First Impressions – Our Neighborhood Variety Sports: Ep. 1 – 3 – 우리동네 예체능: 1회 – 3회


Kang Ho Dong is extremely busy these days between all the new variety shows he’s been working on.  This show’s concept has the hosts, Kang Ho Dong, Lee Su Geun and Max Changmin, recruiting their fellow celebrity stars to help them battle against local sports clubs.  The shortened title 예체능 (Ye Che Neung) is an abbreviation of the words: Variety (예능), Athletics (체육) and Able-Bodied Person (능력자).

Usually I find the first episodes of variety shows to be disorganized or boring as they work to figure out their pacing and format.  Leave it to Kang Ho Dong to allay those fears as he is hilarious from the get-go.  He joked that although he agreed to do the show, even he didn’t know what the show as about and found out through entertainment news outlets.

The producers tell the hosts that they promise to grant them one wish if they win the match, the sport of the week being table tennis.  Despite Lee Su Geun’s exorbitant request to own the network KBS, they decide to go with Kang Ho Dong’s wish to be hoisted up in the air after the win.  Since he was a wrestler, it wasn’t a sport in which the winners were tossed in the air due to their size.  However when asked to write their wish on a banner, the hosts toil over the spelling of it.

The hosts first rivals are the table tennis pros of Sang Do Dong which featured players ranging in ages from 82 to just 12 years old.

The hosts call in favors from celebrity friends they know to be great athletes.  Kang Ho Dong calls Comedian Park Sung Ho who happen to be an avid player, Lee Su Geun calls Kim Byung Man and Max Changmin calls Shinee’s Min Ho.

Park Sung Ho then suggests a movie actor who is as dedicated to acting as he is to table tennis, Actor Jo Dal Hwan.  No one seems to know who he is but after the episode airs, he quickly became the number one search on internet portals.  He also has his own catchphrase: Cho Rei Ha!

However, these celebrities are not the stars of the show.  They’re merely there to bring in viewers.  The real stars are the locals and the show does a great job of highlighting them.  First, they send Changmin to spy on the opposition and secretly film them.  What I first noticed were the kids.

I’m no expert but I know enough of the rules of gameplay to know that they look pretty damn good.  Cut to the day of the tournament and the 12 year old reveals that he won first place in a local tournament.  Mind you, the tournament included all ages meaning he beat out all the adults.

Each celebrity is pitted against one of the local players and I have to admit that the way the show cuts from the players to the sideline, the stakes feel high.  Though they have not been playing for long, each of the players seems to hold on their own merit.

Surprisingly, Changmin and Min Ho weren’t as great as I thought they would be.  In their defense they’re knew to the support but by the 3rd episode Changmin appears to have improved greatly.  Only that he gets beat by table tennis newbie Jae Kyung from Rainbow.  Even though the first serve she deals out was a total miss.  Beginners luck?

The show’s start was great.  It was hilariously funny and incredibly thrilling.  I love that Lee Su Geun is the only one who wins and he celebrates that win.  However, his rival was an 82 year old grandmother. And the point difference was damn close.

I think by the 2nd tournament, which also happens to be table tennis again, the camera angles get better, intensifying the suspense.  I am a bit concerned about the staying power of this program though.  The first two episodes were about table tennis and the next two episodes are again table tennis except they’re battling against a different neighborhood (The Mok Dong Ping Pongs which produced the gold medal team that won the World Table Tennis Championship in 1973).  I worry whether we’ll grow tired of seeing the same couple of sports over and over again.

But for now, the show seems to keep its focus on the different personalities making up the local teams and the hosts and their celebrities guests are doing an excellent job at being hilariously funny during their practice sessions.  My stomach was hurting from laughing so hard from last night’s episode that for now I’m really not concerned about watching table tennis again for the 3rd tournament. I could describe it here but let these screencaps entice you to go seek out the show yourself.

Park Sung Ho suggests calling Actor Jung Eun Pyo (The Moon that Embraces the Sun) since he’s an excellent table tennis player.  And I thought he was just this smiley character actor.  Who knew he had this hidden talent?

He even gives Celebrity Table Tennis Coach/Model Lee Soo Yeon a run for her money. I cannot wait for next week.



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