- Screenshot from Hello, My Twenties!
If you're sick of American sitcoms about post-college malaise and stunted coming-of-age storylines, seek out the South Korean series Hello, My Twenties! (Netflix)
This show follows five women in their early to late 20s, living together and dealing with the day-to-day drama of crushes, dating, heartbreak, makeovers, tears, and hangovers. That may not sound particularly novel, but those storylines are frequently padded with murder, kidnapping, ghosts and stalkers.
HMT! accomplishes the rare feat of blending extreme drama and warm comedy, with its closest American cousin being the remixed telenovela Jane the Virgin. The series opens with Eun-Jae, a prohibitively quiet and timid college freshman moving into a house with four women who also attend the same school, but in very different ways. When we first meet the women, they all seem able to gracefully navigate adulthood in contrast to Eun-Jae's naiveté. But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear each roommate is carrying their own set of unique baggage.
There's Jin-Myung, who, in addition to school, has an abusive boss and a brother in a coma. Ye-Un is upbeat, preppy, and blissfully blind to her boyfriend's anger issues. Ji-Won, who claims to see ghosts, is a spunky student journalist, obsessed with romance but has never been on a date. Yi-Na doesn't go to school but makes a living sleeping with men who freely hand over their credit cards while dealing with a stalker. And of course, there's Eun-Jae herself, infatuated with her first boyfriend while fighting off memories of mysterious family deaths.
The show's dramatic twists are both slow and unrelenting, but so are the sweet romances and deep friendship between the women. There's genuinely heartfelt bonding (and conflict) between the girls familiar to anyone who's lived in such proximity with friends. There's hair braiding and drinking games and shared bowls of ramen late at night. Through all the drama and soap opera intrigue, the friendships are what anchor the show. Even if they've all been fighting, the roommates don't hesitate to come to each other's rescue, figuratively and literally. They dash to hospitals, break into apartments, pull each other off the floor and always share a shoulder to weep on.
The hour-long episodes (a real hour, not the American 45-minute hour) are relentlessly entertaining in a way that feels like a guilty pleasure, but after a few, you'll realize you care about these characters as much as they care about each other.