[What Mary Thinks] Korea No. 1

Happy New Years everyone! I’m starting off the new year with a review on a variety show that’s been out since the end of November. I had already completed the show a while back, but I wanted to get this review out now than later (or never). Anytime I get the chance to watch my favorite dynamic duo, Yoo Jae-suk and Lee Kwang-soo, together in a show, I definitely take the chance. First, it was ‘The Zone: Survival Mission’ with SNSD’s Yuri and then it was ‘Korea No. 1’ with volleyball player, Kim Yeon-koung. You cannot ask for more than to get 2 variety shows with these 2 hilarious and awesome comedians entertainers together and I’m definitely glad we got not one but two shows!

It might be a little strange to some to watch Lee Kwang-soo participate in 2 variety shows after having made the decision to leave ‘Running Man.’ One could question why leave ‘Running Man’ when he was just going to follow it up with 2 variety shows a while after. Yoo Jae-suk even teased Kwang-soo a few times in the shows by bringing this up, but I understand where Kwang-soo was coming from. Unlike ‘The Zone: Survival Mission’ and ‘Korea No. 1’, ‘Running Man’ was filmed on a weekly basis so that could have played something into it. Plus, Kwang-soo’s career at that point in time was flourishing and he probably wanted to focus more on his acting career with the opportunities he was getting. Kwang-soo is an actor, but he’s also a very talented entertainer and it’d be such a waste to not see him in variety shows. That’s why I’m glad and relieved that he came back and with none other than Yoo Jae-suk.

‘Korea No. 1’ follows our trio as they travel throughout Korea to meet the masters of different crafts/industries, hence, the title of the show. From clay roof tiles to tidal flats to catching anchovies, our team of three experience firsthand themselves what it’s like to learn and work from the best. In the end, the master themselves select who they felt was the best or most hard-working for the day and that cast member is rewarded with a proud vote. Surprisingly, Kwang-soo and Kim Yeon-koung ended up tying with first-place votes at the end and Jae-suk was in last place. There’s always next time, Jae-suk. Always next time.

I loved watching Jae-suk and Kwang-soo tease each other and their dynamic is just unparalleled compared to other comedians and entertainers. There’s no one out there in the Korea entertainment industry right now whose chemistry and compatibility is on the same level as Jae-suk’s and Kwang-soo’s. These two work so well together and it helps that they’ve known each other and are like brothers for a very long time. But I also enjoy their ability to include the third cast member in all their funny shenanigans. Whether it was Yuri or Kim Yeon-koung, they made sure to never feel them left out. It could be hard to blend in given just how close Jae-suk and Kwang-soo are to each other and how long they’ve known each other, but the pair made sure to be inclusive and kept the third cast member also locked in. To their credit, Yuri and Kim Yeon-koung were also funny and knew how to get along with Jae-suk and Kwang-soo. It never felt awkward or uncomfortable and they were also just as silly or funny. I enjoyed both shows tremendously.

It was difficult to choose a favorite episode from ‘Korea No. 1’ because they were each so funny and hilarious in their own ways and it also helped that the masters of each craft was also in on the fun, but there was one episode that stood out to me. It was in episode 3 where the trio traveled to the tidal flats to catch octopuses. The reason as to why this episode stood out to me was because of the free-styling that the cast members and production crew sort of ended up doing in the end. The mission/challenge was clearly a lot more difficult than they imagined and things weren’t going according to plan. Filming was difficult because of the sinking mud and the water coming in and it was just complete chaos. Kwang-soo’s mentor that he paired up with also didn’t really talk to him much so Kwang-soo was sort of struggling. The episode was edited in a dramatic fashion where it seemed as if they were in grave danger when really.. it wasn’t all that serious. Yoo Jae-suk constantly shouting and warning everyone and having to help pull the staff members out from the mud. LOL. It was pure chaos and I loved it.

In the last 15 minutes of the episode, you could tell how the show just sort of had to improvise and change things on the spot which I absolutely loved. You’re sort of used to watching variety shows have everything pretty much ready and prepared and they generally have an idea of how the missions will go, but I loved watching this specific episode just sort of do things on a whim. The filming wasn’t going as planned, cameramen and cast members were getting stuck in the mud, things were a little chaotic and messy. But then they were just sort of like eh, no problem. We’ll just try to get as much film and footage as we can and call it a day. Even if the mission didn’t go as planned the entire time, the episode still managed to be so funny and enjoyable and I would argue that it was even funnier because of how chaotic the situation was. All the episodes were great and chaotic in their own ways, but episode 3 was chaotic chaotic. When everything was breaking down, they still enjoyed it and made the best of things.

As entertaining as the show was due to our cast members, the show was also intended to be informative and educational which I think it managed to achieve. Perhaps the best part of the show was how it provided you with the information and details. The show wasn’t edited in such a straight-forward type of way; it made you intrigued and engaged with all the historical and informational aspects but also provided you laughter and entertainment with the cast members. ‘Korea No. 1’ worked as a variety show because it didn’t focus too much on one or the other; it managed to balance the information with the entertainment and that’s why I enjoyed it so much (and again, it also helps that you have Jae-suk and Kwang-soo paired up together in the show. This pairing will never fail you). You also saw just how tedious and meticulous and careful you had to be with each craft. There was so much work that went into each of these missions/crafts and even I felt exhausted watching our trio do the work. Certainly, nothing ever comes easy and there’s a reason as to why these masters are the best at what they do.

It’s uncertain if there’s going to be a season 2 yet, but I’m really hoping that the show will be extended. Along with additional opportunities to watch my two favorites together on the screen after Kwang-soo’s departure from ‘Running Man’, this show was also impressive and informational while being fun. You learned while you laugh and those are the best type of shows.

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