Updated to note that I’ve watched several episodes of this with my 17 y.o., who doesn’t really enjoy reality shows or Korean television, but she was laughing out loud with this one.
Appa! Eodiga? Or Dad! Where Are We Going?
This is the cutest thing ever. It’s not a drama, it’s essentially an utterly adorable and worthwhile reality t.v. show, and the words adorable and worthwhile are two words I never expected to see coming out from my fingers on a keyboard in connection with ‘reality t.v.’ But I am loving this show, and I have never seen another ‘reality’ t.v. show where I liked so much as two minutes of it. With this show, I was smitten before the 2 minute mark. It really makes a difference that the kids are just kids here, not puppets or dolls, and these kids are totally adorable and fun to watch.
The three things that will make me overlook many flaws in a K-drama are, remember? Adorable kids, warm family connections, and bromance. This show has all of the above only it’s real, and I don’t have to overlook a lot of flaws, either.
The show takes five show biz dads- two actors, a famous soccer player, a singer, and an MC/variety show host, and each dad brings along one of his kids and they get sent off to hang out together over the weekend and perform various tasks. In the first show they go to a remote village with old style housing to spend the night. It’s midwinter, so it’s very cold. The kids gather the ingredients for dinner from the villagers, the Dads cook and serve the dinner together (this is Korea- most of the dads have never cooked a thing. What am I saying? My husband is American and he never cooked a thing until our oldest kids were about the same ages as these kids). The dads cook breakfast individually and eat it with their own kids, but the ingredients are set out in the central meeting hall and there aren’t enough of the ‘best’ things to go around, so it’s first come, first serve. There are only two fish, for instance. One of the dads sleeps so late he convinces his kid just to forego anything like a regular breakfast and eat leftover steamed potatoes from a snack the previous day, and wrap it in seaweed. Dad and the kids go sledding. The kids have to memorize a song in 30 minutes in order to win the use of a chamber pot so that one father/child pair won’t have to leave the house and find the outhouse at night. Other episodes have different locations and different tasks, but the kids usually are the ones who have to hunt down the ingredients for dinner, and this is hilarious and charming in ways you just can’t imagine unless you watch the show. And then it’s not imagining anymore, is it?
Interspersed with the ‘reality’ bit, there are interviews with the dad where they talk about their goals in parenting, what kind of fathers they think they are, their strengths and weaknesses, and their relationships with their kids, what they’re learning about their kids and being a father.
The kids are super sweet and utterly adorable. They range in age from 6 to 9 or 10 years old (depends on we count the ages, Korean or American). You get introduced to the whole age/oppa/hyung/dongsaeng cultural dynamic from the get-go. It’s wonderful. The second youngest clarifies with the oldest, ‘You’re the first hyung, I’m the second hyung,” and when the three of them are out on the road, the eldest is some distance down the road and a tractor comes by, 2nd hyung quickly herds the only little girl in the group to the side of the road and guards her, and then proudly tells 1st hyung, “I protected our dongsaeng.” The oldest boy is a wee bit spoiled at home, according to his dad, and tends to cry when things don’t go his way. In the first show, he and his dad get stuck with the worst house- it really is kind of scary looking, and he cries over it for ages. His dad takes him aside and gives him a dad talk that goes something like this, “You’re the hyung, right? But do you get to be the hyung just because you’re the oldest? No, being the hyung means you take care of your dongsaengs and sometimes you have to yield to them, right?”
Ji ya, the only girl, is the daughter of the soccer player who is admittedly, and obviously, what is known as something like a “daughter fool.” He dotes on the little girl in an utterly ridiculous while totally adorable fashion.
The oldest dad has a 7 year old son who begins the show a little afraid of his dad, and they are very awkward together. Dad explains to the viewers that he was not close to his own dad who abandoned the family when he was only 10 anyway. He wants to show his kids his heart and not be so hard on them but he doesn’t really know how, never having had a real dad. By the end of the first episode his son is already relaxing and really warming up to his father and their good-night is just- well, sniff, sniff. I love this show.
You can can read about each father/child duo here.
Here’s my take:
kim sung joo, 41 years old, MC and broadcaster, dad to the oldest boy, Min Guk, age 9. Min Guk frustrated me a bit until the 4th episode where he and his dad have to sleep in a tent when it’s -14C outside. He really, really does not want to be in the tent, cried a storm when he found out he had to, but in site of that, he ignores three invitations from two other dads to sleep in the warm room with either one of them and their kid- he finally heads for the room only when the oldest dad (a friend of his father) returns and really insists that he should not stay in the tent all night, and his dad at last joins in and stresses that it’s okay, he can go. He then wakes first in the morning of all the kids and runs out to check on his dad. So sweet. I also loved that he is the one who figured out how to set the tent up correctly when his dad couldn’t do it. Now it’s his dad who frustrates me the most. He is totally the reason his cute son is so insecure, but he is totally clueless about what he does to cause that.
lee jong hyuk, 39 years old, actor, brings along his 6 y.o. son Junsu, a happy-go-lucky kid who marches to the beat of his own drum. I really love this father/son relationship, and this kid is just a sweetheart with some of the oddest ideas, ever. I understand the word for him in Korean is that he’s 4D, meaning, I think, that he’s a little out there. I think he must have only just turned 7. He and the girl Ji Ya are the youngest of the children, and he’s the only one who can’t read yet, but his dad reads him bedtime stories about Confucianism, so I think he’ll be just fine.;-D
sung dong il, actor, 46 years old, he has 2 girls and a boy, the oldest of the fathers (he married later than the rest) and is admittedly the most old school dad here and harder on his son than his daughters. He brings along his 7 y.o. son Jun, who is clearly going to be a ‘noona-killer’ when he gets a little older. This boy is ca- yoot! as my fifth girl would say. He seems mature beyond his years, and I love his manners. I think this venture has been wonderful for his relationship with his dad, but it’s also obvious that his dad’s strictness hasn’t been entirely a bad thing, either. I really enjoyed the little scene in the 4th episode where we learn that Jun eats and loves spicy kimchi and how proud his daddy is and how impressed Hoo and his dad are about this. All the kids and dads have gotten CF offers from the show, but Daddy Dong Il has announced he won’t be accepting any more for his son because he’s worried about him becoming spoiled.
yoon min soo, 33 years old, singer, and the youngest dad (he married early for Korean culture), brings along his very funny 7 year old son Hoo, missing his front two teeth and with a major crush on the only girl with them. Hoo tells Min Guk that he (Hoo) is the 2nd Hyung, so I think he must be very closer to 8 years old than Jun, the other 7 y.o. is, although Jun seems older. Dad is a huge tease and Hoo just takes it and rolls with it.
song jong gook, retired from the National soccer team, where he was much admired, 33, father to the only girl on the team, 6 y.o. Ji Ya. She really ought to be a spoiled princess, her daddy is that besotted, but she’s not. She just comes across as confident and quite comfortable in her own skin, which is a good thing, and she’s a total sweetie. In one of the early episodes when she is with the two oldest boys gathering food, although she is the youngest, she is the first one to remember to thank the grandmother for all the food she’s giving them, and she does it very prettily. I loved it when the very affectionate Hoo gives JiYa a hug and her dad takes Hoo aside and tells him “you ask my permission before you hug my daughter again.”
Lots of information and discussion here.
Find links to watch it with English subs here.
Episode 4 is out of order there, you can find it here.
8-12 seem to be missing from Shia & Reagy’s site- find them here. (click to read the description of the video in order to see the links)
More links to English subbed versions here. (not working as of May, 2013)
To watch the subbed versions be sure to wait five seconds and then up in the right corner there is a “skip ad” button to click.
This link also has some episodes (as of August, none of the above were working for me anymore).
Because this is more reality show (in a totally adorable way) than drama, there is often cross-talking, and the subbers generally only sub one of the conversation threads. They don’t sub 100% of the show, and there is a lot of text we don’t get translated. Sometimes I had to pause it to be sure I had time to read all the subs for a frame. Subbers are volunteers and have other things to do with their time. I am just grateful anybody subs this show for the rest of us.
A Few cultural things to notice:
In the first and fifth episodes the camera goes into their homes as they wake and prepare for the day. Notice where all the kids are sleeping. Loved this.=)
Note the emphasis their fathers place on greeting people properly.
Check out the cooking arrangements in the villages in the first 2 episodes
Look at the food they are eating, and notice what the dads request their kids to be sure to bring back. Notice how it is served.
One of the dads wants to cook rice in a pot instead of a rice cooker and a grandmother talks him out of it. He makes it in the rice-cooker and says, “As expected, listening to the elderly is best,” but as you see in the next eisode, he really, really wanted to try cooking it in a pot. He just coudn’t argue with the elderly grandmother.
In episode 3 Jun-su’s dad is reading him a bedtime story that appears to be a children’s rendition of Confucian principles (I’d love to have an English translation of that book)
Note the lay-out of the village homes they visit, and the sleeping arrangements as well. Compare the village homes in the 2-4 episodes with the children’s homes you see in the beginning of the 1st and 5th episodes
Note the number of times somebody sings.
In episode 5 there are at least two mentions of informal vs formal speech
Note different cultural expectations for fathers vs mothers (in episode 5, when Min Guk’s dad brings a terrible tent for ice camping and all the other dads are very concerned and wonder how he could have done this, he explains, “My wife is recovering from giving birth and Min Guk and I have been alone for two weeks, so there’s nobody in the house to take care of us,” and all the dads nod sympathetically, of course, of course. That explains everything.)
ep 5- When Min Guk bows to thanks the other dads for their help, his dad reminds him to take his hands out of his pockets
Also in this episode, and not strictly a cultural observation- I really love how Jun handles JiYa. In other episodes, the oldest two oppas have been in charge of her when the kids go find ingredients, and she runs circles around them and easily distracts them. They tell her no, but she doesn’t listen and they quickly cave in to her. Jun is sweet to her, but when he tells her no, he means it, and he’s quite firm about not letting her wander off and reminding her of the mission (‘we aren’t here for socks, we are here for food. No, you can’t have ice-cream. We aren’t here for shoes. We’re here for food. We are not buying plates. No. No. No,” and she takes it in good cheer and minds him well. I think he’s so good with her because he has two sisters, while Hoo has no siblings and Min Guk has only had a brother until two weeks before this episode.
How do the dads wash their kids faces? (I did this with my kids when they were little. I thought it was just me- not the nose blowing, but using my hand as the washcloth)
Episode 8- the last bit shows three of the families celebrating the Korean New Year, and Hoo and his dad visit two of the other families. There’s a lot to glean from watching this- family relationships, values, traditional clothing, the Korean practice of having everybody’s age turn over to the next year at New Year’s (this would make my husband a year older than I am, although we are only 3 months apart). Also, Jiah’s dad says, “Don’t you think we should go catch a chicken?” He’s joking about having a traditional Korean wedding or betrothal ceremony for Jiah and Hoo. Also, be sure to watch Min Guk’s face when he shows Hoo and Hoo’s dad the new baby sister and Hoo’s dad suggests taking the baby home. Hilarious, and so sweet, too.
You may also like:
Dramas I’ve completed, recommend, and reviewed: see here.
Things to know when watching a K-drama
Where to get your fix: Sites where you can find subtitled K-dramas (and dramas from other countries, as well. I’ve watched a handful of J-dramas (Japanese) and TW (Taiwanese) dramas, but I vastly prefer the K-dramas, even though I know more Japanese – I got an A in my Japanese 101 class back in the day, when we actually lived in Japan and once I even knew both hiragana and katakana- but still K-dramas interest me vastly more).