Romance is familiar territory for even the most casual K-drama viewer. There’s familiar comfort to the genre, especially when it hits those necessary beats. In recent years, there has been more exploration of the genre. One can even say that there have been attempts to elevate the genre through the exploration of more serious topics. Sometimes it works like Nevertheless. Other times, it loses its sense of identity like You Are My Spring. However, for this critic, sometimes you don’t need to re-write the formula. Just embrace the genre and its tropes like the recently wrapped romance drama, Business Proposal. Its lighthearted and whimsical vibe is both comforting and refreshing. Embracing its webtoon roots with editing flourishes and delightfully quirky characters, Business Proposal reminds us again why romance is where it is at.
Even if you haven’t read the original webtoon the series is based on, the plot of Business Proposal will remind you of some of the best double identity plotlines. Shin Ha-ri (Kim Se-jeong) gets roped by her friend, Jin Young-seo (Seol In-ah), to take her place on a blind date. Young-seo’s father has been arranging blind dates to find her a husband, but Young-seo wants to hold out for meeting her one true love. Ha-ri agrees, thinking that her usual antics will get another potential suitor off of Young-seo’s back. As luck would have it, though, nothing goes as planned.
The guy that Ha-ri’s friend has been set up with? He just so happens to be Kang Tae-mu (Ahn Hyo-seop), the new CEO of the company where Ha-ri works. To further complicate things, Tae-mu actually likes how this fake Young-seo acts and decides he wants to marry her. So, now Ha-ri is stuck in a pickle. The status of her identity as the fake Young-seo gets cleared up relatively quickly when the real Young-seo accidentally crashes into Cha Sung-hoon (Kim Min-kyu), who serves as Tae-mu’s secretary. But Ha-ri isn’t out of the woods yet. She has to keep her employment a secret from Tae-mu and find a way out of this predicament. How will this go? Chaotically. But that’s the fun in it.
While the plot itself is a shenanigans-filled basket, what sells the series even at its most silly is how committed everyone is to their characters. All of the characters we get to encounter onscreen are delightfully quirky. Kim Se-jeong, making her comeback after The Uncanny Counter, channels all the intricacies of Shin Ha-ri. Whether completely clueless about Tae-mu’s intentions or being over-the-top eccentric as the fake Jin Young-seo, Kim Se-jeong successfully juggles everything the script throws at her. It’d be fun to see her tackle more physical comedy after this role. Her chemistry with Ahn Hyo-seop works well, with the awkwardness between their characters developing into love feeling believable.
Seol In-ah’s Jin Young-seo is eccentric, loud, and emotional. The character operates in clear contrast to Kim Min-kyu’s calmer Cha Sung-hoon. Both complement each other well onscreen and, while their characters’ path to romance is rocky at the beginning, it’s delightful seeing the two work through their issues before reaching the obvious conclusion. Notable shoutouts in the supporting cast are Kim Hyun-sook, Lim Ki-hong, and Yoon sang-jung, who provide delightful comedic timing as Shin Ha-ri’s workmates. Lee Deok-hwa as Chairman Kang Da-goo is also fun to watch, given the opportunity to be serious when needed and funny when the scene calls for it.
A minor complaint in the performance and character development area would be Song Won-seok’s Lee min-woo. Set up as the potential third part of a love triangle, there’s not enough done to make the character resonate. How much of this has to do with the individual actor, the direction, and/or what was in the script is difficult to say. But, as far as the character goes, he doesn’t really move the needle despite the unrequited love angle written in.
Unfortunately, the finale brings Business Proposal down a notch in overall execution. Its shorter season length at just twelve episodes leaves less wiggle room for the story. As a result, the wrap-up in the final ten minutes arguably will leave viewers wanting more. If the team had one or two more episodes, perhaps there would have been more room to create a less abrupt conclusion. As it stands, the ending feels like the equivalent of hitting a wall and you can’t help but want a little something more. Seeing Kang Tae-moo and Shin Ha-ri, though, softens the blow. They are just too darn cute.
Excluding the execution of the ending, Business Proposal checks off the boxes for what I would expect from a romance webtoon adaptation. The characters are dynamite, with mostly everyone owning the screen regardless of the size of their roles. For newbies to the genre as well as K-dramas in general, Business Proposal is an easy recommendation. It’s silly, whimsical, and over-the-top in a way that is endearing. Perfect for a newbie to the field!
Business Proposal is now streaming in its entirety on Netflix.
- Rating - 8.5/108.5/10
Excluding the execution of the ending, Business Proposal checks off the boxes for what I would expect from a romance webtoon adaptation. The characters are dynamite, with mostly everyone owning the screen regardless of the size of their roles.