javabeans: You know, despite my early misgivings, Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village turned out to be a lot more interesting than I’d thought. And also, way more entertaining than the farmhouse edition, which was fun in a boring way, or maybe boring in a fun way.
girlfriday: Yeah, for starters, there’s Chajumma. That’d be Cha Seung-won’s ajumma alter ego. He chops, he slices, he bakes his own bread, makes his own liquor. He even makes his own condiments!
javabeans: The show starts off at a somewhat normal-level of difficulty and then gradually amps it up, so at first you’re thinking, “Huh, pretty good.” But he just keeps going and going, and by the time he’s picking fresh tomatoes from his garden and turning that into ketchup, my jaw was permanently dropped.
girlfriday: Then the show becomes Let’s See What New Challenge Chajumma Will Top Today.
javabeans: That was definitely the name of Na PD’s game. You got the sense that he didn’t know if it was possible but would demand impossible things just to see Chajumma’s reaction, and then got the thing he asked for anyway. With anybody else, if you said, “Make me fresh ketchup,” the reaction might be, “Screw you, who knows how to make that?” But with Chajumma, it was, “Screw you, that’s so much work, I should start right now.”
girlfriday: I think Na PD was shocked as much as anyone. I was pretty sure that he was half joking when he said, “For breakfast, I would like some french toast and orange marmalade. Easy, right? We’ll give you milk.”
javabeans: Yoo Hae-jin surprised me too, and did his share of work by jerry-rigging everything from scrap parts. He made the baking rack, the trash-can-cooking-stove, the rain tent, the sushi wheel, the outdoor stools — basically, he was Dad and Cha Seung-won was Mom, and it was adorable.
girlfriday: I did love the running narrative that they were a little family. Especially when Sohn Ho-joon joined them and became their little kid. He would just stare open-mouthed at Mom and Dad, half-starstruck and half-afraid.
javabeans: He was really so cute, and his raw earnestness just makes you (and everyone) want to root for him.
girlfriday: And feed him.
javabeans: This worked well on that show.
girlfriday: You could actually sense the pleasure on Chajumma’s face when he waited for Hojoonie’s reaction after taking the first bite of every meal. He was always asking with so much anticipation, “It’s good, right? It’s really good, right?” But it really did look good, even to my untrained eye. I have no idea how Cha Seung-won knows how to cook all of the things, but even my mother started writing down his recipes while watching the show.
javabeans: That’s so cute. And your mother is a good cook! She’s picking up tips from Cha Seung-won!
girlfriday: Last weekend, I went home and she announced with a huge grin, “We’re having spicy pork stir-fry! It’s Cha Seung-won’s recipe!” And then we ate it while watching the newest episode of Three Meals.
javabeans: The funniest-saddest moments for me were when Hae-jin, whose main job was to fish, came home empty-handed every night and couldn’t face the wife in shame, and then Wife-jumma kept telling him it was all right, they would make do with vegetables.
girlfriday: That was so hilariously sad. They would play sad music like they were a poor drama family that couldn’t make ends meet.
javabeans: And Hae-jin would interview that he felt so grateful for all the delicious food he was getting that he felt he had to pull his weight, and so being unable to do that made him embarrassed to face his “family.” Literally, he would pull up his turtleneck over his mouth and pull his hood closed to hide his face, and then arrive in the yard and try to say as casually as possible, “Sorry, nothing today.” I just wanted him to catch a fish so bad.
girlfriday: He was the epitome of the hard-working dad who felt the weight of his incompetence every single day. They would’ve starved without those fish banks he kept on the side — nets containing fish to be used in times of emergency.
javabeans: And then Chajumma found the bank and used it all in one dinner without knowing what it was for! Hae-jin looked so panicked, because basically the wife used his emergency savings account for a regular dinner.
girlfriday: I think that was the secret to Fishing Village’s success — there was a clear sense of peril because they would starve if they caught nothing.
javabeans: And also, there was a natural narrative that formed. The farm version was okay, but basically it was just a day in the life, without necessarily a story pushing things along. Here, the situation unfolded like an actual dramatic storyline, and the realness of the reactions made it more compelling. Like when Chajumma left the island for a night and Hae-jin and Hojoonie were left to fend for themselves — they were simultaneously giddy with freedom and anxious about how to feed themselves.
girlfriday: It was exactly like a mom leaving a dad and teenage son home alone, and telling them not to eat pizza all weekend. And as soon as Mom leaves, they’re jumping around making a mess and calling for pizza. Only on the island, they can’t order pizza, so they had all the excitement but none of the quick and easy solutions.
javabeans: I loved Hae-jin’s attitude, where he needed to prove to Chajumma that he could take care of himself without him, and that, more than the primal need to fill his stomach, drove him to cook adequate meals. All the while, he’d grumble, “I can’t prove him right. I’d never hear the end of it.”
girlfriday: I began to believe they were really married.
javabeans: Hojoonie was super sweet and minimally helpful — he didn’t know how to do anything, but if you gave him instructions, he would do the hell out of it. It made him so endearing, and I think that’s why Chajumma loved him so much. He couldn’t praise him enough.
girlfriday: It was very different with Jung Woo, who came overnight for a short visit. He was so useless. SO. SO. Useless.
javabeans: It was the most hilarious thing, because he made Hojoonie look like an expert. He came all confident, saying that he could cook decently, just not as well as Cha Seung-won. But the moment he had to do anything…
girlfriday: He became Taecyeon?
javabeans: More than just being useless, he was so overwhelmed that he just malfunctioned. Like, he would stand there gaping, in everyone’s way, not knowing what to do or where to start. I loved how Hojoonie was showing him the trash-can cooking stove in the front yard over an open fire, and Jung Woo just asked, “Why don’t you just use the gas stove?”
girlfriday: Cue crickets.
javabeans: There were blank looks all around, as if to say, I can’t even. And then he’d be so at a loss that he would be fanning the flames, only his fan was pointed in the wrong direction and six feet away.
girlfriday: He managed to screw up every single task he was given. Chajumma once asked him to pick a vegetable from the garden, and he and Hojoonie plucked every single vegetable until they got to the right one.
javabeans: You actually got the sense that in that cramped space, Hojoonie and Jung Woo were physical impediments. There was no place they could sit to be out of the way, so more than just being unhelpful, they were actually obstacles.
girlfriday: I loved some of the running gags on the island, like the local market ajusshi who never opened his shop.
javabeans: It seemed like his perpetual absence stoked Chajumma’s stubbornness, to the point where he just HAD to buy something from that market, he didn’t care what, just as long as he won. He kept going back to the store repeatedly, and every time it was closed, and finally when he got the ajusshi to open up, he bought some random chips and went away happy.
girlfriday: Well, there wasn’t actually much to buy other than chips, since there was about two shelves’ worth of food in total.
javabeans: Didn’t you feel like the ajusshi didn’t answer his door because he wanted to keep everything for himself? “My precious Coke!”
girlfriday: Then he should really take down the market sign on his door.
javabeans: Na PD must have a thing for animals, because there were two more on this show, and they were so cute. There was a tiny mini-dog named Sanche, and his nemesis, the tiny kitten Beol, and they would fight for Hojoonie’s affections.
girlfriday: I know they obviously wrote that narrative into the dog-cat relationship, but it really did seem like they were jealous if Hojoonie ever pet the other one longer.
javabeans: I laughed when a PD asked which one Hojoonie preferred, and he said the dog because the cat wasn’t affectionate enough, “like somebody I know,” meaning Yoo Yeon-seok.
girlfriday: I died laughing. His love for Yeon-seok is single-minded and all-consuming.
javabeans: He just wants Yeon-seokie to love him ALL THE TIME, forever, is that so hard? But I did really like to see how close he is with Yunho (of DBSK/TVXQ/XKCD), because that’s a friendship that seems unlikely but also really sweet. There was a point when Hojoonie got stranded on the island two extra nights due to rough water, and he was worrying about it over the phone to Yunho, and Yunho just burst out cackling so loud you could hear it without a mic.
girlfriday: That was adorable. Ever since Youths Over Flowers, I still picture Yunho feeding Hojoonie when he’s away and calling to make sure that he’s eating and stuff.
javabeans: Maybe this is a pattern with Hojoonie.
girlfriday: He just brings out the mama bear in everyone.
javabeans: Don’t you have the image where each of his mama-bros is relieved to hear about the others, so that somebody’s always got him covered? They say it takes a village.
girlfriday: A fishing village!
Odds and Ends: Fishing for reality
Sohn Ho-joon replaces Jang Geun-seok on Three Meals a Day
Jang Geun-seok leaves Three Meals a Day in wake of tax evasion scandal
Trials, tribulations, and tuxes for Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village
Na PD ships out cast for Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village
Cha Seung-won, Jang Geun-seok, Yoo Hae-jin for Three Meals spinoff
Three Meals a Day for a year
Three Meals a Day: Episode 1
Youths Over Flowers: Episode 7
Kids will be kids on Youths Over Flowers
Tags: Cha Seung-won, conversation post, featured, Jung Woo, Na Young-seok, Sohn Ho-joon, Three Meals a Day, Yoo Hae-jin