SBS’ Barefoot Friends -the New Kid on the Block
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Fanarts by Lina Perez
All eyes and ears were on SBS’s newest variety show -Barefoot Friends. Its pilot episode was launched last Sunday, April 21, 2013. A lineup of celebrities in their own rights -national MCs like Kang Ho Dong (KHD)and associates Yun Jong Shin(YJS) and Yun Se Yun(YSY),actor Yoon Shi Yoon (SH),multi awarded solo performer Kim Hyun Joong, After School member UEE, SUJU member EunHyuk (EH) and balladeer Kim Bum Soo(KBS)composed its cast. Directed by the same people who produced the popular Family Outing. In the universe of variety shows, could Barefoot Friends offer something different from what South Korea television channels have given so far their television viewers ?
So much expectations and anticipations for the new kid on the block. Would it have birthing pains? It will be compared to the other existing shows that enjoy steady and loyal patronages as well as to those who closed shop after several episodes.
Let’s look back on what the television and online viewers saw last Saturday.
BF’s opening salvo was the cast members introducing themselves in what was touted as an “unusual”way. They sent videos to each other with further instructions to email members they were most curious about. There was no inkling that it would be used as a gauge of a member’s popularity. It was (supposedly)revealed only when they met at the airport 5 days later. KHJ, time conscious as ever came in first in a dramatic entrance amidst BOF sound track Almost Paradise (as if you didn’t know or have forgotten). Why couldn’t they play Break Down instead which is his solo national anthem. The rest came in one by one and given each their airline ticket and what seemed like a manual aka tourist guide booklet.
It made me roll my eyes up that the cast did not know where they were going nor what the show was all about that they ended up dressing up unsuited to the country( in the tropical region of South East Asia) they were visiting. Oh c’mon. Even us looking in knew it was Vietnam. No wonder KHJ’s facial expressions seem to be drifting in and out of the scripted situation though he managed appropriate responses if not awkward sometimes. Ok I get it for the sake of the show I pretend they were innocent of the production plans. But they had fun teasing each other.
Such perfect pose they did for the camera in a half circle where they finally learned KHJ got the most email,in effect the popularity votes. Reason : he is handsome. Pretty obvious,isn’t it. Wish they said something else or did the script aim to capitalize on the physical traits of the cast since it was easily seen by the naked eye? We’ll see in the next episodes as they prove their mettle to their tasks and their skills are not skin deep only. Anyway, was it only me or did you also notice early on KHJ’s eyes were dreamily looking at UEE in his computer. I’ll be watching your moves, Hyun Joong!
At the airport after the teasing perhaps meant as ice breaker they also get to know who belongs to which group and their assignments. YJS had the first selection -YSH, EH, and YSY who registered some kind of objection.The rest of the members formed the KHD gang.
Away they flew the skies via KE 5681 arriving amidst the throng of waiting crowd of fans and supporters in Vietnam. YJS and company took another plane to their destination at Hue, where the immovable cultural heritage of Vietnam is located- the Palace and Royal Tomb built by the Nguyen Dynasty. KHD’s group took a 5 hour land trip in a big bus to Mui Ne,which has the geographically famous red sand dune, canyon and lake.
Both groups first took care of their stomachs through simple meals before settling in for the night. Each group had different accommodations. The ones at Hue were billeted for the night in a dorm type-hostel that can be presumed to be air conditioned due to lack of mosquito nets. On the other hand, Hyun Joong and company were in a traditional house, the matted floor as bed and with protection through king sized mosquito nets. But settling in for the night wasn’t meant for them to go to sleeplandia immediately but to learn Vietnamese words for tomorrow’s activities. Each one had their strategies to master the assignment.
Day 2 . The morning came swiftly and early for both groups whose members showed much difficulties opening their eyes. They were later instructed to wear cute eye masks (piggy for KHD team and parrot fr JSH’s) serving as their blindfold. Why the masks ? “Are they selling us, after having to learn words for how much, cheap and expensive, ” Hyun Joong almost complaining asked with a smile while on the way to the site for the day. They eventually learned after walking hand in hand,sinking into the sand and removing their masks that they were in the sand dunes of Mui Ne, tourism capital in Southeastern Vietnam. KHD loudly protested their desert location while being pestered by a mini drone(?) circling them. The group received a backpack each with instructions: Live like an ordinary Vietnamese for 24 hours. KHD was providing most of the noise while HJ was quietly observant and looked serious most of the time.
YJS’s group in the meantime were also led blindfolded to another location with one of them commenting “feels like being kidnapped”. They found themselves going up the steps of the aging palace considered the cultural heritage of Vietnam .They,too received their backpacks with the same instructions.
Living like ordinary Vietnamese meant earning their money to pay for their food and lodging. Hyun Joong and company were in a fishing community so had to catch fish , crabs and other seafood using the traditional round basket boats and to sell them. But the group wore bright orange colored life preservation vests and high tech communication gears dangling in their ears while the local Vietnamese men row their boat .
At this point I was so tempted to call this show “First World Celebs Surviving in the Third World”since they are also going next to Indonesia and Sri Lanka . But I’m holding my horses as I haven’t seen yet the full spread of the attempts of the show.
Over at Hue, the attempt to try first hand the local people’s livelihood meant for the men to peddle their service through the cyclos or pedicabs in going around the palace to earn their dongs. YSY was successful inspite of his limited English, assisted by Eunhyuk while the two hyungs couldn’t even get even a single passenger. Be that as it may,YSY and EH shared their earnings that were all spent for food. What, nothing for lodging and shopping money?
If Hyun Joong is the handsome one,YSY is the enthusiastic, newcomer do-er to the variety show. Now we are slowly getting their labels and reputation all lined up. I am eagerly waiting for the others.
First episode rating. Despite the efforts of everyone involved-it wasn’t a joke moving the cast and production staff to another country- BF received a mere 5.6% share in TV viewing and ranked lowest in their kind of program.
What does BF have so far ? A good mix of cast though I would like to see their individual as well as team talent and skills put to task in this show. In other words, justify their existence in that show beyond the celebrity status. BF has reliable mcs’ to steer the show so that the flow is smooth while it is still fun. I think the show has an interesting concept separating it from the others with its leaning towards the cultural experiences whether through overseas location shootings or not too far from their own shores.
As sure as the sun rising each morning BF wants to secure its own niche in the entertainment firmament. It is not straying away from that goal as it offers to show SK’s celebrities in learning situations in various cultural context. We viewers get to learn,too as we get exposed to the cultural uniqueness yet similarities of people’s various ways of living. BF can be one grand narrative how the other half or even more than half of the world lives.
The cast true to their sponsor clothing and other paraphernalia’s label will discover their capabilities and even push it to their limits. Have fun and know that learning continues outside the classroom if the eyes ,the heart and the mind remain open .
As for Hyun Joong after he’s done with his environmental sensing and auditing I am expecting he would be showing he is funnier than fun, crazier than crazy and belt out those out of this world one liners. He will be unstoppable . I have high hopes the show will bring out everybody’s best and as Eunhyuk said give them happy memories.
Are we ready for the second part of their Vietnam adventure?