A scene from "Superstar K" season 7 / Courtesy of Mnet
By Kwon Ji-youn
It's time "Superstar K" called it quits.
The program that pioneered the audition show boom in Korea in 2009 has outlived the patience of its viewers with an endless row of controversies, and considering its dismal content over the last few seasons, it's a wonder Mnet is insisting on keeping the lackluster show on its TV schedule.
Viewer fatigue is growing rapidly over Mnet's obsession with its many survival shows ― others include "Show Me the Money," which just wrapped up its fourth season; "Unpretty Rapstar," now on its second; and "Headliner." But "Superstar K" in particular has undergone very few constructive changes over a whopping seven seasons.
Media and audiences alike have continued to slam it for its provocative editing, baseless commentary and unnecessary dramaturgy, but the producers have done little to try and change their minds.
And they are well aware of this.
"We are aware the show's popularity is plummeting, but we're not getting rid of it," chief producer Kim Ki-woong said at a press event in August.
Producer Ma Doo-sik added, "I wanted to emphasize the individuality of each and every participant. But the editing doesn't distort facts."
"Superstar K" has always been grist for the gossip mill. It has a way of making people seem more unmannerly or eccentric than they actually are, including select judges. Singer Gain, a member of girl group Brown Eyed Girls, took to her Instagram on Sept. 11 to voice her frustration at the producers, whose editing gave one participant a "no," when she had in fact given a "yes."
What's more, each season, a troublemaker undergoes a dramatic personality change influenced by music, but only when this process is convincing and their attitude is earnest do audiences identify with them. Gil Min-sae, a rebellious ex-baseball player, appeared in this season's "Superstar K," repenting his past misconduct, but his tears were not enough to persuade viewers that he was a changed man, nor was his singing impressive enough to let him off the hook. Gil was cut from the program last week.
The show hasn't done a great job producing top-notch musicians, either.
Very few of the participants have landed album opportunities and built successful music careers. Even Seo In-guk, winner of the first season, is better known for his dramatic roles, and others appear more on entertainment shows than at music gigs; examples being previous participants Jung Joon-young and John Park. The rest have yet to make any impression on the local music scene.
The biggest problem is that the show has stuck stubbornly to one format for seven seasons. The same commentary and situations come up again and again as the seasons repeat, and Mnet, a music channel, is still more interested in the participants' life stories than their ability to sing. When it's on, it's hard to tell which season the viewer is watching ― the only noticeable difference is Sung Si-kyung sitting where Lee Seung-chul once sat on the judging panel.
Mnet should note other survival shows have given the format a successful twist ― a good example being MBC's "Mask King."