Knowing Bros (A Hyung I Know) is a JTBC entertainment show that had some rough beginnings and several time slot changes until they finally settled on an effective and totally hilarious format. From the 17th episode onward, it follows the ‘Brother School’ concept where the members act as students while their guests arrive as aspiring transfer students. The guests submit their “application forms” which include their profile, aspirations, and their preferred member to sit beside with. It is usually followed by a series of questions the guests have prepared. There are several segments that come after the guessing game and they all vary depending on the guests. It could be a game or activity, a hilarious ad-libbed skit, or a musical guessing game called Songstagram.
Knowing Bros is one of my favorite variety programs these days and the best thing about it is their use of banmal (informal language). In South Korea, using banmal to someone older, someone who debuted before you, or just someone who isn’t close to you, is a definite no-no. The show disregards this strict seniority and everyone gets treated as equals. This results to some cute awkwardness and good rollicking fun of conversing while teasing and challenging each other.
The original cast members are Kang Ho Dong, Lee Soo Geun, Seo Jang Hoon, Kim Youngchul, Kim Heechul, Hwang Chi Yeul and Kim Se Hwang along with Min Kyung Hoon who joined during the the second episode. Hwang Chi Yeul and Kim Se Hwang left the show and Lee Sang-min was added months after their departure.
The current members have really good chemistry. They often tease each other about some dark and serious issues about their lives but the jokes are delivered in an inoffensive manner the same way close friends talk to each other in reality.
Former ssireum (traditional Korean wrestling) athlete Kang Ho Dong leads the pack with his old-fashioned comedy. I can tolerate his outdated comic sense but I find his voice slightly annoying at times. He’s often compared to Nation’s MC, Yoo Jae Suk, but we all know no one can top Yoo Jae Suk’s popularity in Korea.
Kang Ho Dong’s right-hand man, Lee Soo Geun, is aptly called the Ace. He is the one who usually accepts and reads the guests’ application forms in a creative way. He went on a short hiatus after his gambling scandal a few years ago. Through this show, he was able to resurrect his career and show off his great comic timing and ad-libs.
My favorite Kim Heechul is a member of the renowned idol group, Super Junior. He’s an all-around entertainer who’s been giving funny, witty, and sarcastic remarks since X-Man. He is known for his attractive androgynous features, his almost photographic memory when it comes to entertainment trivia, voice imitations, and girl group choreography memorization. He regards himself as the Star of the Universe, and rightly so. I can’t even measure how much I love this psycho.
Seo Jang Hoon, the best basketball center in Korean Basketball League history, is a gentle giant who stands 2 meters tall. He’s often teased for getting a divorce and for the immense wealth he accumulated throughout his successful career.
Lee Sang Min is a singer and producer for the ’90s group Roo’ra, one of South Korea’s most popular and best-selling artists in the dance and hip-hop genre during their prime. Things didn’t seem to go well for Lee Sang Min after this success since the boys often joke about his anxiety attacks, divorce, and financial debt.
Nicknamed Ssamja, the fearless maknae Min Kyung Hoon, is the vocalist of rock ballad band BUZZ. Despite being the youngest, he is very vocal and straightforward when it comes to showing his rebellious side towards Kang Ho Dong. He is known for his signature head tone singing habit that Heechul constantly and playfully imitates.
Kim Youngchul is a comedian by profession but is considered the least funny member of the gang. He often shows off his English abilities but they’re not really that impressive, too. He has less screen time compared to the other members due to his lack of presence but at least, he is not an irksome member. I think he actually gives the group the perfect balance. Not everyone should come off strong all the time. He once pledged to step down from the show if they ever reach 5% ratings which is high for cable network programs.
Knowing Bros finally reached the coveted 5% ratings and it’s quite an issue as to whether Young chul should really quit or not. South Korean viewers are known for criticizing television personalities who show misbehavior and broken promises on screen. To avoid the backlash, Youngchul skipped one episode and came back as a transferee while humbly asking the viewers’ understanding for his return. Of course, he gets accepted at the Brother School again.
However, Youngchul is not the only one who pledged to do something once the show reaches 5%. All of the members did and Episode 71 is especially dedicated to witness how each of them will accomplish their ludicrous promises. And so they gather on the filming day. While one member goes, the others stay in a van where they get to watch the action unfold. Lee Sang-min, on the other hand, is away for a while to work on the show’s new theme song.
The morning starts with Kang Ho Dong in his three-hour hair color procedure at a salon. Instead of using hair spray, he undergoes the whole uncomfortable bleaching and dyeing process for a silly but actually quite cool half blue and half red hair color. He gets another extra mission later on, proving his popularity among elementary school kids.
He, then, passes the baton to Seo Jang Hoon who needs to revive her Seo Jang Mi character and observe a Physical Education class at a women’s university. In dress and leggings, complete with hair and makeup, the towering member enters the room to the surprise of the female students. He impressively participates in class and is getting a lot of attention until…
..his extremely charismatic boyfriend arrives and steals the spotlight! kyaa~
Min Kyung Hoon meets one of Knowing Bros‘ original fans – a high school student who dressed up as him for graduation long before the show became this popular. Wearing Ssamja’s infamous embarrassing outfit, they meet at an intersection near a women’s university. After a quick chat at a nearby cafe, the student gets his wish to sing with his favorite singer performing Kyung Hoon’s duet with Kim Heechul. Jealous Heechul is the cutest!
Lee Soo Geun gives Knowing Bros some strong 1박 2일 vibes as he takes the cast and crew off road for his physically draining survival challenge. Going through pit stops and a series of bokbulbok, he pulls a heavy cart all the way to the top. This is the meatiest part of the episode as it not only shows how Lee Soo Geun literally tries hard to get his career back but it also shows how the boys care about each other genuinely.
Online game addict and anime fanatic Kim Heechul needs to go to Japan to say “Nico Nico Nii”, Yazawa Nico’s catchphrase from Love Live! with 50 people. For someone as popular as Heechul, he can even pledge a hundred or a thousand people and still be able to do this. The problem is finding the time to film overseas. The PD appreciates his professionalism and for accomplishing his mission despite his busy schedule. Together with his close friend Gunhee, his manager, and another friend, Heechul flies all the way to Tokyo and fulfills his promise even without the show’s official camera crew following him.
Knowing Bros wraps up the episode with their recently completed theme song. Super Junior’s talented member Henry Lau already made the song back when he appeared as a guest in the show. To accomplish his pledge, Lee Sang Min rearranged it and turned it into a full three minute track.
While South Korea is recognized worldwide for its Hallyu wave, the country’s cable networks are recently on a roll not only when it comes to their high quality dramas but with variety programs as well. If you’ve only been watching Running Man to this day, it’s time to explore Korea’s massive selection of other entertainment shows and put Knowing Bros on top of your list of must-watch.