The thing that really jumpstarted my Korean language learning and kind of put me ahead of my friends that I am learning with is the fact that I avidly watch Korean tv shows. So, today I’m going to suggest few to you.
I won’t suggest any dramas because you can easily get lost in the plot and forget that you’re even reading subtitles (this happens to me at least.) So instead, here’s 5 variety shows that I recommend:
Running Man: This was my first variety show and it has a special place in my heart. In fact, I’m watching this week’s episode as I type. Eight hosts/MCs (previously seven before the departure of Gary and addition So Min and Se Chan) complete missions at different landmarks to complete races. They’ve even been to other countries like Australia, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Vietnam and Dubai. Up until around last year, name tag ripping races were very common at the end of episodes (they had a name tag ripping race this week!) The show has shifted to be more game/competition focused but it’s still just as funny in my opinion. This show features varying numbers of celebrity guests for each episode (sometimes there are none.)
Infinity Challenge: Infinity Challenge, is recognized as the first “Real-Variety” show in Korean TV. It is unscripted and follows a similar format to RM where the MCs complete challenges, oftentimes with celebrity guests. The only difference is the variety of these challenges. For one arc, the MCs became cheerleaders for the national soccer team and on another, they complete their very own relay webcomic with the help of well-known professional comic artists. They even made a movie once, featuring real actors and singer, rapper, songwriter G-Dragon of BigBang. There are also reoccurring segments such as “Infinite Company” (what the movie was based on) and a music festival that comes around every two years where the MCs work with actual Korean musicians to create and perform songs for an audience. They even had Jack Black on once.
Knowing Bros/Ask Us Anything: I just caught up to this one last week, it features one of my favorite Hallyu celebrities who has a very sarcastic and semi-offensive sense of humor, Kim Heechul of Super Junior. The format changed somewhere around episode five or something. Now, it is basically set like a high school where for every episode, a new celebrity (or group of celebrities) come to the “school” as transfer students. They have to introduce themselves to the class via questions in the first half of the show and there’s always an extracurricular activity for the second half.
Hello Counselor: A group of hosts and celebrity guest-hosts act as counselors to people with serious problems. After hearing their story, from all sides, the hosts and 200 guests in the studio audience vote on how severe they think the problem is. It’s a generally funny show but I find myself genuinely angry at some of the accused guests. One time a man had his middle school daughter’s life planned down to a T. She could only ever watch one tv show and the rest of the time was spent studying or doing chores! Just this week, a girl’s mom was throwing away her treasured and/or new things that she bought with her own money just because they didn’t “suit her tastes,” yikes! It has even featured foreign guests, one man from Africa was able to speak up about his issues with casual racism.
Happy Together: This show is almost like your classic talk show, except it has way more MCs. It’s definitely the calmer of the five (but this is SoKo so it’s still weird in it’s own way). Celebrity guests come on to have a chat with the hosts about whatever and sometimes show off talents they have; some episodes even have specific themes. One episode only featured guests that had dogs and they brought their dogs on set and another was for idols from other countries (like America, Thailand, Japan, etc.) It’s a very chill show while still being funny and entertaining. The show actually started off set in a sauna and then it stopped airing after some years. It then came back with a classic talk show setting and recently, as of last month, became split in half to become “Happy Together” for one part of the airtime and “Big Mouth” for the other with an almost completely different set of hosts (the main host remaining for both shows.)
One thing you will notice that Happy Together, Running Man, and Infinity Challenge have in common is Yoo Jae Suk.
He’s known as the “Nation’s MC” and is the host of a great deal of Korea’s popular variety and talk shows.
Gag Concert: This isn’t really a variety show, rather it is a weekly sketch comedy concert. There are some of the skits that I don’t find entirely funny but for the most part, this show is a really good and entertaining part of my Saturday mornings.
Roommate: Roommate is more of a reality show where 12-13 celebrities (actors, idols, and comedians) live together in one sharehouse. It only had two seasons before being canceled but I enjoyed it while it lasted.
Hope you enjoy one or all of these suggestions like I do and end up learning a bit like I have!
Happy watching! 안녕!