It's been over a year since my last list of best Running Man episodes and, since I didn't give my Best Game Show award to Running Man this year, I thought I'd take some time to sing its praises in case anyone thought I'd gone off it.
Part one of my Running Man rankings is here.
And part two is here.
And here is part four!
Sure, these last twelve months have been tough. The ratings dipped (at one point to less than a 6% share) but have recovered. And on various blogs I read, the overall feeling about the show in the past year was either that it was getting tired and needed new ideas or that it should go back and revisit some of the old games they used to play.
However,when I did my research into games since my last list, I found that most episodes had some gold in them somewhere. For example, Patrice Evra in episode 154 being surprisingly entertaining, and the episode where 2NE1 were supposed to be aliens, ending in a farcical battle to retrieve water. Then there was the skipping on mats on water game or the mixed-sex boxing game or the episode designed by a fan of the show. The amount of invention remains high, and anyone who says Running Man is tired and predictable needs to watch a few episodes of Vs Arashi. That's barely changed at all in the four years I've been watching it!
One thing that you may notice about my choices is that the all rely heavily on guests. I find that a weak or uninteresting guests can really make a show drag. Equally, a show with no guests at all somehow isn't as exciting as it once was.
And so here is the third list, and this time I'm going from worst of the best to the best of the best
When I started watching this episode, my expectations were rock bottom. It began with some scenes where the RM regulars are required to do a bit of acting (improvising, really) and previous attempts by Running Man to mix drama and variety have usually been quiet bad.
But before long, the five guests proved themselves to be funny and unpredictable. The format of the games allowed for the couples to change, which avoided the usual problem with couple races: that one couple tends to be ignored.
This time everyone got plenty of airtime and it looked like it was an enormous amount of fun to film.
In this episode, the RM regulars recruit teams of students to help them build a boat out of ordinary household materials that will carry them across the River Han. The cast's interaction with the students is great and watching everyone struggle to cross the river is almost inspirational.
The most recent episode on the list. This episodes demonstrates what I mean about guests adding to the show. Wang Ji-hye, an actress, was invited on and thanks to her friendship with Gwang Soo became a star of the show, with their teasing and banter.
The game, too, was pretty exciting, involving a game where each player is secretly given a side, and it was up to one person to try and work out during the game who was on which side.
This episode involved the three teams trying to create a gourmet meal by mixing bits of instant meals. On the way there were plenty of amusing games that allowed them to choose better ingredients, and the cooking challenge, too, is funny.
This three-episode epic saw our contestants racing across Korea for one episode, and then they have to discover the identity of two spies amongst the cast in the following two episodes. Hats off to Ryu Sueng-Soo and Kim Min-Jong for adding to the fun in the most unexpected ways.
A very silly episode. Using a board game set-up to link together a series of short games, this episode more or less ignores any attempt at a storyline or narrative structure, preferring to go for the jokes. A hightlight is the game of badminton on top of a crane.
A three-parter in which the star guest isn't actually present for the first episode, except in some video clips. The guest in question is the baseball player Ryu Hyun-Jin and subsequently there are a lot of baseball themed games, leading up to the big Super Power Baseball match at the end.
Suzy appears too, and there's an adorable attempt by the cast to start a loveline between her and Hyun-Jin.
Finally, this episode is, I think, the best since the last time I made a list like this. There's a great elimination game, using surveillance cameras that the hunted have to find and turn off. There was also the first appearance of the blob jump, and a watermelon race where Kwang Soo ignored winning and concentrated on getting his revenge on Jong Kook, and also a wrestling game.
The only downside was a not too eventful elimination game at the end, and the last ten minutes of episode 152 were taken up with a teaser for episode 153. But I don't think the ending should take away from everything that lead up to it.
And so, that's my list for the time being. And, in case you're wondering, I think my favourite out of all episodes is probably numbers 109 and 110, when they had the Olympic athletes Park Tae Hwan and Son Yoen Jae on the show. Every game, every scene, had “classic” written all over it.