by Elle, January 11, 2018

Prison Playbook follows renown baseball player Kim Je Hyuk as he gets convicted to a year in prison for using unnecessary violence in a self-defense case. The drama depicts his day to day life as he comes into contact with a diverse collection of personalities within the prison walls. Let the hijinks begin!

Through Prison Playbook’s skillful handling of its comedic and dramatic themes, I often find myself laughing uncontrollably one minute and bawling my eyes out the next. This drama is not afraid to dedicate significant time to masterfully developing its characters’ backstories. The character development is certainly what sets it apart from most other dramas.

1.  The Characters / Cast

One of the biggest selling points of Prison Playbook is its characters. I have compiled some very basic and introductory information about a handful of them below:

Kim Je Hyuk, played by Park Hae Soo

Je Hyuk is a simple but good-hearted person. He is a loyal friend who has earned everything that he has in life through hard work even when the odds are betting against him.

Je Hyuk's deadpan expression makes him an eccentric yet lovable protagonist.

Lee Joon Ho, played by Jung Kyung Ho

Joon Ho is introduced as one of the security guards at the prison where Je Hyuk is initially sent. He is perceived as a life-long fan of Je Hyuk, and sometimes even accused of being a stalker.

I picked this drama up because of Jung Kyung Ho. I was blown away by his role as Doctor's Son in Cruel City, but also love his goofier roles in Falling for Innocence and One More Happy Ending.

Kim Sung Chul / Beobja / Lawman, played by Kim Sung Chul

One of the first people Je Hyuk meets, Beobja, is a good contact to have within the prison walls. He knows just about everything about prison life through his frequent visits due to a litany of petty crimes.  

He becomes fast friends and a bit of a mentor to Je Hyuk, teaching him on the ins and outs of prison life. 

Yoo Han Yang / 2nd Generation Chaebol / Looney, played by Lee Kyu Hyun

2nd Generation Chaebol has been convicted because of his drug habit. He has a propensity of speaking in other languages with a high feminine voice. His habit of doing and saying things without much thought continually get him in trouble with his fellow inmates. There was one instance where he decided to take the only chicken leg from their cell's serving of chicken leg soup. He paid hardily for this one.

Kim Min Chul, played by Choi Moo Sung

Introduced a bit later in the series, Min Chul is the head of cell 2 - 6 (2상6방), where Je Hyuk is moved. He has the longest sentence among the inmates of his cell due to the crimes he committed as a gangster. The guards can count on him to keep the other cellmates in line. Though he is the meanest looking in the cell, he has a very paternal and protective side.

I have typically found Choi Moo Sung in more antagonist roles such as Safari in Cruel City and his portrayal of Yoon Seung Ro in The Guardians. 

These are just a handful of the characters explored in Prison Playbook.  Keep an eye out for the following star power as well:  Krystal, Jung Woong In, Jung Hae In, Park Ho San, Kang Seung Yoon, Jung Min Sung, and Shin Jae Ha.  They all have special arcs of their own.

2. The Comedy

The comedy in Prison Playbook is top notch! I would describe it as off-beat and subtle but laughing-out-loud funny. Much of the comedy in the beginning is setting the unflappable simple-minded Je Hyuk up against the crazy realities and personalities within the prison. From the anal exam to the merciless beating of 2nd Generation Chaebol, Je Hyuk's deadpan expression remains the same through it all.

Je Hyuk also becomes the butt of many of the jokes. For instance, when his cellmates have to correct the direction Je Hyuk is turning his pages when he is reading. The understated and subtleness of the humor is priceless and extremely well-timed. 

I should also say that the comedy may not be for everyone since some of the comedic devices used may touch or include the following:  High Brow Comedy, Black Comedy, Farce, and a bit of Absurdism.  

3. The Heart

While the comedy is an excellent reason to pick up this drama, the heart that this drama is able to tap into is what ended up keeping my attention. Each episode attempts to delve into the lives of its inmates, astutely bringing to the forefront their backstories, their motives, and their passions. It is striking how this drama is able to take a caricature and bit by bit is able to color them in to reveal a fully baked character with a past, present, and future. 

Beginning of Episode One Spoilers:

For example, Beobja, the know-it-all convict that enters the prison with Je Hyuk, reveals that the reason he is in this time is because he was trying to collect money for his mother's surgery.   

End of Episode One Spoilers.

Again and again, I am in awe of the way this drama is able to depict male to male relationships. Whether they touch on the friendships, the bromances, the familial connections or the rivalries, these connections and relationships will reflect relationships we all can empathize with in the real world.

I can't recommend this drama enough! I am personally about ten episodes in; currently waiting for subs for this past week's episodes. 

If you are looking for a slice of life drama with amazing comedy and heart, please give this drama a chance. Though the setting may be a little unconventional, I personally was amazed by how relatable all the characters were. 

Prison Playbook is the whole package:  dynamic and relatable characters, perfectly timed comedy, incredibly heart-felt moments, and great storytelling. 

gif sources:  (1), (2)

Are you currently watching Prison Playbook?  What is your favorite thing about this drama?

If you haven't started yet, do you think you will start watching?

Thank you for reading!

prison slice of life comedy black comedy eccentric male lead male relationships