Episode 1 (First impressions) » Dramabeans Korean drama recaps

Dr. Park’s Clinic: Episode 1 (First Impressions)

Well, this is not what I was expecting. More low-budget comedy series than high-profile cable comedy, Dr. Parks Clinic Weird as I expected, while not providing the laughs I was hoping for. Maybe it was just me?

Episode 1 First Impressions

I really wanted to laugh, but I’ll admit right away that this drama didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t the performances or even the introduction – I think it was the execution. Trying a little too hard, perhaps?

The drama begins with a fun cameo of Park Sung Woong, a highly successful doctor with a flashy car and a fancy office and patients adore the ground he walks on. This guy is the pinnacle of success (according to our story anyway), and that’s what our hero DOCTOR PARK WON-JANG did (Lee Seo Jin) dreams about. He visits his idol, and the contrast between the “successful” doctor and our miserable and misguided hero couldn’t be more acute.

In contrast to Park Sung Woong’s flashy entrance, we watched Won Sang enter his new clinic. It’s all about the opposite of polarity – from a pinch of a penny to an empty waiting room.

Won-sang not only has lofty dreams of material success, but also has a home to support. His wife is Sa Mu Rim (Ran Mi Ran) spends his money before he makes it, even though half of it is well-meaning and in celebration of finally opening his own clinic.

It’s hard to explain the tone of this drama—and that’s the part that didn’t land for me. All of these personal introductions and plot settings permeate an ironic and fourth wall-breaking element that I wasn’t expecting. We watch Won Sang or his wife or the nurse who works at his clinic act out the scene in front of them – then we cut short talking to them straight to the camera and cut off the BS, so to speak.

One such example might be one afternoon when NURSE CHA MI-YOUNG (Cha Chung-hwa) to Won-sang’s office. She worries that he needs to eat and inflate – but when we cut into her simulated section, we know she only cares if he eats today because she’s craving a dish from a nearby restaurant that won’t deliver unless you order more than one serving. While I totally get the humor, and how the fictional live title clips are supposed to turn the story around, I can’t say I really enjoyed them.

Which brings me to a little criticism I wasn’t expecting: the production comes on a very low budget. I was expecting different from an original from TVING, but I think they’ll go with that everyday theatrical feel, shaky handheld camera action and all. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but it’s a little annoying when you’re familiar with the awesome, adorable products we see in regular primetime. My eyes got used to the feast. They are spoiled.

Won-sang struggles to get any patients at all, and connects with nearby professionals through their own medical practices. Here he gets all kinds of quirky advice, like a gastroenterologist’s advice to offer sympathy to patients via exaggerated baby talk. She even had Won Sang rehearse her line about how badly your rectum is injured, and reassured her patient, “I’ll make sure your rectum smiles brightly!” Again, this must be funny, I love Lee Seo-jin and I want this to work, but I still feel like I’m sitting on the outside of this story and can’t get in.

This leads me to my main conclusion from the drama, which is that the characters are not presented in a way that makes us connect with them, or feel them. While we can share Won-sang’s horror when his first patient finally arrives a halmoni who wants to cut her emaciated nails (since it’s a fake LOL moment of horror), it still doesn’t draw us into the characters or the story. Again, this may just be the style of drama and storytelling. Admittedly, my experience with sitcoms is new, and I’ve never really enjoyed them, so my point is probably far from challenging here.

However, it is difficult to get attached to characters or to their dreams. Although we see sad evidence of Won-sang’s flaws (both present and past, especially with that awful flashback from the NICU), I don’t feel about him the way I want to. And it’s not just because I know his motives are suspect – it’s just because the story wasn’t delivered that way.

Perhaps the answer to that lies in the balance of satire versus story. If you go into this expecting a full-on comedy-drama (which it definitely did) and get the barebones sitcom instead, that in and of itself explains the dissonance.

I’m sure there will be others who really enjoyed this, although the tone and delivery are really different – and there are story elements that really work. Lee Seo-jin’s constant wagging of an eyebrow at his wife is great, as is the obvious way the drama talks about Won-sang’s motivations, how he treats his kids, or his PPL periods — I wish it was delivered in a different package.

Editor’s note: We are reorganizing our usual editorial reviews into First Impressions to better reflect what they are (erm, first impressions). It’s also a way for us to survey interest in continuing to cover the drama.

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