kourier > [Drama Review] Finding Love in a Rooftop House — Rooftop Prince
Not since Back to the Future was in vogue have I seen so many people enthralled by the theme of time travel. As with all things in pop culture, K-drama also has its trends and patterns and since I’ve jumped on the current bandwagon, I thought to offer up a little review of Rooftop Prince.
It all began with the much-loved teen drama Operation Proposal, featuring a delectable Yoo Seung Ho travelling back in time to win over the love of his life. Then came news of Rooftop Prince, Queen Inhyun’s Man and Time Slip Dr Jin. They came as a slew of three and of these, I’d have to say that Rooftop, with its dramedy storyline, came at the right time and has captured the lion’s share of audience ratings. The show’s performance has been on the up-and-up and is due in part to the fact that Queen is only screened on a cable channel and Time has gotten itself embroiled in a lawsuit that’s unfortunately put a halt in filming.
Genre competition and delays aside, Rooftop was left to fend itself again tough time-slot competitors in the form of Lee Seung Gi (Strong Heart) and Ha Ji Won‘s (Secret Garden) King 2 Hearts, and also Uhm Tae Woong‘s (2 Days 1 Night) Equator Man. From news to word-of-mouth reviews, I’d say Rooftop‘s doing pretty well for a drama in such a popular TV slot.
Getting into the gist of things, what is it exactly that makes this show such a success? For Micky Yoochun, who’s popularity from disbanded TVXQ and current group JYJ propelled him to leading actor status in his first drama, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, his previous projects were probably a precursor to the fruits of his labour in Rooftop. Like in Sungkyunkwan, anticipation for a dramedy series from the singer-actor drummed up excitement in K-pop as well as K-dramaland. With Han Ji Min, who’s dabbled in movies and emceeing, and has been pretty much a regular in the drama circuit since 2003, she came off as an interesting and refreshing choice in the current crop of young actresses. However, beating both leads to the top of forum boards would’ve been Lee Min Ho, who’d just come off a successful run in tearjerker record-breaker, The Moon Embraces the Sun. Despite his supporting role in the drama, news of his participation drew headlines from everywhere. Riding up to the start of Rooftop, Lee was literally the talk of the town, which kept interest buoyed.
Many dramas have gone through the tried and tested route of modern fantasy — cue Goong (modern royalty), My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (myth and magic) and Secret Garden (magic and unexplainable circumstance) — and in that, Rooftop is but a chip off the old block. What differentiates it though, is that along with time travel, historical drama is also thrown into the mix. Viewers are brought back to the Joseon Era where Crown Prince, Lee Gak (Park Yoochun) wakes up to find his wife and Crown Princess (Jung Yoo Mi) dead. Gathering his top intelligence in all of the land, he ventures to investigate this tragic mystery.
I’m going to digress into descriptive introductions just a little as I find these characters vital to the draw in Rooftop. First up, we have Song Man Bo (Lee Min Ho). As with all things patriarchal and hierarchical in the 18th century, Man Bo, who’s of illegitimate birth, is barred from taking up a place in the royal court. Much like Song Joong Ki‘s Goo Yong Ha in Sungkyunkwan, Man Bo lives his life as playboy. Lee Gak eyes his genius and recruits him into his service.
Secondly, there’s Woo Yong Sul (Jung Suk Won), a man who was charged with the murder of a nobleman. His homicidal actions were not for naught though. Yong Sul had sought to avenge his murdered mother and defiled sister. With his intentions rooted in the “right” place, Yong Sul received a life-saving pardoning from Crown Prince Lee Gak and this spelt the man’s allegiance to the future King. As an afterthought, Jung Suk Won also struck me as an obvious choice to play the role of Yong Sul. But this is only because the B-lister has been typecast as K-drama’s go-to uptight sidekick. At least he gets to have some fun this time?
Rounding out the trio is Do Chi San (Choi Woo Sik). Possibly the clown of the group, he’s introduced as a gisaeng taking a pee in the men’s urinal. As if to form some foundation to his service to Lee Gak, he was raised as a eunuch. However, presenting some peculiar tendencies (such as getting chummy with the ladies in court), he found himself evicted from the palace. Chi San manages to find his way in to the local gisaeng establishment and soon rises to become its head honcho. With his foothold regained and at the top of such a “lucrative” business, he is allowed free access to high-ranking officials in the country. Coupled with smarts and wit, Chi San becomes somewhat of a Super Mole, coming to Lee Gak’s needs at a timely occasion.
With his new mighty aides, Lee Gak passes out orders for an official murder investigation to be held. However, as the men set off to sniff out sinister trails, they find themselves ambushed and cornered at the edge of a cliff. Leaving them with no escape route, they make the jump, the jump that takes them 300 years into the future.
And that’s where the fun begins. If Yoochun outfitted in his kingly hanbok didn’t already pique interest — *imagines that last Sungkyunkwan scene of a scholarly, bearded Lee Sun Joon…* — this will. A bewildered Park Ha (Han Ji Min) returns to her cozy rooftop house to find four men in traditional garb sitting in her living room.
After trying and failing hopelessly at throwing out this peculiar foursome, Park Ha decides to let them stay. Meanwhile, the Joseon-ers get acquainted with the 21st century which as you’d probably think, takes us through a series of hysterical mishaps. If you’re hoping to find some nonsensical yet endearing hijinks, you’re watching the right drama. Here are a few teensy spoilers: with the Joseon-ers, Park Ha’s house almost gets turned into ash; Lee Gak and gang convene at the King’s palace (now a tourist attraction) in the dead of night and inadvertently set the police on themselves. At this point, if you’re still not following this tirade, I can only promise you that when the foursome finally realise that elevators are not changing rooms, you’d still be clamouring for more. Rooftop does set itself up to be lighthearted and happy so fingers crossed it doesn’t drop a bomb of dramamama on us towards the end. Think Greatest Love with a splash of Secret Garden (is this really the third time this drama’s come up in my article?? My apologies…)
So, if you’ve followed me from the beginning of this review, you’ll note that I’ve only had good things to say. Well, here’s one thing that’s annoyed the crap out of me: Hong Se Na. Also known in the drama as the reincarnation of the deceased Crown Princess as well as Park Ha’s modern-day stepsister, she harbours inexplicable and ruthless hatred towards our female protagonist, who up to this point (as in latest episode) has done nothing to enrage her. Like a kid with a never-ending tantrum, Se Na vows to take everything of Park Ha’s and make them hers. What frustrates me is the fact that people in their circle are absolutely oblivious to her ways. Way to make my blood boil, woman. I’ll have to say though, a hated “villain” is a “villain” played well.
As far as story progression goes, I won’t be spoiling any of it for you. Just know that you’ll be appreciating the entire cast as a whole. You’ll have your funny as well as emotional sequences all balanced out quite OK. You may encounter some hair-pulling situations but you’ll find consolations for these in other parts of the drama.
Finally, the niggling questions in everyone’s minds would be: how do our Joseon friends find their way home? And how will this pan out for Park Ha and Lee Gak when our Crown Prince has to go? Your guess is as good as mine so remember to stay tuned to find out.
Psst psst: This review may come off slightly premature but I’ll have you know that this is to tie in with a contest we have going on on this other page. Hit that and you’ll be in for a surprise. Enjoy!
Be sure to catch Rooftop Prince on ONE (Starhub – channels 823 and 876 | Singtel mioTV – channel 39), ONE Malay (Starhub – channel 124), Mondays and Tuesdays at 9.05pm (SGT).