Thursday, 25 June 2015

What to watch on the box now that winter’s really here


I know you’ve all recently been playing games with thrones, going mad about men, confusing houses for cards, and breaking not so well – and you’ve all seemed pretty excited. For me, not so much.

None of that lot grabbed.

Fact is, outside the sport (of course), few TV shows have grabbed me since, oh, about 1967.1 Until now.

Care to hear about a drama series that’s dramatic, where the conflicts are in the plots not the car chases, where it’s the villains who do the killing while the heroes pursue their values?

What if I told you it has scenes as dramatic as Victor Hugo’s. Characters you might find in Don Quixote? Visuals (almost) as beautiful as great art.

And how about I then tell you it’s in Korean, with English subtitles2. Really? Yes, really.

Fact is, me and Mrs Not PC have been riveted to the 2003 Korean television series Dae Jang Geum (pron. TAY ZHANG GOO-MA) since we discovered it a few months ago. Written by screenwriter Kim Young-Hyun, and called in English Jewel in the Palace, “the story is driven from start to finish by the various characters’ choices and values”--for good, and for bad.

The hero, Jang Geum (pron. ZHANG GOO-MA) is the only character on television to think in principles. Not just think in principles, she is driven to follow her principles, whatever the consequences. She is the true independent woman. Set against her, brilliantly, are the rule-bound Confucians of the court, against whom most of her life-and-death struggles are waged. Waged by them, since their aim is power over others; hers, power over nature.

Unlike other reviews, I won’t give you any spoilers. Just my unreserved recommendation.

Dae Jang Geum is brilliant. 54 episodes altogther, and I might even start watching it all over again …

1. True story. Technically.
2. Some episodes, sadly, very poorly done.


  1. "...few TV shows have grabbed me since, oh, about 1967." Oh come now. Monty Python and his famous gumbies didn't burst onto your screen until 1969. Other notables would be Reggie Perrin, Blackadder, A Very Peculiar Practice, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Jeeves and Wooster, many of the Simon Schama and Niall Fergusson docos, and even a couple from the US like Law and Order.

    Granted, NZ TV these days is a wasteland, but 1967 is taking it a bit too far.

  2. All right, I'll grant you most of those (but can't abide that formulaic L&O crap). And there was The Avengers (only with Diana Rigg, mind), Callan, Sandbaggers, Howard Goodall's and Leonard Bernstein's music shows, Ken Burns's Jazz and Civil War series, some of House, some of Spooks, some of Homeland ... but apart from them, *what has television ever done for us*! :-)


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