Why I Found “Backstreet Rookie” One Of The Most Boring Ji Chang Wook Dramas- Spoiler Review

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I’ve contemplated writing about “Backstreet Rookie” full series review since Ji Chang Wook fans can be very harsh against anyone who posts something about him that is not positive.

But after completing the series, I decided to do so because I have a couple of points I wanted to address.




Note: this is a personal subjective review, and will include spoilers of episode 1 to 16. If you don’t like reading others opinions that don’t align with yours, please don’t read this one.

1What I liked about the drama

Despite my issues with “Backstreet Rookie” plot, I don’t hate this drama, I found it boring, you’ll find out why below soon. I want to talk about what I liked first before talking about the issues I have with it.

The most upsetting thing for me is how it could’ve turned out; “Backstreet Rookie” shouldn’t have been a rom-com but a drama about life. I think taking the drama in a serious tone would’ve benefited it even better. You’ve seen it when Dae Hyun’s parents were treated like trash by his gf parents. The heartbreaking emotional moments were some of the highlights of the series for me personally.

“Backstreet Rookie” had many nice moments, I say moments, not episodes. I liked how adorable Dae Hyun and Saet Byul were, and I liked their chemistry. I was honestly not expecting to like them together at all, of course, my thoughts on their relationship changed over the course of the drama [you’ll understand why when you read below] but I loved their dynamic together.

Also, the sweet moments between Saet Byul and Dae hyun’s mother really made the drama fun for more, those heartwarming moments were very emotional and I loved how they were executed.

A lot of people said “Backstreet Rookie” taught them a lot of lessons and I am honestly happy that people took away such lessons from the drama.

I also want to praise Kim Yoo Jung and Ji Chang Wook’s performances, if it weren’t for their amazing dedication, I wouldn’t have been able to continue watching. Seeing how passionate they felt for their characters and how they carried out their duties even through the controversies made me admire their professionalism even more.

I want to also touch briefly on Ji Chang wook’s performance. We all know he’s new to rom-coms but I felt that this time, he was able to enjoy it even more and executed it better. He felt a bit awkward in “Melting Me Softly” but I don’t see that in this drama.  

Now let’s jump into what I didn’t like.

2The controversies and beyond that

Some people have already given up on “Backstreet Rookie” because of the controversies attached to it. I tried to look past those and managed to finish the series but I understand why some people chose to stop.

The issue for me was with the fans who shamed those who said they’d stop. There were many reasons for it, the racist undertones being one of the issues; let’s also not forget what this drama was based on, to begin with.

But “Backstreet Rookie” had issues with its plot beyond those controversies.

For the majority of its run, it was fairly uncontroversial, the controversy stems from the 1st episode and the reoccurring appearance of a character called Dal Sik that I found simply cringy and racist, I usually fast-forwarded his scenes, it was so uncomfortable watching him.

Aside from the 1st episode, if you stuck around, you’d see there were no more controversies that k-netizens could pick on. The same couldn’t be said for international fans, because Dal Sik’s character continued to be problematic and disrespectful until the last minute.

3Was the screenwriter afraid of more backlash?

The biggest issue for me is the plot of “Backstreet Rookie,” and this is why the article is titled like that. I’ve seen almost all of Ji Chang Wook project, so the title I wrote feels suitable in my opinion because I came to this conclusion after watching all his previous dramas as well.

Screenwriter Son Geun Joo has a couple of other credits to his name, but for the most part, this is probably the drama most people know him for, his other projects weren’t especially memorable.

The issue with “Backstreet Rookie” is that it isn’t even trying. I thought episode 3 and 4 were freaking amazing and they really set the bar high for me, they were the perfect mix between serious and comedy. However, it went downhill from there and I think the backlash they received was reflected in the way they handled the rest of the series.

It probably scarred him so much so that he just played it as safe as he possibly could, which brings the question, why did they adapt this into a drama to begin with? Out of all the successful webcomics, this appears to be the least likely to have ever been adapted, yet, somehow, it happened.

4The issue of poor plot development

The love triangle

Screenwriter Son Geun Joo set up the characters relationships badly, especially Yeon Joo’s. She is so selfish and unlikeable but she is there on the screen for a good portion of time creating what could be called the most lousy love triangle of 2020.  

The audience already decided they didn’t like her due to the way she was presented, yet, she’s shoved into our faces for good 10 episodes before Dae Hyun is even thinking about breaking up with her, and when it happens, it’s because she initiated it. They stretched what should’ve been a swift breakup into the most slow plot development I could think of in a while.

“Backstreet Rookie” has very slow plot development and this is the reason why it was so boring, nothing happens for 60% of the drama runtime and that’s a huge issue, an issue not even wookie and Yoo Jung can fix.

Each episode, we have an absurd amount of filler scenes and a good 10 minutes of actual plot development. Each issue the characters encounter is drawn out to the max. I wondered if about 70% of those scenes needed to exist and if they deleted about 40% of the drama filler scenes, I highly doubt people would notice.

Dae Hyun spends the majority of his time trying so desperately to save his relationship for reasons that aren’t properly explained, and to top that off, it is so difficult to root for them couple which makes watching their scenes together especially annoying.

Usually, in other kdramas, the love triangle is done better; at least, the characters are up against each other in a balanced fight, they each have desirable features that make them candidates. We usually contemplate over which couple to root for and remain interested because of this as well.

And despite the fact that he dated someone for so long, he moved on rather quickly onto the next thing. For someone who tried so hard to keep the pieces from falling that doesn’t make sense. It feels like the writer is just doing whatever he pleases with the characters without regard to how he wrote them to begin with.

Dae Hyun and Saet Byul love relationship setup  

The other problem that rose from lack of plot development was how I perceived Dae Hyun and Saet Byul’s relationship. Let me explain.

The screenwriter sets Dae Hyun’s character in a way that doesn’t allude to the fact that he could be in love with Saet Byul for the majority of the drama runtime. The character is basically too kind and helps everyone out, so when he’s helping out Saet Byul, it doesn’t feel that he’s doing it because he has feelings for her, however, I was made aware that wasn’t the case in the original webcomic. If I remember correctly, fans told me that he was actually falling for Saet Byul while still dating the other one and he was kinda trashy not at all as nice the one we saw on TV.

The romance took too long to get started to the point I started liking their relationship just the way it is, platonic. I felt he could be her bigger brother who looks after her and I seriously thought Kang Ji Wook was equally suitable for her.

This doesn’t mean I think they have bad chemistry, not at all, but the plot developed so slowly that it just became frustrating and made me change my mind eventually.

Dae Hyun moved on by episode 12, which is already too late (from a plot development POV), this usually happens in kdramas on episode 7 to 8, by then, the leads already exchange kiss scenes.

It felt to me as if the writer was so afraid of backlash because of the pairing that he tried his best to delay the start of their relationship, they don’t even officially start dating until the last minute of the drama. How many kdramas have done this in recent memory?

Why are you adapting a problematic webcomic if you can’t handle the backlash?

I could definitely tell a lot of changes were made to the drama as it was getting filmed, the screenwriter tried so hard to avoid making Dae Hyun the bad guy by alluding that he liked Saet Byul in any shape or form while he was still dating Yeon Joo.

If you were going to adapt a racy problematic webcomic, then stick to it. I have high doubt they didn’t see this coming. I am not Korean but I could already tell they were going to face backlash since the base material is not suitable for public channel dramas, and they wanted “Backstreet Rookie” to be 15+.

Why? You adapt a webcomic, take out what makes it remotely different, then dilute it to the point it’s no longer anything different at all. What made the webcomic stand out was its content for the better or worse, if you take that out, would anyone have adapted it?

There was also the parents’ volatile relationship. I just couldn’t stand Dae Hyun’s mom for a good portion of the drama, she physically abuses the father and treats him like trash in front of everyone and if the roles were reversed, people would’ve lost their shit. Eventually, the writer also toned it down a lot. I bet he also read comments about this.

This is not to say I am against doing content that is 18+, but if you were going to do it, do it right not by trying to make it sound okay, but show us why such content is problematic. Dae Hyun’s parents toxic relationship really got on my nerves because they used it for comic relief, how is that okay? That’s like me writing a script saying a husband beating his wife is okay and ‘funny’ at times.

It’s okay to write about such toxic relationships but show us how the husband plans to get over it and get the respect he deserves and them realizing she’s abusing him instead of trying your best to act like such scenes didn’t happen. There many couples who love each other but they’re toxic to each other, love translating into violence and disrespect isn’t love.

They tried to patch their relationship when episode 11 and 12 rolled out and then acted like the mother was intimidating but never abusive. Sis, if you don’t like him, leave him.

5Conclusion

This is why I thought “Backstreet Rookie” was the most boring project I’ve seen of Ji Chang Wook. My issue is mainly with the plot as you’ve read. If you made it this far, I am thankful, I would like to know what you personally thought of the drama, do you agree or disagree with me? Lets discuss in the comment section below.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with you…I really loved Ji Chang Wook from Healer…it made me crave to watch all his movies..that’s why i run unto this rom_com…But i did not finish the episodes..Why? you are right it’s kinda boring…unlike other kdramas that ive been watching you would rather not sleep even if its 4 o clock or 5 in the morning…and ended up crying all the time…
    So i only watch til epi 10…

  2. I agree with you, I seriously hope he chooses better projects in the future. I also wonder why lead pairings have such large age gaps when there are plenty of actors around the same age who I could potentially see having better chemistry than who they end up being paired with. This isn’t necessarily about Backstreet Rookie but just a lot of dramas in general.

    • ya, I’ve always wondered the same. It would be better to pair him with an actress his age if they’re so afraid of getting them into a relationship in a rom-com and the same goes for many other kdramas

  3. I think all your points are correct except the fact the daehyun moved on to quickly. I think he moved on quickly because yeonjoo’s mom disrespected his entire family. I think that is what made him hate her.

    • I see your point, but my issue is that he immediately fell for Saet Byul after getting his heart broken. You’d think after such a toxic relationship, an emotional man like him would take some time off. I just felt that part could’ve been handled better.

      Also, He moved on from her quickly even though after his parents were insulted, he kept trying… I found that weird.

  4. I agree… i enjoyed aphrodites relationship way more than the main leds relationship to be honest.
    It lacked good plot development. I really hoped it would improve but it was so disappointing for me
    Hope he chooses better projects because he is such a versatile and gifted actor and can do much better!!! Ily JCW

  5. I agree. It was clear that they overcorrected for the criticism and then rushed the end. I think the actors did very well but the writing wasn’t what it needed to be for either of these actors.

  6. I agree on all you’ve mentioned. I think this is really the most boring k drama of JCW I’ve watched. I keep forwarding the episodes just to see an exciting but was just frustrated. JCW is a good actor so he deserves a better plot. Btw, is ut because the leading lady is too way younger than him so no kisses in the story. This is all too odd for JCW who always has a kiss scene with his leading ladies.

  7. I totally agree with you, well I can’t say 100% because I was one of those hardcore fans who stopped watching after ep. 2. I couldn’t take it, I felt that I would end up disappointed if I continued and fornthe many reviews I’ve watched I know I made the right decision. I still love him and continues to be my favorite actor, but I really hope he chooses a better project next time. It’s okay if he wants to do comedy now, but I hope he chooses more projects like suspicious partner, where chemistry and plot was interesting. I was able to handle “Melting me softly” because I had been waiting two years to see him, bit with this one, I couldn’t get past the racism, I just couldn’t and the plot was so boring. I hated those two episoded.

  8. What ever it’s just a drama,,if you found its boring then its boring ,but to others it’s not
    Every one has its own perspective,and besides you cannot please everybody,if find it boring then its boring,,but like me and maybe for others too,we just found it cute funny with a good lesson learned, it’s just okay no regrets in watching the dramas and besides it’s rom.com don’t expect too much , that is why I cannot compare that to K2 which is I love very much, because I knew it’s very different..so there’s no big deal whether it’s boring or not,but for us it’s GREAT , it’s my opinion

  9. Omg you are so right. I found this drama extremely boring. The ending was too disappointing.
    And I couldn’t stand saet byul’s sister acting (what was her name? ). The dalsik’s romance was also pathetic. Tbh I’m so disappointed with this drama that I couldn’t see any positive side from this. Sorry

  10. I will have to agree with you on 2 things: Yeon Joo’s screen time and the way they toned everything down because of backlashes. Yeon Joo’s appearance in the show was pretty excessive after everyone already knew who to ship for, causing the relationship between Dae Hyun and Saetbyul to rush too quickly in the last episodes. Secondly, the directors were afraid of the public backlashes so they lost track of what they were really striving for.
    However, your point on racism is not very convincing because it can be interpreted in a more positive view. I personally think the character Dal sik is a factor that contributes to diversification and gives more colors to the show. The way he dresses might remind you Jamaica or whatever culture, but if you think his living style (messy and dirty) resembles the Jamaican culture and get offended by it then you are the one who’s thinking racist, not the character itself. There are dirty Americans, Koreans, Chinese, etc. too. Additionally, the character Dal sik was never discriminated in the show. Also, domestic violence between Dae Hyun’s parents are addressed properly and educationally in the later episodes. His parents realizes even though life is tough, they still have one another and should always treasure the other. This factor gives a very realistic perspective on the harsh lives of millions of people and domestic violence is a side-effect of those hardships which really raises awareness to the public.
    All in all, the negatives on this show have never outweighted the positives. I feel like people are just nitpicking and overreacting to it due to the mass hate effect. There are things that can be improved on and the show producers should be given another chance, especially after covid has simmered down in the future (as well as the mass hate, as contagious as covid). Season 2 is in the working and it has my and my friends’ full supports. It is a beautiful yet meaningful show, no one can deny that fact.

    • I would like to understand how you came to the conclusion that the parents patched their relationship… they never properly addressed her beating him or talked about it in a serious tone aside from saying they can’t live without each other, I am curious what scene you’re talking about because it was never clarified, from ep 11 or 12, they toned it down a lot and acted like the mother was always upset he wasn’t contributing but didn’t abuse him…. how is that addressing the issue?

      In regards to the dal sik character, there were many problematic scenes and setting my opinion aside, Jamaicans themselves were offended by it so you invalidating their feelings about a character like this is very weird to me.

      added to that, the massive hate started for a reason this time, it wasn’t to purely hate on wookie because he has a large fan base, there were actually issues

  11. I agree with the slow plot development. To be honest, it was kind of annoying seeing how little moments there are of Saet-byul and Dae-hyun showing that they have feelings for each other. I expected the breakup between Dae-hyun and his girlfriend in the middle episodes of the series at least, but the length of their relationship was unexpectedly so long that the last remaining episodes got me bored and not as interested as I was in the first few amazing episodes. I also think that some of the scenes were too much and cringe-y for me at least. Likewise, there are other issues in the drama that weren’t resolved or given much clarity. Maybe a part 2 would be nice, but I know it is not going to happen anyway. For me, the drama was lacking, but I managed to watch it up until the finale just because it is Ji Chang Wook’s drama, and I also thought about the endeavors and all the hard work placed into it; I wanted to appreciate it and support until the end but my opinion, that the plot development was sluggish and some other issues, will not change. Thank you by the way for the review; I was dying to know others’ opinions about this drama.

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