Skills over fun?

2013-12-11 11:59

An excerpt from Tuesday`s episode of "Our Neighborhood Arts and Physical Education" (KBS)

Double-clutch layups and breakaway slam dunks are not the usual repertoire of basketball shows on South Korean TV. But with Kim Hyuk, you’ve got another thing coming.

The 32-year-old South Korean actor is wowing the viewers and even his teammates on the celebrity basketball team appearing in KBS’s “Our Neighborhood Arts and Physical Education” with his performance on the court.

With Kim dominating the court, however, some are complaining that the KBS show has lost its initial concept of “average Joes working to improve themselves and vying to get one win.”

The program’s initial idea was to be a “health variety show which anyone can participate in.” True to its catchphrase, the show’s earlier episodes -- in which the co-hosts competed in table tennis, bowling and badminton -- featured celebrities who were not particularly skilled in their respective sports.

While the celebrities were stars on TV, they were also novices on the court, which helped viewers relate to them going up against top amateur athletes.

The stars in the basketball episode, however, can hardly be called beginners. All its members, except main host Kang Ho-dong, have years of experience shooting hoops. And actor Julien Kang’s towering 191-centimeter frame and athleticism is a far cry from the “average Joe.”

The pinnacle of this recruitment of established players was the addition of Kim Hyuk, who joined the team after it was hampered by a series of injuries. Kim played organized basketball until his college years,

Powered by Kim’s athleticism and skills, which even rival some of the top college players, the “Our Neighborhood” team has cruised to a 3-1 record over amateur teams. This is in stark contrast to the “Our Neighborhood” team’s earlier days, when they failed to grab a single win over amateurs.

Kim’s performance certainly provides entertainment, but many are complaining that they miss the fun of watching the players grow. Kim and Julien Kang, easily the two most important players on the team, are already established players and there has been almost no growth in their ability during the show.

The only beginner in the show, Kang Ho-dong, was virtually cast aside, so that he now focuses primarily on the sideline comedy.

“Pooling players who are already very good, and piling up wins against other teams are not why I tuned in to watch the show,” said one viewer on an online basketball community discussion board. Another person lamented that he was no longer able to watch beginners improve.

Others pointed out that the skill gap between beginners and experienced players in basketball is virtually insurmountable. “If they started with beginners, they wouldn’t be able to compete with top amateur teams at all,” said one netizen.

“The reason we watch TV shows is for entertainment, so what’s wrong with celebrities like Kim Hyuk showing off their skills?”

By Yoon Min-sik