South Korean variety programmes (along with most Eastern Asian variety programmes) have something very unique in their make-up.

Having only recently started to watch the popular South Korean variety programme SBS Running Man, I have spent the past few months catching up on the show with my sister. We are not strangers to South Korean variety and usually watch one of the many programmes at the weekends.

Running Man really managed to catch our attention though, and we have rarely watched any other programme as religiously as we have this one. It is easy to see why this particular show is one of the longest running programmes the country has ever had.

Recently, we were watching an episode that included the Running Man cast and their guests sticking post-it notes on each other, to then proceed to dance furiously in an aim to shake them all from their bodies. When all the members of each team managed to get them all off, they had passed the mission.

As my sister and I sat and laughed out loud at the celebrities flailing their limbs around vigorously, it suddenly struck me how this would look to a Westerner that has never previously watched any South Korean variety. I have become so used to the ridiculous behaviour of these performers and the crazy missions and tasks they embark on that I do not even bat an eyelid when I see them doing things like being blown in the face by powerful air jets attached to karaoke microphones when they sing the wrong lyrics to a song.

It made me realise how entertaining it would be to see this sort of thing on Western television and how I believe that there is a big gap in the market for this kind of programme to fill In UK broadcasting.

Of course, we have our share of variety programmes and they are incredibly entertaining. However, they seem very few and far between. The only ones I can recall of this kind are Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway or gameshows such as The Generation Game. These programmes were very free in their nature and their structure was often simply made up of reoccurring rounds that viewers got very familiar with. The shows encouraged audience participation, frequently with help from some celebrities which worked to blur the lines between the public and entertainment spheres.

In terms of programmes that show participation by celebrities, however, all we seem to have to offer is in the reality show format. An example of this would be I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!

To the best of my knowledge, the show does relatively well in terms of ratings. Having said this, a constant complaint I hear (and often have myself) is that the annual contestants are constructed of “D-List” celebrities that the general public either no longer have an interest in, or didn’t have any interest in, in the first place. This is not always the case, but often so and I usually feel a slight pity for some celebrities that clearly only agreed to be in the Jungle as a last resort in an effort to scrape some feeble publicity.

If, like in South Korean variety, popular celebrities from all the areas of the entertainment industry could come together to participate in ridiculous games and performances on a variety programme, I think it would have a real chance of finding success.
Imagine artists like One Direction and JLS coming together with actors like James Corden, Robert Pattinson  and comedians like Jack Whitehall for example to complete missions and chase one another. Imagine them sticking post-it notes on each other and dancing crazily to shake them off! (Okay, maybe only I like THAT one!).

As my sister and I have watched programmes like Running Man, other members of my family have all commented that the shows are very unique, unlike anything they have seen before. I have also seen them laugh and gasp and generally enjoy the shows, despite the fact that they do not even know who the South Korean celebrities are.

We do have little glimpses of this sort of thing in UK broadcasting, but my point is, British Television never really goes all the way with the variety entertainment format quite like South Korean shows do. I’m not sure if the British “A-List” would actually want to participate in things like this in reality, but I know for a fact that most of the fondness that I have for certain South Korean celebrities stems from how they are in variety programmes. I love seeing my favourite artists, actors and comedians not minding to make a fool out of themselves, fall over, fight and – most importantly – have fun in front of the cameras.

What do you think?
Can this programme format work as part of UK broadcasting?

[Source: Google Images]


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Freya is the founder of UnitedKpop, steering the ship since 2011. She is a full time graphic designer with lots of love for her two cats. You can see Freya's portfolio at