(Note: a list of other bad Running Man episodes from 2013-14 is here)
I love Running Man, I hope that much is clear, but there are occasions when ideas don't seem to work. This is only natural in a show that tries to reinvent itself so often.
And so, inspired by episode 118, I've decided to try to list the worst episodes of Running Man. It was much harder than choosing the best, but these are the episodes where the ideas didn't quite gel, or the editing didn't make sense.
There was one episode that I considered, even though I'd already put it in my list of the best: Episode 25, with Park Bo Young, was great but it was a bit painful to watch how marginalised Lizzy had become by then, especially when there's a strong female guest. It turned out to be her last episode.
They are listed from the least worst to the worst worst, if you see what I mean...
The theme to this episode is one of the thinnest puns I think I've ever seen. Song Ji Hyo's real name, Chung Sung Im, has the same initials as the cop show C.S.I. From this follows an entertaining episode but one in which you really need to suspend your disbelief. This is a series of challenges loosely slotted into some kind of narrative, and of course Song Ji Hyo has to stay one step ahead otherwise that's the end of the episode.
A bit of a mess, frankly. Choi Min Soo, one of the stars of Running Man guests, comes back to finish off his rivalry with Yoo Jae Suk. It begins in a light-hearted style with Park Bo Young, but then it abruptly changes style with a late-night horror special with Choi Min Soo picking off the regulars one by one. Trouble is, it was too abrupt. Park Bo Young should at least have got a couple of seconds on screen to say goodbye, even if it's just a wink to the camera. And, reading between the lines, it looks like it took a very long time to shoot this episode, since most of the cast seem to have gone home by the time the finale plays out. Quite entertaining and Choi Min Soo and Yoo Jae Suk are great together, but a bit disjointed and unsatisfying.
This starts well, with the regulars chasing Big Bang's Seung Ri around the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. But then, the wheels fall off. It's one of those episodes that doesn't involve the guest enough, and after the Hide And Seek game is over, he barely features. The challenge at the end is completed too quickly, so there was obviously a lack of footage, meaning that a throw-away photography game is included in the show, as well as a far-too-long music based game.
I almost don't consider this to be a real episode. It feels a lot like a pilot episode. The regulars don't know each other, the games aren't quite right, and there's no Song Ji Hyo. There are entertaining bits, but there's no real rhythm or any relationships between the cast.
I suppose that's why they asked Lee Hyo Ri to appear, so there'd be some continuity with Yoo Jae Suk and Kim Jong Kook (they were all in Family Outing) but you can tell that most of the cast feel awkward. I'm sure the weather during the grand opening scene didn't help.
The ″True Love″ episode. Now, I strongly suspect that the makers of Running Man would rather be making film blockbusters or TV dramas, and in this episode they let their narrative ambitions get out of control. In episode 87, the female guest has to work out who was her first love in school, using clues scattered around the location. This story is enhanced by flashbacks to when the Running Man cast were about six or seven in age.
But this makes the show incredibly slow-paced, with plenty of slow motion and soft-focus close-ups. It is clearly an homage to the Korean drama The Moon That Embraces The Sun, but if you haven't seen it then this is just a very slow episode of Running Man with some shocking over-acting by HaHa which is funny in small doses, but here it really drags. In fact, I didn't make it to the end, giving up with around ten minutes to go.
I am happy to admit, this is totally down to culture. This episode features veteran comedian Shim Hyung-rae. I watched it like I was looking at a museum piece, since it featured a lot of corny physical humour and references to things that pre-date my sparse knowledge of Korean culture by decades.
It's like when Jerry Lewis or Norman Wisdom appear on TV shows, I'm always impressed that they're still working but it's never classic entertainment. The same applies here. The regular cast are far too respectful of the comedy legend, and it kind of ruins the show.
I'll be honest, I barely made it through half of this episode before turning off and never going back. And this is only episode of which I haven't kept a copy, hence the screenshot off a YouTube clip.