Variety Roulette: Witch Hunt
javabeans: We haven’t done a Variety Roulette in some time, but we’ve been meaning to do one for Witch Hunt for a while. We’ve been talking about it for months, it seems, but kept pushing it back because we didn’t have the time. But with Three Meals a Day getting cleared from the docket and Joo-won and Ahn Jae-hyun being slated as the guests for this episode, we decided to sit down and just do it.
girlfriday: Yeah it seemed like good timing all around. I really like Witch Hunt, which is basically a tame version of (American radio show) Loveline: guys taking callers’ stories and using that as a platform to talk about sex and relationships.
javabeans: Yeah, girlfriday was the one who told me I had to start watching, and I happened to tune in as they hit their first anniversary; the show has been airing for just over a year on JTBC. (This Roulette covers Episode 64.)
girlfriday: The show’s hosts are MC Shin Dong-yup, ballad singer Sung Shi-kyung, gagman Yoo Se-yoon, and writer/movie critic Heo Ji-woong. And the fun is in the foursome’s rapport, because they actually seem like four guys who go drinking together every week.
javabeans: The upside of this being on a cable show is that even though the sex talk is very toned-down, it’s still refreshingly frank. There are no descriptions of body parts or anything, and references are often masked in euphemisms, but the attitudes towards modern people having sex are candid and open-minded, and I really like that.
girlfriday: Yes, that’s the thing that’s making Witch Hunt such a cultural phenomenon in Korea — they actually get to be honest about young people having sex and the fact that they talk about it openly on television is a big deal. The callers get to ask their questions anonymously, kind of like a radio show, and are surprisingly forthcoming.
javabeans: It’s been a particular hit with twenty- and thirtysomething viewers, and even when I wasn’t watching it, I was aware of it because it would regularly be talked about in the news. At first when you were describing the anonymous question part I was expecting people to call in live, like on Loveline, so I thought it was a little weak when it turns out some were just written in. But then I totally changed my mind when I realized that these written-in questions necessitate the four hosts to act out the questions — they have scripts and affect voices and get all into character emotionally — and THAT is hilarious.
girlfriday: That’s my favorite segment, when Dong-yup and Shi-kyung act out the romances every week.
javabeans: It’s the best when the question requires them to be all aegyo-filled or handsy with each other and they’re obviously a little embarrassed but they just go for it anyway.
girlfriday: I honestly started watching this show because of Sung Shi-kyung, who doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would do a 19+ variety talk show (whereas Shin Dong-yup is like BORN to do this show). But Shi-kyung is fantastic.
javabeans: I love Shi-kyung! Okay, so it’s well established that I want Shi-kyung for my own anyway, but on this show he’s so great — he’s often a calm voice of reason with an open-minded approach (although it’s also really funny when he’s wrong or gets peeved about the petty things).
girlfriday: It’s so cute when they get peevish about whatever personal matter they really feel strongly about. Shi-kyung happens to hate “cool” romance — yunno, basically dating without labeling things, and he always talks about hitting people with a cool stick to beat it out of them.
javabeans: I think of “cool” romances as the kind that are flirty and full of mind games. Basically, you don’t want to seem earnest, so you bend over backwards to make it seem like you’re cool about everything. And yet, people are so often not like that deep down — it’s just that there’s a cultural pressure to pretend you are. And I love when Shi-kyung is all, “Dude just be honest” and “No no noooooo, never fake your orgasms!”
girlfriday: You gotta love a guy who says that. Also I came to love Heo Ji-woong because of this show. He’s my favorite.
javabeans: I think he’s been the breakout, no? In terms of going from a guy nobody knew to suddenly having fans. Everyone else, I’d seen before on other programs.
girlfriday: Yeah he’s definitely the breakout star. He’s a movie critic (he also writes books) but he’s so freaking funny because he’s not trying to be funny. He’s sort of this misanthrope who’s pessimistic and brutally honest, and he and Shi-kyung have an adorable bickering friendship.
javabeans: I don’t know why they call this show Witch Hunt to be honest, except maybe they’re just using witch loosely to mean females, because the unofficial tagline for the show is “four dudes talking about women.”
girlfriday: They really should’ve called it Dudes Talkin’ ‘Bout Girls. Generally “witch” is used to mean a female player, but for the title they take each syllable literally so that it technically means “magical woman,” which sounds no less weird but is at least not as negative? Though I could never tell if they meant the “hunt” part in a positive or negative way.
javabeans: …I’m pretty sure it’s not positive? The thing is, the show is very positive, but that term is loaded, as we know, so I find the title out of character with the fun, frank talk.
girlfriday: Yes I agree, the PDs named it wrong.
javabeans: They should have just called the show Red Light, Green Light and started off with the green light segment, and then segued into the radio questions.
girlfriday: Seriously, since now that green light they use on the show is so famous now.
javabeans: Yeah, Witch Hunt totally made that a thing. Now I see it in drama dialogue too: “That was a total green light, wasn’t it?” But we’ll get to that in a moment. On with the show! Oh, right, this is the Halloween edition. Oh right, today is Halloween. Look who forgot to get a costume or buy candy or care.
girlfriday: Bah humbug.
javabeans: Okay so they’re starting off with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, which is hilarious because the guys are trying to pretend like they care and that it’s scary, but now they just look like scarecrows.
girlfriday: I love it when Dong-yup tries to dance. It’s always a disaster.
javabeans: They start by saying that Halloween can be a day of wildness, given the costumes and masks that allow people to go crazy under pseudo-anonymity, riff a little on Halloween as a holiday, and then get to the first question from a 42-year-old divorced man with a young daughter.
girlfriday: Ha, so the story is about a new female employee at his office “with the face of IU and the body of Hyorin,” and Shi-kyung just sits there asking how on earth he’s supposed to act that part out.
javabeans: I love when Shi-kyung plays the girl part. He’s so funny, being all sweet and aegyo-like. Though I guess if it were Dong-yup we’d just be creeped out.
girlfriday: I like when they half-ass the acting and they go back and make each other do it right.
javabeans: I also love it when they get TOO into it and then catch themselves, all, “Whoa, that was weird.”
girlfriday: LOL. That happens a lot.
javabeans: So the question has to do with this 23-year-old employee who starts to sound like she’s flirting with the guy, who didn’t consider her a real dating possibility and thought of her as a cute dongsaeng, and the girl sounds like she’s super hitting on him, and the guys all sigh, “This is enough to drive you nuts!”
girlfriday: She sounds like she’s coming on really strong, convinced that she could even be a stepmother to his daughter and everything. The girl ends up confessing, so the boss does the noble idiot thing and pushes her away (Dong-yup cracks up while sending her away for her own good like in a drama).
javabeans: It turns out the girl was so serious that she ended up resigning her job after the rejection, and the panel just… it’s like this big display of vicarious pity-regret.
girlfriday: Dong-yup looks positively heartbroken.
javabeans: I love how he’s obviously really hung upon the IU-Hyorin thing, but fishes for reasons: “It’s because she’s a good person! You should date for her personality, not for age!”
girlfriday: Shi-kyung, on the other hand, shouts: “What are you doing? How can you date a 23-year-old?! Quit it!” Everyone turns to him in shock… and then he smiles, “…is not the thing we would say.” Pfft.
javabeans: Ji-woong shocks everyone by saying that he would leave it as a fond memory and not pursue it, and Shi-kyung is all, “Just wait until you’re in that situation.”
girlfriday: They always warn each other in that threatening way, just waiting for the other to get a girlfriend so they can riff on how it runs counter to everything they always say. (Shi-kyung and Ji-woong are single, the other guys are married.)
javabeans: They point out that there are issues outside of just whether you like each other, especially when he’s divorced, twice her age, and has a child. Talk turns to basically the pragmatism-versus-feeling dichotomy, like the difficulty of dating in the office and how there are so many things that could make it a headache.
girlfriday: They disagree till the end, mostly on the question of the boss-employee relationship rather than age, which I agree is a bigger problem in real life. Ji-woong is the lone dissenter, while the others argue that the relationship is still possible.
javabeans: So they move on to the second question, which comes from a female college student, and hilariously, now it’s Dong-yup doing the girl part and Shi-kyung playing the guy who likes her. You know, the production does a really good job on these stories, because they’re so entertaining even when the guys are just reading off cue cards. They do the music-video ambiance, the romantic background music, the sound effects and all that. I always crack up out loud watching this show.
girlfriday: And really silly CG effects, which are obviously low-rent but super hilarious because of it.
javabeans: Shi-kyung playing the sweet spurned nice guy is so cute.
girlfriday: It so fits his image, even though I’m pretty sure he’s way more ajusshi-ish in real life, the more I watch him on this show.
javabeans: I like this second story, because it’s so true to life. The girl rejected the boy, who wasn’t her type, and he promised to be steadfast in his feelings and was always on hand to be helpful, to the extent that she got teased by friends. One day she lost her temper and barked at him, and the guy contritely apologized and backed off… and then months later when she saw him and other girls were drooling over him, she suddenly started liking him again. And the guys are all, “Eh, that’s so annoying.” Ji-woong says, “Man, this guy is too good for her.” Dong-yup: “The question asker is the WOMAN!”
girlfriday: This always happens. They always tend to side with the guy, which is probably unavoidable and usually really funny. But often it means that the person who sent in the question doesn’t actually get practical advice.
javabeans: But what’s good about the advice isn’t that they side with the guy just because he’s a guy — they have well-reasoned answers. Ji-woong is particularly good at this, because he points out that what bothers him is that the girl refuses to make the first step or risk her pride, so even when she likes the guy she’s trying to save face. Shi-kyung’s advice is therefore that the girl’s only shot now is to go for it without trying to save face.
girlfriday: Shi-kyung throws out some statistics about how men and women choose to respond to rejection (most men choose to persevere until they can change the woman’s mind, while most women offer to just be friends), and Se-yoon hangs his head and admits he’s tried all the choices on that list before. Shi-kyung says he’s never been rejected, and the guys congratulate him, until he finishes his statement: “Because I’ve never confessed my feelings before.” Saaaad.
javabeans: But it’s funny because he’s all, “I can’t even when I’m super sure of the answer” and the guys joke that he might find the courage to say “I like you” on his wedding day. Next, we move on to the now-famous Green Light portion of the show, which is when people write in about ambiguous scenarios or mixed signals where they aren’t sure if the other person likes them back, or if they’re reading too much into it. Each panelist gets a box with a light. If they think the answer to the question is “Yes, this situation is a go for romance,” they turn on the light. If not, they leave it off.
girlfriday: Didn’t they parody the Green Light segment on You From Another Star?
javabeans: Oh, they did! Of course, at the time I didn’t get the reference because I wasn’t watching Witch Hunt, but it was with the comic book guys when Jeon Ji-hyun was angsting over whether Kim Soo-hyun liked her or not.
girlfriday: Today they have guests for the Green Light segment — Joo-won and Ahn Jae-hyun, who are currently promoting their movie Fashion King.
javabeans: It’s funny how grumpy the guys are because the guests aren’t women, and when they don’t bother to stop for introductions or do anything, Dong-yup stops them to be all, “Come on, try a little!”
girlfriday: Ha, they never even stand up to greet them when it’s dudes.
javabeans: The camaraderie between the four guys is probably a huge aspect of why this show is popular, aside from the love advice. Because let’s face it, just the concept alone could produce a very different show if the rapport were different. For instance, Shi-kyung comments that he sang the OST song for You From Another Star, which Ahn Jae-hyun was in, and the guys are all, “THIS again?” and “You’d think you had no other popular songs.”
girlfriday: And I like that they’re very transparent on this show about the fact that they have guests who only come by when they’re promoting things, and act really petty about it. So, you have to talk about your movie now, I guess. Whatever. Go. Okay, moving on! How would you describe your personality in the bedroom?
javabeans: Joo-won and Jae-hyun are SO awkward it’s funny. Jae-hyun’s never done variety and they’re both like these polite newbies answering formally to questions. At least talking about Fashion King eases them into the mood. They ask about their favorite body parts on a woman, and tell me they’re just messing with Jae-hyun now when they’re like, What about a woman’s chest is attractive? And he’s trying to read the room and guess, “The… size?”
girlfriday: Lol. The way he looks back and forth before answering each question makes it awesome, like he’s not sure if he’s being punked, or if these hyungs are for real. In actuality, they will spend countless minutes of airtime talking about what they find attractive about women, but right now they’re enjoying the two younguns’ awkward reactions. I love how petty Shi-kyung is being right now — he says how nice it is to have young blood around, but delivers it in the least sincere way possible.
javabeans: The first question comes in, and it’s about a twentysomething guy who’s described as sexy-looking, who does laundry pickup and delivery, and a gorgeous customer who keeps meeting him dressed only in a slip (the other employees only see her fully clothed). The panelists slam on their green lights and then wonder why their two young guests haven’t, and Jae-hyun says hesitatingly, “I… don’t think it is?” And Shi-kyung slams his light off immediately, as though surely the youngs know something that the olds don’t.
girlfriday: I love how Joo-won goes into his reasoning (that it’s possible but not a sure thing), and Ji-woong says gently, “It’s not a question of taking responsibility for a person for the rest of your life.” Joo-won: “…It’s not?” He actually seems a little sad about it.
javabeans: These boys are so adorably earnest. I love it. Jae-hyun adds that this doesn’t feel quite right, like she might just be having fun playing with him (and if she liked him for real, she would say something), and Se-yoon second-guesses himself, “Are our green lights too lightly given?” Dong-yup’s all, “WHY ARE YOU YOUNGS SO SERIOUS.”
girlfriday: After more consideration, Shi-kyung finally turns his green light back on and sighs, “I was trying to live young, but it won’t do.” Ha.
javabeans: Finally both Joo-won and Jae-hyun decide to turn their lights on, and now Se-yoon (who turned his OFF to follow the boys) is now huffy because he’s been left in the dust. LOL. The reactions are seriously funnier than the questions, because the second question is about a girl who’s not sure if her playful oppa is flirting with her, or if he’s like that to everyone. Joo-won and Jae-hyun immediately turn on their lights, and Shi-kyung quickly turns his on to pretend like he agrees and wasn’t just trying to look young.
girlfriday: It is funny how it turns into an argument to try and sway votes to either side each time. And it’s all about timing, because you don’t just want to be a follower for no reason. They talk about skinship, and Dong-yup talks about Joo-won like he’s some kind of genius, having decided that he’s so touchy-feely with hyungs so that he can be equally touchy with noonas.
javabeans: I love the joke they conjure up, about how Joo-won actually hates it and has to throw up in the bathroom later, but slaps himself back to his senses, “Get it together, Joo-won! You can do this! Think of the noonas!”
girlfriday: Jae-hyun says he’s pretty open with skinship, and Dong-yup says he is too. Ji-woong chimes in, “Hyung, you touch us too much!” Shi-kyung: “When you’re drunk you bite!”
javabeans: Joo-won’s reaction to the third question is so adorable, because it’s a guy asking about this really forward girl, and Joo-won’s jaw just drops like it’s omgsoshocking for someone to be that aggressive. It’s like a kid saying That’s like in the movies! Except… dude, Joo-won, you’re the one IN all the movies!
girlfriday: Sometimes he’s such a tiny baby. They all turn on their green lights this time, but agree that the girl sounds weird and the caller should maybe not date her. They’re mostly confused by her strange behavior of kissing then slapping a guy, and they ask if any of them have ever been slapped by a woman. They all say no, and Ji-woong answers as if it’s totally obvious, “I have.” Why am I not surprised.
javabeans: What’s funnier is that he seems surprised that the others are surprised, like, Oh is this not how we do things?
girlfriday: I know, he looks around and is genuinely shocked that the others haven’t been slapped, like he’s wondering how they manage it.
javabeans: The guys roundtable a bit about how they act when they kiss, and whether they’ve ever rejected skinship advances. Jae-hyun says he has, and hilariously, Ji-woong immediately picks up on his wording to point out that the woman must have been way older, and tease him about it (i.e., “Please don’t do that, ma’am”).
girlfriday: Then we go to the next segment, where the show sends a live feed to a new location each time. Sometimes a huge crowd is gathered, and other days it’s some random cafe and only a few people are around. Basically they just get some feedback on their green light questions or hear from other people about their problems.
javabeans: This is usually when I stop the episode and often never bother to go back. I would prefer if this show were just the first two segments, honestly.
girlfriday: Yeah this is my least favorite portion, and I usually just skip it and go straight to the next section. I’m here to see what the guys have to say, not random citizens.
javabeans: Today they’re at a women’s university and the crowd is huge. They ask the students about their opinions on some of the green light questions and take a few questions too, but I think we can speed through this. I actually find it somewhat entertaining because our panelists are good at ad-libs and moving along the conversation, but it’s not so exciting to describe.
girlfriday: There was one day when they did the live feed and Shi-kyung’s real-life niece appeared and crushed on Ji-woong, and the guys got into a fight about it. That was awesome. But otherwise, it’s skippable.
javabeans: Aw, that sounds great. I also liked the one where they asked the crowd who was their favorite, and Shi-kyung got picked as the least favorite, and he tried to laugh it off but obviously couldn’t and was like, “Wait. Why? What about me?!”
girlfriday: He’s so adorable. So anyway, the final segment of the show is in the next studio over, where they’re joined by an audience and regular panelists: Cosmopolitan editor Kwak Jung-eun, model Han Hye-jin, and TV talent Hong Seok-chun (who’s actually not present for most of today’s segment due to a film shoot).
javabeans: I have to say, I now understand why Han Hye-jin is popular, because she seems really cool. Sort of Hyori-like? In that she seems outspoken and frank, not very coy. She’s way more known in Korea since she’s mostly a model (the guys tease her about acting today, because she has a part in Fashion King).
girlfriday: Yeah I really like both the women on the panel, because they’re just very open-minded and blunt. It turns out that Jae-hyun and Hye-jin are both in the same fashion show later that day, so Dong-yup makes them all show off their runway walks along with Joo-won, and the boys do their ridiculous Fashion King poses.
javabeans: This part is interesting to listen to, but again, not so much to recap. They talk about… I dunno, conversation, getting to know you, when did you have your first kiss, that kind of thing. They revisit the green light stories (again!) with these ladies for their opinions, like with the laundry delivery guy. Then they do a reverse green light scenario that starts with all the lights on.
girlfriday: This section usually has the most interesting and problematic real-life stories, because it’s about an existing relationship that’s got issues, and the question is whether or not they should end things. This one’s pretty tame compared to other weeks, because it’s just a guy whose girlfriend is becoming more and more sexually forward, when she started out being so innocent at first. I’m with Shi-kyung here: “Er, what’s the problem?”
javabeans: They break it down to the various components, like how they started out in a teacher-student relationship and he was more experienced, and now the girl is getting ahead of him. And how she’s pretty bold in public, grabbing at his, um, nether regions in view of other people. And how he could enjoy the dynamic flip but seems to be bothered by it, and how it’s a matter of communication more than sex. That sort of thing.
girlfriday: Joo-won admits to liking girls who are shy about skinship, but says that it doesn’t really make sense for that dynamic to remain when you’re dating for a long time. Nobody turns off their green light, which they point out is pretty rare.
javabeans: They put it to an audience vote, and a total of zero men think this is reason to break up (ha), while nine women voted yes. They ask one, who explains that it sounds like the guy isn’t that into the girlfriend and is looking for a reason to break up, but is blaming it on her.
girlfriday: As far as problems go, it’s a pretty weak one. I like the ones where they’re throwing their green lights in anger and arguing up a storm over whether or not a couple should break up.
javabeans: I don’t feel like we really got much use out of the guests today, but on the upside, at least the fixed hosts are always enjoyable to listen to. I’d say this was a pretty representative episode, all things told.
girlfriday: Yeah it’s basically a fun show because of the guys, who have a really breezy, refreshing way of taking, and a sweet bond with each other. Sometimes the coy way they talk around the sex stuff is funny too, because on this show everyone knows what they’re talking about, but even cable TV isn’t quite as frank as it could be.
javabeans: It’s why I enjoy the ladies (Kwak Jung-eun and Han Hye-jin) because they just talk about it plainly. The guys often say things like “when you’re in the moment” or “that experience” and the ladies will just say things like “When you’re having sex…” Like today, Jung-eun said that and Jae-hyun actually looked thrown, like he wasn’t expecting her to just be so straightforward.
girlfriday: Yeah I do think that without the two writers — Jung-eun and Ji-woong — the talk would remain a little too commercial and glossy for my taste, because the others are so trained in TV talk where you never say the thing you really mean.
javabeans: Thankfully, they’re not so media-polished that they’re above saying things like “Why don’t you like meeeee?” and “I should be more popular than him!”
girlfriday: What Witch Hunt mostly makes me think is, I would really have fun drinking with those people.
javabeans: It makes ME think, I would really have fun marrying one of those people.
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