Monday, July 16, 2012

RUNNING MAN [Korean Variety Show]

Although I've been an avid viewer of Asian media throughout the years, I've mainly watched a bunch of television dramas, music videos, a handful of films, and anime series (there was a time when I was WAY into anime and would watch series after series... in the midst of watch other series. I actually used a website called MyAnimeList to keep track of what episodes I left off on!)

But something that I was familiar with, but never actually watched, were variety shows. It wasn't because I was uninterested in them... it's just that they were not as widely available compared to the dramas, music videos, films, and animated series. And even if a series was uploaded to an online video site, like Youtube or Dailymotion, they were really hard to find unless you really knew what you were looking for. A lot of the drama websites that I would visit (like Dramacrazy or Mysoju) had databases... but were mainly dedicated to dramas.

After my cousin moved here from Korea, I would watch over her shoulder as she watched her RAW (un-subtitled) variety shows. I'd laugh a bit at the silly things they would do, but ultimately did not have a direct translation of the action happening on screen... so I would eventually shrug, and turn back to whatever drama I was watching. It wasn't until recently that I really started to pay attention more and more to Asian (namely Korean) variety shows, especially as I started to grow more and more into K-pop, thanks to Simon and Martina from EatYourKimchi.

It started with getting obsessed with a Korean boyband called MBLAQ, which led me to start watching a Korean variety show called Hello Baby, where different idols (celebrities) take care of other peoples' children and become mock parents to them. There were episodes available on Youtube, and through recommended videos, I found about a bunch of other sites. And thanks to those recommendations, and comments from my cousin, I discovered...


(image from
Oh man, Running Man... THIS SHOW IS HILARIOUS! Like, really. Hilarious and full of suspense. Who knew a bunch of grown people playing hide and seek in well-known Korean landmarks could be so much fun?! Well, it IS!

The objective of Running Man is similar to its namesake -- people run around and race, trying to complete tasks to gain special items and/or points for their team (and sometimes for their own individual person). Why are they doing this, you ask? Because they are trapped and locked inside their location. Yup. They CANNOT leave unless they WIN. And whatever team loses suffers a penalty and is punished. In previous episodes, whatever team with the most something (money, points) won. In other previous episodes, the team that collected the most balls with their teams color entered them into a lottery. The lottery was pure chance, but of course the odds would be better for whomever had the most balls with their team's color. In the episodes that I'm watching now (like episode 15, 16, etc.) the teams compete to win as many balls with their name on it as possible. This also consists of a chance lottery, but the draw for who will get to leave and skip the punishment is on an individual basis, rather than teams.

Every episode there are the usual players that you see most of the time, but they also add celebrity guests for each episode that get to compete. I think this is something I love the most about Korean variety shows... not only do they have their super funny, hugely entertaining regular variety show participants and hosts, but they also include their country's idols in the fun, and the idols are always humble and in good spirits. They love to participate and aren't high-and-mighty or aloof. Plus, each and every participant has a specific personality that I think every viewer can relate to. They also throw in other little tidbits... like fake romance pairings between male and female contestants, exaggerated parodies of other media (Korean and non-Korean alike), and silly nicknames (my favorite is Yoon Jae Suk's (유재석) "Yooruce Willis", alluding to Bruce Willis and his character in Die Hard... because the way Yoon Jae Suk hides in the game and always escapes his opponents is like Bruce Willis' character in Die Hard... love it!)

(image from

There is also the ever-present "instant replay" theme in Korean variety shows... when something really funny happens, especially with a sound-bite, they will go back and replay it... then replay again for good measure, and maybe a couple more times, showing all of the reaction shots from the surrounding players. It never gets old, and I laugh at each replay! Korean variety shows are also not shy in overlaying their video with text comments about what is happening on-screen, making the moments that much more funny. For example, if a player is caught by another team member mere moments after the hide-and-seek segment has started, an on-screen text comment might read, "What, caught already?!"

The last episode I finished was episode 15, and I laughed SO HARD during this episode. Here is a hilarious clip where one of the contestants, HaHa (Ha Dong Hoon / 하동훈) realizes that he is alone in an empty space... with a camera focused only on him. He takes this moment to pretend to be in an action movie... and his junior contestant Song Jong Ki (송종기) joins in. Check it out!

With all of the numerous mini game challenges, the epic hide-and-seek chases, the hilarious outtakes, and interesting behind-the-scenes moments (like when Yoon Jae Suk scolds his camera man -- known as a VJ in Korea -- for not being able to keep up with him... and then in later episodes, teases and congratulates him for his effort in FINALLY being able to keep up with him), Running Man is definitely a Korean variety show to check out. I encourage you to watch the first few episodes, and find out for yourself just how fun it is! You can find subtitled versions of the full first episode on Youtube, or in parts at Dramacrazy. After the first couple episodes, it does get harder to find them on Youtube, since these episodes are older (the show was first aired in 2010). But again, Dramacrazy is a great place. And then there is also my current personal favorite Running Man Club, where episodes (broken down into parts) are hosted directly on the site to watch with minimum hassle and, as far as I can tell, no ads*. Since it's hosted on blogger, you can even leave comments.

*Disclaimer: I have an ad-blocker on my browser, so I'm not sure whether or not they actually have ads. Please do not take my words as fact! :)

Have fun with Running Man! Let me know how you enjoy it. :)

(image from


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  2. After a couple years of watching these variety shows, the instant replays are starting to really get on my nerves. 2 at most is what the fine line should be drawn at, especially considering how long each episode is, it feels like an unnecessary filler when you hear someone going, "Uoooooohh" and then the next angle you hear, "Uoooooohh" and "Uoooooohh" again. Like the targeted audience has some sort of ADD problem in which they can't pick it up the first time or something.

    If they needed to fill time, they have so much content they just leave out on the editing room floor because they're cutting down a couple hours of filming into an hour and a half.


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