I Need Romance 3 Preview: Talking Like Lorelai Gilmore

Hello. This is a Korean in America. This is my impressions of the first two episodes of the new Korean drama, “I Need Romance 3". It is the third entry in the anthology franchise.  This means that this series has nothing to do with its predecessors.

P.S. Please go to Amazon when you want to purchase anything via any of the ads on the blog. It does not matter which one. I get some referral $ from it.

One of the serious issues with Korean drama is the repetition. Most Korean dramas tend to stay close to their formulas.

 This is especially true for network dramas.

For most of the 20th century, the 3 networks were the only game in town. They had an oligopoly and did not try to innovate much beyond what was proven to work. The recent development of cable original scripted programming over the past decade or so has change the situation.

In order to find their own niche, the cable Korean dramas had to walk the tight rope of balancing experimentation and what the audience was comfortable with.  In the experimental area, the cable network tvN is at the forefront.

Welcome to tvN
tvN's dramas, while still having most of the common Korean drama clichés, are different from network dramas. In regard to the subject matter, they try to cover different subjects. In the technical area, they try different camera techniques and different color palettes than network shows. This is also true in for the artistic and stylistic areas.

Just from the visuals, you can notice that a tvN show out of the network Korean drama crowd.

A good example of a great tvN drama is " Queen In Hyun’s Man ". While still being a Korean romance drama with supernatural aspects, it is uncharacteristically, for a Korean drama, clever in its writing and the visual style is distinctive.

While there are both failures and successes which are the consequences of being experimental, tvN dramas are, at least, interesting in their attempts.  Another characteristic of tvN dramas is that, while being fresh for a Korean drama, there are a lot of familiar elements for an American viewer. The truth is that, behind tvN's experimentations, there are American TV and literature being used as a source of inspiration. 

And there is NOTHING wrong with that!

The Plot
"I Need romance 3" follows the "I fell in love with my female babysitter when I was a toddler and I am still hung up in her" plot line.

That's really what the plot is.

Our female protagonist is a tough career female in her 30s who struggles at work and in love. At the same time, she is privately a cliché clutz which she hides from others.

You know the type!

Our male protagonist is in his 20s who comes from a well-off family and somehow became a "famous" music producer in the U.S.

Yes, I'm doing the air quotes when saying famous. I dislike when Korean dramas use the U.S. as a mystical place to glamorize the untalented character.

He has now come back to Korea for work and to reconnect with our female protagonist who baby sat him years ago for an after school job.

As with most stories with this plot, the male has an idealized image of the female from years ago and thus is surprised that his image does not meet reality.

She is a strong independent woman who has problem in her life.
She is a person and not a fetishized fantasy created by a horny young boy!

The male's response to this situation is to see the current state of the female as a cry for help and he has to save her by forcing himself into her life.

You know where the plot is going.

Trying To Gilmore girl out "Gilmore Girls"
The "I need romance" franchise was basically a Korean take on the then ridiculously popular "Sex and the city" series. The "I need romance" franchise was an ensemble cast show which tended to be more episodic for a Korean drama. The new series takes a different approach.

From the external structure, it is rather close to a network Korean drama. It is very serial in its storytelling as the show follows a single serialized plot from episode to episode. Also, rather than having an ensemble cast, the focus of the show is firmly on a main couple. Some of the friendship dynamic from the previous shows are still there but only barely. It is just window dressing.

So is "I need romance 3" just a typical Korean drama?

No. it is rather unique in the technical/stylistic area. I was constantly reminded of "Gilmore Girls" throughout the first two episodes. The show is driven by the female protagonist doing fast and long unbroken monologues. The pure amount of dialogue that the female protagonist needs to deliver in a single long scene cut is impressive.

This is the "Gilmore girls" approach to dialogue delivery. In "Gilmore girls", you always have the Lorelai Gilmore constantly fast talking trough the scene while camera constantly fallowing her. As a result, the actress Lauren Graham had to memorize and delivery her lines in a single take rather than cutting between script bits which is more common.

Once again, this is impressive not only for the effort but also because I cannot remember a Korean drama that ever attempted this to the degree shown in "I need romance 3.

Experimentation and Issues
The downside of "I need romance 3" is that the dialogue is not as witty or well written as “Gilmore girls”. At the same time, it sometimes feels like the actress, Kim So-Yeon, is overwhelmed by the pure amount of dialogue she is required to deliver.  If you just read her resume, this drama has the most dialogue of her career.

Example of her past shows include IRIS 2, Athena: Goddess of War in which she barely talks.

Another thing is that, except for the female protagonist’s scenes which tend to be uninterrupted, the show seems to have the most scene cuts ever for a Korean drama.

So, a second new thing for a Korean drama.

For someone who has been complaining about the staticness of Korean dramas, this is not totally bad thing. However, with this frantic editing combined with the hyper glam art direction and the director of cinematography, who seems to have A.D.H.D., it is easy to get overloaded as a viewer.

Is it good?
I would have to say "I need romance 3"is worth seeing but more as a mainstream network Korean drama rather than a cable drama.

While being cliché, the story is overall interesting in how the character dynamics are set up. The main couple has decent amount of chemistry even though individually the actors are not fully settled in their roles yet. I do think that they would get more comfy as the show moves along.

But no one is obviously terrible which is a rare thing for a Korean drama.

This extended to the supporting roles.

None of the supporting actors are obviously terrible although most of just mere caricatures that perform a function. For the supporting characters that matter, they tend to be pretty interesting. I especially like the third wheel girl played by Wang Ji-Won.

Once again "I need romance 3"is worth seeing but more as a mainstream Korean drama.

At the end
"I need romance 3", after 2 episodes, feel overly indulgent in regard to its technical/stylistic experimentation. If you are doing the "Gilmore girl" approach to dialogue delivery and move around the camera like it’s your first day on the job and you are eager to try out all the tricks you learn in film school, the show get overly frantic.

However, I do appreciate the experimental attempts.

Overall, I will contine to watch this show!

Score: a solid B

Streaming links: Good drama net


  1. Passion play. I did not see that coming. (Haven't watched the movie). You are really astute with these reviews. Best line, "feel guilty that you are sitting in the theater with your jumbo size popcorn dripping in fake butter." Another favorite line, "... they are portrayed as just comic book bad guys who can be easily replaced by, let’s say, aliens or Cobra from G.I. Joe comic." Brilliant! Wondering if the movie had no plot because it's essentially a 2 hr selfie portraying unfathomable, harrowing events which may show that sometimes life doesn't have a plot. Sh#t just happens.

  2. A Korean in AmericaJanuary 17, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    that's a passion play! It would have been better with a different director