Story: Jang Yi-san (Yang Dong-geun) is a shy and a little bit featherbrained looking teacher who has his heart in the right place. One day
he accidentally runs into the beautiful schoolgirl Eun-byul (Park Min-yeong), who he tells his opinion about her in one of his more brave moments.
Since Eun-byul's father Yoo Jae-gon (Park Joon-gyoo), a rich gangster boss, finally wants his daughter to graduate and once again is looking for a
teacher for her, of which she has already driven away a lot because of her ways of acting, his daughter proposes Jang to be her new teacher.
Jae-gon offers the teacher a huge amount of money and also leaves no doubt that Jang has no other choice but to accept the deal. Henceforth
Jang has to live in the same house as Eun-byul and the girl starts to take a liking to the teacher. However, at school the two have to
pretend that they don't know each other. Jang's feelings for the girl grow as well, although he is just mustering up the courage to start a
relationship with his colleague Shin So-yi (Son Tae-yeong). At the same time Eun-byul starts to make friends with her classmate Sa-kang
(Park Chae-kyeong) and also manages to win over the introverted but feared Moo-shin (Choi Seung-hyeon). But those two are slowly getting behind the
secret relationship between Jang and Eun-byul while Mr. Kim (Park Jae-jeong), the right hand of gangster boss Jae-gon who is actually promised
Eun-byul's hand when she is old enough, can't continue watching the relationship between the teacher and Eun-byul become more than just
Review: Romantic-comedy-series that take place at school somehow have some kind of advantage. It's not just that a classroom always gives
a lot of room for comedy and off-beat characters, but also because school stands is a microcosm in which the students already get a taste of what's
waiting for them out there in the real world. "I am Sam" therefore also touches subjects like becoming an adult, yet without a doubt puts his
focus on the love story between teacher and student. But wait a second! A love story between a minor and a teacher?! Can you actually do that? Sure you
can if you make it in a politically correct way like here. The series itself is based on a manga with the title "Very Private Lesson" which goes
into a little bit different direction. That is because there the schoolgirl makes extreme use of her feminine features in order to drive the teacher
crazy. Of course, she also has feelings for him. Sounds interesting as well, but naturally that isn't something for a well-behaved Saturday
afternoon show like "I am Sam". Nonetheless, the show always manages to score where it needs to.
It's a bit surprising to see Yang Dong-geun in the role of the shy teacher who looks incredibly helpless most of the time and most likely because of that also aroused Eun-byul's interest. Yang has had roles in "Address Unknown" or "Fighter in the Wind" before whereas he could show some impressive physical performance especially in the latter. In "I am Sam", however, he needs to move around rather clumsily and in the worst cases even gets beaten up without defending himself at all. Although you can never fully warm up to him he still manages to make the chemistry between him and Eun-byul work out just fine and that's what's essential in such a series.
Park Min-yeong plays the spoiled, sassy girl Eun-byul that can be pretty exhausting at times. For Jang as well as for the viewer. And that's just how she is supposed to be which makes Park deliver a satisfying portrayal as well. Of course she also has that certain cuteness factor to her which always makes us want to pinch her cheeks.
How are things concering the love story, though? Unfortunately, Jang oftentimes gives the impression as if he has no real interest in women. His story with female teacher So-yi is almost sad to look at. He never has the courage to talk to her and this even though he can be pretty sure from a certain point onwards that she is into him as well. Of course, the complicated living conditions of the teacher are a reason for that as well as it is difficult for him to invite So-yi over when Eun-byul is living at his place. Inevitably things are heading for a love triangle but Jang never shows the inner struggle of being forced to choose between So-yi and Eun-byul. Maybe that was once again the "morally correct" decision of the scriptwriters to never make Jang consider starting a relationship with the schoolgirl. He keeps So-yi guessing for quite a while so that we really have to feel pity for her. Here one typical flaw of such drama series comes to the foreground once again because many problems arise from Jang not saying how things really are.
Somehow you have to get the drama into the show and this doesn't work if not for making Jang be quiet when he could clear up misunderstandings directly. Does this really have to be that way? Here a bit more originality would have been nice. Also a problem is that somewhere throughout the middle of the series the sails lost their wind and the subject gets repetitive. So why not cut down the show to 12 episodes? The show really would have been better off that way as the last episodes can be more captivating again and surprisingly especially the ending manages to be satisfying. In fact we aren't really expecting something like that from romantic series anymore which is why this gets a deserved thumbs-up.
However, if this would just have been a romantic series I probably would have refrained from watching it. Of course the show really gets interesting because of its humor and the characters that can radiate a lot of charisma. Moments like those in which the gangster boss and Mr. Kim are visiting Jang while unfortunately at the same time So-yi is present as well leading to Jang introducing the gangster boss as his father and Mr. Kim as his brother score with their situational comedy.
The classroom is also constantly stage for some funny scenes as a lot of illustrious characters are gathered there. The supporting characters get some time every now and then, too, and so we also grow fond of the loyal friend of Eun-byul, Sa-kang, only Moo-shin is somehow a problem. He is the quiet and cool guy who likes to read and yet wins every fight. Of course all the girls are into him and we ask ourselves: Why? There are boys in the same class that are more good-looking and so you can't help but feel that the show is deliberately playing with the hype around actor Choi Seung-hyeon aka T.O.P from the hip-hop group Big Bang. Girls aren't into quiet guys. But aside from such little problems the cast proves to be good in the supporting roles as well and the different side stories are implemented into the main plot quite well so that we also get to see the students' problems when they clash with the world of adults. There is even some surprisingly nice worldly wisdom that has found its way into the series.
"I am Sam" therefore manages to entertain most of the time and to win us over for the characters. And in fact the show is by far not as corny as many others but instead brings a fresh breeze along with it. Still, you have to deal with Korean pop ballads constantly kicking in which at some points even remind us of annoying jingles. Apart from that the dramatic and the romantic scenes as well are convincing and the humor shows to advantage thanks to the manga-like characters.
By the way, those who ask themselves who this Sam from the show's title is will get the answer now since we see ourselves as an internet site that works in the name of education. "Sam" is the contracted form of the Korean word for teacher, a slang expression. That is also the reason for the alternative title. With "I am Sam" you can't do much wrong and the show avoids most typical genre problems without ever straying too much from the pattern. At the end the series proves to be extremely funny and entertaining. You can't demand more than that.