Telemad

TV review: K-dramas Kill Me Heal Me and What Happens To My Family?

A romantic-comedy with a split personality and a family drama keep me happy

Kill Me Heal Me is primarily a romance between a houseman in psychiatry (Hwang Jung Eum), her patient (Ji Sung) and at least one of the many fragments of his split personality.

It is also a comic freak show, a domestic drama and a multiple murder mystery. It isn't a typical schizoid K-drama though, even if it does happen to be one of a few recent shows with a mentally unstable protagonist. (Two others are the sassy It's Okay, That's Love and the overly fussy Hyde Jekyll, Me.)

Kill Me Heal Me distinguishes itself through a self-reflexive sense of fun, the sort where Oh Ri Jin (Hwang) meets Cha Do Hyun (Ji Sung) on a chaotic night at a club and realises that the story around them is going crazy.

She knocked him out minutes ago when he, a mild business heir mistaking her for a runaway mental patient, stood in the way of her retrieval of an actual patient.

Now he reappears, looking the same yet different, rocking a studded leather jacket, eyeliner and a laser-beam stare - and announcing that he, Shin Se Gi, fell in love after she threw him on the floor.

A motorcycle gang appears next, spoiling for a fight with Do Hyun/Se Gi over the jacket and Ri Jin's internal monologue revs up: "What is it now? Why did the genre change from romantic comedy to action?"

When a gangster asks Do Hyun/Se Gi to remove the jacket, Ri Jin wonders if she is watching an erotic bromance.

The writer of the show, Jin Soo Wan, wrote The Moon Embracing The Sun, the 2012 hit that finds the right tone for its amalgam of costume fantasy and idol drama.

She pulls off a similar trick with Kill Me Heal Me, sustaining the high energy of a screwball comedy through the curves and loops of the story.

There is at least one love triangle. Ri Jin is tied up in knots over how she is to help Do Hyun, the poor little rich boy who locks himself up in a top-security home at bedtime to prevent his alter egos from taking off in his body and making trouble when he is sleeping, and also whether she has fallen for his inner bad boy, Shin Gi.

When Shin Gi swoops in for a kiss and Do Hyun wakes up in that moment, who is she really kissing and responding to?

Then there are all the other people who take over Do Hyun's body, including Ferry Park, a beer-loving, bomb-making beach dude, Ahn Yo Sub, a suicidal teenage boy, and - the most dangerous and embarrassing of all - Ahn Yo Na, a hormonal teenage girl who runs wild in the vicinity of a K-pop event.

Do Hyun's dissociative identity disorder began as a result of a childhood trauma he couldn't face and it became a prison keeping him in a bizarre life he can't share.

And Ji Sung is at the heart of the show, giving a singular performance as Do Hyun and all his other selves.

His manner and his voice vary with each personality. He changes costumes - preppy for Do Hyun, gothic for Se Gi, Hawaiian shirts for Ferry - and yet loneliness seeps out of many of the selves, unchanging.

Now, K-drama hasn't been in the best of health for a year. No weeknight network drama has been a major hit since My Love From The Star, though there have been a few strong cable shows, such as Secret Affair (now on VV Drama).

What it means for K-drama addicts including myself is: We haven't had a good cry for too long.

But What Happens To My Family?, a weekend hit about a widower who sues his three children for failing in their filial duty, provides some relief.

He is a big softie, actually - as soft as the tofu he has sold for decades. Initially, none of the children - a secretary, an oncologist and an idler - understand why they are in trouble for little things such as missing the father's birthday.

It wasn't on purpose, they tried to be there but were too busy and isn't a parent's love supposed to be unconditional? He is supposed to love them whatever they do or don't, the daughter protests.

I won't spoil the show, except to say: Expect laughs, tears, guilt and warmth.

There's nothing ground-breaking here, but it is nice knowing that the Korean family drama is alive and well.

woeiwan@sph.com.sg