There’s nothing quite like a good variety show to kickback and relax to.
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Often times, when you’ve ventured pretty deep into the K-drama world, you discover the world of variety shows, each of which takes on a very unique premise. 2021 had its fair share of returning series as well as new ones. Here are 17 of the most entertaining variety shows that the year had to offer!
List is in no particular order.
1. “Honeymoon Tavern”
“Honeymoon Tavern” is a tvN variety show produced by Lee Woo Hyung. The cast of celebrities, which includes Kim Hee Sun, Tak Jae Hoon, Yoo Teo, Moon Se Yoon, and Kai, all ran an inn on Jeju Island. They were to cook for and host guests who came to the inn, most of which were newlyweds who got married during the pandemic. The series touched on the relationship between the cast and guests, while also learning more about the all-star celebrities that were hosting. It was especially fun to see the friendships that were formed amongst them!
2. “Street Woman Fighter”
“Street Woman Fighter” was a hot topic while it was airing. It was Mnet’s first female dance crew survival program. Various crews would compete in order to become the number one team to represent South Korea. They would showcase all different genres of dance. The choreography and remixes of various songs had people pumped up and excited every week. The different crews and individual dancers showed off their various charms, which made viewers fall in love with many of them throughout the process! The series was such a huge success that there is a male version of the show confirmed to air.
3. “The Sixth Sense 2”
“The Sixth Sense” returned with a second season after the success of the first in 2020. This tvN variety show brought cast members Yoo Jae Suk, Oh Na Ra, Jun So Min, Jessi, Loveleyz‘s Mijoo, and Lee Sang Yeob. The cast would do various missions in different settings to figure out what is “fake” and what is “real.” One of the obvious reasons for the success of the show was the hilarious chemistry between the cast members. People couldn’t get enough of the hilarious banter between them. The guests on the show also proved to bring in a lot of viewers as they had EXO’s Kai, On Ju Wan, and even 2PM’s Lee Junho!
4. “The Game Caterers”
With millions of views on every uploaded video, it’s no secret that “The Game Caterers” was one of the most successful variety shows of the past year. With the power of PD (producing director) Na Young Suk, who is a genius at coming up with unique games and quizzes, all the guests that are on the show are guaranteed to have a good time. Some of the very impressive guests in 2021 included BTS, the “Hospital Playlist” cast, the “Vincenzo” cast,” and the actors under BH Entertainment. With this kind of lineup, it’s no wonder that it was such a big success!
5. “Youn’s Stay”
“Youn’s Stay” is a spin-off of the show “Youn’s Kitchen,” produced by Na Young Suk and Kim Se Hee. The show focuses on welcoming guests visiting Korea on business or for studies who have not been able to experience Korea to the fullest as a result of the pandemic. The show is set in a hanok in the beautiful backdrop of South Jeolla Province. The cast of celebrities include Youn Yuh Jung, Choi Woo Shik, Jung Yu Mi, Lee Seo Jin, and Park Seo Joon. The show brought a very warm and relaxing vibe, which was especially welcoming during the winter season. Seeing the cast and their very different personalities work together to make this experience seamless for their guests was hilarious and enjoyable to watch.
6. “Home Alone”
In the MBC variety show “Home Alone,” viewers are provided with an in-depth look into the lives of various celebrities who live alone. There is a set cast of celebrities that are followed each week, and sometimes they have special guests where viewers are able to get a peek into how they live their daily lives. In 2021, the show had some pretty impressive special guests and returning ones, some of which included Junho, Anupam Tripathi, and Kim Kyung Nam. This look into the personal homes of various celebrities is fascinating but also entertaining as we are able to see the various quirks and hobbies that they have.
7. “Ask Us Anything”
“Ask Us Anything” is a program that features a cast of members who act as high school students in a classroom. Guests arrive and pretend that they are transferring to the school, but they must pass a test in order to be accepted by the cast. The show never fails in having some very impressive guests. 2021 brought some mega stars including Lee Seung Gi, Kai, aespa, 2PM, ITZY, ASTRO, Brave Girls, SHINee, Joo Won, Yoon Eun Hye, and more! If you like to see a side of these idols and actors that you’ve never seen before, the cast of “Ask Us Anything” does a great job of bringing it out.
8. “2 Days & 1 Night Season 4”
There aren’t that many people who are not familiar with the variety show “2 Days & 1 Night.” The show involves a fixed cast who venture off into various parts of South Korea where they are to complete games and missions. With the show having had a complete change in the cast not too long ago, it did an amazing job of maintaining its popularity and ratings. “2 Days & 1 Night Season 4” won the Viewers’ Choice for Best Program at the 2021 KBS Entertainment Awards, and Moon Se Yoon was even able to win the Daesang (Grand Prize)!
9. “Running Man”
It’s impressive how long “Running Man” has been airing. With the veteran cast members returning every week to make their viewers laugh, the series deserves a spot on this list every year. There were some major changes in 2021 for the program as Lee Kwang Soo decided to step away, but the show has managed to remain as one of the most watched variety shows in South Korea. The variety show lineup is definitely not the same without it!
10. “Kingdom: Legendary War”
Mnet’s idol competition show featured six idol groups including THE BOYZ, Stray Kids, ATEEZ, BTOB, SF9, and iKON. They went head-to-head in various challenges throughout four weeks while receiving votes from global fans, being evaluated by a panel, and a video view count. At the end of the show, the group with the most points would win it all. The hot and sizzling performances from some of the most popular K-pop groups out there had us on the edge of our seats every week. Seeing the creativity and hard work that went into each performance really made us appreciate our favorite idols even more.
11. “How Do You Play?”
“How Do You Play?” is a variety show hosted by the nation’s MC, Yoo Jae Suk. 2021 was a huge year for the host and this variety show, as he was able to top the charts for Variety Star Brand Reputation Rankings continuously. Most of this was due to the success of his program “How Do You Play?” on MBC. One segment in particular was the formation of the group MSG Wannabe as Yoo Jae Suk gathered various actors and singers to become a singing group. The group was able to score a perfect all-kill when their song was released – the power of Yoo Jae Suk!
12. “The Return Of Superman”
“The Return Of Superman” is a series that follows celebrity parents who are raising children. It’s adorable seeing these celebrity parents living normal lives, taking care of household chores and running errands while looking after their kids. Many familiar families announced their departure in the series during 2021 like Do Kyung Wan and Sam Hammington. But with these departures, there were also many guests who visited the families and played with their children. Some of these guests included ASTRO’s Cha Eun Woo and Lee Junho.
13. “Master in the House”
“Master in the House” has set cast members Yoo Su Bin, Lee Seung Gi, Yang Se Hyung, and Kim Dong Hyun. Cha Eun Woo and Shin Sung Rok were part of the cast, but they stepped down halfway through the year. The show involves having a “master” host the cast, taking them through a day or two of how they live. Some of the masters from 2021 included Rain, Kim Jong Kook, and the female leads of the K-drama “The Penthouse.” Viewers are able to see the hard work that these “masters” live through day-to-day in order to maintain their special skills.
14. “You Quiz On The Block”
“You Quiz On The Block” is a tvN program starring Yoo Jae Suk and Jo Se Ho. The show is in an interview type format where the hosts sit down and chat with stars who are currently hot and trending. In 2021 alone, they had international sensation group BTS, “Squid Game” star Jung Ho Yeon, IU, Girls’ Generation, and Gong Yoo! The best part about this show is that Yoo Jae Suk has a way with his guests that make them feel very comfortable. Because he is the nation’s MC, many celebrities respect and look up to him, which makes them very open to his questions. You can sense the guests’ comfort, which also makes viewers comfortable.
15. “Mountain Village Playlist”
As a result of the success of “Hospital Playlist,” Na Young Suk created a spin-off program similar to the format of “Three Meals a Day.” The cast of “Hospital Playlist,” which includes Jo Jung Suk, Jeon Mi Do, Jung Kyung Ho, Yoo Yeon Seok, and Kim Dae Myung, all participated in the show. They were to spend time together in the countryside and cook three meals a day without any assistance. Viewers got a deeper look into the chemistry between the actors, and it was especially enjoyable seeing them together one last time before fans said goodbye to the series for good.
16. “Unexpected Business”
“Unexpected Business” is a tvN show starring Cha Tae Hyun and Jo In Sung. The two are shipped off to a small town where they run a supermarket for a week. The series was especially delightful to watch as Jo In Sung hardly ever appears in variety shows. Cha Tae Hyun invited him to be on the show together as the two are good friends in real life. Seeing the natural relationship between these two in a very stressful situation was hilarious but also healing for the most part.
17. “My Little Old Boy”
“My Little Old Boy” looks into the lives of older single Korean celebrities. What makes this show so unique is that the mothers of these single celebrities are on the panel, providing commentary to their own children. 2021 was a big year for the program as it garnered a lot more viewers and fans. Guests such as BLACKPINK‘s Rosé, SHINee’s Minho, Lee Da Hee, CL, Ahn Hyo Seop, Lee Kwang Soo, and Seo In Guk were just some of the many all-star guests who graced the studio!