It's something that I've been noticing these past cycles of Korean dramas. Any regular kdrama follower is familiar with Korea's mini-series shows; romance-based stories told in 16-20 one hour-long episodes aired twice a week. Plot lines are always set in a variety of contexts, from ER or Grey's Anatomy-type medical backdrops, to CSI-type police/forensics/prosecution backgrounds, to just "ordinary" poor girl meets ridiculously rich and perfect guy situations. I've realized a stupidly repetitive formula for all kdramas airing these past couple of years, but that's for another post.
Anyways, I've followed dramas from all three of the major broadcasting stations: KBS, MBC, and SBS, and for a while I preferred the ones produced from SBS. I'm not exactly sure why but they've been coming up with story lines that interested me the most. However, somewhere along the line tvN were producing dramas that were much more original and fun to watch.
The first round (I'm hesitant to call it a "season") of I Need Romance was awesome; it was like a Sex and the City type girly friendships dealing with the lack of romance in their lives and other boy problems. Compared to the other kdramas sticking to the formula, it was one of the first realistically feeling drama I'd seen in a really really long time (I want to say ever, but I need to reflect on that a bit longer).
Shut up Flower Boy Band was pretty ridiculous, but there was a sense of reality in the friendship of a group of high school students, whose journey takes them from struggling to get into the competitive music industry to struggling with each other because of the fame that followed them. I like dramas that are more realistic.
I Need Romance 2 recently began to air, which I was ecstatic about. I was worried that it was going to be too similar to the first installment of the "series", which seemed like it was going to be in the first episode but they're clearly taking a different route with each of the base three girl friends so I'm good. Watching the first couple of episodes I couldn't get the original characters from the first installment out of my head, but it's only been 4 episodes now, so hopefully the characters will become more charismatic to stick.
If I may digress a little...
I was happy to see Kim Ji-Seok in I Need Romance 2. The last drama I saw him in was Personal Taste as the pathetic cheating ex-boyfriend, then he disappeared for a while to serve in the army. He re-appeared a couple months ago on Strong Heart with Lee Jin-Wook (who's also starring in INR2) after they finished their military service as requested by MC Lee Dong-Wook. I crushed on him a little since then and after seeing his character in INR2, I love him. I love not seeing him as the pathetic cheating ex-boyfriend character and his "LOL that girl is adorably helpless" expression is so cute. Although admittedly, as discussed in that Strong Heart episode, his bff Lee Jin-wook is a bit hotter...
Another actor that's recently surprised me a bit because of character change is Uhm Ki-Joon. I remember him as the crazy hilarious character in the sitcom Kimchi Cheese Smile, and although he has played a ton of more serious and deep characters since then, I haven't been able to shake that funny guy image from him. But, I've been watching the new drama Phantom/Ghost religiously, and seeing him as the mastermind villain is finally erasing the old image I held of him. He's actually kinda scary in Phantom, like really creepy :/
I'll finish this post with a recommended kdrama roundup that are still airing:
Phantom (if you're interested in police chases and cyber crimes/hacking with a touch of romance)
I Need Romance 2 (Sex and the City + friends with benefits)
The Chaser (blackmailing political douchebaggery + police on the run)
... and I hear The Bridal Mask is good, but following that would've made my drama list way too intense for my liking.