5 Reasons to Watch “Running Man”: The Rundown
crystalcove April 17, 2015
Air Date: Every Sunday on SBS at 6:10 p.m. with run time of ~75minutes. Part of SBS’ Sunday variety umbrella program, “Good Sunday.”
Premiere Date: July 11, 2010
Current episode: Episode 242 broadcast on April 12, 2015
In the beginning, the show was dubbed a “urban action variety” reality TV show in which a landmark in Korea was rented out for the night and the cast locked in. The cast had to complete missions and games to in order to go home in the morning. The show has evolved since then, from doling out punishments at the end if they didn’t win, to rewarding them with various gold prizes at the end of the episode.
In an episode, the permanent cast members and guest(s) are usually given three to four missions/games to complete in order to win the final prize of gold. Sometimes the games are part of a larger theme or story and you can only move on to the next if you complete the current one. Other times, each game is separate from one another and the winner(s) of the episode is decided through a tally of wins.
The missions vary, ranging from quiz games and obstacle courses, to soccer games with each player given a special “super power.” Although each game can differ in length, style, and rules, what remains consistent is how extra-ordinary they are, enhanced by the individual characteristics and antics of the cast and guests.
Usually the final game in an episode is the name-tag game. During the game, you to keep your name-tag, which is usually on the back of your jacket, from being ripped off and taking you out of the running to win the final prize. This tag game is played out in various themes, ranging from water-gun games and make-believe espionage, to hide-and-seek. Sometimes there are scavenger hunts during which you have to solve puzzles and find the items, while also trying not to have your name tag ripped of by an opposing team member. Sometimes the games are played 1 vs. rest or in even-numbered teams or each person for themselves.
Half the enjoyment of watching “Running Man” is from the kinds of games played and the other half, I believe, is from watching the “Running Man” members and guests interact through schemes, jokes, alliances, betrayals, hiding, and running. After being on air for almost five years, the cast members of “Running Man” have developed a certain rapport with each other and repertoire/character. Below, I go through the regular cast members and their nicknames, which actually say a lot about their characters and interaction, and knowing them helps in getting you quickly adapted to the show, in case you are watching the show for the first time.
Current cast members (7)
Yoo Jae Suk
Nicknames: Yooruce Willis, Yoomes Bond, Yoo Hyuk
Somehow, during the course of the show’s running, each member began to assume a color that matches their nickname and personality. Each member also began wearing uniforms specific to their color, making it easier to individualize them when they were all wearing the same style jacket.
Yoo Jae Suk’s color is green because he is generally known in Korea as a grasshopper due to his similar look to the insect and for donning a grasshopper costume hat during his rookie days. He created the nicknames Yooruce Willis and Yoomes Bond for himself, expressing his desire to survive till the end of a game like Bruce Willis’s character in “Die Hard” and while playing a spy like James Bond in one episode, respectively. Yoo Hyuk is the name Yoo Jae Suk asked to be called when he dances on the show. He revealed that he wanted to be in a dance club when he was a student and thought Yoo Hyuk was appropriate name, rather than his own real name, for a person who was popular among students and a good dancer.
Ji Suk Jin
Nicknames: Impala, Big Nose Hyung, Race Start, Easy Brothers
Ji Suk Jin earned the nickname impala because he is the easiest “prey” to catch during games. He has the name Big Nose Hyung because he is the oldest member (therefore the hyung or “big brother” to all the males) and he has a big nose. Race Start is not exactly a nickname, but he is known to be the race starter since he is usually always caught first and then the “real” game is said to start with people who actually have a chance at surviving. Ji Suk Jin is also part of the Easy Brothers pairing for being an easy targets in games. His last name is Ji which sounds like the sy syllable in “easy.” Lee Kwang Soo is the other brother in the pair.
Kim Jong Kook
Nicknames: Spartakooks, Commander, Mr. Capable
Kim Jong Kook is known for his fierce and competitive nature on the show, and Spartakooks is an amalgamation of Sparta and his name. He is also given the names Commander and/or Mr. Capable because he excels at many of games played on “Running Man.”
Song Ji Hyo
Nicknames: Ace, Blank (Mong) Ji Hyo, Song Ji Yok
Song Ji Hyo is also a very capable player on the show, winning often and earning herself the nickname Ace. On the other hand, she does have her moments of blankness, thus the mong (멍) or “blank” in front of her name. She also has quite an impatient temper and isn’t afraid to yell at other members when they are being incompetent so Lee Kwang Soo gave her the nickname Song Ji Yok- the yok (욕) meaning foul language in Korean.
Nicknames: Peaceful Gary, Monday Boyfriend, Sudden Commander
Gary earned the nickname Peaceful Gary after he showed an ability for his face to remain at ease despite the difficult physical activities he is involved in throughout the show. He also has the nickname Monday Boyfriend for being the male counterpart of the “Monday Couple.” The Monday Couple is an ongoing joke and pairing on “Running Man,” describing Song Ji Hyo and Gary’s banter/flirtations and frequent partnership for the games played. “Running Man” is filmed on Monday and they are only a “couple” on those days, thus “Monday Couple.” He also has Sudden Commander to his list of nicknames because he sometimes excels at games when no one expected him to.
Haha takes on a childish character for the show, often yelling and throwing tantrums. He also donned round-rimmed glasses and a hat for a while that made him look like Pororo, a popular animated character for children in Korea. With his looks and his character, plus his short height, Haroro (Haha + Pororo) became the perfect nickname for him.
Lee Kwang Soo
Nicknames: Kwang Ja, Kwangvatar, Giraffe, Prince of Asia, Icon of Betrayal, Easy Brothers
Lee Kwang Soo might be one of the most loved cast members of “Running Man.” He has a long list of nicknames, many of which stem from his tall height, like Kwangvatar and Giraffe. He is often called the Icon of Betrayal because loyalty is not one of his strong points. He is not the best at games and often has to resort to betraying his teammates or partners in order to stay alive. Prince of Asia comes from his popularity in Asian countries, something that he developed and found out about through “Running Man” and its overseas filming in various Asian countries. He is also the Lee (ea/이) brother of the Easy Brothers.
Former Cast Members
K-pop singer Lizzy of After School and actor Song Joong Ki were also part of the “Running Man” cast in the past. Song Joong Ki was actually part of the cast from its premiere, but left after about an year to focus on acting. Lizzy was part of the cast for a shorter period of time in the first year of “Running Man.”
If you haven’t watch “Running Man” yet, here are 5 reasons why you should:
1. “Running Man” taps into your inner child
Many people have commented that the show is a bit childish, and I won’t disagree, for the most part. But it is also one of the reasons why the show is enjoyable; it connects to the child in you that once imagined having super powers and forming a super hero league or having a whole museum to yourself to run around with your friends.
2. It’s not very cerebral
Sometimes the games can be hard, but for the most part, it’s not very difficult. Let’s just say it’s no Jeopardy. Instead you get a fun hour or so of watching a group of people with a wide range of intelligence and physical skills try to meet a challenge set in front of them. In one episode, you can feel smarter or more stupid, more physically fit or more clumsy, than the people you see on the screen. It’s sometimes a vicarious experience and sometimes a cathartic one. Whatever it is, you end up clapping and laughing a lot.
3. You don’t have to watch every week to follow the story.
It’s a plus of watching a game centered variety show; you can start watching at any time. It’s not like another reality TV show, like “Law of the Jungle,” which has cliff hangers and an ongoing arc that you need to follow. With “Running Man,” you can just jump in any week to watch, and if you’re too busy the next week, that’s fine, too.
4. The guests
“Running Man” doesn’t always have guest each week, although most of the time it does. The guests range from K-pop idols to sports stars, young to old, and those with the perfect physique for running to those who aren’t fit to even do a fast walk. It’s fun to watch your favorite stars release their competitive spirit and show their wits, or lack thereof, and you get many moments of comedic fail that can be immortalized in gifs, like this:
5. The “Running Man” cast
I have always been great fan of Yoo Jae Suk so it is a pleasure for me to watch him every week do what he does best- entertain. I also became a fan of all the cast members throughout my long watching of “Running Man” over the years, and I cherish the fact that I can watch them every week on something, especially when many are not doing dramas or releasing music, or appearing on other variety shows. If you are a fan of any of the cast members of “Running Man,” I am sure you will feel the same about having the show like this to watch your favorite star do the craziest things.
It’s also great to see friendship and camaraderie develop between the cast members- real even in the midst of all the pretend.
Are you currently watching “Running Man“? If you are, tell me why you love the show, and if you don’t, I encourage you to start! You can begin with one of my recent favorites, episode 240, with guests Kim Woo Bin, Kang Ha Neul, and 2PM‘s Junho. There was so much fail from Kang Ha Neul, he shed his “smart” image from his “Misaeng” character, Jang Baek Ki, forever.
Author’s note: This article stems from an ongoing argument between melkimx and myself about “Running Man.” I said the show was simple to understand and encouraged her to watch it. melkimx insists she and many others need a “101″ on the show so that when they watch it for the first time, they aren’t confused about all the running and yelling. I think it’s mainly because she doesn’t get the point of the games – what do they get out of winning? I keep telling her it simply for the sake of playing the games. It’s entertainment! I hope, with this article, melkimx will now start watching the show.