Modern Farmer review: one of the funniest kdramas I’ve seen

Like a friend who has overstayed his welcome, Modern Farmer crawled to its finale last week which was at once a relief and a bit bittersweet. Though I started this show without expectations, and ended up being pleasantly surprised, I did hope it would have done many things better than it ended up doing. Why can’t we just take shows as they come? Why this perverse need to want them to do things we want?

This was one of those shows of the ‘non-makjang’ brand that SBS experimented with. The viewer-ratings showed how indifferent the public was to the change, but I appreciated the willingness to do something different. The thing I liked most about this show was how it created this utterly ridiculous world of Hardurok-ri and filled it with characters that were a shade deeper than mere quirks and how it could have sustained the narrative over several more episodes had it so chosen and had there been no urgent goal in sight.

It was like a daily drama or Korean ‘sit-com’ that way. But those are usually 30 mins long. Like High Kick 1. (Where I admit to have never FF-ed the older cast’s scenes. Gulp! I must really be a Halmo and not a mere ajumma.) My liking this show might also have something to do with my love for Korean dramas in a village setting (aside from my love of the ridiculous): Like the Hongs’ Couple or Trouble which is generally not as liked by everyone as their other works but which I really enjoyed.

While it could have sustained the story over many episodes with no immediate story goals, this particular story did not need to be 20 episodes long. There was a halt in any visible plot movement after the halfway mark (and it left us with some unanswered plot threads after all that, grr). We only saw the love quintuplet go around in circles, week in week out.

This show could have been awesome in a dumb, crazy way with shorter episode lengths and fewer episode counts. And I wish it could have just been dumb and dumber without being a gob of sentimental goo but we cannot seem to take sentimentality out of K-dramas. Strangely, this sentimental streak is what made the quirky people resemble people and made us care. So, I don’t know if I don’t secretly like the sentimentality.

Looking back, I’m surprised I stuck with the show for 20 eps! There was absolutely no FF, either. Maybe because it aided as a mood freshener every week. It would often crack me up, but, mostly, it never failed to make me smile, and sometimes made we shed a few tears. While everyone calls this show a brainless, I do think there was some cleverness involved somewhere – you can’t be this dumb by being … dumb.

So, my takeaway lesson from Modern Farmer:

Weekly watches sucker you into watching and completing middling shows.
Life is like a heap of cabbages. (And here I thought it was like a box of chocolates.)

Here’s a visual progression of my emotional state as the show crawled to the finish line. It might also work as a record of the mental state of a live K-drama watcher over the course of several weeks:

Stage 1: Attraction: When faults endear.

Stage 2: Rationalisation: When plot points or characters hook. Against your better judgment.

Stage 3: Doubt: When Logic comes a-calling. Things aren’t making much sense, are they?

Stage 4: Stubborn refusal to accept reality: Also known as Hope (of things getting better).

Stage 5: Incredulity that things aren’t improving: But wait, it will get better… soon…

Stage 6: Acceptance: It’s not going where you want it to but you need to see things through. Because? It’s the way of the world. Also, adulthood. Or, is it?

Stage 7: Self-disclosure: Adulthood, my ass. You kept watching because you cared, didn’t you? The freaks made you care. You cared about freaks. That’s just… humanity.

(Who’s that snerking?) This is the Final Stage: Paranoia: When defense mechanisms overwork.

Take home message: Life is caring about freaks of humanity. Life is also a lump of cabbages. So make kimchi while you can.

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