Though it has only been half a year since they started, people are calling it the right way to do a real(ity) variety programme. The programme in question, is jTBC’s ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’ – aired every Saturday night and helmed by the 14-year idol group Shinhwa. Why is it the right example of a real(ity) variety programme? Because the members naturally know one another inside out, and the quality of the programme becomes different with how much the production team understands the cast. Has there been any successful programme where the production team and the cast don’t work closely together? It goes without saying that 14 years is not a short period of time. In showbiz, where it’s even more dangerous than the jungle, the team has been together without swapping out anyone, and just by exchanging glances and expressions the members know everything, isn’t this exactly the kind of relationship they have?
Even to viewers like me who are not fans but have come to watch it regularly, we know that 14 years together has some weight to it. Because from some point in time, they no longer feel like idols in the spotlight, but are instead like the friendly guys from next door or sons of friends. If I were to meet them by chance on the streets, I may unknowingly hold their hands in delight and ask how they’ve been, whether everything’s fine at home, if they have any plans for marriage yet. Before we knew it, they have already demolished the wall of their star status, between them and the masses. 14 years is enough for a man and a woman to meet, wed and have children tall enough and old enough to be in junior high. While they have suffered their fair share of big and small incidents, they never let go of one another’s hands and stayed united to the end, and are now writing a new chapter in the history of real(ity) variety.
It’s unlike other shows that seek to create specific stereotypical characters, having one person assume a charismatic role while another take up the role of the black hole. Though their talents, blind spots, strengths and weaknesses are all different, they help one another to maximize the good and make up for the not-so-good, and during contests they display a shocking level of competitive spirit but maintain a cool composure when they have to give way. And as a result Shinhwa shines even brighter together than when they’re apart. Curious about the secrets of the longest-running idol group and where the group intends to head towards, I made my way to Shinhwa. Let’s now meet the Shinhwa members and producer Yoon Hyun Joon.
Knowing each other too well, there are times when it becomes difficult to get things moving
Q: Not too long ago, there was a particular broadcaster that experienced a strike due to internal and external circumstances, and the importance of the production teams was keenly felt. We know that different programmes produced by different teams all have different styles, but in the case of ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’, the production team and the cast seem to get along particularly well.
PD Yoon: We’ve worked together on music programmes before, as well as on KBS2’s ‘Sang Sang Plus’, so the members and I have know one another for some time. In Eric’s case, he had mainly been working on dramas, so now we’ve become closer. But while we just know one another, the writers are very familiar with them and that helps a lot. But knowing one another too well can have its pitfalls as well. Because when you’re too familiar with their tendencies and relationships, there’s the problem of not being able to tell them to do things they don’t like, because you know they don’t like it. If you don’t know them well, you could just tell them to do it. On top of that, when creating their own characters, if they were people who didn’t know one another, interesting things can emerge from the process of them getting to know one another. But for Shinhwa, their relationship is already formed and solidified. So a 14-year relationship may not necessarily be all good.
Q: Ah, so we won’t get to see anything similar to MBC Infinity Challenge’s ‘Let’s Become Closer’. Even so, Shinhwa in ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’ seems more interesting than Shinhwa on other variety programmes.
Junjin: Although we participated in ‘Infinity Challenge’ and many other variety shows, there were many other seniors on the show way better than us so it’s hard to compare. If there’s any plus point that we have, I think it’s the fact that we’ve been together for so long that you can call us ‘brothers’. So there’s nothing fake. Honestly speaking, sometimes we do put on an act on other shows. More than anything else, doing a show together after such a long time is very meaningful in itself.
Eric: That’s right. Although there are many reality programmes around, even with a similar format, it doesn’t get more real than us, after all haven’t we spent the last 14 years together?
Junjin: I guess we can be more fun than other shows. But reality is certainly life itself.
Andy: We have to lead most of the show by ourselves, without an MC. That’s new, and at the same time, also a huge burden on our shoulders. Since the production team knows us very well, there are certainly some parts where we can do exceptionally well with leading the show.
Junjin: With us together, rather than to say that we’re doing a show, it’s more like we’re playing and having fun. So I think that’s why we speak and act even more naturally.
Dongwan: To everyone who likes ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’, please tell us that there are small interesting moments. Actually there was a day when we completely forgot that there were cameras around, so we said and did everything that we weren’t supposed to. (laughs) Fortunately the production team did a good job with the editing.
Q: Actually you’re behaving like this now. I seem to feel a sense of responsibility coming from Dongwan, who tries to keep the situation under control from time to time.
Eric: Dongwan keeping things under control? That can’t be right. On the contrary, he’s responsible for all the mistakes. (laughs)
Q: The first programme that I ever tuned in punctually and regularly to was ‘Love Letter’ on SBS. I thought the ‘Minor League’ segment in the small room was really interesting. You were already very good at variety back then.
Junjin: At that time, we couldn’t be as bold and brazen with other people. I think we did a good job because we were doing it together. For example, there was a time when Eric-hyung worked really hard and wasn’t afraid to embarrass himself, then I was spurred on and worked even harder, and just one of these little things could really bring the mood alive. Because everyone is working hard, strangely our competitive spirit emerges and we become more driven.
PD Yoon: In fact, compared to times when there are guests on the set, the Shinhwa members are most fun when they’re by themselves.
Q: In the ‘Petty Thieves’ episode, there was a game where they have to tread on water while being in a large inflatable ball. Another show recently featured this too, did you see it? The cast members on that show had a really tough time, but the Shinhwa members did surprisingly well. That’s something different too.
Andy: Ah, I caught that episode of the programme. Right from the start I thought that I should keep my body low and crawl forward to move. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been to the army?
PD Yoon: The members themselves don’t like to do exactly the same things. Although I can’t say if it’s their competitive spirit, in any case they do their best. And they work hard at it. “No matter if I win or lose, no matter who succeeds at anything, I have to do it better than him, and do it differently”, perhaps that’s what they’re thinking. It’s difficult to call it a competitive streak, but when we had Shinee and Super Junior as guests, I could feel a certain sense of responsibility, “We have to take extra care to make them stand out”.
Credits: Naver News + Absolut Shinhwa