Every Monday at 10:10 PM, a new episode of boy group SEVENTEEN’s self-produced contents 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 is uploaded on Weverse, Youtube, V LIVE among others. The program has a sort of a rule, unbroken so far. The crew can let the members off from work early but can’t ask for overtime work. In the “Christmas in August” episode broadcasted for two weeks from August 24th, SEVENTEEN members could leave work early if each one of them clears the assigned rounds of a PC game. Even if they didn’t though, they could still leave on time. In the “Mouse Busters” episodes aired for 3 weeks from September 7th, members start out on the condition that the shoot will end after two hours of the chase game. Members are divided into the chasers and the chased. In one of the scenes, WONWOO, in the chased group, uses his power acquired during the game’s setup to freeze the chasers at a certain location for ten minutes. The members who had been worn out from scampering around are actually delighted to have a reason to take a break. The crew doesn’t press the cast to run harder either. The team name that VERNON, WOOZI, JUN and SEUNGKWAN came up with in the S.B.S (SEVENTEEN Brain Survival) episode - “Let’s Not, Though” nicely sums up what 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 wants to be. Let’s not go into overtime when we do a shoot, though. They go hard, but not so hard that they risk getting hurt, nor would the production team ever push them so.

This year’s 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 reminds viewers of the past MBC’s show 〈Infinite Challenge〉 by including various types of entertainment programming, such as a whodunit mystery genre (“BAD CLUE”), a mukbang talkshow (“Delivery Food Fighter”), a situational piece (“Ad-lib : SEVENTEEN Got Talent”), and a horror special (“Hide & Seek”). Lots of reality shows or variety programs including 〈Infinite Challenge〉 had an underlying sense of, “Do we really need to do it this hard?” Any game was taken to the max, turning even the simplest games into “something serious” as conditions and rewards got attached along the way. However, 〈Going SEVENTEEN〉 is strictly, "Let's not set up a situation where someone might end up get hurt, though." Instead, the cast enjoy the multiple entertainment formats like going on a ride after ride at a theme park. In “Boo Seungkwan’s Match Made in Previous Life” that aired for 3 weeks from February 24th, JEONGHAN asks SEUNGKWAN, assigned to host the game, “Hold on a second, what’s the point of winning? Is there a prize?” SEUNGKWAN replies, “I can’t believe you just figured that out. I told you in the beginning that it’s not worth going all out.” 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 doesn’t offer any real reward for winning. SEVENTEEN was supposed to be on a dome concert tour in Japan (if it hadn't been for COVID-19) in the early half of this year. Their June-release album 〈Heng:garæ〉 sold more than one million copies in actual sales. As far as rewards are concerned, they are already getting them from their “day job”. In fact, working too long without rest or pushing themselves too hard to the point of getting hurt during the show would disappoint the fans. For a popular idol group whose every waking hour basically counts as work, 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 is a rare peace zone so to speak, to ensure that members get off work on time and play fun games.

Originally, 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 started out as “fan content”, showing unreleased materials from the group’s promotional activities. So any reason left for playing the games is to enjoy the moment and make something the fans can enjoy, too. Yet despite SEUNGKWAN’s wake-up call, JEONGHAN still tries very hard to clear the limbo bar with JOSHUA who’s on the same team. Their eager antics can only be called slapstick comedy. Still, these two members in “Boo Seunkwan’s Match Made in Previous Life” are not serious about the limbo dance, unlike, say the cast of MBC 〈Kang Hodong’s Match Made in Heaven〉, which the episode parodies. If the cast in Kang Hodong’s show played games so they could be matched up as couples, SEVENTEEN in 〈Boo Seungkwan’s Match Made in Previous Life〉, with zero rewards, play for the sake of playing. Passing under the limbo bar the proper way is not even an afterthought in SEVENTEEN’s variety show contents. What’s important is that JEONGHAN and JOSHUA chose a way to clear the limbo bar in a way they couldn’t help laughing about.
In this year’s first episode of 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 “MYSTERY MYSTERY,” VERNON plays a game where he has to eat while keeping his eating noise down and in a limited amount of time. Nevertheless, he takes his time without rushing, munching on what he wants to eat. Of course, he loses. But, everyone gets to see his eating habits and personality. Successful already in their primary line of work, the members show how to enjoy the games instead of getting too serious with them. As the process unfolds in 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉, the idols’ characters are naturally expanded. The other members also don’t interrupt the ones playing the games. In “MYSTERY MYSTERY,” designated members eat with randomly provided tools or within time and noise limits. Other members could have easily disrupted by making noise, but they stay quiet as much as possible so that the contestants can tackle the food-eating challenge. In a game where randomly-selected ingredients are added to kimchijeon, even if the member playing picks some strange ingredients no one forces him to eat it, even if the rules call for it. They just help each other enjoy the game, and the viewers get to see the characters of the members change and become more interesting. In this way, 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 takes a new approach to the variety show format.

Here is where 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 weaves its own fantasy. In “Christmas in August,” few members who grow tired from playing PC games lie down in the corner of the room used as a film set. Members who had recharged or are better at the games take their place. Meanwhile, other members in a different room, even though they are supposed to sit still in the heated room, crack the window. The members find loopholes in the games where no one’s penalized nor really rewarded. But no one gets the stink eye for not doing what they’re supposed to do, nor are the members shown arguing. Instead, at the right moment, members take care of each other voluntarily, including the ones who could be opponents in the game. In the “Zero Insomnia” episode, HOSHI uses his wish to summon VERNON who was just getting off work. But no one including HOSHI makes fun of VERNON. He is asked to carry out a favor, boiling ramyun, and then get sent back on his way. Members are satisfied to simply enjoy the game without having to win, and never pick on the others. Instead, they realize the value of getting off work early. After all, they live in the same space and they know there’s lots of more work other than 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉. Even if they cheat during games, they don’t corner the opponent or pick on someone. Instead, they help each other win, laugh out loud if someone’s trying to be funny, or look out for members who might not be able to shine in a certain game.

In 2018, in the “TTT” episodes showing SEVENTEEN taking an overnight trip, members play foot volleyball, and JUN shows himself to be less than stellar. And yet the members cheer him up every time the ball moves towards June, and overlooks his mistakes as no big deal. The crew likewise keep from highlighting June’s skill or the members’ response either positively or negatively. It’s a community of colleagues and friends where no one’s criticized for doing badly. Add here today’s entertainment content, such as game broadcasting, room escape games or ASMR, and the group SEVENTEEN in 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 paints a picture of a fantasy community that might exist in reality but in fact doesn’t. Friends who get along well, hang out in a PC-bang, a room escape café or an overnight trip to have fun. No one’s left out. Through their weekly variety show, SEVENTEEN shows an ideal community that we might see in programs like tvN’s 〈Smart Life of Doctors〉. And all of this happens in a world of COVID-19. We live in an anxious moment in history. We don’t know if we’ll ever get to redo the scene in the “Mouse Busters” episode where members have so much fun playing games in an empty warehouse.

In “Ad-lib : SEVENTEEN Got Talent” JUN acts as a person who belts out his dialogue like songs. Once a foreigner struggling to speak Korean, he now catches the nuance in a Korean musical and does comedy. Next to him is another foreigner THE 8, mimicking JUN and making everyone laugh. While the two get accustomed to the Korean language and culture, how did the other members talk with them or go about their daily routines with them? When you watch 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 on a steady basis, you can find out about the members’ personalities, tastes and how they grew, and through that process, imagine the nature of relationship between members. As you watch and laugh along this variety show, where members don’t insist on winning but make efforts in carrying out actions that have nothing to do with the outcome of the game but just for the sake of fun, you feel as if SEVENTEEN members are your close friends. SEVENTEEN began as a reality show where “either everyone makes it or no one makes it,” and the group ring, custom-made before their debut gets upgraded to better ones. The albums they produced, performances and logo songs in 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 all contain the fruit of their labor. With their own product, they also write their own unique “universe”, and 〈GOING SEVENTEEN〉 widens its scope through various entertainment content while shaping the characters and chemistry. The idol group carried forth the sentiment shared within their community and succeeded in “Going” forth as Youtube entertainment. The number of subscribers and viewings of 〈SEVENTEEN〉 you can check through their Youtube channel shows how well they’re doing in a challenging world. It’s a victory won not by fighting but by having a blast.
Article. Myungseok Kang
Design. Yurim Jeon