Late night situation comedies are apparently all the rage these days, which is where "Strong Family" comes from. It's a fairly standard set-up. There's the dad, Cheol-il (played by Park Hyuk-kwon). He had ambition once, but now sits around the house in a goofy red tracksuit on his days off. There's the mom, Ra-yeon (played by Park Sun-young), who struggles to feel pretty in an ugly world. There's the daughter, Ik-hee (played by Kim Ji-min) who desperately wishes she was special. And that's what they all fight against. The encroaching dread of normalcy.
"Strong Family" is what I would describe as mirror television. Because it's kind of like looking into a mirror, at some points almost literally. I rather liked the sequence where Cheol-il and Ra-yeon bicker over whether she should watch so much bad television. That Cheol-il also lacks good habits is part of the joke. The vanity inherent in Cheol-il's stress-o-metter was funny, as was the inevitable outpouring of support that makes him feel like slightly less of a failure.
Ik-hee's motivation, relating entirely around impressing Yoon (played by Yoo Jun), are also oddly relatable. It's not that Gwi-nam is presented as being an exceptionally attractive boy, or that Ik-hee is particularly in love with him. Ik-hee simply wishes to be distinctive somehow. The moment where she gets frustrated, having studied intensely yet only having come up with the same mediocre results as usual...that's a common average person moment rarely seen on television.
The jokes in "Strong Family" generally run along the same non-pretentious lines. Take another plotline where Ra-yeon starts obsessing about food selfies. The sequence is funny because, rather than focusing on how Ra-yeon's vanity is a social commentary, "Strong Family" is instead about the immediate results. How does this attention make Ra-yeon feel? And more importantly, what happens with the food?
Even while poking fun at these modern concepts of self-esteem "Strong Family" also maintains a surprisingly optimistic disposition. Take the final setpiece, which just involves Cheol-il trying to get a nice picture. It starts out with the same sort of groaning incredulity about other people's vanity that defines most of the second episode, yet by the end we actually get to see all three of them being themselves and having a genuinely good time. It's really quite cute, and shows in its own way how even a normal family has to be a "Strong Family" too in this day and age.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 1-2"
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