My Teenage Girl, an MBC idol survival show brought to you by “Produce 101 is wholesome pornography” Han Dong Chul, finally aired its first episode last week. And though IATFB seeks to protect my fragile mind from more exposure to this cursed genre of television, to his chagrin I’m back on my bullshit. Because since the first episode has generated news about (G)I-DLE Soyeon being extraordinarily catty towards some marginally-talented contestants, I had to go and watch the first episode just in case it was something that needed to be covered thoroughly.
My final verdict? I’m not going to cover the show.
Han Dong Chul was the producer of the OG Produce 101 as well as Show Me The Money, Sixteen, and basically this entire genre of show. If he hadn’t shoved his foot in his own mouth all those years ago, his involvement might have been broadcasted front-and-center. As it stands it’s kind of an open secret. But his influence permeates the show; despite being an MBC property, My Teenage Girl feels significantly Mnet.
If Girls Planet 999 was just Produce with a fake mustache, then My Teenage Girl feels like a hodgepodge of conceits adapted by Produce‘s fiercest competitors over the years. The classroom settings are very Idol School, the judges having final say on the audition is very The Unit. The parents in the audience is very CAPTEEN. The stages are very MIXNINE but with better camerawork.
But MTG deftly avoids GP999‘s major flaw. Instead of explaining-to-death the various bullshit systems of the show (cells, planet pass, blah blah blah), MTG barely narrates any aspect of the mechanics of the show (just a subtitle most of the time) and instead uses that time to show us the actual personalities of the prospective trainees. I know more about the three or four featured trainees from MTG‘s debut episode than I know about any of the trainees from GP999, even after following the whole season closely. This bodes well for MTG!
Also, AIKI and Soyeon are the obvious top dogs on the judge’s bench. AIKI’s reactions and comments are all just great; she’s a natural at this, more so than Sunmi or Tiffany ever were. Her criticisms have the right weight and feel. Meanwhile, Soyeon is scarily good at being the bad guy. Her comments about a poorly performing duo went viral. “It was so bad I’m not even angry” is just a really awesome thing to say, especially to a couple of teens whose embarrassed parents are sitting within earshot. And then her calling out the idiots voting for this bullshit? Magnificent. The hero we need, not the one we deserve.
That said, SNSD Yuri did nothing and Ock Joo Hyun seems too nice for all of this.
The other main conceit of this round is that the trainees have to pass two rounds of audition, effectively. The judges have the final say (you need approval from 3 of the 4 judges to pass), but there exists a miserable cross-slice of fans in a secluded room who have to give you 75% of their votes before you’re even considered by the judges. Soyeon’s aforementioned rage stems from this; a talented duo that doesn’t quite fit into the beauty standard is only given 40% approval (instantly eliminated), while the horny-for-teens bastards in the peanut gallery comfortably pass the infamous blunder-twins, exposing them to Soyeon’s wrath. There’s no chance this feature sticks around after the audition round, but I’m glad MBC is doing it’s part to teach the youth how ineffective democracy is in a capitalist system. MBC stands for My Bolshevik Comrades now.
Of course it’s not all wine and roses and the blood of perverts on this show. The youngest on this show are incredibly young, and hearing ten-year-old’s go “cutie! sexy!” for the camera is just extremely ridiculous and awful, even without factoring in the PD’s previous comments. And even though this is Episode 1, there’s been weeks of online content produced, covering some of the first cuts and introducing us to a lot of trainees that we’ll never get to see on broadcast. The show operates assuming viewers have a working knowledge of this extra content, which makes it seem less ‘extra’ and more ‘homework’. It’s a trend that I hope doesn’t continue, but I know indeed will, considering how it cuts down on production costs.
Anyways, I’ll probably watch the show in bunches as I remember it exists. There’s a former Busters member (who predicted Busters domination in 2021?) and a BOTOPASS member involved. One girl looks like IU, one looks like D.ana from Sonamoo. The two Chinese trainees got eliminated in one fell swoop, because Koreans like that type of swift action. And of course, if Soyeon murders an Uncle Fan live on set I’ll be there to cover that too.