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78.8-year-old grandpas return with scenery of central Europe

Star producer Na Young-seok most affectionate about ‘Grandpas Over Flowers’

One of tvN’s all-time favorites, “Grandpas Over Flowers” is to make its return after three years.  

The travel-reality show is considered the trailblazer of its genre, having first aired in 2013. With veteran senior actors -- Lee Soon-jae, Shin Goo, Park Geun-hyung and Baek Il-seob -- and actor Lee Seo-jin as a guide, the show traveled across Europe and Asia.

The previous four seasons’ peak viewership ratings have been increasing, respectively marking 6.8, 7.2, 7.8 and 10 percent. The numbers have exceeded expectations, as tvN was not previously the entertainment giant it is today.


“Grandpas Over Flowers; Returns” (tvN)
“Grandpas Over Flowers; Returns” (tvN)

Now in its fifth season, the cast will travel through central Europe, from Berlin to Prague, Salzburg and Vienna. With one new member, senior actor Kim Yong-gun, the cast members’ average age is now 78.8.

“The show is actually not my best work in viewership ratings,” producer Na Young-seok said at a press conference held at a cafe in western Seoul on Wednesday.

“But the show’s impact is different from others. Viewers, including the production staff, are touched by the cast members’ passion, how they make an effort to see everything and enjoy traveling,” he said.   

Producer Na Young-seok poses for photos at a press conference held at a cafe in western Seoul on Wednesday. (tvN)
Producer Na Young-seok poses for photos at a press conference held at a cafe in western Seoul on Wednesday. (tvN)

The megahit producer is especially affectionate toward the show as it was his first after moving to CJ E&M in 2013. His departure from KBS came as a shock at the time, as he had achieved stardom for directing the network’s hit reality show “Two Days, One Night.”

“Being the first show after I moved to CJ E&M, ‘Grandpas Over Flowers’ is the most memorable work. Other productions include some thinking and hesitation on profit or viewership ratings. But this show is more naive, not requiring much thought,” Na said.

The last trip took place three years ago. A short hiatus was inevitable, as the production team was greatly worried about the cast’s health.

“This work is about having fun. I was worried that a trip may be overwhelming for the cast. But Lee Soon-jae, the oldest of the group, asked me, ‘So when are we going on our next trip?’” Na recounted. “We chose (central) Europe this time, considering the distance, the weather and the infrastructure.

The cast members’ stay in Berlin is one of the most anticipated parts of the show, as the senior actors visits the Berlin Wall. Na thought the timing would be right, with the recent mood for peace forming between the two Koreas.

“We learned about the fall through textbooks, but the grandpas vividly remember the fall. For other foreigners, the wall’s meaning may be not as great. But for the grandpas, it’s different,” Na stressed.

With “Grandpas Over Flowers,” “Three Meals a Day,” “Yoon’s Kitchen” and most recently “Solitary Stay,” Na and his team have been leading the local entertainment industry. The productions have all became hits, resulting in numerous imitations in and out of Korea.

“It’s not like I work with a sense of mission. I was lucky to make good shows. When others imitate, I don’t feel exceptionally good, but neither bad,” Na said. “What is more important than plagiarism is whether or not a trend has been formed. If specific needs (of viewers) have been formed, creators can create more value.”

“Grandpas Over Flowers; Returns” will air its first episode Friday at 9:50 p.m. 

By Im Eun-byel (