Why The Dream Job is the mother of all melodramas

Channel 8’s 2016 mid-year blockbuster is chock-a-block with dramatics and gives Korean makjang stories a run for its hysterics 

The Dream Job gives Korean makjang stories a run for its hysterics
The Dream Job gives Korean makjang stories a run for its hysterics
02 Aug 2016

The Dream Job gives Korean makjang stories a run for its hysterics

Photos: Channel 8

What does “The Dream Job” remind you of?

When we think of these three words, our mind conjures up images of people working and living their dream life around the world – it can be about the real-life story of the lucky dude who snagged “the best job in the world”—literally—to swim and snorkel in Queensland for six months while getting paid a lucrative sum of S$100,000 for the holiday gig, or about individuals getting (much less hefty) job offers at a dream company of their choice. And Channel 8 drama series The Dream Job is none of the above, despite its innocuous sounding title.

Instead, the story is built around the premise of a rich tycoon (Zhang Qingdong played by Hugo Ng) secretly plotting to reunite with his long-lost kids by offering them a chance of their lifetime to roll in the riches with minimal effort (read: the dream job), without revealing his hidden agenda. All they have to do is treat him like a father and behave like a family while working at his landscape garden company, Ziyuan.

But a host of complications arises when Qingdong’s past affairs with two women, who also bore him children, surface and when the rightful heir (or his firstborn—Zhang Junfeng played by Shaun Chen—and the only child he ever had with his legally-married wife) reappears to seek revenge against his father’s philandering ways while working by his side as his legal aide.

When two and two are put together, the end product is a drama more makjang (a term used to describe Korean dramas with outrageous storylines) than any other done in recent times. Read on as we dissect and study the five most dramatic storylines applied in this series and try to make some sense of it. 

#1 How it all began: The convoluted back story
#1 How it all began: The convoluted back story
02 Aug 2016

#1 How it all began: The convoluted back story

Despite fathering two illegitimate children separately with two different women while still being legally married to his wife, Qingdong is painted to be a man of circumstance. All these wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t discover that his wife had borne him a son which she had with another man (Zhang Mingde played by Chen Tianwen) after getting raped by him.

The betrayal and subsequent heartbreak left him a broken man and Qingdong had no choice but to seek refuge in and solace in Wang Bizhi (played by Aileen Tan) and Lin Meilian (played by Pan Ling Ling), although we’re not quite convinced by the logic of how his wife’s rape incident (note: it was not an affair or consensual) begets his affairs with two other women… but we do know that infidelity + lies + deceit = the perfect formula for a makjang story in drama land and we’ll leave it at that.

Side note: Erstwhile TV idol Hugo has put forth such a convincing portrayal as a father hoping to right his wrongs and make amends to his kids that we cannot help but feel for him—and even overlook the mistakes he previously made. He humanised and owned the character, gave him emotions and bridged our skepticism with his easy relatability. He died a wrongful death and it pains us to say that he truly deserved it.

#2 Everyone is plotting against one another
#2 Everyone is plotting against one another
02 Aug 2016

#2 Everyone is plotting against one another

Whether it was Bizhi plotting to usurp her ex-lover’s riches by attempting to rekindle their romance or the head chef at Ziyuan (Liang Yongqiang played by Brandon Wong) working in cahoots with her and Junfeng’s bitter ex-girlfriend (Chen Yiqing played by Sheila Sim), there was no end to the number of baddies introduced to the show. We even saw the return of Zhang Lixing’s (played by Zhang Zhen Huan) birth father much later in the game as he created chaos and havoc for the Zhangs in the final 10 episodes, just when you think all is going well for the family.

And if that isn’t enough, Yiqing’s dad, Wesley (played by Marcus Mok), joins the game and orchestrates a grand plan to kill Junfeng for causing his daughter unnecessary sadness. The plan, obviously, backfires, although it inadvertently took the life of an innocent victim (Qiu Xinling played by Bonnie Loo).

Drama, drama and more drama. In case you’re wondering, there was no end to the crazies right up until the last five minutes of the show. Intrigued to see how it all ends? Watch the final episode on Toggle-It-first before the episode airs at 9pm tonight.

#3 Sickness! Deaths! Near-death encounters!
#3 Sickness! Deaths! Near-death encounters!
02 Aug 2016

#3 Sickness! Deaths! Near-death encounters!

In case you haven’t noticed, all the lead characters do end up in hospital at least once either due to sickness or near death encounters – not including Jiang Xinya (played by Rebecca Lim) who actually worked in the hospital prior to taking on the dream job offer. We lost track trying to remember how many times they wound up at the hospital after a sudden fainting spell and/or sudden illness and can only conclude that it all boils down to karmic debt.

The second generation of kids in the Zhang household have chalked up a huge debt, considering what their parents have done to them and the people around them, and thus have an inexhaustible debt to repay for what they owed their parents in their past lifetimes – and what their parents owed others this lifetime. No wonder we saw no end to the tragedies happening to this family…

You know what they say, karma’s a b*tch and she makes for good television or, as you’d have guessed, storytelling dramatics. 

#4 All the cheating girlfriends and boyfriends please stand up
#4 All the cheating girlfriends and boyfriends please stand up
02 Aug 2016

#4 All the cheating girlfriends and boyfriends please stand up

Family strife, legal tussles and health woes aside, the drama leads also had their fair share of relationship problems. Tim Wu (played by Romeo Tan) cheats on his longtime girlfriend Cheng Huishan (played by Jeanette Aw) and tries his darndest to win her back after he learns of her rich family background; Junfeng cheats on Yiqin “emotionally” with Xinya and the same happens with the latter, who discovers her feelings for him after entering a relationship with Lixing on the pretext of lending Junfeng a helping hand in his revenge plans… It’s not rocket science to figure out what the writer hopes to cook up in this drama through the leads’ knotty liaisons – to incite more misunderstandings, arouse jealousy and have a never-ending hive of revenge plans to fall back on.

And this brings us to the next point…

#5 He loves her, she loves another, but they can’t be together
#5 He loves her, she loves another, but they can’t be together
02 Aug 2016

#5 He loves her, she loves another, but they can’t be together

After meeting the quota of sudden sicknesses and deaths, the drama fulfilled its “emotional quota” through the characters’ messy love relationships with one another. If we could draw a chart to describe the love lines in the first half of the drama, it’d look something like the below (if you can even wrap your head around it):

Yiqin --> Junfeng <--> Xinya <-- Lixing <-- Huishan <-- Tim

The relationship chart obviously changes towards the end and everyone gets their desired happy ending, but not before the drama tried to drive a wedge between these pairings and their would-be happily ever afters.

First, Lixing was acknowledged to be a blood son of Qingdong, which quashed Huishan’s crush on her “older brother”; then Lixing overcomes his inferior complex to chase after Xinya only to have her break up with him after she realises her feelings for Junfeng; Junfeng further complicates matters when he decides to marry Yiqin after he realises the importance Xinya plays in his life only to leave his bride at the altar on their wedding photoshoot day; and last but not least, just when things are beginning to work out for Lixing and Huishan, the former succumbs to liver illness and is at the brink of death, just like how Xinya can’t get over the fact or forgive Junfeng for playing a pivotal role in the death of her beloved sister.

Let’s not forget the messy affairs of their parents’ generation which saw Mingde committing the nefarious deed of raping Qingdong’s wife just because he loves her and can’t be with her as man and wife in marriage.

Complicated as complicated does. The Dream Job, we dub thee the mother of all local melodramas.

Catch the last episode of The Dream Job tonight on Channel 8, 9pm, or watch past episodes of The Dream Job on Toggle.

Visit The Dream Job’s official microsite for more features and interviews.

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