All About My Mom (2015) First Impressions: mmm… family K-Dramas tend to be same~y…

Hello and good day! This is Prof. AKIA coming to you from Korea with a new Korean drama “All about mom” or”부탁해요 엄마.” It stars veteran family drama actors such as Eugene, Ko Du-Shim, Kim Mi-Sook, and Song Seung-Hwan. This first impression article is being made after watching the first 4 episodes.

Family dramas, a subgenre within Korean Drama, tends to be a very static as in it does not really change from show to show. Yes, there may be variations within subgenre but that is the same as saying there were many different types of American sitcoms during the 50s and 60s. If you know “The Brady Bunch” (1969-1974) and “Leave it to Beaver” (1957-1963), you get the gist of what was available.

Korean Family dramas are usually straight drama or dramedy shows covering the relatively common lives of 2 or 3 families.  Since there are many family members, the shows cover multiple subject. However, they usually are centered around one or two of the unattached members getting married or dealing with money problems. Most likely a show will be about both.

Commonly the term “Family drama” is used very broadly to the degree that most Korean dramas could be classified as one. This is because current Korean dramas mostly branched out from Family dramas as the medium grew. In addition, considering that the main audience of Korean dramas are over 35 housewives and the elderly, the family dynamic centric nature of Korean dramas are not a surprise. However, I will be putting those other branches aside and only talk about the pure form of Family dramas in which the new show “All about mom” (2015) so firmly falls right in the center of.

Déjà vu …
Watching “All about mom” (2015) feels like experiencing not one, not two, and not even three déjà vu at the same time. Its extreme adherence to the stock formula reminds me of so many other shows I’ve seen over the years. Newer viewers may not notice this but veterans like me know!

The fact that family drama staple Ko Du-Shim and formerly of SES actress Eugene is on the show reinforces this feeling. I mean Eugene’s acting resume reads like a listing of family dramas although there are some variations within the range of the subgenre. She has done comedic, standard, and depressing family dramas since 2009.

As a side note, Ko Du-Shim has been having a great year. Earlier this year, she was in “High Society” and “The Legendary Witch.” Now she is doing double duty starring in “All about mom” (2015) and “The Eccentric Daughter-in-Law” (2015) at the same time. Good for her!

What is so generic about the setup of “All about mom” (2015)? Mostly everything! First, it is about 3 families which will obviously be tied by future couplings between members. The number is important here. Why is it three? Well years ago, the standard was two. However, this created issues of inbred couplings which in some cases ended up with more than 3 couples forming between two families. Your mother in law becomes your step mother in addition to that fact that your sister is marrying your brother in law. Remember, this is not a makjang show. It is a standard drama. This is just weird. As a result, family dramas started to use 3 families as a standard.

Second, the character architypes are standard fare for this genre. The mother played by Ko Du-Shim is a typical lower middle class family matriarch who is trying to support her family with her husband being no help.

The husband /patriarch basically seems to suffer from something similar to gambling addiction as he cannot keep a job and also repeatedly blows money on wild get-rich schemes. This architype is very common in Korean dramas. In addition, the younger son takes after his father and also goes on match making meetings pretending to be other people.

Check, Check, Check!

The daughter played by Eugene is the long suffering dutiful daughter architype who is the only one other than her mother to bring home the bacon. However, she feels neglected by her mother as she feels like her mother always favors her sons especially the eldest son. Thus, she dreams of escaping but never manages since they keep pulling her in. The other characters are also very familiar architypes.


Third, the dynamics between the 3 families are extremely predictable. You have two matriarchies with one having a useless father while the other has none. And there is the rich patriarchy. The core matriarchy family helmed by Ko Du-Shim is essential meant to provide breading stock to the other families. Eugene’s character will be matched up with the son of a successful single mother. The two have the meet-cute scenes to prove it. The rich patriarch will be given an unwelcome match for their daughter in the form of the second son of Ko Du-Shim’s character who is pretending to be rich. And the single mother family and the rich patriarch is connected… It is rather obvious that the son of the single mother is the bastard son of the rich patriarch.

I ran out of ink while checking off my list of family drama clichés.

Never Changing…
Why are family dramas so static?

For one, the audience for those shows determine this. Even among the rather homogeneous bunch who are the Korean drama audience in Korea, the audience of family dramas tend to be the least adventurous. Think of the people who watch CBS shows. We are not talking about the cutting edge here.

Another thing is that Korean culture at the moment is not particularity interested in self-reflection or self-discovery. It is just swell with glossing over important social, psychological, family issues. Thus, Korean dramas which need to cater to this, ends up only focusing on the tried-and-true architypes and topics that are non-threatening to the Korean audience because they have been so worn out to the degree that they are really no more than superficial decorations.  For examples, the husband of Ko Du-Shim’s character has a serious problem but family dramas just say “oh shucks! That is just him.” At the end of a Korean drama, no one deals with it and the show ends with everyone happy. But you know this will not last as the husband is still an addict.

It is just that now he has rich in-law to support his habit!

This is the same for the other characters. Nothing is really dealt with until everyone gets a rather arbitrary happy ending.

So Not Good…?

Can I blame “All About Mom” (2015) for being what it is?

This is not an easy question to answer. However, within the boundaries of its formula, “All About Mom” (2015) is pretty solid in its execution. The characters are clearly defined and the story is proceeding at a steady pace. Nothing is ambitious and thus there is no overreaching. It is very watchable even though I can guess and even write my own script not that dissimilar to the show’s script.

Can I ask more of this show?
Should I ask more?

While the cast is not doing anything spectacular with their roles, they are decent enough. If I were to evaluate the actors, Ko Du-Shim and Eugene fall into the “not bad!” category. Especially  Ko Du-Shim seems to be a bit on automatic drive mode but she has done this role so many times that her sleep walking on set is better than most. On the other hand, Kim Mi-Soo and Song Seung-Hwan seem to making the most of their characters. We have not seem a lot of them but they do keep you interested whenever they are on screen.

In regards to the others, they range from just “Okay” to “forgettable.” Sadly most of the younger cast fall into the latter. Lee Sang-Woo is more on the okay side. Compared to his role on “High Society” (2015), his current role is far less whinny which is always a plus.

At The End
“All About Mom” (2015) is a very cookie cutter Korean “Family drama” that makes okay cookies for store bought cookies. What more can I say?

As a side note, I like the fact that Eugene’s role is not that wet-blanket her last few roles were. I am talking about you, “Can We Love” (2014) and “Hundred Year Inheritance“(2013)!

I will give the show a solid B as my first impression. I wish it ends like it started. Nothing special but solid.

Score: B or 6.75 /10

This was Prof. AKIA and thanks for reading. Also try out my raffle I have with tickets costing $1.40. You also get early access to my new Korean drama fanedit. 

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