A staple of Korean entertainment has always been its variety television. Korea has produced some great variety, such as X-Man, Family Outing, and Infinite Challenge. But, lately it’s been suffering and slight attention to news will show a rising trend of variety and talk shows premiering, then soon being cancelled. Recently it was officially reported that the brand new Star Diving Show “Splash!” was officially cancelled due to its high injury rate.
There is a recurring problem happening within Korean variety, but maybe looking back at some recent failures will give us some ideas on how Korean variety can get back on its feet.
Star Golden Bell: Seasons 2 and 3
Moving the guests from sitting to seating was the first omen that Season 2 wasn’t going to work. After guests moved from the floor to desks, the homey feeling found in the first season disappeared. Star Golden Bell is definitely one of those classic Korean variety shows. It’s very often regarded fondly by fans, but after the revamp and loss of MCs it became boring. A strong point of Star Golden Bell were its guests, but it ended up becoming one of its biggest problems. The lack of good guests and older, more seasoned guests messed up a lot of the fun. Season 3 had to be the worst though because absolutely nothing happened.
Oh! My School (also known as 100 Points Out of 100)
Oh! My School was the successor to Star Golden Bell and it was just as boring. On the internet you can still find fans wanting Oh! My School back, which is a little confusing because watching Oh! My School from beginning to end was very tedious. Sure, the cuts were pretty darn funny, but the show itself, an hour spent too long on the wrong things, was meandering. The first few episodes were good enough though.
Oh! My School soon became predictable. It was then revamped multiple times, but that just irritated the problem and strayed away from the actual fun of the show. Oh! My School wasn’t all bad. It had some pretty great segments, like blast karaoke. But with each change Oh! My School became duller and duller. Audiences felt the same and Oh! My School was quickly cancelled.
The premise for Heroes wasn’t all that interesting and it translated just like that on screen. The chemistry was pretty good and the script was alright, but all in all it wasn’t anything special. It was cool that it was an all girl cast and they got along well, but the games were just games and it didn’t offer that extra something.
Talk Actors Club
When news broke of the new show to replace MBC’s well loved Come to Play it was obvious that it wasn’t going to work. The idea or concept wasn’t actually anything. People came on to tell stories. The grab, if it could be considered one, was that it was all actors. The cast wasn’t anything exceptional and together didn’t offer much. Episodes were really long, felt really long, and nothing happened in them. The cast and guest(s) sat and talked for more than an hour about whatever. Since there were better and more familiar talk shows, viewers turned their attention to those.
Strong Heart: Season 2
Shin Dong-yup and Lee Dong-wook are awesome and they’re pretty awesome together, but together they couldn’t salvage Strong Heart. Strong Heart itself can sometimes border on the boring side, as its amusement has to come from the guests, but that didn’t happen a lot of the time, so its real entertainment came from the camaraderie between former MCs Kang Ho-dong and Lee Seung-gi. When the two left (at different times), what was left of the show? It was decided for an attempt at a reboot. Seeing as Seung-gi and Ho-dong were the heart of the show, it all fell flat. Dong-yup and Dong-wook were good replacements, but it’s hard to replace something that worked so well.
Family Outing 2
Also known as the invasion of the idols. The show made poor choices casting wise and focused too much on a heavily scripted love line between Yoona and Taecyeon, which does not fit at all with the show and concept. The airtime was unfair, and the change in format from friendship and fun to pandering to the idols made boring TV. It messed with something that worked and now Family Outing 2 is forever known as a big giant failure.
Invincible Youth 2
Invincible Youth 2 caught sequel syndrome and caught it bad. It’s been covered before on the faults of Invincible Youth 2. Poor MCs, lack of real work, messing with something that works, competition over comradery. It’s all such a shame.
God of Victory
Shame with this show is that it never really got the lift or interest. Some of the games were a bit hokey, but overall fun. There weren’t really any cast names for draw-in either. Though it was set up without the personal, more touching element (something that makes a lot of shows successful), it negatively created a distance between the viewer and show. It’s still a shame that it never really got the promotion it needed.
Knee Drop Guru
The only episodes one watched of Knee Drop Guru were when their favorites guested since the whole episode focused on them and only them. This didn’t become the problem though until after Kang Ho-dong returned. A lot of the steam was lost and the loss of original cast members Yoo Se Yoon and Woo Seung Min messed up the cute friendship between the three MCs. All of that coupled with MBC’s clueless decision to change the entire staff of the show including the original writer Choi Dae-woong. In the end there was just no more energy left.
Star Diving Show “Splash!”
The most recent addition to shortly lived shows is the oh so dangerous Splash!. Originated from the German show TV Total Diving, in less than a month had already racked up a fair share of injuries. Clara had a minor hip sprain and continued to film, and comedian Lee Bong-wan suffered a orbital fracture, which will take 3-4 weeks to heal. Diving is a sport not to take lightly. The person who green-lit the show needs to have some sense shaken into them for not foreseeing injuries when making untrained people attempt to professionally dive. This is a very good instance of good riddance.
It’s not like there isn’t good variety out right now, but channels seem to be giving the go ahead on various shows that are obviously not going to work. It’s been discussed within movie circles and in various film discussions on why bad films are made. Why would a studio want to make a bad film and lose money? Well, they don’t. At one point the script was good or certain people were meant to helm the film, then along the way say visions clashed or wrong direction was given by executives. But, with Korean shows many were doomed from the start and the drove of bad variety gives the impression that networks are just green lighting shows to fill in time slots and hoping something sticks.
Interestingly enough all the good variety seems to be on cable, recent dramas as well. The shows on today that are suffering and are known for being at the cusp of cancellation have similar problems like these shows. Networks have even been quick to resort to mimicking shows that are working at the moment. While this is not to say that there isn’t good variety out there, to me there’s no excitement right now, nothing memorable. Possibly, this is the best that writers and PDs have to offer today.
What are your thoughts, readers? What do you think of the state of Korean variety these days? Are there any shows that still keep you riveted?