Hi all! Today I thought I might write about a TV series that I think everyone should know about. I only started watching it in 2014, but it quickly became one of my favourites. What I love about this series is that no matter what mood I have going into an episode, I always come out feeling happy, excited, and refreshed; it’s a perfect pick-me-up for any occasion! I really think this show can be enjoyed by anyone because of the humour and fun that happens on screen. What show am I talking about? Why, it’s the Korean variety show Running Man!
What Can I Expect?
A lot of laughs, for a start! Running Man is basically a show in which Korean celebrities play games, or complete missions, against each other, usually in two teams. The games and missions change from episode to episode and includes any type of game you can think of; quiz games, karaoke, obstacle courses, food-related games, and so on! In some episodes the games are connected to each other, but in others they’re completely separate. A mission that slowly becomes a regular staple of the show is the “race mission” in which one team must complete some sort of mission within a time limit whilst the other team tries to catch them and rip off their name tags (on their backs) to get them out. Whatever the format; losers face some form of “punishment”; having to ride public transport in ridiculous outfits, being dropped off on the side of the road in old lady underwear, and so on. What makes Running Man unique is that each episode is filmed at a different, well-known location. The first episode is in a large shopping mall (filming takes place after hours), but other episodes follow the celebrities chasing each other on public trains, at a large science museum, at a ski resort, and even on board a ship, just to name a few. Often, games will relate to the location of filming. There is one thing that remains consistent throughout the episodes, however, and that is the regular Running Man cast. Originally having eight members, but later dropping to seven, and then again to six, these celebrities appear in the episode each week, while the guest celebrities change each episode, and include idols, actors, and comedians. Let’s meet the regulars, shall we?
These three men are variety veterans; appearing on multiple shows over a period of many, many years. Not only that, these three have worked together on multiple occasions, often appearing in the same show, and have a lot of history and chemistry with each other!
Yoo Jae Suk
Also known as “Grasshopper” and the “Nation’s MC”, Jae Suk is the host of Running Man, and so well-known in Korea that he’s considered a household name. He’s funny, he keeps the show moving well, and he makes sure all the guests feel welcome and comfortable. Jae Suk is more than willing to make a fool of himself, but he does take the missions and winning seriously. Chances are you might have already seen Jae Suk and not even know it; you know that guy in the yellow suit who does a weird dance in Psy’s Gangnam Style? That’s him.
Kim Jong Kook
Consistently referred to as “Sparta Kook” and the “Commander” due to his athleticism, strength, and formidable character, Jong Kook is a serious competitor, often the opposing captain of a team to Jae Suk. Despite his tough-guy act, he still produces a lot of laughs from the audience when he lets his façade slip on camera, and he shows off his softer, cute side.
Ji Suk Jin
Suk Jin has been friends with Jae Suk for over twenty years, and their sometimes-bromantic-sometimes-prickly friendship on screen is hilarious to watch. Like Jae Suk, Suk Jin happily accepts his consistent feature in the losing-team, and is particularly happy to watch the younger celebrities run all over him, especially if they’re pretty females.
THE TWO KIDS
The next two celebrities are often referred to as “the two kids” and are seen constantly by Sparta Kook’s side. Trouble-makers and jokers, Jong Kook seems to be the only one to keep them under control.
Obviously a stage name, Haha actually started his entertainment career as a singer and rapper, but when that fell through, he became a MC and host. Haha is often (jokingly) picked on by the other members for a variety of reasons, such as his weakness in the race missions, short stature, or simply to provoke him to lash out verbally at the others. He is the primary joker in the show.
Introduced initially as one of the “variety rookies” due to his inexperience in variety shows, Gary, like Haha, also started his entertainment career as a rapper, and continues to work as a solo rapper, as well as part of two different duos. He is one of the more gullible and honest members of the show, but is also known for having a “dark horse” quality in the games. Gary is the most recent permanent member to leaving Running Man, focusing on his rapping career in 2016.
The final three celebrities are the youngest in the shows. Although one has had previous experience in variety shows, the other two are rookies. It’s fun to watch them grow in confidence and come out of their shell more and more as the episodes go on.
Song Ji Hyo
The only regular female celebrity on the show, Ji Hyo is an actress and former model. She is initially introduced as a guest, but soon becomes a regular part of the show. Ji Hyo is very competitive, and is willing to use both her womanly charms as well as her cunning (and betrayal tactics) to ensure her own survival in the games. She is often referred to as “blank” due to her spacey expressions, or “Ace” due to her skill in the race missions.
Song Joong Ki
Bearing no relation to Ji Hyo, Joong Ki was actually my sole reason for watching Running Man to begin with. He’s one of my favourite actors, and I fell in love with him after watching Sungkyunkwan Scandal. He’s a bright, fun actor, often referred to as the “brain” and the “flower boy” (a Korean term for beautiful men) of the series. However, he tends to fail miserably in all the games, but at least has a good time giving everything his best shot. Unfortunately, Joong Ki leaves the show after episode 41 to focus on his acting career and to complete his compulsory military service, but returns a few times as a guest!
Lee Kwang Soo
Our final regular member of the Running Man team is the funny Kwang Soo. He is easily the most recognisable, towering above the other members at his grand height of 1.93m (6 ft 4). Like the other two youngsters, Kwang Soo is also an actor, thriving in funny side-character roles. He is known for his over-exaggerated facial expressions, timidness, and general incompetence (although, he often fairs better than Joong Ki!).
Tell Me More!
If this sounds like a lot of fun for you, then I advise you check it out! Although you can easily pick up the show from any of the episodes (currently over two hundred), it’s fun to watch right from the first episode; although it takes a bit for the format to finalise, you get lots of different things going on in each episode, and see the development of different jokes and nicknames. Alternatively, find a list of the funniest episodes and start there. Finally, be prepared to read subtitles very quickly; even if you’re a seasoned subbed-anime watcher, you’ll probably need to pause and go back a couple of times, because there’s always a lot happening on screen. If you check it out, let me know what you think! Happy watching!