(An interview with Shinhwa and the ShinBang PD)
Though it has only been half a year since they started, people are calling it the right way to do a real(ity) variety programme. The programme in question, is jTBC’s ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’ – aired every Saturday night and helmed by the 14-year idol group Shinhwa. Why is it the right example of a real(ity) variety programme? Because the members naturally know one another inside out, and the quality of the programme becomes different with how much the production team understands the cast. Has there been any successful programme where the production team and the cast don’t work closely together? It goes without saying that 14 years is not a short period of time. In showbiz, where it’s even more dangerous than the jungle, the team has been together without swapping out anyone, and just by exchanging glances and expressions the members know everything, isn’t this exactly the kind of relationship they have?
Even to viewers like me who are not fans but have come to watch it regularly, we know that 14 years together has some weight to it. Because from some point in time, they no longer feel like idols in the spotlight, but are instead like the friendly guys from next door or sons of friends. If I were to meet them by chance on the streets, I may unknowingly hold their hands in delight and ask how they’ve been, whether everything’s fine at home, if they have any plans for marriage yet. Before we knew it, they have already demolished the wall of their star status, between them and the masses. 14 years is enough for a man and a woman to meet, wed and have children tall enough and old enough to be in junior high. While they have suffered their fair share of big and small incidents, they never let go of one another’s hands and stayed united to the end, and are now writing a new chapter in the history of real(ity) variety.
It’s unlike other shows that seek to create specific stereotypical characters, having one person assume a charismatic role while another take up the role of the black hole. Though their talents, blind spots, strengths and weaknesses are all different, they help one another to maximize the good and make up for the not-so-good, and during contests they display a shocking level of competitive spirit but maintain a cool composure when they have to give way. And as a result Shinhwa shines even brighter together than when they’re apart. Curious about the secrets of the longest-running idol group and where the group intends to head towards, I made my way to Shinhwa. Let’s now meet the Shinhwa members and producer Yoon Hyun Joon.
Knowing each other too well, there are times when it becomes difficult to get things moving
Q: Not too long ago, there was a particular broadcaster that experienced a strike due to internal and external circumstances, and the importance of the production teams was keenly felt. We know that different programmes produced by different teams all have different styles, but in the case of ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’, the production team and the cast seem to get along particularly well.
PD Yoon: We’ve worked together on music programmes before, as well as on KBS2′s ‘Sang Sang Plus’, so the members and I have know one another for some time. In Eric’s case, he had mainly been working on dramas, so now we’ve become closer. But while we just know one another, the writers are very familiar with them and that helps a lot. But knowing one another too well can have its pitfalls as well. Because when you’re too familiar with their tendencies and relationships, there’s the problem of not being able to tell them to do things they don’t like, because you know they don’t like it. If you don’t know them well, you could just tell them to do it. On top of that, when creating their own characters, if they were people who didn’t know one another, interesting things can emerge from the process of them getting to know one another. But for Shinhwa, their relationship is already formed and solidified. So a 14-year relationship may not necessarily be all good.
Q: Ah, so we won’t get to see anything similar to MBC Infinity Challenge’s ‘Let’s Become Closer’. Even so, Shinhwa in ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’ seems more interesting than Shinhwa on other variety programmes.
Junjin: Although we participated in ‘Infinity Challenge’ and many other variety shows, there were many other seniors on the show way better than us so it’s hard to compare. If there’s any plus point that we have, I think it’s the fact that we’ve been together for so long that you can call us ‘brothers’. So there’s nothing fake. Honestly speaking, sometimes we do put on an act on other shows. More than anything else, doing a show together after such a long time is very meaningful in itself.
Eric: That’s right. Although there are many reality programmes around, even with a similar format, it doesn’t get more real than us, after all haven’t we spent the last 14 years together?
Junjin: I guess we can be more fun than other shows. But reality is certainly life itself.
Andy: We have to lead most of the show by ourselves, without an MC. That’s new, and at the same time, also a huge burden on our shoulders. Since the production team knows us very well, there are certainly some parts where we can do exceptionally well with leading the show.
Junjin: With us together, rather than to say that we’re doing a show, it’s more like we’re playing and having fun. So I think that’s why we speak and act even more naturally.
Dongwan: To everyone who likes ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’, please tell us that there are small interesting moments. Actually there was a day when we completely forgot that there were cameras around, so we said and did everything that we weren’t supposed to. (laughs) Fortunately the production team did a good job with the editing.
Q: Actually you’re behaving like this now. I seem to feel a sense of responsibility coming from Dongwan, who tries to keep the situation under control from time to time.
Eric: Dongwan keeping things under control? That can’t be right. On the contrary, he’s responsible for all the mistakes. (laughs)
Q: The first programme that I ever tuned in punctually and regularly to was ‘Love Letter’ on SBS. I thought the ‘Minor League’ segment in the small room was really interesting. You were already very good at variety back then.
Junjin: At that time, we couldn’t be as bold and brazen with other people. I think we did a good job because we were doing it together. For example, there was a time when Eric-hyung worked really hard and wasn’t afraid to embarrass himself, then I was spurred on and worked even harder, and just one of these little things could really bring the mood alive. Because everyone is working hard, strangely our competitive spirit emerges and we become more driven.
PD Yoon: In fact, compared to times when there are guests on the set, the Shinhwa members are most fun when they’re by themselves.
Q: In the ‘Petty Thieves’ episode, there was a game where they have to tread on water while being in a large inflatable ball. Another show recently featured this too, did you see it? The cast members on that show had a really tough time, but the Shinhwa members did surprisingly well. That’s something different too.
Andy: Ah, I caught that episode of the programme. Right from the start I thought that I should keep my body low and crawl forward to move. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been to the army?
The members themselves don’t like to do exactly the same things. Although I can’t say if it’s their competitive spirit, in any case they do their best. And they work hard at it. “No matter if I win or lose, no matter who succeeds at anything, I have to do it better than him, and do it differently”, perhaps that’s what they’re thinking. It’s difficult to call it a competitive streak, but when we had Shinee and Super Junior as guests, I could feel a certain sense of responsibility, “We have to take extra care to make them stand out”.
Q: Shall we talk about your aspirations? “I want to attain at least this level of success”, something along these lines.
PD Yoon: Right now, we do parodies and we also try many other different things. Our homework now is to find what these guys excel at. More than anything else, I hope this programme becomes a lifetime job for Shinhwa. Because the six members are all active in different fields, it’s actually difficult for them to meet. Within a year they would gather once or twice for album activities and then they’re scattered off for their own projects. But with ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’, even if they meet for a short while each time, they will get to meet at least once a week.
Minwoo: We don’t want to do this for just 1-2 years, we hope this can become a long-running programme with the name of Shinhwa. Although I don’t know how long it can last for, but the longer the better, right? Just like what (PD Yoon) mentioned, thankfully ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’ allows us to meet up on a weekly basis. In the past, we were all busy with our solo projects so we couldn’t really meet up often. It’s really great to have time together to laugh and chat.
Dongwan: If we’re not popular anymore then there’s no way to keep this going, but I believe that if we work hard the viewers will enjoy watching the show, then the programme can carry on for a long time.
Q: What does it take to keep it going on for a long time?
PD Yoon: I mentioned it just now, they do best when they’re just by themselves. And compared to being in the stuffy studio, they’re better outdoors. The most interesting? When they’re playing together in a room at night during trips, and when they’re moving around in the car. In fact from October onwards, the plans for the special projects are quite grand. Some small changes can be felt. As for the format becoming fixed, let me give an example. New nicknames emerge from every episode, and because the format keeps changing, we can’t keep the nicknames, isn’t it?
Q: Speaking of nicknames. Actually it’s really difficult to see this on other shows. Like Eric giving Minwoo the nickname of ‘stupid’. And even ‘special stupid’. Who would dare to call Minwoo that?
Eric: Because there were cameras so I could go to that extent. Perhaps without the cameras, Minwoo would have killed me.
Minwoo: Since we are fellow members I can deal with it. (laughs) If it happened on another show, I would have brought it up later and ask seriously, “Why exactly did you do that to me?” But friends cursing at one another doesn’t really sound like cursing anyway.
Andy: That day I nearly died from holding in my laughter. Minwoo himself acknowledging it was really funny. Well, maybe at first he might have been angry, but from some point onwards he just gave up and gave in. I too think that this can’t happen on other shows. It’s possible only because we are fellow members.
Dongwan: No matter how close we are, it’s a bad thing to call your friend a fool. On behalf of Eric, I apologize to all the viewers. (Everyone goes speechless)
Eric: He’s always like this. Honestly speaking, ‘fool’ amongst us is not even an insult. What gets to me are jokes that last for a longer time, say 30 minutes. Though only a few minutes are aired. Actually Andy’s mood tends to follow the general atmosphere, and that day he had a lot to say and he was really feeling up to it. So I just went along and carried on with keeping the mood up. But the member who’s mostly on the receiving end of jokes and pranks is Dongwan.
Dongwan: Looking back, although I get teased a lot, I accept it as love. (laughs)
Junjin: But the really stupid one is Eric-hyung.
Q: If we talk about playing pranks, wasn’t Eric the victim of a hidden camera prank? Were you pranked? Or did you play the prank instead?
Eric: I was really thoroughly pranked. In the beginning when we were doing the documentary episode, the production team tried to pull a hidden camera prank but it was really obvious. Thinking about it now, maybe they already were thinking about doing it to me since then, I don’t know. When the salon which I have went to for the last 10 years offered a ridiculous VIP massage service, I was thinking to myself, “Are they trying to pull a prank on me?”. I was really thinking hard about it but I decided that I should just sleep instead. And so I underestimated the standard of a Shinhwa Broadcast hidden camera prank. And the staff and the members have been preparing for it since 2 weeks before, how could I have ever imagined that. Hmm. Though I kept losing at the games I wasn’t feeling upset. I just purely felt that my luck was really bad that day.
Hyesung: We weren’t worried at all about whether Eric would get angry. (laughs) Instead we were only worried that we would get found out in the process and ruin the whole prank. We’ve been together for so long so we know where his limit is. As long as we don’t cross that line, it’s ok.
Eric: I just found it amazing. When I watch ‘Infinity Challenge’ or ’1 Night 2 Days’, there would be these amazing dramatic moments. So I thought we were doing that too. I thought, “It can’t be me again?” and suggested worse punishments, but in the end it was me who kept losing out. That time was a turning point for me, and I can’t trust anyone anymore. (laughs)
Q: Now that we’re on this subject. Sometimes I’m confused about whether Eric is being naive and innocent, or if he has some high-level strategy in mind.
Eric: Ah, I know what you’re saying. I just try hard to seem like I have a devil-may-care attitude. I think the devil-may-care comments that Lee Sang-min boldly makes on Mnet are interesting. Anyone can see that he’s being ignored but he just laughs it off, that’s what I’m trying to do. Isn’t it interesting?
Dongwan: Eric is really sly. He’s a master of petty tricks. It’s because of one of those little tricks that he has managed to lead Shinhwa over the past 14 years.
Andy: It’s not forced out, and I think there are parts that we want to keep hidden but as time passes just like that our individual personalities emerge. That’s how it is for the many sides of Eric-hyung.
PD Yoon: From the perspective of people who produce the show, it’s frustrating because that situation does not extend to the following week. Last week they could be playing around in the car but today it’s a fashion show, so they can’t be using the ‘stupid’ nickname in front of the models. The format for every episode is different, so there are limitations. So if there’s anything that we catch on to now, we’ll try it for one or two months, that’s the plan. We were trying to avoid references to shows like ‘Love Letter’, but we had a pairing-up segment for the Super Junior episode and it was surprisingly fun. Do look forward to it. (the interview was done before the Super Junior episode was aired)
“I didn’t think he could pull it off but he managed to do it to this extent”
Q: Aren’t there any unforeseen difficulties?
PD Yoon: There aren’t any members who made me think, “I thought he could do this but why is he like this?” Instead there are members who make me think, “I thought there’s no way he would pull this off, but he managed to do it to this extent”. First of all, Eric was like this, and Hyesung too. Eric does have potential for variety. I don’t know if he calculated and planned everything, but he throws out a strange decoy then he fails, and his sheepish reaction after that is really funny. Dongwan has also shown a surprising side. Usually when people say something and have no way to turn things round, they’d just stop at that. But Dongwan doesn’t give up and carries on. Looks like these guys all have many sides to them.
Eric: The atmosphere during the filming is really important. Although some things that we say about certain subjects aren’t interesting, but if we just laugh loudly among ourselves, people who see us would think, “Oh, what’s that about?” and laugh along too. If I went on another show alone and said the same thing? Probably the atmosphere would go cold and I’d get edited out. But I think Hyesungie has been very surprising these days. He tries the hardest.
Hyesung: The members made me this way. If I was filming by myself without the members, I’d actually be very lost and not know what to do. Though I don’t have such variety show appearances scheduled in the pipeline, I’m really worried about whether I can adapt. For now I’m just leaving such worries at the back of my mind, and just have fun filming with the members. If I mess up or don’t do well, the members will be behind me to back me up, so I feel at ease no matter what I do.
Eric: Because ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’ has unexpected funny moments, even if it’s not my intention to do so sometimes the other sides to me emerge anyway. But of course according to me, “I’m confident.”
Q: The first episode was really a breakthrough, wasn’t it. Didn’t you feel upset while you were filming?
Minwoo: I started the show right after I was discharged from military service, and I had to become Wonder Woman. Now I can talk about it but when I was filming I kept thinking, “Ah, I shouldn’t be doing this.” But after watching the show I felt that my efforts paid off. And you can’t ignore the power of editing. When people talk about Shinhwa, a cool and stylish image comes to mind. But after doing the show, I realised how interesting it is to have fun with the public. Now I want to give everyone a comfortable feeling, that they can approach us easily without any sense of distance.
Hyesung: From the first episode we had to wear funny costumes, fall into the water, fly off the chair and walk around the streets. Things that I’ve never done on variety shows before, I did it all on the first day. It was really a ‘men-boong’ (mental breakdown). And we had no idea how it was going to turn out on the show. But after the programme aired, many people say they enjoyed watching it and it really set my mind at ease. Actually I think it’s a good thing that we ruined our images from the first episode. Because we experienced everything in the first episode, we actually adapted very quickly.
Junjin: If it was another show, there’s no way we could have done that. Because the members are together and it’s our show, so naturally we could pull it off.
Andy: Perhaps it’s because I’ve been to the army, and my personality has changed a lot. My attitude towards variety before and after military service is indeed very different.
Actually for us, even until now we’ve always had troubles
Q: Lately the issue of bullying within idol groups has become rather serious, as a pioneer idol group and seniors, do you feel any sense of responsibility?
Eric: Jinnie in particular takes good care of the juniors. He’s incredibly understanding and big-hearted. If we’re rice bowls, then maybe Jinnie is a bibimbap bowl? (laughs)
Junjin: Is… is that so? In any case we do feel a sense of responsibility. To become role models.
Dongwan: Actually for us too, even until now we’ve always had troubles. But because we recognize and acknowledge our problems, and work hard to resolve them, that’s how we can carry on. People with different blood types and personalities doing the best they can to achieve harmony, from their individual positions. (for reference, Minwoo/Hyesung are blood type A, Andy/Dongwan are blood type O, Eric/Junjin are blood type B)
Eric: Shortly after an argument, we start laughing, then we argue, then we resolve the argument. I think it’s because of this that we can keep going on.
Hyesung: Keeping one another in check? That has never been the case. We’re all worried if we’ll inconvenience the members with our solo activities. I’d also be worried about whether I’ll cause any inconvenience because of my inadequacies.
Dongwan: Instead of becoming a lung, you should be the heart. (everyone immediately boos) (‘lung’ and ‘inconvenience’ are homonyms in Korean)
Q: Gagman Jang Dong-hyuk is a surprise find too, isn’t he? Initially you seemed a little unfamiliar with one another during the skits but now your exchanges are working well.
PD Yoon: At the moment there still isn’t any member like Yoo Jae-suk on ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’ who can host and participate at the same time. So we invited him for the ‘Unique Olympics’ episode for the commentator role, and his appearances gradually increased. The fans have also expressed that they enjoy his appearances.
Minwoo: He’s great at adlibbing to begin with. Now it feels like he’s a member. If the atmosphere goes cold, he can really fill in the moment, so we’re really thankful for his presence.
Q: Honestly speaking while I was watching your comeback performance, I felt that it’s a pity. If only the Hallyu boom happened a little later. But isn’t it better to do variety shows when you’re older?
Dongwan: Personally I felt that it’s a pity that I couldn’t have lost more weight. (laughs) The biggest shame was that Hyesungie couldn’t be on stage with us and that Shinhwa couldn’t present a more complete performance. I look forward to next year when we can stand on stage together.
Junjin: At first when we talked about doing this show, we were worried about whether we can do it well. But after having meetings continuously with the producers, we started to believe in it. And now I can feel the possibilities along with the change in the members. Our ambition is gradually building up. If we can be of one heart with the producers, and control our strengths and flaws, I’m confident that we can present an even better show from now onwards.
PD Yoon: Compared to before, it’s difficult for shows to last longer than half a year. First of all, we will work hard to last as long as we can. We’re not thinking of rushing things. Because these guys still have endless things to show. It’s a pity that there are still so many people who don’t know about it. Many more people should be watching the live broadcast, is the timeslot not good? It’s a show that many young people watch but perhaps many people are out on a Saturday night. Plus the English Premier League games are aired at the same time. There are many problems like this. Our programme is also part of Hallyu. It’s being aired in Taiwan, and people in Japan, China and Thailand are talking about it too. It could be aired in more countries to come.
I don’t remember if it was last year or the year before, but I saw Eric and Minwoo at a little eatery in my neighborhood. I was about to go over to say hello, but I stopped in my tracks. Of course I did. Because we didn’t know each other. It’s like I don’t know them but I’m familiar with them. They are young men who wouldn’t act high and mighty, and aren’t conscious of their surroundings. Ah, these people have become adults, and they’re truly stars, I thought. And time passed, and I met them once again during the filming set of ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’. They feel even more approachable than back then. As if they’re under natural lighting instead of flashy spotlights, as if they have blended into ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’ they seem even more approachable than usual. And including PD Yoon, who doesn’t pale in comparison to the Shinhwa members, with the power of these 7 men and the writers who know Shinhwa inside out, I hope ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’ can carry on for a long, long time, and truly become a real legend. Just like a fairy tale ending.
Source: Absolut Shinhwa
, original from Naver NewsLast I heard they were still saying 30 episodes, but as that number approached with no sign of slowing I started to get hopeful, so this interview was really awesome! Both Shinhwa and the JTBC staff are doing a great job on this show, and I really hope they continue for a good long time. Saturday without ShinBang would be pretty sad at this point. XD