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TV reviews: In Korean drama Legend Of The Blue Sea, Gianna Jun is brilliant as otherworldly goofball of a mermaid

Legend Of The Blue Sea, about a mermaid and a con man, is another inter-species romance from the writer of My Love From The Star

In case you have been living under a rock, Legend Of The Blue Sea is the latest romance by Park Ji Eun, the writer of the 2013-2014 blockbuster K-drama about a 400-year-old alien and his human girlfriend, My Love From The Star.

Legend tells two parallel tales of love between a mermaid (Gianna Jun) and a human (Lee Min Ho). The main thread is a clever fish-out-of-water comedy where Shim Chung (Jun), a mermaid with superhuman strength and a pre-school-level grasp of the complexities of modern-day life, meets her opposite, con man Joon Jae (Lee), in Spain and follows him back to South Korea.

Also, in a tricky style that is turning into Park's trademark or shtick, every episode opens with a mini chapter of the other story, a period melodrama where a lord (Lee) saved a mermaid (Jun) from a captor 430 years ago and closes with an outtake that contains either a joke or an elaboration on a plot point.

Actually, in numerous parts, Park appears to assume you have been living under a rock or have the memory of a fish. Legend dives into elements that are similar to My Love - a star-crossed, centuries-spanning inter-species love story, a killer-on-the-loose subplot - seemingly unafraid to invite a sense of deja vu.


Legend Of The Blue Sea's Lee Min Ho and Gianna Jun (both above); and Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim's Han Seok Kyu, Yoo Yeon Seok and Seo Hyun Jin. PHOTO: ONE

The ace Legend has up its sleeve, though, is the unexpected see-saw dynamics of the relationship between Shim Chung and Joon Jae.

Unlike in My Love, where Jun was an airhead in distress and had to be saved all the time by her boyfriend from outer space, the present-day lovers in Legend are equals, more or less.

Traipsing around waterside scenic spots, Shim Chung and Joon Jae get chances to rescue each other surreptitiously or openly in sequences that deftly combine action, comedy and romance.

A languid bicycle chase through a seaside town in Episode 2, with the ballad Clair on the soundtrack, is a standout. As the con man pedals away, the mermaid seated behind him kicks out at his pursuers without him noticing and without breaking the mood of the love song.

Legend Of The Blue Sea's Lee Min Ho and Gianna Jun; and Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim's (from far left) Han Seok Kyu, Yoo Yeon Seok and Seo Hyun Jin.
Legend Of The Blue Sea's Lee Min Ho and Gianna Jun; and Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim's (from far left) Han Seok Kyu, Yoo Yeon Seok and Seo Hyun Jin. PHOTO: ONE

In Episode 5, when she fumbles around trying to do her first job, handing out fliers, he leads a ridiculous rescue mission from the other side of the pavement, paying strangers to take the handbills from her and treat her gently.

  • VIEW IT /LEGEND OF THE BLUE SEA

  • ONE (StarHub TV Channel 820 and Singtel TV Channel 513), Thursdays and Fridays, 8.10pm

    3.5/5 stars

    ROMANTIC DOCTOR, TEACHER KIM

    ONE, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8.10pm Viu website and app, Any time on demand

    3/5 stars

It's a joke that scores at many levels. Jun is brilliant as the otherworldly goofball who is blissfully unaware of the mission to save her self-worth. Lee is a match for her, as a cunning man who thinks he doesn't care about others and who knows his own heart less well than he thinks.

The show's trickery dissolves here, leaving a sweet bit about two fools in love.

The more I see of Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim, the less I am sure it is a Korean medical drama.

There are good doctors, bad doctors and ugly emergency-room cases. There is a small-town hospital on the last frontier of medical integrity, where a somewhat lawless surgeon, Teacher Kim (Han Seok Kyu), still puts his patients before his career.

A doctor (Yoo Yeon Seok) who is losing his moral compass will surely find it again, after he is banished to the hospital for botching an operation.

The surgeons swagger in and out like cowboys and the show feels like a kimchi western.

It is most alive not so much when they are treating patients as when they are having a showdown with one another: good doctors versus bad careerists, courage versus cowardice, white versus black.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'My love from the sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe