A lot has changed for Seventeen’s Going Seventeen series over the years. Starting off as behind-the-scenes segments, recent years have seen the online series develop into a full-blown variety show. 2021 is no different, with mainstream success and a helping hand from parent company HYBE both granting the series a bigger budget. Amidst the glitz and glamor of this year’s installment of Going Seventeen, however, the selling point still remains Seventeen’s own personal charm.

After 2020 saw the series consistently trending in real-time searches, with episodes boasting over a combined 100 million views, anticipation for the 2021 season of Going Seventeen was at an all-time high. The excitement only grew following an extended hiatus due to Mingyu’s bullying allegations, and on April 14 the new season finally premiered with the “Ad-lib: Going Company #1” episode (which, at the time of writing, already has over 2 million views).

The episode shows the group taking on roles in a pretend start-up company as they brainstorm how to market random items from ginseng to a sogo drum—and that’s about all the structure there is. Therein, however, lies Seventeen’s true talent: their candidness. The lack of structure allows the naturally funny idols to shine on their own, granting them the power to mold the humor and jokes in a way that highlights each individual best.

For episodes like part one and two of “Ad-lib: Going Company,” the ad-libs grow more and more bizarre as the show carries on, such as when Mingyu uses the word zombie to promote an athlete’s foot remedy. Not only does this format enable Seventeen to be at their silliest, but it also allows them to use their chemistry to play off each other. This same hilarious spontaneity is what drives one of their most popular segments over the years, “Logic Night,” in which the group divides into two teams and go head-to-head in absurd debates.

Of course, given the improv nature, specific members tend to lead the charge, such as Seungkwan who was recently nominated as the male “Entertainment Idol of the Year” for the 2021 Brand Awards. Hoshi and DK tend to steal the spotlight too, coming up with some of the show’s more ridiculous antics, typically as a duo. But this isn’t to say that any members get left behind, as the rest of Seventeen is sure to help those who may be a little more camera shy such as when the others prompted Vernon to give his own ideas in “Ad-lib: Going Company #1” and when he couldn’t, they still did their best to help make his ad-lib failure funny.

Any comedy fan knows that jokes are funnier when the comedian can’t help but laugh at himself, so it only adds to the hilarity that Seventeen find themselves so funny. Almost every episode has Woozi collapsing to the floor in a state of raucous laughter–something Pledis Entertainment uses to their advantage by frequently affixing the members with gadgets that shock them every time they so much as giggle. 

What takes the humor to the next level, though, is the way it includes fans by using familiar inside jokes to propel the series. Common instances such as the members repeatedly picking on their youngest Dino or the never-ending rivalry between Seungkwan and Hoshi are staples in the group’s comedic repertoire. The “Let’s Go! Seventeen” episodes use the latter as a cliffhanger between parts one and two, with Seungkwan and Hoshi treating their inflatable obstacle course race like a matter of life and death. Meanwhile, Jeonghan’s penchant for cheating in games was even the grounds for its own two-part episode, “One Million Won,” wherein he openly played the role of the villain as he attempted to playfully use his cunningness to undermine the group. Running jokes such as these give the show a personal touch, painting Seventeen as a group of long-time friends rather than idols at work, and inviting viewers to be part of that friendship too.

With Seventeen’s natural humor at the forefront, the highest views this season are the episodes for “Ad-lib: Going Company” and “Let’s Go! Seventeen.” And while money and fame may have brought more extravagant sets such as when the staff rented an entire island for the treasure hunt-themed “13 Raiders” episodes, the series is still the best when Seventeen takes matters into their own hands. And Hoshi did just that in the aforementioned episode, when he abandoned the treasure hunt entirely to film his own hilarious MV for his solo track “Spider” on the beach. (Perhaps ironically, the “13 Raiders” episodes were the first to air on television, premiering on JTBC2.)

None of this is lost on Pledis or Seventeen, of course, and is likely the reason why they continue to revisit old favorite segments such as the “Don’t Lie” Mafia game episodes, which made a comeback with a third installment this past week and has already garnered 1.5 million views. Just the first part has seen these same running jokes resurface, with Hoshi being overly excited at the game, Jeonghan stirring the pot to raise the stakes, and Jun operating at his own frequency in a way that makes him seem suspicious to the others. But even though the members tend to fall into these same roles time and time again, the content never feels old or recycled.

Despite a bigger scale and likely even bigger budget, Going Seventeen is still at its most successful when Seventeen themselves are the focus. Thanks to the members’ candidness and the effortless way in which they play off each other’s humor, the series continues to thrive, regardless of whether the boys are scavenging a deserted island or sitting in a room roasting each other as hard as they possibly can.

(Top Star News. Korea JoongAng Daily. Images via Pledis Entertainment.)