Let's be brutally honest here. It's likely because of this face.
But even Seo In-guk's insane charm can only keep me watching a sub-par drama for so long.
Cafe Minamdang falls under the K-drama category of comedy-crime-procedural where characters solve weekly cases with lots of shenanigans while chasing an ultimate baddie who did something awful to our heroes personally and often professionally.
Examples of such dramas would be Bring It On, Ghost!, Fiery Priest, Catch the Ghost, and Police Academy.
These tend to be weekday dramas that don't ask much from the audience.
They are light, fast, frequently funny, and let you invest just enough emotionally to enjoy the show while it's airing and forget about it soon after.
I don't mean that they aren't well written or skillfully directed. It requires a lot of production effort to craft crime dramas that aren't taxing emotionally, but still deliver a satisfying viewer experience.
I'm trying to emphasize that these dramas are meant to be easy to watch.
And Cafe Minamdang is easy to watch.
It has a quick pace, a colourful palette, unexpectedly funny moments, and a commitment to poke fun at itself.
And sometimes that's enough.
I can't make myself care about the ritual obsessed serial killer or Han Jae-hee's childhood crush on Nam Han-joon.
But, I do enjoy the Minamdang team's dynamic and their individual quirks clashing in the middle of stakeouts and fighting criminals. It creates a second layer of narrative that keeps my attention until the next scene, and then the next.
I also like the police team members. Oh Yeon-seo's Jae-hee is most enjoyable when she's working with her team. As a less experienced detective, suddenly promoted to the head of a team, her relationship with her sunbae played by actor Jan Man-shik is one of the more genuine parts of the story.
I was also impressed by the unfolding of our protagonists' connection with the serial killer, especially with the scene where Nam Han-joon finds his friend's burning body.
So, there are something that I clearly like. But I'm still feeling disconnected from the show. And that's what I'm mourning when I see this face.
Because the story largely keeps its focus on Nam Han-joon and Han Jae-hee's relationship, and never were two "partners" less well matched.
Through most of the show, Seo In-guk infuses his own character with clownishness and charisma in equal parts.
When he's in scenes with Oh Yeon-seo he remains the same man, but adds hints of confusion and irritation to his reactions to her. He's affected by her, but he doesn't know why, so he often loses control of his mouth or temper.
On the other hand, while Oh Yeon-seo is calm, measured, and conscientious as a detective when she's with her team or with her prosecutor friend, as soon as she comes near Nam Han-joon, she loses all perspective and will sooner punch him than listen to anything he's saying.
Which doesn't sound as bad as it actually is. As a director's note for a character who has believed that Nam Han-joon is partially responsible for her brother's death, this is not unreasonable behaviour.
But somehow, it all goes wrong in the execution.
The drama having decided that this is an enemies to lovers romance, Han Jae-hee is allowed only one way to react to Nam Han-joon – aggressive distrust.
And this makes her do things that are unethical and unprofessional to say the least. Like, breaking into his home and hiding in his closet while he changes. Or punching him or threatening to punch him frequently.
There's no subtlety to Jae-hee's behaviour and no nuance that lets you sense where her emotions actually lie. The drama tells us that she's had a childhood crush on Han-joon, but it fails to show us any slow deepening of that affection in the adult Jae-hee.
And even on Han-joon's side, it's hard to see any feelings developing under his brash external facade.
So, while the drama tries to center the romance as the emotional linchpin of the story, the audience struggles to find anything to really connect with.
Now, not all crime dramas (comedy or dramatic) have a good romance. I would even argue that most of them have terrible romantic subplots that would have been better deleted in the draft.
But when you don't have a strong romance, you need to give your audience a different emotional center to invest into, and the perfect example of this was another Seo In-guk drama from 2015 called Hello Monster.
In that show, Jang Na-ra was also trapped under the burden of playing an extremely one note heroine and her chemistry with Seo In-guk was dead on arrival. But nobody really cared about that because the emotional core of the story was held by Park Bo-gum and Seo In-guk as brothers who were separated in childhood and had very different upbringings.
Now, the writer of Cafe Minamdang, Park Hye-jin, is also working on Seo In-guk's next project Smoking Gun, which will possibly be released later this year.
Here are the tags on its mydramalist page.
While the genre is right up Seo In-guk's alley, I can't say I'm very impressed with how this writer plots her crime thrillers.
And with a trope like amnesia thrown into the mix, I'm getting a very nervous feeling that I may be writing another post in six months wondering why I'm watching Smoking Gun and if this face is again to blame,