Some may know this show as A Hyung I Know, others as Knowing Bros, or even a few as Ask Us Anything. To Koreans? 아는 형님. Like the sheer number of different English titles this variety show goes by, this show is neither this nor that—and in the best way. Touted as a reality variety show, the premise is quite casual actually. You have seven dudes as the original classmates, and the starring guest(s) is the transfer student(s), looking to stake their own claim in the cutthroat arena of a high school classroom by doing activities students normally do during their free time in the classroom. Whether or not you come out on top depends on wit and cheek. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and guests and cast alike must fend for themselves, or else they’ll find themselves facing the butt of a joke.
Girls on Top
This week’s highly-anticipated episode starred Girls’ Generation (SNSD) as they promoted their latest comeback tracks, “Holiday” and “All Night.” The opening scene cuts to the seven main cast students as they arrive in the classroom: Kang Hodong, Lee Sugeun, Kim Heechul, Seo Janghoon, Kim Youngchul, Min Kyunghoon, and Lee Sangmin. With this well-balanced mix of variety veterans and eager newbies as the cast, you can already imagine the trials and tribulations the guests will face. If you’re either timid or not used to variety shows, the cast will pounce on you. Luckily for fans of this show, SNSD are no wet-behind-the-ears rookies. With 10 years of experience under their belt, the girls bickered and bantered right back at the cast.
Each episode has two parts. The first half takes place in the classroom as the guests are introduced to the class as transfer students. Class president Lee Sugeun introduces each guest by their names, hobbies, skills, or all sorts of trivia. Here, the transfer students must prove their top-dog status in their previous school by either demonstrating their skills or talking their way out. From karaoking to sharing stories of current and ex-partners, the girls coolly accept dirt and dish it right back at the boys. Heechul, who has made a name for himself on the show for his “take no prisoners” approach and is rarely intimidated, can be seen cowering in front of the girls when he tries to poke fun at their exes. Heechul is rightfully put in his place when the girls spill that they can go around twice, each naming one of his exes and still not be done! Heechul taunts back that SNSD must really be itching to talk about Lee Seunggi (Yoona’s first public relationship). It’s always fun to see labelmates spill tea about each other, especially when they’ve known each other since pre-debut!
The next skill that SNSD introduces to the class is their encyclopedic knowledge of songs. The girls love to go karaoke together, and after so many years, they claim they can identify a song just from the first note! Heechul, a certified idol otaku, scoffs at their audacity. He doesn’t think the girls will win. Not on his watch! The first person to reach the circle gets to answer! As the rounds go by, it’s scarily impressive how fast the girls can correctly identify songs from the first beat. Heechul can barely run out in an attempt to answer before he gets stampeded by the girls. Can you imagine how many hours of karaoke it must have taken to reach this level?
In part two of the first of two episodes starring SNSD, the transfer students gave hints about experiences or stories previously unrevealed to the public, and the cast had to correctly guess the details of each situation in order to partner up with the girls as desk buddies. One by one, SNSD members stepped up to the podium to introduce their situations, and hilarity ensued as the cast pointedly trolled for answers. In one variety gold moment, SNSD member Sooyoung asked the cast to guess which member she once hated in a brief instance because of a certain action. The cast narrowed down the culprit to maknae Seohyun, and there were some gut-busting moments of laughter as Heechul and Sugeun made it their mission to ruin the pristine image she had previously. Sooyoung falls for the mischievous duo’s trap when they ask if any other members have pet peeves that also irritate her. The following team-kill is quite enjoyable at the cost of the girls’ image. Sooyoung really lets her variety skills shine in this segment with her witty jabs, and Hyoyeon is right there with her to fire back at her.
Experience It Yourself!
This variety article was actually quite hard for me to write. Essentially, I had to sum up the spirit of the show in 1500 words or less, but from the sheer hybrid format of the show, it was impossible. This show is neither a pure round-table talk show nor does it rely only on games. It’s both. What makes the hour-long episodes go by in the blink of an eye is the bantering among the cast and featured guests. No one is safe from friendly jabs and jokes, and that’s what makes it exciting. The cast is great at making the guests feel right at home and easily coaxes the timid out of their shell. It’s a success when the guests feel comfortable enough to share more private moments about themselves that no other scripted environment can offer. Fans love to get a sense of the guests’ personalities from the way they talk, and this show offers that intimate aspect. Sure there’s some scripted parts as with any variety show, but once a topic comes up, any words or actions committed afterwards are free will. This unhindered spirit is a breath of fresh air, as often times you see guests afraid of speaking freely in case they break their image. This show is out to demonstrate that there’s more to these guests than their image! Judging from the rarely-seen-on-variety A-list guests who have previously starred in this variety show like PSY, Kim Heesun, and Rain, I’d say the PDs of this show are onto something!