We’ve talked about the “meet-cutes” in romantic K-dramas before. But we haven’t seen a show with as many “meet-cutes” in a first episode as Business Proposal, a new drama on Netflix. Read on and find out how many you can put up with.
Opening Shot: A young man in a suit trudges through the airport. First we see him in animated form, then the animation goes away and we see him in live action.
The Gist: Kang Tae-mu (Ahn Hyo-seop) has been working overseas for GO Food, the company founded by his grandfather, Kang Da-goo (Lee Deok-hwa). He has been in an overseas office, but has come back to Korea to be installed as the company’s president. He’s serious and detail-oriented, and his grandfather sees him as a workaholic.
Even at the “inaugural” on his first day as the company’s president, he sends his chief of staff, Cha Sung-hoon (Kim Min-kyu) to make a perfunctory speech explaining that he doesn’t have time for all of this ceremony.
At the ceremony is Shin Ha-ri (Kim Se-jeong), a relatively new researcher who wasn’t at the company the last time Tae-mu was in Korea. She has had a crush on Lee Min-woo (Song Won-seok) since their university days, and when he calls her on her birthday, she foregoes birthday dinner plans with her co-workers and goes straight to the chef’s restaurant.
“What if he’s planning to transfer from the friendship line to the boyfriend express?” asks Ha-ri’s bestie Jin Young-seo (Seol In-ah). It turns out he isn’t, but not before she runs in his arms and smashes a cake meant for some of his best customers.
Chairman Kang wants his grandson to find a wife, so he tells Tae-mu that he’s set him up on a series of blind dates with women from some of Seoul’s biggest business families. Tae-mu wants nothing to do with it, but suddenly agrees to go on the first one after a lot of prodding.
Young-seo finds out she’s going on a blind date with some business family’s son, and she hates these setups, so she asks Ha-ri to go in her place; it’s worked before. Ha-ri agrees so she can pay off a debt to her parents’ neighbor after a kerfuffle. When she shows up, she realizes the date is with the president of her company. So she tries her best to turn him off, acting unhinged and talking about the men in her life. None of it dissuades him; he even says yes to her offer to get a room.
After the date, he tells Sung-hoon that he wants to marry who he thinks is Young-seo. She comes from a good family, he likes her honesty, and it’ll get his grandfather off his back. When Young-seo hears this, she persuades Ha-ri to meet him and tell him that she’s not interested. Ha-ri tries one again to tell her that he’s a great catch. Let’s just say things get more complicated from there.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Take a romantic K-drama like Forecasting Love and Weather and amplify the meet-cutes by 10, and you have Business Proposal.
Our Take: Business Proposal is based on a webtoon called The Office Blind Date, and it seems to have that kind of feeling, where there’s complications and convolutions galore, and characters that are only somewhat based on reality.
Your enjoyment of the series really depends on how you feel about misunderstandings and complications. As much as Ha-ri wants her friend Young-seo to straighten out this mess, she still gets in deeper the more she meets Tae-mu in the guise of a crazy version of Young-seo. And, of course, she’s run into him at the office, and she has seemed to get his attention for the product research she’s done. So how will she be able to separate her office self from the one pretending to be Young-seo? And when she inevitably falls for Tae-mu, where does she go from there?
Then there’s the matter of Young-seo, who has a love-at-first-sight encounter with Sung-hoon outside a convenience store. You see where this is going, right? When she’s around Sung-hoon, who’s around Tae-mu, who does she say she is? All of these complications might make for a good episode of Three’s Company, but it feels exhausting for a multiple-episode K-drama.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: Trying to avoid Min-woo, Ha-ri ducks into what turns out to be Tae-mu’s car, and sparks fly.
Sleeper Star: Lee Deok-hwa is funny as Chairman Kang, who still wants to watch “his shows” even though he’s the chairman of a huge food conglomerate.
Most Pilot-y Line: One of the scandalous things Ha-ri wanted to do to turn Tae-mu off is… show her bare shoulders! Wow, that is scandalous!
Our Call: SKIP IT. You may like the complications of a romantic K-drama like Business Proposal, but we feel it’s trying a bit too hard to make a unique love story.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.