Although variety shows these days are beginning to dominate cable networks, up until the early 2000s, the variety show trend was centered around public broadcasting networks’ shows that the entire family could watch. On weekends, everyone from toddler to grandparent could watch the same program and laugh together. Here’s a list of old variety shows that will take you down a nostalgic road and are still fun to watch today!
1. Happiness Investment Co. – 10,000 Won of Happiness (2003-2008)
This was a program where stars picked a partner and lived one week with solely 10,000 won (approximately $8.88). They would carry out missions every day and if they failed, their money would be deducted. They also had midpoint evaluations, betting on games, and more, which gave the stars opportunities to gain their money back. The star with the largest amount of money left would be the winner, and they would win a tourism gift card for their parents as well as donate their balance for the underprivileged. The program, much like variety shows today, would be carried out with one cameraman per celebrity, and viewers were able to see the daily lives of some very famous celebrities.
2. Goal Achieving Saturday – Star Survival Live Together Enjoy Together (2000-2002)
For this variety show, celebrities would stay the night and play nonsense games. The most notable game was where they would have to sing a song that they heard while asleep, which left a lot of stars half-awake while singing along. Idols, actors, and comedians of all ages participated, allowing for the entire family to enjoy the program. This is also one of the programs that shed some light on the MCing skills of Yoo Jae Suk.
3. Sunday Sunday Night – Guerrilla Concert (2000-2003)
During the few years that this program aired, many Koreans wondered why the “Guerrilla Concert” truck never came by their neighborhood. In this program, the production crew and singers would first decide on a goal audience number, and they would choose a city to hold a guerrilla concert. The concert could begin only when the number of audience members were filled. The singers were allowed one hour to ride the truck and promote their concert on the streets. Although occasionally some singers were unable to hold their concert, so the singers would work hard to promote their concert, leading to a lot of anticipation up until the moment they pulled off their sleeping masks.
4. Super TV Sunday Is Fun – MC Great Battle – Kkung Kkung Tta of Fear (2002-2003)
One of the segments of the MC Great Battle, “Kkung Kkung Tta of Fear” was an enormously popular word chain game. The rules were fairly standard – stars had to say a word that started with the letter that was the last letter of the word the previous person had said. If you repeated a word, said the name of a place or a person, or used foreign words, you were eliminated. There was also a punishment if stars were unable to follow the set rhythm. The game was also notorious for using extremely difficult words with complicated endings, which always led to a lot of fresh and exciting words.
5. Sang Sang Plus – Generation Gap Old & New (2004-2007)
This program’s quizzes were given to adults and children on words and terminology they often used, to lessen the generation gap between them. An announcer would give the questions, and stars that knew the answer would come forward and whisper it into their ear using a big cone. Former announcer Noh Hyun Jung, who was the MC at the time, would hit the star’s head with the cone if they were wrong and say, “Please go study,” with an expressionless face. This particular part became a huge hit and was even parodied by other variety shows. These words were eventually selected, collected, and published into a book in 2006.
6. Star Golden Bell (2004-2010)
This long-running quiz program still airs today on KBS as a children’s quiz program, “Challenge1 Golden Bell.” Every week, 20 of the most popular singers, actors, comedians, and athletes would join on the huge set to solve problems. The show was so popular that it was even able to overcome low ratings in 2009, when its MC Kim Jae Dong resigned. At the time, KBS announcer Jun Hyun Moo, who was a rising star in the variety scene, became the interim and then the main MC for the show, and along with actress Lee Chae Young, they were able to pull the program through until 2010.
7. Good Sunday – X-Man (2003-2007)
This SBS variety program was arguably one of the most popular in the 2000s. It was known for the amazing chemistry between Yoo Jae Suk and Kang Ho Dong, hilarious segments, and couple-matching games. In the program, the guests would be divided into two teams for two weeks. One person, unknown to everyone, was selected as the “X-Man,” and would deliberately try to sabotage his team from winning the games. At the end, if the teams were unable to guess the who it was, then the “X-Man” would win. With hundreds of guests featuring on the show and dozens of successful segments, this variety show is still frequently referenced today.
8. Real Romance Love Letter (2004-2006)
This famous couple-matching variety show featured famous single artists, actors, models, and comedians. With Kang Ho Dong as its main MC, these singles mingled amongst each other and competed for each other in games to show that they were the “Perfect Man.” The winners were sometimes able to go on dates with each other.
9. Good Sunday – Family Outing (2008-2010)
Although slightly more recent than the others on the list, this well-loved variety show still exudes the old variety style feel. Bringing together some of the most well-known variety personalities today, a group of stars nicknamed the “family” went house-sitting people’s homes as the owners went traveling for two days. The cast did chores around the house and also played various outdoor games in the fields where they often worked. The cast had a dynamic relationship, with each member’s vibrant personality somewhat clashing with each other as they bickered, teased, and enjoyed each other’s company.
10. Hello Baby (2009-2013)
This variety show allowed viewers to see their favorite idols taking care of and raising children. With each season featuring a popular idol group, the groups are given a child, or multiple children, to experience the realities of parenthood. Throughout each episode, the idols were also given missions and activities for the day, similar to what real parents would do when raising their child, to really experience the full effect.
Which variety show was your favorite?