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The Top Five Korean Variety Shows of 2018

Though I rarely mention them on this site, variety shows are a huge cornerstone of the K-pop experience. I wasn’t able to cobble up a list of ten series like last year, but I still wanted to spotlight my favorite series of 2018.

Given that The Bias List is a site focused primarily on idol music, it should come as no surprise that most of the shows on the list are idol-centric. With that said, I tried to steer away from series focused on only one group or artist. There are plenty of charming web series I could have considered, but I didn’t want this list to devolve into a countdown composed solely of my bias groups.

+ Make sure to check out the rest of the year-end countdowns here!


HONORABLE MENTIONS

The Fan

It’s Dangerous Beyond The Blankets – Season 2

Photo People – Season 2


5. HEART SIGNAL – SEASON 2

The second season of dating series Heart Signal caused quite a stir over the summer, and spurred unfair controversy over its editing of various “love lines.” But for my money, it was a huge improvement over season one, with a more appealing cast and more exciting twists.


 4. ALL THE BUTLERS / MASTER IN THE HOUSE

All The Butlers can be very hit and miss depending on who the guest “master” is each week. But, when it’s good, it’s one of the funniest variety shows out there. This is thanks to the show’s cast — a quartet of colorful personalities that compliment each other perfectly. For those looking to delve in, start with the four-part L.A. trip from September, or the boyband-spoofing BoA visit from March.


3. WHY NOT: THE DANCER

I’m a sucker for Korean shows set in America, as the ensuing culture clash is usually a lot of fun. Why Not had an overarching theme of dance and choreography, but its quick-witted trio of leads ensured that the show’s best moments came from interactions and plenty of playful ribbing. It may not have resulted in the kind of earth-shattering, cross-cultural collaboration the first few episodes promised, but that quickly became secondary to the joy of watching these guys stumble through various dance-related challenges.


2. BORROW TROUBLE – SEASON 2

Travel shows are a dime a dozen in Korean variety. To really stand out in this crowded field, a series needs an engaging cast and a unique conceit. Borrow Trouble had both. The mostly-idol cast gelled well from the beginning, and watching them sell goods and barter to fund their various travels in Switzerland often led to hilarious results.


1. I LIVE ALONE

If 2017 was I Live Alone‘s big coming out party, 2018 was the year where the series established itself as Korea’s most consistently solid variety show. Holding onto its core cast and adding some fantastic recurring guests, the series was at its best when it gathered everyone together for a party or a trip or the debriefing of an unexpected romance between cast members. With its newfound success, I Live Alone garnered appearances by big-name celebrities like Bigbang’s Seungri and the guys of TVXQ. But beyond those headline-grabbing episodes, no other show could wring as much interest and humor from a routine colonoscopy or simple visit to the bank.

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3 thoughts on “The Top Five Korean Variety Shows of 2018

  1. Pingback: K-POP Best of 2018 Masterpost | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  2. Ugh, man, I haven’t really sat down and watched a good variety since I was a hardcore VIP (yeah you read that right) and I watched every Big Bang appearance since the dawn of time. I occasionally check out Knowing Brother for Heechul, but since the death of Weekly Idol and the Old Kpop Varieties (Super Junior in 2007, you know what I mean) I haven’t had much to watch. I’ll have to check some of these out!

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    • I’m cautiously optimistic about Weekly Idol’s upcoming new hosts, though I wish Hyeongdon and Defconn had never left. I’ve never been able to get into Knowing Brother. I think the only episode I’ve watched in full is the Infinite one from a few years back. I much prefer “slice of life” type variety to games/competition style. There’s still no better way to really get into a group than by watching their variety appearances, imo.

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