Cute Programmer (2021) Summary & Review: Xing Zhao Lin & Zhu Xu Dian’s Workplace Romance Is 100% Sweet

Cute Programmer (2021) Chinese Drama Review
  • Cast
  • Cinematography
  • Music
  • Rewatch Value
  • Storyline
4.5

The most popular trope a few years ago was the girl pretending to be a boy trope, and this endured for several years. You can literally find countless examples no matter the type of Asian drama you prefer.

I personally was obsessed with Coffee Prince, which stars one of my ultimate biases, Gong Yoo, and in that drama, she is mistaken for a boy and simply rolls with it. In this drama, our female lead deliberately pretends to be a boy, which is also something that happened in You Are Beautiful and To The Beautiful You, which is one of the OG high school Korean dramas.

Even more recently, in the historical Korean drama Captivating The King, our female lead pretends to be a boy in order to be able to move freely through society, but then, after a series of events, she decides to take revenge on the King by winning by his side, and he is absolutely infatuated with her.

As a person who tries her best to avoid anything that remotely smells like a cliché, it’s a little embarrassing to admit that this is one of my favourite subgenres of dramas. I just think that there’s something endearing about the panic when male leads feel that they might be gay, and I actually love the moment where they sit with their feelings and just tell themselves that they don’t give a flip if they are gay or not.

So that is a major thing in this drama at the beginning, and I was a little disappointed that it sort of dissipated rather quickly, but then I’ll talk about that very shortly, so please stick around.

Xing Zhao Lin stars as Jiang Yi Cheng, the playful and talented CEO of a gaming company, while our female lead, Lu Li, is played by Zhu Xu Dan, who most recently starred in Burning Flames in the role of A Lan. Zhao Lin is an actor you’d recognize if you’ve watched older dramas like Lucky’s First Love and I Cannot Hug You. He also played a supporting role in the 2017 banger Princess Agents, and his recent project is the upcoming Cdrama The Quirky and The Charming.

If you ask me, I would say the male lead in this drama has been typecast, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the death of a person’s career, but I’m actually curious to see how he fares in other genres.

Summary of Cute Programmer Chinese Drama 

Lu Li falls in love with our male lead after they meet in a game he developed during his early days, and their conversations inspire her to study computer science when she gets to university. They bond while playing the game, but when she tries to approach him in real life, he brushes her off.

But, this doesn’t discourage her, and she continues to stalk him around the campus. Eventually, he graduates and forms a company, and she decides to put in all her hard work to ensure she can graduate and start working in his company. But when she does graduate, she finds out that his company doesn’t hire female programmers, which leads her to pretend to be a boy.

Initially, she manages this with some success, but barely five episodes into the drama, her secret is out, and she spends the rest of the show as a girl, which feels like false advertising (More on this later).

As for our male lead, Jiang Yi Cheng, when his company was in its nascent stage, he had a girlfriend/employee whom he trusted with everything. But, she ended up stealing their files and giving them to a competitor, which caused them significant harm. This betrayal led him to implement a no-female-programmer policy in the company, but there were female employees in other departments. 

Related: Top 14 Romantic Chinese Dramas With Tall Boy & Short Girl To Watch ASAP

Eventually, Lu Li’s secret is revealed, and they are forced into a marriage by our male lead’s father, who threatens to pull his investment from the company if he doesn’t marry her to make his mother happy. He complies with minimal complaints, although this is something Lu Li doesn’t know. Their mothers were frenemies in high school, so the marriage was mainly conceived by our male lead’s mother, who pushed for the relationship.

They start living together, and it’s during this time that Li Man, his ex-girlfriend, the one who betrayed him, comes back into his life as the representative of a big investor he had been hoping to attract. She confesses to him that her father was the one who stole the documents and that she had no idea until she found out. While struggling with him to make sure he didn’t sell the code to a competitor, she mistakenly injured him, and he locked her up for several days, during which he finalized the deal.

The thing is, Li Ma was also close to our male lead’s sister and best friend. So when she comes back into their life, you can actually tell that Lu Li, who had been hopelessly in love with our new lead, starts to realize that she might not have a place in his life after all. So when she finds out she’s pregnant, she serves his divorce papers, resigns from her job, and then leaves him. 

When he sees that she’s gone for good, that’s when he realises that she took his heart and happiness with her, so he tracks her down to ask for her forgiveness and they live happily ever after. 

Cute Programmer Chinese Drama Review

Hands down, my favorite thing about this drama is that it is incredibly cheesy and it basks in that cheesiness, as opposed to trying to do anything that will take it too far out of the romantic comedy genre. The characters are very comical in everything they do, and even our male lead, who is supposed to be unapproachable and so cold, also has scenes where he is the very definition of hilarity, and I very much appreciated that.

If you know me, you know that I am usually very vocal about love triangles because, in my opinion, more often than not, it doesn’t really add anything to the story except introducing even more conflicts for the lead to get through, and it ends up feeling a little rushed. But I can actually say that in this drama, the love triangle worked for the story, as opposed to what happens usually. 

That is to say, the triangle felt very fundamental to the storyline in that it helped to push the story forward without making it feel like there were two totally different storylines running parallel to each other, and I feel that that is a blessing in itself because this is not something that we get a lot from romantic comedy Chinese dramas.

And another thing that was very great about this drama is that the show’s writers could have ruined this drama if they had created a love triangle between our male lead and his best friend, as was hinted at in those very first episodes. Instead, the love triangle, which isn’t really a triangle that involves our female lead, comes in in the final quarter of the drama, and I like that a lot. As usual, the love triangle where the male lead is involved has a girl who is very violent and very aggressive about her romantic intentions towards the male lead, and what she does is sabotage our female lead several times.

Moving on, the shining light in this drama was actually the relationship between our male lead’s parents. This is a toss-up because, for some, it probably is going to look a little old, and there’s always the possibility that a relationship like that will end up isolating the children as it sort of did in this drama, but I still found it stinkingly cute.

I’m trying my best not to drop any spoilers, but just know that at a point, our male lead’s sister tells her parents that they are always celebrating an anniversary and that they are all sick of it. I thought that was very cute.

There was a running theme throughout the entire story where the mother would get distressed, and the father would come in and bully his children until they made their mother happy. I know that in a certain type of situation, this could lead to the children feeling like they are not a priority, but somehow it worked in this drama. But I’m not ready to delve too much into my feelings about why it worked that well.

As I said earlier, the girl pretending to be a boy troupe in this drama felt very much like false advertising, and that was very sad to me because there was so much that could have been with this drama. When Lu Li started pretending to be a boy, the very way it happened was just very odd. 

I know that with dramas like this, you need to suspend your belief, but it was simply hard to wrap my head around the fact that she was hired into this very big company that is essentially in the IT sector, and somehow she was able to bypass all the checks by human resources and never submitted any documents that would confirm her gender.

Even worse was the fact that she was able to bypass those checks and gain entry into the company, but it felt like it was all for nought because she was soon found out, and immediately the first person that is the male lead’s best friend finds out about her actual gender, everyone else finds out, and it just became like another troublesome roadblock as opposed to an actual important theme in the story. This annoyed me to no end, and I could have done without the entire plotline.

One of the things I absolutely love about Chinese dramas is that from beginning to end, we get to see the leads grow up and come into their own, as they learn more about themselves. It genuinely feels like watching a child grow, and I always love to see it. When this drama started, Lu Li was a somewhat naive, bright-eyed new employee who was eager to please and always in the background of our male lead. But by the end, she had become someone with very strong convictions about certain things and had learned a lot about herself throughout the drama.

People usually say that one of the things that has ruined the Chinese entertainment industry is the way everything is tilted towards aesthetically pleasing people who fit a certain beauty expectation, and that is actually very true. I’ve always been told that I never pick a person with conventional beauty, and this is actually a badge of honour I wear proudly. But after seeing our second male lead in this drama, I have to admit that I can totally understand why people do this.

Yi Da Qian, who plays Chen Yi Ming, is honestly the cutest, sweetest, and most handsome Chinese male I’ve ever seen. His chemistry with Jiang Zi Tong was through the roof, and for a secondary couple, they definitely stole my heart way faster than our primary couple did. I checked his filmography, and aside from playing supporting roles in a few noteworthy dramas, he doesn’t really have a robust backlog, and that is very sad for me.

This drama was literally filled from start to finish with different couples. Firstly, there’s our primary couple who gets into a fake marriage, and then there’s her best friend and her best friend’s godbrother,  who are the second secondary couple. Her godbrother had been in love with her for years and had intentionally scared away all the men around her because he was waiting for her to fall in love with him, but she later comes around, and it was so sweet because her godbrother was literally the definition of handsomeness.

I also can’t forget our second male lead and our second female lead, that is, our female lead’s sister and his best friend because they were just so perfect together. Our male lead’s sister had been in love with our male lead’s best friend for years, and she literally took every opportunity to ask him out. By the end, he had fallen for her as well, and I loved that he was very much interested in her growth as a person.

Another couple that stood out were the colleagues at her workplace, a female colleague who worked in the human resources department and her fellow engineer, and they had to hide their relationship. Sometimes they got entangled with our female lead’s best friend and her boyfriend. And also, as I said earlier, the romance between our male lead’s parents was literally the sweetest thing, and I just loved watching them on screen.

Now, as I said, our female lead is working in our male lead’s company, and whenever they have an argument, it usually spills into the workplace. You guys, I love a good workplace drama, but I genuinely cannot imagine working under and with colleagues who are in a relationship that is as chaotic as our leads’ relationship in this drama. You could actually feel that everyone would be walking on eggshells whenever they had one of their blowouts, and the absolute unprofessionalism about everything was so annoying to see.

Finally, while I enjoyed a lot of things about this drama, I was a little sad because it tried to do a lot of things but then it seemed as if it left some things out, and those just remained on the periphery. For one, there’s the fact that a plotline of episode-by-episode cases was introduced in the seventh episode or so – where there’s a dilemma that revolves around one character or the other. 

This eventually happens to every single person in their office, but I felt that the continuity wasn’t segmented and they didn’t really make sense because oftentimes one dilemma would take about three or four episodes to be solved, which I didn’t like.

Final Thoughts 

So, you’re going to really enjoy watching Cute Programmer if you’d like to see a Chinese drama where a girl pretends to be a boy, and there’s a workplace romance, a fake marriage, and several secondary couples that you will root for from beginning to end.

I watched it on the Tencent Video YouTube channel, and it’s also available to watch on Viki and the WeTV app for free, and on Amazon Prime Video with a subscription. Please check it out and let me know what you think, and we can talk some more about it.

If you have any other drama recommendations you think I’m going to enjoy, or others will enjoy if they liked Cute Programmer, let us know in the comment section, and please feel free to look around to get even more amazing recommendations.

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