For the last 13 years, MBC’s “Infinite Challenge” has been more than a just a ludicrous variety show. As one of Korea’s oldest-running and most successful shows, it was like a welcome-rain to people who used to say “Watching the show on Saturday is the highlight of my week.” And when MBC announced the show’s finale for this Saturday, many might have felt wistful, as if bidding goodbye to an old friend.
For the show’s program director Kim Tae-ho, however, those years haven’t always been joyful. Opening up about his deep struggles, he explained why Korea’s beloved variety show had to come to an end.
Kim Tae-ho (MBC)
“I was always afraid of next week, with my head always full of ‘What should we do next week?’ even after some episodes were highly acclaimed. I wished it could be the last week shooting ‘Infinite Challenge,’” said Kim during a press conference held for the program’s end in Seoul on Friday.
Through the program, Kim became a star producer whose name almost became a brand. But tied up in the cut-throat schedules and nerve-wrecking burdens that come with the show, Kim, who is also a father, became detached from his family. And most importantly, he was worn out, depleted of creative ideas and was in need of refreshment.
“When working for the program, I valued the show’s color over wealth or reputation. But keeping that color was hard, which even hurt my self-esteem. After contemplating over the problem, I realized the color of the program was ‘my’ color as well. And I decided to take a rest. I feel like a piece of clothing that has been washed and dried already, feel emptiness. I need to fill myself again,” he said.
Kim said he plans to focus on spending time with his family, teaching his young son Korean, reading the complete series of world literature and traveling around.
Throughout more than a decade, Kim has stood firm dealing with small and big controversies caused by “Infinite Challenge,” ranging from netizens bombarding the show’s online bulletin board with criticism to original member Noh Hong-chul stepping down after being caught driving under the influence in 2014. But the program has been able to keep its special place within this fast-paced world of variety shows by keenly touching on history, social issues and politics, such as the election system.
“Some raised eyebrows on our show’s approach, but I always wanted to throw questions that could relate to our viewers through the program,” Kim said.
Expressing his wistfulness for the cast members Yoo Jae-suk, Park Myung-su, Jeong Jun-ha, Haha, Yang Se-hyung and Jo Se-ho, Kim also said he felt regretful for not being able to pay full attention to the members’ personal issues and emotions.
Kim didn’t give definite answers to questions on his future plan and the possibility of the program’s revival. There have been rumors that Kim has been suggested with posts in other big name companies, but Kim denied such speculations, confirming his stay in MBC.
“I can’t promise that I will make the season two of ‘Infinite Challenge,’ as I need time to figure things out first. But one thing I can tell is that I will return with a program that has its own color, whether it caters to the public’s taste or not,” he said.
Expressing his gratitude once again, he added, “I’m still in the process of accepting this new reality, and so will the members. I didn’t close my ears because I wanted to avoid criticism. It was just hard for us to broadcast uninteresting shows and pretend they were interesting, as we knew better than anyone else about the program’s problem. Please send your support to the members and their individual careers.”
A new variety program will follow “Infinite Challenge,” which airs its last episode on Saturday. MBC producer Choi Haeng-ho will helm the new show.