It’s already been six years since the first episode of Running Man was aired in July 11, 2010; where the six male cast members (Yoo Jae-suk, Haha, Song Joong-ki, Lee Kwang-soo, Gary, Ji Suk-jin), along with two female guests – actress Hwang Jung Eum and singer/variety pro Lee Hyori – made their awkward introductions under the pouring rain. Six years later, in yesterday’s episode, the members (with some slight lineup change from the original cast) are still drenched in the rain, ripping nametags. But they’re now a lot more skilled in variety, a lot closer to each other and to their audience, and a lot more popular because of the show.
And so in celebration, I thought it’d be cool to write something about this show. At first I thought of picking out my favorite episode in each year. Or perhaps run down my favorite moments, episodes, guests, etc. But as I’m nothing compared to hardcore fans, choosing among 307 episodes proves to be VERY difficult. What’s easy, though, is to share what I like about Running Man:
6. The impressive guest list
Through the years Running Man has been a platform for budding actors and hopeful idols, which may well be seen in other programs. But you know that a show is big when they get to invite some of the biggest names in the industry, as well as stars in other fields:
Sports icons such as Olympians Park Tae-hwan and Son Yeon-jae, baseball star Ryu Hyun Jin and (now former) international football star Park Ji-sung;
Respected TV and film veterans, some of which you thought you’d never see in a variety program, like Choi Min-soo (one of the most memorable guests in RM history), the archetypal mother Kim Hye-ja, Ahn Sung-ki and Jo Jin-woong;
Hallyu stars Rain, Yoo Ah-in, Kim Soo-hyun, Lee Seung-gi, Han Ga-in, and Ha Ji-won, Park Shin-hye among others;
And Jackie Chan. Nuff said.
5. The outrageous things done for the sake of entertainment
Bless the writers for coming up with concepts that are just plain crazy. Running Man have a number of unforgettable specials that got people irrevocably hooked. From hilarious opening sketches, to cosplaying, to raiding the members’ homes, to having people swim across the Han River. The cast also did their fair share of spontaneous comedic acts that can sometimes border slightly on inappropriate.
4. The celebrities in a different light, which may include some image ruinations
Related to #6, one of the reasons why I started watching this show is to see how celebrities are outside of their drama characters or idol groups. Some of them I actually follow now because of their performance in Running Man. The show has made variety gems out of several personalities, as they stood out for being cooler and more fun than their image:
Sooyoung (SNSD, 38 Task Force) the negotiator
Park Ji-sung the variety captain
Jung Yong-hwa (CNBlue) the ace
And the man who can do everything Nichkhun (2PM) – and a possible successor Yeo Jin-goo (Jackpot, Orange Marmalade)
It also made seemingly unreachable stars become more human, like:
The always cool Big Bang getting mud on their faces and getting their pants taken off
The image of innocence, beauty, and grace Han Hyo-joo getting rough
Rain and Kim Woo-bin going through all sorts of things in Australia
3. The couples, alliances, and betrayals
With or without guests, Running Man could still be funny as ever, with how they interact among themselves. The desire to win has made several memorable alliances that even earned their own nicknames. While other combinations are just from sheer chemistry.
Monday Couple – Gary and Ji-hyo (arguably the most popular onscreen pair in the world of variety)
The Easy Brothers – Suk-jin and Kwang-soo
Betrayers Club – Suk-jin, Kwang-soo, and Haha
SpartAce – Jong-kook and Ji-hyo
Jong-kook and the Kids – Jong-kook, Haha, Gary
Candy Alliance – Jae-suk and Ji-hyo
Yoomes Bond and Kwang Bool-am – Jae-suk and Kwang-soo (a very short-lived alliance)
Song Song couple/ siblings – Song Ji-hyo and Song Joong-ki (depends on how you see the pair)
But these alliances often lead to betrayals.
2. The epic missions, locations, and eliminations
It’s hard to keep the audience interested through the years. And it’s again thanks to the writers and PDs of the show for always pushing it to be bigger and better. They’ve already filmed in several other countries, brought close to 100 personalities in one episode, fought against the strongest athletes, pulled off amazing plot twists, and gave away gold, diamonds, and a trip to Europe as prizes.
1. The long-standing and incredibly-real Running Man chemistry
Cheesy as it may sound (close to cringing as I type), it’s the teamwork among its members that made this show well-loved by the audience. It wouldn’t have been possible to last six years of ups and downs without genuine friendship and support for one another. They might bicker and betray a lot on camera (some of which is actually not acting), but we’ve also seen some unexpectedly touching moments that show their deep relationship like that of a real family.
And the bond also extends to the past members – Song Joong-Ki and Lizzy, as well as the hardworking people behind the scenes. We came to know the PDs, FD, writers, and cameramen who are just as essential in producing Sunday entertainment one episode at a time.
Running Man is enjoying all the love from its local and international fan base. It was not an easy journey for them to reach this point; but all the hard work and dedication thus far has paid off. I hope Running Man continues to bring TV magic as it has these past years.