As amazing as Netflix is, lately it’s started to feel like their original content is producing fewer hits than misses. A string of underwhelming sitcoms are largely to blame, so when Dramaworld showed up it could have easily flown under the radar. Luckily for Netflix, Dramaworld is one of their most inventive shows to date.
Claire is a sad sack student, working at her dad’s deli to help pay college tuition. She’s also so obsessed with Korean TV dramas that she forgets to serve customers, building a shell around herself to keep out the real world. Korean Drama (or K-Drama, as the show calls it) is the refuge she uses to hide from that world. This is, of course, until a magical accident zaps her into the world of her favourite TV show.
Imagine The Last Action Hero, but affectionately taking the piss out of Korean soap operas instead of brainless 80s action films. Fortunately, knowing nothing about K-Drama doesn’t really hurt the experience, with Claire and fellow outsider Seth neatly explaining the tropes of the genre even as they lead to ridiculous on screen moments.
And here’s where it gets interesting. Claire is now in Dramaworld, where the tropes of television trump the way things happen in reality. If a girl faints and looks like she’s about to hit the floor, the male lead of a K-Drama will always (always) be their to catch her. A series can’t end unless the show’s male and female leads share true love’s kiss. The gentle ribbing of the genre is never mean spirited, and it’s obvious the show is written by some of its biggest fans.
In Dramaworld, Claire comes to life. Far from the anti-social loner, she dives in with reckless abandon, trying to play matchmaker for her favourite on screen couple. As a facilitator – someone from our world in charge of making sure the drama keeps ticking along and everyone gets a happy ending – it’s also basically her job.
Of course, there wouldn’t be a show without a villain, and it turns out there’s another outsider gone rogue, trying to manipulate the drama for themselves. Whereas Claire would quite like to jump the male lead’s bones, she refuses, at the risk of destroying Dramaworld entirely. Her eventual nemesis on the other hand, has no such qualms.
Ultimately though, Dramaworld is just a lot of fun, witty and endearing where it needs to be, all based around a bizarre idea that somehow works. Claire is the kind of female character we get too little of – dorky, but deep enough to be flawed yet strong. Don’t be surprised if you see more of actress Liv Hewson on television before long.
The only disappointment here is that Dramaworld is so short. Its ten episodes run barely 20 minutes each, though whether the story could have stretched over more episodes is hard to say. No news yet on a second season, but if you’re looking for something to binge over a quiet weekend, this should be high on your list.
Cultured Vultures is a site by writers, for writers. We like words.