Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shoutout to one of my favourite Korean shows, "Running Man"

"Running Man" is a popular show in Korea, and one I try to catch as often as possible. It can best be described as a weekly comedic reality/game show in which a regular cast is randomly split up into multiple teams and given various missions which they must complete in order to win. But the show is "pointless" in the sense that it doesn't really matter who actually wins in the end, because the show's mainly a comedy as opposed to a competition.

Gary piggybacking guest star Shin Se Kyung across a foam bridge floating on a swimming pool
So every week, the same hapless fools in the cast are tasked with completing a series of silly missions that are deliberately designed to test their patience, endurance, and/or dignity. Those missions are nothing too extreme, like eating animal guts; rather, they're more along the lines of forcing a team to dance in public until their heart-rate reaches a certain point.

Yoo Jae Suk, aka "The Nation's MC"
The cast members are made up of somewhat famous celebrities from music and TV/film, and though "Running Man" is supposed to be a reality show in which all the cast members use their real names, they still adopt well-defined personalities. For example, there's the Dorky Loser who falls in unrequited love with women too easily (Ha-Ha), the Jock Bully who dominates the physical challenges and pushes everybody else around (Kim Jong Kook), the Meek Beanpole whom everybody picks on (Lee Kwang Soo), and the Useless Older Guy whom nobody ever wants on their team (Ji Suk Jin).

Moderating and leading this group as MC is Yoo Jae Suk, who is kind of like the Korean equivalent of, say, Johnny Carson. Or Wayne Brady. I dunno, just think of any clean and charismatic comedian who is impossible to hate.

Lee Kwang Soo and guest star Jiyoung (KARA) on the Great Wall of China
While there are a few shows that are similar to "Running Man", namely "2 Days 1 Night" and "Infinity Challenge", a couple of major things set the show apart from its competitors. Firstly, the missions in Running Man are designed to take place in urban environments, and because of that, the show often functions as almost like a fun visual travelogue of Seoul and other Korean cities. And in special episodes, the show even goes abroad to such places as Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Beijing.

Secondly, the show is unique in that it has a regular female cast member in Song Ji Hyo. The funny thing about this is that while Song Ji Hyo the Actress is one who usually plays the attractive woman roles, Song Ji Hyo the Running Man Cast Member is treated just like one of the guys. Most of the other cast members don't even see her as a woman, which annoys her despite the fact that she'd just as quickly reject any advances from them. This sets up tonnes of endlessly exploitable comedic situations with light sexual tension that's missing from the all-male casts of the other shows.

Turns out that PJS has a personality
when he doesn't have to be a
typical cliche-spewing jock
Lastly, my favourite episodes tend to be the ones that have guest stars in them. Even if it's an illusion, it makes the viewer feel as if he or she is getting to see famous stars in a more natural environment, as opposed to a highly pre-planned interview set or press conference. Recently, soccer star Park Ji Sung guest starred for a couple of episodes and really had a chance to show off his personality. I, like many others, had always thought of him as a kind of athletic robot, but if the show is even somewhat accurate, Ji Sung is actually a pretty cool guy who'd be great to hang out with.

That's really the appeal of the show for me. Often, it just feels like you're watching a bunch of buddies hang out, ragging on each other and just having a blast. I wish I could join them sometimes.

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