“Infinity Challenge” And What It Means To Be A Real Variety Show

MBC “Infinity Challenge” is one of the oldest variety shows currently on air. They are usually heralded as the leader in real variety shows within the domestic market. Their ratings have been consistently high for the last several years and have one of the most dedicated fan bases for variety shows. However with great popularity comes extreme scrutiny of what the show does. The recent episode portraying the battle between Haha Vs Hong Chul demonstrated this fact clearly.

The highly anticapted Haha Vs Hong Chul special

Before we begin, a brief explanation of what this episode is about is required. “Infinity Challenge” members, Haha and Hong Chul are battling against each other in 10 different competitions. The person that wins the most amounts of competitions gets to treat the loser as their junior. They are competing in front of a large group of audience members, who have to guess who will win each round. If they guess correctly, they then get to stay for the next round. If they guess incorrectly, they are eliminated and have to watch the match from seating behind the arena. The people that end up guessing the winner for all 10 rounds correctly win a prize, which in this case were two cars.

The audience members in the background, different sides, different moods

Now with that out of the way, there are a few issues we need to cover regarding this episode, so let’s start off by discussing something that wasn’t as obvious on the episode that aired on Saturday. As you can see by the explanation above, the format of the game means that there is going to be people getting eliminated with each round, which is quite disappointing for the people involved considering what is at stake. Since everyone is only human, this means tempers might begin to flare and according to certain fan reports of the event, this is exactly what happened. After the end of one of these rounds, certain fans supposedly started swearing, pointing fingers at the “Infinity Challenge” members and were generally rowdy.

“What can you actually win in?” One of the fans expressing their disappointment

Reports seem to vary between the extent of these behaviours, with some fans that were at the scene saying that people were stamping on balloons in anger after being eliminated while others were saying that this was a small majority and they chastised by the larger majority of fans. Whatever the view, the general consensus seems to be that rowdy behaviour was shown during the event. “Infinity Challenge’s” Main PD, Kim Tae Ho PD, was quick to get on Twitter and explain that this was something that the staff and members were unaware of and that he is sorry that he was unable to offer something more for the audience members that had come on the day. He also noted that it is indeed their fault for causing the audience members discomfort as they moved around the set and making the audience members feel disappointed when they got eliminated.

The prizes in question

The key issue here seems to be that there were a few audience members that got a bit too excited about the prospects of being able to win a car and thus got hugely disappointed when the member they were supporting happened to lose a round and get them eliminated. It’s somewhat understandable to be disappointed in this situation however it must also be noted that the format of the show could easily have involved no prizes at all or even no audience member participation.

The fans waiting in line to see their favourite celebrities, or is it just to win a car?

While it would be grossly over-exaggerating to call the right of being an audience member a special privilege, it’s also not an expected right especially for a free event such as this, where you are given the chance to meet your favourite celebrities up close. It appears that certain fans have forgotten about this fact and thus felt it necessary to vent their disappointment at others. It’s an unfortunate situation for all involved in this event.

Haha in training with Kim Byung Man and Noh Woo Jin

Now the next issue is a much more serious issue. During the episode, there was various scenes where Haha and Hong Chul went to meet other celebrities before their event to get assistance and advice about the games they were about to do. One of these scenes involved Hong Chul going to Julian Kang to get advice about how to win a chicken fight. The context within the episode seemed to state that this meeting occurred 2 days before the event, which would have been Jan. 17.

The scene in question

However according to a tweet by Julian Kang, this recording actually occurred on Jan 26, which is after the actual event has occurred on Jan. 19. This would mean that Hong Chul’s training video was actually recorded after the event had finished and that there was some fabrication involved. Tae Ho PD was once again quick to respond and stated that Hong Chul and Julian Kang were unable to meet before the event because they were unable to fit it into their schedules.

“On the same day,” unfortauntely it wasn’t on the same day as Haha’s Training before the event

However the staff gave Julian Kang’s recommendations about the Chicken Fight to Hong Chul before the match. Tae Ho PD continued to explain that they recorded the scene to balance out the episode, because there were 3 scenes involving Haha getting training, while Hong Chul had none and that would have looked like that Hong Chul didn’t train as hard as Haha did, which isn’t the case. Thus the decision was made to record Hong Chul’s scene with Julian Kang after the fact using what Hong Chul remembered about Julian Kang’s recommendations before the event. Tae Ho PD finished off by stating that it is clearly his fault for not checking the final edits and letting it go out on air with the context that Hong Chul’s meeting occurred before the event.

What really is a real variety show?

Now people reading up to this point might realise what the big issue here is. The concept of a real variety show is that what occurs on screen is an accurate portrayal of what actually happened in real life. Thus people watching real variety shows also have a reasonable amount of expectation that what they are watching on screen doesn’t contain any significant fabrications or setups. While the extra scene doesn’t affect the final result of the event, which is the most important aspect of this special, it does cause viewers to have an air of suspicion about everything else that was shown on screen. It’s easy to presume that certain other portions might have been setup if this section had been fabricated as well. The only thing that seems to be working in “Infinity Challenge’s” favour at this point is how quick Tae Ho PD was in terms of issuing an explanation and their past record.

To what extent should we really expect these two or any other “WGM” couple to act?

However explanations aside, one must questions to what extent viewers should expect in terms of realism on a real variety show. The nature of a TV show means that certain elements must be in place so that we end up with an interesting show to watch. There are bound to be various scripted scenes and other measures in place to ensure that each episode flows nicely and recording ends at a reasonable time. Now this isn’t the first time a variety show has been accused of such issues, “Family Outing” and “I’m a Singer” comes to mind, and I expect such issues to keep arising in the future. Are we perhaps being a bit naïve in terms of what we expect from real variety shows or should we really be expecting absolute realism, even if it affects the general flow and entertainment value of the episode? Would people be complaining about the fact that there were no scenes involving Hong Chul doing extra training while there were 3 scenes involving Haha training?

Should we perhaps just enjoy shows for what they are?

The issue of how real a real variety show needs to be is something that will be discussed for a long while but it might be time for us viewer to either demand more realism at perhaps the expense of program flow and entertainment value or concede the fact that certain modifications need to be made to create a show that flows nicely and has great entertainment value. So do we lower our expectations or raise them? That’s something I’ll let the other viewers decide.