Dear kfangurl: What are some good starter dramas to introduce to my friends?

T writes:

I have a number of friends I want to introduce the joy of kdramas to.

Recommendations are always tricky, so I’m looking for shows that would be easy for them to get into and ‘catch the vision’.

What are some kdramas that are easy for anyone to enjoy?

Let’s.. think about this, shall we..? 👀

Dear T,

Thanks for your question!

I love the idea of introducing the joy of kdramas to your friends!

That said, it is admittedly a little tricky, because there’s no one-size-fits-all in just about anything, including dramas. What works for one person, might not work for another.

It really comes down to that person’s individual tastes, moods and preferences, as well as their personal background and lens.

What I’ve attempted to do, is create a list of dramas that are (mostly) easy to digest, and which showcase the things that kdramas tend to do very well.

I’ve tried to include more recent titles, as well as a few slightly older titles, so that we get a good range to choose from.

As always, everyone, feel free to pitch in with your own ideas and suggestions, to flesh out what I’ve got, in this post.

POTENTIAL STARTER KDRAMAS – A LIST

18 Again

Newbie appeal:

The body swap and the do-over story are both pretty classic in kdramas, and Show does a great job of meshing it together, in our ahjusshi-in-his-teenaged body set-up.

The emotions are relatable and universal, and Lee Do Hyun does a marvelous job of making it all pop – while melting our hearts in the process. ❤️

The fact that this is based on 2009 US film “17 Again” might also make this feel more accessible to newbies.

Review is here.

A Business Proposal

Newbie appeal:

I liked this show much more in its initial episodes than in its final ones, but I do think that a newbie’s lens tends to be much more forgiving, which is why I think this one would work, as a starter drama.

When Show is at its best, it plays with all the classic kdrama rom-com tropes, and does a great job of serving up something that feels fresh, fun and slurpable.

Which, really, are all the qualities that you might want, in a starter drama. 😉

Review is here.

Coffee Prince

Newbie appeal:

This one’s slightly older, but it’s such a classic, that I felt I had to include it in the list.

Despite its age, Coffee Prince doesn’t feel very retro, except for the hair, fashion and makeup – and the mobile phones.

Show does a great job of playing with the crossdressing set-up, which is also a classic trope in Dramaland.

Importantly, the emotions feel universal and relatable, and it all pops so well, thanks to our fantastic cast. Also, the OTP chemistry – as well as the chemistry among the cast in general – is one of the best I’ve seen.

Review is here.

Crash Landing On You

Newbie appeal:

If I had to pick only one newish drama that encapsulates the best of what makes kdrama special, Crash Landing On You would be it.

All the tropes that we know and love, are used to good effect in this show, and the central love story is emotional, and high stakes, and yet still fun and frothy, which gives a really nice balance.

Add on the fact that the OTP shares sparks and chemistry that’s cracky (and real!) and you’ve got a winner.

Plus, the peek into what life is like for the common folk in North Korea, makes for a great novelty bonus.

Review is here.

Goong

Newbie appeal:

Even though this is an older show, I just had to include it, because this was my personal gateway drama, back in 2007. I mean, if it pulled me in this much, such that I’m still watching and writing about dramas in 2022, I think it deserves a shout-out, yes?

Show is not perfect, and it slumps in the last stretch from an extension it could’ve done without, but I do think that viewed through a drama newbie’s typically more forgiving eyes, this shouldn’t be too much of an obstacle.

Importantly, Show does a great job of creating its drama world, and the fantastic OST, used to excellent effect, just makes everything pop in a way that feels immersive.

I personally felt like the music helped to suck me in to this magical alterna-reality, where Korea has a modern monarchy, and its ice Crown Prince goes to high school and meets his match in our earthy warm commoner girl. 😁

Review is here.

Happiness

Newbie appeal:

I included this in the list, because if your newbie friend has a taste for zombies, this might be an easy step, to get them interested in kdramas.

Because, not only do we get zombies, we get a treatment of the zombies and the characters, which vibe very much kdrama, rather than the typical flesh-eating horror that might come to mind, when you think of a zombie show.

Plus, we get a fantastic contract marriage in this, which is a classic drama trope that I, as a drama fan, happen to love. And, our central couple is badass AND loving, at the same time.

It’s the best of both worlds, really. 😉

Review is here.

Healer

Newbie appeal:

This is one of my all-time favorite kdramas, and I’ve got it on this list, because it’s got a little bit of everything in it, which means there’s something for everyone, in this drama world.

We’ve got a superhero-esque male lead, who is so cool as he casually leaps off buildings; we’ve got a darling female lead who’s cute, and strong, and brave, and passionate, all at the same time.

We’ve got a good cast of secondary characters who each have their own charm (Ahjummaa~! 🤩); we’ve got a bit of a mystery that requires putting together; we’ve got a melodramatic backstory to give everything the context that it needs.

AND, we’ve got a great OST to score it all. What more could one ask for, yes?

The only problem is, if your newbie friend starts here, it might be a hard act to follow.. 😅

Review is here. Open Threads are listed here.

Her Private Life

Newbie appeal:

Fluffy, heart-wobbly romance is the hallmark of kdramas as a general rule, and Her Private Life serves up exactly that.

Our OTP shares crackly chemistry, and pretty healthy relationship dynamics, once you get past the initial bickery-suspicious stage. Plus, Ryan Gold is basically the perfect boyfriend, which adds to the squee.

As a bonus, Show is an interesting peek into kpop fan culture.

Review is here.

Hometown Cha Cha Cha

Newbie appeal:

This was a fun, breezy watch that felt like a seaside vacation, with a cute and heartfelt romance as a bonus.

It might take a while to understand where our main characters are coming from, and why they behave the way they do, but their behavior made sense to me, and I found them relatable and understandable.

Importantly, when the romance gets going, it’s sweet and endearing.

As a bonus, we also get a good dose of community feels, in the form of the small town relationships, which is another hallmark of kdramas.

Review is here.

I’m Not A Robot

Newbie appeal:

The premise is kinda ridiculous, yes, but it’s fairly unsurprising, as far as kdrama premises go.

Once you get past the logic stretches required in the set-up, there’s so much cuteness to enjoy. Yoo Seung Ho and Chae Soo Bin are just so darn cute together, and best of all, Show remembers to pack an emotional punch, amid the cute.

Flash Review is here.

My Mister

Newbie appeal:

This is not among the easy-to-digest titles in this list.

I’ve got this one on the list because it’s a masterpiece, and is so good that it ought to appeal even to non-kdrama fans.

Show might look dreary and dull on the surface, but at its heart, it’s so haunting, poignant and beautiful, all at the same time. Show does a fantastic job teasing out what it means to be human, and how human connections can save us, even when we think we are beyond saving.

Our cast is fantastic all-around, and all put in performances that feel restrained, nuanced and believable. As a plus, the OST is haunting and oh-so-immersive and effective.

Very, very worthwhile.

Review is here. Open Threads are listed here.

My Roommate is a Gumiho

Newbie appeal:

I consider this a fun drama that I think would work nicely, for kdrama newbies.

Show serves up quite a few classic tropes, but gives them a fresh spin, which often results in spots of funny. I personally found the humor to be funny and accessible, for the most part, and I often don’t jive with k-humor, so there’s that.

Our OTP is cute and well-matched, and I thought they did a very solid job, of bringing the cute and the sweet, as needed.

As a bonus, you get an introduction to gumiho mythology, which does pop up from time to time, in Dramaland, and which ought to be quite novel, for the drama newbie.

Review is here.

Queen In-hyun’s Man

Newbie appeal:

We’re doing a group watch of this right now, and I am so taken by how light and fluffy and fun this one can be.

There are some sageuk parts, which might be a bit intimidating for newbies, but importantly, appreciation of the saguek bits is not that critical, in order to enjoy this show.

Basically, the OTP is cuteness and rainbows when they are together in the modern 2012 timeline, and that’s really all that matters. Our male lead Ji Hyun Woo has excellent affectionate gazes, and Yoo In Na is cute as a button in this.

Also, the 45-minute episodes are nice and short, making this show slightly more accessible to folks who aren’t too used to sitting down and reading subtitles for stretches of time.

Review is here. Open Threads are listed here.

Romance is a Bonus Book

Newbie appeal:

I feel like this could be a pretty great starter kdrama for newbies who’ve got a few life miles under their belt, because I feel like they might be better able to relate to our female lead’s predicament, of being a single mother trying to get back into the workforce.

The first 2 episodes lay on the struggles rather thick, but subsequently, the story leans uplifting and heartfelt, with a sweet friends-to-lovers noona romance as a bonus.

Show is ultimately feel-good, which is why I think it would appeal to a drama newbie.

Review is here.

Secret Love Affair

Newbie appeal:

This is more in the vein of my recommendation of My Mister, in that Secret Love Affair is something of a masterpiece, and would have appeal even for folks who aren’t kdrama fans.

It’s a story of love, and passion, and finding oneself, set in a fascinating world of the ultra rich and influential, with lots of beautiful, absorbing classical music to score it all.

Our cast is excellent, and our leads Kim Hee Ae and Yoo Ah In put in consistently breathtaking performances.

Fascinating and vicariously liberating.

Review is here. Open Threads are listed here.

Soundtrack #1

Newbie appeal:

This one’s only 4 short episodes, so the low commitment of that, might be appealing to a drama newbie who’s not sure whether to get their drama toes wet.

Show is light yet heartfelt, with a friends-to-lovers story at its center that’s easy-breezy and solidly enjoyable. Park Hyung Sik’s smitten gazes are of the knee-melting variety, and Han So Hee is beautiful yet relatable.

An easy low-commitment watch that promises high returns on investment. 😁

Review is here.

Squid Game

Newbie appeal:

My recommendation of this, is in the vein of Happiness, above.

This is not a typical kdrama, but at its heart, it is very Korean indeed. Therefore, I think that if your newbie friend has some interest in the death game genre, this might be an easy-sneaky way to introduce them to the kdrama sensibility, without requiring them to watch a “normal” kdrama, just yet. 😉

I thought Show was very well done, and I don’t even have a taste for death game stories, in general.

Review is here.

The King: Eternal Monarch

Newbie appeal:

If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’d probably know that I wasn’t terribly blown away by this show.

HOWEVER. I do think that there’s a solid amount of appeal here, for kdrama newbies.

Namely, I think that the magic of parallel worlds could be an interesting hook, as well as Lee Min Ho’s outing as the nice, charming King of Corea, Lee Gon.

The central romance didn’t grab me, and felt flimsy to my eyes, but that might not be an issue for newbie drama eyes?

Review is here.

Touch Your Heart

Newbie appeal:

This one’s light and easy and sweet, which is what many of us look for, in a kdrama.

It’s technically a workplace romance, with Lee Dong Wook and Yoo In Na getting off on the wrong foot, but eventually finding their way to romance. Honestly, though, Yoo In Na steals the show with her personal charm, so much so that I’d count her as THE highlight of my watch.

Not super memorable by any means, but easy to digest and easy to slurp up – which might get your newbie friend into a good momentum for more? 😉

Review is here.

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo

Newbie appeal:

This one’s so cute and relatable, that I think it ought to be a reasonably easy sell, even to drama newbies.

Yes, some suspension of disbelief is required, especially around Lee Sung Kyung being a bulky, hulking weightlifter (ha, so not!), and around the coaches’ questionable training techniques.

HOWEVER. The OTP chemistry is so crackly, and our female lead’s bunch of friends are so endearing, that it makes it more than worthwhile.

Slurpy and satisfying.

Review is here.

What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?

Newbie appeal:

This one is mostly low-angst, choosing to focus the majority of its screen time on the cute hijinks of our full-of-himself male lead falling for his secretary, who wants nothing more than to quit her job and find herself.

Park Seo Joon and Park Min Young share very solid chemistry, which helps to keep things going, even when (a) there’s not a lot else going on, or (b) when the story dips into unnecessary childhood angst.

Again, this one’s not suuuper memorable in my books, but it’s mostly fun and slurpy, and should do nicely, to whet a drama newbie’s appetite for more?

Flash Review is here.

You From Another Star

Newbie appeal:

Even though this show is now almost 10 years old (eep! Where has the time gone?!?), I still think this would make for a fun, entertaining and absorbing watch.

It’s a bizarre premise (which is kinda par for the course, with kdramas), and our leads work together, so well, to bring that bizarre premise to life.

Jun Ji Hyun is iconic as Cheon Song Yi, the top star who falls for the handsome alien professor, who’s basically stoic on the outside, but a marshmallow on the inside.

Show packs a surprising emotional punch, despite its nonsensical fluffy moments, and should work out to be a fun first foray into kdramas.

PS: Make sure to tell your friend that there are epilogues after every episode. Those are great and not to be missed. A friend of mine managed to watch the entire show without knowing there were epilogues, and he only found out about them, when he read my review..! Don’t do that. 😁

Review is here.

IN CLOSING

I hope you find this post useful, and that it helps you with some ideas on which dramas to suggest to your drama newbie friends.

You might also find this Dear kfangurl post, on why we like kdramas, tangentially useful &/or interesting, in your mission to share the drama love.

Like I mentioned earlier, everyone, please feel free to add your own thoughts, insights and experiences in the comments below. As they say, sharing is caring. 🥰

I hope this post helps!

Smooches.

~ KFG ❤️

Now let’s all watch some dramaaa~ ❤️

POST-SCRIPT:

1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!

2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!

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