It’s showtime!

Popular Korean survival show begins its fourth season


Pictured above is the logo for the Produce X 101 survival show. Photo courtesy of dbkpop.

Connie Ryu, Staff Writer

“It’s showtime!” the MC, actor Lee Dong-wook, announces as the blue and white stage lights begin to flash, following the rhythm of the theme song, named “X1-MA”. The performance video for the title track was released on March 21 as a preview for the fourth season of the hit Korean survival show, Produce 101. Following three extremely successful seasons, the fourth season, Produce X 101, broadcasted its first episode on May 3.

The main appeal of the show franchise is that the K-pop idol group members that debut from the program are entirely chosen by the public, titled “national producers”. Thus, there is no judge panel, but there are “trainers” who give the trainees constructive criticism and guidance throughout the program.

The survival show begins with 101 idol trainees from various entertainment companies not only from Korea, but also from across Asia. Based on online votes from the public, as the show progresses, trainees are eliminated until the final eleven remain. Along the show’s multiple rounds of “missions”, trainees may also be able to earn bonus votes by being a part of the winning team’s performance.

The show’s final eleven then are able to debut as a K-pop idol group in Korea and continue to promote for a limited time period under one entertainment label, while still being a part of their original company. Participating trainees may have debuted previously in other teams as well, such as the NU’EST members who came on the second season.

The first season aired in 2016 and began with 101 girl trainees, ultimately debuting the K-pop girl group, “I.O.I”. The second season aired the following year with 101 boy trainees and debuted the group “Wanna One”. The third season, following the alternating gender pattern, debuted girl group “IZ*ONE”. All three seasons, along with all of the participating trainees and resulting K-pop group, have met extreme success and are extremely popular globally.

During the finale of the second season, more than 10 million people voted, which is equivalent to a fifth of South Korea’s total population. The franchise has also expanded into Chinese and Japanese versions. Because of this immense popularity, many entertainment labels choose to send their trainees in order to expose their trainees to the Korean public and boost their career off more easily.

The show had an extreme influence on the public as well, particularly because of the show’s main concept as a show for the entire nation. The program created many new trends and slang words, such as calling their own chosen trainees as their “picks”.

Each season’s title track and dance has been played and shown everywhere, from streets to other broadcast programs. Besides choosing the members of the debut group, nicknamed the “nation’s idol group”, the national producers were also able to choose their fandom name, debut concept, and debut track.

Because of the previous seasons’ popularity and public influence, high expectations and excitement undoubtedly rose for the fourth season. Living up to these promises, show producers revealed that the “X” in the program’s name has the special meaning of a variable that can show infinite potential, applying to the trainees’ infinite potential to improve their skills and appeal to the public.

Only three episodes into the season, numerous changes based on the “X” has been revealed. For example, in contrast to previous seasons where trainees were initially categorized into ranks of A, B, C, D, and F based on their skill level, the new season has included a new rank, X, at the bottom for those trainees who would benefit from training in the fundamentals.

Additionally, the eleven trainees with the most votes during the finale originally debuted, however in this new season, the most popular ten trainees are chosen, with the eleventh member being decided by the total number of votes accumulated by the end of the entire program and not just in the finale.

With the new alterations, the show’s view ratings are quickly rising and it is receiving similar, if not greater, attention and love from not only Korean, but also international viewers. Another interesting appeal to this season is that the debut group will be promoting for five years, in contrast to I.O.I’s one year, Wanna One’s two years, and IZ*ONE’s two and a half years of promotion.

After I.O.I and Wanna One’s heartbreaking disbandments, fans are glad that they’ll be able to see their “picks” for longer before they break off into their own individual careers. For presumably the next year, Produce X 101 will air Friday nights in Korea on cable channel Mnet until the final eleven remain.

If you want to watch X1-MA, check out the video below.