On Netflix, there is a show and format for everyone. And if what you want is short feel-good episodes then there is nothing like the Far East for odd bite-sized entertainment to fill that ‘what shall I watch on my commute’ need. Korean show The Cravings fits nicely into the food/comedy/drama sub-genre that has many other such examples for those willing to look.
What sets The Cravings apart is the super short nature of the episodes. We follow the life of Jegal Jae-young, a thirty-something office worker who has recently split from her long-term boyfriend. She is often accompanied by her sardonic friend, Lee Woo-jeong. And each episode will in some way feature a (delicious looking) meal.
‘Follow the life of’ is stretching it a bit. Due to the little air time available, each episode has a ‘one note’ approach. Such as accidentally taking and breaking a neighbour’s parcel. Or wondering whether to get together with a nice, but not attractive, male co-worker. But even with this short time frame, there is enough characterisation to warm to Jae-young’s put upon office worker/love life woes. Her friendship with Woo-Jeong is warm and engaging and features throughout most of the first season. The second season sees more of a revolving cast but one constant throughout is the food. Oh, the food!
In each episode, the food sizzles and sates the hunger of those eating it. And it that wasn’t enough to make you jealous, then just before the credits roll there is a 30-second flash cooking lesson showing you how to make this installment’s meal. Ok, if you don’t cook Korean you might not have some of the ingredients, but by heck you will want to jump in the car and get them.
The Cravings may have two seasons but the short episode length means you can get through both in two hours. Season 2 sees Jae-young get a new boyfriend although the relationship is ill-fated. And she shift jobs to progress her career, with all the stress that brings. Also, for those unused to Korean programming, some of the dialogue may seem a little sexist. Characters have no problem telling Jae-young that she needs a man or commenting on her looks tactlessly. “Call me when you're married!” her mother chastises over the phone. This is par for the course, but at least Jae-young is indignant and gives as good as she gets (“Ok, speak to you in 10 years”).
As I said, there are plenty of other Asian shows that approach the food/slice of life approach so you can take your pick for what tone you are the mood for. If you want horror/comedy/romance blend then Oh My Ghost! would be your bag. Seriously, that show is super weird, check it out). If you like anthology stories, then Midnight Diner should be your go to hit. But for short and sweet, light-hearted bursts (or even for an all in one binge) then The Cravings should go down nicely.
Words by Michael Record