On Sundays, many fans of Korean variety shows watch the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) during their "Good Sunday" programming to watch Running Man. It is one of the most popular Korean variety shows in Hallyu history given the fact Koreans have been tuning in for the crazy antics of Yoo Jae Suk, Haha, Lee Kwang Soo, Kim Jong Kook, Song Ji Hyo, Ji Suk Jin, and formerly Gary, Song Joong Ki, and Lizzy for the last seven years. Not only that, it is considered one of the five major Korean television series to heavily influence Hallyu itself.
Unfortunately for Running Man, it has started to show its age as the ratings continuously dropped this year. The producers of the show have tried numerous things to get the viewership ratings back up again, including the 100 Vs. 100 Special featuring the cast of People Who Are Searching For Smile, and the 300th Episode Special featuring BTS. Although those episodes were successful on their own, they would not be enough to increase viewership in general. Running Man's failing state might be one of the reasons for Gary deciding to leave and concentrate more on his music career.
SBS pulled out their last resort for breathing life back into Running Man by changing the main cast. Therefore, it was announced that both Kim Jong Kook and Song Ji Hyo would be leaving while Kang Ho Dong would be joining the show. However, it was made known that both Jong Kook and Ji Hyo were "blindsided" in the news of them being removed from the show. Also, the volatile situation caused by fans' disdain for the lineup changes made Ho Dong feel uncomfortable, which caused him to drop out. Nevertheless, the drama caused by the debacle forced SBS to formally apologize.
Apparently, the drama pertaining to Running Man has reached a fever pitch for SBS, the cast and crew, and the fans. To prevent more damage, it was decided that after seven years, Running Man would finally end.
The news of Running Man coming to an end comes right after the recent controversy pertaining to the lineup changes. The producers have decided to end the show on good terms instead of trying to extend the variety show any further with new cast members, as reported by AllKpop. On December 16, Lee Hwan Jin, one of the producers of Running Man, provided a statement to Korean media outlets on the matter.
"The members and producers had an emergency meeting in Seoul today. The members got together and cleared up the misunderstandings that arose until now. After discussion with Kim Jong Kook, Song Ji Hyo, the other members, and the producers, we've decided to finish Running Man at the end of February. We'll do our best until the end for the viewers who've always given us such big support."
This is surely sad news for fans of Running Man, but at least we are getting a send-off rather than just the series abruptly ending. It might be possible that on the final episode in February of next year, there will be a reunion of all the cast members from the past, which not only includes Gary but Song Joong Ki and Lizzy as well. It is even possible that we might get a glimpse at the new variety show that will replace Running Man. Take note that prior to Running Man, the popular K-variety show was X-Man. Fans of that show did not think there would be another show like it until Running Man aired three years after it ended. So even though Running Man ending sounds bleak, it is also an opportunity for a new show to entertain the fans.
Until it ends in February, Running Man airs on Sundays at 6:30 p.m. KST on SBS during their "Good Friday" program. For those who do not have access to Korean channels, the variety show can be viewed for free, with ads, on DramaFever, Viki, and OnDemandKorea.
[Featured Image by Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS)]