Okay, why was this show not adored?!? It’s completely adorable! Sweet and fluffy, yes — but intelligently so. An easy watch but without the need to turn off your brain. Instead it actually rewards attentive viewing with all the lovely, lovely meta. (I’m going to blame timing. I suspect DAC got lost amongst its competitors.)
I spoil everything, and go on for quite a bit, below…
I loved how the different cases all played with actual k-dramas or movies. For example, when one case involved a talented, driven chef who refuses to let men into her kitchen (huzzah for the gender-swap!) I totally got Min-young’s thrill in saying, “yes, chef!” while working there undercover. (I obviously got my Pasta watch done just in the nick of time.)
And I loved how each case examined various aspects of love and romance. Like the confusion and bittersweetness of first loves with the Idol case. Or how having the courage to just step forward and be seen by your crush can be its own reward with the Ghost case.
But what I most loved was how the cases always wound back to our main cast. That’s something Dating Agency Cyrano did right. They used the cases as launching pads for the main characters’ stories — not just for comedy and little romantic vignettes. (Though, they made for awesome rom-com vignettes.) It meant that our main characters unfolded as the drama went along and it was their stories that kept pulling me back for just one more episode.
Also, it was our characters that had the most poignant love stories. (Which makes sense — we knew them best and, therefore, cared about them most.) Arang’s first love, during the Idol case, really deepened his character past the surface-y cutie-boy role. It developed his relationship with Min-young. It showed his already tender relationship with Moo-jin. And, double bonus, it showed us that Byung-hoon really did have a heart.
The slower love story between Moo-jin and waitress, Hye-ri allowed Moo-jin’s character to grow into something more than robot-genius — but without compromising the strictures he’d been introduced with. Moo-jin seemed to react to human interaction the same way I react to math. Really, really, really slowly — still figuring out the first question while the rest of the class has sped ten questions ahead. So that the show was able to take the time to allow Moo-jin the slow beats of recognition that maybe, possibly, he likes this girl (with the hilarious aid of a heart monitor) was awesome. And showed real planning from the writers.
(I also loved the question it began to raise in my mind about Hye-ri. Because she had to be very persistent about wooing him. Expressing a confidence and a patience I found both admirable (oh, to be that confident!) but also a teeny bit suspicious (seriously — she’s not frustrated yet?). Another cleverly laid plan on the writers’ part.)
And then there was the main love-story — complete with love-triangle — between Byung-hoon, Min-young and our resident Jekyll and Hyde, Seung-pyo. (This is where I apologize to Indigo for doubting Lee Chun-hee’s second-lead-syndrom-ness. After you get past the creepy… he’s cause for major heart-confusion. At one point I wished there was some way to just clone Min-young so everyone would be happy.)
Again, I loved that we were able to get a slow build of attraction between Min-young and Byung-hoon. Loved that we (the audience) saw it first. Loved that, once she’d figured it out, Min-young was clear and straightforward and didn’t let Byung-hoon scare her away. And I really loved that Byung-hoon was less a noble-idiot and pretty much just a plain idiot. He was in denial for a really long time (which fit for his character). And by the time he decided to tack on the “noble” part of the equation (“okay — yes, I like her; but she deserves someone better”) he had everyone scheming against him to get him to drop it already. (Seriously, the noble-idiot bit lasted for less than an episode. That’s barely enough time to count.)
Whereas, with Sueng-pyo, I loved that he fell into love with her by mistake. And that it was her certainty that he was good person that really did it. That’s what got me past the creepy — because it meant he really did want to be a good person. It also meant that he began showing some vulnerability where before he’d seemed a puppet-master, pulling all the strings behind the scenes. Which, actually, makes a good segue…
There were a few things that seemed to bother viewers (per the Dramabeans recaps anyway) and one was Min-young getting kidnapped. I had, unfortunately, been slightly spoiled for it. I knew that, at some point towards the end, a kidnapping was going to happen. Didn’t know the who’s or why’s — but I knew it was coming and I knew it was a serious, as opposed to comedic, turn. Which colored my viewing, of course.
But I will say, there was always an underlying menace shadowing the pop-colors of Dating Agency Cyrano‘s world. I was serious when I first doubted Seung-pyo as viable second-lead material because the man seemed dangerous. I mean honest-to-God, let me show you my knife skills mwahaha, dangerous. And since he was obviously keeping a hostile eye on Byung-hoon, and keeping his interest a secret, I expected dark things to come. (Of a certain definition of “dark” of course. I wasn’t expecting the drama to suddenly break into a Gaksital redux or anything.)
So, as the show unfolded, I clocked Hawaiian-shirt guy constantly hanging around and beginning to lean towards creepy. And I wondered at Hye-ri’s wooing of Moo-jin. And, eventually, I wondered what the connection was between the two of them. (I ranged everywhere from Hawaiian-shirt guy stalking Hye-ri, to the two of them scheming to kidnap Moo-jin for his grandmother’s money.)
Which means what actually happened still managed to surprise me. But not in a “this is totally out of place!” way. I was never worried Min-young was going to be truly hurt — or that anyone would truly die. It was a Disney-movie level of danger. Enough to be exciting, enough to push shelled characters out of their carefully constructed hiding places, but no more than that. And it did have a nice amount of meta to it — the dating agency did veer close to stalking at times. It felt like this was the show acknowledging that, as well as the creepiness of having someone meddle in your life.
But again — because of spoilers I was expecting this as the end game. So it’s kind of hard for me to judge how badly it jarred the un-spoiled viewer. It didn’t feel out of place or out of left field to me. So that means it wasn’t an awkward pasted-on addition, at least. But was it a misstep? I feel like it wasn’t, but others felt it was, so…
I can however, definitively dispute one argument I saw raised several different times. And thats the idea that Min-young was a weak character with no discernible talents, reduced to just being “the girl,” and of no real use to the story. If Min-young was just another team member, I could maybe see it. But she wasn’t. She was much more important than that. She was the “Everyman.”
That’s the person the audience relates to and sees the story through. So they can’t be overly gifted (like Moo-jin) or intimidatingly intelligent (like Byung-hoon) or too pretty (which I think was Arang’s role — he certainly had the schoolgirls chasing him, anyway). In the movie version, Choi Daniel’s character was the “Everyman.” (Which is typical. It’s generally a guy, especially in films and I could essay on about the whys of it — but this piece is getting too long already.) But here, it’s Min-young. Which means she’s not useless, she’s essential.
And Choi Soo-young did an excellent job fulfilling that role. She was lovable and loving — seeing the best in (and therefore bringing it out of) the people around her. In a way, she was the Wendy to the dating agency’s Lost Boys. (Which would make Byung-hoon, Peter Pan. Oh! And Sueng-pyo, Captain Hook! Ooh! And Arang as Tinker Be… ll? ….? Too far?) It’s not, generally, the most dynamic of roles — but it’s not nothing, either. It’s what connects the audience to the story. We believe because Min-young does. Nothing weak about that.
Wow! This is a really long reaction post! Especially for what was really, when you boil it down, a fun, well-paced, cleverly told, breezy little drama. I very much enjoyed it and think it a good addition to the Oh!Boy lineup tVn’s put together.