KBS’ new idol competition program “The Unit” started its 28-episode run Saturday with a moderate viewership rating, but failed to settle controversies it had already aroused.
The first episode kicked off with a viewership rating of 5 percent, while ratings for the second episode rose slightly to 6.2 percent, according to Nielsen Korea.
Alternatively dubbed “Idol Rebooting Project,” the idol show brings together singers who have already debuted professionally but failed to gain public recognition to compete for a spot on two project groups -- one girl group and one boy band.
Han Areum, formerly of girl group T-ara, appears on KBS’ “The Unit,” Saturday. (KBS)
It became embroiled in controversy even before its launch on charges it copied the format of Mnet’s hit “Produce 101,” which featured 101 K-pop trainees competing for a spot in an 11-member project group.
While producers admitted to similarities to other shows, the KBS program emphasized that it differs from previous audition shows as it limits its participants to former or current singers.
However, viewers remained puzzled about the “rebooting established singers” theme, as episodes on Saturday featured singers with nearly nonexistent careers, K-pop trainees and actors.
The tendency to focus primarily on particular participants, which is often pointed to as a problem of audition shows, was also a glaring issue, despite KBS vowing to “be fair to all contestants.”
Some of the newer participants enjoyed extensive time in the spotlight, but others, like members of Dal Shabet and Laboum -- who many say perfectly fit the show’s theme -- were condensed into mere seconds of short cross-edited clips.
Actor Lee Jung-ha appears in KBS’ “The Unit.” (KBS)
“The Unit” is also in the middle of controversy about broadcasters expanding into the management industry.
In early August an alliance of music production companies made known its opposition to what it called the “relentless” production of the talent programs. As broadcasters dictate which groups appear on their music shows -- which is essential for a K-pop act to be successful -- the agencies claimed that broadcasters’ launching K-pop groups gives them an unfair advantage.
The show airs Saturdays at 9: 15 p.m. It is set to run for 14 weeks.
Girl group Good Day performs on KBS’ “The Unit,” Saturday. (KBS)
By Kim So-yeon (email@example.com)