Drama, Reality TV and South Korean variety show ingredients are combined for the new Netflix series "Busted"
Classifying "Busted", the first South Korean variety show created by Netflix, is hard.
“Busted! I Know Who You Are”, to give it its full name, is billed as a reality variety show but, assuming the first two episodes were not a fluke and the series will carry on in the same vein, it seems to blend drama, reality television and variety show all in one sitting. What is certain though is that the K-wave is washing over global audiences through the streaming platform. From the movie “Okja” to Korean dramas and even one stand-up comedy show, “Busted!” is already the most-anticipated series for fans of Korean entertainment.
“Busted!” is a mystery variety show that follows seven celebrities playing bumbling detectives who are charged with solving fictional crimes that involve hunting down stolen treasure or getting to the bottom of mysterious events. The programme’s star-studded cast is made up of K-variety veterans, namely Yoo Jae-suk, Lee Kwang-soo and Kim Jong- min, serious actors Ahn Jae-wook and Park Min-young and K-pop stars Sehun of Exo and Sejeong of Gugudan. The show also features guest appearances by other well-known |individuals who help complete the story in each episode.
And while the plots are provided, there’s no script, just plenty of chuckles. There are 10 episodes in the season, with two airing every week and the first shown last Friday.
To prepare the series Netflix teamed up with producers Cho Hyo-jin and Kim Joo-hyung of Company SangSang, all of whom have a successful track record in the K-variety scene having on put on such popular shows as “Running Man” and “X-Man in Korea”.
“Busted” will air in more than 190 countries and territories, reaching virtually all 117 million Netflix members around the world.
Like K-pop, movies and TV dramas, the K-variety show has proved popular with overseas viewers who enjoy watching celebrities, generally emcees, comedians, actors, K-pop stars and entertainers, perform in loosely scripted reality shows. Part of the popularity stems from the cast coming up with some entertaining improvisations to win the game, often revealing a side of themselves not known to the audience.
“Busted!” has all those ingredients but adds another layer, adding drama to the plot, using a regular cast and enhancing the show with different guests for every episode.
“At first, we weren’t really thinking about how to turn this into a global project. Our intention was to make it fun and entertaining,” says the producer Cho Hyo-jin.
“Creating a variety show that included reality and drama aspects was our initial focus and that led to the mysteries. Now we are hoping it will appeal as much to a global audience as the domestic one. I hope we have a great result and I am looking forward to it. Netflix gives us freedom without any language and cultural barriers,” he adds.
Leading emcee Yoo, who has fronted such smash hits as “Running Man”, “Infinite Challenge” and “Happy Together”, says he’s enjoyed being part of “Busted!”
“It’s my first time going international and I’m thrilled. I love trying something new and different. “Running Man” has a huge audience and I’m grateful for that. On the flip side it’s also a bit of a worry as “Busted!” will be watched all over the world. We don’t know how is will do but expectations are high.”
Both Yoo and Lee Kwang-soo of “Running Man” are already popular with international fans of K-variety shows. Lee, nicknamed Giraffe in reference to his height, is a born comic and keeps viewers giggling throughout the shows with his unexpected responses.
Veteran actor Ahn and actress Park are complete rookies to the variety show experience
“From my perspective, it wasn’t really much of a burden but more whether I would be able to fit in. But it worked out well and I was more confident by the end of the second episode. The team has a special layout system and that’s where you have to work your hardest. The ambience is great and we all had a lot of fun. The younger cast members were hard working and that prompted me to work harder too,” says Ahn, who has appeared in countless movies, TV dramas and musical plays.
The 10 episodes take the intrepid detectives across Korea from Seoul to Jeju Island and further afield as they hunt for treasure, solve crimes, battle vampires and more.
Cho says proudly that it’s the biggest production in Korea with more than 100 cameras capturing all aspects all the situation and requiring more than 400 crewmembers for the pre-production of all episodes, making it stand out from the conventional working of Korean productions. Each character uses his or her real name and is not asked to assume a different character, in short playing themselves as they really are. That’s not the same for the 56 guest actors appearing throughout the entire series, who are given scripted roles and whose faces will no doubt be familiar to anyone who watches South Korean TV dramas and movies.
“It’s my first variety show too,” says actress Park. “I liked the idea of showing the audience what I’m really like as a person. It was a little nerve-wracking at first because I’m not used to working without a script. But I got used to it after a while and just went with the flow. I did tell the producer before we started that I’m not physically strong and asked him not to put me in physically challenging positions. Of course, he did exactly that! And I complained.”
Park adds that she never thought about how she would act in her detective role. “I didn’t want to act but maybe one of the benefits of being an actress is I could get accustomed and adjust to the situation a little bit faster. It’s my first programme and it’s given me confidence. And maybe if I’m offered another variety programme, I’ll take it,” she adds.
The inclusion of Sehun, the young heartthrob of boy band Exo, is the magnet to attract young fans to watch the show. It’s his first variety show too but he had no problem fitting in thanks to the support of his senior colleagues.
“There’s lots to learn from them,” he says. “But if I had to pick just one thing, it would be professionalism. One mission took much longer than expected and everyone was tired. The producer said, okay, we’ll just do it quickly and get it over with but Yu said no, let’s try it again and do it this way.”
“Busted!” is also one of the few Netflix shows that doesn’t lend itself to binge watching. The streaming service will upload two new episodes weekly for five weeks, each with a new mission and each running for 100 minutes.
And that, along with the new guest stars, is what makes the show so exciting.