“From two people who can’t be friends, without knowing it, we become two people who can’t be just friends.” Pran, Episode 11
It’s a simple story, really. It has some of the common elements of other BL series. It is an enemies-to-lovers story. It features rival groups of college students, one of them being engineering students. It begins with what seems like a Romeo and Romeo story about to happen. Then it takes all the expectations of the usual romantic BL comedy-drama and throws them away. They go for a straightforward story of enemies who have to overcome a lot to renew a friendship that had at one time existed. There were no fake moments, no cringe-worthy dialogue, no painful stereotypes.
The Thai mini-series Bad Buddy began on GMM TV 25 in Bangkok on October 29, 2021, and ran for 12 episodes. It played to a tiny broadcast audience on Friday nights at 8:30 and picked up some more viewers when it was rerun online later at night. Some thought GMM could have hyped the series more than it did. The episodes featured a crew of GMM regulars and the stars of the series were relatively well known in Thailand.
The series did have a distribution plan, however. It was picked up for streaming in the Philippines on iWantTFC going out as a simulcast with GMM and including English subtitles. Before the second episode dropped it had been dubbed in Filippino. In Japan TV Ashai and mobile provider “au” acquired the series and it appeared with Japanese subtitles starting November 11.
Even as it was released at 8:30 pm on Fridays in Bangkok, GMM was preparing to release it with English subtitles on its YouTube channel. Because of the time difference, I could also watch it at 8:30 pm on Friday in the US. With each new episode, the streaming demand on the WeTV website grew. After the release of Episode 7, it was the most streamed title on the platform.
Social media helped drive its popularity. Fans quickly spread the word of a comedy-drama that was not like any other. After Episode 5, the Bad Buddy followers were flooding the internet with news of an epic conclusion to the episode. By Episode 7 the show was trending online with each new episode.
The total number of views of the Bad Buddy series on YouTube passed 200 million in July. That is not per episode but rather of all the segments combined. Each episode had 4 segments. Some segments, like the last part of Episode 5, for example, had millions more views than other segments. The TV run, the syndication to other countries, the streaming sites, and the DVD sales made the show an international hit.
You would think that after all that, everyone in Thailand who would want to see the series already has. Perhaps they have seen it multiple times. Yet GMM TV recently surprised everyone by putting the Bad Buddy series on the Fall Schedule. Starting Sunday night it will begin running again. It will surely pick up a larger broadcast audience this time around.
The show stars Nanon Korapat as Pran, a very neat and organized student, and Ohm Pawat as Pat, a brutish but likable sort of guy. Nanon had said the reason he did a BL series is that Ohm was also going to do it. Ohm had turned down Bad Buddy but changed his mind when he learned Nanon would be the other lead. At the recent concert ON Friend City, Ohm made a surprising statement to Nanon toward the end of that show. He admitted that he did not think Bad Buddy would work because he and Nanon were too much like Pat and Pran. Perhaps that is exactly the reason it did work.
In many BL series, one of the players is meant to be a smaller softer sort of character. It goes with the very formulaic idea that one member of a husband/wife type of team needs to be won over by the other. There will be no “wifey” sort of character in this story. At the very opening, we see Pat leading the Engineering students in a fight against the Architecture students. Pran is called out of the library to help his friend Wai and lead the Architecture students in the fight. It’s a street brawl and neither knew the other was attending the same university or the president of his faculty (subject major).
The series is artfully crafted. The dialogue is smart. The pacing is perfect. They don’t shy away from the serious topics of student and family rivalries. They deal head-on with the issue of parents teaching their children to hate their neighbors. Pran’s mother even says at the dinner table she would be OK with whomever Pran dates (while Pran and Pat are messaging each other), as long as it is not one of those kids from next door.
Whether they are fighting or bickering, teasing, or flirting, the actions of Pat and Pran are in capable hands with Ohm and Nanon. The chemistry is undeniable. For every minute of Bad Buddy, you believe they are exactly the characters they are portraying. You will not take sides with one character over the other. You will love them both and hope they find their way back to the friendship they deserved all along.
Carefully woven throughout the story are moments that will repeat later. It is not important that you pick up all the little clues the first time around, you will get more of them when you watch it a second time, and you will watch it a second time. Without giving away too much, I will give you an obvious and a less obvious one.
It becomes clear that the Friend/Unfriend t-shirt is a significant symbol in the story. They both have worn that shirt in the first part of the story. When Pat spends the night in Pran’s room, having been locked out of his own room, Pran gives it to Pat rather than letting him sleep shirtless. The scent of that t-shirt will always remind Pat of Pran. This is why the Nong doll that Pat hugs at night wears it. When Pat receives another one late in the series, it is not just right until Pran wipes it on his neck. The Friend and Unfriend messages are also important.
Less obvious are the toothbrushes. When Pat is spending nights in Pran’s dorm room you will notice the cluttered washroom counter and two toothbrushes. Later in the series when a sad-looking Pat is replacing a single toothbrush in a holder on a counter without clutter you will be screaming at your television, “What the hell happened?” even if you did not notice the toothbrushes earlier.
Important LGBTQ+ themes are worked into the story, but you will find no preaching or obvious attempts to instruct the audience. They are much too artful for that. If you miss them as you go along, they will sink in later.
Of course, when Wai is explaining the Architecture students’ school play to Pran he might as well be explaining the issues that face Pat and Pran themselves. That slight smile on Pran’s face is the giveaway that he sees the parallel between the two.
After an emotional Episode Five, culminating in the scene everyone could not stop talking about, Pran pulls away from Pat. Fear of having a relationship found out by family or friends weighs on Pran all the way to Episode 10. Even after the guys finally become friends, Pran wants to keep it a secret and does not like Pat dropping clues on Instagram with the #JustFriend? Fear of being “outed” is a common one among LGBTQ couples.
Pran never claims to be straight, but he can not declare who he is. Pat thought he might want to date Ink (female) until he realized it is Pran he really likes. Sitting on the beach in Episode 6, and still not yet really friends, the guys engage in a discussion of what they have gone through and who they are. “What can we do? We’re just born this way.” Pran says. This is a message the LGBTQ+ audience members will immediately understand.
Bad Buddy destroys that terrible idea that one of the partners in a relationship is the “wife.” When Pat is about to go out and celebrate a rugby victory (Episode 9) he tells Korn he better hurry to get dressed before his housewife changes his mind. At that Pran appears in the doorway and says, “Housewife, my ass.” Later in the episode when Pat refers to Pran as a wife, Pran responds, “Does calling me a wife make you feel superior?” It is not said with malice and when Pran says he will call Pat a wife instead, the stupidity of the role comes out.
In Episode 10, after the boys have been outed at school, and then outed at home with ugly confrontations, it is all too much for Pran to take. Everything he feared has come true. In a second epic rooftop scene, Pat will be there to comfort Pran. He is now a better man because of Pran. He is not going to turn out like his own father, despite the pressure. He will take Pran away from all the sadness, at least for a while.
There is so much more we could say about the clever elements of the story. There’s the importance of Pran’s guitar itself, the finishing of “Our Song” in Episode 11, the tin cans and string, and the act of being uncomfortable holding hands in public. The Episode 11 cliffhanger shows us the lengths the pair will go to for their love. If you thought the ending was just cute when the usual closing banner comes up in Episode 12, just hold on a moment.
The writing, acting, and directing were all solid and led to an award-winning effort. At the end of 2021, the show picked up WeTV awards for Best of Thai Series and Best of Y-Series. “Y” after the Japanese term “yaoi” meaning a romance between men, or a “Boys Love” story (BL).
This year at the 18th Kom Chad Luek Awards they picked up Most Popular Laskorn/Series (primetime drama). At the Maya Awards, they Won for Best Series. The song Just Friend? by Nanon was nominated for Song of the Year.
At the Kazz Awards 2022, they collected a basketful of awards. Ohm and Nanon both won “Attractive Young Man of the Year.” Yes, they had such a category. Both Ohm and Nanon were nominated for Best Actor. That usually means a split vote, but Nanon picked up the award. Fans will say they both deserved it.
The winner of Best Scene went to Ohm and Nanon (from Episode 8). Every scene together was well done and they could have picked a number of different scenes to nominate. Their win in this category was no surprise.
In what looked like it completely surprised Ohm and Nanon, the pair picked up Best Couple of the year. To top it off, their close friends Perth Thanapon and Chimon Wachirawit were presenters. Search “Kazz Awards” to find these two almost falling over themselves in joy to get to the stage.
This past week at Content Asia Awards 2022, which was held in Thailand this year, Bad Buddy won Best LGBTQ+ Program Made In Asia. The guys were in Japan for two arena shows with other GMM performers.
There are days the series still trends on Social Media. Ohm and Nanon together and separately are always trending. Of course, they are always working. Bad Buddy has raised the bar for this sort of drama. There are plenty of college-based stories with cute actors. Some are entertaining enough to gain a good following. This simple story of two boys who could not be Just Friends will remain a fan favorite for years. It is so good, you could watch it time and again.
Note: The series trailer above will have English subtitles but the episode previews will have Spanish subtitles if captions are turned on. You can change them to English or other languages.
See Also: “Giving It Your All,” ON Friend CIty, SERENDIPITY, August 27, 2022.
“Who We Are Now,” ON Friend City finale, SERENDIPITY, August 15, 2022.
“Top LGBT Series and Mini-Series,” Gay Storylines and Television, part 2, SERENDIPITY, June 26,2022
“So How Does It End?” Bad Buddy Series, SERENDIPITY, January 27,2022.