A contemporary drama following an extended, interconnected cast through the ups and downs of dating as an adult. If you’re expecting shades of Love Actually, you couldn’t be far off. Although it should be noted that for a Korean drama, it’s more of a mid-sized cast, not one of the over-large, 50-episode family dramas like You’re the Best Lee Soon Shin or Sparkle or Bluebird House.
I have no idea where the teeny-bopper-sounding name “Bubblegum” comes into play. Well, I could take a few guesses. The show does this absolutely charming thing where, occasionally, when a character feels like a child again, their present-day lines are delivered by a child actor dresses in the same clothes as the adult actor. This visual regression paired with the emotional regression into childhood is a really interesting feature.
If we’re to pick leads, the story follows an oriental medicin doctor Park Ri Hwan played by Lee Dong Wook (you know him from Blademan and My Girl) and Kim Haeng Ae, a radio producer, played by Jung Ryeo Won (you know her as the would-be young screenwriter in Lord of Drama). The two grew up together, raised by Ri Hwan’s single mother after Haeng Ae’s parents died.
In the opening episode, Haeng Ae leaves her older boyfriend, played by Lee Jong Hyuk (you know him from Cyrano Dating Agency and as the crazy friend on A Gentlemen’s Dignity although this time he’s much more . . . dour.) In fact, he’s a workaholic higher-up at Haeng Ae’s radio station. At the same time, Ri Hwan is set up on a blind date with a dentist who’s constantly belittled by her mother for her weight or not having any fashion sense.
My kdrama spidey sense wants to try and ship the male and female leads, but I really like Haeng Ae’s older man, and I want the dentist to get her perfect man more than anything. Although Ri Hwan clearly makes her heart flutter—she’s branching out, trying new things, making heartbreaking efforts because of her interest in him and the security she feels around him—he’s interested in her, but he’s not really right for her. The incident with the watch is really what tips the scale on that one. Still, my heart goes out to her.
Meanwhile Haeng Ae’s ex-boyfriend repeatedly calls out Ri Hwan for being too close to Haeng Ae. And he is. Ri Hwan, however, hasn’t yet figured out if his role as oppa is as a big brother oppa or boyfriend oppa.
It’s a bit too nuanced to go into here, but the supporting cast is getting really interesting. )articularly the parents and aunts. Particularly Haeng Ae’s show writer friend; she’s a fascinating woman. Both for the hints at her history and for the fact that she scares the crap out of one of their bosses, a man who is a divorced screw up, who is somehow ridiculously sexy—and they’re totally going to become a couple. I hope. There’s family history to unravel. There’s health scares a plenty. And there’s plenty of extended friends family and co-workers to discover how they’re all connected. In spite of its teeny-bopper name, I’m really looking forward to watching the rest of Bubblegum as it airs.
Ultimately, I did not end up finishing the series Bubblegum and cannot recommend it.