Another KBS Drama Special, another winner. The recently concluded four-part miniseries Adolescence Medley (사춘기 메들리) joins the growing list of excellent stories presented under the Drama Special banner.
Also known as Puberty Medley internationally, the series was a poignant, nostalgic and charming coming of age story.
The series begins as we meet Jung Woo (played in 2013 by Baek Seung Hyun, White Christmas!), a teacher in training in his late 20s. In the middle of stressing over his teacher certification exam, he receives an e-mail from his high school about their alumni social network shutting down and notifying alums to save any e-mails and files they’d want to keep.
This sets Jung Woo down memory lane as we flashback ten years earlier to 2003 in the small countryside town of Namil. Teenage Jung Woo (now played by Kwak Dong Yun) has just transferred. And being his 7th time at a new school, he’s learned to just keep to himself and not make any new friends since he’ll probably be leaving soon anyway.
And sure enough, his father has been promoted and they are set to move once again, this time to Seoul. But before he leaves, he decides to stick it to class president Ah Young (Lee Se Young) whom he mistakenly believes is messing with him. He asks her out in front of the whole class and she accepts to the cheers of his classmates who now think he’s the shit.
But his parents suddenly realize how all this moving may have affected Jung Woo and decide they’re going to finally settle down.
Oops. Now the previously antisocial and apathetic Jung Woo has to deal with being the coolest guy in school which includes the attention of the school bully, the town’s toughest fighter and now new girlfriend.
But the unexpected turn of events ends up being the experience that helps him break out of his shell, allowing him to make friends and to grow and mature.
Adolescence Medley is a fine mix of high school angst, young love and unforgettable friendships, using Jung Woo’s coming of age as the perfect foundation to tell the story.
The series is sweet and innocent, but entirely relatable. And the best stories are the ones that connect with the widest audience possible. We all think back to our younger days, we all reminisce about high school life.
And while Adolescence Medley is set in the beautifully idyllic Korean countryside, we can all relate to the story. Even though I wish my own high school experience were as exciting and romantic as Jung Woo’s.
This one semester in Jung Woo’s life as depicted in the series was a story that fit perfectly in four episodes with an unexpectedly touching and resonant ending.
But it was charming and engaging enough to have warranted a full 16 episode run, creating a small little world of likeable and relatable characters brought to life by a talented young cast.
Kwak Dong Yun may be best known as dim bulb Jang Goon who is tutored by CNBLUE’s Minhyuk on the hit KBS drama You Who Rolled in Unexpectedly. But here as Jung Woo, he gets to really show his promise. He shares a great chemistry with Lee Se Young as Ah Young who also draws you into their budding relationship.
The young cast is rounded out by Choi Tae Joon as the aspiring boxer with a heart of gold Yeok Ho, Park Jung Min as the bully sidekick with a heart of gold Young Bok, Yoon Park as the bully with a heart for the intelligent girls Won Il and fresh off his acclaimed School 2013 performances, Kwak Jung Wook as Jung Woo’s brave and kind hearted best friend Duk Won.
It was also great to see Kwak Jung Wook’s White Christmas co-star Baek Seung Hyun as the older Jung Woo. He ends up with the task of bringing the story full circle and is the clincher in the series’ heartfelt finale.
Stunningly filmed, universally relatable with a talented, charming cast and a nostalgic and poignant story; it is definitely a treat when shows like Adolescence Medley come around.
Watch the entire series right here thanks to KBS World’s official YouTube account: