‘Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast,’ ‘I Live Alone,’ and ‘My Little Old Boy.’

What do these programs have in common?

South Korean TV programs have evolved and passed through many phases. It first passed through “real variety” programs such as MBC’s ‘Infinity Challenge’ and SBS’s ‘Running Man,’ where celebrities engaged in physical activities. Then, it was audition programs like SBS’s ‘Kpop Star’ and ‘Mnet’s ‘Produce 101,’ until it finally settled onto the current trend, which I would like to call, “observing” programs.

“Observing Program” is a documentary-like variety show where a panel of celebrities and the viewers can observe a certain lifestyle of celebrities. Instead of the producers setting up a situation or detailed plans of how to unfold the story, they throw a topic and film spontaneous reactions that arise at the moment.

A few examples are MBC’s ‘I Live Alone’ and JTBC’s ‘Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast.’ They throw in a topic such as “single-person household” or “travel” and build from there.

The characteristics of “observing” programs are as follows:

  • Instead of artificial set-ups, they aim to create a natural everyday life that anyone can relate to.
  • They minimize the intervention from the film staff and production team
  • Instead of casting celebrities who are trained to create certain reactions, they try to bring non-celebrities to maximize the authenticity of the program.
  • They choose a topic from everyday life that everyone can relate to, such as family, or traveling.
  • There is no main MC.

So how did these “observing” programs become so popular among South Korean citizens these days?

1. The Tranquility of the Program

One of the reasons the shift to “observing” programs could happen was because the audience was tired, both physically and mentally from the competitiveness of “real variety” and audition programs. As human beings, we are exposed to never-ending competitions and the “winner-take-all” environment. We reach out to TV variety shows to relax our minds and enjoy the little time we have away from the world, and what are the celebrities doing? Competing against one another.

We need silence in our lives, where people don’t necessarily need to talk in order to communicate. Instead, they nap, read books, and meditate in the middle of the day. In a way, these “observing” programs give us the tranquility that we desperately need in our lives.


2. They Satisfy Our Cravings For Us

Seoul, South Korea is one of the busiest cities in the world. Lots of traffic, and subways and buses are always booming with students, workers, and people going about their business. Most of these people are craving for time away from the world. They are searching for trivial happiness – small things that can make them happy. These include napping, reading a book, enjoying the sun, drinking coffee, or even spacing out without thinking of consequences.

However, unfortunately, most people don’t find time for it. And when they do find time, they keep thinking about the things they have to do and can’t honestly enjoy their free time. That’s the human nature: we are always so harsh on ourselves that we don’t think we ever deserve a break.

That’s why it’s so satisfying to watch other people on these programs to do the things on our bucketlist. By watching them do things that we wished we could do ourselves, we satisfy our cravings. And maybe, one day, we will have the courage to carry out the deeds ourselves, without being afraid of the consequences.

3. We Feel Closer to Our Favorite Celebrities

The one thing that these programs prove is that literally everyone is the same when it comes to life. It doesn’t matter if you are a newly-debuted idol member, or a 50-year old actor, humans are the same.

Through TV, we watched our celebrities being fancy on stage, or acting their hearts out in dramas. However, we always lacked a chance to see their “real” sides. Do they wear fancy pajamas when they go to sleep or do they just wear whatever is comfy like us? Do they eat only veggies to keep up with their bodies or do they also eat junk food?

When we see these celebrities in their pajamas, we can relate to them. All of a sudden, they are not celebrities, they are our next door neighbors. By exposing themselves on these TV programs, celebrities are risking a lot of their reputation and image. However, I sort of think this as their way to find something in common with their fans to communicate better. Besides, who wouldn’t want to see Wanna One’s Kang Daniel in his Nerdy tracksuit with a messed up hair?

A famous historian Yuval Noah Harari once said,

“humans control the world because we live a dual reality, while other animals live in an objective reality.”

On top of the objective entities, humans have also created fictional entities, like money, to try to better our lives. However, as time went on, these fictional entities grew stronger that they became the most powerful forces in the world. We depend on these fictional entities that we live in constant fear of not having enough money or a better job.

We need some degree of relaxation and tranquility in our lives. And these “observing” programs allow us to have a peace of mind that we cannot find ourselves. I, for one, am thankful for them.

By. Dasol Kim

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.