Updated: Aug 31, 2021
No one can deny that 2020 was a tough year for everyone. Luckily, we were able to soothe our anxious minds with some truly beautiful and light k-variety shows. Noonas PacaHeol and Tteokbokki Fairy write about the variety shows that gave them much-needed respite and laughter throughout 2020.
The Little Forest (SBS, October 2019)
What can be more healing than a show about little kids frolicking in the forest? Well, that would be adults getting one-upped by kids! Little Forest is a k-variety show where city kids discover and explore nature. Helping them explore the countryside are our four reliable imos (aunts) and samchons (uncles).
The cast consists of Lee Seo-jin, Lee Seung-gi, Park Na-rae, and Jung So-min, who show us a different side of their variety personas. Long-time k-variety viewers will be surprised to hear Lee Seo-jin talk sweetly or see Park Na-rae cook healthier food! Also, be prepared to have your heart melt when you see Lee Seung-gi and Jung So-min get along so well with the Little Forest kids.
LOOK FORWARD TO: Enjoying all the episodes! The hijinks the kids get into are *chef’s kiss.*
WATCH: If you like seeing kids being adorable and having fun. Watch it on VIU PH.
SKIP: If you want to see more random games or activities geared for adults.
Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village 5 (tvN, May 2020)
Three Meals a Day (3MAD) is not a new k-variety program. In fact, the series has enjoyed nine wonderful seasons and is usually broadcast during the summer. We join Cha Seung-won, Yu Hae-jin, and Son Ho-jun as they spend their summer days on a remote fishing island. We follow the funny and quirky 3MAD family members as they cook insanely delicious food, fish all through the day, and wash tall piles of dishes! You may be thinking, “This doesn’t sound healing at all!" But the interactions among these charismatic and funny men will thoroughly entertain you through cooking mishaps, dad jokes, gullible dongsaengs (younger siblings), and/or zero fishing luck.
What makes this k-variety healing is the close-knit relationships among these three. Cha Seung-won, Yu Hae-jin, and Son Ho-jun’s interactions are quick to remind viewers of a family outing. Viewers will enjoy seeing how the trio quickly fill the roles of a mother, a father, and a son!
LOOK FORWARD TO: Meeting our island visitors! When the Camellia Blooms’ Gong Hyo-jin (ep. 2- 4) gives the 3MAD island a feminine vibe while Running Man's Lee Kwang-soo (ep. 4- 6) brings a lot of laughter!
WATCH: If you’re into funny male bonding, cooking, and fishing. Watch it on VIU PH.
SKIP: If you’re not into dad jokes nor outdoor activities and living (i.e. fishing, farming, etc.).
Begin Again Korea (JTBC, May 2020)
Begin Again Korea shows that k-variety programs are capable of moving the hearts of people through compassion and sincerity. It's a beloved k-variety show where various musicians show off their talents, usually by holding busking shows outside of South Korea. Due to the pandemic, however, the show decided to go in a different direction this season. We join wonderful musicians such as Lee So-ra, Henry Lau, Hareem, Juk-jae, Jung Seung-hwan, Crush, and Lee Su-hyun as they travel across South Korea to perform "socially-distanced busking."
Aside from enjoying the show's sincerity, we get to know our favorite OST singers and song makers through Begin Again Korea. The show gives us backstage access to how these artists conceptualize and prepare for their performances, as well as show off their amazing repertoire. Even more healing and relatable is seeing these highly-decorated musicians gush and fangirl/fanboy over each other!
LOOK FORWARD TO: Everything with Lee So-ra, the different styles of "socially-distanced busking," and all the amazing singing.
WATCH: If you’re interested in getting to know your favorite OST singers and song writers. (Full disclosure: This is not available on the usual streaming services. Please Google it. *wink*)
SKIP: If you are sensitive to discussions about the pandemic, or if you are looking to binge a k-variety show. Each episode runs for a whopping two hours.
House on Wheels (tvN, June 2020)
If we had to name one k-variety show that truly soothed the soul, it would definitely have to be House on Wheels! This has some similarities to 3MAD (an all-male cast cooking and living together) with a major difference: House on Wheels introduces viewers to the wonders of small homes and camping vans. Sung Dong-il, Kim Hee-won, and Yeo Jin-goo invite viewers to ride along with them and enjoy the beauty of South Korea. As they travel across the country, we get to know more about the men and their tiny home.
As a bonus, we see more of the Nation’s Little Brother, Yeo Jin-goo! In his first-ever foray into k-variety, Yeo Jin-goo effortlessly shows off his charm, and his interactions with the two hyungnim (older brother) have endeared him to both viewers and cast members alike. Similarly, Sung Dong-il’s affectionate nature will make viewers wish for a brother as caring as he is, while Kim Hee-won surprisingly shows a playful nature that balances out Sung Dong-il’s seriousness. These men have a relationship that is totally different but just as interesting as that of the cast of 3MAD.
LOOK FORWARD TO: 1.) An early episode that features a sweet Reply 1988 (2015) family reunion, and 2.) a later episode with an amazing Hotel Del Luna (2019) reunion.
WATCH: If you’re into camping and fun conversations or looking for a relaxing vibe. Watch it on VIU PH.
SKIP: If you want a more active k-variety show.
Hangout with Yoo / How Do You Play? (MBC, ongoing)
One of the best MCs in the country, Yoo Jae-seok, often asks about how others spend their downtime. Hangout with Yoo is a k-variety program that follows celebrities on their off-days and entices them to join Yoo Jae-seok in his many passion projects!
In 2020, Yoo Jae-seok took a page out of KBS’ Sisters Slam Dunk and decided to debut two musical groups: the first one being a co-ed idol group called SSAK3 (Yoo Jae-seok, Lee Hyori, and Rain) while the second is a femme fatale group called the Refund Sisters (with singers Lee Hyori, Hwasa, Jessi, and Jung-hwa). Viewers got to know these idols and entertainers as they journeyed toward their group's debut. SSAK3’s interactions with one another are endearingly fun and wacky, while the Refund Sisters are cute and chaotic at the same time. Be prepared to laugh.
LOOK FORWARD TO: The cute SSAK3 summer trip, and the SSAK3's (ep. 43-56) and the Refund Sisters’ (ep. 57-69) road to debut.
WATCH: If you’re into idol debut programs, or if you want to laugh and you're curious about what celebrities do when they're not on tour or filming. It's on VIU PH.
SKIP: If you find dad jokes, slapstick comedy, and skits cringey. Yoo Jae-seok is definitely the king of these kinds of jokes.
I Live Alone / Home Alone (MBC, ongoing)
Ever wonder what celebrities are like in real life? This reality program gives us a glimpse into the daily—sometimes mundane—lives of celebrities who live alone. The guests are as varied as it can get—from Ahn Bo-hyun (Itaewon Class) to Yoo Ah-in (# Alive), to name a few.
It turns out that celebrities do wake up looking just like us, watch TV on the couch just like us, and get lonely just like us. Each episode of I Live Alone is divided into two segments, where the mainstay cast, led by Park Na-rae, watch videos of guests as they go about their day and make humorous commentaries on what they see. Some segments will make you laugh out loud (see ep. 331 where Park Na-rae returns to her hometown after her daesang or grand-prize win, only to be manipulated by her grandfather into holding a fan signing event outside a kindergarten). Some will make you cry (see ep. 354 where Hwasa awaits the release of her solo album while recovering from a back injury), while others provide healing vibes (see ep. 340 where Ahn Bo-hyun goes on an oddly romantic camping trip with EXO’s Sehun).
This is a good show to watch because there’s no need to watch the episodes in sequence. You can skip to the ones that feature your favorite celebrities. This show will also help widen your Hallyu knowledge, as you’ll get exposed to a wide range of Korean actors, singers, writers, artists, and athletes.
LOOK FORWARD TO: Park Na-rae’s homecoming, Hwasa’s solo album release, and Ahn Bo-hyun and Sehun’s camping trip.
WATCH: If you like seeing celebrities sans gloss. Watch it on VIU PH.
SKIP: If you prefer game shows and competitions.