Leessang members Gary and Gil recently announced that they were going to lift their brief hiatus from variety. For all of those unaware of the whole predicament (understandable to be honest considering the messiness of the whole ordeal), late last month both Gary and Gil announced that they would be leaving variety following the cancellation of this year’s Super 7 concert, hosted by their Leessang Company.

To give a little background, Super 7 is a concert hosted by and featuring the cast of variety show Infinity Challenge, and is usually hosted by Infinity Challenge‘s broadcasting station, MBC. However due to the strikes and the internal turmoil the station has been going through this year, not only was this year Super 7 concert cancelled, but the stations’ variety shows — of which include previously mentioned Infinity Challenge and We Got Married — were briefly cancelled as well. Actually, during the strikes, the Infinity Challenge members quite famously met together to film an episode themselves, releasing the episode through major media medium YouTube, despite not being funded or payed for filming the episode.

Similarly, since the members didn’t want to upset fans with the cancellation of the truly enjoyable concert, they decided to fund the concert themselves with their own money, with member Gil’s company Leessang Company taking charge of the operation. The members were planning big for this project, as in major improvements in the concert to increase the enjoyment of fans, since the effort was going to be truly their own. However, without such a leading and influential company such as MBC to fund the effort, even with the members’ own money and the help of Leessang Company, funds were going to be tight. And as such, despite the concert usually being free, the members decided to charge for admission, hoping to use the money made to help make the best show possible. Unfortunately, this is where the trouble started brewing.

The Korean public soon started to berate the members, Leessang Company and Gil especially, for the effort’s prominent lack of organization and its high price. Many were angry over the expensiveness of admission to the (previously free) concert, and the fact that the concert was being held the same time as Infinity Challange — as well as comments from the the members describing the concert was “completely separate” from the show — led others to believe that the concert was being held only for the members’ profit. The conflict of the whole ordeal eventually led to the cancellation of the concert, a huge loss to all parties involved, and the cancellation only led to more criticism.

The severe criticism eventually drove at first Gil to announce his leave from Infinity Challenge in order to make up to his mistakes, a move many celebrities do (or at least should do) in face of controversy. Later on, Gary also announced his leave from Running Man — a decision his agency and the producers of the show were supposedly unaware of — despite not being a member of Infinity Challenge due to his direct involvement of his company and most likely his noticeable back pain as well. However, only after a few days following the announcement of their “hiatus” and the cancellation of one recording from both shows, the Leessang members decided to lift their breaks, going right back into the shows they supposedly left.

I suspect this move was heavily influenced by the pressure of the shows’ producers due to the cancelled and episodes and all, and also because the two were decidedly ready to leave due to the controversy. And honestly for Gary’s sake, while I would have cried buckets, his leave would have been very understandable considering his current and very apparent physical condition and the amount of physical exertion Running Man requires. But hypothetically, if Gary and Gil were successful in their leave, would their respective shows be able to survive? Many distraught fans (including originally this author) claimed that Infinity Challenge and Running Man would never be the same without Gil and Gary respectively, but upon further thought and the consideration of member change precedents, would this really be the case?

Quite a while ago, I discussed member changes in the context of idol groups, deeming them as risky due to the disappearance of previously established dynamics and a chance of the new member not being received well by the public. This also applies when it comes to the regular cast of a variety show, and I’d even consider the possible risks more threatening to variety shows, which rely heavily on likability and chemistry. Filming a variety show takes a huge amount of work and dedication, and considering that the majority of most variety regulars are mainly idols or actors/actresses only doing variety on the side, member changes are also somewhat more present and common in variety. Many regular cast members have other, and most likely more prioritized, matters to handle. Usually, a show can do very little to keep their members on board since it’s ultimately their choice whether to stay or go, making it urgent for shows to be able to keep from faltering lest their quality drop as well.

Examples of member changes in variety that turned for the worse can be seen through the first season of Invincible Youth and arguably Family Outing as well. This change for the worse can most clearly be seen through Invincible Youth, which definitely lost some popularity and dropped slightly in quality following the departure of SNSD‘s Sunny and Yuri and 4Minute‘s Hyuna. The show thrived off of the chemistry the girls gradually developed, starting out awkward and timid but later bonding through genuine hard work and cooperation. This chemistry and comradeship truly made the show shine, and to have those dynamics severed by the departure of almost half of the cast was definitely fatal to the show. While the three new girls were nice additions there wasn’t really enough time to build those relationships all over again, and when those relationships were eventually formed, most viewers had already lost interest. Furthermore, the replacements with the exception of Victoria were significantly weaker in variety. Say all you want about them and the groups they come from, but Sunny, Yuri, and Hyuna are still some of the better females when it comes to variety, and the new girls just couldn’t fill those large shoes.

As for Family Outing, the change in members is arguable since the drop in quality wasn’t as apparent, if present at all. Park Hae-jin and Park Si-yeon were admittedly more than capable replacements to Park Ye-jin and Lee Chun-hee who both left to pursue drama roles, though this author definitely prefers Chunderella and Sweet and Savage Ye-jin over the Park Siblings. The dynamics between Lee Hyori and Park Si-yeon were greatly amusing though — the two have been known to remain close friends to this day, though even Si-yeon ended up leaving due to back problems with nobody available to replace her. The aspect of having Hyori — as badass as she is — as the sole female on the show could definitely be felt, and while the show’s more experienced variety stars kept the show afloat, one couldn’t deny how the show’s dynamic changed somewhat with only one female present.

But on the other hand, some shows remain unaffected by member changes, with some even benefiting from it. 1 Night 2 Days has managed to stay afloat despite numerous member changes. While I definitely miss personal favorites Kang Ho-dong and Lee Seung-gi, the show has managed to keep a fairly consistent quality despite the constant addition and removal of members. Moreover, Running Man itself has a fairly nice precedent in Song Joong-ki‘s clean departure. While I definitely miss him and admit to tearing up at the departure of one of my favorite members, his departure, contrary to what I originally thought, didn’t affect the show as much. While his same aged friend Lee Kwang-soo originally had a hard time finding a new character following Joong-ki’s departure, he and the show were able to get back up in a reasonable amount of time, arguably keeping the same quality as before.

And as for varieties that improved due to a cast change, one should look no further than Invincible Youth 2 despite it still having a long way to go to compare with the original. Admittedly, Amber and Lee Su-geun‘s departures were disappointing since they weren’t fully given the proper time or focus to shine, and this author had a very hard time watching his bias Sunny leave as well. However, as nice as they were, Woori and Ji Hyun-woo‘s departures were largely unapparent, and Kim Shin-young and Lee Young-ja definitely made the show more watchable. Infinity Challenge‘s additions were also able to spice the show up even more, the multiple constant personalities livening up the atmosphere.

Now with all that said, let’s take a look at the original question being asked: would Gary and Gil’s departure really make that big of a ripple on the shows they’re cast in? To be honest, considering all the precedents of cast changes in variety and how many come out unscathed, I’m leaning toward saying that their shows would be able to recover in a reasonable period of time. As much as I love the two of them and their interaction with their fellow members, the more than capable cast they’d leave behind would be able to get back up fairly quickly. For all the shows that changed for the worse from a cast change, the members leaving were fairly crucial in the dynamics and foundations of the show, thus making their departures all the more evident. And as important as the Gary and Gil in Running Man and Infinity Challenge respectively, I really wouldn’t call the two as vital members. The duo contribute much banter and interaction in the whole scheme of things, but their loss probably wouldn’t be as severe compared to, say, a departure from Yoo Jae-suk, who basically makes the shows he’s part of (feel free to call me out if you think otherwise).

But then again, it would be a little jarring seeing the Running Men run as five, and choosing a replacement for the two (should they choose to employ a replacement in the first place that is) is even riskier as that replacement would need instant chemistry with the cast. But what do you Seoulmates think? Would Gary and Gil’s departure really make such a big ripple in their respective shows? What do you think of member changes in variety in general? Any other cases of member changes that you remember as prominent? And do you ever wish that some shows use the rotational, semi-regular format used in X-Man to save all the trouble? Leave your thoughts and more below!

(Nate, Naver, mbcunion2012, SBS, KBS, MBC)