Running Man Ratings Decline: Some Thoughts

Credit: Papitus & SBS

Lately, the Running Man forum on Soompi has been in a tizzy with many attributing the show’s ratings slump to its new format and I thought I’d give you my two cents here. While I agree that the show has lost some of its spark of late, I don’t think that the new format is entirely to blame. For a start, Running Man has never been a huge ratings hit – a cult favourite, maybe, but I don’t think it’s ever going to go beyond that.

So what do I think is the problem with RM right now? Very simply, I feel it boils down to two things: the execution of the games and the editing of the show. I realise that I’m in the minority when I say that I’m not a big fan of the earlier Hide-and-Seek format. Like the “Find the Guest” mission (which I find more interesting), the H&S game had its flaws as well. Contrary to what a lot of Soompiers are claiming, it wasn’t always exciting nor was it a stellar example of team work and cast interaction. Sure, there were some classic H&S episodes but there were also more than a few uninspiring ones as well (eg. #12, #15 and #24.)

I find it a bit puzzling that people are saying that there’s more team work and interaction in the H&S games than in the “Find the Guest” ones because I don’t find this the case at all. The one thing that I remember about the former is how predictable it became towards the end; Suk-jin, Joong-ki, Jae-suk and Kwang-su would be among the first to get caught, leaving Ji-hyo (if she was on their team) to complete the game on her own. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like team work to me.

I’m not denying that the H&S mission brought the cast together and helped the members develop the various relationships that we see on the show right now. But they’re at the stage where they need to take things to the next level and I believe that the “Find the Guest” mission has succeeded in showing another facet of their characters. For example, we’re seeing a very playful side of Ji-hyo that was never too apparent in the earlier episodes (though granted, this is also probably due to the fact that she’s gotten really comfortable with the rest of the guys.) KJK has a master-disciple/slave relationship with Kwang-soo and his rivalry with MC Yoo has also become more complex. It’s no longer just a matter of beating him in the H&S game, now they have to win over the other members on the show as well.

Personally, my favourite “Find the Guest” missions were #26-28 (Lee Moon-shik, Jung Jin-young, TVXQ and Kim Byung-man) and #31 & #32 (Hyun Young; Tony An and Kim Kwang-kyu). As much as I like this game, however, I think it might be suited to a more contained environment. The problem with having it take place in the city is that you have the cast splitting up and going their separate ways, which causes the game to lose its synergy. I think this is one of the reasons why the Oh Ji-o and UEE/Park Jun-gyu episode weren’t as fun as they could have been, though I did enjoy the conversations the cast members had with each other and Ji-hyo’s sudden decision to switch teams.

Don’t get me wrong though. I do like the idea of bringing the show into the city. It’s an ambitious move on the part of the PDs and they should be given credit for doing something new. I would suggest that perhaps instead of finding the guest, maybe another game would be more successful (perhaps one in the style of Amazing Race or something that has them working towards a more defined goal.)

On another note, I agree that too much time was spent on last week’s team selection exercise (the one where Ji-hyo had to choose her team mates in the Yonghwa/Daesung opener.) This is probably an example of a game that sounded really good in theory but didn’t fare so well in practice.

Some people have expressed their intention to drop the show. Fair enough. If a show bores you, then there’s no reason to continue wasting your time. There are better things you can do. For me, I watch RM because I like the cast and how they interact with one another. The games are secondary; even in a “slow” episode like last week’s, there were little things that I enjoyed, like Joong-ki and Haha’s conversation with Ji-hyo at the campsite. I hope things pick up for the show next week – I’d really hate to see SBS can it.

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