Do you love Korean shows and dramas? While they’re definitely entertaining, binge-watching can definitely make you feel like your brain has turned to mush. So why not combine your love for K-shows with some mental stimulation in these smart Korean variety shows that’ll make you think while giving you an extra serotonin boost?
More popularly known as Problematic Men, the show sees the cast labelled as “men with hot brains” in a talk show style program where they invite guests to answer a wide range of questions with them. The cast and guests must answer all questions before the shoot would end. Usually, the show is filmed in a studio, but for the third and latest season, the cast and crew went outdoors, visiting different locations across South Korea.
The show has three seasons and over 200 episodes so far, starring Jun Hyun-moo, Kim Ji-seok, Lee Jang-won, Ha Seok-jin, Joo Woo-jae, and DDotty. They’re currently on indefinite hiatus after the pandemic hit. Watch it on Viu.
A mix of plot-driven drama and variety show, this show follows a group of private detectives who work on cases ranging from theft to murder in each episode, while they also solve an overarching big case for each season. To get more clues on their cases, the cast plays games you often see on variety shows. Some familiar faces like Yoo Yeon-seok and Kim Min-jae even make cameos!
Busted! has three seasons so far, featuring Yoo Jae-suk, Ahn Jae-wook, Kim Jong-min, Lee Kwang-soo, Park Min-young, Oh Se-hun, Kim Se-jeong, and Lee Seung-gi. Watch it on Netflix.
Thirteen contestants of different fields of expertise are brought together to compete for the first place spot, and they must defeat one another in a variety of games. For every episode, a contestant is eliminated after a main match, where all players must join, and a deathmatch, where elimination candidates have a chance to prove themselves. The players must survive and collect garnets worth 1 million won (or about PHP 42,000), which they can exchange for real money if they win the games.
The show had four seasons during its run from 2013 to 2015.
Also known as Village Survival, the Eight, this variety show invites eight contestants to the fictional village of Michuri, where Yoo Jae-suk serves as village head. They are given different hint items and 24 hours to solve a mystery for a prize worth 10 million won (or about PHP 425,000). The contestants are able to acquire more hints about the mystery as they play more games and during meal preparations.
The series currently has two seasons and featured Yoo Jae-suk, Kim Sang-ho, Son Dam-bi, Kang Ki-young, Jang Do-yeon, Yang Se-hyung, Im Soo-hyang, Song Kang, and Jennie (Blackpink), and S2 guests Jeon So-min, Yeonwoo (Momoland), and Son Na-eun (Apink).
High School Mystery Club
In fictional Saera Girls’ High School, a group of girls gather together to find weird events that suddenly start happening on campus. They need to solve puzzles and various games to uncover the truth behind the suspicious events — all while trying to not scare themselves to death with conspiracies and ghostly sightings.
The show only has one season so far, and it starred Park Ji-yoon, Jang Do-yeon, Jae Jae, BIBI, and Choi Ye-na. Watch it on Viu.
Do you love solving puzzles in escape rooms? Then you’ll love this show, too! In each episode, the cast members are brought to a secret location, where they must escape from by gathering clues, playing games, and talking to the “story characters.” The escape challenge only ends when all members and any story characters they need to bring with them have successfully escaped.
Great Escape has four seasons so far, with 13 episodes each and features Kang Ho-dong, Kim Jong-min (Koyote), Shindong (Super Junior), Yoo Byung-jae, Kim Dong-hyun, and P.O (Block B). Watch it on Viu.
Mafia Game In Prison
Are you familiar with the party game Mafia? What about Werewolf? Those two work essentially the same, and that’s what this show is all about. Also known as Prison Life of Fools, this show follows a group of contestants playing the game of mafia in the setting of a prison. The contestants are called “prisoners” and they either play model prisoners or mafia members in each round of the game. Everyone votes for who they think is a mafia member, but if a mafia survives, they win and the model prisoners loses, and vice versa. The catch is, there’s 9 million won (about PHP 380,000) at stake, so they do all they can to fool one another.
The show only had one season starring Lee Soo-geun, Jeong Hyeong-don, Kim Jong-min, Hwang Je-sung, Lee Sang-yeob, Jang Do-yeon, JB (Got7), Seungkwan (Seventeen), and Choi Ye-na (IZ*ONE) as contestants, and Kim Tae-jin as the main host.
This show brings the cast members to visit three different locations or persons, of which one of them is entirely fabricated by the crew. The cast members need to use their sixth sense and determine which one of the three is fake. Anyone who gets it correct will get a gold persimmon as a prize, while the losers will need to undergo punishment in the next episode. The punishment is to do the next episode’s opening without their eyebrows. Yikes! Good thing they removed this punishment in Season 2.
Sixth Sense has two seasons so far, starring Yoo Jae-suk, Oh Na-ra, Jeon So-min, Jessi, and Mijoo (Lovelyz) in the first season, and Lee Sang-yeob joining in the second season. Watch it on Viu.