Hello, dear readers. I hope you’ve had fun writing out all your objectively incorrect opinions elsewhere on this site. I can tell you that I haven’t read them. But I’ve felt them. Like a wet fart. But I hope you’ve satisfied your lizard brain tendencies thoroughly, so we can finally get to the content that actually matters:
Mnet produced K-pop survival shows.
Do I really have to explain how this works? It’s Girls Planet 999, but with ‘Boys’, and without ‘999’. The formula is the same. The prize is the same. The character arcs are the same. The editing is (probably) the same. Your votes not mattering is most definitely the same. The thin veil of democracy continues to placate the masses.
But let’s talk about what’s different from the outset about Boys Planet. Gone is the Japanese/Chinese grouping of non-Korean contestants. Now there are only two groups: Korean and Global. And thus it’s probably safe to say the woebegone Cell System has also been canned.
Also, we have 98 trainees instead of 99, but actually we have 93 because five already left. So there’s no 999 in the title anymore because that would make absolutely zero sense. Don’t put numbers in your name. Got it? Good! Let’s start this death march.
After the requisite spiel about stars and dreams and planets and what not, we get a refreshingly brisk intro to our contestants. Sitting through trainee intros three at a time for 99 people was a nightmare in retrospect, so points already to Mnet for trimming the fat on this segment.
We do get some focus on a few of the entering trainees: Jellyfish Entertainment, Yuehua Entertainment, the Americans, takoyaki, and the big marquee contestant, Pentagon‘s Hui, who ends up sitting in the #1 seat.
First, for the vocal masters, we have SG Wannabe‘s Lee Seok Hoon, who was a trainer on Broduce 101 and Produce X 101, Lim Han Byul is back from GP999, and EXID‘s Solji is a fresh face to the game, serving dual functionality as a vocal trainer and a K-pop master. pH-1 is the rap mentor, and both Choi Young Joon (PD48) and Baek Kooyoung (GP999) serve as dance masters, no doubt continuing their Street Man Fighter bromance. Speaking of the Street Fighter series, we also have Prowdmon‘s Lip J as the final judge.
Former NU’EST/WANNA ONE member Minhyun is the MC of the show, but doesn’t show up for these first two episodes, taking a page from the Lee Seung Gi handbook of hosting I suppose. All things considered, I’m taking bets that he’ll be a perfectly average host, not as awkward as Jang Keun Suk/Yeo Jin Goo, but nowhere near the heights of Lee Dong Wook.
The intro stage, this year called the Star Level Test, has changed as well. They’ve gotten rid of the pre-show rankings (good); instead each trainee has self-evaluated themselves from 1 to 4 stars. Some confident trainees get a little sticker-happy, filling up their name card with seven, even eight stars. Why stop there? Go for 20/30/100/1000 stars. Maybe the five absentee trainees are still putting on star stickers right now.
Anyway, the judges will determine their actual star value after viewing their intro stages.
Since the Cell System has also been dumpstered, K-trainees go up in their respective agencies, while G-trainees go up as their country of origin (but also sometimes their agency, I guess). Practice time seems to be a bit short again, but it had to be longer than the … uhhh, single afternoon GP999 got. A few of the stages seem scripted (Team My House, Team Shine), but also one of the trainees reveals how they performed some of these songs during the audition, so it makes sense to me that Mnet asked the auditioning trainees to perform some very specific songs in order to “cast” their intro stages correctly. Just a little speculation for now.
Team Jellyfish is first.
Propelled by raw himbo power, they get 3 stars.
G Group gets the first All stars with the Wake One Entertainment G Team and Taipei (yoooo) getting the Lip J “omo omo” machine revved up. Cue a quick montage of various G Group teams getting mid-to-bad star ratings, with the judges remarking about how their skills are a bit unpolished. It’s immediately followed up by Team America impressing everyone thoroughly. Both Yuehua’s G Group and K Group also excel during their performances.
I’m glad the Star Level stages aren’t all comically bad like they were in GP999, I don’t know if my heart could take it. I’m sure that there are probably just as many good and bad stages as last year, but my sincere thanks to Mnet for not frontloading all the awfulness and cringe. GP999‘s vibe never really recovered from that; non-Korean trainees were either clumsy/funny, talented/evil, or, uh, Kawaguchi Yurina. This time G Group is positioned (editing-wise, at least) as generally on par or sometimes even better than K Group, which is what I was hoping would happen the first time around, but alas.
Mnet’s first real ‘viral’ moment comes with CUBE Entertainment‘s Park Do Ha and CABIN74‘s Jung Min Gyu doing addictively awkward solo renditions of 2PM‘s “My House“. Lip J can’t get enough. After that, another quick montage of bad stages shows that there’s a vocals problem on both teams.
Fortunately, Canadian Seok Matthew of MNH Entertainment dazzles with his polyglot-ness and his skills, both dancing and vocal. It’s revealed he has a very good relationship with Sung Han Bin, who was also a trainee with him for a time. A very Produce X Hangyul/Dohyon dynamic. Han Bin, who’s now with Studio GL1DE, also shines, and goes toe-to-toe in a waacking battle with Lip J.
And that concludes the debut episode.
Episode 2 starts with a surprise visit by former mentor Sunmi, as the trainees get a private screening of Episode 1. She almost laughs herself out of the room during the “My House” segment.
After that non-sequitur, we return to the intro stages. Team Redstart Entertainment are the first to perform on Episode 2, and pH-1 makes his weekly salary declaring that Kum Jun Hyun‘s saggy pants are, indeed “hip-hop”. Tiny Team Osaka are talented, and Tall Team … ??? (just tall, I guess) are terrible singers.
Mnet then decides it’s Planet Sexy Time, which honestly should’ve been the name of the show to begin with. We get a little segment offering NBA-style candid crowd shots of trainees (and judges!) doing their best sexy poses.
This provides the only possible segue to introducing independent trainee Kim Ji Woong, who will no doubt go down in Produce history if he sustains this behavior for the entire show. Hushed tones and furtive glances flit about as people lock onto his penetrating gaze. Unable to control himself, the neighboring Yoon Jong Woo goes in for a kiss. It’s seme-uke as fuck, and it’s some of the best editing work I’ve ever seen on one of these shows, replete with a Ghandi quote about the nature of love. Fuckin’ bravo, Mnet.
Kim Ji Woong is a former idol and a current BL actor, and teacher Lim Han Byul reading the titles of his past works like Kissable Lips makes Solji laugh incredulously. Though Kim Ji Woong is already very successful in his field, he hasn’t given up on his dream of being an idol. He and Yoon Jong Woo perform their rendition of TVXQ‘s “Mirotic” admirably, and they both get three stars. Lee Seok Hoon can’t stop, uh, shivering with new feelings and sensations.
Eventually we get to the last stage of the Star Level Test, that of Hui, teased at the end of Episode 1. He selects BLACKPINK‘s “Shut Down“, providing his own arrangement and some lovely high notes. There’s some nonsense editing with the judging, but they give Hui his All star rating, like they were going to do anything else.
No Top 9 this time around, but there is a bit of a competitive element, as the group who got the most stars total will have a head start in learning the Signal Song’s choreography. K Group comes in well ahead of G Group, but like I said before, I appreciate that the editing was fair and balanced between the two.
We cut to the dorm (same dorm as last season), and the trainees pick up their new uniforms for the show, which make them all look like walking talking ELFBAR’s to be totally honest. After suiting up, they’re greeted by some of the mentors and introduced to the Signal Song Test. It’s an opportunity to upgrade (or downgrade) their current star level, and of course the best performers get to stand in the center. Loser team G Group is escorted out of the room so K Group can receive their head start.
After practice, the boys receive their room assignments, and bond like any good boys do, over NewJeans‘ “Hype Boy” choreography and doing each other’s makeup. Matthew bonds with the precocious-but-untalented G Group maknae Takuto, paying forward the hyung treatment he received from Han Bin in times past.
The boys gather up again the next day for classes and training. Each star level shows off their version of the choreography, and it goes as you expect, with the Zero stars being a complete mess and the All stars smashing it, for the most part. Hui is singled out for missing a beat, and the Yuehua trainees both struggle as well.
Vocal training goes poorly regardless of star level. Quite a few of the All stars excelled due to their dancing or stage presence, and the weakness of their vocals are being exposed. Yuehua’s Han Yu Jin is singled out again, and even in dance rehearsal falls behind in tempo. Label mate Zhang Hao says in a voiceover that Yuehua trainees haven’t had many lessons outside of the ones they get at the company, so in particular their memorization skills are poor compared to other trainees, which is an interesting take.
The trainees get their allotted 1 (one) phone call to their parents, and then prepare for exam day.
For the Signal Song Test, Boys Planet changes the formula yet again. Instead of taping their performance like previous seasons, this year they get to do it live in front of the judges. The other trainees will also get to peek in via video feed. K and G group are still competing, the group with the highest amount of stars will get to perform the highlight of the song.
Zero stars are up first. Some have made progress and some haven’t. The “My House” duo improve, but still have a lot to work on and stay in the bottom rank. Vietnamese trainee Cong worked studiously on his Korean pronunciation and gets boosted all the way to 3 stars from 1 star. Effort boy Takuto still kind of sucks but does so in a way that gets him 1 star. Xuan Hao gives the teachers the FIST, but they do not give him a star in return. Lee Da Eul tanks it, Ji Woong is TOO SEXY TOO SEXY OH NO NO NO, and Han Bin is just right, moving up to All star rank.
Jay, the American All star, works hard at his dancing to maintain his rank. But Hui gets nervous and goes blank, leaving the judges no choice but to demote him to 3 star. The episode leaves us on the cliffhanger of Yu Jin, the struggling maknae of Yuehua, crying after finding out his new rating.
I won’t lie, I had a good time watching these first episodes. It felt like a lot of the criticisms I had over Girls Planet 999 were directly addressed, like the confusing voting system, the excessive exposition, the villain baiting, the xenophobia, and a much tighter edit. I don’t want to jinx it but it has kind of a Youth With You bros loving bros kind of vibe.
Korea might be a little late to the excessive BL party but I feel like BP‘s editors are intimately familiar with the subject. Also, considering the pre-show content had the boys staring intimately at each other, it feels like something degenerate is in the water this season.
- Lip J was born to do this, I think they’ve found their next Bae Yoon Jung, or at least their next Cheetah.
- Solji trying not to lose her shit every five minutes is also an adventure, like watching Bill Hader on SNL back in the day.
- The “omo omo” machine is just a John Deere lawnmower, but when you rev it it goes “omo omo”.
- Lots of former survival show veterans like Anthonny from Produce 101 Japan Season 2, Krystian from Youth With You 3, Hiroto from CHUANG 2021, plus other shows like Under Nineteen, LOUD, and Atom Boyz.
- Viditor‘s influence is real, with Mnet pasting the best comments on the video for everyone to see.
- You think I’d give Face King awards to Ji Woong but no, this recap’s crown goes to Kum Jun Hyun when he dials the wrong number trying to call his mom. Hoping he sticks around.
- Mnet definitely has its Main Characters: Han Bin, Matthew, Yu Jin, Do Ha, Zhang Hao, Takuto, CIIPHER‘s Kenta, Jellyfish’s Gun Wook. But the secondary players like Jong Woo, Ricky, NINE.i‘s Seowon are still making themselves noticeable and I appreciate that.
- “Here I Am” is kind of B/B+, but the piano sad version is aces.
- I’m not convinced yet that Hui actually makes it to the final group. It’s not a similar situation to Choi Yujin, she was 25 at the time and Hui is 29. Even though he is getting a hero’s arc, I think this run is to more prepare him for his post-Pentagon career, a steady mainstay in the Mnet variety pool. I don’t mind being wrong here, but I get Kaeun sad-vibes from this.