I never imagined my self that I watched this drama in the first place. It’s been long gone since I felt so alive when watching a show. Prison Playbook is a show that reviving my sense of drama addict again. I was hooked because I was looking forward to how the story goes. It was so beyond my expectation. I did not have certain expectation when I started the show. What I knew is next, I was laughing out loud, I excitingly waited for the next episode after another, I grew fond with almost every characters presented. It was entirely entertaining.
Prison Playbook is about a year-long life of a famous Korean high pitcher, Kim Jae Hyuk (Park Hae Soo) in a prison. Jae Hyuk is ready to be in a bigger league to reach a brighter future in the US. The plane ticket has been bought, but it has to wait. That one night is changhing everything. He went to his sister’s place and only found that somebody has broken in and even worse, tried to rape his sister. He went crazy and made that guy ended up in hospital, dying. He’s sentenced one year in prison for that.
He does not know what he’s about to meet as he is known as the ‘flat guy’, emotionless. Despite that, we know that he has his own rage. He is trying to survive each day even though his first cell mates are all scary. Of course with a little help from his own childhood buddy, the person he trusts the most, Lee Jun Ho (Jun Kyong Ho) who turns out to be a corrector officer in the same prison with Jae Hyuk. Surprise… surprise… Well, it is not what we call drama if we don’t have another character who can help him go through the tough life of a prisoner. It is Beopja or literal meaning Jailbird (Kim Seung Cheol) shows up as one of the ‘helper’ in the cell. He is a petty con artist who is bluffing more money. Not because he likes it but because he needs money for his mother.
I personally divide this drama into two segments. The first segment is about the first experience in the first cell. It is cell full of creepy people that we can think of in a prison. The first half showing how Kim Jae Hyuk as a character makes a stand point of how he stands, and how he acts in every crisis. From the cell mates to the officers show more about what we know about a prison. Nasty temper of cell mates, greyish character of an officer, and how the newbie would act.
Second segment is about his life in the second cell. He is moved because of one particular accident in the previous cell. Here, is looking creepier in the beginning. We have the convicted murderer who has been sentenced for 25 years – Kim Moo Cheol (Choi Moo Song). A scary-looked con artist – Kaist (Park Ho San), Go Baksa or in literal meaning Go doctor, and why he has his nickname because he is a ‘know-all’ character who lives his life very true to book, but he is in the jail because of other’s wrongful doing. We also have Janbaljang (Kang Seun Yoon) who is still young and I can say that his character is a good exampler of a prisoner in general. Once been a thief, will be a thief.
This cell is our core of life here in Prison Playbook. Every character is wonderfully made, and make the year-long prison life be so colorful. Aside from Kim Jae Hyuk, we are introduced to another fellow new prisoner whom they call Haerongie (Lee Kyu Hyun), a graduate from a notable university, a drug addict. I may add, a very cute druggie. His present is the flower of the show. A very bright and loveable flower of the show. This cute little drug addicted adds the sweetness in the cell with his little fight with Kaist or fight with Yoodaewi, Captain Yoo (Jung Hae In) – another convicted murderer. This is where the cutest of the show is super on. Yes, mark my word – c.u.t.e.
If you expect this is going to be a dark, thriller drama, I suggest you stop thinking about it. It is a super cute show compared to many rom-com I have seen. No, it is not a rom-com drama obviously. Nevertheless, you will find many cute actions here and there, and believe me darling, it is not lame. It is cute. That’s it.
Overall, Prison Playbook or in literal meaning – “Wise Prison Life”, gives you memorable characters, Reply franchise touch, comedic color, brotherhood, and warm tones. These are all I could think of when I finish watching Prison Playbook. It’s different yet the same from the previous dramas of the same director, Shin Won Ho whose dramas were hits. He is finally back after Reply 1988, bringing another warm fuzzy drama without family storyline as the back ground, but a whole new world – prison life. I honestly did not know what to expect. I even forgot why I wanted to watch this drama in the first place. It was full of unknown actors, dark but comedic teaser. Nevertheless, I think it is the charm of the drama. I am glad that it does not lose Reply Franchise touch but not creating a similar drama to the precedents. I mean we still see Sung Dong Il, and many many Reply actors, not to forget the prodigy element and baseball particularly, but it is not the husband hunting story or about family problems. Still, you will find similar message of the meaning of “family”, a bond, friendship, and humanities.
It is a story about prison that I can say seems a bit unrealistic, but we are made to believe in it. Shin Won Ho has this ability to integrate every element become one. Every one has a name or at least a label, a strong characteristic to show, and many things are making us attached to each character.
Our main focus is the squad. It is our super squad, and oxygen of the show for the rest of the episodes. Every one has little story about it, and how they relate to each other. Especially Gobaksa, Kim Min Cheol, Yoodaewi, even the annoying Kaist and super cutesy Haerongie even has a melancholy background story that adds more flavour to the drama.
Moreover, it is not only about the story within Kim Jae Hyuk’s cell, but also the relationship among the prisoners and the officers. We got Leutnant Peng (Jung Woong In) who was considered ‘the bad person’ and also the naive and talkative Song officer (Kang Ki Dong). Their position makes me wonder whether it is true that such a beautiful relationship between the officer and the prisoner can be developed too.
Outside the prisoner life, we also got love story lines outside the jailbar. Between the brothers, the lovers, and the father-daughter relationship. I can say that the romantic story is not the headline but truly plays a big role too in this drama, and makes it more watcheable. SImple, sweet, and realistic. I found Kim Jae Hyuk’s relationship with Kim Jo Ho (Krystal) is romantic in my own definition. Grow up together, fall in love, break up, still in love, and simply in love.
The whole 16 episodes is full of laughter, a fist clenched, and a lot of baseball involvement. I am just feeling so happy watching this drama. Familiar but different. It’s been a long time I did not laugh out loud and cry so hard and fall in love with the characters so much. Prison Playbook gives me all.
I hardly found a comedic drama as my choice to watch. Usually, it is too obvious that they are trying to be funny. That’s why I often went for thriller, heart warming drama, or a typical rom com when I felt like it. Prison Playbook is really something. Perhaps, because it is made by Shin Won Ho who is always putting friendship and raw emotions as the forte of the show. I enjoyed it. I laughed more than I can control. Scenes are made naturally as the characters are created.
Indeed, strong characters are everything. The back sound is another thing. The story itself is too good to be true but at the same time I am made to believe it. Just because the characters are made us so. We are made to grow close to each character just like Shin Won Ho’s others drama, especially Reply 1988 where we could see multi stories in one drama. Nevertheless, I think why I am so much about this drama aside for a pure laughter I get, is the faces. Most of the actors are not really well known. I mean we all know Jug Woong In, Jung Kyung Ho, and Sung Dong Il, and maybe the rising star Jung Hae in, but Park Hae Soo as the main cast? Who is Park Hae Soo anyway???
It is actually a pleasant surprise to see Park Hae Soo back in the screen with a bigger role. I noticed him in Six Flying Dragons as Ji-ran. Here, he plays the character Kim Jae Hyuk so perfectly. It is hard to believe that he was the super power Lee Ji Ran who slay all people with axe in his body. As Kim Jae Hyuk, we see him as an ordinary man, an extraordinary baseball player, and the acnhor of the show. I am so glad that Shin Won Ho choses him as the face of the show.
But, of course, Shin PD does not stop there. He bravely puts other under dogs on the plate. I am happy that Lee Kyu Hyung is casted. He definitely adds so much more to the whole drama. His tone and innocent face makes it all. His character truly means so much more for the show. This is his total break out aside from his outstanding performance too in Secret Forest, but his character as Haerongie is obviously forever cherished. Just like Jung woo is forever our Siraegi oppa.
Lee Kyun Hyung has been around (in notable drama like Goblin and Secret Forest), but I personally think that his acknowledgement gained when he stars in Prison Playbook, and he definitely deserves it. All goes the same with Park Ho San – or Mr. Kaist. Both Haerong and Kaist have a distinct way to talk and both quarrel quiet a bit making it more fun to watch. Park Ho San’s way to talk will never ever be easily forgotten as Kaist. His character really adds up the whole squad as the super squad.
The three are actually Musical Actors! No wonder they can nail every single characters finely.
Aside all the underdog main stars, we are also introduced to new faces with strong memorable characters. Since everyone has distinctive characters, I will go only for my favorites.
Can we have little space for Kim Kyung Nam? His build does not usually go for the stupid-fussy-naive character. It is more expected that Kim Kyung Nam plays a character like a good boy or a calm charming character, but he nails the character of Jun Hoo’s little brother who is just acting like a little brother.
Kang Ki Dong as seargant Song is also reminding me of Manager Ha’s character in Misaeng. A sidekick but then we all grow love with the character more because he brigns so much more than just a mere supporting character.
Last but not least, I want to talk about Jung Woong In who has been always casted as the supported character, and his character is usually forgetable. As Leutnant Paeng is a revelation for him too. Finally, I acknowledge his mere presence as another supported actor, but with more reasons to love.
Oh, may I add another one? I can see the bright future of Jung Hae In very vividly. I always love an actor who can cry well. Definitely, he can cry welllll. His complex character in the beginning makes me put my hats off for him. He surely will soon be more acknowledged, and I am gladly looking forward to see more of his work.
I like it. Even though it is absurd, less drama, too much men, not so famous actors, but I like it. That’s all! This blog is my platform to express my feeling and thoughts, so don’t expect that the posting will be so much objective. It is more about showcasing the underdogs, and this drama has it all!! It is underdog within the underdog. It is not mushy-mushy drama or pathetically trying to be funny show. It is a well made drama and real entertainment. It has made me cry too.
Good job Shin Won Ho for another loving drama.
Looking forward to a premium fan membership of tvN as well. Rock ON!
All credits are from Asian wiki