Once upon a time, there was a segment of a Korean variety program that featured a group of comedians and TV talent who jumped into the most ridiculous challenges imaginable: tow truck vs towing humans, tug-of-war with an ox, swimming the doggy paddle against a rescue dog… They called it “Mumohan Dojeon” (무모한 도전, Futile Challenge).
That was 6 years ago. That segment grew to an independent TV show, lost a syllable from its name to become “Muhan Dojeon” (무한도전, Infinite Challenge) and is now one of the top variety programs on Korean TV.
Hosted by the most popular “Nation’s MC” Yoo Jae-suk, he is accompanied by Park Myungsoo, Jeong Junha, Jeong Hyeongdon, Noh Hongcheol, Ha-ha, and Gil. The mélange of different personalities from create funny situations as they deal with each challenge in their own way.
The challenges. It’s all about the challenges. Although the show has its lighter non-challenge themed moments, it is when the members attack challenges that the viewers really hone in. As the “futile” challenges became “infinite” ones, the challenges became more and more about determination and perseverance rather than providing comedy to the audience. The members challenged themselves by participating in a sports dance competition and an aerobics competition, learned how to bobsleigh to support the Korean national bobsleigh team, collaborated with famous music artists to create an album, held concerts and invited the viewers as the audience, made calendars with humorously themed photos since 2008, tried out cooking Korean food in the heart of New York, created commercials and ads to promote Korean cuisine internationally, and actually farmed rice for an entire year; all while making time between their busy schedules (most of them are in numerous TV and radio shows) and all profits from the album, calendar, and rice sales going to charity.
The program has become so popular not only because it provides laughter, but because it has risen above being a simple comic variety program. It sometimes offers commentary on social and environmental issues through satire, brings about tears of empathy in the portrayal of human determination (this may sound like hyperbole but if you watched the program you know what I’m talking about), and its continuous charity work. The program has received countless accolades and always wins broadcasting awards at the end of the year.
The program is followed by the professional photographer Park Jiman who takes candid snapshots as the show is being filmed, while noted photographers Oh Joong Seok, Bolee, and Kim Tae-eun joined the team for the 2011 calendar project which resulted in absolutely fabulous photos, which are all on display at the Infinite Challenge photo exhibit.
I caught the second showing, first making a visit to the Canonplex.
An intro clip:
These are from the “Oh My Tent” episode filmed in Alaska. They did a lot of useless things there such as running in the snow barefoot; it was one of their lighter series but some members had to endure injury proving that “making comedy is through blood, sweat, and tears”!
One of the most popular series was their wrestling special, WM7 (Wrestling Muhan Dojeon 7). Along with the help of Sonstar, drummer for the rock band Cherry Filter and amateur wrestler, the members all learned how to pro-wrestle and later put on a show for the fans. It wasn’t a half-hearted attempt. They went through proper training for over a year, which is quite unheard of in showbiz.
The members aren’t athletes. They are all over 30 with most nearing their 40s. But they trained like professionals. Not all of them were in good shape, they sustained injuries while hard training, they fell ill, even on the day of the actual show. But they all ignored this and put on a spectacular show.