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No more cookie-cutter TV: themes of reality shows diversify

From left, EXO Sehun, comedian Yoo Jae-suk, actor Lee Kwang-soo and singer Kim Jong-min are seen in the third season of Netflix's
From left, EXO Sehun, comedian Yoo Jae-suk, actor Lee Kwang-soo and singer Kim Jong-min are seen in the third season of Netflix's "Busted" / Courtesy of Netflix

By Kwak Yeon-soo

In 2020, Korea's most beloved reality show format was trot music auditions. The male version of TV Chosun's "Ms. Trot" called "Mr. Trot" surged in popularity, which later led to creation of similarly themed competition shows on other TV networks, including MBC's "I Am a Trot Singer," MBN's "Voice Trot" and SBS' "K-Trot in Town."

Outdoor travel shows, which have long dominated the late-night timeslot, have been scrapped or moved indoors due to travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid the glut of cookie-cutter reality and audition shows that could cause viewer fatigue, networks are trying to make breakthroughs with fresh formats in 2021.

A poster for tvN's
A poster for tvN's "Youn's Stay" / Courtesy of tvN
"Youn's Stay," a spin-off of tvN's popular reality show "Youn's Restaurant," got off to a good start on Jan. 8 with a viewership rating of 8.2 percent. Plans for a third season of the restaurant show last year were scrapped due to the pandemic and the team came up with the spin-off show "Youn's Stay" to film in Gurye, South Jeolla Province, as an alternative.

The original cast of "Youn's Restaurant," which consists of Youn Yuh-jung, Lee Seo-jin, Park Seo-joon and Jung Yu-mi, reappear on the new show to serve up Korean culture to foreign guests staying at a hanok guesthouse in Korea's southern area.

"If people who came to Korea during the pandemic had come at a better time, they would have better experienced Korean culture," the show's producer Na Young-seok said, explaining why he invited foreigners who have been in Korea for less than a year. "Through their one-night stay in a hanok, I wanted to make them truly experience Korean culture."
A poster for MBC's
A poster for MBC's "Late Night Ghost Talk" / Courtesy of MBC
In January, MBC aired two pilot episodes of "Late Night Ghost Talk," in which celebrity panelists share terrifying ghost stories.

"We tried to balance the scary and comical elements of the show. We hope our show can be return as a regular program, and if it does, we will deliver untold, unheard ghost stories that could surprise viewers," the show's producer Lim Chae-won said.

The third season of Netflix's first Korean variety show "Busted" will premiere on Jan. 22.

The show that combines crime drama with escape room-style challenges has enjoyed global popularity since its first season in 2018 with suspenseful plots and a star-studded cast.

The series stars TV personalities ― comedian Yoo Jae-suk, actors Lee Seung-gi, Lee Kwang-soo and Park Min-young, and singers Kim Jong-min, EXO Sehun and Kim Se-jeong ― as amateur detectives solving mysteries in a contained set.

"Although the detectives are a bit clumsy, I hope the viewers look forward to how these good-minded detectives solve fictional crimes," the show's producer Cho Hyo-jin said.


From left, EXO Sehun, comedian Yoo Jae-suk, actor Lee Kwang-soo and singer Kim Jong-min are seen in the third season of Netflix's
From left, EXO Sehun, comedian Yoo Jae-suk, actor Lee Kwang-soo and singer Kim Jong-min are seen in the third season of Netflix's "Busted" / Courtesy of Netflix

By Kwak Yeon-soo

In 2020, Korea's most beloved reality show format was trot music auditions. The male version of TV Chosun's "Ms. Trot" called "Mr. Trot" surged in popularity, which later led to creation of similarly themed competition shows on other TV networks, including MBC's "I Am a Trot Singer," MBN's "Voice Trot" and SBS' "K-Trot in Town."

Outdoor travel shows, which have long dominated the late-night timeslot, have been scrapped or moved indoors due to travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid the glut of cookie-cutter reality and audition shows that could cause viewer fatigue, networks are trying to make breakthroughs with fresh formats in 2021.

A poster for tvN's
A poster for tvN's "Youn's Stay" / Courtesy of tvN
"Youn's Stay," a spin-off of tvN's popular reality show "Youn's Restaurant," got off to a good start on Jan. 8 with a viewership rating of 8.2 percent. Plans for a third season of the restaurant show last year were scrapped due to the pandemic and the team came up with the spin-off show "Youn's Stay" to film in Gurye, South Jeolla Province, as an alternative.

The original cast of "Youn's Restaurant," which consists of Youn Yuh-jung, Lee Seo-jin, Park Seo-joon and Jung Yu-mi, reappear on the new show to serve up Korean culture to foreign guests staying at a hanok guesthouse in Korea's southern area.

"If people who came to Korea during the pandemic had come at a better time, they would have better experienced Korean culture," the show's producer Na Young-seok said, explaining why he invited foreigners who have been in Korea for less than a year. "Through their one-night stay in a hanok, I wanted to make them truly experience Korean culture."
A poster for MBC's
A poster for MBC's "Late Night Ghost Talk" / Courtesy of MBC
In January, MBC aired two pilot episodes of "Late Night Ghost Talk," in which celebrity panelists share terrifying ghost stories.

"We tried to balance the scary and comical elements of the show. We hope our show can be return as a regular program, and if it does, we will deliver untold, unheard ghost stories that could surprise viewers," the show's producer Lim Chae-won said.

The third season of Netflix's first Korean variety show "Busted" will premiere on Jan. 22.

The show that combines crime drama with escape room-style challenges has enjoyed global popularity since its first season in 2018 with suspenseful plots and a star-studded cast.

The series stars TV personalities ― comedian Yoo Jae-suk, actors Lee Seung-gi, Lee Kwang-soo and Park Min-young, and singers Kim Jong-min, EXO Sehun and Kim Se-jeong ― as amateur detectives solving mysteries in a contained set.

"Although the detectives are a bit clumsy, I hope the viewers look forward to how these good-minded detectives solve fictional crimes," the show's producer Cho Hyo-jin said.


Kwak Yeon-soo yeons.kwak@koreatimes.co.kr

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