Recently, there have been criticisms launched against the popular MBC show ‘I Live Alone’. This program first drew attention as a documentary format following the daily lives of celebrities who live alone. Interest in the show reflected the increasing number of single-person households who could identify with the cast, garnering it favorable reviews. This led to a series of copycat shows being aired featuring other stars saturating our TV screens. While ‘I Live Alone’ has be broadcast for a long time, it is now being criticized as a showoff form of entertainment, rather than a true reflection of the person’s real life. This form of entertainment is being called out as celebrities openly reveal their superficial purpose, which is to promote themselves. In addition, there are many episodes that wander away from the main purpose of the program by showing off interior design ideas rather than the natural daily lives of the main cast. Gong Hee-jung, a pop culture critic, said, "Guests faithfully show that they are just here to promote themselves.”
Observational entertainment is one part documentary, one part entertainment. It is characterized by minimal intervention by the production team and does not always focus on the main character. For example, programs such as ‘I Live Alone’, ‘Omniscient Interfering Point’, ‘My Little Old Boy’, and ‘Heart Signal’ are observational entertainments shows that reveal the natural appearance of celebrities and casts, alleviating the gap between viewers and cast members, creating a sense of sympathy for the characters. If the stories are considered boring, it could be spiced up by adding reactions of the panel watching the recorded video. This kind of appreciation and interpretation allows them to share their reactions with the viewers.
|▲ Observational entertainment that is on air or has ended (Photo from MBC, SBS, CHANNEL A, tvN, TV CHOSUN)|
One of the harshest criticisms of observational entertainment is their use of fake settings and storylines. First, these fake settings delude viewers. For example, actor Kim Yong-gun portrayed himself as a bachelor, but he has a girlfriend. Second, in the past, family variety shows emphasized laughter, but nowadays many people want genuine content. Ridiculous personal talents, games, and situational plays used to be en-vogue, but now viewers are after shows that depict sincerity and generate empathy for the cast. In these old variety shows, professional entertainers were in the spotlight because they were comedians, but their popularity has decreased lately because their exaggerated reactions made us doubt their sincerity. More and more actors, singers, and athletes that react authentically are appearing more frequently on variety shows nowadays because it is what the viewers want to see.
Mr. Jang (Sophomore of School of Business Administration) and Ms. Park (Sophomore of Dept, of Political Science and International Relations) are two students of Dankook University (DKU) that enjoy watching observational entertainment shows like ‘I Live Alone’, ‘Omniscient Interfering Point’ and ‘On and Off’. Ms. Park enjoys them so much that she even watches video clips on Youtube or entire videos about her favorite shows. Both of them were aware of the increased use in exaggerated settings that were being introduced to improve the entertainment value of the shows. Mr. Jang said, “Viewers want to watch celebrities as they are, not in role play.” Ms. Park agreed. She thinks that the purpose of observational entertainment is not to establish and exaggerated storyline for the sake of sensationalizing entertainment, but rather to show the daily lives of celebrities and elicit empathy from viewers. But she felt that recent shows seem to have lost their sense of purpose because they focus far too much on fun.
In addition to the exaggerated storylines, the two were aware of other problems with observational entertainment. Mr. Jang felt that current shows of this nature were turning into entertainment for the purpose of promoting a celebrity. Unlike in the past, where shows focused purely on their daily lives, the tendency to promote celebrities’ songs or movies in current observational entertainment shows has grown. And Ms. Park worried about the influence of observational entertainment has on our behavior during the current Covid-19 pandemic. For example, the scene of Hwa Sa eating ramen along the Hangang River was broadcast on ‘I Live Alone’. As a result, it gave many people same idea despite the fact that picnicking along the river was being discouraged by the government. So, what is their solution? Both said that the original purpose of observational entertainment should be reestablished. They said that the production team should realize that it is not promotional entertainment, but rather the true depiction of celebrities that results in a sense of empathy towards its cast.
|▲ Celebrities in controversy of fake settings or sincerity (Photo from SBS, TV CHOSUN, MBN)|
It is hard to find alternate programs to observational entertainment. Viewers are changing and the content they desire is too. Broadcasting companies and their casts must make an effort to resolve the problems with their storylines in order to remain relevant. Also, we need to identify trends or develop variety shows that respond to viewer demands without deceiving them. It seems necessary to move towards more authenticity in entertainment and not simply make shows for outlandish fun anymore. The viewers just no longer want it.
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