|Lee Eun-mi, singer and emcee of “I Am a Singer” (season 2 MBC)|
MBC’s “I Am a Singer,” last year’s hit singing competition that pitted top performers against one another, kicked off its second season on Sunday amid high expectations from viewers.
The show has a new format -- new competition rules, contestants, a live broadcast -- all orchestrated by producer Kim Young-hee, who has been reinstated for the new season after being replaced following last season’s public uproar over a participant who, after failing a round, was offered another chance.
“Now let’s begin the festival of the gods,” Kim said proudly, referring to the 12 singers participating as contestants.
However, viewers seemed to think otherwise. The viewer rating came a little short of the broadcaster’s expectations at 8.2 percent, lower than the 8.9 percent recorded when the show started to lose steam in January.
The first episode of the new season coincided with the last battle round of SBS’ “K-pop Star,” an unfortunate beginning for the survival program.
Observers point out that the program is not fresh enough to draw viewers’ attention, despite its new format.
“The focus of the show has been on who will take part and the stories that followed, but casting former contestants for season 2 is like repeating an old story line,” said Seo Jeong Min-gaph, a pop music critic.
The number of contestants increased to 12 from the previous season’s seven, showing a variety of performances and also to bring more stories to the show.
Former participants Kim Yeon-woo, Jung Yeop, Kim Gun-mo, Park Wan-gyu, Lee Young-hyun and JK Kim Dong-wook -- singers eliminated early on in the first season -- will join seven new veteran singers including Lee Eun-mi, Park Sang-min, Jung In, Lee Su-young, Park Mi-kyoung and the rock band Baekdusan.
Seo Jeong said the singers have been frequently seen on other entertainment shows, making the program less appealing to viewers.
He added that the show needs someone like singer Lim Jae-beom, who rarely makes public appearances but made a huge sensation after competing in the show.
Viewers’ reviews on the show’s website showed that some found Sunday’s program distracting, rather than allowing them to focus on the new singers.
“I found it distracting with 12 singers. And the rules are so complex that the fun is lost,” wrote Kim Jin-ho on the viewers’ bulletin board.
The old competition rule eliminated those who received the lowest score from citizen judges.
But under the new rule, those who rank first and last will leave at the end of the month.
“I prefer the season 1 competition format. I focused on rankings with season 1, but now the winner has to go,” questioned Kim Hyun-ah.
“The program has mixed a tournament format incorporating elements from KBS’ ‘Immortal Song’ and battle rounds of ‘Superstar K’ in order to add fun to its simple competition format (eliminating the one with the lowest score),” said Lee Dong-yeun, professor at Korea National University of Arts.
“But it will lose the high tension between contestants that keeps viewers watching the show,” said Lee.
Seo Jeong said the show should have chosen either a completely new format or a completely new line-up of contestants to appeal to viewers.
“It will be hard to do better than amateur singing audition programs such as ‘Superstar K’ or ‘K-pop Star,’” he said.
But he added that it remains to be seen how the show will fare once the real competition begins.
By Lee Woo-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)