The diverging paths of variety shows and the pitfalls of repetition

The diverging paths of variety shows and the pitfalls of repetition

The concept of “EXchange”, where former couples gather to find new relationships, has brought a unique twist to the conventional dating reality shows, receiving love for two consecutive seasons. However, viewers haven’t been showing the same ‘hot’ enthusiasm for the third season in a row. Recently, the third season of “EXchange”, released on Tving, has received initial attention for the stories of some participants, but it’s struggling to maintain significant interest.

Although Lee Jin-joo PD, who directed seasons 1 and 2 of “EXchange” and captivated viewers with their ‘over-identification’, moved to JTBC, a new PD took over smoothly. However, the concept of the “EXchange” series remained firm. Participants with various backgrounds came together to confirm their hidden feelings and build excitement and tension by forming new connections.

Although the ‘unique’ story of Dong-jin and Da-hye, who dated for 13 years but had to break up, garnered initial online attention, it failed to elicit significant reactions. After the success of “EXchange”, with various dating reality shows about young love saturating the scene, it’s not easy for the series to maintain the same level of response without bold changes, as this season has proven.

However, this doesn’t mean that the dating reality genre itself is faltering. The PD who launched the “EXchange” series brought back the ‘dating variety’ card after moving to JTBC, and the program is receiving praise. “My Sibling’s Romance”, currently airing on Wavve and JTBC, features siblings seeking their own relationships.

By changing the setting from ‘former couples’ to ‘siblings’, the program gained a different charm from existing dating programs. Like the “EXchange” series, which had the fun of guessing the identity of the ‘former lover’ in the early stages, there is also interest in figuring out the identity of the ‘relatives’, and the participants’ ‘family narratives’ evoke emotions. The initial curiosity about how to date in front of a sister or brother gradually disappears as their stories unfold naturally.

The participants, sincerely seeking their match rather than their own sibling, bring laughter, showcasing a unique charm that only “My Sibling’s Romance” can offer. Based on this individuality, it has achieved positive results, ranking first in the TV-OTT integrated bidrama popularity survey for two consecutive weeks.

Apartment 404 (2024) - MyDramaList

When one genre succeeds, it’s common for similar programs with slight variations to flood in. While dating reality shows and travel variety shows departing for domestic and overseas trips are thriving, there have been cases of success and failure after similar programs aired around the same time, like the crime-themed Tving’s “Crime Scene Returns” and tvN’s variety show “Apartment 404”, which incorporated elements of mystery.

“Crime Scene Returns” satisfied fans of the series with solid narratives and the cast’s witty acting, becoming a ‘success’ case. In contrast, “Apartment 404” garnered attention with a star-studded lineup but remained a ‘failure’ case due to its poor execution, failing to capture both ratings and significance. While the world of the mystery surrounding the apartment based on unprecedented real-life incidents in Korea was intriguing, focusing more on character play than deduction failed to leverage the strengths of detective variety shows.

Ultimately, even with popular genres and star castings, failure to meet viewers’ increased standards for completeness leads to cold reception. Without timely ‘changes’ amid rapidly changing trends, interest can quickly fade.

A variety show PD commented, “It seems that one topic doesn’t last long these days. Trends change quickly, making it challenging to anticipate and target. Even for production teams who always monitor reactions while directing, it’s not easy.” They added, “In such circumstances, focusing on the completeness of the program seems to be the only way forward.”