MBC “Survival: I am a Singer” Stirs Controversy with Consolation Round

MBC’s hit reality show “Survival: I am a Singer” has caused much controversy since airing its latest episode last night, following an unexpected format change that occurred at the end of the show. During the Mar. 20th episode of “Survival: I am a Singer,” veteran singer Kim Gun Mo was the first to get eliminated from the original seven contestant pool. Kim gave a cover performance of Lim Joo Ri’s “Putting on Thick Lipstick,” but it wasn’t enough to impress the 500 audience members who also served as the final judging panel. When the results were revealed, and Kim was announced last place—meaning he would get eliminated and replaced by another singer next week—an awkward moment of silence took over the whole stage. The contestants and the crowd were both totally stunned at the unexpected outcome and the remaining six singers seemed shocked to see the oldest and most respected contestant—some call Kim “The Nation’s Singer” for his long-lasting popularity—forced to leave the show.

But a new twist just occurred then. Lee So Ra, who also serves as the host of the show, suddenly disappeared to the back stage waiting room in apparent disgust over the result, saying, “I’m so sad to see my favorite singer Kim Gun Mo get eliminated. I’m going to ask the production crew to edit and record the show again.” Following the unexpected outburst, the production crew held an emergency meeting, and came up with a new solution: a consolation round.

“Our goal is not to embarrass singers by eliminating them. We’ll continue to give eliminated contestants a second chance to redeem themselves,” Kim Young Hee, the producer of the show said. He added, from now on, the eliminated singer could either accept or decline the offer. Kim accepted the offer for a second chance and next week he’ll be given another opportunity to prove himself as the “Nation’s Singer.”

But netizens and viewers were astounded at the completely unexpected turn of events. “This is no longer a survival show. It’s sad to see someone get eliminated, but I don’t think it’s right to give them a second chance,” one netizen commented, while another asked, “What’s the point of having audience-judges?” Many said it’s just “very disappointing” to see a format change, commenting, “The producer’s just making excuses. He can’t make it this easy to get a second chance.”

“Survival: I am a Singer” has attracted unforeseen popularity not just for its deep pool of talented and respected contestants, but also because of its unique knock out format. The fact that these veteran and qualified singers were competing with their names and reputation on the line every week under the pressure of getting eliminated based on audience votes was something we’ve never seen before and special on its own. Local media also slammed the program’s format change saying the show must get rid of the “survival” part from its title since it no longer follows a tournament knock out system. In the meantime, this week’s episode saw an 11.8% AGB Nielsen TV rating, a 2.4% increase from last week. It’s the first time in two years to see MBC’s Sunday night primetime show exceed double digit TV ratings. The current contestants include Kim Gun Mo, Lee So Ra, Kim Bum Soo, Yoon Do Hyun, Jung Yeop, Baek Ji Young, and Park Jung Hyun (Lena Park).