Behind the Smiles: An Honest Look at Running Man



Running Man is approaching their landmark 300th episode soon, but after 6 years on air, the ratings haven't exactly been kind. Many have pointed out that this slump in both ratings and the quality is due to that fact that Running Man has lost its spark. In the few episodes since Taek PD left, there have been complaints that Running Man is no longer as exciting or as "athletic" as before. There are a whole lot more talking than doing actual running.

I believe that Running Man is slowly, but surely reinventing the cast and the show to bring about a sense of newness. This is a change that is inevitable, a much needed revamp in either the format of the show, or the reinvention of the roles that each member plays. 

Many times, we do not see what happens behind the camera; especially the personal struggles faced by each member of the cast. In every episode, the members entertain us, putting on a smile as they go through each of the missions to bring about laughs. Episode 295 was an eye opener, not only for me but also for the fans of Running Man. The frank and open thoughts expressed by the members about their age, their declining strength to partake in the more challenging missions, really gave an insight into the world of Running Man and how it operates behind the camera.

Episode 295 also pointed out the many, many times that each member considered quitting the show at one point of time. Song Ji-hyo considered quitting because she felt left out.

Ji Suk-jin considered quitting because he felt he was too weak.

Gary considered quitting because he felt lost over his direction. Even Kim Jong-kook considered quitting because of the enormous strain it was causing for his personal health. If any of these members quit the show, would we have seen the hilarity of Go Straight Gary, the tenderness of the Monday Couple, the Race Starter at his best, or even the amazingness of Ace Ji-hyo?

The answer is no.
Kim Jong-kook's thoughts during the episode were perhaps the most telling one of all. His role on the show is to always be ostracized by the other members; the bad guy, the villain that everyone bands around to oust. This, coupled with his growing muscle and back problems that comes with age, led him to doubt his own abilities and role on the show. The bar was set too high for the Commander, and while he managed to avoid a complete breakdown, it was still a huge burden for him to shoulder.

For Kim Jong-kook, his role on the show has always been the capable Commander. But somewhere along the line, he also became the anti-hero character that all the members and guests try to band together to defeat.

You wouldn't have noticed it on the show because of the way he carries himself, but Jong-kook has mentioned frankly that its a role that may not net him as many fans. He's the member that people love to hate, and that in itself is a huge burden. Yet, he crinkles his eyes and puts on his brightest smile on every episode for the viewers, even though they don't see his turmoil.

Running Man needs to change. Some people say that the new format is boring, stale and "not as exciting as the past". But as the years roll on by, we as the fans have to accept that the members have grown old and make more realistic demands for the show. Kim Jong-kook may look young, but he's already touching 40 years old. Suk-jin, the oldest member, is going to be 50 years old this year! The other members aren't much younger as well. Sure, they could have rumbled and ripped nametags in a flash when they were 6 years younger, but you surely cannot expect a 50 year old ajusshi to be standing toe to toe against the young idol guests.

Yoo Jae-suk, the Nation's MC, probably put it best. "You can't play on the same part of the playground all the time'.

Running Man is trying its hardest to come up with new things every week. It's not easy. There's coordination, planning, logistics, name it. Yes, there will be haters, dissenters, people who try to bring negativity to the members even as they work their hardest to bring out the laughter. But as long as Running Man is willing to try their best, I'm willing to lay down my full support for the show I've been following for the better part of four years.

As much as I wouldn't like the show to end, change is inevitable. One day, the Running Man members will be unable to continue on with the show. There will be an end eventually, and we should all be prepared for that possibility. If Running Man were to end, I would prefer it if the show ends trying its best to be what it can be rather than pretending to be what it cannot be any longer.

For now, as fans of Running Man, we should all stand behind the new PDs and the staffs and the seven Running Man members as they continue to bring us more happiness every week. The ratings might be at its lowest but if we continue to support them whole heartedly, I believe that Running Man will continue to surprise us for many more episodes to come.

What do you think? Leave a comment below with your own thoughts, or maybe even a wish for the future of Running Man.


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