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Infinity Challenge vs 1N2D vs Running Man (Part 2)

Updated on September 29, 2019

The Importance of Family and Friendship

Based on the characters they play, relationships are developed. Sometimes, these relationships are given names. RM has Easy Brothers, Commander and the 2 Kids, Monday Couple among others. 1N2D has Seop Seop Brothers and Prince Brothers.

These relationships play a huge part in the show. With the exception of the Monday Couple, these relationships are friendship-based. They project close friendship and are expected to stay together when there are competitions or situations that would require grouping. These relationships play a certain dynamic where each complements the other. With commander and the 2 kids, Haha and Kang Gary are supposed to be the rowdy and childish followers of Kim Jong Kook. The 2 kids mess things up and the commander cleans up after them. Yet, the commander continued to choose them to be with him because he considered them his brothers.

These relationships fulfil the needs of the audience for a sense of belongingness, friendship and companionship. To a certain extent, the audience live their desire for such kinds of relationship through the cast members.


The characters develop a fan base based on the relationships of their characters. In 1N2D, Kim C was the quietest one. He also admitted to not having a strong comedic timing but he emerged to become one of the most popular because he demonstrated a naturally caring personality towards other members. He became the show’s “mother”. He looks after the ones that are not feeling well and makes it a point to make sure that members are feeling comfortable, eating or are not left behind.

In IC, even though Park Myung Soo is considered the grumpy one, he is able to become the “father”, albeit a strict one, of the show.

Often, audience don’t mind seeing their favorite relationships lose in the game as long as they are together.

The Female Factor

1N2D and IC have an all-male cast. RM has one female member, Song Ji Hyo.

Having a female or not having a female in the cast is not a formula to success or failure of the show. Again, it boils down to characters and relationships not the gender. However, having a female and not having a female does affect the dynamics of the show. It is no different from having an all-male group of friends and having males and females in a group. Men behave differently when there is a woman around. It’s just a given and it is true on all culture.

1N2D and IC cast members are more “spontaneous”. They are a bit more carefree and crazy. Korea has a very conservative society. They put a lot of weight on social decorum especially towards women. A single action that maybe remotely misconstrued as a disrespectful act towards women could mean the end of someone’s career.

Thus, men are more careful when there is a woman around. They hold back on their punchlines and become a bit more reserved. In 1ND2D, Eun Ji Won is known for spitting water to the other members when he is pissed. He cannot do that with a female member. Park Myung Soo is known for bullying members, he cannot do that to a female. Kang Ho Dong is known for physically cheating his way through games which could mean pushing other members, throwing them away or pinning them down. He cannot do that with a female.

In RM, Song Ji Hyo and female guests manage to use their gender to their advantage in competition. Male members, often let it go. They can’t be rough with a girl as they do with men. Often, this makes them lose, a situation they have grown accustomed to. There are fans who find it funny and there are those who don’t like it.

In the past several months, Song Ji Hyo started developing a female commander character on the show. She bullies most of the male members. It is an old character, actually. She had a bad Ji Hyo character early on but that stopped when she got some negative feedback.

She was highly criticized in the beginning for being too cold and too competitive. She broke the mould of Korean females on television who were expected to be nurturing and sweet. She admitted to being naturally shy which was misconstrued as being a snob. However, her character as the Monday Girlfriend balanced it out. Recently, she has also demonstrated a closer relationship with the other members.

This is allowing her more freedom in experimenting with her character. Hence, the return of the female bully.

Yet, there are still reservations about it. There will always be a difference between the kind of bullying that Park Myung Soo does to the kind of bullying Song Ji Hyo does. Park Myung Soo “earned” his status while Song Ji Hyo is allowed to do it simply because she is a woman. Men can’t fight back, no matter what she does.

This is what makes IC and 1N2D cast members more free in their improvisation. It is that freedom to experiment that helped the cast members improvise situations and games. With less social decorum to think about, they just worry about comedy and craziness.

Evolution and Staying Together

IC has been lucky in being able to keep the members they had in their first year to date. They have been on air for eight years. Many fans look at them as a part of their family rather than a TV personalities they watch. As such, viewers stay with them in their journey. Even in their most boring episodes, viewers continue to stay with them. It’s no different from watching a family member on his show. The quality of the games become a secondary consideration. The more important one is seeing “how an old friend is doing.”

1N2D started crumbling when their members started leaving one by one. MC Mong had to leave because of his military scandal. Kang Ho Dong left when he was accused of evading taxes. Kim C left to study abroad. Finally, Lee Seung Gi and Eun Ji Won left when they outgrew their characters.

Keeping the cast solid is important. As mentioned in part 1, viewers follow characters and relationships, not the competition. When family is broken apart, loyalty goes away.

RM, so far, has been able to keep their members intact. However, there is also the factor of evolution. IC has been able to evolve from their dirty, dangerous, difficult challenges to challenges that are dirty in a funny way, dangerous in a silly way and difficult in a crazy way. 1N2D evolved from demonstrating how to go on vacation in a budget to demonstrating how friendship and family can push through all the silly things they go through when going on a vacation through teamwork.

RM is evolving too. Their competition has heightened and has become tougher. However, they might be in a crossroad. In the recent episodes, they have been repeating many of the games they have done in the past. The characters have all reached their potential and it is becoming evident that it is time for them to evolve their characters. Haha is married and cannot be the playboy. Kim Jong Kook has long ago established that he is the strongest and everyone knows Yoo Jae Suk is the leader.

They are running on their fourth year, the time by which many variety shows are tested. New shows have cropped up and most of them are inspired by these three shows. Real Men is highly challenged based and Dad, Where are We Going? emphasize trips and what a father and his child will do given a day of bonding.

It is critical for RM to evolve the right way, give the viewers the same feel of comedy and relationships but steer them towards new experiences.

Final Words

Comedy, camaraderie and compelling characters are what makes or break a variety show. It is what the audience follow. It allows the audience to live vicariously through the characters and situations that the members are put. It allows the audience to have the kind of fun they, otherwise, can’t have.

This is part 2 a comparison between 1N2D, Infinity Challenge and Running Man. Click here for Part 1.

You may also click here to read about the top 10 greatest Running Man episodes or click here to read about an analysis on the ratings decline of Running Man.


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