When you make a show centered around the uber-competitive and hyper-exposed world of fashion and go as far as to title it “The Fabulous,” you expect nothing short of what the name suggests. But our expectations were not met. We are not saying we did not like the show. To be honest, it was simply alright. It could have been a lot more than that, but for some reason, the makers chose to play it safe. You need an adjustment of perspective to like “The Fabulous.” If you go expecting lots of drama, glitz, and glamor, you won’t find it. The clothes are nice, but they are not on par with what you would expect from a show set in the fashion world. Otherwise, if you watch the series for a simple story of four friends having fun in their lives, you will like it more.
“The Fabulous” Season 1 follows four friends—Pyo Ji Eun, Ji Woo Min, Joseph, and Ye Seon Ho—as they “navigate their lives and careers.” To be honest, we have only seen the navigation with Joseph and Seon Ho, who were undeservedly relegated to supporting characters. Their stories were far more interesting than anything between Ji Eun and Woo Min, whose career navigation was just mentioned for the sake of it. But the world will favor a lackluster romantic storyline over stronger plotlines that the audience might want to see and will steer something with potential into the world of average. It was so hard to like Woo Min and Ji Eun as a couple, even if we ignored their utter lack of chemistry. That is because they exhibit zero character development. Woo Min tells Seon Ho the reason he cannot be with Ji Eun. As much as we hated that reason, we would be lying if we said that we hadn’t heard this before. A person we knew once remarked that men are like cats; they withhold themselves emotionally while weaving a charming pattern with scraps of attention that keeps others hooked. Woo Min reminded us of that. As a saving grace, we did like the occasional guest appearance of his abs. Either way, when did his feelings begin to change? Was it when they started spending time together? But even then, it wasn’t the lack of love that Woo Min had admitted to; it was an unwillingness to take responsibility. Is the reason for that change as simple as jealousy? It is one thing to keep the storylines simple; it is another to keep them immature. In this regard, we enjoyed Ji Eun’s conversations with Nam Jin a lot more. Koreans have a way of taking in metaphors that is very on-point without being over-the-top like their western counterparts who attempt the same thing.
Something else we noticed was the character of Ahn Nam Hee. It feels like there is a set template for the character of an editor-in-chief, no matter the series or the movie. She must either be based on Miranda Priestly or Jacqueline Carlyle, both of whom are just different versions of Anna Wintour. Let us say that we ignore how derivative this character feels, but even then, where is the zing in the personality, the attitude, or even the discerning eyes, the kind that make you think your every move is being judged, that you would expect from an editor-in-chief? Just a dignified posture doesn’t cover it all. But this is something most characters in the show suffer from, like Joseph, for example. He is shown as an up-and-coming designer who still has to make his mark in the fashion world. Where is the hustle that a character like that has? Now, we know that a sassy, gay designer is not a new character for the silver screen. But to put a spin on him, you do not remove the sass, thus taking away a huge scope for making things interesting. In this regard, CEO Oh felt a lot better. Not exactly a new character either, but she had shades to her that ranged from enthusiastic and clever to assertive and downright audacious. She and Seon Ho should have gotten a lot more screen time. On that note, the latter was an excellent choice for the role. She truly looked the part and played it with finesse. Some people may argue that she wasn’t expressive enough. We are inclined to agree with them, but we are also leaning towards the argument that what she showed at all times was the practiced expressionless face that models must carry, which spilled into her on-screen personal life. However, we could be biased. Regardless, in the matter of Seon Ho, there was a beautiful chance to address the effect that the rise of influencers is having on models’ livelihoods. We remember watching a video on a YouTube channel called Jubilee that was titled “Instagram vs. Runway Models.” That was a far more engaging and nuanced conversation than what “The Fabulous” did by barely touching upon the topic and making one of the sides look like frivolous villains. Also, while the entire world is waking up to the concept of women supporting each other, k-dramas seem to believe that only the main characters can have this grace.
To put it simply, “The Fabulous” primarily follows Ji Eun as she helps her company overcome one PR nightmare after the other while the lives of her friends play out in the background. There are no real villains, just the occasional irritating character with no redeeming qualities. The glamor industry is a mad world, and the audience might occasionally feel disconnected from the events on screen. We would advise you to go with the flow, just like people in the industry do in real life. Our singular complaint, the one that sums up the entirety of our feelings, is that “The Fabulous” played it safe to the point of being bland. As we said before, it is an okay show if we adjust our perspective, but that gives us no incentive to recommend it to anyone. Its saving grace is that it is binge-able, so maybe that makes it apt as an easy, breezy weekend watch. Otherwise, there is really nothing to make it stand out or make us gush over it, not even the clothes.