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More TV producers appear in front of camera, star in own shows

Experts say producers showing vulnerability, personal charm adds new dynamic

June 11, 2024 - 12:19 By Lee Yoon-seo
A screenshot from Na Young-seok's (second from left) live-stream broadcast (Channel Fullmoon)

More TV producers are appearing in front of the camera and gaining popularity as they take a more active role, rather than remaining behind the scenes.

From star producer Na Young-seok, who runs his show on Channel Fullmoon on YouTube, to the latest EBS show "PD Log," TV producers are embracing new roles as emcees or guests to add to the entertainment value.

In "Earth Arcade's Vroom Vroom" on tvN, Na entertains viewers by teasing the cast when they fail to win a game in the show. He also sometimes becomes the victim of his own pranks.

Na's YouTube channel, which boasts 6.46 million subscribers, is a platform not just for his shows, but is where he interacts with viewers through regular live chats. He hosts hourlong conversations where he invites TV celebrities.

Na also recently became the first producer to win the best male entertainer award at the Baeksang Arts Awards in May, beating out top comedians Yoo Jae-suk and Tak Jae-hoon.

Ongoing EBS documentary series "PD Log" does not feature any guests, instead it is the producers who explore a range of professions.

In the 15-part series, seven producers, ranging from three to 13 years of experience, are the main hosts of each episode and introduce viewers to the world of professions through their first-hand experience.

"A Clean Sweep," starring Shin Jae-young (JTBC)

Jang Si-won, the main producer of JTBC's hit baseball reality show "A Clean Sweep," who makes frequent appearances to lead the baseball team, takes on an important role in pranking the cast.

In an episode that aired in April, Shin Jae-young, one of the ace players in the show, was told that his contract would not be renewed and he would no longer appear in Jang's show.

While the prank intended to humorously capture the player's reaction, some viewers expressed concerns and criticism.

"Even though I knew it was a joke, I felt really uncomfortable while watching this, and I see such behavior from the decision-maker in casting as typical bullying based on hierarchy. I thought the director lacked awareness of boundaries, and I felt truly disappointed. ... Anyway, I considered it as the worst scene since the beginning of this season," a comment on a YouTube clip of "A Clean Sweep" episode reads.

Experts said that producers appearing in front of the camera and playing a lead role throughout the show as part of the cast is a trend that has both its upsides and downsides.

Pop culture critic Ha Jae-geun said the unexpected charm of producers makes the audience see them as friendly, instead of a shadowy figure with an authoritative image behind the camera.

"Producers wield absolute power in a program. So when a producer, who holds such power, shows vulnerability to the cast or individuals who are comparatively less powerful, viewers may find this dynamic entertaining," Ha said.

But he also warned that producers need to take a cautious approach to what they do on the screen.

"If the program portrays producers as someone who exerts their power, viewers could interpret it as bullying and feel uneasy," he added.