Review of the first 2 episodes of "The Prime Minister And I": Have I time slipped back to the 80s?

Hello. This is a Korean in America. This is a preview of a new Monday/Tuesday K-drama,"The Prime Minister And I". This show maybe my guilty pleasure of the year which was filled with dull or just terrible shows.

Depending on when you were born, you may have missed the golden age of Hollywood Rom-coms which happened during the 80s and 90s. I grew up during this age and have seen more Hollywood Rom-coms than may be physically and psychologically healthy. At least, I think my idea of romance has been warped in some odd manners.

In any case, I have a lot of nostalgia regarding the Rom-com genre. Even though the focus of the genre has shifted to Cable TV distribution channels such as the Hallmark channel, I still miss the Rom-com genre’s presence from the silver screen. In K-dramas, the Rom-com genre is rather absent as K-dramas focus more on straight romances with some comedic elements. On the other hand, Rom-com genre’s presence is heavily felt on the silver screen in Korean theaters.  

So, to see a classic Rom-com out of Korea on the small screen was refreshing.

The plot
The plot of the "The Prime Minister and I" is about two people.

For the male part of the breeding pair, you have a newly appointed prime minister of Korea who is waiting to be approved by congress. He is also widowed and is a single father.

For the female part of the breeding pair, you have a scrappy young gossip/fluff magazine journalist.

And then the two people, who you would not think would spend time together, meet.

Hilarity ensues!.

For anyone who have seen a decent number of Hollywood Rom-coms, you know how this combination of characters go. And "The Prime Minister and I" does not disappoint.  You can predict exactly where this will be going.

80s and 90s Hollywood Rom-coms
"The Prime Minister and I" is the closest I’ve seen K-drama go towards the classic Rom-com genre in years.  To be more specific, "The Prime Minister and I” is going for a 80s and 90s Hollywood Rom-com vibe.

It reminded me of a Meg Ryan or Goldie Hawn Romantic comedy.

The Rom-com genre is based on a set of formulas which govern how you get two people, who come from different backgrounds, to get together at the end. For example, the first meeting between the potential couple is called the meet-cute scene. In a meet-cute scene, you have to show to the audience that the two people, on screen right now, are meant to be with each other. This is done by successfully displaying the chemistry between the characters and more over the chemistry between the actors portraying the characters.

Hollywood Rom-coms of the 80s and 90s focus on this aspect of chemistry and on actors’ screen presence while paying less attention to everything else.

The characters do not have to develop on screen.
The plot does not have to make much sense.
There are a lot of very awkward scenes used to bring the characters from points A to B.

This only became charming because of the actors’ screen presence and the focus on chemistry the Rom-com genre has.

In this manner, the Rom-com genre, like the horror genre, is a very specialized genre.

The Decline of Hollywood Rom-coms
Going into the 21 century, the mainstream Hollywood audience required more sophistication in getting the characters from points A to B.  In other words, they require more drama or at least plot.

However, this is not easy to do. As with horror, trying to insert more plot into romantic comedies just revealed the weaknesses of the genre.

This change in the market led to the decline of Hollywood Rom-coms.

I love romantic comedies. I like to watch them and I like to be in them. It's something that's increasingly difficult to find that spark of originality that makes if different than the ones that come before.
--Julia Roberts

I love romantic comedies. I have a deep respect for them. I think they're really difficult to write and write well.
--Rashida Jones

"The Prime Minister and I" is a 80s Hollywood Rom-com
"The Prime Minister and I", in the same manner as with 80s and 90s Hollywood Rom-coms, is silly. I will have to even say it is ridiculous. Before anything, I will have to give out a Spoiler warning! But it does not really matter since it is so predictable.

How do two people bumping into each other end up in a fake marriage scheme?
I mean really!?
From what you see on the small screen, the series of events should not lead up to a fake marriage scheme. Well, if you are not in a 80s and 90s Hollywood Rom-com, it shouldn’t!.

One thing to note is that I think the Korean setting helps with the suspension of belief for non-Korean viewers. Korea is basically a fantasy for non-Koreans. It is the same when we, Koreans, see Hollywood movies.

An example would be the bad English acting in Heirs. For Koreans, the fact that the English spoken by the actors is terrible does not reduce the suspension of belief. It is a different story for Americans.

The Pros
The best thing about "The Prime Minister and I" is the breeding pair which is the right move for a rom-com.

Lee Beom-soo, who plays the Prime Minister, is one of the best actors in K-drama who specializes in over acting. He is like John Malkovich in his prime but with more charm. Lee Beom-soo basically plays his stock character in "The Prime Minister and I". While he is still good, he overacts more than usual. He seems to be uncomfortable with the material which I cannot blame him. I could not say his lines with a straight face.

Way too campy!

The queen of the golden age of Rom-Com was Meg Ryan. Yoona reminds me of Meg Ryan because of her role as a young gossip/fluff magazine journalist. However, you have to add a dose of Kristen Stewart to make the description accurate. She is not a good actor but does what the role requires.

Together… the couple does not have bad chemistry.

But have you noticed that the age difference between the two is a tiny little bit creepy?

The couple has a 20 year age gap between them. I think the series knows it too since Yoona, who is 23 years old in real life, is aged up by 5 years in the series. I will have to give credit to Lee Beom-soo for not making the coupling overtly creepy.

Korea is not Japan!
We, Koreans, still find an old man dating a teenager creepy.

The cons
The main con of the series is the silliness. You need to be able to accept the silliness to enjoy the campy fun of the series. The other problem is that none of the other supporting characters are interesting. And I am not trying to equate unique or creative with interesting in this case.

All of the supporting characters in "The Prime Minister and I" are just archetypes intended to play a function in the road to the breeding pair hooking up.

If I can accept the silly plot, I can accept archetypes.

The problem is that the actors cast in those roles lack screen presence. There are no A-list character actors in the cast other than Lee Beom-soo who is a character actor that gets lead roles.

I simply regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.”
― Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Will you like "The Prime Minister and I"?
At the end, if you like 80s Hollywood Rom-coms and can suspend your disbelief, you will enjoy it for its campy fun. However, considering the lack of talent in the cast, the show does have a risk of fizzling out mid-way through its run.

After seeing two episodes, I do give it a recommendation to try it out.

Score: A Recommendation


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