Most Popular Korean Variety Shows of All Time: KBS’ ‘Invincible Youth’, MBC’s ‘Infinite Challenge’, and More

KBS’ 2 Days 1 Night

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Next, we have 2 Days 1 Night on our list.

2 Days & 1 Night is a reality-variety show from South Korea that airs on KBS2 starting from August 5th, 2007. 2 Days 1 Night is one of two segments (the other is The Return of Superman) on Happy Sunday, airing once a week at 6:25 p.m. The episodes are also posted regularly on YouTube through the official channel of KBS Global, with English subtitles.

The current cast members of the series are Kim Jong-min, Yeon Jung-hoon, Kim Seon-ho, Moon Se-yoon, DinDin, and VIXX’s Ravi.

The show’s slogan is “Real Wild Road Variety.” Its main concept is to suggest various places of interest that viewers in South Korea may visit. For each new trip, shooting is usually done two weeks before the KBS2 transmission.

2 Days 1 Night gained a lot of attention and received strong spectator ratings. The third season of the show, together with The Return of Superman, helped restore and sustain KBS2’s Happy Sunday ratings, beating other major networks since its first episode.

Even though there have been multiple changes in the line-up of members through each season, mostly 2 Days 1 Night has kept its format. The cast members take different journeys all over South Korea, including many offshore islands. While doing so, participants also conduct tasks to earn rewards (e.g. items that are common in the area they visit) and to escape penalties (e.g. falling into the water) at a certain mealtime or point of the day. Guests have to be accepted not only by the production team but also by the participants themselves if they follow the episode design requirements.

Former cast members:

  • Kang Ho-dong
  • Lee Soo-geun
  • Eun Ji-won
  • Lee Seung-gi
  • Uhm Tae-woong
  • MC Mong
  • Kim C
  • Ji Sang-ryeol
  • Noh Hong-chul
  • Sanggeun
  • Kim Seung-woo
  • Joo Won
  • Sung Si-kyung
  • Yoo Hae-jin
  • Kim Joo-hyuk
  • Jung Joon-young
  • Cha Tae-hyun
  • Kim Joon-ho
  • Defconn
  • Yoon Shi-yoon

2 Days 1 Night premiered on August 5th, 2007 with cast members Kang Ho-dong, Lee Soo-geun, Kim Jong-min, Eun Jiwon, Noh Hong-chul, Ji Sang-ryul, and Sanggeun the mascot puppy.

On February 26th, 2012 Season 1 broadcast its final episode. On March 4th, 2012, Season 2 premiered with the returning members Lee Soo-geun, Kim Jong-min, and Uhm Tae-woong, joined by the new members Kim Seung-woo, Cha Tae-hyun, Sung Si-kyung, and Joo Won. 2 Days 1 Night officially wrapped up season two on November 24th, 2013. Season 3 of 2 Days 1 Night premiered on December 1st, 2013, with Cha Tae-hyun and Kim Jong-min as returning members and new members Kim Joon-ho, Kim Joo-hyuk, Jung Joon-young, and Defconn participating. Yoon Shi-yoon was then speculated to join the show in talks and became formally the new member in April 2016.

Due to his involvement in the Burning Sun fiasco involving the non-consensual shooting of sex and clandestine release of said illicit recordings, Jung Joon-Young was permanently removed by the production team on March 12th, 2019. As a result, on March 15th, KBS announced that they are suspending the production and transmission of 2 Days 1 Night until further notice is made. The chatroom exposé also influenced members Cha Tae-hyun and Kim Jun-ho with large-scale reports of golf gambling, resulting in both of them with immediate effect leaving all of their TV programs including 2 Days & 1 Night where they were cast members with Jung.

This marks the abrupt end of Season 3, unlike the traditional farewell episodes of the two previous seasons. That also marks the end of the show’s run with Defconn and Yoon Shi-yoon.

Season 4 of the series was announced on November 5th, 2019, with the return of Kim Jong-min, plus new members Yeon Jung-hoon, Moon Se-yoon, Kim Seon-ho, DinDin, and VIXX’s Ravi. The members shot the first show on November 12th, 2019, with intentions to broadcast the season’s first episode on December 8th, 2019.

What do you think about the new cast?

SBS’ Family Outing

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Next, we have Family Outing on our list.

Family Outing was a South Korean comedy-variety show; it is a part of the Good Sunday line-up of SBS, along with Gold Miss is Comin. It was first aired on June 15th, 2008, and was one of Sunday Korean television’s top-rated shows. Family Outing’s format called for the “Parents” to travel to different parts of South Korea, taking care of an elderly family’s house, who is going on holiday. The “Family” then fulfills the tasks the homeowners have left for them.

Much of Family Outing‘s game-variety show format is seen as being influenced by its predecessor on SBS, X-Man, with several shared production and cast members. The show sought humor from the interactions between its complementary character cast and its physical and mental competition series. The production’s trademarks included on-screen plot sound effects, pop-up audio, and background music. Music featured specific theme songs for different cast members, frequently combined with moments of lamentation or insanity for a comedic effect, or schadenfreude.

The first season ended on February 14th, 2010, and a second season with a brand new cast, production team and concept wasn’t broadcast until July 11th, 2010.

The show followed typically a format consisting of a series of two-episode arcs. These included a two-day shoot, including an overnight stay for the cast and crew, which was later edited over two weekly episodes to broadcast. Generally speaking, the events that transpire on the first day of the shooting would be shown in the first of the two-episode arc, with the events of the second day shown in the second. In general, these two days of filming were filmed biweekly, with the cast and crew gathering every two weeks. Part of the guest cast regularly joined the permanent members for the two-episode arc, appearing in two separate episodes before departure.

Much of the show’s humor and the entertainment value was derived from Family members’ interactions. The diverse set of characters played off each other’s personality traits and habits, as described in detail in the table below. As the characters progressed and became more recognizable to the viewers, a meaning for their relationships was developed and their comedic encounters were often furthered.

Yoo Jae-suk, Yoon Jong-shin, Big Bang’s Daesung, Lee Hyo-ri, Kim Su-ro, Kim Jong-kook, Park Hae-jin, Park Si-yeon, Park Ye-jin, and actor Lee Chun-hee created the first “Family” in the first season.

Family Outing Season 1 ended because of the members’ conflicting schedules and individual activities. In February 2010, their last episode was aired. For the last three episodes, which included an episode of special reunion awards, all the original family members reunited.

KBS’ Let’s Go! Dream Team Season 2

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Next, we have Let’s Go! Dream Team Season 2 on our list.

Let’s Go! Dream Team Season 2 was a scripted variety sports program broadcast by KBS2. The first episode was broadcast on June 25th, 2009, and the last on May 29th, 2016. The pilot season was broadcast on September 13th, 2009. Dream Team‘s first season was broadcast between 1999 and 2003 for six years. Manager of the production, Jeon Jin-hak, and MC, Lee Chang-myung, were invited from season 1 and returned to record for season 2.

Let’s Go! Dream Team‘s opening slogan is The legend of ten years! A split second win! Meanwhile, the ending slogan is To build a society where everyone does his or her best and accepts the results as they are!

The cast:

  • MC: Lee Chang-myung, Boom
  • Commentators: Lee Byeong Jin, Yoo Ji-cheol
  • Fixed cast: Ricky Kim, Choi Seong-jo, Shorry (Mighty Mouth), Park Jae-min, Agia
  • Semi-fixed cast: Kim Byung-man, Lee Hyun (8Eight), Heo Kyung-hwan, Lee Sang-ho, Lee Sang-min, Lee Seung-yoon, Kim Dong-jun (ZE:A), Park Jae-min, Lee Ju-hyeon, Kim Dong-sung, Lee Sang-hoon (100% (band)), Jeong Jin-woon (2AM)
  • Past cast: Jo Sung-mo, Eunhyuk (Super Junior), Danny Ahn, Sangchu (Mighty Mouth), Jung Suk-won, Lee Jun-ho and Hwang Chan-sung (2PM), Minho and Taemin (Shinee)

The cast will play an audience service game prior to the main event to show their appreciation for the fans coming out to the event. The members choose a partner who is usually their manager, but they can also choose a member of staff, a doctor of the team (2), or an audience. The game is usually played by members of the Dream Team but might be the opposing team as well. The team that loses must pay for the treats. Sometimes, however, they continue the game until at last one member of the losing team is chosen to play. The game’s loser must pay for all of the food expenses.

Which episodes is your favorite?

tvN’s Saturday Night Live Korea

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Saturday Night Live Korea is a late-night South Korean live television sketch comedy and variety TV program broadcast on the general service cable channel tvN. It is adapted from NBC’s long-running American television series Saturday Night Live, and the executive producers of the show are Lorne Michaels and Jennifer Danielson from SNL Studios and Broadway Video, which licenses the format. The weekly program was premiered on December 3rd, 2011, and broadcast at 22:50 on Saturdays.

The Korean version follows a format similar to the American version, with each episode having a host, cast members, and several skits.

  • Weekend Update: News sketch which reviews the financial, environmental, and cultural issues of the week. Season 1-3, led by Jang Jin.
  • SNL Digital Short: Comedic and musical pre-recorded “film clips,” presented each week by cast members and hosts of SNLK (usually one or two per episode).
  • Lee Oung-don PD’s Eatable X-File: Since the latter episodes of season 3, every week Shin Dong-yup (in the role of Production Director Lee Oung-don) takes 3 or 4 kinds of food for fun from the hands of other cast members, to judge whether it is suitable to eat or not, then quickly runs away.
  • Sa-gwa Shilup: This is an irregular skit for ads of unusual items, which adopts a business presentation style. Shin Dong-yup moderated sporting clothes and make-up similar to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

KBS’ Hello Baby

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Hello Baby is a reality show in South Korea where celebrities observe parenthood by raising children aged 5 and under. The main aim is to see if the celebrities are making “good” parents or not. The series had seven seasons and included the artists: Girls’ Generation, SHINee, T-ara, Sistar, MBLAQ, B1A4, and Boyfriend. With the exception of the season of Girls’ Generation which ran for 22 episodes, the following seasons all have 12 episodes each. This aired on KBS Joy every Tuesday from June 23rd, 2009 to June 4th, 2013.

Every season, an idol group gets to take care of an infant or a toddler, allowing them to experience parenthood to an extent. Girls’ Generation became a nine-month-old boy’s ‘mothers’ in the first season. This was also the case in the second season for the boy band, Shinee, though the boy was four years old. The girl group T-ara had to take care of three toddlers in the third season.

Every member had to take care of the kids on their own over the last three seasons, with some male celebrities appearing in the first season as ‘dad’. Sistar members became mothers to a baby boy in the fourth season, with Super Junior’s Leeteuk as the father.

While all seasons of the series have different concepts, they are still identical in aspects such as offering tasks to the ‘friends’ and things to do with the children for the day.

Season 4: Sistar and Leeteuk’s Hello Baby

Season 5: MBLAQ’s Hello Baby

Season 6: B1A4’s Hello Baby

Season 7: Boyfriend’s Hello Baby

Which season is your favorite?

SBS’ Barefoot Friends

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Next, we have Barefooted Friends on our list.

Barefooted Friends was a part of SBS’ Good Sunday line-up. It was aired for the first time on April 21st, 2013. The series is a “variety of real outdoor hardships”; a twist on shows of the traditional outdoor variety. The cast members experience “real happiness,” despite struggles, with others. The word “Barefooted” is supposed to mean nature, honesty, and true struggles, whereas “Friends” not only about the cast but the people who they also meet on the trip. Since quitting Good Sunday’s X-man in April 2007, it has garnered attention as being the comeback program for Kang Ho-dong, the program’s main MC.

Unfortunately, the program was canceled after a seven-month run due to low ratings and making room for K-Pop Star 3. The final episode was aired on November 17th, 2013.

The format of the show is about the members looking for real beauty and joy on foreign soil, a new life experience meeting new people in a new location and discovering the cultural heritage and natural environment unknown anywhere. The members travel abroad to experience “real happiness” with locals. They live like natives and know what a day is like in their lives, unlike traditional holidays. Members must make provision for themselves as no staff support is provided. The members must experience the essence of culture, food, music, nature, and lifestyle while living in a foreign country on their own. This program is a differentiated real variety program that gives viewers affection and enlightenment.

The members also compete in competitions based on various topics (diving, writing songs, cooking, etc.).

The original members of Barefooted Friends were Kang Ho-dong, Yoon Jong-shin, Yoo Se-yoon, Kim Bum-soo, Kim Hyun-joong, Yoon Si-yoon, Eunhyuk, and Uee. Unlike the other members, this is the first time that Kim Bum-soo, Kim Hyun-joong, Yoon Si-yoon, and Uee participate as regulars in a variety show, and the impact of teamwork between seasoned seniors and rookies is expected.

List of locations they visited:

  • Mui Ne & Huế, Vietnam
  • Yogyakarta, Indonesia
  • Seoul
  • Jirisan
  • Gimcheon Indoor Swimming Pool
  • Suwon World Cup Stadium Swimming Pool
  • SBS Deungchon-dong Open Hall
  • Seoul (Various Celebrities Homes)

Which episode is your favorite?

KBS’ You Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook

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Next, we have You Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook on our list.

You Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook is a South Korean music program combining a talk show with a live music format. It’s hosted by You Hee-yeol, also known as Toy, his one-man-band. The program has been airing since April 24th, 2009.

You Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook airs on KBS2 at 12:35 a.m. KST every Friday and has a running time of about 80 minutes. Musicians (usually 3–4) appear as guests each week to perform and talk for 10–15 minutes with the MC You Hee-yeol.

You Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook is one of Korea’s most popular music shows, featuring some of the most popular artists in the industry and showcasing their wonderful music.

And while powerful performances and energetic fans dominate most music shows, You Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook has stood out for emphasizing live singing and a closer and more intimate setting. In fact, ballads and acoustic songs dominated the top 20 most popular performances and proved just how much Korean fans love slow-paced concepts.

Which performance is your favorite?

MBC’s Real Man

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Last, but not least, we have Real Man on our list.

Real Man is a South Korean variety show featuring eight male celebrities as they experience military life, which is compulsory for two years for all Korean men who are mentally sound and able-bodied. The show debuted as part of the Sunday Night programming block on MBC on April 14th, 2013. Season 2’s last episode was aired on November 27th, 2016.

Kim Su-ro, Mir, Ryu Soo-young, Sam Hammington, Seo Kyung-suk, and Son Jin-young were the original cast members. Later, the cast was joined by Jang Hyuk and Park Hyung-sik. In June 2013, Mir left the show. In February 2014, Ryu Soo-young, Son Jin-young, and Jang Hyuk left the show and were replaced by Chun Jung-myung, Park Gun-hyung, K.Will, and Henry Lau.

From September 21st, 2018 a spin-off of this program called Real Man 300 started airing every Friday at 21:50 (KST).

And that was all the information we have gathered about the most popular Korean variety shows of all time. Which one is your favorite? Please, kindly share your thoughts by dropping a line in the comment section below!