Of all the fairy tales, Cinderella, with a plot that turns on a glass slipper, surely enjoys the widest currency in the consumerist age.
It has served as a template for stories from Pretty Woman, the 1990 retail-driven Hollywood romance, to Boys Over Flowers, the 1992-2003 high-school Cinderella manga that has been endlessly adapted for television.
In many of the stories, superior style is the man's calling card and it is a power he transfers to the woman by shopping with her or sending her presents.
In the new K-drama Shopaholic Louis, this norm is pushed and stretched in directions that are satirical and yet endearing.
The Prince Charming here, Louis (Seo In Guk), is an infantile heir to a retail group and to him, shopping is everything. It is his skill (he has a good eye and fast fingers, which serve him well in online bidding wars), his instinct (he can't even watch a documentary without spotting a thing he can buy), and the only freedom he is allowed by his overprotective grandmother and servants, who monitor his every move in his palatial home in France.
Somehow he wakes up one day on the streets in South Korea, having lost everything - his possessions, his memory - except his sweet nature and exquisite taste.
His saviour, Bok Sil (Nam Ji Hyun), is a down-and-out country lass in Seoul who adopts him despite feeling just as lost in the city. She is looking for her runaway brother, whose disappearance may be linked to Louis, whom she found inexplicably wearing her brother's tacky tracksuit.
Now she has to feed Louis, share a tiny rooftop unit with him and rehabilitate him - teaching him new skills such as peeling garlic and asking for refunds on purchases he can no longer afford.
The comic premise is that although he is a knucklehead in most aspects of life, he is still a shopping savant. And it starts paying off in Episode 6, when the drama gathers pace and he becomes a social media sensation with his candid product reviews.
VIEW IT / SHOPAHOLIC LOUIS
Viu the website and app, any time on demand; Oh!K (StarHub TV Channel 816 or Singtel TV Channel 525); Thursdays and Fridays, 8pm
Bok Sil's boss, Joong Won (Yoon Sang Hyun), a retail executive launching a brand that Louis has condemned, lets him live in his posh pad in exchange for his silence. Louis agrees, then drives Joong Won up the wall with the princely way he expects things to be done for him around the house.
Does this sound more annoying than amusing? But as played by Seo (Reply 1997, 2012), Louis is such an adorable, if high-maintenance, pup.
And Bok Sil has a bond with Louis - a boyfriend, baby, pet and fashion adviser all rolled into one - that is closer than close. Their relationship is charming to me, though it may be too well-sprinkled with bedtime-story stardust for others.
As their neighbour tells his mother, the starry-eyed couple "have some kind of a belief system you'd never understand. Just go to sleep".
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