It’s quirky. It’s funny. It’s quietly romantic with a mild sense of adventure and mystery. What am I talking about? The off-the-wall sleeper hit “Swedish Laundry” from MBC.
Straying a bit from the usual Kdrama fare, “Swedish Laundry” is an episodic miniseries that only releases one episode per week, instead of the usual pair that’s been the Korean TV standard for decades. Another point it has in common with Western TV dramas is that each episode is only loosely connected to what came before, with any running plot being strictly secondary to the episode’s main focus.
Now, I can imagine some of you out there saying, “Yeah, that’s great, but what’s the show actually about?” The core premise is pretty simple: Kim Beom, a lovely but poorly-treated middle daughter of a widow’s family, opens a Sweden-themed laundry/dry cleaner shop in honor of her deceased grandmother, who’s apparently been reincarnated as a cat. Oh, and to make things even better, dear old Grandma has gifted Beom with one of the weakest superpowers you could think of, the ability to see glimpses of the troubled portion of people’s lives when she touches their clothes. Beom must help these people with their current situation, personally, or suffer the worst luck as a result.
Okay, sure, it sounds like a corker, like a watered-down comedic version of “Medium,” and a lot of you out there are probably taking the “been there, done that” approach. But despite some surface similarities, the two series are worlds apart. Nobody knows of Beom’s gift and nobody else in her family has anything of the sort. Most importantly the gift itself serves as a vehicle to reconnect the disgruntled and somewhat justifiably self-involved Beom to her neighbors and family, by forcing her to into situations where she can’t help but empathize with perfect strangers. This gets her mind off of her own troubles and begins a maturing process that’s both subtle and gratifying to watch.
What really makes “Sweden Laundry” sing is the cast. The gorgeous and talented Song Ha-Yoon takes on the role of Kim Beom with a passion and depth that makes this critic ask why it took directors so long to wake up and give her a lead. Opposite her in his television debut is Kpop idol Changjo of the boy band Teen Top, playing young aspiring animator and love interest, Yong Soo-Chul. Despite there being nearly a decade between their ages, Ms. Song’s and Changjo’s chemistry feels so authentic and organic, it’s like they’ve known each other all their lives. Other standouts include Oh Sang-Jin as Beom’s intellectually gifted but socially inept older brother Eun-Cheol, up-and-coming ingenue Hwang Seung-Eon as her self-deluded D-list actress younger sister Eun-Sol, and Bae Noo-Ri as Beom’s street-smart but book-dumb loan shark bestie Young-Mi. It all mixes together in a cocktail of gentle comedy that, while not making you gasp for breath, still makes you glad you tuned in. It’s a solid recommendation for anyone looking to introduce their friends or family to the wonder of Korean television.
Watch it now:
DramaFever – Availability may vary from country to country, premium service available.
HuluPlus – U.S. only, $8/month, HD
Viki – Availability may vary from country to country, premium service available.