Running Man: To Script or Not To Script

Note: I am pleased to introduce this excellent and engaging post written by a blogger that never fails to deliver an entertaining and fascinating look at the world that is Running Man . Joel, from Sarcasm Puh-leeze. recently gave me a big honor by asking me to guest post on his blog’s Running Monday feature. Joel has written his own post for Lore in Stone Cities in return (thank you again Joel!). I will stop rambling on now and let Joel take over (but do make sure you go check out his blog for more Running Man goodness). Cheers! ~Lore

안녕 내 이름은 Joel 입니다! (Hi, my name is Joel!) I just had to start off with a Korean greeting because this blog definitely gives off the right vibes. Today I’m guest writing about one of the few things I absolutely love in life, Running Man. I short intro about me. I run a little blog called Sarcasm Puh-leeze (www.leonhart90.blogspot.com), and I write a special column dedicated to Running Man, called Running Mondays . My Running Mondays column is where I can freely express my love for this wonderful variety show that I picked up a little less than a year ago. It’s also a place where I won’t be given death stares and asked to shut up while rambling on about Running Man.

Since Lore was kind enough to be a guest writer for Running Mondays, here I am to return the favor. Here’s my first Running Man guest post in the Stone City.

Running Man: To Script or Not To Script

Since its first episode way back in 2010, Running Man has been churning out excellent and hilarious episodes week in, week out. What’s even more amazing is the fact that the producers of the show continue to develop and come out with new ideas for every new episode, including giving the members superpowers (ep 74), exploring the concept of reincarnation in episode 130 and even featuring plenty of movie references like Alice in Wonderland (ep. 89), Prison Break (ep 91), Zombies (ep 98) and more recently the Avengers (ep 150). These episodes have set Running Man apart as a typical variety show, and have kept fans coming back for more every single week.

But over the course all these episodes, there have been much debate online on whether or not Running Man is scripted or not. Some are quick to claim that yes, Running Man is indeed scripted, but there are others who believe that the episodes have a very natural and unscripted flow. In a variety show, the word ‘script’ is deadly. Fans tune in to variety shows for the spontaneity and the natural interaction of the cast members. It’s understandable too; if they wanted to watch a show with a script, why not just watch any of the dramas that Korea is notably famous for?

Some of the arguments about why Running Man is scripted include: how would a variety show be able to run smoothly if not for the production team and the writers giving instructions to the members? It’s no secret that Running Man has its own writers, a fact mentioned by the members occasionally, so there must be parts of the show which are written.

My next sentence may be controversial to a lot of people, but I have to put it out there. I think that Running Man should be scripted.

Before you sentence me to death by flaming, let me explain myself. Many may think that scripting spoils the variety concept of Running Man but in fact, it helps keep things going. I think that scripting is vital for the flow of an episode, as long as it’s not overdone.

Running Man EP109 Opening Sequence

Generally, from my observation of various episodes, the opening is almost always scripted. This is because the members have to introduce the landmarks, and to introduce the guests who are appearing on the show, and it would not look good if they make a mistake through ad-libbing. I also believe that the team selection is almost always planned by the production team. I mean, if you consider it, all the high profile guests are almost always in the same team as Yoo Jae-suk. Securing screentime is very important on a variety show and being with the MC Jae-suk does significantly increase the guest’s screentime. Plus, if the guests were randomly placed in a group where he or she is not familiar with the members, there would be less talking and laughing and a lot more awkward moments.

Another point in favor of scripting is the spontaneity of the members. Can you imagine if the members, even though they are trained in the ways of variety, being placed in a scenario where they didn’t know what would happen? Sure, the reactions would be 100% realistic, but that isn’t necessarily what the fans of the show want to watch. It may be real, but it isn’t necessarily fitting for a variety show like Running Man, whose main aim is to bring laughter to the viewers.

Kwang-soo Egg Smash

Here’s one example. In episode 143, Lee Kwang-soo, the Icon of Misfortune smashed a raw egg on his head, twice. I remember watching the episode during lunch (something I recommend you never do) and just spitting out a mouthful of food, lest I choke to death. I later showed the episode to my parents (who aren’t the biggest Running Man fans around) and got a lukewarm response. My dad even commented on how ‘fake’ and ‘scripted’ the whole scenario was; “The producers marked the raw egg so he would pick it.” I remember being very indignant that Lee Kwang-soo had indeed smashed an egg on his head because the God of Variety had blessed him, but as I thought about it, the chances of a person picking a raw egg twice in a row seemed a little too far-fetched, even if he was the Icon of Misfortune.

Then I realized that I didn’t really care whether or not they scripted that bit. I still almost died choking on my food. I rewatch that scene and I still laugh every single time.

Variety shows like Running Man are there to make us, the viewers, laugh. That is the main goal of a variety show. If you remove that tiny little bit of scripting, the outcome may not be much different from watching a documentary, where the ‘real’ side is always portrayed. Even the Running Man members sometimes mention that losing the game ‘for the sake of variety’ is well worth it. The characters that the members adopt while filming may not fit their characters in real life, but again, it’s all for the sake to bring laughs. We wouldn’t be able to enjoy the laughably weak Kwang-soo and his betrayal DNA if not for Running Man. And I highly doubt that Gary will be able to show off his peaceful and naive side if he never joined Running Man, as his persona in LeeSsang is extremely cool. How else can we see Song Ji-hyo tackle a guest or a fellow member to the ground if she only focused on maintaining her actress’ poise?

Running Man is also a variety show which requires its members to be able to showcase their ‘Running’ abilities. This is especially seen in the name tag ripping races. In a tension filled game which involves chasing, shirt-pulling, hair tugging (yes it happens a lot) and name tag ripping, it is only human nature to have tempers flare up, especially if its among the guests. These are moments which require the production team to step in during editing to make sure that the viewers only see the funny side of the game. Of course, because it is also a game where anything can happen, sometimes the miraculous does happen.

Kim-Jong-Kook-Ji-Suk-Jin

Let me give you an example. In episode 130, Suk Jin pulled off one of the biggest surprises in Running Man history. The weakest member among the Running Men mustered up all his strength and ripped off the Commander’s nametag, a move that no one could have seen coming. Immediately after the episode, some people have gone to the forums to proclaim that “Hey, this is too much! It’s so obvious that it’s totally scripted.” I disagree. I highly doubt that the writers or the production team instructed Kim Jong-kook to let Suk-jin tear off his nametag. No one, not even Suk-jin himself could believe that he actually tore off the Commander’s nametag. The look of surprise on his face as he held the prized nametag aloft is proof enough of this fact.

In the end, scripting may be a taboo topic to discuss when it comes to variety shows like Running Man but it is definitely necessary for the show to run smoothly. Without that little bit of scripting, we may not even have as many laughs. There will still be people on the forums loudly proclaiming ‘THIS IS ALL SCRIPTED!’, and there will be a war of words between them and the Running Man faithful. But in the end, all we need to do is sit down and laugh our heads off at the brilliance that is Running Man.

Do you agree that Running Man should be scripted? Leave a comment below.

Cheerios!

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5 thoughts on “Running Man: To Script or Not To Script

  1. I have always thought that running man was a bit scripted not everything but at least in the direction of the show. Especially when it comes to choosing teams, they put the weakest members together most of the time and why because it’s obviously gonna be funny. And they rarely let kim jong kook and song ji hyo be together in a couple race or in the same team, why? because it would be obvious who would win. Moments where some of the guests win makes me think that sometimes that is scripted too(at least the way they easily win). In the end I do believe that some part of the show is scripted but if it makes me laugh and it’s not so obvious then I don’t care as long as it remains the quality show it is now.

  2. Hey! Great post! I’m a big fan of both of your blogs (Joel & Lore). I agree with 99% of what you’re saying! I totally think a few of the segments should be, and are, scripted. I don’t think the moment when Lee KwangSoo smashed the egg twice on his forehead was scripted (that was my 1% haha) at all. If you watch it, they give the reaction of the staff, which shows their genuine surprise. Also, if you watch the members, you’ll see that they are equally astonished! But, again, I totally adore you both so that wasn’t supposed to come off as a “you’re wrong” at all! 🙂 Keep up the great work!

    • I actually still believe that the egg smash was not scripted for the same reason as you (ie: the staff all laughing), but there’s that nagging doubt at the back of my mind that no one (not even the Icon of Misfortune) is really that unlucky to get the raw egg twice in a row. scripted or not, it’s still one of my favorite Kwang-soo moments. =)

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