This article contains mild spoilers.
Lead cast: Ryeoun, Choi Hyun-wook, Seol In-a, Shin Eun-soo
Latest Nielsen rating: 3.3 per cent
The new music- and disability-themed fantasy teen romance Twinkling Watermelon opens with a pair of episodes that make for breezy viewing, save for the fact that they brazenly lift from Coda, the best picture winner at the 2022 Academy Awards.
In their respective stories, both characters find themselves torn between their dreams to pursue music and their desire to always be there for their parents, who do not, at least initially, support them.
Following a quick intro with handsome brothers Eun-gyeol and Ha Eun-ho (Bong Jae-hyun) in a cafe, the story begins in earnest in the past, when the siblings were young boys, living with parents Ha Yi-chan (Choi Won-young) and Yoon Cheong-ah (Seo Young-hee), who run a construction site canteen.
Later, a tragic incident involving a fire leaves Eun-gyeol guilt-stricken and forces him to hide his prodigious new-found musical talent from his family.
Jumping to the present, Eun-gyeol is now a mysterious masked busker shredding it up on the streets of Hongdae, a university neighbourhood in Seoul known for its indie music.
A popular local band – who call themselves the “Coldplay of Hongdae” – soon invite him to join them and together they land an audition in the presence of legendary music producer Oh Ma-joo (Kim Hyeong-beom). But Yi-chan catches wind of Eun-gyeol’s secret hobby and confronts him.
On the verge of smashing his guitar later that evening, Eun-gyeol suddenly notices two shadows on the ground and looks up to see two moons in the night sky. The La Viva Guitar Shop magically appears in front of him and he goes in to sell his guitar. However, when he leaves the store, it is 1995.
What isn’t made clear at first is that the scenes involving these characters are actually taking place in 1995, and that Choi and Shin are playing the teen versions of Eun-gyeol’s parents Yi-chan and Cheong-ah. The already bewildered Eun-gyeol is given quite a shock when he bumps into Yi-chan.
The social themes may be opportunistic and the story comes dangerously close to being an unlicensed remake but there’s no denying that the show smoothly marches to its own beat.
The attractive cast and the simply drawn characters they play operate in a comfortable and familiar register and it’s hard not to get sucked in to the fast-paced narrative presented in these opening episodes.
What happens next as the story settles into what will surely be a teen love quadrangle will be another matter entirely.
This is because Yi-chan, who in the past isn’t deaf, is already head over heels in love with Se-kyung.
Narrative originality aside, the make-or-break factor of this show going forward will be the chemistry between its four young leads. What little of that we have seen so far does bode well.
Twinkling Watermelon is streaming on Viu.