LIVE BLOG: Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha officially premieres August 28 on Netflix, and two new episodes will be made available to stream every week until the finale on October 17.  I will be watching Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha as it airs every week, and will follow up each and every episode with a mini-review here, starting with the first episode.

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021)
Cast: Shin Min-ah, Kim Seon-ho, Lee Sang-yi
Episodes: 16
[Click here to watch on Netflix.]

(made available October 9 on Netflix)
Unfortunately, this episode was Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha's first misstep.  Although it started off with its customary jubilance as the townsfolk gathered for Du-shik's birthday, it quickly devolved into a contrived and flimsy mess.  The catalyst was Hye-jin's friends, whose visit to Gongjin was as random as as a camel living in the Amazon.  Their existence, I suppose, was a way to trigger Hye-jin's thoughts regarding her future, but it was awfully misplaced, for it was only a mere days prior that Hye-jin and Du-shik confessed their love to each other.  I simply did not buy Hye-jin's sudden concern for whether she and Du-shik would marry or live in Gongjin or Seoul in a year's time.

By episode's end, I knew why this was necessary, for Hye-jin took exception to Du-shik's inability to open up.  But again, it all felt a bit premature for a young couple in the early stages of dating.  In this way, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha blundered a bit, though the reason why is certainly debatable: was the love confession by Hye-jin and Du-shik overly delayed or was the angst rushed?  It's the latter, I'd say, for the angst part of the show seemed to occur too soon and rather clumsily.

On the whole, this episode suffered from the illogical to the absurdity of Hye-jin delivering a baby in the middle of a typhoon.  Suffice it to say, it wasn't one of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha's finest moments.  I only hope the fun returns to Gongjin in the next episode.

(made available October 3 on Netflix)
Watching Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, I often feel as if the writer made a list of concepts that viewers typically enjoy and in each episode checked one off the list.  In this episode, it was Hye-jin's bucket list.  It's the sort of thing one does when they're in love, and combined with the gooeyness of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, what you ultimately end up with is the most adorable couple doing the most adorable things.  And it was heavenly.  

I mean, K-dramas often feature adorable couples - I can probably list a few just from this year - but Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha has struck gold with Shin Min-ah and Kim Seon-ho, whose playfulness isn't merely an act.  It's a way of life, the two working alongside each other with remarkable ease, and for that reason, viewers are completely invested in the love story of Hye-jin and Du-shik.

While on the subject of adorable things, Eun-chul's naïveté is off the charts adorable.  His reaction to Mi-seon's rather obvious proposal (the vendor's reaction was, too, hilarious) is the sort of thing that only a K-drama can get away with, for it's simply too adorable to lambaste.  I only wish we were shown more of their date that evening.

I would be remiss if I didn't speak on the funniest moment of this episode: Du-shik eating Sung-hyun's drumsticks out of jealousy.  Goodness!  I've said it before and I'll say it again: Kim Seon-ho's comedic timing is dead-on.  His is a skill that not many will praise since lighthearted comedies are often dismissed as undemanding and easy, but I contend that this sort of comedy is one of the most challenging things to pull off as an actor. 

(made available October 2 on Netflix)
This was my favorite episode of the season, thus far, as it perfectly encapsulated all that Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha gets right as a romantic drama: the adorability, the witty banter, the capers, etc.  This episode had them all, and it was enough to drive me to go to bed with a pillow in my arms.  Goodness, if this drama doesn't cause a spike in births all across the globe in nine months, I'm not sure what will.  The opening 15 minutes or so, in particular, were so sickly sweet, that I almost felt the urge to call a loved one to tell them I loved them.  The lovey-doveyness of Hye-jin and Du-shik was a gift to viewers who'd anticipated this moment for ten episodes, and Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha delivered in a big way.

The rest of the episode focused on the shenanigans of a secret affair gone awry, and it was glorious.  It went as well as one would expect.  The moments in which a panicky Hye-jin purposely struck Du-shik in order to avoid scrutiny, especially, were some of the funniest I've seen in a long time.  I almost felt sorry for Du-shik but I couldn't since I was, admittedly, enjoying it a bit too much.  After all, it was highly entertaining.  Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is good television.  If one wanted to find faults, I suppose one could, but I prefer to give kudos to a drama that is, easily, the feel-good hit of the year.  Many dramas attempt to be, and while some do succeed, not a one will come close to giving me the warm and fuzzies the way Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha has.  In this way, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is unparalleled, and although some might dismiss it as a guilty pleasure, I'd say it's more like a special treat.

(made available September 26 on Netflix)
Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha teased it two episodes prior and in this episode, they delivered.  No, I am not referring to the kiss - more on that later - but the stalker's attack on Hye-jin, which occurred in the opening moments.  I, especially, liked the way it was set up: having noticed the working street light, it seemed to give Hye-jin a false sense of security, and combined with her focus on Sung-hyun's cryptic phone call, she entered her home without first securing to lock her front door.  Conversely, the fight that ensued once Du-shik intervened was rather clumsy.  It was, essentially, a series of capers that included a knifing gone awry and two grown men tussling on the floor not unlike two beauty queens.  In the end, it served its purpose as Du-shik rescued Hye-jin and helped bring the stalker to justice.

In a funny moment, the day after the attack, the villagers seemed to only show concern for Hye-jin, while completely ignoring Du-shik.  It was a simple scene but Kim Seon-ho's comedic timing, somehow, gave it a sense of exuberance.  It isn't easy to pull off this sort of comedy and do so naturally, so Kim should be commended.  In fact, the acting as a whole in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is excellent.

I mentioned last time that for the first time, Sung-hyun's antics annoyed me, but in this episode, ironically, it was his confession - late, once more - that seemed to rouse Hye-jin's feelings for Du-shik, causing her to rush to her lover.  Likewise, a pep talk from a wise old woman and an old photograph seemed to bring about Du-shik's will to love again.  Well done, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha.  This all led to the closing moments as Hye-jin and Du-shik closed in for a kiss.  Oh my...that kiss.  It was an ending so magical and tender that one couldn't help but feel a little tingle in his loin.  A fabulous ending.

(made available September 25 on Netflix)
One of my favorite things about K-dramas is the inclusion of family.  It is often the case that family will at one point or another make their presence felt, whether they are meddling in a loved one's life or showing support.  I enjoy it all, even the most meddlesome of mothers.  So when Hye-jin's father and step-mother visited Gongjin in this episode, I was overcome with joy.  And I was not disappointed, I'm happy to say, for the moments with Hye-jin's father and Du-shik were a mix of playful and witty.  So delightful, it was.  I, especially, enjoyed the comfort displayed by the two men, as if they were old buddies reuniting after a long time apart.

Conversely, the father was most polite with Sung-hyun.  At first glance, one might think he was enamored with the young man but I find that that sort of behavior is typically reserved for strangers, not potential mates for one's daughter.  It was clear by his body language that Hye-jin's father was more at ease with Du-shik.  Incidentally, I found that for the first time, I was annoyed with Sung-hyun in this episode.  His imposing on a family gathering was, I felt, rude and self-serving.

In an interesting encounter, Hwa-jeong teased there being another reason for her's and Yeong-guk's divorce.  Right away, I suspected it had to do with Cho-hui but not in the way one might think.  I'll say no more, but I imagine more will be revealed the more Hwa-jeong and Cho-hui meet.  Elsewhere, after having implied that Mi-seon is somehow a tramp for her carefree attitude towards dating, Eun-hui escorted her to Seoul to visit her mother in the hospital.  I hope this is the start (finally!) of a romance but it'll be interesting to see how it plays out since there are two completely different dynamics at play: old-fashioned vs modern.  I vote for the former. 

(made available September 19 on Netflix)
A while ago, I described Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha as a show with a social conscience for its willingness to place an issue such as sexual harassment right smack-dab in the middle of their feel-good drama.  It's clear that their objective is to send a message, presumably, to their target audience: young women.  And that message is "speak up, speak up, speak up!"  In this episode, the focus was on the elderly and, specifically, those who fall victim to phishing scams.  We hear it in the news, how the elderly regularly fall prey to scams, and so I applaud Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha for shining the spotlight on this.  It makes watching this drama so much more rewarding.

It almost feels trivial to move on to other aspects of the show but Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is entertainment, after all.  The love triangles took center stage in this episode, as the trios of Hye-jin, Du-shik and Sung-hyun & Hwa-jeong, Yeong-guk and Cho-hui seemed to be immersed in a game of chess.  The former's gathering at Du-shik's house for an evening of drinks (and witty banter) was essentially a feel out process, as one adversary scoped out the other.  Additionally, what struck me was the amount of pleasure I seemed to get from a sequence involving members of a love triangle.  But how can this be?  I absolutely detest love triangles! The latter trio, however, wasn't as enjoyable, as Hwa-jeong seemed willing to flip over the chess board, leading to Cho-hui's disturbing encounter with an abductor.

An abductor in Gongjin!  This is one of the positives of small towns.  In a tiny seaside village, the thought of an abductor is, somehow, much more terrifying.  I'm curious to see if this is a recurring story or if Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha made use of it in this episode solely for the purpose of ending the matter with Hye-jin in Du-shik's arms.  Either option is fine, I suppose, but if truth be told, I'm almost giddy at the thought of this plot continuing.  In fact, I have my fingers crossed.  

(made available September 18 on Netflix)
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a fan of love triangles.  I simply loathe them.  Interestingly enough, it is one of the few things where competence is not asset, for it is a love triangle's sole purpose to cause us angst.  Imagine that - a writer who would deliberately make his audience suffer.  It's pure evil.  But why do I get the sense that Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha's sole purpose is to change minds?  And if so, is it even possible?  Can one truly come to appreciate an affair involving three people?  I can't answer that, but I can say this: based on the little we've seen, thus far, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha believes we can.  In fact, currently, there exists not one but two love triangles in Gongjin.  It's positively madness!  But somehow, I can't help but smile when I think of Hye-jin and Du-shik and Sung-hyun and Hwa-jeong and Yeong-guk and Cho-hui, and one doesn't have to look far for the reason why: every one of these characters is likable.  Not a one is depicted as a villain, so the dreaded trope that is the conniving ex is not a factor here.  This is not to say that one doesn't have a favorite, and for me, it is Du-shik and Hwa-jeong who deserve to find happiness the most.  I'm hopeful that Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha won't disappoint in this regard.

I must say, the moment Hye-jin left Du-shik's home, I knew the town gossip would somehow spot her, and lo and behold, there she was again.  But this time, she was in for an even bigger surprise: Sung-hyun.  So funny.  I said this in my last review and I'll say it again: the town gossip is the glue that holds it all together.

Elsewhere, the obsession, for me, that is Mi-seon and Eun-chul continue to be the most adorable thing on Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, as the two saw a bit of progression in this episode.  I do admit, it was minor at best but I will take what I can, and in the romantic bubble where Mi-seon and Eun-chul exist, one buying the other fried chicken is akin to two lovers accidentally falling and touching lips.  I do want more, however, so I hope Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha delivers the goods.  We shall see...  

(made available September 12 on Netflix)
The "princess syndrome" was everywhere in this episode and, although some might think it annoying, it shows that Hye-jin is wonderfully flawed.  Her's is an expression of hurt feelings, and it is perfectly natural.  After all, Du-shik's way can certainly grate on one's nerves and, in particular, someone who is accustomed to big city ideals, such as cynicism.  Hye-jin is, in essence, a woman who is smitten with a man who, first, misled her in the matter of a kiss and, later, suggested they were friends.  This isn't to suggest that Du-shik did either with malice, but he has shown that he, too, is flawed.  And this makes for a more interesting watch, as Hye-jin and Du-shik are, in effect, the endgame - we know this - but it doesn't mean their path ought to be straightforward.

And there's a detour now!  Ji Sung-hyun has, at last, found Hye-jin.  I'm not sure what to make of his involvement and if he'll make any waves at all, but it's worth noting that after he and Hye-jin met, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha was quick to dispel any likely angst with a well-placed flashback of a young Du-shik helping Hye-jin to pay for her food at a convenience store - a sign, of course, that we needn't fret.

Elsewhere, the town gossip has become one of my favorite characters, because her antics, though intrusive, are the proverbial glue that, amazingly, holds the cast together.  The other love triangle - Yeo Hwa-jeong, Jang Yeong-guk, and Yu Cho-hui - is fascinating to me since all involved are, at heart, sympathetic characters.  There is no clear antagonist for one to pin the blame on, so it is, essentially, a story of three souls seeking companionship, and the outcome will undoubtedly affect a little boy the most.  This story is one I look forward to every week.

I'd hate to end this on a negative note, but I feel I must.  While all seems to run smoothly, and at a nice pace, on Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, the prospective romance of Pyo Mi-seon and Choi Eun-chul is moving at a snail's pace, or not at all.  How cruel it is to tease us with a delectable meal that is this most adorable couple, yet feed us breadcrumbs every week.  This must be remedied, and now.  I request that Mi-seon and Eun-chul are, at once, added to the menu, and with generous portions!

(made available September 11 on Netflix)
The opening moments of this episode were, essentially, a village gabfest, and quite frankly, it was glorious.  What fun it was but, more importantly, it served a useful purpose.  Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha made good use of a bunch of villagers gossiping to tell the backstory of Du-shik, and I must say, it was a rather clever concept, especially since most dramas would have simply shown flashbacks.  In this way, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha proves, once more, that there's more to this feel-good drama than meets the eye.  Dramas are finer when the supporting cast exists to prop up the protagonists, and their use here was quite genius.

In other instances, two newcomers to Gongjin - Ji Sung-hyun and Yu Cho-hui - were flawlessly slotted into the small town structure by linking each one to a protagonist.  In Ji's case, his witty banter with Du-shik over cameras and food was positively delightful, and in the case of Yu, her status as Hye-jin's neighbor, as well as, Jang Yi-jun's teacher, centrally, positions her to play a significant role in matters involving the locals, and in particular the thorny one between Yeo Hwa-jeong and Jang Yeong-guk.

So, in essence, after only five episodes, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha has, ideally, transitioned into an ensemble drama.  This, in my opinion, is a good thing.

But let's focus a bit on our two protagonists, who, in this episode, raised the bar, after a night of drinking and much tomfoolery, resulting in the two spending the night together.  Although there was quite a bit of uncertainty, initially, on the events of that night, it is revealed in flashbacks that Hye-jin kissed Du-shik.  Goodness, what a lovely surprise.  Admittedly, I was quite certain that nothing of that nature occurred between them, but I'm rather glad I was wrong, for that kiss is now all the motivation Du-shik will need to woo Hye-jin.  In the end, a frolic on the beach in the pouring rain was a sort of release, for Hye-jin succumbed to Du-shik's free-spirit, signaling, perhaps, that her "princess syndrome" may be a thing of the past.

I realize it's a bit premature, but I feel it's worth saying: Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is the feel-good hit of the summer.

(made available September 5 on Netflix)
I'd noticed a trend, recently, and since I started watching Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha: my face literally aches after every episode.  It's no surprise to me, since a silly grin is plastered on my face for the entirety of the episode.  It's no wonder I feel sore afterwards.  I don't notice it while it happens, however, and that is as true an indication that I am enjoying the show as any.  It is a feel-good drama, after all, but to brand Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha as simply that is a slap in the face, for it is greater than the customary tag.  It's a drama with a social conscience.  This episode was a good indication of that as it addressed a topic that is very much relevant today: sexual harassment.

It might seem ill-suited for a supposed feel-good drama but I'm of the belief that no topic is out of place when one acts in the public interest.  The creators of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, clearly, felt strongly about this issue, and presented it in the most inoffensive way to an audience who might not otherwise have seen it: young teenage girls.  And for this, I say, kudos to Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha.

The ice is thawing, literally, as the two protagonists are, without a doubt, drawn to each other, even deliberately looking around for the other in the streets of Gongjin.  The feelings, though deeply hidden, were there from the start, I imagine, but we've now reached the point in our journey where Hye-jin and Du-shik can harmoniously sit together and enjoy a glass of wine (or whiskey!).

There was no sign of Du-shik's presumed illness in this episode, but having thought about it some more, I get the sense that his visit to a clinic in Seoul was a false flag.  I say this because he isn't exhibiting signs of illness.  In fact, he's a modicum of health.  What, then, was his purpose for visiting a clinic?  I have my theories, of course, but I will keep those to myself for now.  In the meantime, I will carry on grinning like a fool, because Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is joyful and heartwarming and gratifying and all those good things.  

(made available September 4 on Netflix)
Just when I thought Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha couldn't get any more adorable, the show goes and throws a road trip to Seoul, involving three elderly women, into the mix.  As one can imagine, it was quite the spectacle, including a very funny montage of frequent visits to rest stops.  In Seoul, however, things took an ominous turn, as Du-shik visited what I presume was a clinic.  Clearly, the purpose was to, at the very least, imply that he may be ill, and the fact that he's visited more than once (as was mentioned by Choi Eun-chul) is an indication of a serious illness.  My my...

Although Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha's primary focus is the anticipated romance of Hye-jin and Du-shik, I appreciate the show's attempt to tell other stories.  Plainly, the residents of Gongjin have a role to play, and it encompasses more than just the standard supporting kind.  In this episode, it was Kim Gam-ri's dental state that topped the bill.  I, especially, liked the way the show made use of Gam-ri's health to trigger Hye-jin's memories of her mother, which provided a justification for Hye-jin's decision to, in the end, offer Gam-ri a discount.  In this way, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha shows that it isn't simply a lighthearted drama, but one with an attention to details.  How refreshing.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the ending.  It was the sort of ending that one would expect in a feel-good drama: sentimental, cutesy, etc., yet Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha managed to surpass my expectations.  Goodness!  The ending was so sickly sweet, I felt as if my teeth would instantaneously rot.  It was perfection in every way possible.  Hye-jin, for a moment, was a modern-day Cinderella, who found her prince.  And Du-shik found his princess.  It was enchanting and magical and whimsical and, in essence, the beginning of one of the most feel-good love stories in Korean dramas.  Never have I wanted two characters to fall in love as I did Hye-jin and Du-shik in that moment, and if this ending is any indication, we are in for quite a treat, for Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is dead set on creating what is, essentially, the equivalent of a trip to a candy store, where no candy is off limits and one isn't permitted to leave until he had his fill.  I think I'll dig into a Hershey's candy bar now.    

(made available August 29 on Netflix)
This episode, I felt, did very well in developing the characters of the two protagonists.  The writing for Du-shik, especially, is quite strong with every one of his idiosyncrasies on display.  My favorite, of course, is his adorable little coin purse.  Oh my.  The other that caught my attention: of his numerous jobs, one of them is making soap.  The man literally makes his own soap and sells it to gossipy elderly women.  This is the moment I knew that Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is not playing fair.  I knew I was in for sweet and warmhearted moments but the sheer adorability, in only the second episode, is off the charts.  

But wait...the cutest little hedgehog just walked onto the set!

On her part, Hye-jin's writing, although not as adorable, is spot on.  In fact, I'd go as far as to say, I found that I could relate with many of her qualms.  I, especially, liked the fact that, two episodes in, Hye-jin hasn't completely warmed to the townsfolk, and like a big city persona, only engaged with them to save her clinic.  I do feel, however, that her most genuine moment came in her encounter with Oh Yoon.  Although her apology was, at best, lukewarm, it was the kind words about his songs that seemed most fitting in that moment.  Interestingly enough, it was the one moment in this episode where there was commonality, for a kind word is as much appreciated in the big city as it is in a small town.  A wonderful moment, it was.

One thing I didn't like so much was the ending.  I'm not sure why it is but dramas often seem to fall over backwards attempting to connect the protagonists in some way.  In Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, as in many dramas, it's a moment in their childhood.  It's almost as if creators are operating under some contrived notion that two hearts cannot unite if a link in their past doesn't exist, and that chemistry is somehow a result of their childhood connection.  I'm not an ogre, so I do understand the need for dramas to turn a contemporary love story into a fairy tale.  It's just that Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is sickly sweet as it is, so it felt somewhat unnecessary. 

(made available August 28 on Netflix)
"Haven't I seen this before," was my first thought after watching this episode.  Probably so, as it's a premise that has been a Hollywood staple for decades.  The big city big shot with a high profile job who stumbles into a small town...and so forth.  Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha had it all: the cocky city girl, the town do-gooder with 50 jobs, the eccentric townspeople, the meddlesome elderly, the initial awkwardness for everyone involved, etc.  The creators, in effect, went down the list of city slicker tropes and checked off every box on the proverbial checklist.  

That is not to say that it's a bad thing.  Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha's premise isn't groundbreaking nor will it blow one's mind with its innovation, but in an industry where, practically, every drama attempts to reinvent the wheel, its simplicity makes for a refreshing change.  One needn't waste time trying to make sense of a complicated subplot or an obscure character, for Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha invites us to put away our thinking caps and simply enjoy the ride.

And quite a ride it is, particularly if you're a fan of Shin Min-ah and/or Kim Seon-hoHometown Cha-Cha-Cha exists, solely, as a vehicle (no pun intended) for their romance, for its failure or success will, ultimately, be decided by Hye-jin and Du-shik's chemistry.  In this episode, theirs was a fun and flirty affair that involved a series of misfortunes and serendipitous moments.  In this way, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha's message is quite clear: the more lighthearted, the better.

In truth, I wouldn't want it any other way.  I enjoyed this episode very much, and was especially pleased to see that Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is in the business of telling a story that is joyful, flirtatious, and boisterous in the most uncomplicated way.  I only hope that the rest of the drama follows suit. 


Popular Posts