More Melodramatic Magic!
Penthouse: War In Life is the latest makjang/melodrama straight out of Korea – and boy is it a dramatic feast! With three seasons in total and lots of dramatic and over-the-top plot points, Penthouse has stormed into 2021 and doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.
If you’ve finished this one and are looking for something similar, we’ve combed through the archives and saved you the hassle with our top 10 picks for alternate viewing.
To keep things simple for skim-readers we’ve added what similarities these have.
Of course for all the shows we’ve reviewed, we’ve also added a handy link so you can check out our full thoughts on that series and see if it’s something you want to invest your time with.
So without further ado, we present 10 TV shows that should whet the appetite when you’ve finished streaming Penthouse: War In Life.
Similarities – Characters & Tone
Sky Castle boasts one of the highest network ratings (reaching nearly 24.5% during its finale) and for good reason too. It’s a remarkable feat, especially when you look back and see the drama hit a measly 1% with its opening episode.
This satirical drama revolves around four housewives residing in an exclusive residential area, desperate to get their kids into university no matter the cost.
While simple in theory, Sky Castle’s examination of class and culture is partly why the show works as well as it does. Alongside this are numerous thought provoking discussions around the parental pressure of excelling at school, mixed in with the usual dose of high makjang (Korean term for exaggerated melodrama), making Sky Castle one of the best Korean dramas out there.
Similarities – Large Ensemble
Highly regarded as one of the best slice of life Korean dramas, Reply 1988 is a real trip down memory lane – and perfect to wash down the bitter trip that is Penthouse. Nestling itself in nicely alongside other dramas of its kind, Reply 1988 adopts a light, breezy tone but finds strength in its characters who are all well written and have lots of dramatic moments.
There are some surreal and hilarious moments here too (“Aigoo Kim Sajang!”) mixed in with more heartfelt and touching segments across this expansive story.
Split across four different families and praised as one of the more accurate depictions of Korean life, this 20 episode series is split into feature-length episodes as we follow a dozen or so characters from 1988 up to 1994. There’s a blend of romance, comedy and drama here too, meaning fans of Firefly Lane should love this one.
Similarities – Romance, Characters & Mystery
Korean drama Graceful Friends is a mature, surprisingly gripping murder mystery. The story revolves around loving husband Goong-Cheol who shows up at an apartment late one night enraged. We then cut to the dead body of a man named Kang-San.
With his friends all covering for him and the real killer unknown for now, a game of “guess who” begins as the events of that night slowly unravel over time.
Despite a lacklustre finale, Graceful Friends serves up a pretty good murder mystery and definitely keeps you guessing until the end. It’s not perfect but it’s definitely worth watching if you fancy something a little more mature and edgy.
Big Little Lies
Similarities – Characters Keeping Secrets
While the needless second season does dampen the experience somewhat, the first season of Big Little Lies is damn near perfect storytelling. With incredible acting, a slow burn mystery and some great reveals across the 7 episodes, Big Little Lies is arguably one of the best miniseries in recent memory.
The story predominantly follows three Mums and their families. Boisterous Madeline struggles with her children growing up and not needing her anymore whilst simultaneously dealing with conflicted emotions toward current husband Ed.
There’s also some ensuing tension between Nathan and his new wife Bonnie, while Jane struggles after moving to town and finding her son Ziggy accused of biting Renata’s daughter at school. Their feud is the glue that holds everything together but there’s a much darker central mystery at work here.
That comes in form of Celeste who appears to have the perfect life with her twin sons and good looking husband Perry. Unfortunately under this sickly veil of smiles and laughter is a volatile relationship built on violence and fear. This one is a must watch.
Similarities – Characters, Romance & Mystery
If you haven’t watched Desperate Housewives you’re missing out. On the surface, this looks like a simple, trashy soap opera with little in the way of redeeming features.
Only, under the hood is an absorbing and engrossing show that weaves numerous secrets and truths through the lives of female friends in one suburban neighborhood.
The mysterious suicide of a neighbor is the catalyst for all this gossip but it soon materializes in surprisingly compelling ways.
Similarities – Dark Tone
With lots of flawed characters throughout, Extracurricular offers a slightly different flavour of spice to this teen drama genre, one that increases in pacing and tension across the episodes.
The story itself revolves around Ji-Soo, a model student in the eyes of teachers and other students. He keeps his head down, has no friends and spends most of his days acing exams and staying invisible.
Under this façade however is a darker side to Ji-Soo’s persona which is revealed in the first episode and continues to snowball as his tight-knit operation goes horribly wrong.
Well written and engrossing, this one’s definitely worth watching – and also on Netflix too.
The World Of The Married
Similarities – Affairs & Revenge
The World of the Married is the highest-rated drama in Korean cable television history and for good reason too. The show is an excellent Korean adaptation of the British series Doctor Foster and manages to balance well written characters with an evolving plot over time. With a steamy affair taking centre stage, The World Of The Married only grows from strength to strength over the weeks.
The story here basically revolves around a married couple whose betrayal of one another leads to a whirlwind of revenge, grief, forgiveness and healing.
It’s also worth noting that the lead actress here – Kim Hee-ae – won Best Actress at the Baeksang Arts Awards, and the show bagged itself the Best Director award too. It’s certainly one of the best Korean dramas of 2020 and well worth watching.
Similarities – Characters & Tone
Succession is a wonderful HBO series, centering on the Roy family who happen to be the dysfunctional owners of Waystar RoyCo, a global media and hospitality empire.
Their fight to control the company is called into question when the health of the family’s patriarch, Logan Roy, deteriorates. When he steps down from his position, everything changes, leading to a conflict that spans across multiple seasons.
Darkly funny, toxic and full of troublesome characters you love to hate, Succession is a delightful show and a must-watch if you enjoyed Peaky Blinders.
Hyde, Jekyll, Me
Similarities – Mental Health
While presenting itself as a quirky comedy, Hyde, Jekyll, Me dives deeper than that to ask some pretty profound questions about split personality disorder. Through this alone, it helps propel this Korean drama above mediocrity to make it a decent commentary surrounding mental health. Lovers of Penthouse may well see similar themes involving Joo Dan-Tae’s past.
The main story revolves around Koo Seo-Jin, who happens to be a man with split personality disorder. One of his personalities is cold like Hyde and the other is sweet like Jekyll. Predictably, the show takes on a romantic edge. Although some of the later episodes are a bit slow, the drama remains an entertaining watch nonetheless.
The Lady In Dignity
Similarities – Story & Tone
Dark, dramatic and split across 20 episodes, The Lady In Dignity is another Korean drama cracker. The show follows Ah Jin, a beautiful woman who enjoys her luxurious life married into a rich family. Through her wits, she gains the truth of President Ahn, who happens to be her Father-in-law and the head of the house.
When the pair look for a caregiver, they stumble upon plain but cultured Bok-Ja, who seems like the perfect fit for her family. However, Bok-Ja has other plans and after seducing President Ahn, aims to take over the household.
With strong themes about power, it’s ultimately the dynamic between the characters that keeps this one so enthralling. The story itself is okay but the main draw here are the characters, who all do a great job in their respective roles.
So there we have it, our 10 TV show alternatives to watch when you’re finished watching Penthouse: War In Life on Viki.
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!