“Extracurricular” is a 2020 Korean drama that aired exclusively on Netflix, it consists of 10 episodes and is led by Kim Dong Hee, Park Joo Hyun, Jung Da Bin, and Nam Yoon Soo.
Today, I am here to discuss the marvelous creation that is “Extracurricular,” and why I personally believe it’s one of the best kdramas of 2020 and how it was able to become that.
If you follow my blog then you know that I am not the happiest with how aggressively Netflix has been attempting to crash the kdrama scene, the fact that they continue to produce shows with the prospect of making them into multiple seasons that never come into fruition, ignoring the basis of the way the Korean entertainment industry runs and how different it is from the American entertainment industry for example.
I bet many of you know but don’t pay that much attention, but there are many new streaming services, Netflix is preparing for the worst and is investing in foreign markets to not fall behind as each streaming service begins to pull away their original series from Netflix. This is why Netflix signed a deal with CJ E&M to produce many kdramas for the coming years. This is both good and bad, for us viewers depending on which side of the ‘seasons’ debate you are.
While it seems that “Extracurricular” is made with a second season in mind, it is crafted beautifully and has an amazing plot that made me forget about that.
I dislike dividing dramas into seasons in general because I feel that it dilutes the plot, it’s also difficult to wait so long for a second or third season. I watch kdramas because they’re short and straight to the point (generally speaking).
What I commend Netflix for here is the fact that they gave full creative freedom for the creators of “Extracurricular,” this in turn meant that the plot was going to be what it needed to be, not sugarcoated or altered to fit Korean broadcasting regulations.
You saw what happened with “Backstreet Rookie” because they broke Korean broadcasting regulations; “Extracurricular” would’ve suffered an even worse fate if it had aired on any Korean channel, even if it was tvN or OCN.
“Extracurricular” is grim and difficult to watch at times, but that part is what makes it so damn special and why it became, in my opinion, one of the best kdramas of 2020.
“Extracurricular” feels like an intense movie stretched into 10 episodes exploring every single aspect of the plot in the duration it deserves. And since it’s a pre-produced drama, the script was tighter (I’ll explain more on that later). The script basically had no flaws and no inconsistencies. The drama flow was impeccable throughout.
The advantage Netflix brings to Korean dramas is exactly that, the fact that it will be entirely filmed ahead of time. If you don’t know, Korean dramas usually get filmed as they’re being written. This is not always good news because the script can be adjusted based on viewers feedback and sometimes that ends up compromising the plot.
Added to that, the fact that as you’re writing you don’t have enough time to proof-read, this is the reason why many kdramas become boring by episode 8 and their endings almost always feel rushed/ poorly written. The first episodes end up being any series best and that’s a shame.
The screenwriter behind this drama is Jin Han Sae. I attempted to search his name (assuming he’s a man judging by the name, correct me if I am wrong) but found no results. This is his first project and oh my god, it couldn’t have been better.
As we discussed before, a pre-produced drama usually gives time for the screenwriter to have their material ready ahead of time and completed, focus on that because it’s important. If “Extracurricular” was by a miracle broadcasted on a Korean network it wouldn’t have turned out this well because the screenwriter would’ve probably written the script as they filmed.
When you write your material and you’re pressed for time, you might forget certain points that you had in mind, also you might end up screwing up the plot because you made a mistake somewhere as you were writing. If you don’t have enough time to proof-read, that’s an issue. Usually, Korean dramas are always short on time, and they always finish shooting for any said drama just a week before it wraps up, and they usually start about 2/3 months prior to the air date, this means they usually work nonstop for 5-7 months depending on how long the drama is.
You see the circumstances? This is why I’ve come to prefer pre-produced dramas and this is why you see a rise in pre-produced kdramas. “Hospital Playlist” PD, for example, refused to shoot for two episodes per week because he said he’d lose his mind and the plot would be seriously compromised. They only aired one episode per week which gave them time to perfect each one. “Hospital Playlist” has received mostly positive reviews and is considered one of the best of 2020.
“Extracurricular” idea is as intriguing as they come. When I first saw that it’s about a high school male pimp, I was shocked. I wouldn’t have thought of such an idea but boy it worked so freaking well.
Every episode was an adventure, never once I felt that an episode was unnecessary or too long. Every episode was such an adrenaline rush and also a scary ride. In every single episode, the leads get themselves into so much shit you end up giving up trying to think of ways they can escape it. There is a moral dilemma and you wonder whether you should be cheering for someone who is running a sex ring or not, but you end up rooting for him anyways because you see that his father and society failed him.
When you choose a highschool as the premise for a drama, it gives you a lot of ideas to work with. high school kids can be cunning but also lack the expertise/money/time to escape issues, so when they get themselves in trouble, the stakes are higher because they’re at a vulnerable stage in their lives.
Choosing a high school as the environment for the plot was probably the best decision the screenwriter made. The characters of the drama are corrupted by their failed parents unable to escape their shadows and each one carries their own stories which are mostly fleshed out well. Some I felt were purposefully left out because they were planning a second season judging by the ending.
“Extracurricular” talks about a lot of issues pertaining to Korean society and how the elders deal with societal issues, sometimes concentrating way too much on the kids and other time ignoring the kids all together, however, the message is universal and can be easily related to and understood by all.
Why it’s difficult to watch at first
I delayed watching “Extracurricular” because I was extremely busy but when I got around and watched the first two episodes I almost gave up. The reason wasn’t the plot per se but the characters themselves. The characters were so callous and difficult to root for.
Especially Gyuri, a likeable student who comes from a wealthy family and has everything going for her but acts like a total douchebag taunting Jisoo because she wants something to escape her situation. Preying on the poor guy who’s trying to get out of the terrible conditions he lives in really rubbed me the wrong way. This part was difficult for me to get through.
Writing bad characters as the leads for any project is a risky move, it’s a fine line and often screenwriters don’t know how to balance that. None of the main or supporting characters are nice people or even tolerable in “Extracurricular,” this made it difficult for me to find a reason to watch.
However, episode 3 was a nice change because Gyuri decided to change her tactics when dealing with Jisoo and that made their interactions a smoother experience for me.
By no means have I said that Jisoo is a decent human being but I understood the reasons why he did what he did, however, for Jisoo it was very difficult to understand at first, especially since the screenwriter purposefully kept her character’s background a secret for the first half. And even when details about her past was revealed, it didn’t give me much of an insight to why she behaves this way with her family. I think this might be explored in the second half.
If the screenwriter had decided to keep Gyuri’s tactics the same, I would’ve never watched the rest of the episodes, it was too much what she’s doing at times.
Kim Dong Hee has had a terrific year, first “Itaewon Class” and how this drama. He’s thriving and I am here for it. He is a rookie actor but seriously has what it takes to be the next big thing.
I talked about his performance in “Itaewon Class” previously, he was good but I saw some hesitation here and there. No biggie, he’s a rookie. HOWEVER, in this drama he seriously delivers and if you didn’t know he was a rookie, you’d definitely think he’s been acting for at least 5 years. Kim Dong Hee just knocks it out the park this time, he carries the drama so well and his performance seriously left me in awe, I was gasping at how well he acted out certain scenes.
This drama wasn’t probably easy to shoot, its very emotionally demanding. He did a great job.
Kim Dong Hee has that vibe and innocent look that works in his favor, he’s perfectly cast for this role and so is everyone else. This is the type of drama you brag about and present to casting directors on auditions.
Park Joo Hyun is another rising talent. She is good in this drama, I seriously hated her guts, I couldn’t stand her character and honestly likely never will. I see her as this ungrateful teenager who’s just looking for a kick. I suspect there is more to her character but she needed to be fleshed out a bit better. I think it’ll happen if there is a second season to “Extracurricular.”
She will also become huge one day.
Jung Da Bin and Nam Yoon Soo are both great as well. Jung Da Bin really did well, she started acting as a child and you can see it, she truly shined.
Nam Yoon Soo’s first role was this drama, O.M.G, he is perfect. He needs the right role in 2021 and he’ll be set on the right path to become famous. He played a jackass but god damn it, those dimples, I couldn’t hate him too much.
Choi Min Soo; again, is amazing. I love love his vibe, he seems like a chill person in real life. His character was such an interesting one, the way it was written showed how charismatic he was to the world.
Seo Ye Hwa was also great.
In short, the casting directors for this drama deserve a raise. I wouldn’t have thought of a better cast, the casting appears so deliberate and well-thought out because such characters needed specific actors to be pulled off and they did just that.
Should I watch this drama?
YES AND YES!
I would recommend this to everyone unless you’re sensitive and don’t like such type of dramas to begin with or if you have trauma related to sexual harassment. There are some people who would prefer lighter topics, this drama can be triggering because it features sexual harassment scenes.
The only issue is, if this is your gate to kdramaland, you’ll not find many other kdramas as well written and as concise as this one. This is not only one of my fav Kdramas but one of my fav Netflix dramas too; it’s one of their best productions on a global scale.
“Extracurricular” might be difficult to get through at first, but please hang on and don’t give up. Its crazy good.
So these are my thoughts on “Extracurricular”? Have you guys seen this drama? Let me know what you thought of it in the comment section below.