Even more interesting than real dating, dating entertainment shows are stuck between being viral and controversial
Dating entertainment shows are back in their second heyday.
Dating entertainment shows are in their second heyday. After SBS TV’s “Jjak” (2011-2014), which marked a new milestone for this category, was abolished due to the death of a female cast, love entertainment shows disappeared for a while. Through Channel A’s “Heart Signal” season 1 to 3 (2018-2020), the dating shows started to revive, and Netflix’s “Single’s Inferno,” SBS Plus X NQQ “I’m Solo‘”, and TVing’s “Transit Love” are gaining popularity. Interest in Korean love reality show is also increasing overseas through online video service (OTT). But as various incidents, accidents, and controversies continue, the need to verify non-celebrity performers is increasing.
“Single’s Inferno” – The representative of K-Dating entertainment show.
“Single’s Inferno” has emerged as a representative of K-dating entertainment. According to a report on Jan 3rd of Felix Patrol, a global OTT ranking website, “Single’s Inferno” ranked 10th on Netflix’s worldwide TV show category the previous day. It was named in the top 10 along with the drama “Silent Sea” (5th place). The show even ranked first in a total of three countries including Singapore, Vietnam, and Korea. In particular, in Korea, the series topped the chart for the first time by pushing “Silent Sea” to 2nd place, proving its popularity. It also ranked second in Hong Kong and Thailand, third in Malaysia and Taiwan, and fourth in Indonesia and Morocco.
“Single’s Inferno”, released on Dec 18th of last year, is dubbed the Korean version of the American entertainment show “Too Hot To Handle.” This dating reality show took place on “Hell Island,” a remote island that only couples can get out of. It has been released up to six episodes with a total of eight episodes. Every time the show went on air (which is twice a week), numerous videos and “GIFs” are poured onto online communities and SNS. The show has succeeded in making headlines by casting those who already have no less fandom than real celebrities, such as beauty creator Song Ji-ah and Sunmi’s dancer Cha Hyun-seung.
Especially, Song Ji-ah vicariously satisfied the female viewers. Since her appearance, she has been attracting attention for her slim body, cute appearance, extraordinary fashion sense plus her Busan dialect adding to her charms. She introduced a variety of her luxury fashion to such an extent that she said, “I brought 5 big carriers. I think I carried about 35 pairs of footwear.” After appearing in “Single’s Inferno”, the number of subscribers to the YouTube channel “Freezia” has doubled, surpassing 1.12 million. Choi Si-hoon, a former celebrity who is drawing a love-line with Song Ji-ah, also topped the Weibo’s (Chinese version of Twitter) real-time search.
The 2nd “Jjak”, “I’m SOLO”.
Professionals are convinced that “I’m SOLO” will be even a bigger success than “Jjak”. The show advocates a hyperrealist dating program for men and women who desperately want marriage. This is a romantic entertainment show created by producer Nam Kyu-hyung about eight years after the abolition of “Jjak”. The production team said, “We would prefer Defconn over Wonbin,” raising expectations for the cast’s strong personality. Rather than a celebrity’s splendid appearance, the show enhance empathy by featuring people that the audience can see anywhere around them. If “Single’s Inferno” instills a love fantasy, “I’m SOLO” is more realistic which makes it easier for the audience to immerse. “It’s okay for me to watch “I’m SOLO” then “Single’s Inferno”, but if I watch “Single’s Inferno” before “I’m SOLO”, my fantasy breaks down,” an audience said.
Controversy is as hot as how popular the shows are. As for “I’m SOLO”, every cast member uses a pseudonym repeatedly instead of their real names, and the 4th Young-chul was at the center of controversy for making rude and coercive remarks towards another cast called Jung-ja. On the 31st of last month, Jeong-ja said on her YouTube channel, “I was terrified beyond fear for five days and four nights of filming. There was abusive language for 10 minutes during the final choice,” she said. Controversy is growing over her claim that “I’ve been receiving psychiatric counseling and taking medicine so far. I’m suffering from the people at my workplace and am considering quitting.” On the other hand, Young-chul refuted, saying he had never verbally abused her, saying, “Reveal the original footage.”
“Love Transit” that broke the preconceived notions.
TVing’s “Transit Love” broke the prejudice that “celebrity entertainment shows are all the same.” In fact, couples who had broken up appeared and gave the audience an extremely fresh fun. It is a love reality in which couples who broke up for various reasons gather to reflect on their past love and find new love. It differentiated itself by focusing on men and women who are tired of dating or have problems. Viewers would look back on their relationship and recall memories, saying, “I was like that, too.” TVing recorded a record high of 3.87 million MAU (monthly number of users) in August last year when “Transit Love” was on air. It also plans to introduce season 2 this year.
Unlike existing dating entertainment shows, this show has never got caught in any controversy over the cast. Nine writers each sent dozens of direct messages (DMs) a day to contact a total of 20,000 people, and went through a long process of verifying the cast. Producer Lee Jin-joo said, “I met them more than three times before the shoot,” adding, “I gotta find out if he was a good personality enough. I asked both sides if there were any problems such as school violence if they appear with their ex-lover.”
An official said, “It is impossible to verify 100% of the non-celebrity cast,” but added, “As the cast determines the success or failure of the program, the production team is more concerned, but there is a limit.” Broadcasters and OTT channels themselves should also come up with countermeasures and systems for verifying the non-celebrity cast.