In Search of the Ultimate Korean Variety Show: Running Man

Has anyone noticed the smorgasbord of subbed Kvariety shows that have popped up lately? But what programs are “must watch” and which can be ignored or added as filler? Come join The Fangirls as we take a look at a new variety show each week and rank them so you can choose the best for your tastes. First up is the historic king of variety Running Man!Our Quest:

This segment began when The Fangirls viewed the teaser for upcoming variety program Busted and realized that it has been a while since we have been openly invested in a variety show.  But where do we start in finding something new? This made us think there might be others out there who are just overwhelmed by how many options there are now.  Hence, the search for the ultimate variety program was created.  We hope you enjoy checking out these shows with us each week.  Be sure to suggest possible shows for us to watch in the comments and I promise we will eventually try to get to them all and share our thoughts.

Kmuse: When I think of Running Man I think of three distinct periods. There are the early years which ran from 2010 – 2014ish. The middle boring years that were plagued by uninventive quests and a cast that was fraying at the edges due to age and bad production ( late 2015-2016,) And finally, the newbie member cast, where they lost a long time favorite Gary, then added Jeon So-min & Yang Se-chan (2017-present). So when I discuss various pros and cons I will reflect back to the various stages in my watching.

Kdrama Jen: I am also a fan of classic Running Man. I love Song Joong Ki, so when he was away serving in the military, I watched all of the older episodes to feed my withdrawal pangs. I enjoyed the years of “The Monday Couple” and found some of their inventive ideas (like shows on location) entertaining. I have not really watched any episodes with the new cast.

Running Man Pros:

Kmuse: I am going to bring my timeline into play and state that there is nothing that can beat the Early Year Running Man years . They were filled with energy, quirky characters, fun competitions, and so many guest stars. To this day I still go back and watch a lot of the early episodes just for a pick me up. Also, the early episodes had Song Joong Ki as a member. So much pretty eye candy and a familiar face for those unused to variety.

Kmuse: This is the best show to introduce newbies to Korean Variety (still talking about the early years). The games are easy to understand and there is a lot of action to keep a person interested. My kids don’t watch many dramas, but they adore Running Man, cheering on their favorite cast members.

Kdrama Jen: I think it is a great way to see celebrities facing some rather awkward situations they must overcome. I like the camaraderie of the cast, but I especially enjoy seeing my favorite actors and idols playing the name tag game or giving piggy back rides through obstacle courses.

Kmuse: Before you think I don’t like anything regarding the show in the last few years, I do want to state that I really like Jeon So Min as an addition to the cast. She is very funny in variety and very likable.

Running Man Cons:

Kmuse: Now comes the negative. My biggest complaint is that the format was just too much for an aging cast to keep up week after week. (Something I completely understand.) But, when the energy started to dwindle, they didn’t discover a solution to shift the vibe and still be entertaining. To add to the problem, they resisted bringing in new younger members for too long and when they finally did, it was a scandal. There is a good way to shift the cast in a different direction and a bad way. The production team of Running Man chose a bad way. They tried to fire the cast without warning and then backed off when there was negative press. They then said they would keep the cast the same with no new members, but instead added new members a few months later. This really should have been done with more compassion and finesse to the members who spent so many years of their lives making this program what it was. It has left a bad taste in my mouth, so while I try to enjoy the newer episodes I just feel it is slightly tainted. And they are still not as exciting as the first four years of the show.

Kdrama Jen: When they announced retirements and played politics, the show lost some of its shine for me. I was watching each week until I heard the announcement that they would be letting go of some of the cast members. I stopped watching then, and I have not watched any of the episodes with the new cast. I might give them a try, though!

Current Ranking

Kmuse: Despite the fact I don’t watch many of the newer episodes, Running Man remains in my top list for its ability to be entertaining when rewatching episodes.  There are many a bad day where I will flip on classic RM for a pick-me-up.  And since we have not started any other variety shows yet for this segment it is going up as #1…..at least til next week.  You never know when it might get kicked off its throne.

Kdrama Jen: This is a nostalgic #1 for me. It was my first variety show and the way I hooked some family members on K-entertainment. I am watching a number of currently airing shows, though, and I think they might overtake this one soon.

Would We Recommend?

Kmuse: I would 100% recommend the older episodes!  Until around 2015ish it was a must watch for me.  You can find all the classic episodes on Dramafever!

Kdrama Jen: I would also recommend the older episodes. They were fun and fresh. Also, if you are hoping to practice Korean, you can watch without subtitles and still understand. I found it was great for language practice!

Thanks for joining us in our search for the ultimate variety program.  Remember to share your picks for what you want us to check out and review in the comments.

Til next time,

The Fangirls

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5 thoughts on “In Search of the Ultimate Korean Variety Show: Running Man

  1. Maybe I’m easier to please. There are no bad RM years for me. Even in the weaker times, I loved this show. The longstanding gags and silly characters made me laugh even though you could see the jokes coming a mile away. They really have a family feel, and Ji Hyo’s ability to not only hold her own, but even beat the boys club around her made her a unique standout in Korea’s aegyo driven society. The girl even fell asleep atop a giant Jenga tower. So fearless. And their recent guest stars have really added an extra flair. The episode with Sang Yeob and Kwang Soo’s pedometer fight is one of the show’s all time best moments for me. Even above our beloved dramas. This is my favorite Korean export.

  2. I only recently discovered RUNNING MAN (probably in the past year), but I am completely in love with it. I don’t know much about the politics behind it, and I think my ignorance allows me to just sit back and enjoy the zaniness! At first, I just watched the episodes with my favorite stars in them. But now I am starting to watch them in sequence. I really like how they can put me in a good mood after a hard day. That’s good entertainment!
    I don’t know what other shows you are planning to review, but I am also currently enjoying MASTER OF THE HOUSE. It also makes me laugh out loud!

  3. Running Man will always be a favorite. It is different from all the other variety sgows. I found the other shows having easier games, lesser suspense and more talk/jokes. But with RM its biggest asset are tge suspense and betrayal filled games along with the humorous cast. Old episodes are gold. That is why I still haven’t watched all of them yet because I want to savour them when I need to relax. Though I think the newer episodes are good too. The addition did help and they changed their format a little too. It is doing better in ratings now. I just hope they bring the name tag games back once in a while. Even if RM is better now its not as good as the early days upto 2014.

  4. I have actually watched the newer episodes of running man, and I agree the early years are sooooooo much better. The main problem I’m having with the show right now is its turned into a completely different show all together. The most iconic part of running man was there name tag battles and the new pd has pretty much gotten rid of that. There are no more gold or cash prizes, and when running man first started it had a lot of popular new celebrities now even that has even changed. there are no longer any spy episodes so many of the original cast members are loosing their original identities. Early running man hardly ever left Seoul let alone Korea and now the show has turned into a world travel program. Im not saying these particular things are bad they just are not running man. SBS should have just created a whole new variety show at this point with younger characters.

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