The trend for Korean variety shows is an unpredictable one, and it is known to be a genre with a “dog eat dog” mentality.
In order to satisfy the ever changing demands of television viewership in Korea, there is a never ending experimentation and attempts at creating new shows that fail more often than succeed. However, there are a few programs that have lived a long life surviving off of the love and attention from viewers. MBC’s “Infinity Challenge,” “World Changing Quiz,” “We Got Married,” and KBS2’s “1 Night 2 Days” are most representative of successful shows that have lasted.
There is a reason these shows have lasted for so long. However, there is always a possibility that circumstances will drastically change. The forerunner and the loser can flip sides any time, and we take a closer look at how these shows are able to keep rolling.
Infinity Challenge – Nonsensical Situations a Double Edged Sword
KBS’ “Infinity Challenge” is seven years old this year. Starting off as a corner on a Saturday program on April 23, 2005, it got upgraded to an entire show by itself and has become something of a legend. With attention-grabbing themes, and comedic members who use real sides of their personalities, this show is somewhat a founding father of variety TV. The unique reason for their popularity is in the name. Taking on any challenge that comes their way, the concept prevents the show from falling into monotony. It may be hard for writers of the show to come up with something for every episode. However there is no danger of running out of ideas that fit a certain format.
Still, the concept of the show acts as a double edged sword. Although the concept may be one that produces many laugh, it may also be that cause for creating distance with a certain population of TV viewers. There exists a population of people that are critical and question, “Why do they do nonsensical things like that?” The sometimes silly and meaningless things the members set out to do are viewed as pitiful at best. But to only create headlines for their outrageous challenges and not having people actually watch is meaningless and detrimental to the continuation of the show.
1 Night 2 Days – What will happen now that Kang Ho Dong is gone?
KBS “1 Night 2 Days” made its debut on August 5, 2007. The show could once boast of its extraordinary viewership of 40% at its prime, and people even started calling it the “national variety.” The show’s concept revolves around sleeping out outside and playing games of life or death (in terms of food most of the time) provoking and portraying basic human instincts in comedic ways. The show has even been dubbed as “harsh and cruel variety.” However the permanence in the unitary concept of a short vacation trip and set characters is the show’s weakness. The show has been able to survive through Kang Ho Dong‘s leadership and strong supporting characters of the show. This aspect of the show particularly stands out as it outshone SBS “Family Outing,” another similar show that was also popular at the time but did not continue for as long.
Even after the show adopted the five-person format after the departure of the main MC, viewers have stuck to the show in curiosity as to how the program progresses and evolves without him. It was already announced that the show only has six more months until its end, not giving it another chance to reformat and extend its longevity.
“We Got Married” – Who’s to come on next…
On March 16, 2008, MBC’s “We Got Married” made its debut as a corner on “Sunday Sunday Night“. After being introduced as a New Year’s Special pilot program, it became an official show receiving good ratings. With a quite unique setting of an imaginary married life between celebrities, the show became a huge hit and singers such as Seo In Young and Alex raised the value of the show to its peak. However, after experiencing a slump in viewership the show got moved to Saturday afternoons on August 15, 2009. The show regained some of its popularity after casting a real couple: actress Hwang Jung Eum and SG Wannabe member Kim Yong Jun.
However, nowadays the show is trying to capture viewership through its casting instead of its concept. There is no big change in the format of an imaginary marriage that hints and prods at celebrities to behave like real couples. The main reason behind the show’s charge is its attention on new casting, and there is a need for a more diverse and interesting format of the program.
World Changing Quiz – There’s Nothing Else To Watch Saturday Nights..
MBC’s “World Changing Quiz,” which debuted on May 25, 2008 with its first episode has also had a lasting streak. With regular “Ajuma Power” (Ajuma – middle aged women) participants such as Yang Hee Eun, Lim Yeh Jin, Lee Kyung Shil, and Kim Ji Sun, the show has a unique personality of Jumarellas (Ajuma+Cinderella) creating waves of laughter on Saturday nights. The show being at a later time, a strong presence of ajumas and with a mix of celebrities that do not have much experience with variety shows, “World Changing Quiz” was a fresh face that gained viewers’ attention.
However, as with all other shows, the program at a certain point started to lose its charm as the organization of the show began to blur. With an increasing number of newcomer singers trying to promote their activities and fresh-faced actors and actresses wanting to advertise their new movies or dramas, the point of the show started to lose focus. In the beginning, there was a distinct and sharp demand for “real variety” material, but there is no one that is able to produce and carry on this characteristic. The fact that there are no other shows to watch during this time on Saturday nights is what some people say is the reason behind the show’s secret in sticking out for so long.
What do you guys think? Are these shows really losing their charm?