First off the bat(club?), I have to say that most of what I know about golf could be reduced to the knowledge that Tiger Woods used to be it and now he’s not, 3-Iron and checkered pants. Secondly, I am not a sports TV show person, never really have been, save for perhaps watching some sports anime back when I was a kid(and Hana Kimi, does Hana Kimi count?) Also, Uee? Was not my cuppa tea, especially not the idea of her playing cutesy and in need of rescuing, which is, let’s face it, a must do for KDrama heroines, at least at some point. She’s not really the cute type of person – mainly why her Yoo He Yi worked so well, because it played exactly on that whole contradiction. That being said, I never considered her a bad actress, on the contrary, I always thought she showcased above average acting skills, especially considering Yoo He Yi was, as far as I know, her first part and the fact that she’s not primarily an actress. Either way, Birdie Buddy popped on my radar several times, but popped right out of sight again for the above mentioned reasons(and because it kept being dropped by TV stations). And then, one time, I caught a mention of an extended trailer having been released, and since I was going through a severe bout of YFFM withdrawal, I figured I’d check it out.
It was by no means a bad trailer, but what I remembered from it was that it had to do with golf, parental issues and a really hot guy(now that I think about it, that’s a pretty accurate description of what my opinion is two episodes into the show, just maybe with an extra really in front of the really hot guy). So today, once again going through YFFM withdrawal, I surf the web in search of a quick fix. I even break my promise of not watching Protect the Boss before YFFM ends, but I stop halfway through the first episode because it isn’t what I need. It’s a tad too crazy, tongue in cheek and cynical to fit the bill. Then I remember Birdie Buddy. A story about young people trying to achieve their dreams despite whatever difficulties life throws at them? So what if it’s about sports and not about music, right? Right, except what I’m jonesing for is light and atmospheric and dreamy and charming, with a soundtrack to die for. So basically I went in with my expectations on low, in a hoping against hope kind of mind frame.
But there I am, two minutes into the drama, grinning like an idiot, moisture levels in my eyes at unusual quotas, remembering little girl me watching gymnastics on TV and wishing that one day I’d be like those girls, then jumping on beds, climbing furniture and doing a bunch of other acrobatics that should come with a “do not try this at home” warning. Needless to say, receiving a punch in that particular soft spot was not what I expected. As the two episodes continued, the drama kept both adding to and subtracting from that initial feeling, but never reaching a level where I would want to stop watching or where I would stop caring about the characters involved, quite the opposite in fact.
The drama opens with Mi Soo (later to be played by Uee) watching a golf tournament being won by a Korean golf champion whose name I can’t recall(yes, I know it’s lousy of me). The champion in question has to take a nigh impossible shot, but manages to pull it off regardless, to Mi Soo’s delight. Inspired by the victory and the way in which it was achieved, little Mi Soo wants to start playing golf but her family can’t afford the rather steep tuition fees. One day though, while doing some chores, she finds her mother’s old golf club in the garage(her mother used to be a caddy). The club glimmers in the sunlight, calling to her, all Excalibur-like and she pulls it out from under the pile of garage junk as if King Arthuring it from the stone. I really like the way they chose to present the whole “meant to be” thing because it’s both hilarious and belonging to that age, when every day you stumble upon a treasure of some sort and feel like a conquering hero, even if your treasure is something your parents had discarded in the back of the garage.
Mi Soo’s family’s financial situation is not great. Not because her parents are hopelessly incompetent or have a gambling problem but because they are just regular people with limited financial means who work hard to support their kids but who never get close to luxury or to affording a series of things. It’s an element I greatly appreciate and that I am extremely grateful for, because if there is something I have developed rather strong allergies for when it comes to KDramas it’s the whole incompetent/on the run from loan sharks parents and the heroine trying to fish them out of trouble while also fending for herself. Anyway, because of the tight financial situation, Mi Soo and her young friends think of a way for her to get the money for the golf lessons – picking up mushrooms in the forest and selling them. This requires a night-time operation, and off they go, except two thirds of the trio get scared and run off, leaving Mi Soo to take care of business by herself. She finds the mushrooms and proceeds to pick them up, but slips and rolls down a hillside and over the edge of a rather steep slope, where she stops because the golf club she has taken to carrying everywhere gets caught in some roots. She hangs on tight as her parents look for her, but it’s only in the morning that they finally find her and pull her to safety. As they carry her home, her mother notices the blisters on her hands from having held on to the club handle, and Mi Soo confesses that as she was hanging there, in danger of losing her life, she thought “If I hang on to this(the club), I can live.” Again, a rather cool metaphor for what golf is to become to her(or has already become) – a lifeline. The kid does not lack a sense of timing because she also asks her parents to pay for her golf classes. Her parents agree, but, I mean, who could refuse the daughter they’ve just pulled out of the claws of death, right? Thus begins Mi Soo’s golf career and more or less concludes the childhood part of the episode. I’d have to say this segment was my favorite out of the first episode, because it was rather sweet and genuine. My only qualm, and it’s a minor one, is Yoon Yoo-Seon’s slight overacting, but I’ll take that as her trying to play youthful mom to an 8 year old as opposed to later playing mother to a 20-year old. Besides, after her short yet memorable stint as “Angelina Jolie” in My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, I’d forgive her anything. Once you smooch a statue’s butt, you pretty much become a Hall of Famer.
Uee’s first appearance as Mi Soo is a tad jarring, because within seconds, she pulls some Yoo He Yi face(in a moment when it wasn’t warranted, or rather when she was required to seem cute interacting with a nice ahjussi), but after the initial shock, it’s pretty much smooth sailing, with just a few minor bumps on the road. The aforementioned ahjussi is her best friend(Yoo In Na)’s dad, who is a security guard at a golf course and who had been letting her practice there in the mornings for the past 12 years. We get to meet the rest of the family, including Mi Soo’s brother, who then happens to meet a mysterious stranger who’s hairdo puts most manes of glory to shame and whom we shall henceforth refer to as Hot Rasta Guy(until a new nickname comes up or he gets rid of the Rasta, in which case Hot Guy will do just as well *ahem*). The stranger is looking for a particular place unfindable by use of a map, so the brother offers assistance. Later that evening, the two go out for drinks, except Hot Rasta Guy only drinks water, something the brother finds weird and proceeds to spike his drink with some soju. True to the saying “if you leave your glass unattended, you will wake up in a stranger’s bed” (okay, I know that’s not a saying, but it… should…be?), HRG wakes up in Mi Soo’s brother’s bed. Since two sips of soju seem to be way beyond his power of assimilation, he is still pretty drunk when he goes out to take a leak, so the sly devil mistakes Mi Soo’s room for her brother’s and crawls into bed with her. Not necessarily the most inspired course of action, since Mi Soo’s idea of a teddy bear is her golf club. And while there are worse things that could happen than waking up next to a guy with that level of hotness, she is less than pleased (dude, it’s the hair), so she proceeds to kick him out and chase after him with her trusty number 8. Luckily, he has great reflexes, so he secures a washbasin and uses it as a shield from Excalibur’s vengeful attacks. Eventually, the brother wakes up and clears the misunderstanding. Everyone’s fine and they all return to sleep, more or less ruffled.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have the other female golfer(Lee Da Hee), who has been groomed to be a golfer from a young age by her golf-resort-owning mother. The mother is a pretty standard KDrama ambitious mother type, so naturally, the kid is rather messed up and chock full of mommy issues, but she is also a golfing champion and seems to enjoy playing the sport, so least there is that. She is the reason why HRG aka John Lee(no connection to City Hunter) is here, since she posed being trained and caddied by him as a condition for her return. Hey, I’ve seen people pose worse conditions. There’s obviously some kind of history between these two, but it’s of yet uncertain if the interest is mutual or one sided. Either way, apparently HRG doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to do or stay anywhere he doesn’t want to stay, he’s a free spirit in that way, so the fact that he’s here now obviously shows some kind of interest in the person or situation in question.
Except his interest is about to be swerved by none other than Mi Soo, when he wakes up in the morning and sees her practicing. I’m not sure if it’s because of her golfing skills or because of the shorts she’s wearing, the cheeky half-smile on his face is a bit ambiguous, but either way he approaches for a closer look. He tells her she needs to straighten her back and places his hands on her to adjust her position. Naturally, this does not go down quite as well as it was intended and he gets chased away once again.
But it does not end here, because the trailer he’s taken residence in is placed on the exact spot where Mi Soo sends all the balls when practicing, unknowingly waking him up the next day and then getting him to put those great reflexes to use in order to dodge the golf balls/projectiles. He realizes who the culprit is when she comes by to pick up her balls, but by then Hae Ryung(Lee Da Hee) had already come by, so it all ends with a face off between the two. Both show impressive skills, but Hae Ryung points out it’s not just about strength, it’s also about precision, a valid point, but that doesn’t mean HRG is less impressed later when he goes to check out the scene and realizes the ball Mi Soo had sent had become embedded into the wall. ‘Cause I guess strength is cool too, when you’re that strong.
All well and good, but it turns out that Mi Soo isn’t the only one in her family with a dream. Her brother also dreams of becoming a musician, but since most of the family’s financial focus had been on Mi Soo’s golfing(to the point of getting her parents into some pretty heavy debt – oh please don’t let this mean they’ll be on the run from loan sharks later on), he was never given much of a chance to work for it. He doesn’t even have an instrument, which is why he took a job playing at a night club in hopes of raising money to buy one. One night, though, he runs into his father as he is still wearing the night club clothes, and not wanting to be punished, he dashes off on his scooter and gets into an accident. It’s not serious, but it puts the family in a position where they have to compensate the victim for getting his teeth broken and also pay a fine to get the brother out of jail. The only problem is, there is no money for compensation or fine paying since it’s all been spent on Mi Soo’s golfing. This pretty much gives the father the push he needed to ask Mi Soo to stop her expensive pursuit of the sport, telling her that it’s taking too big a toll on the family and especially her mother who had been exhausting herself in an attempt to support her. Mi Soo can’t really argue with the points her father is making, so the next day she goes and sells off her golf clubs so she can pay for her brother’s release from jail. Coincidentally, just as she is begging the shop owner to buy the clubs from her at a decent price, John Lee walks in and overhears the whole thing. Understanding what golf means to her and not wanting to let her give up, he challenges her to a match with Hae Ryung as payment for bombarding his mobile home and breaking a window.
So far, the show has been a tad uneven, with some inspiring/warm’n fuzzying moments and a few misses here and there, but I feel that so far the good outweighs the bad. Because I started off saying I checked it out in an attempt to find something YFFM had made me miss, I would say it isn’t really so much like YFFM but more like Dream High, in terms of mood and characters and straightforward dream chasing-ness. What I appreciated was that it has a nice dose of realism to it, especially Mi Soo’s family – Hae Ryung’s is rather typical chaebol, with the overachieving coldhearted mother who uses the daughter to reach her goals, and the blasé yet competent daughter. But as I was saying, I found Mi Soo’s family rather realistic, with the little problems between the parents, and the issues between siblings – one is supported in the other’s detriment, which might be a great source of future conflict. Most of all, I like the situation, being in danger of giving up on a dream not because of some interfering force or some malefic elements plotting to throw obstacles in the hero’s path, but because of something as banal and commonplace as the financial situation of a family doing their best and still not managing to make ends meet – something quite common in the real world and I’ve seen enough examples of it to know. I mean sure, there’ll be your textbook villains and your conspiracies, I’m pretty sure Hae Ryung’s mother will take care of that, but initially, the problem is holding on to a dream even though everything in your life is telling you it’s not suitable to.
Uee’s portrayal of Mi Soo feels a little scattered, as if she hasn’t fully embraced the character yet, but I do think it’s not so huge an issue so as to not work itself out as the show progresses. I like the character, she seems determined, fiery and no-nonsense enough to suit Uee, like I said, I think I would have stopped watching if I had to witness a forced cutesy fest, and I like the chemistry between Uee and Lee Yong Woo. It’s all been bantery antagonism so far, him nonchalantly provoking her and then being amused that she gets pissed off. I’m not sure how much acting prowess is required to be able to do that, but they are both acquitting themselves of the task rather well because the scenes they are in are the best in the show and really worth watching.
Lee Da Hee as Hae Ryung is rather bland so far. I guess partly it’s because she’s supposed to be reserved, cool/cold and a little tortured, but still, most of what I could get was bland. Her chemistry with Lee Yong Woo is nowhere near the level it reaches between him and Uee, which is unfortunate since the characters in question are supposed to have a shared history of some sort. But seeing as the show is still very young, there’s plenty of time for things to get better, especially since they are in no way abysmal to begin with.
And last, but by golly, not least, Lee Yong Woo. The man is scorching hot. Not only is he pretty to look at, but the camera obviously loves him because the sex appeal he exudes in bucket-fulls crosses right over to the viewer. I didn’t have much faith in the guy before watching this, considering that he is a dancer turned actor(or so I heard), and I had read somewhere that he has been known to produce some dire performances, but to be honest, from what I’ve seen so far, he’s nowhere near bad and I’d probably still watch the show even if it went all the way to Suckville just to catch a few more glimpses of that smirk. Okay, so I’d probably fast forward a LOT if that were to happen, but still, the intention is there.
The first two episodes rely heavily on chance encounters and happen-to-be-theres, but that’s generally the case with a lot of first episodes so I’m hoping it won’t be a show-long trend. Basically, I’ma keep watching and perhaps even recapping because far as I could see, it’s a show that has a lot of heart and good intentions(aside from the attractive cast), so I’m hoping for a pleasant surprise.