If there is any industry that can be given the “light drama” treatment, it’s the fashion industry. Lots of interesting personalities, colorful and creative clothes, and delicious rivalries and grudges make for shows designed to not take their topic or themselves too seriously. A new series from South Korea does exactly that.
Opening Shot: Shots of Seoul’s modern skyline. In an apartment, while a man is taking a shower, a woman wakes up, realizes where she is, and gets upset.
The Gist: The day before, both the man, Ji Woo-in (Choi Min-ho) and woman, Pyo Ji-eun (Chae Soo-bin) for Joseph (Lee Sang-woon), a designer friend who has made a big splash on the city’s fashion scene. He’s exacting backstage at the show, firing a rookie model at the last second and making sure his featured model, Ye Seon-ho (Park Hee-jung) is ready to display his showstopper piece in the finale.
He is excited to see Ahn Nam-he (Choi Hee-jin), a big-time fashion editor there, even though the magazine’s main stylist, Hong Ji-seon (Lee Mi-do) is at her side, peppering Joseph with insults and calling him by his given name.
Ji-eun is there to cheer Joseph on, and she runs into Woo-in, whom she broke up with three years ago, who’s photographing the event. There’s still undeniable chemistry between the two of them, but Ji-eun insists to her date that they’re just friends.
The show is a success, but the fired model literally pulls the plug on it during the finale, which makes Joseph distraught at his afterparty. But once Ji-eun gets everyone to cut loose, and Seon-ho pulls Woo-in onto the dance floor, Woo-in and Ji-eun are instantly drawn to each other, leading to the two of them sleeping together. Of course, Ji-eun immediately regrets it.
The next day or two holds a lot of ups and downs for Ji-eun. Her boyfriend dumps her, not because she slept with Woo-in, but because they have nothing in common. Then she goes the extra mile to get her PR firm in front of Ahn Nam-he, to make sure pieces from their client are used in the magazine’s next celebrity photo shoot. She gets help from Woo-in, who is retouching shots on the fly at the shoot where Ahn Nam-ie is working. She thinks she’s not making headway, but somehow the string of pearls, which her mother gave her and she always wears, makes its way into the shoot, making a difference Ahn Nam-ie notices.
In the meantime, Seon-ho’s boyfriend, a designer named Jin Young-soo (Jo Eun-Sol), fires Seon-ho from a show after she gets into a fight with another model who’s been speaking crap behind her back. When the friends drive to his place to get a little revenge, they find out something surprising.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The feel of the show reminds us a bit of the portion of Ugly Betty that takes place ad Mode magazine.
Our Take: The Fabulous, written by Kim Ji-hee and Im Jin-seon, isn’t going to make you think too hard about deep issues. It’s supposed to be lighthearted most of the time and funny at others, featuring four friends navigating the shark-infested waters of the fashion industry in Seoul. There will be romantic entanglements, people breaking up and making up, people that need to be won over on the way up the career ladder, and everything you’d expect from a show like this.
So the four friends at the core of this series need to be ones you want to see going through all of these ups and downs. The group at the center of The Fabulous certainly has the charm to pull that off, and the chemistry between the four stars is pretty well-established from the first minutes of the first episode.
You know that the bubbly Ji-eun and cool Woo-min are going to be going through some Ross-Rachel-style machinations through the run of the series, because the chemistry between them is undeniable. Joseph is sensitive but principled, and has the unending support of his actress mother Jang Ok-jin (Jeon Soo-kyeong). And Seon-ho may have poor taste in men, but she also knows how to defend herself from the jealousy and bitchiness that seems to pervade in her line of work.
As long as this core cast remains intact and together, through all of the ups and downs of bein in this industry, The Fabulous should continue to be as entertaining as the first episode was.
Sex and Skin: When Ji-eun and Woo-min start making out in his apartment, Ji-eun’s string of her mother’s pearls falls off, pearls bouncing everywhere.
Parting Shot: The surprising thing that the friends see in Jin Young-soo’s window after Ji-eun breaks it with a rock? Hong Ji-seon is there with him.
Sleeper Star: Speaking of Hong Ji-seon, Lee Mi-do plays her with the right amount of soapy viciousness, making her the perfect “big bad” for the series.
Most Pilot-y Line: When Ji-eun serves Ji-seon coffee with sugar in it, Ji-seon screams about how toxic it is. “It’s going down,” she yells, as she swallows the cursed sweetener.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Four charming leads, a more sophisticated storytelling style than the usual romantic K-drama fare, and some genuine laughs make The Fabulous a fun holiday-season watch.
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.
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