“Youngjae and Minnie surprised me. Their acting was very natural even though it was their first time,” said legendary South Korean sitcom hitmaker and “So Not Worth It” director Kwon Ik-joon in the behind the scenes featurette.
I heartily agree. While I love all eight major characters of “So Not Worth It“, the ones played by K-pop idols Youngjae of GOT7 and Minnie of (G)I-DLE made me laugh the most. And not just because of the iconic kimchi slap. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched “So Not Worth It”.
First Netflix K-sitcom
Now, let’s set things straight right away: “So Not Worth It” is not a K-drama, but actually owns the distinction of being Netflix’s first K-sitcom. Not only that, but also it comes from the minds of minds of legendary South Korean sitcom hitmakers Kwon Ik-joon (“Three Guys and Three Girls” and “Nonstop”) and Kim Jung-sik (“High Kick!” and “Potato Star 2013QR3”).
Based on comments on social media and online forums, some viewers apparently thought this was a typical K-drama and were confused, especially because of the laugh track. Admittedly, even though I knew from the start that this was a sitcom, the laugh track caught me off guard when I watched the first episode. Talk about a throwback!
But I got used to it because I was really invested in the characters and their crazy shenanigans. “So Not Worth It” won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love how it managed to balance humor — including satirizing K-dramas — with tackling serious issues such as parenting, relationships, wealth, plastic surgery, activism, environmentalism, religion, and the LGBTQIA+ community. All without being preachy, and while showcasing the talents of its talented multicultural cast.
Fall in love with the characters
“So Not Worth It” is the acting debut of both Youngjae and Minnie. Youngjae plays the Korean Australian Sam, who is the youngest in this group of friends and a chronic liar who easily gets caught because his ears grow red when he isn’t telling the truth. Meanwhile, Minnie, who is Thai, portrays a Thai student of the same name who is a fashionista and a huge fan of K-dramas. Individually, their characters are funny and memorable, but together they have great chemistry and a hilarious Tom and Jerry bickering duo relationship that K-pop fans know only too well.
Apart from Youngjae and Minnie, the “So Not Worth It” cast includes Park Se-wan (the resident adviser Se-wan, who has to juggle multiple jobs to support herself and continue studying), Shin Hyeon-seung (the new student Jamie, who comes from the US and whom they believe to be a Korean American), Han Hyun-min (the Korean student Hyun-min whom everybody mistakes for a foreigner and sneaks in at the international dorm because he doesn’t want to endure the five-hour commute from Icheon), Joakim Sorensen (the Swedish student Hans, who is strictly by the book except when it’s not convenient for himself), Carson Allen (the grouchy American student Carson who is always eating and sounds like an old person because of the old-fashioned Korean phrases she’s fond of saying), and Terris Brown (the genius student from Trinidad and Tobago, Terris, who is a Casanova and a know-it-all).
I love their interactions, and how each of them has quirks and issues that can be annoying, but that you learn to forgive and accept, just as you would with real-life friends. Besides, they get called out for these failings, and they do experience character growth over the course of the 12 episodes of Season 1.
“Each person’s personality and color, the charm of a character, the chemistry between them, and how you mix those well together is the key of the sitcom,” said Kwon Ik-joon in the featurette.
This show does a good job of making us care about this oddball group of international students. It makes us laugh by poking fun at the different tropes of K-dramas. It’s particularly funny that because Minnie is obsessed with K-dramas, we get to see scenes from “Crash Landing On You” and “Reply 1988”, among others. While binge watching, I found myself literally laughing out loud several times.
“I asked staff to let the actors have fun on set. I just wanted them to have a good time,” said Kim Jung-sik in the featurette.
But “So Not Worth It” is also not afraid to show the pressures that students face when dealing with family, friends, and society. Se-wan is the foundation upon which this show is built, and her struggle with finances and relationships makes her all too relatable. Just as the actress is the most experienced one whom the other cast members look up to, so too is Se-wan the character that has to be the serious one. Which makes it even more hilarious when Se-wan finds herself in ridiculous situations or gets drunk, thanks to the great acting skills of Park Se-wan.
The title “So Not Worth It”, in fact, comes from Se-wan, who finds herself wishing every day that the world would end tomorrow.
Only to realize during the course of this wonderful series that life, for all its imperfections, is so worth it after all.