Updated: Dec 23, 2021
Streaming giants can only dream of what Work Later, Drink Now has done for their humble TVING producers. Imagine a series so insanely popular that it increased the number of paying subscribers by nearly 3000% so eager fans could watch the episodes as soon as they came out. Even better, the show didn’t need to rely on an elaborate plot, expensive production values, or any big Hallyu names to break audience records. Turns out, all TVING needed for a breakout hit were three Seoulite women in their 30s hilariously navigating the minefield of their families, careers, and men with a little help from each other... and a LOT of alcohol.
Based on the webcomic Drinking City Women, Work Later, Drink Now is a 12-episode series with only 25 to 45-minute episodes, making it the perfect weekend binge. Three 30-something women—nearly alcoholic by any standard—try to get through their work, family, and men problems by discussing everything over incredible food and copious amounts of lukewarm soju.
An So-hee (Lee Sun-bin) is a variety show writer who struggles to keep her beloved show afloat while warding off her attraction to her greasy director Kang Buk-gu (played by Super Junior's Choi Si-won, with a very unkempt beard). Next is Han Ji-yeon (Han Sun-hwa from the girl group Secret), a yoga teacher and eternal optimist who loves drinking for its own sake. Unlike many pretty characters who pretend not to be aware of their beauty, Ji-yeon merely recognizes that she gets extra privileges for being attractive, but has enough fluff and smarts to sidestep the ditzy mold. Finally, the third member in this riotous trinity is Kang Eun-ji (played by A-Pink’s Jung Eun-ji) as the angsty origami YouTuber with a traumatic past but is still one of the most loyal and stalwart pillars anyone could have in her corner.
Together, the trio try their best to live sober lives in between drinking sessions at their favorite bar. At one point, they even try to stop drinking for the sake of their health. But these girls can only go dry for so long, and in no time, life throws them one massive curveball after another, to which they respond with...what else? Shot after soju shot.
"Work is the curse of the drinking classes." ~ Oscar Wilde
Praised for its near-realistic portrayal of the angst, alcoholism, and joys of confused 30-somethings trying to make sense of life, Work Later, Drink Now is the refreshing comedy that isn’t built upon chasing men nor having relationships. Instead, it does a fantastic job of zeroing in on the shameless joys and pains of being a single woman and the gift of strong female friendship. The drama wisely avoids any one-dimensional pigeonholing and instead presents all three women as fully-formed and personable, with their own adorable (and even disturbing) kinks and flaws.
It would have been too easy to dismiss this drama as "the one where three women like to drink,” but that would be shortchanging how cleverly the drama treats its heavier issues. More than just a cacophony of drunk talk and hilarious adventures, Work Later, Drink Now also excels at bringing the heavy stuff of women’s lives to the difficult fore: the unglamorous hangovers, the shame of dating crappy men, the hardships of finding and keeping a job, the ever-present threat of sexual assault, the grief when we lose those we love, and even the loneliness of the single life. Even the drama’s treatment of LGBTQ characters, grief, and death is sensitive, well-thought-out, and well-played.
We would be so lucky in life to have the sort of friendship that these three share: a friendship so accepting and protective that it feels that it immediately warrants “soulmate” status, bar none. The honesty and love shared among the three are staggering and hilarious, and their bickering and calling out is refreshing to see on TV. The three actresses perfectly play their roles like hands in gloves, and you can’t convince us that they don’t adore each other in real life. It is the trio’s incredible friendship, chemistry, and hilarious banter that really fuels the show and is perhaps the biggest reason why it's such a viral hit. Thankfully, because of the great response to the first season, news of a second season has been confirmed. Like drunks waiting for their next bottle, we can't wait to get more of our riotous trio again next year.
Sure, one can always drink alone. Or share a drink at a bar with a stranger. But drinking with good friends… now, seriously is a world of difference.