One of Netflix’s earliest offerings in 2023 is the Jung Kyung-ho and Jeon Do-yeon starrer Crash Course in Romance. With a soaring viewership rating of 4% in the first episode to an incredible 10.9% in the sixth (as per Nielsen Korea), it has emerged as an underdog romcom that is on its way to become many viewers’ favorite comfort drama.
Crash Course in Romance takes fans through the journey of a unique love story between star Math teacher Choi Chi-yeol and side dish restaurant owner Nam Haeng-son. As viewers have noted, a romcom like this is rare to come by.
After all, when was the last time one saw a quirky, realistic love story between a middle-aged celebrity teacher and a sportsperson-turned-restaurant-owner-mum?
Crash Course in Romance: 5 reasons that make the series the top 2023 comfort K-drama with a little bit of everything
K-dramas hit a massive turning point in 2022 with the audience steering away from cliched, over-the-top stories to more relatable and experimental ones.
The year presented an interesting mix of series, focusing on a realistic portrayal of friendship (Thirty-Nine) and a commendable take on zombie thrillers (All of Us are Dead) to others that followed a youth-to-adult romcom (Twenty-Five, Twenty-One) as well as a slice-of-life anthology series (Our Blues), alongside offering legal dramas (Juvenile Justice, Extraordinary Attorney Woo) that won audiences' hearts as well.
However, Crash Course in Romance promises to be refreshingly different. Let us tell you why.
1) Familiar faces with refreshing lead pair Jung Kyung-ho-Jeon Do-yeon
One actor is a Baeksang Arts Awards nominee and the other, a Cannes Film Festival winner - that is the amount of talent Crash Course in Romance boasts with just the lead pair. Jung Kyung-ho is a multi-award winning actor whose fame skyrocketed internationally with the release of Hospital Playlist. Meanwhile, Jeon Do-yeon is a highly-renowned veteran actress who has dabbled in both classic movies and series.
It is also the supporting cast who have raised the series' bar. Haeng-seon’s supportive best friend is played by Lee Bong-ryun, who’s known for her acting chops in Extraordinary Attorney Woo and Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha. Oh Eui-shik is also splendid, adorable, and hilarious as Haeng-seon’s younger brother with Asperger’s Syndrome. His adoration for Choi Chi-yeol makes the drama even more heartwarming.
There’s also a group of mothers competing for the best education for their teenagers, and the main trio is cherry-picked from the best lot. It consists of Jang Young-nam (Confidential Assignment), Hwang Bo-ra (Business Proposal, Dali and the Cocky Prince), and Kim Sun-Young (Crash Landing on You, The Silent Sea).
We also have Roh Yoon-seo from 20th Century Girl and Lee Chae-min, who earned fame by being the current Music Bank host.
2) It is THE romcom series we all needed
Crash Course in Romance doesn’t just offer one type of romance - and it’s not even a cheesy, over-the-top romance. It’s a love story for all ages.
We have Chi-yeol, a goofy tsundere with PTSD who cares a lot about his students and Haeng-seon, who left her dream of playing handball on a national level to take care of Hae-e. She now works hard to make ends meet at her restaurant, Nation’s Best Banchan (Banchan means side dish in Korean).
The star teacher and Banchan restaurant owner's first meeting goes hilariously awry and so do the next few times whenever their paths cross. Jung Kyung-ho's comic timing is incredible and will have viewers miss Hospital Playlist's Jun-wan.
While the series follows an enemy-to-lover trope, the same drama (will hopefully) give us a friend-to-lover trope too with a teenage love triangle (which has viewers already divided on which ship to root for).
Hae-e and Lee Sun-jae are middle school friends, and it’s apparent from the very first episode that Sun-jae is head over heels for her. In comes Seo Geon-hu, an ice hockey athlete who had to stop playing due to a shoulder injury. Both the boys are enamored with Hae-e, but whom will she choose? (Will she even choose?)
3) The return of the Moms-competing-for-private-education gang
If popular makjangs SKY Castle and The Penthouse kept you hooked, Crash Course in Romance will do so too. The show has just the right amount of competitive moms looking to find (or manipulate) the best way to get their kids the best education.
It also reflects the ground reality of South Korea's education-driven mindset. Moreover, unlike the other two dramas named above, Crash Course in Romance is more realistic. It shows moms creating accounts on a website for moms, discussing upcoming exams online and offline, going through their own class troubles, and more.
Moreover, their bond with Haeng-seon, who is neither as competitive as them nor is in the same financial class as them, draws a nice parallel in the story.
4) A sprinkle of mystery
Crash Course in Romance is surely a romcom - but it also comes packed with a mystery that is bound to raise questions and keep you on the edge of your seat. Although we’re only halfway in (eight episodes), the clues we've seen so far point towards one person - but they may or may not be the culprit.
Writer Yang Hee-seung, who also wrote classic hits such as Oh My Ghost and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo, weaved her magic again with Crash Course in Romance. The series alternates between romcom and mystery thriller, giving fans a full package of not just a refreshing middle-aged romance, but a who-dunnit too.
While some may think that mixing a romantic comedy with a mystery would probably throw the main story off the rails, writer Yang Hee-seung and director Yoo Je-won (of Oh My Ghost, Hi Bye, Mama!, and Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha fame) thread a smooth narrative that clearly goes from one genre to the next but hardly ever feels choppy.
5) Realistic and adorable friendship goals
Friendships, much like romance, in Crash Course in Romance are ones that defy age and time. The series offers viewers the best of friendships. Lee Bong-ryun as Kim Young-joo has been beside Haeng-seon since middle school. Therefore, when Haeng-seon went through tough times, Young-joo was naturally right by her side.
Young-joo is that friend who knows how to manage her priorities. She'll sign up for Drone flying classes but stay back because Haeng-seon burnt her hands. She'll sulk and cry if Haeng-seon keeps a secret from her but nags her to find the love of her life. The way Young-joo teases Haeng-seon will have you thinking if friends do really stay the same, no matter how many years pass by.
On the other hand, we have Ji Dong-hui, played by Shin Jae-ha, Chi-yeol's manager. While his identity is one that confuses many viewers, his relationship with Chi-yeol is defined by extreme care, given that he's the closest friend the math teacher's ever had.
From keeping Chi-yeol's moods in check, bringing him food, and helping him with his work, Dong-hui and Chi-yeol share a bromance that is a treat for all Crash Course in Romance viewers.
Hae-e and Sun-jae's non-rivalry friendship is another thing to look forward to. When one feels down, the other picks them up. When one is in trouble, the other helps out. The best thing about their relationship is that the duo respect each other's personal space too.
Crash Course in Romance is a 16-episode series, and we’re only halfway through it. There are still confessions to be made, mysteries to be solved, secret identities to be revealed, and a love to fully prosper.
As expected, the drama trended on Twitter soon after episode 8 was released on Sunday, February 5. Its growing popularity is no joke, and some viewers are already calling it their comfort drama of the year.
The Jung Kyung-ho and Jeon Do-yeon starrer series releases new episodes every Saturday and Sunday on Netflix and tvN.