My interest in Korean variety shows started when I saw the TV drama My Secret Romance. You can call it “fan at first sight” when I fell in love with Sung Hoon and his portrayal of his character, Cha Jin Wook. I began to research his past and current works. That's when I saw that he appeared on I Live Alone. Mind you, this is in no particular order of preference, although I did watch every episode of I Live Alone from 2018 to the present.
MBC - I Live Alone
Why it’s my favorite: If only the current streaming platforms that I am subscribed to offered every episode since they started in the year 2013, I could have watched every episode there is. I started watching Sung Hoon's episode and found the show as realistic as it can be. Although since it tells the story of a celebrity member's everyday life, in and out of their homes the realistic factor and no filter factor could be questioned. For all you know, there could be a script and they could all be acting, right?
In this time and age of COVID-19, we have found ourselves cooped up in our own homes. We do not know how people are coping with the absence of another person living in their home.
What I like about this variety show are its transparency and realness. I heard there is no script involved. The way that the regular members watch every segment, comment, and share their thoughts on it, too. Since they, too, live alone, they pretty much know how each guest feels. Although their lives may be different, they know the feeling of eating alone, watching TV alone, and talking to themselves. I was surprised how often they talk to themselves! It is surprising. Sharing their private lives isn’t easy at all, but the fact that many celebrity guests want to appear on this show tells us the appeal of the whole concept of the show.
Downside: The common fear of guests is they might appear boring to the audience. They are thinking about what could be entertaining about watching them sleep, wake up, eat, drink, shower, and watch TV?
Even though the show pretty much admits there isn’t a script involved, we are still skeptical of how much of the truth is revealed. With the presence of cameras inside their houses, we do not know if the guests are acting and/or conscious of their actions and thus would tend to act things out portraying only their positive side and not the not-so-pretty sides of themselves.
SBS - Running Man
Why it’s my favorite: Perhaps the longest-running variety show in South Korea, some of the episodes are no longer available on most of the streaming platforms, but the dynamics of the show are still the same. Although the challenges vary and differ, completing missions at famous landmarks and places to win the race is the ultimate goal of this reality-variety show. I am just in awe at how unique their missions are and the tenacity of bringing everything together just to please its fans and audience never fails to amaze me.
Plus, the fact that they show places in South Korea and during special shows, places from other countries seemed like they are in an amazing race with fellow celebrities. And sometimes as a bonus, you pick up some juicy information that will be first-page entertainment news along the way.
I also like the idea that ever since its first episode, they haven't changed the regular members except for Kang Gary and Song Joong Ki who left the show after 324 and 41 episodes respectively. Then came the girls, Song Ji Hyo and Jeon So Min, who joined in later episodes after guesting on the show.
Downside: I couldn’t think of one. I just tend to enjoy each episode week after week!
JTBC - Knowing Brothers
Why it’s my favorite: Funny but not in a slapstick way is the very reason why I love watching this show. It's a great avenue to get to know celebrities and their personalities without forcefully revealing facts and information about them. Celebrities are shy sometimes to talk about themselves, but the idea that they can bring along a friend with them to “school” is a nice concept.
The dynamics between the seven classmates (members) of Knowing Brothers are great, considering their age, and mind you, they are masters of their field. But their love for music or TV drama --- be it the latest or the most popular in "their time" is a bond that is admirable to watch. They blend so seamlessly. I look forward to every segment, including an interview for admittance, or what they call, job consultation segment, music video battles, and after-school activities.
Downside: After watching quite a few episodes, I ultimately want to enroll myself and be their classmate. But me being a foreigner to Korean music, I somehow would have a hard time answering some of the sessions, especially the Mixed Music Quiz and the Scholarship Quiz. Nevertheless, if you are a fan of this show, you would hurriedly orient yourself so you will not be left behind.
TVN - Amazing Saturdays
Why it’s my favorite: I just recently discovered this show because of a certain article I read that said Lee Dong Wook will guest on this show. As I browsed through previous episodes and saw a lot of familiar faces and celebrities that I "stan", I became interested in the show. Not to mention, this show makes us crave all those delectable dishes found and originating from various places all over South Korea.
Because of this show, I became interested in Korean food. We are in a time where traveling is a bit of a challenge so for the time being, I have this show to pave the way to my ultimate food trip someday in South Korea.
Downside: As much as I want to guess each syllable in the lyrics of the song, I couldn’t. I do not know how to write in Hangul. Nevertheless, I am mesmerized by the effort they bring to make this show a unique and interesting one.
JTBC - Let’s Eat Dinner Together
Why it’s my favorite: Although this show ended in February of this year, it’s just recently that I started watching it because of no other than my bias, Sung Hoon. I knew that he and Kang Ho Dong had worked together in Cool Kiz in the Block, thus curbing my interest in this show. As long as it's a show with Ho Dong on it, then it must be good! He is known as one of the masters of variety shows, after all, along with the other host, Lee Kyung Kyu.
Let’s Eat Dinner Together is another reality show that doesn’t include a script. The idea of both Ho Dong and Kyung Kyu along with their two guests per episode ringing doorbells of residents of the featured neighborhood is unheard of so far. The reaction of residents as they answer their doors are just so entertaining as they are raw and genuine reactions. The participation of real people as they talk about life, love, and just about anything makes this the most real of REALITY shows.
Even when any of the pairs fail their mission of getting invited, they are given a small amount of money at the beginning of the show so they can eat in convenience stores, but they still need to have someone to have dinner with them. The concept is very unique to me.
Why it’s my favorite: I watched the pilot episode of this show and the idea of passing a selfie cam from one celebrity to another just seemed not to work in the beginning. It's a good thing that they changed the concept of the show in the end. I have always been a fan of music, mostly dance, and a few good love songs here and there.
This show has gotten more interesting with Jae Seok’s desire to form a mixed-gender group that includes no other than himself. Thus came the birth of SSAK3 with Rain and Lee Hyo Ri as the other members. Their dynamics and the songs they produced topped charts upon release. I was fascinated by their journey to bring back the once-famous music groups before the birth of Kpop idols.
After SSAK3, Jae Seok once again created a new hype and decided to be a producer and form his entertainment agency, Original Entertainment. He even goes by his producer name now, Jimi Yu. Everyone, let’s all welcome “The Refund Sisters” with very dynamic group members: Eun Bi (Jessi), Sil Bi (Hwasa), Cheon Ok (Lee Hyo Ri), and Man Ok (Uhm Jung Hwa). The managers, Ji Sub (Kim Jong Min) and Bong Won (Jung Jae Hyung) completed the whole ensemble. All singers, with their signature voices, are stunning. Not to mention, the song “Don’t Touch Me” is hitting the airwaves!
Downside: If only I knew how to speak Korean, I could appreciate them discussing Korean idioms and Korean songs. Although I know some common phrases now, the benefit of watching too many Korean dramas and variety shows. So I guess I can say there is no downside, right?
TVN - Six Sense
Why it’s my favorite: The unique concept is the attractive point of this variety show. Apart from the fact that it's another variety show from the master of variety shows himself, Jae Seok. The dynamics between the girls are just so hilarious and witty at the same time.
I have to hand it to the production team’s efforts in creating the perfect fake set-up. It's like watching a legitimate business establishment or a place of business being created from the ground up. It is purely amazing and sometimes towards the end of an episode, you can’t help but have goosebumps as if you are also the one voting for what's fake and finding out that you are after all wrong in your judgment. That feeling is just pure exhilaration!
Downside: Finding out that there are only eight episodes! Episode seven just aired yesterday. Sponsors, can you extend your contract? Pretty please?
Editors: BrightestStar (2nd editor)