Asian TV on Alexandria, A Guide

Always check for external subtitles. Enabling them might require you to stop and start the video stream again. If you see “subtitles by Baechusquad / Potatosquad” they’re S-tier. “Bumdi” is A-tier. Everything else is “ok, fine”. The subtitles on the chinese show(s) are rough right now.

Some Korean cultural notes

Korean is very big on marking your relative position in society and being polite and deferential to strangers and those "above" you in social stature (older, more important, customers). Naturally, transgressing these norms in an entertainment setting is a source of humor. The language has "casual", "polite", and "honorific" modes of speech. One uses casual language down the hierarchy and polite or honorific upwards. Amongst peers, using casual language implies friendship and intimacy. Suggesting that people "drop honorifics" with you is an invitation to be friends. If you hear a lot of "-nida" and "-yo" word endings, that's fancy speech.

The language culture is also jammed full of puns and memes. The good subtitles will try to point these out, but in general if people are laughing and you don't know why, it's usually because of a pun or some form of hierarchy "error" has happened.

Sharing food is a huge deal. You'll see. A "mukbang" is a popular form of entertainment in the era of streaming—watching other people eat food and chat with the streaming audience.

  • "Songsaengnim": "Teacher" is the default honorific title to refer to someone older or perhaps more important than you. "-nim" is basically a gender-neutral "sir".
  • "Sunbae" / "Hubae": at school and work, "sunbaes" are the upperclassmen, and "hubaes" are newcomers. Hubaes defer to sunbaes in all things and are expected to do grunt work for them. In turn, sunbaes are supposed to protect the hubaes and mentor them. Think "Upperclassman/Freshman" but it also happens at work. Friends use other words—
  • "Maknae": in a group of friends, the youngest people are referred to as "maknaes" (~"kiddos") instead of "hubaes". Maknaes are expected to be sweet and helpful (e.g. playing the "host" / "hostess" role).
  • Positional relationship terms: if you're not close with someone, you use their name (or an honorific) to refer to them. If you are close with someone, you switch to a term of familial endearment, which are gender-specific. Often you'll see people on these shows switch back from these to "[name]-ssi", which is a stiff & formal form of address, in order to indicate frustration or "frustration."
    • Male to older female: "nuna"
    • Male to older male: "hyung"
    • Female to older female: "unnie"
    • Female to older male: "oppa"
    • Interestingly, there is no gender distinction for younger family. They're all "dongsaeng" ("little sibling")
    • With a certain emphasis, these words (not "dongsaeng") can also imply a romantic relationship.
  • A capital "C" is tv-safe shorthand for "shit!"
  • "Hoxy" is internet meme slang for "perhaps"

Mystery Adventure Gameshows

Crime Scene: The OG deductive mystery-solving game show. This is pure excellence, imo! The earlier seasons have a more chaotic vibe as they're figuring the show format out, the later seasons have bigger twists and reveals. Season 3 might not have the best video or subtitle quality; it is what it is. The rules change slightly each season. Park Ji-yoon is my hero.

Who’s the Murderer: I haven’t watched this yet. The Chinese license of Crime Scene that kicked off their Jubensha craze. These are rips from Chinese State TV, and they’ve gradually been deleting their English subtitles for some reason (I suspect geopolitics) :(. Adding this gradually as I find subtitles, even bad ones, just in case.

The Great Escape: Six celebrity dudes get blindfolded and dropped off in large format escape “rooms” and have to solve puzzles and figure out the backstory to survive. Each escape has its own contained, pretty elaborate story. The creator of this also made GHSMC and The Genius (and the new/upcoming Netflix versions: Agents of Mystery and The Devil’s Plan). I am pleased that these tough dudes do as much scaredy-cat business and shouting in fear as the ladies in GHSMC.

Girls' High School Mystery Club: Five celebrity ladies do a little light roleplaying as high schoolers at elite girls’ schools that harbor dark secrets. There’s a storyline that unfolds over the course of the season with daily escape-room style missions and side-quests sprinkled in. It’s sort of like “The Great Escape” but with ladies, a story that unfolds over the season, and slightly more hanging out / light RPing. There's a fair amount of "lady shrieking" and scaredy-cat business once it transitions from YA pizza theft hijinks to the real story, and they get better at solving stuff. Park Ji-yoon! Bibi!

Apartment 404: Good-vibes-forward "mystery" show with silly games that ask the cast to discover a mystery from Korea's past set in an apartment complex. A traitor mechanic and core gameplay that changes every episode keep the concept fresh, but ultimately this could have been a little better if they'd focused more on the mystery element, imo. Yu Jae-seok ultimately just really likes hanging out and learning about stuff.

Busted: I’ve only sampled this; I’ve heard it took a few episodes to find it’s stride. National treasure Yu Jae-seok leads a cast of celebrities as they investigate various "mysteries", intermixed, of course, with silly games and meals. It is half scripted vignettes playing out the drama for the cast, half unscripted as the cast tries to solve the cases. I'm missing half of it still.

Zombieverse: I’ve only sampled this; Netflix show about celebrities trying to "survive" a zombie apocalypse, with unscripted setups for each episode wherein the cast has to figure out how to not get eaten by zombies. Like "Busted!" it is intermixed with scripted scenes, which turned some folks off. Mixed reviews at first, but later audiences who understood it was a game show seem to have liked it? It did well enough they renewed it.

Ruthless and Creative Elimination Gameshows

The Devil’s Plan and The Genius: I have watched Season 1 of The Genius, and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. The games are quite creative and adding negotiation and alliance-building really ups the ante. They’re high-stakes, creative, elimination games to test skill, strategy, and intellect. The Genius was so popular it’s been imitated a lot and this is ultimately part of the inspiration for "Squid Game". Netflix hired the creator to make a new version called The Devil’s Plan.

Game of Blood: Haven’t watched this yet. This is sort of a post-"Squid Game" take on a less murder-y but still full of relentless stress elimination game. They have a commentary panel of favorite players from Crime Scene and GHSMC, which is intriguing and why I grabbed it.

The Time Hotel: Haven't watched this yet. The concept here is that "time" is currency. Players enter the game with a bank of time that they must use to do everything in the hotel, from buying meals, forming alliances, and playing ruthless elimination games a la "The Genius". If you run out of time, you're out.

Fancy Mafia / Werewolf Gameshows

Accomplice: Haven’t watched this yet. It is a long-format Mafia game with daily sidequests, for a fairly large amount of money. It’s a web series, so the cast here are “internet famous” people.

Black Sheep Game: Haven't watched this yet. A 4 day long Mafia-style game where the "white sheep" have to identify the "black sheep" during a series of games and missions. It's a web series, so again more "internet famous" people.

On deck

  • Trying to find the rest of Busted and Who's the Murderer.
  • Better subtitles for WtM
  • GHSMC Season 3, when Baechu starts releasing it
  • Agents of Mystery, JJY's netflix version of The Great Escape/GHSMC (when it's out)
  • Maybe more of the Fancy Mafia shows?