungry girl who happened to be at a seaside town met a budding young chef who was helping his mother with the cooking in her restaurant. He laid a feast in front of her and she was destined never to forget him. In fact, she considered him her “first love” and inspired her to become a chef to bring joy to others. On that occasion he encouraged her to come back because he would make her some chocolate balls but she never did because her family cut short their stay in that town and took off. Many many years later they meet again as adults in a city hospital. She (Ha Ji-won) is there after a recurring episode of a lifelong trauma experienced after being trapped under a collapsed shopping mall. She remembers her budding young chef who has now become a highly skilled neurosurgeon. Her curiosity is immediately aroused. He (Yoon Kye-sang), on the other hand, doesn’t remember her and seems to have undergone a complete personality transplant in the intervening years. In the well-laid tradition of SK melodrama, his life also took a turn for the worse after leaving his idyllic hometown and not long after losing his mother in tragic fashion. Living with his scheming chaebol, hospital-owning relatives has turned him into a quietly resentful, stoic doctor. Some time later they meet again. This time she has inconveniently just become his best friend’s girl while still harbouring strong feelings for her first love. What’s a girl to do? She does the best thing she can by everyone and breaks up with her first love’s best friend (Yoo Teo) and takes off to Spain. Of course she doesn’t give anyone the real reason but tells fibs about having met someone else, in effect carrying the can for the unforeseen mess that has resulted. With all these obstacles in the way, it begs the question as to how these two people so obviously fated to be together will overcome the baggage between them. There’s no denying that Chocolate ransacks the melodrama pantry with impunity: Unforgettable first love, orphaned children, past trauma, over-the-top chaebol family power struggles, misunderstandings due to noble idiocy etc etc. It’s almost relentless. All these elements would be immediately recognizable by seasoned viewers. Familiar though it seems, the haunting storytelling and the exquisite cinematography is what lifts the material beyond the burden of expectation. The locations are glorious to behold. Moreover, the use of tropes is largely the set-up for the meat of the story: The reality of impending death and how people of different ages and backgrounds find ways of processing mortality and loss. The leads are two wounded souls who continually find their way to each other despite various attempts to stay out of the other’s way. Theirs is a slow burn romance as they navigate all the obstacles from within and without to finally come full circle. The romance plays out poignantly within the backdrop of a regional hospice. For one reason or another the romantic leads, Cha-young, and Lee Kang end up working there. The location is gorgeous and serene. An ideal setting not just for a romance but also perhaps for anyone receiving palliative care and putting their house in order before making their exit from among the living. Once the key players finally find their way to the hospice, the show takes on a more slice-of-life approach. The best part of this show and its emotional core comes from the individual stories of those who spend their final days trying to deal with unfinished business. I often found myself tearing up when young and old say their goodbyes especially after hearing their all-too-human stories. This is the kind of thing that’s made K dramas of all stripes beloved around the world. In that vein, the leads would find themselves inadvertently entangled in the lives of the residents as they are forced to draw on their inner resources to give others comfort. Through this Cha-young and Kang both find their own healing. More importantly, Kang gradually begins to realise that Cha-young is far from being the callous woman he believed her to be. Both Ha Ji-won and Yoon Kye-sang do an excellent job of exploiting their chemistry and showing various stages of their attraction for each other. What the show does here which is not often discussed is certainly a conversation that needs to be had universally. Life is short, life is unpredictable, life is unfair and death comes to us all eventually. In some cultures it is even taboo to speak of death as it is believed to hasten its coming. But how individuals cross that threshold of death seems just as important as how they lived their lives prior. Cha-young often seems to be the picture of perfection. She’s a whiz in the kitchen and does her magic bringing what joy she can to the dying through her culinary delights. But she is the milk of human kindness and goes way beyond the call of duty in fulfilling the wishes of the residents and their loved ones. On top of that she puts up with Kang’s dismissive attitude towards her with grace. Some might accuse of being a Mary Sue. The show, it seems to me, makes the case that In such an environment, extraordinary, gifted men and women are needed accompany those to face their end. Her suffering and her own brush with death has given her clarity and empathy in that regard. However, all isn’t well in her world having also to care for her devil-may-care younger sibling who seems to be a millstone round her neck but as time progresses, he too has his uses. The Lee family power struggle is perhaps the least interesting aspect of the show except that it does provide some context to where Kang is at and his complex relationship with his cousin and rival Lee Jun (Jang Seung-jo). He too ends up at the hospice first to visit his first love and then later ends up doing community service there. Gradually the two of them come to a place of grudging respect for each other in the realisation that they were both pawns in the hands of their ambitious and manipulative grandmother. There’s very little to complain about in the acting department. Even the youngsters acquit themselves admirably. Except for the stereotypical Lee family members who seem to have stepped out of a makjang cartoon, most of the characters are relatable and their experiences drawn from a broad spectrum of the populace. Of course I shouldn't forget the about the food. No one should because one of the joys of spending time with Cha-young was watching her (mostly her) cooking up a storm. Some of my favourite and most memorable moments of the drama was watching her in the kitchen granting final wishes or paying tribute to those who have left. One of these days I hope to find a Korean restaurant in my town that makes sujebi. This is a drama that I cared a lot about when it aired. I thought a lot about it when I was watching it. I would even revisit portions of it afterwards. Even though it is centred around discussions of death, it made me think a lot about life. It’s a serious show for the most part but not so serious that it doesn’t take time out to laugh a little about everyday human foibles. Plot: 8 Storytelling: 9 Cast/Acting: 9.5 Production Values: 10 Rewatch Value: 7.5