YA Entertainment brings us yet another great Korean drama – the hilarious romantic comedy, “Protect the Boss.” With a title like that, you might think this was some sort of show about bodyguards or maybe gangsters. In this case the protecting is meant in a more symbolic sense.
Noh Eun-Seol is a girl who is struggling financially and desperate to land a decent job. Back in high school she was a juvenile delinquent more likely to get into fights than to get good grades. She turned herself around though, and eventually went to college. Unfortunately, her lackluster academic background proves to be an obstacle in the highly competitive job search world. After a series of unsuccessful job interviews, her prospects are bleak. One day, she finally snaps during an interview and lets her true feelings and frustrations about the ridiculous job hunting process be known. Amazingly, this rant captures the attention of business executive Cha Mu-won. Mu-Won is intrigued by her weird personality and hires her to work as an administrative assistant for the director of his company. That director happens to be Mu-won’s cousin Ji-Heon.
While it’s great that Eun-Seol finally has a job, her enthusiasm dims a bit once she realizes how difficult her new boss is. Ji-Heon is a very difficult guy. He only has his position because his father is the company CEO. While Ji-Heon is capable and smart, he has an immature streak coupled with a fear of public speaking which prevents him from performing his job well. This weakness embarrasses Ji-Heon, which he covers up by lashing out at people and behaving in a very spoiled, bossy manner. Eun-Seol has quite a boss to deal with. This position will require all the street smart toughness she knew in high school as well as a great deal of tactful management if she wants to keep Ji-Heon happy without hurting his pride.
Can Eun-Seol handle working for such a demanding, unpredictable boss? How will he react to having a forceful girl like Eun-Seol as his assistant? Why does Ji-Heon have such a hard time speaking in public? Can Eun-Seol possibly help him? Ji-Heon not only has to figure out how to overcome his psychological issues, he also has to deal with some high stakes internal politics at the company. Ji-Heon is in line to become the next CEO, but there are those on the Board of Directors who feel he isn’t qualified. There is a push to see Mu-Won take over instead. Will Ji-Heon be able to successfully fend off this threat and face Mu-Won as a rival? This being a Korean drama, a love triangle inevitably forms, and before long, the cousins are rivals in more than business matters. Can Eun-Seol handle the unexpected attention of two handsome, but slightly unbalanced guys?
This “Protect the Boss” set contains all 18 episodes spread across 6 DVDs. The show was originally slated to be 16 episodes, but during broadcast it was extended an extra 2 episodes to make 18 total. Korean dramas tend to be roughly 1 hour per episode, so this is a good 18 hours of entertainment. This show is loads of fun. Aside from the silly sense of humor and great charisma of all the actors, what I like most about this show is how it takes so many Korean Drama plot clichés and turns them around and makes them work in new ways. Here we have the common Korean drama 4-lead character structure – a lead guy, a lead girl, 2nd lead guy, a 2nd lead girl. As usual, someone is rich and the heir to some large corporation over which there will be corporate drama. The 4 leads will form a love polygon. What usually happens is that the lead guy will be cool and surly, the 2nd lead guy will be super likeable and friendly, and the 2nd lead girl will be an evil seductress who will try to cause trouble for everyone. However, in this show, all of these relationships are twisted around in unexpected ways.
In the role of lead hero, Ji Sung is charming and playful. His character, Cha Ji-Heon, is bossy and immature, but also vulnerable. He may be rich, but he isn’t the classic Mr. Darcy standoffish hero type that many Korean dramas seem to love. Ji-Heon makes decisions quickly, doesn’t take 100 episodes to reluctantly fall for the girl, and really works hard to change himself to correct his weaknesses. He also has a wonderful relationship with his father that I haven’t seen in many dramas.
As the 2nd lead, Kim Jae-Joong is sexy and appealing. Considering he is a popular singer with not a whole lot of experience acting, he does a great job here. He has a lot of charisma, and makes his character, Cha Mu-won, hard to resist. He is cool and confident, yet he also has his own ridiculous and immature moments and a stubborn streak a mile wide. In an unusual move, Mu-Won and Ji-Heon are actually both nice guys and are not just cousins, but are also best friends. In fact, it’s their bromance that really makes this drama one of my favorites. Sure, the guys fight and argue like guys will, but there is such a great undercurrent of friendship and a family bond, that it’s obvious that even a love triangle and boardroom wheeling and dealing won’t really break them apart. The way the two guys compete and try to win over Eun-Seol is hilarious.
Playing the heroine, Choi Gang-Hee is also quite refreshing. The writers imbue her character, Noh Eun-Seol, with some common drama heroine traits – she is poor, lives in a tiny apartment, and is employed by the hero, but faces her problems with plucky enthusiasm – but then they give her a little more to work with. Eun-Seol doesn’t take crap from either of our handsome leads, doesn’t immediately swoon over their riches, and handles being the focus of a love triangle in a wonderfully novel way. She is the one doing the protecting of the Boss. She is take-charge and organized. She doesn’t always succeed, but she takes her failures in stride and works to improve herself too.
Even the 2nd leading lady, Wang Ji-Hye as Seo Na-Yoon, is a great change from a traditional Korean drama 2nd lead archetype. Usually these women are the evil femme fatale type. They can be obsessive, bitchy stalkers or cold, manipulative divas. They don’t often get much character development beyond petty jealousy. Here we have a change! Yes, Na-Yoon is rich and beautiful, but in a shocking twist, she is not evil. In fact, she is one of my favorite characters. She tries to be haughty and elegant, but really she is just sheltered and dorky. She actually makes friends with our leading lady. A sympathetic 2nd lead female character doesn’t happen that often in Korean dramas! I spent a lot of time cheering Na-Yoon on as well.
“Protect the Boss” is a terrific romantic comedy series. All the characters are slightly insane, and unbalanced, something which makes the show unpredictable and charming. I would expect them to react in one way, and they’d do something else entirely. I felt an overwhelming sense of affection for everyone, while simultaneously acknowledging that everything about this show is slightly ridiculous. I got a real sense of fully fleshed out characters that change and grow as the series progresses. The humor is silly but full of heart. I really wanted all of these characters to work out their problems and succeed.
I never really have much to complain about with YA Entertainment releases in terms of video quality. This is a TV show. It looks like a nice, clear TV image. It is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic wide screen. The colors are realistic, and there are no blatant glitches I can see.
The same can be said for the audio quality. Here we have a serviceable Dolby Digital Stereo Korean language track with English subtitles. The idea of them trying to dub an entire Korean drama series amuses me. I seriously doubt that would happen any time soon. As it is, this audio track sounds great. This show is mostly dialog-driven. There are no loud action sequences involving explosions or other scenes in which full surround sound would be vital. This track serves its purpose just fine.
You can never quite be sure what sorts of extra features will pop up on a YA Entertainment Korean drama release. Sometimes we only get trailers for other releases, other times we’ll get a mountain of bonus material. In the case of “Protect the Boss,” we don’t get a whole lot, but what we have is a lot of fun. First is a clip from a variety talk show featuring Ji-Sung. Next we get a clip of Bloopers and outtakes from the drama. This is fantastic, because we can really get a sense of how much fun the cast is having making this show, and how well they all get along.
Originally airing in 2011, Protect the Boss is one of my stand-out favorites from that year. It is an updated twist on popular Korean drama themes and truly enjoyable to watch. It’s rare for me to find a series where I like almost every character. This is a drama I think I can watch many times and not get tired of it.