K-Drama Review #1 (Hot Stove League)

Drama: Hot Stove League

Episodes: 16

Cast: Namkoong Min, Park Eun-bin, Oh Jung-se, Jo Byung-gyu

Summary:

The drama revolves around a Baseball team namely ‘Dreams’ which has been ranking the last for quite a few years. The laid back athletes and staff experience the stirrup in their normal routine of getting cussed by the fans and mocked by other teams when a new general manager Baek Seung-soo (Namkoong Min) is appointed. With the help of the passionate operations manager Lee Se-young (Park Eun-bin) and her subordinate Han Jae-hee (Jo Byung-gyu), they manage to make drastic changes by butting heads with the Director Kwon Kyung-min (Oh Jung-se) who has his mind set on disbanding the club. Their efforts and sacrifices motivates the team and administration to work towards the better results in the upcoming championships.

What did I love?

The fact that Namkoong Min is in this drama is good enough excuse to embark on this journey. Despite having zero percent knowledge about the sport, the plot line kept me hooked and made me root for Dreams. Funnily enough, few months back after I finished watching ‘Doctor Prisoner’ I was mentioning this to my friend how Namkoong Min’s characters are getting stereotyped drama after drama. And then ‘Hot Stove League’ happened; his character is completely different than what he has been playing and that made me rejoice not just as a viewer but as loyal Namkoong Min fan. In this drama he approached a persona that sheds the basic instant mix of normal K-drama. Then added the Min spice and jazzed it up fine dining quality acting. There has been instances where I got goose bumps by just his acting. Can’t wait for the next.

The most charming point in any drama is when every character has a well-defined story, motive, and inspiration to do certain things. This brings the focus to Oh Jung-sae who played the role of an anti-hero beautifully. He will keep you in this grey area of emotions as to whether to understand him or hate him. This only proves the versatility of the actor. He portrayed the duality of his character and managed to keep them separate by a very fine line. This made me appreciate the drama more. Personally, I enjoy taste of any drama by the richness brought in the story-line by the villains acting and character sketch. And Oh Jung-se did not disappoint me at all.

Nonetheless the award of best character in the drama most definitely goes to Park Eun-bin who plays the character of Lee Se-young, the first woman to lead the operations department of a baseball team. She portrayed this passionate employee who wishes for better results and begrudgingly joins Baek Seung-soo on his quest to reform the team which leads her to become….wait for it…. His right hand person. A woman with her own opinions and thoughts who is not afraid to stand up to decisions made by the general manager when she deems are wrong. Either for the team or facing any other member of Dreams. You probably thought I will say the she becomes his love interest, didn’t you? THIS IS THE REASON WHY I AM RAVING ABOUT THIS DRAMA. This is one of the few dramas where a woman acts more like this macho male protagonist than the real male protagonist and boy oh boy… I LOVED EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF IT!!

Another very important ingredient for a successful drama is when there are no extra characters which are introduced to just lead the story somewhere. Every character has a story, purpose and is properly set into the plot-line like differently shaped stones on a tiara, every stone is important to make the tiara shine.

Main Cast of the show. (from left) Oh Jung-sae, Namkoong Min, Park Eun-bin and Jo Byung-gyu.

Thoughts?

I can never rate the drama because every drama has an alluring vibe which sets them apart from others. This is obviously one of those stories which shines the light upon the seemingly dirty politics that goes behind the scenes in any baseball team administration. Kudos to the whole cast and crew who translated the well thought out script onto the small screen with such dedication and fervor, making me as a viewer to enjoy and experience every emotion with them. Another sport drama but most definitely a must watch. Small moments open the Pandora box of questions in your head and that is one of the best things about a well-defined acting, directing, producing, costumes, sets, dialogues etc. A well-deserved applause from my side.

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