tvN does a lot of things right- like air the flower boy family of dramas, proving that cable programming has the real possibility of trumping network series with their story-lines, production, and all around awesomeness. In drama land tvN’s mastery is recognized, in variety dating shows not so much. But I guess (at least according to the PDs) I am not talking about a variety show anyways but a reality show. So what am I rambling on about? tvN’s The Romantic & Idol, a spin-off of the non-celebrity The Romantic, which premiered on November 11, 2012. The show features the hopeful pairing of men and women through fate and destiny driven challenges (if you believe the PDs).
The idol version of The Romantic is simply formulated- take four men and four women from rookie, existing, and popular idol groups and ship them off to Jeju Island to stay at a guest house. Introduce simple challenges along the lines of “Pick the necklace you like best” and match idol to idol as they identify similar tastes in everything from clothing to which cinematic scene they most identify with. Sit back, eat some popcorn, and watch the heartache and destiny.
The first season featured a mix of established and rookie artists: Jun K (2PM), Jihyun (4minute), Mir (MBLAQ), Hyungsik (ZE:A), JB (JJ Project), Seung Ah (Rainbow), Hyejeong (AOA), and Jei (FIESTAR). Our first season found our idols facing fateful meetings as well as painful memories (Seung Ah hugs). The best part of all of it was the fact that the cast seemed genuine, non scripted, and painfully aware of the premise of the show.
The second season (this is one fast show- so far season one had eight episodes, wondering if season two will extend or keep on the same rushed trajectory) stars: G.NA, Jiwon (SPICA), Eunyoung (TWO X), Yewon (Jewelry), Jonghun (F.T. Island), Minhyuk (BtoB), N (VIXX), and Kevin (ZE:A).
What makes the Romantic & Idol (and yes, I agree that this is a terrible name for a show) addicting is three fold, at least for me:
1. No Managers Allowed
If you watch a lot of Korean programming, whether you are tuning into variety or music shows you start to notice a trend- the friendly manager is pretty much always around. Not that the manager’s presence is always a bad thing. After all they have an interest in their managee’s career, more so than almost anyone. However, interest or not, they are like a permanently present PR manager (if they are good anyway), making sure their respective idol star is behaving and projecting an image that aligns with their fan and company expectations. So pretty much, be good idols!
The Romantic & Idol made headlines when they announced that the idol’s managers were not welcome during filming. According to the R&I Producer’s the show is a reality show and not a variety show therefore having managers and coordis present would distract the idols from the reality concept (which actually makes me think it would make them feel unreal as their real life is lead with such people around them). This rule has turned out to give us a raw picture of the idols on the show, the good and the bad. Interactions carried out without entertainment manager’s guidance is inevitably more genuine, and it really shows. All of which makes the Romantic &Idol super addicting.
2. Speed Dating
Seriously, this is pretty much speed dating filmed. Four days with random dates, could you call it anything else? What keeps me watching, and looking away during the horrid moments, is the fact that there are eight people who cannot possibly be fully comfortable with each other in four days thrown together constantly and forced to publicly announce who they like best. Train wreck? Sometimes. Viewing pleasure? Yes!!!!
3. I have no idea who these people are…
Okay, I admit it. I am not a k-pop fan. I do not go crazy for SNSD, until recently I thought the term Big Bang only referred to the beginning of the milky way and G-Dragon was a character in Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. So how could this be a positive thing for me? I would like to think it is because I do not focus on the image idols have projected in their group and instead focus on how said idol appears show to show.
That is not to say that I have not found some k-pop groups I like (Running Man gives me a steady dose of wondering who idol groups are- sometimes I have to check out the music behind the guest). I am currently digging CN Blue thanks to seeing Jong Hwa a bazillion times on RM . I have also recently come to understand why people cannot get the song Trouble Maker out of the head. But that is about it. So when I see the cast of The Romantic & Idol I literally have no idea who they are, but I soon find out how they interact with each other…and then I Google because I hate not knowing.
My point? Well, if this show has made me interested in whom these crazy kids are then it must have some marketing power- even if their images are rather uncontrolled and unpolished by appearing in this show.
So my verdict? Watch an episode. Let me know what you think. I am seriously addicted to this show with all of its awkwardness and rushed, forced dating scenarios. Addicted enough to maybe figure out who F.T. Island is and understand why Mir is popular. Cheers.