Screens: Seoul Broadcasting System

'Oo-ooh, That Smell! Can't You See That Smell?'

Al Lowe tries and fails to make sense of the wonderfully weird Sensory Couple when the Wheel of Murder spins to South Korea.

Ah, summer, when adventurous travelers seek new experiences among the world's most beautiful landmarks. London! Tokyo! The blood-spattered tulip fields of Holland! The crapulent evidence lockers of Milan! Uh, what? Before you go, check with Al Lowe as she TV-travels the globe to investigate how murder gets done on an international scale.

The Show Sensory Couple, a comedy/romance/mystery based on a…"web toon"? Premiering just a few weeks back and now streaming on Hulu, the original Korean title is The Girl Who Can See Smells. I know what you're thinking. Oh…poor Al Lowe...drunk again. First of all, y'all don't know. Wine loves me. Secondly, no, for real, that is what it is called and I am about to tell you why. It's because there's a girl who can see smells.


The Formula Just…I can't even think of what formulaic television elements the show doesn't include. Sensory Couple is a mystery, a drama, a police procedural, a romance AND a comedy. In equal parts! And it is also crazytown and, correspondingly, fantastic. I wish I could fully explain why the girl, Oh Cho Rim (played by the stunning Shin Se-kyung), can see smells and how she gets all wrapped up with policeman Choi Mu-gak (cutie Park Yoo-chun), but there is literally no time. Meaning: I probably won't live to be 150 years old, and that's how long it would take. Don't worry, they mostly explain it in the first episode and, anyway, it all hinges on a murder then a car accident then a coma then another murder then ANOTHER COMA and then the gaining and losing of senses on both of their parts, he losing all of his and she gaining one that nobody would ever need, the ability to SEE a SMELL in the form of, like, Hello Kitty cartoon sparkles trailing around the screen which she uses to help him solve some extremely creepy crimes. I KNOW you are over there nervously looking up stroke symptoms to see if I have finally lost it.


Other standard components include mistaken identities, hidden underground bunkers, and your classic hodge-podge, hilarious collection of police detectives who somehow get the job done despite their clear incompetence.

"[Location] Was Like Another Character" This is a return trip to Seoul for the Wheel of Murder, and I am happy to say that on this visit, we get to see a good deal more of the city and its various Korean barbecues and coffee shops. The program is sponsored by a chain called coffeesmith, in fact, so we actually get to see A LOT of Seoul coffeesmiths, in case you're interested.

Those Subtitles, Tho I am sad to report that whoever supplied the English subtitles did a fine job. I was hoping for a lot of lost-in-translation translations as one often finds watching subtitled Asian TV, but there was nothing amiss. What I needed at several points, however, was a cultural translator. In my household there were many shouted "WHAT?"s and "WHY?"s. Like, for example, Oh Cho Rim wants to be a comedienne. Fair enough. She is desperate to become a part of something called the Frog Troupe, and bows and scrapes to them while she sweeps up every night, watching them perform and rehearse. It's a whole subplot and it is actually QUITE funny at times…except the troupe leader is, no lie, the Marquis de Sade of Korean comedy troupes. He straight-talks poor Oh Cho Rim like he's Debbie Allen in Fame, causing her to nearly drink herself to death after a public shaming. Why? I don't know!

I had to stop watching many times to research some odd thing or other, my favorite being the South Korean tradition of shouting, in English, "FIGHTING!" when urging someone to succeed. According to my research: "South Koreans shout 'Fighting!" when they cheer sports teams, ship off children to college entrance exams, and toast each other at team-building office parties." Y'all…who else is ready to move to South Korea?


What's Best About It? The relationship between the two leads could easily qualify as Best -- they are adorably cute together and, especially in the comedic moments, have wonderful chemistry, even if it gets really soapy at times. I really ended up loving both of them. But what's actually best about the show is that, after sitting down to watch it, mad smirking about the insane premise of building a show around someone "seeing a smell," cracking jokes about the trailing green stink hand one might recall from classic episodes of Bugs Bunny, I TOTALLY BOUGHT THE WHOLE THING. I mean, do I understand why they couldn't just give her a superhuman sense of smell? Not really. But I completely signed on to finding it cool that she can do this useless thing that actually turns out to be totally useful.

What's Worst About It? Like I said, it's complex, what with all the comas and serial killings and…classic Korean country-come-to-town comedy skits. If this were a Western show, it would either be laughed off your TV or become an instant cult classic. Which leads me to ask: is South Korea putting us on or are we putting them on? Because I can't tell if this is the most sophisticated thing I have ever watched, or the dumbest.


Either way, even in the middle of all of the delightful meet-cutes and genuinely funny moments, they manage to build a suspenseful, serious murder story and weave it all together. With so much going on, though, there are times where it feels a little slow, like maybe they didn't need quite so many twists frontloaded with all the comas. Still, you must power through that first hour and get deep in the season. I have been utterly charmed by it.

Whatever Shall I Serve? Trust me, you are going to be VERY hungry watching Sensory Couple. One feature of Officer Choi's issues is that he has lost whatever sense it is that tells him when he's full -- after his coma, he can't taste any food, so he just eats, endlessly, the most delicious noodles and sushi and soup and rice and barbecue…pardon me. I must go and find every take-out menu I can locate and order everything off of all of them. See you in Seoul. FIGHTING!