K-drama Love is for Suckers: Lee Da-hee, Choi Si-won lead typical cohabitation romcom that lacks sparks
Lee Da-hee (L.U.C.A.: The Beginning) and Super Junior member Choi Si-won share the screen in the new romantic comedy Love is for Suckers, playing a reality-TV producer and a plastic surgeon who are close friends and neighbours.
Just as in the currently airing The Law Cafe and countless other cohabitation romcoms that have preceded it, their characters share a long history and presently live in the same building in a landlord-renter arrangement.
It’s clear to most people around them that they share a special connection, but they remain oblivious to that fact.
In this case, it is Goo Yeo-reum (Lee) who is the landlord, occupying the ground unit in a charming two-floor villa in the city.
Yeo-reum is a veteran TV producer but her new cooking show The Ramen Chef has turned into a ratings bomb. Complicating matters even further is the fact that she’s been dating the show’s arrogant host, Chef John Jang (Park Yeon-woo).
She has feelings for John, but he’s been playing the field and when he breaks things off, she takes it hard. Seeing him on set every week doesn’t help, especially when she overhears him talk about her to their colleagues.
Her upstairs neighbour and long-time friend Park Jae-hoon (Choi) comes from a wealthy family and was on track to become a brilliant doctor, but he is currently only working part-time as a plastic surgeon.
He spends a lot of his time near home and typically wears flip-flops and tracksuits, even when he goes on the blind dates his mother arranges for him.
During one of these blind dates, a particularly flippant Jae-hoon is told off by Han Ji-yeon (Lee Ju-yeon), who explains that he might not care about his dates, but he should at least consider the effort that others put in to them.
In a somewhat hypocritical and disappointing move, after confidently scolding him at the restaurant, Ji-yeon later shows up at Jae-hoon’s clinic in a similarly comfortable outfit and convinces him to meet up for a friendly dinner.
For Yeo-reum, Chef John may be out of the picture, especially after her show is cancelled, but her love life soon becomes complicated once again when her ex, Kim In-woo (Song Jong-ho), returns on the scene.
Their relationship abruptly ended three years earlier when he left for America, but his feelings never changed and he’s come back with the intention of marrying her.
Following the cancellation of her show, Yeo-reum is forced by her boss to join the second season of the smash series Kingdom of Love, which means she has to work alongside hit producer Kang Chae-ri (Jo Soo-hyang).
Yeo-reum and Chae-ri hate each other and their relationship stretches back a long time. Yeo-reum explains to her colleagues that when they went to school together, she was one of the popular kids while Chae-ri was an outcast.
Similar to some of the perplexing characterisations in All of Us Are Dead earlier this year, Chae-ri is a former bullying victim that has become a villain. Her programme is essentially a popularity contest featuring beautiful wannabes and she revels in making them degrade each other for ratings and social media cred.
After a disgusting altercation with one of her vexed cast members, which involves a bottle filled with excrement water, Chae-ri happens to drop by Jae-hoon’s clinic and, taking notice of his looks and credentials, she asks him to audition for the show, but he declines.
However, Love is for Suckers begins with a scene that features Yeo-reum being driven up to the set of a romantic reality-TV show, which is returning to production after an extended break. She meets Jae-hoon, who is a cast member, which is presented as an awkward reunion.
Since this appears to be a flash-forward, we can safely assume that Jae-hoon will eventually join the cast.
Beyond its typical storyline, Love is for Suckers features many familiar K-drama accoutrements.
For one, there’s the inviting neighbourhood eatery run by a down-to-earth couple who are friends to both Yeo-reum and Jae-hoon, and offer each a shoulder to cry on.
There’s also plenty of jealous behaviour when another suitor gets too close, even though Yeo-reum and Jae-hoon balk at the idea of being a couple. In one instance, In-woo drops by Yeo-reum’s apartment during the evening and Jae-hoon spends the entire night making a racket upstairs to disturb them.
Lee and Choi are both fine in their respective roles but there hasn’t been a huge amount of chemistry between them in these early episodes.
Regarding their secondary romantic interests, In-woo doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat, while Ji-yeon, who actually seems well-matched to Jae-hoon, is sidelined surprisingly quickly.
The set-up has been a bit slow, but once Yeo-reum and Jae-hoon find themselves on the set of Kingdom of Love together hopefully the sparks will start to fly.
In any case, given the soft ratings the launch of the series has received, something will have to happen soon.
Love is for Suckers is streaming on Prime Video.