MBC’s “Idol Star Athletics Championships” returned in about 2 years and 8 months with the Chuseok Special.
“Idol Star Athletics Championships” (hereinafter referred to as “ISAC”), which had to be suspended since the 2020 Lunar New Year Special as it could not gather large-scale participants due to the Covid-19 pandemic, finally greeted the viewers again during the Chuseok holiday this year.
The 2020 Chuseok Special was held as a small event for e-sports. This year’s program was filmed as a one-shot broadcast and aired for as many as three days with the normal “ISAC” from the 9th to the 12th and the “Idol Star E-sports Championships” on the 11th of September. Considering the recent situation in which most of the holiday special entertainment programs have disappeared, it can be seen that the ISAC Chuseok Special holds a very important meaning.
In its heyday, ISAC was MBC’s flagship program that dominated the small screen and sometimes recorded double-digit ratings. However, as time goes by, its status is now not the same as before. Returning for the first time after 3 years, how was ISAC Chuseok Special this year?
Dance sports on the first day with spectacular performances
What attracted the most attention for this year’s ISAC Chuseok Special was the Dance Sports competition, which was introduced on the first day of the program (Sep 9th). Basically, it was the sport that provide the most impressive attractions due to the fact that it matches the nature of idol stars who are all good at dancing.
Participants, including DKZ Jaechan, P1Harmony Intak, WEi Kim Dong-han, NMIXX Sullyoon, Billlie Tsuki, Kwon Eun-bi, Kep1er Xiaoting, worked with professional dance sports athletes to satisfy the eyes of other idols and the viewers at the filming set with their beautiful body movements and dances. In particular, Xiaoting, who used to win various dance sports competitions in China, drew attention as she overwhelmed everyone with “the appearance of the master” from her first foot movement and won the gold medal.
Participants, who had been practicing hard for the program while carrying out their busy schedules, applauded every performance and sometimes shed tears, creating a heartwarming scene in which idols encouraged each other as if they had become members of one team. Although the rankings were decided according to the scores, it was a memorable day when everyone deserved to be the winner.
E-sports as a one-day game… Futsal is back after 6 years
ISAC’s e-sports event this year was held with only one famous game “PUBG MOBILE”. In this game, which was played in three categories, including single, pair, and team, the strength of male idols was noticeable. As always, surviving until the end is more important than trying to beat many enemies. As a result, a participant who killed only one enemy in the final stage but climbed to the top of the rank appeared and drew laughter.
On the third day of ISAC, the fierce competition of futsal, which returned after 6 years, caught the eyes of the viewers. Although this sport was eliminated for years due to some participants’ injuries, ISAC decided to add futsal to the list again amid the recent craze for football and sports entertainment programs in the broadcasting industry.
As there were many hidden talents, many participants who showed the ingenuity of professional players were witnessed. They left a deep impression with their hot offensive soccer as they scored 14 goals in a game. Besides, the last day was decorated with various events such as archery final, track and field 60-meter running and 400-meter relay. “Chuseok Special Idol Star Athletics Championships” came to an end like that.
What is the reason for the lukewarm response compared to previous years?
As it was a program that was resumed after a long time, “Chuseok Special Idol Star Athletics Championships” with a total of 3 episodes clearly showed efforts to fill the Chuseok holiday with abundance. Nevertheless, to be compared as “the return of the king”, “Idol Star Athletics Championships” this time was disappointing. The viewership ratings, which dropped compared to 2 years ago (5.8% for episode 3 of Lunar New Year 2020 → 2.8% for episode 1 of Chuseok this year, Nielsen Korea’s national standard), did not seem to fit the name “Special” even if citing various viewing methods such as OTT as a reason.
In particular, if you are a fan of a certain group, you do not have to watch the program live. You just need to watch your favorite idol’s fancam videos secretly filmed at the recording site a month ago. Even for dance sports, there is no reason to watch the program on TV because you can see the clear images behind the stadium early on through videos in various spaces such as YouTube and Twitter.
People’s low awareness of rookie K-pop groups these days, which are mainly operated by fandoms, also had an impact on “Idol Star Athletics Championships” to some extent. Famous teams that many people know by name are no longer competing in “Idol Star Athletics Championships”. The vacancy was filled by a series of newcomers who appeared one after another. From the perspective of ordinary viewers, it was only considered as the appearance of a large number of young friends who they did not know as they had to ask “Who are they?”
From the point of view of fun, MBC’s “Idol Star Athletics Championships” also reveals its shortcomings compared to tvN’s “The Game Caterers – HYBE Episode”, which aired last July~August. “The Game Caterers”, which was broadcast in the form of a picnic + sports day, attracted keen attention from domestic and foreign fans. Considering that the existing Na Young-seok PD-style entertainment provided satisfaction and fun to idol fans, the uncharacteristic progress of “Idol Star Athletics Championships”, which only focused on running various events, made us feel the need to change according to the change of era.
In addition, the popular group-oriented production, which has been pointed out as a problem for a long time, remained at this year’s “Idol Star Athletics Championships”. Even considering the inevitability of creating a highly recognizable participant-oriented production that people can recognize even a little, the method of using a large number of idols as if they were bridesmaids for a small number of groups and people did not change much this time as well.