Ever since I stumbled upon the first season of 1N2D years ago and discovered the awesome, hidden secret gem that is Kvariety shows, I’ve returned time and again to have my fill with this genre. Honestly I am always watching something when it comes to this, whether chewing bite-sized videos of random scenes from randomly picked shows or gobbling the full hour-and-thirty-minutes per episode per show.
This year I’ve not only watched more than I realized, I’ve also emotionally invested more in Kvariety than I have in dramas. Ironic, surprising – but true. Plus, to be completely honest: Kvariety has emotionally saved me so many times this year, more times than I can count. Whether that was during the turbulent winds of change early this year, the brewing heat of midsummer or the thunderstorm of the past three months – there was always a Kvariety show or two that brought me temporary relief through wacky, endearing, corny – you name it – moments.
I’ve thought about how to approach this year-end Kvarietyfest reflection and see no suitable way to go about it. So… for once, I’m throwing caution to the wind and relaxing my anal tendencies when it comes to blogging. Aptly, I’m embracing the fundamentals of Kvariety: loosely scripted, conceptually crafted, appropriately casted and now let’s hit the slate in 3, 2, 1 – I’m jumping in live, no holds barred!
“Ahhh, You’re So Cute I Want to Squish You!”
Dad! Where Are You Going? (also known as Appa! Odiga)
Reflection Barometer: Warm Fuzzies
I initially picked up this show completely out of curiosity. Suffice to say, one episode became two which then easily became five and I ended up pimping the show, found here. Then the first siblings special happened and I squealed at the cuteness overload, found here. I think I watched the first fourteen or so episodes consistently – a real feat, I dare say – before it eventually fell by the wayside due to time constraints and Real Life turn-of-events. I picked up a later episode about a month ago and aw man, the kids look so different in a matter of just months! Growth spurts sure are boggling. Even months later though, I can easily vouch that each dad-and-kid duo is as cute as ever.
If you’re game to give the show a try, especially since this original set of five daddy-kiddo duos are leaving the show very soon (if not already), here’s my outtake – pick a random episode, provided it’s the start of a new trip, and watch it. The concepts and executions are the same, i.e. they’re off somewhere remote for two days and one night sans Mummy and spend the time doing bonding and relaxing activities. Occasionally the PDs will come up with missions or small sets of games to keep the show going and prompt tape-worthy materials but let’s be honest here, because they’re kids and its common knowledge that kids say the darndest things and their responses and reactions simply can’t be predicted – each kid is friggin’ hilarious, I promise – we’re really tuning in for the interactions namely between each other, with their dads and the rest of the cast collectively. That’s the golden nugget of this show and quite frankly? It never gets old.
Here’s the adorable kiddos from the recent 2013 MBC Entertainment Awards:
“You… Used to Be So Much Better. What… Happened?”
Reflection Barometer: Vague
Like everyone else, I like the show. Unlike most people, I don’t love it. I typically watch it on-and-off, ergo whenever the episodic premise or guests are interesting, that’s when I usually tune in. While I can’t attest Running Man‘s popularity decline (ratings-wise) through my tuning-in history, my take is based on my own emotional and laughing response. In the past when I pick up an episode at random and tune in, they never fail to leave me cackling and laughing like a loon, but this year sitting through an episode was often such a chore.
The 2NE1 episode was so obviously scripted it was embarrassing for instance, the Lee Dong Wook–Han Hye Jin Vietnam SP episodes were bipolar – great in the first half, excruciatingly boring and lame in the second half – and the guesting of the cast of Heirs was mediocre. I can’t remember how many other ones I tried to sit through but ended up just losing interest. I tried, I promise I did, but for some reason it’s like they lost their magic on me; plot devices and games seemed overused or overly scripted, which took away the “Oh, I didn’t see that coming!” moments. I keep telling myself I ought to check out Lee Seung Gi and TOP‘s recent guesting respectively, but I’ve yet to do so.
The waning interest is an obvious sign that it’s either the show has hit its fatigue stage – as every Kvariety ends up hitting eventually, quite frankly – or my (residual) interest towards the show has simply dissipated. I don’t think it’s a terrible show at all though and I wholeheartedly believe it still has the ability to bounce back because if it’s one thing that the PDs of Running Man are, it’s that they’re creative as hell. I look forward to the show bouncing back in 2014!
As a peace offering, here are two short clips, one of the highlights this year:
“Ugh You! You Make Me Want to Throw Things At You!”
KPop Star Season 2
Reflection Barometer: Fondness
I picked up KPop Star Season 2 thanks to my discovery of Lee Ha Yi‘s eargasmic, husky low-tone voice – it made me curious of her launching platform and what that was all about. That and crazy-ass good rendition of Michael Jackson‘s Thriller by Raccoon Boys, plus oh the surprisingly refreshing and insanely creative siblings duo, Akdong Musician. I readily admit I didn’t watch the first season but discussed and heard plenty about it from Housemate #1 who religiously watched it when it aired and filled me in on the key details. I guess I could argue that I kind of… watched it? Maybe? Ha.
Anyway, I actually skipped the first round of audition for this season and started watching from the episode when Raccoon Boys made their appearance. When I jumped into the show I’d heard plenty and watched clips of the aforementioned two contenders’ performances, but ironically the duo that took me completely by surprise, had me rooting for them like a loon and made me throw curses at the judges, was none other than 2000 Won. I had no idea who they were prior to jumping in but I’m such a sucker for underdogs and they truly were the epitome of that in this season. What pissed me off was not only that the judges kept banging them (and their spirits) down, but more than that, they were being so fucking obviously biased towards the youngest contender, the supposed prodigy Bang Ye Dam. There’s nothing wrong with calling him whatever you think he is but guys, whatever happened to judging objectively and not showing favoritism? They lost my respect and patience and I ended up dropping the show once I made it to the Top 5 round because I knew… who got cut next.
This week I returned to the show and finished it up and my conclusion about this one? It’s worth watching, but do keep your cool in check. This show incited so many emotional and mental responses from me, from spazzing to trying to think more critically about the manufacture of idols in KPop-ville. My recent watch of the show (and pickup of the current season) is causing these thoughts to make a comeback, so while I look back at the memory of the show fondly because it introduced me to so many highly talented, aspiring musicians set to takeover KPop soon, I can’t say the same about some of the highly biased commentaries and obvious display of favoritism by the judges.
Let’s look back at the show warmly though – here are some of my favorite performances:
1) The performance that propelled everything – Raccoon Boy‘s version of Thriller
2) Akdong Musician performing their interpretation of Officially Missing You
3) 2000 Won‘s take on 2NE1‘s hit song, Lonely
4) My favorite from Andrew Choi is his rendition of Sleepless Rainy Night
“Fine, I Admit You Had Me In A Rabid Hole For Awhile There…”
We Got Married: Global Edition
Reflection Barometer: Vague
I don’t always tune in to We Got Married, but I admit I’ve a weakness for it. I generally keep tabs of the couples, past and upcoming. When I heard news about the pairing, my curiosity got ahold of me and I gave the show a watch. The Hongki-Mina couple turned out to be my crack while the Taecyeon-Gui Gui pair had me cringing and running in the opposite direction. But here’s the thing I’ve come to learn about these damn rabid holes: once you make your way out through the sober exit, the aftertaste is seldom dandy.
For all of my general interest with the show, honestly there hasn’t been a single couple that has me sticking by them from start to end on a consistent, weekly basis. Hongki-Mina succeeded to own me for ten or eleven episodes as evident here, but I ended up abandoning the show by episode thirteen and weeks later, caught the finale completely randomly while changing channels. By then sober and out of love, when I reached the ending, what was supposed to be a bittersweet, genuine mutual separation through romantic gestures did nothing to me – okay it did do something, but unfortunately nothing positive. I cringed in embarrassment and felt disgusted at the obviously scripted ending scenario, tears or no tears. Way to kill the love, honestly.
If you’re thinking of giving the show a watch though, I won’t stop you. An obvious advantage about We Got Married is that it’s generally easily watchable and once you find a couple you dig, it’s so easy to skip the rest and just tune in for 20 minutes weekly to watch your favorite. For this global edition, I obviously suggest the Hongki-Mina couple over the Taecyeon-Gui Gui couple for reasons expressed in my loose impressions (linked above), but who knows? You might find yourself falling for the latter, or both, instead.
“Oh You Terrible, Hot Mess – How, What, Why?!”
Reflection Barometer: (VERY) Vague
When the cast of Barefoot Friends were announced, I was excited. I have a deep affection for Yoon Si Yoon and to a degree, even Kang Ho Dong that I knew I’d tune in for them alone. Add the supposedly 4D and oft-talked about Kim Hyun Joong and my secret crush in SUPER JUNIOR‘s Eunhyuk and you’ve had me hook, line and sinker. Plus, the PDs have strong resumes, enough to stir positive interest and anticipation; surely the show would be an immediate hit, correct?
Turned out… No. It fell victim to poor conceptualization and even poorer execution. The casting turned out to be an exemplary case of too many cooks spoil the broth – or something along that, you know which one I’m talking about – because the chemistry between the cast were rather mismatched and forced. Plus, the opening episode took forever to introduce the premise and when it was finally introduced, not only did they separate the huge cast into two sets, they’d also whisked them to two different parts of Vietnam and had them perform tasks which were no doubt difficult and provided tons of humbling reflections, but felt so patronizing that came off as phony.
I gave the first two episodes a try but could hardly sit through the entirety of the second episode. Initially I kept telling myself to give the show time to settle into its groove and all that jazz, but I just couldn’t make myself return. I did tune in here and there and followed news updates about the show and honestly, relieved I dropped it early. The show turned out to be an embarrassingly unwatchable Kvariety show because the later episodes of visiting each other’s houses and then other celebrity friends’ houses were frankly, boring and pointless.
I’m sad the show was such a terrible, hot mess because I’d told myself I’d commit to it before it premiered. Can’t say I miss it now that it’s defunct, nor was I surprised by the axe. It was simply too little, too long.
“Kim Hee Sun, You Are A Hoot To Watch!”
Hwasin: Controller of The Heart
Reflection Barometer: Fondness
The successor to Strong Heart – one of my favorite Kvariety talk shows – was in general, a hit-and-miss. Most of the episodes I tuned in were very watchable, but some were so boring I tuned out and dropped them within the first thirty minutes. A huge factor is definitely the guests, who vary by and large, and the topics discussed. In general though, I really enjoyed the topics that were discussed and liked the indirect ways we get to know the guests; where Strong Heart was more forthcoming, in this one it’s less talking directly about themselves, rather expressing or sharing bits and parts of themselves through analogy and personal experiences.
My most surprising discovery though is the awesomeness that is Kim Hee Sun. I read plenty about her rather quirky and 4D personality but never saw it for myself until I tuned in to this show. In this show as I discovered, the rumors turned out to be true because she sure is bold, sassy, candid and best of all game for almost anything, including jabs that typically shed a less stellar light on her, the actress.
You’ve got to pick episodes with guests you like, cos otherwise it can be quite a drag to watch but in general, I thought Hwasin was a solid show that was unfortunately short-lived in Kvariety land.
“Aw Man, You’re Really On An Embarrassing Decline…”
1 Night 2 Days Season 2
Reflection Barometer: (VERY) Vague
Like most people who used to watch the first season, news about the second season (and now a third) took me by surprise and definitely, mixed feelings. I kinda wished it retired on a high note you know? Because the bromance, bonding sessions, high stakes and crazy antics between the men in the original season were truly magical. The best part was they were all sincere in terms of their interactions and budding bromance chemistry with each other. Yes the show’s conceptualized and thus perhaps loosely scripted, but I’d peg the latter to something like 0.05% because the rest of the 99.95% was pure zany, hilarious and cute rolled into one show.
The first half of the second season, before the PD change was actually okay. It wasn’t as great as the first season but in all seriousness, I honestly believe the former can’t be replicated or recreated, so I accepted the second season with low expectations. When it premiered, I gave it a go but ended up mostly just following Dramabeans’ recaps. I did watch certain episodes and scenes here and there when I could or felt like it and I definitely tuned in to the early episodes post-PD change, but the second season lacked the hook that was present in the first one and that change in PD really, really brought the show to an embarrassing decline.
I have serious issues with the new PD not only because he butchered the magic that was the first season, but also brought shame to the show’s reputation. For one, his games weren’t that fun to sit through and watch for an hour and a half. Second, his shameless insistence to name drop people in the K-entertainment and guest star idols left-and-right were frankly annoying. This show is not Running Man was what I thought when I caught these episodes and groaned in response, because 1N2D‘s golden nugget was the budding, bromancing chemistry between the men – there was never a need for shameless parading of idols, for goodness sake!
Apparently the still-airing third season has overtaken the ratings, which I suppose is good news for this previously flagging show. On one hand I’m happy it’s being looked at favorably again, but on the other hand if it’s still the same PD – count me out.
“Show, What Are You Doing To Me??!”
WIN: Who Is Next
Reflection Barometer: Right Through The Heart
This one. THIS ONE. The one that arrived without notice, but completely took over everything and anyone within its line of destruction. No survivors, just endless stream of casualties no matter which team you rooted for, Team A or Team B. Eleven barely legal boys, tested and pushed to the cliff of idol-dom by a puppet master who unabashedly dangled the reward: a chance to début within the near-future, becoming the next all-boys idol group to début after the now-insanely popular BIGBANG.
I’ve spoken, discussed and written way too much about the show – some highlights are found here, here, here and even here (and there are still more Timeouts!) – that I see no need to speak the obvious. I’m aware the ending turned out to be a happy one for me especially at this time of writing given that WINNER TV is currently airing, but speaking only within the context of WIN: Who Is Next, this show seriously messed with me – it turned me into an even more critical KPop idol-com skeptic, an emotional mess and now an embarrassingly super fan, introduced me to Tumblr and basically I’m now in so deep for five guys whom I knew little to nothing about barely six months ago.
So many things have changed since then, and I’m just boggled when I try to look back. I admit I’ve since re-watched this show way too many times to count by now and especially more so when I was Team A deprived, sad as that sounds. No matter how many times I watched the episodes and unreleased clips though, honestly… those five precious boys, be it through their voices, talents, skills, determination and obvious desires, do-or-die mentalities and ultimately, unflinching spirits – they pierce their way right through my heart.
Although it’s the five boys that undid me thoroughly, I think so fondly of the show not only cos of the reasons aforementioned but for this single reason: it anchored and was there for me through the hardest, most challenging phase of my life thus far. The show’s editing is definitely something worth discussing and there is no doubt there’s a clear degree of emotional manipulation where the show’s concerned in making us choose sides but for the show’s shortcomings, all I remember now is how it allowed me to forget my reality check and focus on theirs as I gasped, tensed, cursed and emotionally responded to the stark desperation clearly evident in the eyes of eleven boys who chased after their dreams despite all odds. Once a week for three consecutive months, they reminded me the value of a dream worth pursuing.
My two favorite performances from the show, in a show chock-full of favorites:
1) The moment the fandom exploded and the boys grew wings – Team A‘s awesome original composition, Smile Again
2) Performance of the night – Team B‘s stage for their original song, CLIMAX
“Lee Soo Hyuk, Can You Get Anymore Attractive Seriously…”
Reflection Barometer: Fondness
I’m trying to slowly watch the show to completion – I’m up to episode seven or so as of this writing – and honestly jumped in only when I heard that Sung Joon, Kim Woo Bin and Kim Young Kwang guested in the show’s third episode. Even when watching without subs though, the dynamics and rapport between the MCs, androgynous Lee Soo Hyuk with his deep voice and cutie pie Hong Jong Hyun was such a hoot. Their push-and-pull camaraderie and endless teasing was unexpectedly hilarious.
What’s even more interesting is that while I jumped in purely for them, the show turned out to be informative in an entertaining way. I quite like that section they have called Gallery 323 I think, which featured photographers and other budding artists – real artists, like painters and the like. The fashion stuff are lost on me to be honest, but as a casual watcher it’s actually fun to find out and learn more.
Overall a light, unexpectedly informative and fun watch. Catch it if you’re able because okay, I’ll be honest – Lee Soo Hyuk is reason enough, trust me. His deadpan line deliveries are hilarious.
“Argh You Two, Get Married For Real Already! The Rest… Pass.”
We Got Married Season 4
Reflection Barometer: Fondness
I’m still sticking around primarily cos of the Lee So Yeon-Yoon Han pairing. This show is ridiculously scripted and it’s especially obvious at certain moments and/or couples (ahem, the current idol duo) which I’m aware discredits whatever romance that’s supposedly there, but I’m a big believer of natural chemistry – sparks, in other words – between two people which can’t be faked. The moment I watch them in the first episode, I really thought sparks were positively and genuinely flying, despite the obviously farfetched and fake set up. We’re now up to 15 or so episodes of this couple as of this writing, and I’ve pinpointed the hits and miss between them (according to me, at least) in my head as I tune in but I stand by that I honestly, honestly think they have the hots for each other and are actually compatible. There’s something very real and intimate in their interactions, so I hope they’ll take it to Real Life in due time.
I’m also still watching the other pair, the Jung Yu Mi-Jung Joon Young and they’re hit-and-miss for me. I think they’re hilarious and are both very cool, upbeat personalities but my problem is that they’re great We Got Married material, but terrible Real Life-wise. His insistence to be immature and not be serious border lines annoying, and I sympathize with her and cringe in secondhand embarrassment whenever she hopes he’ll do or react sweetly and he just never does. This couple is as I said, totally watch-worthy onscreen because of their total opposite dynamics but I’d hate it if they end up in Real Life because frankly she deserves someone who can treat her way better. The irony is that this couple is more watchable than the Lee So Yeon-Yoon Han couple, who seems more real than fake yes, but as a result is also extremely boring because there’s nothing controversial or fiery in their interactions.
Looking back at their respective interactions thus far, I do think quite fondly of them despite knowing there’s nothing meaty or substantial in this watch. It is pure fluff through and through, but 20 to 40 minutes weekly for this? I’m fine with that.
“You… Seem Like A Knockoff. Albeit Okay, A Finely Crafted One.”
Superman is Back
Reflection Barometer: Vague
I’ve checked out the scenes with Tablo, who I admire for his lyrical depth and musical prowess, with his lil missy Haru who has the ability, without having to try, to disarm his hip-hop persona aha. I mean seriously – have you paid attention to the voice he uses when he speaks to her? I nearly died of laughter the first time I heard it. Their interactions are beyond adorable and any scenes with Mummy Kang Hye Jung or Epik High mates Mithra and Tukutz are just as precious to me.
Conceptually, the show is pretty obvious to be a rip off to a degree, to Dad! Where Are You Going? but fortunately, it’s as well done as the former and as enjoyable. But honestly, more daddy-kiddo duos – why are we even complaining?
I know the show is now subbed by KBSWorld and is available on their YouTube channel (go watch!). Plus, the other celebrity dads and their kids look so adorable and are equally, if not more, moving and touching. My gut feeling tells me this Kvariety show is worth tuning in, so if you’re on the fence to pick it up – don’t be. Just do it! I hope to do so in the near future myself.
A short clip from the show, proof of the adorableness that is Tablo and Haru:
“OHMYGOD THE FEELS (!!!) SOMEONE PLEASE HOLD ME.”
Reflection Barometer: Right Through The Heart
Them boys… They drive me crazy. It is so weird to realize these same five boys were the ones in WIN: Who Is Next because honestly if you watch them here, you’d never have guessed the personalities of all five! Further proof that the previous show was doubly stressful and a total killjoy to the boys.
Over here though, for real – who would’ve guessed that Song Minho is in reality a cuddly teddy bear rapper who is an all-around goofball and mood maker? Or that Lee Seunghoon is hella cool and makes the best witty retorts? Or even better, supposedly soft-spoken Kim Jin Woo is actually 4-dimensional, hopeless with directions and likely a fellow drama-addict? Plus if he’s the oldest guy – had I not known, I wouldn’t have guessed it. As for my favorite guy (although as we’ve come to realize by now I’m sure, there’s no real one-and-only favorites in WINNER!), leader Kang Seung Yoon, who knew that he’s even more dependable than he seems? Finally, of course is the sassy Nam Tae Hyun who’s colorful personality continues to be an enigma to me; he is fascinating, to say the least.
Going off tangent for a bit here, I’m frankly so annoyed at the wide-spread insistence of calling and labeling Nam Tae Hyun a diva because while his sassy attitude definitely gives off that vibe, he’s not that all the time you know? Plus, what’s with the insistence, as if he’s an inanimate object that fans can take a claim on? This just rubs me off in a wrong way, as badly as the crazy and overly possessive (and not to mention, delirious) ways fans tend to do so when it comes to the NamSong ship. I mean, have you read and come across the kinds of commentaries across the web?! I’ve stopped camping in so many places because the immaturity and deliriousness drive me mad. Seriously girls, fangirls or whatever the hell you call yourselves – calm the fuck down.
That aside, WINNER TV is cracktastic, fun and easily watchable. For those of us who survived through WIN: Who Is Next, this one’s truly a delight and an absolute treat in getting to know the boys better – not as idols or puppets in a show or even supposed Next Big Things but very simply, as individuals with strong, unique characters of their own. In other words, as real as it gets in getting to know your (budding) stars.
Hell, honestly and very simply – let them boys be boys!
The first two teaser spots are still my faves, so here! Embrace the dorkiness, and bask in their cuteness.
“Ack, What is Going On? I Think I’m Obsessed With You.”
KPop Star Season 3
Reflection Barometer: Warm Fuzzies
I am currently up to episode 4 as of this writing and aw man, the show has me hook, line and sinker. Two reasons: 1) Yoo Hee Yeol and 2) the raw, rough at the edges talents in abundance. I’ve loved Yoo Hee Yeol from way back, but getting to know the kind of person and especially, musician he is through this show has been a real treat. I think he’s a perfectly justified and fitting replacement for BoA and frankly, I like his commentaries better than JYP when it comes to vocals or musical colors. I’m still in a love/hate relationship with JYP and YG frankly, but that aside I appreciate our newbie judge’s kindness especially when extended to the young, budding raw talents.
When it comes to the show in itself though, it’s too early to tell if it’ll end up being a repeat of the second season. However, based on what I’ve seen thus far, I’ve ascertained that the show’s key pulling factor is its thematic message that our dreams are worth pursuing. Where emotional manipulation is concerned, the editing is blatant and shameless about it but most of the hopeful dreamers are so young that they tug at my heartstrings nonetheless; their naked desires to meet their dreams speak volumes, beyond anything else. That’s alone, is reason why the show is worth tuning in – even if I admit that yes, I’m becoming increasingly more critical of my views on the KPop entertainment field.
“Seunggi-ya, Since When Did You Become So Hot??!”
Noonas Over Flowers
Reflection Barometer: Fondness
Lee Seung Gi-ya, seriously – since when did you suddenly become so good-looking?! I didn’t see you on my screen for a year and longer than that where Kvariety is concerned and you suddenly reappear looking so damn fine!
In all seriousness though, this show is great. I didn’t watch Grandpas Over Flowers so I can’t compare, but I really like the actresses they chose. My favorite is definitely Yoon Yeo-jung who’s just badass and sassy even at 67, but a really close favorite is Kim Hee Ae. She’s so classy, sophisticated and elegant without any airs – it’s so refreshing because she’s so grounded and humble. I love it. Complementing her softness is the equally endearing Kim Ja Ok who’s the sweetest and most serene, and contrasting them is the fiery, independent and just as badass Lee Mi-yeon. The casting is a total winner and the beautiful backdrop of Istanbul, Turkey and then around Croatia is a sight to behold. I need to visit too!
Plus, need we say more about Lee Seung Gi? He is Kvariety’s golden boy, in my opinion. Watching this, I realized just how much I’ve missed seeing him on Kvariety shows. He has the smarts and the brains (now the looks too), but he’s such a dork. As Yoon Yeo-jung aptly put it, “He has a good brain, but uses it for useless things.” OMG too funny but so, so true.
Noonas Over Flowers is genuinely great because it’s candid – what we see is undeniably who they are – but more brownie points for being unexpectedly poignant and tonally reflective. There’s enough degree of substance in this show that makes it incredibly relatable on a deeper level, and the crazy frenetic of traveling is also so palpably felt and echoed – the stress, oh the stress! – that each episode leaves me with some unexpectedly valuable food for thought.
And that’s a wrap!
2013 has been a crazy year for me in many ways but boy, it sure was chock-full of great Kvariety shows to pick and choose from. There are plenty more great Kvariety shows out there which I’m aware or have heard of but don’t have the time or interest to check out, but honestly that alone is reason enough for me to finish my reflections on Kvariety simply with, “Thank God for (K)variety!”
Here’s to hoping that 2014 will give us more wonderful, fun, hilarious and emotionally affecting shows and moments!
Disclaimer: credits to each photo can be found within their respective descriptions.