Sunday, 8 April 2018

Keep on running, man

About this time last year, the Korean variety show Running Man was in serious trouble. Ratings were low and showed no signs of changing. Gary had left at the end of 2016, yet the cast still kept making references to there being seven members in the cast as if they were still pining for the good old days.

Then, in March 2017, it was moved from the prime time slot of 6.25pm on a Sunday to the slightly less prime time of 4.50pm. This looked, frankly, like a demotion and an admission that Running Man could no longer cope with its competitors at peak viewing hours.

But in April 2017 three new people joined the team. A new PD Jung Chul Min came on board and brought with him some new ideas for games formats and two new cast members: Jeon So Min (who cleverly mentioned her lack of work when appearing as a guest) and Yang Se Chan.

These two immediately became a breath of fresh air, with Jeon So Min’s unpredictable outburst and Yang Se Chan’s constant undermining of relationships among the male colleagues was just what the show needed. The fact that they were both devious was a bonus.

Suddenly, the balance of power in the cast had shifted and the old team had a new lease of life. Ratings, too, started to creep up until they were occasionally hitting double figures. Running Man looked like it had saved itself.

Interestingly, though, something else changed. Guests have started to repeat far more often than in the past. It looks like the new PD is determined to make sure that there are always a number of possibles for new members should someone else leave. In fact, Jo Se Ho was considered for the role of the ninth member when he chose to join Infinite Challenge.

Lee Elijah

Jo Se Ho

Lee Sang Yeob

Lee Da Hee

So the show is back on its feet and looking forward to the future instead of banging on about its past. Considering that, at the end of 2016, it had effectively been cancelled, this is quite an achievement.

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