First Impressions – Grandpas Over Flowers: Ep. 1 – 4 – 꽃보다 할배: 1회 – 4회


Take 4 of Korea’s best-known drama fathers and/or grandfathers backpacking.  Throw in a young (or younger) celebrity to act as their tour guide/porter.  Watch hilarity ensue.  That’s pretty much the premise of Na Young Seok PD’s latest variety show which became a hot topic before the first episode even aired.

The thought alone of these grandfathers or “halbaes” is hilarious in its own right but upon the airing of the first promo, we got to see exactly who had been casted.  Na PD sure knows how to pull out all stops and went straight to the top of the crop.  Anyone who has watched a Korean drama or movie is familiar with their faces but they are (from oldest to youngest): Lee Soon Jae (The King 2 Hearts), Shin Gu (A Hundred Year’s Inheritance), Park Geun Hyung (The Chaser) and Baek Il Sub (Cheer Up, Mr. Kim).  And the youngun tour guide?  Why it is 41 year-old Lee Seo Jin (Gyebaek).  Only that he’s been told by Na PD that it’s Girls’ Generation’s Sunny and 4minute’s Hyun Ah that’s gonna join him on his trip through Europe.

The reveal was, as expected, hilarious.  At first, he’s thinks meeting the 4 Halbaes or 4H’s, for short, at the airport is just a coincidence and you can literally see Lee Seo Jin trying to process what’s going on as reality just doesn’t sink in right away.  His eyes dart around waiting for what he hopes another camera crew telling him, ‘Just kidding, you’ve been punked.’

Lee Seo Jin’s first days on the trip guiding the 4H’s were rough, filled with panic and uncertainty.  By the time, they get around to touring in Strasbourg, the second stop, he does begin to enjoy the trip a bit more.  However, that’s the cunningness of Na PD, which makes you love (as the viewer) and hate (as the celebrity) him at the same time.

As for the 4H’s, it’s nice to see a different side to them as I only know them from the various roles they’ve played on screen.  Since they play strong and oftentimes callous roles, even I find them a bit intimidating.  I just can’t imagine what it’s like for the cast and crew on the first day on set.

So the show attempts to show this other side with questions that are asked on the fly or in the sit-down interviews.  It takes a very experienced producer and writer to pay attention to those cues so that those moments aren’t lost.  Something I think Na PD and Writer Lee Woo Jung not only does very well but they’ve worked with each other for so long that they are so in sync with one another.  I’ll watch the show and a question will pop into my head but they’re already on it asking them that question.

Like asking the owner of the Korean hostel if he’s ever had guests who normally wake up at 5 AM.  No, he has not as Baek Il Sub looks on patiently for his breakfast to be ready.

Or when they take the blood pressure of the entire cast, only to discover that Lee Seo Jin has high blood pressure due to the stress of the trip.  Writer Lee Woo Jung asks if he normally has high blood pressure and he responds that he normally has low blood pressure.

When I compare this show to the first season of 1 Night 2 Days, there are definitely some differences.  Here, you’ve got the opportunity for more of a dialogue exchange rather than giving them games and challenges.  Like the 4H’s commented in the first episode, if the show wants to take the 4H skydiving, they’ll also need to bring 3, maybe 4 coffins.

Therefore, the pacing of the show is slower.  But it’s this witty repartee that makes the show for me.  Non-Korean speakers will need some good fansubbers for this one as the show’s magic is all in those small conversational exchanges.  This show puts so much in perspective like when the Halbaes considers their hoobaes in their 60’s as mere kids.  Ha, Lee Seo Jin is just a baby.  As much as I love Lee Seo Jin, I would also love it if they bring a 20 year-old actor or idol on the trip.  Talk about generational gap.  Ooooh Na PD, work your magic and bring Elderly Kid Lee Seung Gi.

I guess there are some advantages to having this show on tvN because they’re able to be a little bit more loose.  Certainly it looks like freely drinking on camera on the cable network is okay on this variety show.

Each of the Halbaes have such great variety personalities.  I’m surprised that Lee Soon Jae is so energetic even though he’s the oldest.  I like seeing Shin Gu and Park Geun Hyung playful bicker.  And Baek Il Sub is definitely the maknae out of the group who doesn’t have a great interest in cultural things.

I do love travel shows but the magic of Na Young Seok PD is that rather than just seeing the sights, you’re journeying with them.  So it’s not about the great photo ops in front of monuments and tourist spots but it’s about the people you’re sharing it and what comes out of that.

It’s hard not to feel bad for Lee Seo Jin at first but I’m so impressed that he not only goes to Europe with the 4H’s but has really been a good sport all along.  To add to that, he’s decided to do Season 2 with the 4H’s by guiding them through Taiwan as well.  Hopefully now that he’s got the heads up, he can plan ahead.  Although I wouldn’t hold my breath because I’m pretty sure Na (aka 나쁜 (na-ppeun) or bad) PD has got something else up his sleeve.  Cannot wait.



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