“Hot Stove League” is one of those kdrama that enjoyed great popularity in its country but not as much overseas. So if you’re wondering whether you should check out “Hot Stove League,” I am here to help you make the decision.
Today, we’re going to talk about “Hot Stove League” in a spoiler-free review. I’ll talk about my thoughts on the drama and whether I think it was good or not. I’ll also try to talk about different POVs to help you decide.
Note: this review is subjective, but I will try my best to include different POVs in it.
The basic idea of “Hot Stove League” is that a newly appointed general manager (played by Namgoong Min) is here to bring change to a baseball team who has remained in the bottom rank of the league for a while. Using his wits and tactics, he helps reform the team and the management around it.
Right of the bat, let’s establish that there is no romance in this drama and it focuses a lot on the technicalities around baseball and players and the jargon that goes with it.
Personally speaking, I have no knowledge of baseball nor any interest. Still, I was able to enjoy “Hot Stove League” because of the storyline and the acting. I found the drama well made, it had its boring moments due to the script format but it was very enjoyable; for the most part; and satisfying to watch.
It seems that whoever wrote the script has deep knowledge and know-how of baseball. I was surprised by how detailed the script was. Usually, kdramas; even when made about specific topics; don’t get into the nitty-gritty details about what it’s focusing on, that’s not the case with “Hot Stove League.”
Now, if you happen to be a baseball fan and a kdrama fan, then you really don’t need to read this review any longer. Go watch it, you’ll find it enjoyable and interesting, it’ll keep you glued to your seat.
However, if you have no knowledge of baseball, then I suggest you continue reading.
The word “Stove League” means “off-season” and it refers to baseball gatherings in offseason where all the business takes part such as trades, recruit, signing new contracts and such. So the drama doesn’t focus much on actually playing baseball. If you had no idea about baseball, you’d probably never had guessed that the drama wouldn’t include much about playing baseball even when the title itself gives that away.
The basic idea of “Hot Stove League” is pretty enjoyable and interesting, not that a story about a general manager helping a company become better wasn’t done before, but the dedication and attention paid to details is something to admire. You can tell the writer really worked hard on the script.
But the thing I’m praising “Hot Stove League” for is the same thing I have an issue with. If you’re a fan of the actors but not much of baseball, you’ll be slightly bored with the details in each episode. Some episodes are fixated on one issue and they spend two hours or runtime trying to fix it and bring about change. It’s fun the first couple of times, but that becomes tedious as the same cycle (with different issues) gets repeated over and over again.
The format of each episode goes something like this: the general manager is confronted by an issue, the issue grows bigger and a lot of people oppose his solution, it looks like he lost, then he flips it up side down by doing something behind the scenes to fix it. The general manager Baek Seung Soo always has a solution to every issue, he always finds a way to get what he wants.
The stakes grow higher with each episode because of the CEO ulterior motives, and it becomes more intense, but that’s generally how each episode goes.
The other good thing about “Hot Stove League” is that it’s not really that stereotypical and doesn’t follow the usual rich-boy poor-girl narrative; it was refreshing to see a drama about working-class people and their struggles. “Hot Stove League” definitely stands out from its competition which explains why it was a huge success in South Korea
I wanted to dedicate a section to discuss the supporting characters of “Hot Stove League” because I find them very interesting. I always talk about kdrama characters lacking substance and originality, “Hot Stove League” is one of those kdramas that stand out because of its characters, they’re all interesting in their own way.
Throughout “Hot Stove League,” we’re introduced to many many characters and the story isn’t about one individual but a team of coaches, players, and employees who work around the clock. Some characters look awful or two dimensional when we’re first introduced to them, but our perception of them changes as time goes by because we discover why they react or behave a certain way and it isn’t because ‘the writer says so.’ There are actual reasons why they behave nicely or badly.
I don’t think many people talked about the drama characters and how they enrich the drama. There is no good or bad, it’s a grey area and many tiptoe around that line. It was very nice to see the writer spend so much time on the characters trying to make them feel real, the writer didn’t rely on the main characters to drive the plot forward.
There are many twists about the characters and some episodes focus on some characters more than other and it rotates just like that, by the end of the series, I got attached to all of them and felt like I knew them. Not many kdramas these days ever focus on supporting characters in such details.
The main characters in the drama are fine but Namgoong Min plays a character repetitive and similar to his other works. Park Eun Bim’s character wasn’t that special either.
The OST and chemistry
While there are hints of love lines here and there, they’re never truly explored and I honestly didn’t mind that and didn’t think the drama needed it. I didn’t feel the need to see it either. They’re more about professional relationships in a work environment.
The OST was also suitable for the drama.
Should I watch this drama?
“Hot Stove League” is an interesting drama to anyone who’s willing to invest some time if they don’t know anything about baseball. However, the special attention paid to the nitty gritty details about baseball and the jargon can feel a bit intimidating and boring after a while to those who know nothing about baseball or care.
There are many details about the drama that you wouldn’t understand the gravity of if you have no knowledge of baseball, you wouldn’t be able to react or emphasize as much as a baseball fan would because you don’t know much about baseball.
There are episodes that are more interesting than others, some felt longer than they should. But it is a memorable drama especially because of its characters and how fun and interesting they are.
It was a lot of fun for me because there was this anticipation, we had to wait a week to see two episodes and that evoked my interest even more. If I had to binge-watch this drama, I don’t know if I’d watch all 16 episodes and enjoy them the same way.
If you have no interest in baseball and are not a fan of the cast, you’re probably better off skipping this drama because you won’t likely feel attached to it or understand it.
If you’re a fan of the cast and know nothing about baseball, there is still a good chance you’ll enjoy it, so give it a try.
To those who have seen “Hot Stove League,” what did you think of it? Did you enjoy it?