First Impressions – Barefoot Friends: Ep. 1 – 3 – 맨발의 친구들: 1회 – 3회


The concept of the show is simple.  Take Kang Ho Dong and a bunch of celebrities and have them mingle with locals in a foreign country.  So it’s basically 1 Night 2 Days in a foreign country, right?

Barefoot Friends features a cast of various entertainers whether they’re actors, singers, idols or comedians: MC/ Comedian Kang Ho Dong (obviously), MC/Singer Yoon Jong Shin, Comedian Yoo Se Yoon, Singer Kim Bum Soo, Super Junior’s Eun Hyuk, After School’s Uee, Actor Yoon Shi Yoon and Singer/Actor Kim Hyun Joong.  It’s a weird mix of characters but I’ve seen most of them on different variety programs so they had that going for the show.  The only newbie to me was Yoon Shi Yoon but he’s pretty vivacious so I didn’t worry about it.

Unfortunately, there are a number of issues with the program.  Considering that the cast is big, it requires a great deal of pre-planning from the production staff.  So you can’t expect to have the group pick up and go without the proper security and planning.  Especially considering the insanity the Running Man cast faces every time they go to China and Southeast Asia.

However, with all that planning, there’s no clear-cut format to the show.  This first trip had the friends splitting up as soon as they arrived in Vietnam.  They were told they would take up an occupation in order to pay for their housing and food.

The charm of Kang Ho Dong is that he’s able to engage people wherever he goes and the spontaneous reactions that he’s able to get out of them.  It doesn’t matter what their age is but since there is a language barrier, it is slowing things up for him.  So he tries to be his same lively self, complete with his Gyeongsangdo accent, and it just doesn’t have the same effect in Vietnam.

It’s quite different when you watch him on Our Neighborhood Variety Sports.  Even Kang Ho Dong comments about how hard it was to engage people when they don’t really know him.  I can understand why the locals have confused expression on people’s faces as they try to register his exorbitant enthusiasm while they’re still waiting to get the translation from the translator.

And then we get little tidbits from what is edited and translated for us and those tidbits aren’t all that exciting.  The group constantly keeps moving from place to place but it doesn’t see to pay off for the viewer.  It’s like being on a treadmill but not going anywhere.

Finally the first trip wraps up with this big event.  The groups suggests doing a flash mob but you can’t really call it a flash mob when there’s a stage and a waiting audience.  But I get it that the whole point of the event was to have an energizing finish.  It’s just I can’t quite understand what the purpose of that was in the grand scheme of this trip.  Again, with all that planning, the producers didn’t put much thought in how the show was going to be edited together because the show doesn’t have a clear direction.

The thing working for the show is that the group are already working together as a team.  It’s probably due to their survival instincts.  You either live together or starve together.

Yoon Shi Yoon uses his brain, Kim Hyun Joong uses braun.  Uee is the only girl so she uses her charms.  I was also quite impressed with Eun Hyuk as he worked out the choreography of the Harlem Shake event.  So each of the members have their own unique quality.  It’s just that there is so much material to watch ( 3 episodes long for the first trip) and while there are entertaining moments it’s so few and far between.

I kinda miss having Kang Ho Dong on 1 Night 2 Days.  I mean, I like the current cast but I still miss him on that show.  So when I heard about the concept of this show, I was in.  Didn’t have any qualms about it, I just needed to check it out.  More than his other new variety show, Our Neighborhood Variety Sports.  Who would have thought I would end up liking the sports show more?  I’m sure the locations that appear in the program will continue to be visually stimulating but until the producers figure out the show’s format and pacing, I’m reluctant to continue watching.



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