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Jul 22, 2009

PALACE

nur aynora

Palace (2006, MBC miniseries)

Imagine being a happy-go-lucky high school student and finding out one day that your commoner grandfather and the King of the country had made a pact that you would marry the Crown Prince. This is Chae-kyung's predicament as she is quickly thrust into a royal marriage to a complete stranger. (Oh, and did I mention that Korea is a country that doesn't even have a monarchy in the real world?). For some, it's a true alternate reality Cinderella story, but for Chae-kyung, her Prince, named Shin, turns out to be mean and selfish with little intent of breaking up with his previous girlfriend and every intention of divorcing her in a couple years.

But the bubbly and good natured Chae-kyung finds solace in the Crown Prince's cousin, Prince Yool. He is the true Prince Charming, a kind and understanding soul who quickly falls in love with her (his cousin-in-law). Complicating the situation is the fact that prince Yool used to be the Crown Prince and she was originally betrothed to him. And as it turns out, the parents of the Princes have a complicated past and love triangles all their own.

Sound like a soap opera? Well, obviously it is. And a good one. Chae-kyung must navigate the difficult worlds of the palace and high school and marriage. The mixture of three situations that are difficult enough on their own creates all kinds of interesting difficulties for our girl next door.

Yoon Eun-hye (second from right) is perfectly charming as Chae-kyung. She is the most delightful part of the show -- goofy and cute without ever being too annoying. She cries a lot but never comes off as weak. The performance really brings a lot to a character that's hard to dislike and easy to care for. Joo Ji-hoon (far left) is also great as Shin, the troubled monarch to be (he does great even though he's almost always dressed in questionable pink frocks). At first Shin seems somewhat one dimensional, but over time his complexities and insecurities come to the fore and are portrayed very effectively. Former boy band idol Kim Jung-hoon (far right) debuts well here, portraying the complicated and tortured character Yool. Along with the three leads are a great cast of supporting characters. Particularly of note are Chae-kyung's bumpkin family and her wacky trio of friends -- the characters that add the greatest comic effect to the show.

And the show balances the comedy and the drama very well. It never gets too sad or too silly for too long. A scene where the elders try to get Crown Prince Shin and Chae-kyung to consummate their marriage had me practically rolling on the floor in laughter, while a simple shot of Chae-kyung waiting by the phone and never receiving a call from her absent husband required a box of tissues. The show is full of tender moments, and really works best when it focuses on the love triangle of the younger characters, and tends to lose steam when a lot of attention is paid to the Elders.

Prince Shin does eventually begin to warm to Chae-kyung's utter adorableness, and a love triangle full of joy and pain plays out over the show's 24 episodes (It was originally slated for 20, but the show became so popular that they extended it for 4 more episodes of misunderstandings and tears). In fact, the extra 4 episodes might be a bit too much, because it does seem like there's maybe one misunderstanding too many by the end. As for the end, it's a bit strange and not the most satisfying I've seen, but it certainly gets the job done, and in no way should be a deterrent from watching the rest of this truly enjoyable show.

But right up to the last couple episodes, I didn't know which guy to root for. Sometimes I wanted her to end up with Shin, and sometimes with Yool. And it's not only a question of who will get the girl, there's also a question of which Prince will become the next ruler. Because as the Princes struggle for Chae-kyung's affection, their mothers connive to grasp the throne for them. Once again, the court politics mixed in with high school politics add a great twist to this drama.

A lot of the success of the show is credited to the top notch production values. The three main characters wear an array of designer outfits, and seem to be in a different one every time they appear on screen. The crown prince and princess' quarters are stunningly beautiful. The production was denied when they asked to shoot in a real castle, but it's all for the best, because what was created was perfect for the series.

The show's surprise success in Korea (which shouldn't have been surprising, due to how great it looked and how good the main trio of actors are) has caused it to be dubbed the next big thing in the Korean wave. There are high hopes that the show will catch on in other Asian countries. Even Variety has called it the "future of Korea's TV drama industry". And it could easily gain a following as loyal as Dae Jang Geum or Winter Sonata. (Review by Alison Veneto)




Palace ("Gung"). Alternate title: "Princess Hours." 24 episodes. Written by In Eun-ah. Based on the comic book by Park Soh-hee. Produced by Hwang In-roi. Starring Yoon Eun-hye, Joo Ji-hoon, Kim Jung-hoon, Song Ji-hyo, Kim Sang-joon, Shim Hye-jin, Park Chan-hwan, Yoon Yoo-sun, Kim Hye-ja. First aired on MBC in Korea from January 11 - March 30, 2006 on Wednesday and Thursday nights at 9:55pm. Official website (in Korean): click here. Episodes can be downloaded for a fee here.

nur aynora / Author & Editor

Mykarya.com adalah blog perkongsian e-novel, cerita korea dan drama melayu.

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