AKA the crack drama of the first half of 2012.
Rooftop Prince is the show that had everyone - including yours truly - glued to their computers. It is also the most famous example of the "it" genre for dramas this year: the time-traveling sageuk fusion. Sageuk refers to historical drama. However, this show isn't as heavy on the history as its contemporaries. Ultimately, this is a story of star-crossed lovers and a murder mystery that spans 300 years.
Flung into the future after his wife is found drowned in the palace pond, Joseon Crown Prince Yi Gak (portrayed endearingly by Park Yoochun formerly of DBSK/TVXQ) and his three loyal attendants discover that the key to solving the princess' death lies in modern day Seoul as her reincarnation is alive and well. However, the princess isn't the only one with a Twenty-first Century doppelganger: the prince also has a double.
Where Rooftop Prince excels is in the comedy and romance. There is plenty of fish-out-of-water hijinks to be found within the series' first half, and it will have you DYING. Example. And the romance between Yoochun's Prince and Han Ji Min's Park Ha is incredibly sweet. Where the show falters is in the machinations and makjang (over the top) trappings of Prince-double's corporate world. And with that big business comes the most foul, detestable, downright loathsome female villain I've ever laid eyes on. It's most unfortunate that she and her inept baddie boyfriend get so much screentime; they essentially kill the fun whenever they come on screen. But, if you can get past these scenes, you're still left with one hoot of a show.
Rooftop Prince is crack. Oh-so-addictive crack that isn't necessarily the best, but the most fun. And, bonus! It boasts a surprisingly moving and poignant ending that doesn't happen all the time with shows of this nature.
Equator Man (Man of Equator)
If Rooftop Prince is my crack drama, then Equator Man is my pick for best drama (so far) of 2012.
Equator Man is a dark and suspenseful tale about two childhood friends who wind up as enemies. The two leads - Uhm Tae Woong as Kim Sun Woo, and Lee Jun Hyuk as Lee Jang Il - are FANTASTIC in their roles. Especially, Uhmforce (this is the nickname Uhm Tae Woong's fans have given him due to his strong charismatic acting). I'd seen Uhmforce previously in supporting roles in TV and film, but never as the lead. This was my first experience with him in a main role, and boy, did he fucking deliver. From the fear of never being able to return to a life of normalcy, to the aching grief of a son left behind, and the righteous fury of a man who has been wronged by those dearest to him, he carries a lot of the show. He is far and away my favourite South Korean actor. Not to be outdone, Lee Jun Hyuk is creepily haunting as a narcissistic sociopath. Together, they have great chemistry; many of their scenes are suffocating due to all the tension in the air between the two.
This is one series that continuously improved as it went and surprised me with how much it delivered each week. The pacing and cinematography are top notch, with many beautiful wide angle shots and recurring camera angles serving as motifs in this show about broken brotherly love. It's not without its weaknesses, though; the music direction in the first few episodes is glaringly obtrusive and a disservice to the material on screen. And the establishing episodes aren't nearly as strong as when Uhm Tae Woong and Lee Jun Hyuk take the stage. However, these are things that the show addresses and become a forethought as the story ratchets up the intensity levels.
Taking inspiration from The Count of Monte Cristo, Equator Man tackles themes of justice, vengeance, pride, love and friendship, as well as the power of forgiveness. However, it is also a story of choice and how the choices one makes in life have powerful repercussions. Many of the characters' lives are a direct result of the choices they and others made. The power to do both good and evil always lies within oneself; it's a matter of choice.