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After ‘Omniscient’ fiasco, comedian Lee Young-ja returns with hearty foods

Comedian Lee Young-ja made her first public appearance since she was hit by the “Omniscient” crisis last month.

Lee attended a press event held Monday in western Seoul for Olive TV’s upcoming show “Bob Bless You,” a new food reality show about healing oneself through eating tasty foods. 

Lee Young-ja poses for photos before a press event held Monday at Times Square mall in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. (Olive TV)
Lee Young-ja poses for photos before a press event held Monday at Times Square mall in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. (Olive TV)

The comedian was involved in an unexpected controversy last month, when the production team of MBC’s “Omniscient” came under fire for its offensive use of news clips from the Sewol ferry disaster. The show was canceled for a few weeks.

Lee didn’t attend the shooting of the show for a while, claiming to be in shock. She was greatly loved in “Omniscient” for her menu choices and the way of eating, resulting in the show’s high viewership ratings.

“(Before the crisis) I was cast for numerous commercials. I said ‘Yes’ right away. I am thankful that I immediately agreed to the deals,” Lee said at the press event, indicating how the crisis negatively affected her.

“When shooting ‘Omniscient,’ I wasn’t trying to do a food show. I was just looking after my manager while going about my day,” Lee said. “As situations are limited when shooting ‘Omniscient,’ we cannot show a variety of foods, but in ‘Bob Bless You,’ we eat a lot of different dishes.”

The new food show aims to console viewers through eating and talking. Listening to the worries of viewers, the show offers appropriate menus that can lighten up the mood. It will air every Thursday at 9 p.m.

Lee and three more TV personalities -- Choi Hwa-jung, Song Eun-Yi and Kim Sook -- who are known to be a close-knit group, will host the show. The show is co-produced with a podcast titled “Vivo,” hosted by Song and Kim.

“(The four of us) once went to a buffet restaurant and ate for four hours. After eating, we took a picture. In the photo, we looked so happy,” Kim recounted. The production started from there, contacting a scriptwriter and a director who they had known for years. The cast stressed that they are a team with a history.

“Food is more than just a nutrition, it has life stories. I wanted to do a food show that can move people,” producer Hwang In-young said. “We all have the experience of being tired, but feeling better after eating. That’s the kind of energy we want to share.”

“Bob Bless You” shows how food-related shows in Korea are evolving these days, adding the elements of story and concept. Since 2015, food shows have been dominating the small screen. Though the trend wasn’t expected to last, it has been going strong with shows diversifying. 

Restaurant franchise mogul Baek Jong-won, the godfather of food shows, took his turn with tvN’s recently ended show “Street Food Fighter.” The show was similar to a documentary film with slow-motion scenes and Baek’s calm explanation of foods. 

Poster of Baek Jong-won’s “Street Food Fighter” (tvN)
Poster of Baek Jong-won’s “Street Food Fighter” (tvN)

Baek stars in another food show, “Backstreet,” on SBS in which he advises small restaurant owners on how to revitalize their businesses. The weekly Friday show has been recording an average viewership rating of 5.5 percent with its touching stories.

TvN struck out bold with its new Wednesday reality show “Food Diary,” aiming to show the farm-to-table process in detail. With the purpose of raising awareness on where the food on our table come from, the cast was given a mission of breeding chickens to cook a chicken dish. Its previous episodes of hatching chicken eggs were criticized by the public and some animal rights groups.