I like it. I really do. Inconsistent premise aside (hey-we all have growing pains) this is one show I will be watching again. April 21st marked the premiere of SBS’s Sunday variety show Barefoot Friends. The show airs prior to Running Man and promises to be an entertaining block of programming leading up to the Sunday night ratings winner.
With only one episode airing as of this post it is difficult to form a complete opinion on the show-but so far I like what I see. The first episode has raised my hopes- the cast chemistry was evident (my biggest requirement for an enjoyable variety) and the challenges were fun. On to the lineup! Cheers!
Kang Ho Dong (42)
Occupation: MC (1 Night 2 Days, Strong Heart, Kneedrop Guru)
This man is a variety legend in Korea- he ties with Yoo Jae Suk for the title of nation’s MC. A former wrestler turned comedian, I am always enthralled by his exuberance for everything. And I mean everything. Barefoot Friends is one of KHD’s comeback programs; he took an extended break from the entertainment industry due to tax issues. Loud and boisterous this man never fails to make me smile- he has an infectious laugh. A master of the variety genre look to KHD to steer the other cast members in the right direction (hilariously of course).
Kim Hyun joong (26)
Occupation: Rapper (SS501)/ Actor (Boys over Flowers)
Meet the handsome perfect guy of Barefoot Friends. Hyun Joong has appeared as a guest on multiple variety shows- this is his first time as a fixed cast member. In the first episode we got a glimpse of his method of over complicated and confusing speech as well as his good natured optimism. Plus its Almost Paradise played a lot. And I liked it.
Yoon Jung shin (43)
Occupation: Singer / Songwriter
Jung Shin has appeared in variety before- he was a fixed cast member on the now defunct program Family Outing (featuring Kim Jong Kook and Yoo Jae Suk) and appeared on Golden Fishery / Kneedrop Guru with Kang Ho Dong. The Ji Suk Jin of this program- the hilarious underdog with variety skills aplenty- Jung Shin promises entertaining moments to come.
Yoon Shi yoon (26)
Occupation: Actor (Flower Boy Next Door, King of Baking)
Puppy….awww puppy. Okay, I am done. I promise. Barefoot Friends is YSY’s first foray into the variety world- apparently not one to be shy he decided becoming a fixed cast member was the best introduction. Huzzah! In the first episode viewers glimpsed his dedication and drive to succeed (in an Enrique like adorkable way).
Kim Bum soo (34)
Occupation: Ballad singer
I know KBS as the singer of the theme song for the drama hit Stairway to Heaven. After watching him on Barefoot Friends I had to do a little research, he is the cast member I know the least about. According to the internet (which as we know is never wrong) Bum Soo was the first Korean artist to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 (with his song Hello Goodbye Hello). I trust you internet because I have never heard that song. Bum Soo gives off a hilariously out of the box way of thinking in episode one.
Occupation: Singer (After School)
As the solo female member of the cast, Uee has big shoes to fill (the only-girl-in-the-show role requires a certain personality, at least for this genre and in this watcher’s opinion). With such dynamic variety stars as Lee Hyori and Song Ji Hyo paving the way Uee has a sweetly honest charm that I believe will fit well in the outdoors- hardcore- challenge variety world. I have always enjoyed watching her on other variety programs and I have no doubt she has what it takes to make a memorable mark on this show.
Yoo Se yoon (32)
Occupation: Comedian (Kneedrop Guru)
Debuting during an episode of Gag Concert in 1999, Se Yoon has appeared on a multitude of comedic programming. I have enjoyed his spots on Kneedrop Guru (with fellow Barefoot Friends cast member Kang Ho Dong) and Idol Maknae Rebellion (which I highly recommend for the WTF factor). In episode one Se Yoon lived up to his funnyman image with colorful commentary worthy of his sarcastic outlook on life.
Occupation: Singer / Dancer (Super Junior)
Eunhyuk is a regular on the variety circuit (and a member of the ever popular group Super Junior). One thing I love about Eunhyuk is his endearingly dorky moments- which appear in the first episode with charm (true to his past variety appearances, ahem Strong Heart). Sure of his popularity, but not so sure that he is annoying, you can consider this cast member the token idol.
Promoted as real outdoor hardship variety (whatever that means) Barefoot Friends has thus far shown a rocky premise. But I am okay with that. I will cut the newbie some slack, after all Infinite Challenge was not created in one episode. While the promotional materials for this show were ingeniously vague the first episode teased a live-the-hard-life premise and then gave us a guided travel show. It is apparent that BF has to figure out what it is trying to do- but that is okay. Figure out away.
The first episode gave us these tidbits of direction:
- The cast is sent to a location unknown to them
- They must face a challenge. The first episode challenged them to live “like a local” and earn the funds equivalent to the location’s residents’ average monies earned per day.
- The PDs give a helping hand in steering the cast towards lodgings and giving them jobs; negating the feeling of total helplessness.
This is one promising cast. With a good mix of variety veterans ( Kang Ho Dong, Yoon Jung shin, Yoo Se yoon) and rookies (Yoon Shi yoon, Uee, Kim Bum soo, Kim Hyun joong) the cast chemistry features a mixture of teaching, learning, and outright funny that I love. The cast makes the show in variety land and the first episode of Barefoot Friends did not disappoint- the airport greeting alone had some awesome interactions between the cast.
While the premise is busy working itself out I am enjoying the show thus far- with one caveat. I hate the split-into-two-teams dynamic. Perhaps my opinions are formed by shows I have watched in the past (probably) but I have a hard time getting onboard with the entire cast if they are separated during their initial figure-out-the-show period. I would love to see a challenge with all eight of the cast members. I think that would give viewers a better idea of how they all fit together in variety land.
I am excited to see where this show goes. The setup is something that could be expanded on infinitely to great effect. Travel, hardship, and a great cast make me want to keep watching. I hope that this show does not fall into a poorly defined sinkhole (which is a threat, due to the uncertain trajectory). If it does I will still look back and fondly remember Yoon Shi yoon’s first appearance as a variety regular. Not that I am biased or anything. No, not at all….