Seonam Girls High School Investigators 선암여고 탐정단(2014) Review of first 6 Episodes

Seonam Girls High School Investigators (2014) Review of first 6 Episodes

Keywords: #SeonamGirlsHighSchoolInvestigators #선암여고탐정단 #KangMinAh #Hyeri #LeeMinJi #StephanieLee #KimMinJun #Kdrmaa #JTBC

With the rise of cable original programming in Korean drama sphere, I would have to agree that some interesting rather out of the box shows are being produced. OCN has been shaping itself as the American procedural show imitation channel although every show looks somewhat cheap.

tvN, on the other hand, is going hardcore fangirl with its shows that all look extremely saturated with white light as if you are making a make-up commercial. TV Chosun, on the other hand, went hardcore nighttime trashy soap.

In comparison, JTBC is more of a straight forward female “drama” focused channel that does not  exactly seem to know what it wants to be other than not be anyone else including the main networks. Examples of JTBC shows are “A Wife's Credentials” (2012), “Can We Love” (2014), and “Yoo-Na's Street” (2014).

One thing JTBC was not was a comedy based show channel. Thus, “Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014) is an oddity in JTBC’s library and is evidence that the channel is not sure what its niche is yet.

The Setup
Unlike most Korean dramas, “Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014) is more of the episodic show in the vein of American shows. It is about An Chae-Yool who just transferred to Seonam Girls High School.  On her first day, she gets bitten on her wrist by and unknown creep which leads her to get entangled with the “Seonam Girls High School Investigators”.
An Chae-Yool

They are a small group of 4 odd ball girls at the school who play detective. An Chae-Yool initially does not want anything to do with the group but ends up being a reluctant member after a series of events. After that, she hangs out with them at school’s theater department’s meeting room. In other words, “Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014)  is a classic “Scooby-Doo” setup.

I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those "meddling kids"

While I said that this was more of an episodic show, technically this is not totally correct. The show runs one episode a week which is not common for Korean dramas. However, each case or story spans about 2 episodes. At the sometime, there are arcs running through the show like the “biter” case.

What is the show like?
Beyond the setup, I would describe “Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014) as a show that feels like a ABC Family show with the very artificial adorableness of the new “Girl Meets World” (2014-) and a pinch of the edginess of “Pretty Little Liars” (2010-) with a heavy helping of the Japanese school drama quirkiness poured on as additional flavoring.
Girl Meets World
Pretty Little Liars

What does this description taste like?

The “ABC Family show” element makes it a tween show that has wider appeal. The “Girl Meets World” makes the inexperience of the acting more palatable. The “Pretty Little Liars” element gives it a little more oomph to what could be very vanilla. While the Japanese drama element can be an acquired taste, I think it is low key enough to be not too repellant.  

In other words, “Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014) is a good although not a great show.

This is why!

The cases
The setup of the show itself can pigeon hole the show into being a so called genre show with restricted appeal. It may be too kiddy for some adults. However, what I want to mention is not that!

One of the bigger issues with “Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014) is that it is not a true episodic show as I mentioned before. For all intents and purposes, this show needed its cases to be one episode length rather than the two episode length it is currently at. Simply stated, all the cases currently aired do not have the content to fill two episodes. This makes the episodes feel longer than they need to be which is a common issue with Korean dramas. They can be trimmed down a lot with some tight editing but they do not do it.

This is the same for “Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014). A side effect of this is that the quirkiness of the show also gets watered down because of the slow pace of each episode. It is like telling a joke. It needs to have perfect timing and be concise. A good example of tight story telling with quirks would be “Pushing Daisies” (2007-2009). This show was a very quirky and tight case of the week show that worked on both the case and quirk areas.  And the cases of this show had more or less similar degree of depth to those covered by “Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014).

The cast
Another huge issue is with the casting of the main protagonist An Chae-Yool played by Jin Ji-Hee. She has been in shows such as “Can We Love” (2013) and “The Moon Embracing The Sun” (2012) has a child actor. Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014) is her first leading role and the character she plays is the most complicated character in the cast of the show.

An Chae-Yool suffers from such illnesses as being smirky, intelligent, petty, angry, and being a teenager.  Compared to the other characters who basically have one defining quirk to each of them, An Chae-Yool is more complex which Jin Ji-Hee  does not totally nail. This is especially true when she needs to act more flippant as a character. It is not that she is terrible but rather she is somewhat miscast. Jin Ji-Hee is simply not as dynamic of an actor to handle what the show requires.

This very evident when the show switches to voice overs and has her do confessionals. As a side note, why does this show require confessionals? Is it reality TV show? Is it an interview based show? The show does not need this element to the show that makes no sense within the context of the show.

I digress!

As female teenage sleuths go, An Chae-Yool is not “Veronica mars” (2004-2007) and Jin Ji-Hee is no Kristen Bell. Whenever on screen, Jin Ji-Hee always seem like the role does not totally fit her. This may change as she may grow into the role better since she has only done 6 episodes at the moment. It is not an easy role!

In conclusion
While I listed a lot of issues with “Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014) here, I will have to say that it is an entertaining show that I powered through 6 episodes in a day. While the pacing lags, the cases are interesting and I do love watching the girls on screen.

I do have issues with the arcs of the show not being interesting and awkwardly inserted into the rest of the show. In addition, most of the An Chae-Yool’s family subplots are a total waste of time especially the mother’s plot. I wish Korean dramas did not feel the need to insert family stuff as subplots to pad out the story. However, thankfully these issues do not take too much of the screen time.

Seonam Girls High School Investigators” (2014) is an entertaining show for those who are rather fed up with the romance shows and want to watch a kid show with a little bit of a wider appeal. For the first 6 episodes, I give it a B.

Score: B or 6.75/10

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