Earlier this month, the final episode SBS show Strong Heart aired, the show finishing its three year run with a SNSD special. Each episode, Strong Heart featured a host of Korean celebrities and fixed guests sharing their most funny or sad, never-heard-before stories, with the best storyteller deemed the “winner” of the episode. And while the show is being rebooted into a new format, we at Seoulbeats would like to spend this Roundtable to take a pause and remember some of our favourite Strong Heart moments.

Ambika: I haven’t watched much of Strong Heart, but one of the episodes I did see and really liked was the YG Family Special, which I think was also Lee Seung-gi‘s last episode as host. It was really entertaining to watch, especially since you don’t really get all of them together very often. I also can’t forget the SHINee‘s Onew vs. Lee Seung-gi ttakbam competition that will probably give me laughs forever.

Amy: My favorite episodes are actually the ones where G-Dragon is on. I think he’s a great storyteller and he has a natural sense of humor, which helps in storytelling.

That aside though, I think Strong Heart’s best episodes are waaaay behind it already at this point. There’s only so much you can get out of this format (a bajillion guests and only a few who can really speak), so when the show first came out, it was great. Now? Not so much.

Nicholas: The best episodes were the ones with Kang Ho-dong in them. He seemed to have this magic technique of coming in at the right time to let the guests go on with their story, and elicit just the right reactions from the story teller and the listeners. Too often, guests ended up saying more than they should have under him. It just ain’t the same these days, where the guests are too often left to flounder on their own, like what Amy says. The show really needs an adroit wheel greaser.

Of the episodes I watched, I liked the ones where the guests were made up of largely B-list actors and variety show hosts, for their brillant slice of life stories. Far better than the high profile idol guests who always end up telling either old stories, or self censor due to their fame. An exception to the rule was KARA’s Seungyeon, who made half the guests, including SNSD sob at her story of KARA being the nugus that made good.

Fannie: Agreed with Nicholas that Strong Heart just wasn’t the same after Kang Ho-dong left (although Lee Seung-gi did an admirable job trying to hold down the fort).

One Strong Heart moment that I remember vividly was during the Leeteuk goodbye special, when someone had the (not so) bright idea of also inviting Ssangchu (who was enlisting into the army on the same day as Leeteuk) onto the same episode and then proceeding to make everything about the episode about Leeteuk. DBSK and Super Junior members talking about Leeteuk going off into the army. Yoona showing up to send Leeteuk off to the army. SHINee members showing up to send Leeteuk off to the army. Leeteuk’s mom and sister showing up to send Leeteuk off to the army. In the meantime, having Leeteuk text 100 of his friends goodbye and interrupting everyone (including Leeteuk himself as he was in the middle of whining about having to go off to the army) to read aloud the responses as they came in throughout the duration of the show.

I felt SO sorry for Ssangchu as you could see him getting more and more visibly frustrated as the episode went on. That is, up until the point where Shorry J made a surprise guest appearance, and Ssangchu’s face just lit up; it was like all his frustrations about being ignored and marginalized by the barrage of LEETEUK LEETEUK LEETEUK melted away because his bro Shorry J was there. I remember hearing him mutter “brother from another mother” as he tearfully embraced his group-mate. It was seriously, the best bromance moment ever.

The funniest thing out of all of this was that the ratings dropped 2% during the two-episodes where they aired the special. I’m pretty sure the domestic viewers were just as sick of it being dragged out so long as we all were.

Amy: That was the worst episode of Strong Heart in Strong Heart history. Scratch that, that might’ve been the most annoying two hours of Korean variety I’ve ever seen since getting into K-pop.

But what do you know, now that Leeteuk’s gone, Heechul will be coming back, and it’ll be the same circle jerk all over again.

Fannie: I love Heechul though, so I don’t mind. Although I understand that his personality is a polarizing one (you either love him or you hate him, nothing in between).

Nicholas: That episode made me respect Ssangchu a fair bit more. I somehow kept getting the feeling he was there cause he so happened to enlist on the same day, and was not wanting to make a big deal of it, to do his duty and be over and done with it. As for the the Army Special that turned into an SM Family talk fest (AKA the glorifying Leeteuk session), the less said about it the better.

Johnelle: I really enjoyed the early episodes of Strong Heart. I believe Strong Heart was at its best when Kang Ho-dong and Lee Seung-gi were both there and when Boom was there before his military enlistment and there was Boom Academy. The very first episode remains as one of my fave episodes with stars like G-Dragon, Seungri, all of Epik High, Kim Tae-woo, Brian Joo, and MC Mong as guests. The stories and dialogues were just great like how all the sunbaes shared that they adjusted the release of their albums to the release of Big Bang‘s albums or how Seungri ratted his hyungs out when they were going to run away.

You have to hand it to Seung-gi though, he did a pretty good job by himself and his last episode with the YG Family special was really great to watch because it is rare to see all the Family in one place telling stories about each other, etc.

Although Lee Dong-wook and Shin Dong-yeop did a good job of carrying on the show, I just don’t think it was ever as good as it was when Kang Ho-dong and Lee Seung-gi hosted it. Even so, I’ll miss Strong Heart because there were almost always some little gem that one of your favorite actors, singers, or comedians would share about themselves on the show.

(Images via: SBS)