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Looking Back: Family Outing

21 Nov

I’ve been meaning to write about one of the most entertaining variety shows that Korea has ever produced (to my limited knowledge, of course) and one that I still bear intense attachment to. I’m talking about Family Outing of course; that behemoth of a variety show that garnered enormous ratings back in its heyday, only to tumble down as the show gradually slipped in quality and viewership.

Why am I writing about this show? One; with Daesung’s recent emergence from his hiatus and Lee Hyori’s inability or reluctance to make new music, I’m feeling a little nostalgic about their brilliance on that show.

Two, Yoo Jae Suk is still as funny and as witty as he ever was on Running Man (and Kim Jong Kook is as delightful too!)

Three, I was just rewatching an episode of it.

The basic concept of Family Outing was simple: we gather a bunch of high-profile celebrities and make them go to the countryside of Korea to help families (mostly senior citizens) with their daily chores. Along the way, they play games too. Although the concept seems mundane, it turns out that the simplicity of the show mixed well with the hilarious jokes that the cast was able to come up with. None of them are burdened by any ridiculous rules. They were just having fun experiencing the country side (which is gorgeous, to say the least) and having fun with each other.

I think the most important reason why Family Outing became such a big hit was the chemistry of its cast members. There was a variety of personalities in this cast that worked well together to make a compelling, often heartwarming, and always comical episode every week.

Yoo Jae Suk, the leader of the pack and the host of the show, explained the games, what they had to do and had the upsetting task of waking up before everyone else. As the master of ceremony, he keeps it cool with his rapid delivery of jokes while making every moment light as often as he can. There was a reason why Jae Suk is known as the National MC. He was without a doubt the funniest man on TV and extremely humble to boot. He was often self-deprecating, always humble, and just witty. He was one half of the “Dumb and Dumber” pair that adds some much physical comedy to the show.

Kim Su Ro was the veteran comedic movie star, whose booming voice was in itself a character. I love how abusive he was to Chun-Hee and this somehow translated to affection oftentimes. My favorite recurring detail that the show employed was the Star Wars music that played every time Su Ro played a game. His strength was on par with that of Kim Jong Kook and was almost always the only one who truly cared for the game. It was hilarious that he can wring so much laughs from just being serious about the game.

Yoon Jong Shin was the most elderly of the group and as such, is often the butt of the jokes for his stature, weakness, and constant whining about being tired. He’s often a great manipulator–often collaborating with individual members of the cast to do something that will benefit him greatly. This was most obvious with his “culinary experts” where he attempts to make the food taste better by adding MSG packets from ramen noodles as well as a variety of ingredients from silk cocoons to tuna.

Park Ye Jin was an oddball in the most alluring and entertaining ways. She was strong and mostly fearless, the only one capable of catching a running chicken with her bare hands. She also has experience or knowledge about cooking–always the one chopping or preparing the foods. Her comedy is muted for the most part but she gives off the sweet vibe. I love her relationship with Lee Hyori–they’re my favorite duo because they’re so competitive with each other on regular days and so loving on others where there are female guests.

I fell in love with Lee Hyori because of this show. She’s so funny with her authoritative personality, able to belittle anyone from Yoo Jae Suk to Chunhee to Jong Kook. She’s a formidable opponent who’s not against cheating to win and my gosh she’s just freaking adorable. She’s so endearing and naturally sexy even when she’s not trying to be.

Lee Chunhee was probably my favorite person in the show because he was just one-man slapstick movie. His clumsiness and lack of common sense counters his impressive height, his good looks, and his adorable personality. He’s dim for the most part and  his intentions are well-meaning if a little misguided. I love how he reacts to everyone’s mistreatment of him. It’s that dead-pan comical stare that seems to show his emptiness. He’s truly fascinating.

Daesung, the maknae of the group, is just a ball of energy with his high spirits. He’s also kind of dim just like Chunhee and it matches well with Jae Suk’s brand of humor. He is very funny and I love his stupid comments. Daesung is that kind of person who can make anyone smile with just his grin. His eyes disappear and he gets so cute and so childish that you just want to pinch his cheeks.

All of these celebrities were great on the show and I wouldn’t replace any of them. They all fill a specific niche in the show that is wonderfully balanced.

Here’s hoping that there will be some sort of reunion for this show’s characters soon.

–Clarence

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