18 Again is JTBC’s currently airing Monday-Tuesday drama based on the 2009 American film, 17 Again, starring Zac Efron. I’M TELLING YOU GUYS: this show is the most wholesome, heartwarming, heartachey show on TV right now, and if you aren’t watching it already, you should. It’s funny and painful in all the right places, and Kim Haneul and Lee Do-hyun are absolutely killing it in their roles. In fact, the whole cast is just GREAT.
Our version stars Yoon Sang-hyun as the ajusshi version of Hong Dae-young. In his teens, Dae-young was a basketball player on the brink of greatness, but when he found out his girlfriend, Jung Da-jung, was pregnant, he dropped everything. With tears, earnest promises and a glorious sunburst, they poured themselves into their new life and family.
Fast-forward eighteen years and the roses are dead, the babies are sullen teens, and being a high-school dropout is a curse that dogs Dae-young’s heels. Da-jung (now played by Kim Haneul 😍) has achieved a degree and is struggling to realise her dreams of becoming a news anchor, but her late start sees her lose opportunity after opportunity, despite her obvious skill.
This is where the characters are at when we’re dropped into the show. We launch into its central conceit when, at the end of a spectacularly bad day, Dae-young goes out in the middle of the night to shoot some hoops. He challenges himself to make a particularly hard shot, and sends up a wish that if he gets it in, then he gets to “turn [it] back”. He makes the shot…
I’m really excited to welcome a new guest writer, who will be covering this show with me each week. Meet Saner (pronounced san-air), who is an award-winning writer, knitter, kimchi-maker, baby-wrangler, and more! She is one of my very favourite real-life K-drama pals and her belly-laughs make. my. day.
Saya: Let’s jump right in! Do you love this show, or do you love this show? 😂
Saner: Oh. My. GOODNESS. I am OBSESSED with this show. I absolutely love the writing, the characters…ALL OF THEM. The side characters are fleshed-out real people!
Well, kinda all of the characters. But the ones I dislike I’m not supposed to like, right? 😅
Saya: Oh darn, I am going to start out on a negative note then, and I hate doing that 😅 But: WHY did they have to go make Choi Il-kwon (Lee Ki-woo) a Bad Guy? I was genuinely enjoying his complexity as a reformed-bully-turned-PE-teacher, and now he’s all cartoony moustache-twirler.
Saner: Can I be honest? When he phoned bully Goo Ja-sung’s dad, as someone in the teaching profession, I found his laid back, relaxed kindness to be…odd. What, two boys have a physical bust-up and you brush it off like, “Well, everyone fights?” Well, no they don’t. And, also, I don’t know Ji-ho very well (at this point in time in the story), but he doesn’t seem like a fighter. So either you don’t know your kids very well or you’re just weird.
Saya: I agree that his take was really weird. But is that meant to be foreshadowing now? 😂 Seriously though, it’s my only gripe, and it’s not so much gripey as it is eye-rolling sigh. I really want to talk about the kids (I adore Ji-ho!), but shall we start off with the main characters? By which I mean, Da-jung, Da-jung, and Da-jung.
Saner: For a second, I thought it was a typo and then I realised it was just the truth you’d written, haha!
Saya: DA-JUNG IS OUR QUEEN.
Saner: SORRY BEYONCÉ!
Saya: NOT SORRY AT ALL
Sorry carry on 😂
Saner: I’m dying! Da-jung is kind of why I was feeling some way over Il-kwon being a potential love interest—she’s incredible. Like, really, truly, realistically incredible. And as a good guy, Il-kwon was a little bit…flat for me. She’s too complex for that sort of boring loveline. How is she so amazing? How?! I tried to explain the beauty of that Blackpink parody/rendition to a friend and I was genuinely lost for words. Ack, I’m going to stop because I could talk about her FOREVER.
Saya: I think you are going to need to explain it to me, I don’t know K-pop 😅 P.S. We are going to talk about her forever. Sort of. Steel yourselves, readers.
Saner: I’m not a K-pop aficionado myself…so if someone asked me, in my professional job, to learn a dance routine by a band and perform it and then discuss it…er, I mean, I’d do my best but I’d definitely have a giraffe-on-stilts-caught-in-headlights look about me. She does it so coolly and well that I had a hard time not thinking of the other professional dancers as her back-up dancers.
And it’s not her actual job.
Just something she prepped for a news segment.
Like…what the actual heck!?
Saya: Oh I get what you mean! I thought there was a hidden meaning in it that you had to K-pop to know. And you are right, she is FLAWLESS in that. She’s actually flawless in everything.
Saner: Impossible to overuse the word flawless when referring to Da-jung, so just be ready everyone.
Saya: It’s not that she’s this perfect heroine and has everything handed to her, because looool no. She struggles so hard. After getting pregnant with twins at 18, her life has been anything but expected, and at the point we are dropped into the show, her kids are high school seniors and she’s spent years working on getting herself up to scratch to make it as an anchorwoman. Where other people take expensive courses and study it out, she’s self-taught, practices endlessly, and is INCREDIBLE.
Saner: I love that she’s incredible by her hard work instead of being a geeeeeeenius. Her kindness and care is an integral part of her personality and that sometimes pays her back in terms of the warmth she gives off being reflected back to her. I remember a throwaway line about her graduating from university late and she mentions she wanted to wait for her kids to enter school…
Saya: About her graduation: I also laughed my head off when the interviewers at the blind casting wrongly calculate her age based on year of graduation. I cackled so hard.