The famous K-drama writers the Hong Sisters wrote this lovely 2011 romantic comedy about a forgotten former pop idol singer who falls in love against her will with a popular action star actor who has a hard time trusting people. It starred Gong Hyo Jin, Cha Seung Won, Yoon Kye Sang, and Yoo In Na, and it was called The Greatest Love (other websites call it The Greatest Question).
I have to be honest and say I almost quit this drama on the very first episode because Ajussi Cha's frenzied character got on my nerves at first because he was so obnoxious. However, I am glad I stuck to my own advice to never give up on a K-drama if the first episode doesn't wow you, because by the end I had a huge crush on the actor and his interesting character. He improves so much by episode three that I started thinking, "Where has this guy been all my life?" He won my heart completely, much like So Jisub had to do in Master's Sun, another Hong Sister drama, since his character in that drama was obnoxious to the lead female character at first too. You always need to understand that the characters you see at the very beginning of a drama will not be the same characters you see at the end: they change mightily during the course of the show, become humanized, softer, kinder, and win your heart the hard way - by earning it!
I especially loved the fact that the actor was in his early 40's when he made the show, so he was one of those Alpha male actors with seasoning and wisdom in playing challenging roles. The older the Korean male stars get the less likely they are able to get the leading man roles. I think that's ridiculous but it's very obvious when you watch a lot of K-dramas that largely favor actors in their twenties. This show is tremendously rewarding, but you simply have to endure a frazzled first episode and then you are on your way. By episode six things get very serious between the lead characters, he confesses his love, but she has developed a silly crush on a be-speckled doctor (Yoon Kye Sang from Road Number One) -- though thankfully that doesn't last long! -- and rejects him. He looks like he's been kicked in the stomach and I wanted to hug him. From there on in you will most likely start to shed a few tears along the way to the happy conclusion.
From left to right: Yoon Kye Sang, Gong Hyo Jin, Cha Seung Won
Everything I've written above can be corroborated in the tremendous growth in the ratings for this series; when it first began it averaged about 10% ratings - by the last episode that had jumped up remarkably to 23.7%. A truly astonishing achievement.
I loved that they often played soundtrack selections in the background from classic movies and in one scene I smiled when I heard the music from the classic K-drama Sandglass. I was really surprised they would get permission to pay for the rights to include all those movie soundtracks. Must have cost them a pretty penny. Since Ajussi Cha's character was an actor the pieces they used were a nice touch to remind you of that fact.
Sweet Ae-jung Gu (Gong Hyo Jin) was once the most popular member of a girl group called the "National Treasure Girls", but she fell from grace after becoming embroiled in various scandals, usually created by her chief rival, Kang Se-ri (Yoo In Na from Secret Garden and Goblin and My Love From Another Star) who has always been jealous of her. At present she makes appearances on television programs like talk shows and variety shows to eke out a living for herself and her not very competent father Gu Ja Chul (Han Jin Hee) and manager brother Gu Ae Hwan (Jung Joon Ha).
On the other hand, actor Dokko Jin (Cha Seung Won) is one of the most beloved stars in the nation, known for his action movies, topping all kinds of popularity polls and appearing in many commercials, but he has several character flaws that keep him from having any kind of long term relationship with a woman. Ae-jung discovers a secret about Jin by chance and reveals it on a talk show, incurring his wrath. However, their ill-fated relationship unfolds in an unexpected way as Dokko Jin unexpectedly falls for Ae-jung and tries to win her heart, witnessed and hyped by the paparazzi.
Will Ae-jung and Dokko Jin find new career success because
of the hyped up media coverage of their relationship?
Whereas Ae-jung was more famous in her heyday and Se-ri was a nobody, now every girl wants to be just like Kang Se-ri. She had dated Dokko Jin for a short time, but now Se-ri is the successful host of popular TV dating show Couple Making.
Yoon Pil-joo (Yoon Kye-sang) is a well-mannered, thoughtful and caring doctor of Oriental medicine. He has no interest in celebrities and their outrageous lives. Under pressure from his mother, he agrees to appear on the Couple Making show, and after finding out that Ae-jung will also be appearing on the same show he becomes very eager to meet her due to a prior meeting between them when she had walked into the wrong private dining room of a restaurant and misunderstood him to be her blind date. Highly amused by her personality, he is intrigued and wants to meet her on the show. However, friction once again occurs between Ae-jung and Se-ri for Se-ri has become Doctor Yoon's patient and has a huge crush on him. So not only is Ae-jung being associated publicly with her former beau Dokko Jin, she is also making the Doctor fall in love with her too. Se-ri plans to sabotage Ae-jung yet again. Will she succeed?
A frenzied relationship at first turns into
a tender and sweet one in The Greatest Love
The fictional dating show on the drama, Couple Making, is based on MBC's real variety program We Got Married, where they throw celebrities into fake relationships for the cameras. The concept is a competition-based mat-seon program, essentially setting up people on blind dates for the purposes of finding a marriage partner. The major difference is that in Couple Making, celebrity ladies compete over a non-celebrity eligible bachelor who gives them roses to prevent their elimination (a la The Bachelor), which is how Yoon Pil-joo ends up as a contestant on the show. Through the show Ae-jung gets to meet Doctor Yoon officially and become friendly with him.
The mix of the main characters' mismatched personalities, with the necessity to maintain (or recoup as in Ae-jung's case) public sentiment for career success, makes for great hi jinks, not to mention an interesting social commentary on the entertainment industry in general, and the star-making and breaking power of image control.
A serious turn in the drama results when Ae-jung discovers that Dokko Jin has had heart disease and an artificial valve placed in his chest. The older he gets and the more stress he endures the more challenging his situation becomes and eventually he needs another surgery. Dokko's bravery really impressed me, whereas Unni Gong's more emotional character sometimes got on my nerves. No one does that pout better than Unni Gong, but when her character's life wasn't in danger and his was, there was no doubt who I was going to sympathize more with in this drama. Sad Sister Acts only are tolerable for a short time. Eventually people have to grow up. He was stoic and brave and kept his wits and humor about him through the heart problems, and she pouted and cried. This is really Oppa's show all the way; we do get a happy ending, because it is a romantic comedy for the most part, but I'm not denying there were times when I talked back to the screen and said, "Time to grow up, girl! Your man is sick!" I really liked that the Hong Sisters were strong on the idea that even a sick person deserves romantic love as well as a healthy person.
The Greatest Love is highly recommended for fans of the Hong Sister shows, or fans of Gong Hyo Jin or Cha Seung Won. I didn't know what to expect going in, and I ended up being touched, especially by Oppa Cha's remarkable performance; because of this show I had found a new favorite Korean actor to love.