When you like watching ongoing K-dramas, there will always be this lull time in-between episodes when you would always feel lost and don’t know what else to do with life (er, or at least your precious free time). Instead of scrolling endlessly on your streaming app, we list down Korean Variety Shows that you could watch while waiting for the next episode of your favorite K-dramas.
For those who haven’t tried watching any Korean content aside from drama series, don’t you fret stepping out of the drama zone. We named shows where you could meet very familiar faces.
Reply series alum and real-life friends Yoo Yeon-seok and Son Ho-jun transformed their donation project into a reality show together with their other celebrity friends Choi Ji-woo and Yang Se-jong. In Coffee Friends, the four celebrities ran a pop-up café in Jeju where customers make a donation instead of paying for the brunch they ate. One would be surprised how entertaining it is to watch Yoo Yeon-seok cooking French toasts, Son Ho-jun brewing coffees, Choi Ji-woo making aesthetic displays, and Yang Se-jong picking tangerines on their farm.
Another show set up in Jeju is Hyori’s Homestay. Couple Lee Hyo-ri and Lee Sang-soon open up their home to tourists that eventually become their friends at the end of their trips. Of course, running a b&b would be difficult for the celebrity couple so they hired part-timers. In season 1, the guests were served by introvert part-timer Lee Ji-eun / IU who likes relishing the silence and staring blankly into space when left alone. But she’s good at her job and well, yoga. In season 2, meanwhile, Im Yoona and Park Bo-gum came to the rescue. They’ve made winter in Jeju shinier with their lovely laughs.
Unexpected Business has a similar concept to Coffee Friends and Hyori’s Homestay. Real-life celebrity friends Cha Tae-hyun and Jo In-sung run a supermarket store in a small town in Gangwon-do province and they invite their fellow celebrity friends as guests. What sets them apart is how charming Woncheon-ri and its people are. One would suddenly wish they could live in a small town with these warm people.
Side note: I still miss Black Puppy and his pleading eyes.
Youn’s Stay is a spin-off from the variety show Youn’s Kitchen. I picked this one over its predecessor because it was shot during the pandemic and it’s amazing that even though they couldn’t travel abroad, they still made sure to make the show as healing and entertaining as the previous seasons. “CEO” Youn Yuh-jung, “Vice President” Lee Seo-jin, “chef” Jung Yu-mi, “manager” Park Seo-joon, and their maknae “all-around intern” Choi Woo-shik created a safe and beautiful space for foreigners who live in Korea but weren’t able to experience it fully because of the health situation. The hanoks they stayed at were beautiful and the traditional Korean full course menu they served makes you want to wish you’re one of their guests too.
Our Summer Vacation
If in the other shows celebrities are busy running around to operate their temporary business, here in Our Summer Vacation they do the opposite. Jung Yu-mi and Choi Woo-shik literally get a summer vacation doing nothing but eat, entertain visitors, and enjoy the sceneries of their countryside vacation home. Some of their visitors were Park Seo-joon, Lee Sun-kyun, Park Hee-soon, Ahn So-hee, and Choi Yong-bin. If they weren’t busy surfing and having picnic with their friends, Yu-mi and Woo-shik also enjoy playing with their pet, Ppoppi.
Three Meals a Day
If you like the “fish out of water” trope, then you would probably like Three Meals a Day. This popular show has already spanned nine seasons. They have all the elements in the previously listed shows: celebrity friends, good food, and scenic rural areas. But one thing that stands out in this show is that the main casts are really immersed in rural living! Out of the nine seasons, my personal pick would be Three Meals a Day: Mountain Village with Yum Jung-ah, Yoon Se-ah, and Park So-dam as they gave refreshing and entertaining episodes.
Side note: The Hospital Playlist variety show known as Wise Mountain Village Life will use the same concept as Three Meals a Day!
Youth over Flowers
Na Young-seok PD actually kidnaps celebrities for a living. Half-kidding aside, he literally kidnaps celebrities and surprised them with a sudden overseas trip. Unlike other shows where the first episode is mostly the main cast settling to their new setting, Youth over Flowers’ premiere week is uniquely entertaining because of the celebrities’ different reactions to Na PD’s revelation. Throughout its five seasons, the “kidnapped” celebrities traveled to Peru, Laos, Iceland, Africa, and Australia. And yes, this is the show where Reply 188 alum Ahn Jae-hong, Ryu Jun-yeol, Go Kyung-pyo, and Park Bo-gum traveled to African countries right after their reward vacation in Thailand.
House on Wheels
If you’re looking for a show that showcases different beautiful locations in Korea, then House on Wheels is the K-variety show for you. Veteran actors Sung Dong-il and Kim Hee-won drive around the country with their cozy “house” – a customized camping van. The wheeled house is really amazing as it has all they need. Aside from Sung Dong-il and Kim Hee-won, every season they are joined by young actors like Yeo Jin-goo in season 1, Im Si-wan in season 2, and Gong Myung in season 3.
Now if you like your K-varieties to come with fun games, then Twogether is a good transition show from healing reality show to funny/entertaining ones. In this Netflix-produced show, Lee Seung-gi and Taiwanese actor Jasper Liu travel in six Asian cities where they play games to complete their missions and find their fan that recommended their travel itinerary. Your eyes would be full seeing tourist spots in Yogyakarta and Bali in Indonesia, Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand, and Pokhara and Kathmandu in Nepal.
2 Days and 1 Night
If Twogether is a feast for the eye, 2 Days and 1 Night is both a feast for the eye and taste because of the Korean locations and food they feature. And no, they just don’t visit those places to have fun. Season 4 casts Kim Jong-min, Yeon Jung-hoon, Moon Se-yoon, Kim Seon-ho, DinDin and Ravi play various games to earn their lunch and dinner and well, their sleeping quarters as well. And yes you read that right, actors Yeon Jung-hoon and Kim Seon-ho are the main casts in season 4. Other actors have also become part of this long-running show in its previous seasons. The list includes Cha Tae-hyun, Yoon Hae-jin, Joo Won, Lee Seung-gi, Yoon Si-yoon, and the late Kim Joo-hyuk.
Now that you’ve fully transitioned into the funnier side of K-variety shows, then we strongly recommend Sixth Sense. It is a must-watch. Main casts Yoo Jae-suk, Oh Na-ra, Jeon So-min, Jessi, Lovely’s Lee Mijoo, and Lee Sang-yeob (in season 2) used their sixth sense and try to guess which one of the three places they visit is a fake (or was just done by the staff to perceive them). They also have guests like actors Jang Dong-yoon, Kim Young-kwang, Cha Tae-hyun, Nam Ji-hyun, Chae Jong-hyeop and Ahn Bo-hyun. Also, this is one of the few K-variety shows out there with a predominantly female cast!
Bonus recommendation: Game Caterers on Channel Fullmoon
Na-PD’s games are quite famous and popular that he actually made a “catering business” out of it. He and his crew visit K-drama sets and company offices among others to play games with celebrities. They bring with them items they can compete with. Their list of clienteles includes the cast of Hospital Playlist, artists under Antenna record label by Yoo Hee-yeol, Na-PD’s fellow variety Show PDs, webtoon artists, BTS, actors from BH Entertainment, cast of Vicenzo, and the cast of Sinkhole.