I'm not a huge stickler for K-Dramas, especially the ones with the recurring themes and corny romance lines, but I wouldn't do myself or this blog justice if I didn't talk about Hospital Playlist. The show (available on Netflix) is directed by Shin Won Ho, who's famous for his work on the "Reply" series as well as Prison Playbook. As an entertainment industry geek, my one fun fact here would be that Shin actually began his career (and in some ways still is) as a variety show producer - if you're American, think reality TV except better with slightly more real people.
One of the reasons Hospital Playlist has been so well received and also criticized is because of its lack of drama, which almost defies the medium itself. As we have been conditioned since the birth of the medical drama genre to expect dramatic sequences, ranging from a bomb threat to doctors randomly dying off (I'm looking at you Grey), a story about five friends who all happened to be doctors and the random things that actually happen at hospitals might not be the most engaging material. About 30% of the series is taken up by the large cast grabbing coffee together and having conversations that don't direct affect the overall plot. Furthermore, aside from the few romance plots being developed slowly, there really is not overall plot. The show is genuinely about the lives of doctors and other medical professionals and events that non-hospital personnel could live through the show.
While there are a couple recurring patients, another revolutionary aspect of Hospital Playlist in the world of medical dramas is its lack of focus on the patients. The hospital's clients are merely used as "tools" (an overly cynical way of seeing this, I know) to remind viewers that they are indeed watching a story about a hospital and to serve as various catalysts for character building of the five main characters. In fact, rather than being a medical drama that happens to have a cast of interesting characters, Hospital Playlist is really about people's rather normal lives, that happens to occur within a hospital. In an age where we constantly seek controversial and explosive experiences and headlines, the show is weird reminder that our lives are actually not that interesting and that's OK. Our constant desire to have it be more interesting than it ever will be is largely prompted by the media and their depictions of what life should be (whether you're a doctor, a high school chemistry teacher or a princess of the dragon kingdom), which we have eaten up since our parents put us in front of Disney Channel. So much of life in the post TV era places an inherent expectation that we will have the wildest of days, fate-driven love, and in essence to be the protagonist of our own stories.
If I had to criticize Hospital Playlist, since I don't want to be a total fanboy, I'd say that Season 2 is trying a little harder to have a little more flare. I don't blame Shin for this as the wildly popular Season 1 has set a certain level of expectations, even though much of its strong fan base likes the show because of its lack of flare. Because it's so great at serving as a parallel to our own lives, there are many aspects of the show that don't necessarily serve a purpose or contribute to an overall plot goal. For those of us who are so used to world building and expect the "Avengers Assemble" moment, this could be frustrating as we overthink every line delivered by the cast and wonder why certain plot lines don't resolve itself quicker (or ever). The last point of criticism stems more from jealousy rather than a fault of the show's production, but as you watch any of Shin's shows, you come to the realization that your friend groups will never have the tightness that his cast exhibit. It's not an understatement to say that he is obsessed with the idea of a group of friends who've grown up together, have crushes on each other, and continue to maintain their friendships throughout adulthood. This may be the least realistic part of the show as we all know maintaining a strong group of co-gender friends we traded crayons with until we buy crayons for our kids together is unlikely, if not impossible at best.
Whether you're interested in becoming a doctor and need some motivation after being distraught through Grey's Anatomy's 5,000 seasons or you want to learn Korean but don't want to see people with humanly impossible aesthetics speaking it (most of Shin's cast, for celebrities, aren't surreal), then Hospital Playlist is your show. If you're tired of your overly exciting life and want to experience what most people's lives feels like (at least the closest it'll get in a show without it being canceled for being too boring), queue it up on Netflix right now.