If you look back at all my previous posts, you’ll notice that I’ve seen almost every Park Shin-hye kdrama. She is just a joy to watch and really commits to her characters. So, of course I was excited to see Pinocchio – a kdrama set in the world of television news broadcasting. Park plays Choi In-ha, a reporter who suffers from the fictional Pinocchio syndrome, which makes it impossible for her to lie. Her love interest, Choi Dal-po (Lee Jong-suk) is a reporter for a competing news station. Yes, these characters have the same last name, because as a child Dal-po was adopted by In-ha’s grandfather. While they’re not blood-related, they’ve grown up together in the same family, thus making the possibility of a relationship rather incestuous. Park and Lee are always great when they play young, very adorable and cute. Unfortunately when they play their age or older they’re not as believable as mature human beings. Especially Lee Jong-suk who I admired in Doctor Stranger — he was great in a serious role where he just had to maintain 1-2 expressions while reciting monotone lines, but having to play a character who has both a comedic and dramatic side may have proven too difficult for his catwalking abilities. Yeah, he’s an model turned actor who seems to still be learning how to act onscreen. His expressions are forced and his eye lines are off. He is a really good crier though, so I’ll give him that and hope he continues to improve upon his craft. Luckily Park Shin-hye doesn’t disappoint. She plays dorky really well and is like that best friend you wish you had in high school so you’d always have someone to eat lunch with. Choi In-ha struggles with her internship as a reporter for MSC News. Firstly, her cold-hearted mother is a news anchor at MSC, and secondly, as a Pinocchio she’s unable to spin the truth to get higher ratings for her station.
Meanwhile Choi Dal-po has his own internal struggles. He’s lived his life hiding his true identity and upbringing. Dal-po’s real name is Ki Ha-myung. His father was a heroic firefighter who was killed during a botched rescue attempt. The media at the time made it seem like his father was to blame for the deaths of his fellow firefighters, and because his body was never found, asserted that he had gone into hiding so as to avoid prosecution. Reporters made life hell for Dal-po and his family, casting suspicion on all of them for harboring a fugitive. Dal-po’s mother was driven to commit suicide and his older brother attacked Reporter Song Cha-ok (In-ha’s mother) and consequently was sent to jail for assault. Luckily for Dal-po, when his mother jumped off a cliff with him in tow, he was rescued by In-ha’s grandfather, who happened to be out at sea fishing. Having no family to return to, Dal-po makes the choice as a child to live with the Choi’s and wait for the moment when he can finally have his revenge on the reporters who destroyed his family. Each episode of this k-drama is named after a fairy tale, so the forces of good and evil in this kdrama are set up in a didactic manner. The “evil” news station MSC is full of reporters like Song Cha-ok who only care about ratings, even if it means manipulating the truth and promoting tabloids.
The “good” station is YGN. Dal-po gets an internship at YGN with the ulterior motive of getting close enough to exact revenge on the “bad” reporters who distort the truth.
The YGN staff are the comic relief and the main reason why I kept tuning into this k-drama. I kinda wish they’d have their own spin-off series. My favorite YGN reporter is hands down the captain, Hwang Gyo-dong (Lee Pil-mo), a sardonic workaholic who wanders around the station with a stiff face. Love the long shots of him where we just see his back as he strolls away after a witty one-liner.
Ultimately, if you want to watch a romantic comedy you’ll be disappointed because there’s not much chemistry between the OTP. Dal-po and In-ha kiss and go on awkward dates, but they seem to be playing at having an attraction rather than fanning the flames of a legit romance.
The second male lead (Kim Young-kwan of Dior Homme fame) is also a model turned actor. Young-kwan does have a strong acting portfolio to draw from, and he hits all the right comedic notes as Seo Bum Jo the mama’s boy. Bum Jo’s never a serious threat to Dal-po and In-ha’s relationship, but he does become good friends with them, and it’s invigorating watching the three reporters work together to expose newsworthy scandals. In fact, what this series lacks in romance, it more than makes up for it with a compelling storyline and an insider look at the path to becoming a news anchor. One of my favorite scenes was the internship interview where the applicants were all tasked with watching a news clip and giving an impromptu report. Very fascinating to watch the veteran newscasters dissect everyone’s viewpoints. Much of the series is spent debating what makes good news and what makes a good reporter. There’s also plenty of hilarious potty humor.
Pros: Excellent performances by Park Shin-hye and Lee Pil-mo. I was also very impressed with Jin Kyung’s portrayal of the evil mother Song Cha-ok. She had the very difficult task of playing the antagonist while still garnering our sympathy in the end when she finally repents. Beautiful cinematography and creative editing captured my attention in every frame. I enjoyed the thought-provoking story that gave the viewer an insider look at newsroom politics.
Cons: No romantic chemistry in the love triangle so expect an underwhelming finale. Lee Jong-suk’s face is caked with white make-up.