How to Save Barefoot Friends From Being Cancelled
Barefoot Friends (BFF) is on its 15th episode. Many variety shows don’t gain their footing until their 30th episode or beyond. Infinity Challenge had to go through four major reformatting before it gained momentum, Running Man almost cancelled and didn’t hit the big time until their 25th episode or so.
All these talks about BFF being cancelled or the show being beyond salvation is utterly premature. Its last several episodes saw higher ratings than their first 10 which only goes to show it is gaining some traction and finding its way.
However, it is true that the show needs some improvement. Below are some things the Production team and the cast could work on to make sure the show stays on the air.
If you break down show concepts into its barest essentials, you will come up with less than ten concepts. However, the variation you can make out of these limited concepts is countless. It’s all a matter of putting a USP or a unique selling proposition. It is the one thing that sets your program apart from the rest. All shows strive to have this. Some USPs are better than the others but having a bad USP is better than nothing at all.
Living like a local
At this point, BFF has yet to identify its USP. It had one in the beginning. They were the only show to go abroad and experience the life of a local. No variety show has done that before. However, it wasn’t sustainable and it was also very hard.
Their first trip was to Vietnam. The team was asked to live like a local and immediately, you can see the dilemma. The team didn’t know how it was to be a local. Yes, it was supposed to be part of the fun and the show but for the team to get a chance to do enough research, they would need more than 24 hours until they get used to the concept, that is. Freestyle wouldn’t cut it for now.
The production team should have done more preparation to set up how the team would go about “living like a local”. The team would have had some sense of direction, there will be more action and interaction. Those are the things that the viewers are really looking for.
Who is your favorite Barefoot Friend?
They eventually dropped that concept and went challenged based. In the last three episodes, the team went through a diving training and competed against each other and other divers. That’s much simpler but it is not unique.
Infinity Challenge, Running Man, Real Men and even 3 Idiots are all challenged based programs. At least those shows have a unique twist to their challenges. BFF has none.
So, it boils down to one question. What is it that makes BFF unique? What does it offer that other shows don’t offer? The show has to find that. When they do, given the solid following they have developed, they’ll be off to success.
Lest we forget, variety shows are based on friendship and family
If you drill down a variety show to its barest essentials, the audiences will want two things: comedy and camaraderie.
The audience wants to see the cast’s bond. They like seeing relationships and how this relationships affect how they make decisions. They like seeing the cast members hug each other, show affection, take care of each other and tease each other. This is the one thing BFF cast doesn’t have YET.
Running Man also suffered low rating in the beginning but the one thing it had going was the relationship that the cast members had with each other from the get go. Yoo Jae Sook and Kim Jong Kook have worked together in two other hit shows before Running Man. Yoo Jae Sook and Ji Suk Jin have been friends since they started their career. Haha and Kim Jong Kook are real close friends. Haha and Kang Gary have been friends since they were teens.
BFF cast members, if some of them are friends before the show, don’t show this on screen. You can see the awkwardness of the cast members towards each other.
The production team needs to bind this team. They need to help the cast become comfortable with each other on and off screen.
Cast members develop characters on the show. In 1N2D Season 1, Eun Ji Won was the childish one, Kim C was the quiet and nurturing one, and Kang Ho Dong was the cheater. In Running Man, Yoo Jae Suk is the leader, Kimg Jong Kook is the strong one and Lee Kwang Soo is the betrayer. It is true in every show. Like a movie, having “roles” to play allows the cast members to know how to react in situations. It gives the show dynamics and help the production team and the cast members create funny situations.
Many don’t realize or recognize the importance of characterization in a variety show. Many fans dismiss characterizations as the celebrity’s real identity. Although, more often than not, characters are the exaggerated version of the celebrities’ real personality, it doesn’t change the fact that cast members need to develop characters that are big enough for the millions watching them.
To this point, the members are yet to develop memorable characters in the show. In the opening, Kim Boom Soo seemed to have been geared towards becoming the crazy one and Eunhyuk seemed to be ready to take the “confident but often falls short” role. Somehow, that is getting lost too.
How the cast’s relationship affects characterization
Infinity Challenge and Running Man members are very vocal on how crucial characterization is to help the show. In fact, Ha Dong Hoon openly discussed how the veteran variety stars on the show helped the newcomers to create characters. Haha famously helped Kang Gary create his Monday Boyfriend character which is now a fan favorite character.
Yoo Jae Suk is also famous for giving cast members nicknames and highlighting or noticing cast members' habits or aspects of their personality that eventually contributes to the creation of their character.
However, the development of each character has a lot to do with the support of other cast members. Park Myung Soo is known as the grumpy bully old man in Infinity Challenge and this is because the other cast members allow him to bully them. Kimg Jong Kook is the commander because he first got Haha and Kang Gary as his followers and then later on Lee Kwang Soo.
It’s easier for Infinity Challenge, Running Man and 1N2D because many of the cast members are veterans or real life good friends. In BFF, other cast members don’t have the maturity yet to build their own characters or support the characters of other members.
Eun Ji Won joined the cast as a temporary member. No formal announcement has been made that he will be a permanent member but his schedule shows filming for the show for the rest of the month. Eun Ji Won is a variety show veteran and has great relationships with Kang Ho Dong. This may be an attempt to give Kang Ho Dong some support in creating characters for the cast and creating some comedy for the show.
Kang Ho Dong Factor
The lead MC’s role is crucial. That goes without saying.
Kang Ho Dong has always been vibrant, loud and over the top. It is what allows him to create funny situations around him. He famously repeatedly cheated his way to the numerous games they played in 1N2D Season 1. He exaggerates everything and that has become his brand of “funny”. It is that brand of funny that gave 1N2D Season 1 40% in ratings. Unprecedented as of yet.
He had to retire temporarily when he was accused of tax evasion. The retirement seems to have pulled him out of his rhythm because he is yet to show his magic on his shows including BFF. It may be argued that it is could because of the lack of support. After all, he was surrounded by veteran celebrities in 1N2D Season 1. That’s a factor but Kang Ho Dong’s MC skills can bring out the best in a show’s cast.
He needs to get his rhythm back.
There are other small factors like the very loose editing, PDs propensity to drag episodes and mediocre scripting. However, the four factors above are the biggest pieces the puzzle need.
The potential is there. The last several episodes showed some improvement on its ratings and international fan support seems strongly present with numerous English subbing. There are fan cafes and forum threads where hundreds participate in the discussion. It’s an indication that people are supporting the show. Now, it’s the time for the PDs and the cast to deliver.