Looking for a new drama to watch but not sure of what’s a ‘good’ drama? Although a ‘good drama’ can be defined differently for each person, there are some factors that you can look out for when you’re on the search for the next drama to watch. These factors are probably pretty obvious to most of you, but I’ll give you a checklist to make sure that you have all the factors you’re looking for. My focus will be on Korean dramas in this post (I don’t know if it even makes a difference) since I primarily watch Korean dramas.

1. Genre

Look for dramas with genres that you like; for example, if you’re into intense action-packed dramas, then a drama like IRIS may be good for you. If you want to add some revenge into that action drama, then East of Eden might fit you. You might be looking for something more lighthearted like a romantic comedy – perhaps Playful Kiss would be a nice drama to see. If you want to watch a historical drama, a sageuk, then Queen SeonDeok might fit you. Like melodramas? Then go with Stairway to Heaven or Winter Sonata – they’re bound to pull you into the story.

So with dramas, a ‘good drama’ in your definition would usually depend on what genre you like to see. Maybe you’re like me, and you like watching various genres. At some times, you may feel like watching something intense but then afterward, you might want to cool off and relax with something light and full of humor.

If you’re not sure about what drama you want to see and you want to try out another genre that you’ve never looked into before, then you might just want to take into consideration the next few factors of ‘good’ dramas.

2. Plot

Plot is a very important factor of a ‘good’ drama. Just like genres are, if the drama you choose to watch has a weak plot, then it might not be fit to your taste. Find a drama with an interesting plot; of course, most dramas have interesting plots and synopsis’ when you look at them, but only some will really catch your attention.

3. Length of drama

For me, I have watched a few dramas that lasted for about 50 episodes or so, but very few. It was the genre and plot that kept me going. For some of you, you’ll easily find that watching a drama with 70 episodes is not something that you want to do. For one, it might be hard to stick to the drama; in addition, you may think that it’s more worth your time to watch three or four dramas that in total make up 70 episodes. This preference is different with everyone; when I first start a drama, I always go to Dramawiki and look up the number of episodes in the drama. If the drama has many episodes, I think about how long I would be able to stay with the drama. If the drama has about 16-20 episodes, then I normally go with it. Why? Because I’m more accustomed to shorter dramas and I don’t feel like I’m making as big of a commitment. Plus, if I get addicted, then the addiction would be soon over. But that’s just my personal preference – like I said, it’s different for everyone. 

4. Ratings

Okay, so ratings aren’t everything, but they’re still something. When a drama’s airing in Korea, the rating it gets in Seoul and nationwide means something. When I look for a drama to watch, I look at its ratings to see how much the people in Korea like it. It isn’t the largest factor in deciding if I should watch a drama or not, but I do take it into consideration.

If the rating is one digit (under 10%), it might mean that the drama isn’t that good and that you shouldn’t watch it. However, a low drama rating doesn’t necessarily mean that the drama is a bad one. If the drama is in between 11-20%, then that means that it has a solid fanbase of viewers; however, if the ratings only go up a little or down a little, that means that the drama isn’t really gaining or losing viewers. If the drama goes from 20% to like..75% (never seen a drama with that high of a rating though), then the drama is faring pretty well in Korea. It’s well-liked and will be remembered in the Korean drama world even many years after it starts airing. Example: My Girl and My Name is Kim Sam Soon – even today, if I said the names of these dramas, most of you probably already watched it or at least heard of it. Dramas like these two continue to gain fans even though they aired on television five years ago. When someone first starts a drama, what is recommended? My Girl and My Name is Kim Sam Soon. These days, Boys Before Flowers is also added to the list.

Then we have those dramas that gain ratings over time or lose them. An example of a drama that gained ratings over time: King of Baking, Kim Tak Goo. I loved this drama with all my heart – its first episode received 16% rating, but by the last episode, Kim Tak Goo hit 50%! I think it’s the first time ever, or at least the first time in a long long time that a drama ever received a rating that high. A drama that receives higher ratings with each episode – now that is something to look out for. Because when it happens, it’s a sign that the drama’s getting better and better. And then a drama that lost ratings over time – Runaway (or Fugitive: Plan B). The drama started off with a strong 20% rating but by the end of the drama, it went down to 12%. With dramas like this, when I see a decline in ratings, I don’t watch the drama.

Since I’m living in the United States and I’m not Korean, then my tastes in Korean dramas may be different than that of the Koreans. So what does this mean? It means that just because a drama has high ratings in Korea doesn’t mean that it’ll be well received overseas. Look at a drama that received low ratings in Korea – Playful Kiss. It received such low ratings in Korea that I never thought that viewers in the states or overseas elsewhere would watch it. But yet, everyone around me saw it and only had praise for the drama that did so badly in Korea. And then an example of a drama with high ratings in Korea – Giant. Unless you’re an avid Korean drama watcher, then you probably never heard of this drama or watched it. I didn’t see it yet but I’ll probably give it a try. Why? Because of its ratings (and the plot). Giant did well in Korea but over here? I don’t really see so much buzz about it from my friends or online. But then again, maybe I’m just looking at all the wrong places.

5. Reviews

There are tons of websites filled with Korean drama reviews. Even here, I sometimes write reviews to Korean dramas. Even though like I mentioned earlier, we all have different drama preferences with all the factors I’ve gone over so far, reading reviews from other drama viewers can give you good insight on what constitutes a ‘good’ drama and what doesn’t. If you’re stuck between a few dramas and you don’t know which one you should start, then look up reviews from others to see which drama was the most liked. I don’t usually read reviews when looking for drama, but it definitely helps when I’m indecisive as to which drama I should start next.

6. Main Cast / Writers / Directors

The main cast, script writers, and directors of a drama can make or break it. If all three are amazing, then none of the other factors really matter – the drama’s already a hit.

Let’s start with the main cast. With a star-studded cast of Kim TaeHee and Lee ByungHun for IRIS, many waited in anticipation for the airing of the drama. IRIS started off strong and it ended strong too. Not sure if this would’ve been the same if the two main actors weren’t cast in it. But because they were, then many knew about IRIS long before it started airing. Of course, some dramas actually bring new actors to stardom, as seen by King of Baking, Kim Tak Goo. Famous actors aren’t everything in dramas and don’t necessarily make a drama popular, but they at least give some coverage ahead of time for dramas. As long as the main cast is good at acting and portraying various emotions, the drama’s on the right track.

A scriptwriter can make a drama stand out amongst the crowd or make the drama fail. Scriptwriters have also come to fame at times after writing the script for a successful drama. The Hong Sisters are the prime example of script writers that have a small following. They have an audience following (including me) that watches the dramas they write for because the Hong Sisters have earned a reputation in the Korean drama world as amazing romantic comedy drama writers. Even without the fame, scriptwriters are very important to dramas because they make the plot and the conflicts in the drama as well as the famous one-liners that the audience will remember even after the drama ends. An example of a drama that started off well was Cinderella’s Sister. The script was so beautiful and the first four episodes got me hooked. But after the scriptwriter changed, everything crumbled and I started to really dislike this drama. This shows how important scriptwriters are.

Last but not least, the directors of dramas hold a very large role in a good drama. Their directing can make a drama be portrayed as beautiful or as messy and unorganized. Just like with the main cast and scriptwriters, a good director that has established him or herself in the Korean drama world can stir interest within the audience with news of upcoming dramas that he directs. Even directors that aren’t famous have large roles in dramas. They bring the drama to perfection and give it life.

7. First Few Episodes

The first few episodes of a drama can determine whether or not you stick to a drama or drop it. Not sure about a certain drama? Then watch the first few episodes. If your interest in it stays, then keep watching the drama. If not, then drop it.

However, this isn’t always the case. There are cases of dramas that started off well but then ended up doing poorly and vise versa. Example? Cinderella’s Sister. First four episodes caused me to love the drama so much; they were epic and everyone was hooked. But after that, it was bad. Bad. The drama disappointed me so much and it’s probably the worst drama I’ve seen this year. I’d only recommend the first four episodes to people who want to watch it. Just see the first four episodes and then drop it.

I hope this post helped you out a bit! And that you didn’t get bored with my ranting. Comments are appreciated & thank you for reading this! (: