The SBS show "Baengnyeon Sonnim" generates high ratings by simply showing how old folks will react with their children-in-law under the same roof. / Courtesy of SBS
Senior stars shine in reality shows
By Yun Suh-young
The reality show genre has found a new formula for success: old people.
"Halbae (grandfathers) Over Flowers,'' which follows a group of over-70 actors backpacking around Europe, has been such a success that tvN pushed for a self-parody in ''Noona (older sisters) Over Flowers,'' which is essentially the same show shot with old actresses.
"Baengnyeon Sonnim (Son in Law),'' an unscripted family show on SBS, generates high ratings by simply showing how old folks will react with their children-in-law under the same roof.
Culture critic Jung Duk-hyun said that viewers might be enjoying watching shows about old people the same way they enjoy shows about children.
"When you think about it, children and the elderly are perfect as cast members for reality television,'' he said.
"Children are pure and innocent and they don't filter themselves. Old people also speak very frankly, but because of their experience: they have been through so much so they seem always unfazed.
"Programs such as Halbe are doing a good job in making an entertaining show out of their cast members, who are shown as people the younger generation of people can sympathize and identify with. And of course, the older generation of viewers love the experience of watching shows about people closer to their age.''
It is not like the producers of the shows are letting their senior stars have it easy. In Halbae Over Flowers, the actors — Lee Sun-jae (79), Shin Gu (78), Park Geun-hyung (74) and Baek Il-sup (70) — are constant targets of jokes by the crew and are given difficult tasks to accomplish during their trips. The goal is to see them struggle and bumble. Nah Yung-suk, the show's producer, deserves credit for acquiring a group of stars with self-deprecating humor.
"We purposely casted the elderly staff whose ages are 70 and over. It's because older people with a lot of experience, have lots of stories to tell," said Nah.
"When you travel with people with a lot of experience who have gone through the success and failures in life, you learn a lot from them. Their stories teach us something about life whereas the younger cast doesn't have those stories to tell."