K-pop's unglam charms
K-pop stars shine in reality TV shows featuring them away from the glitzy stage
At first glance, Three Meals A Day appears to be a show that could have easily fallen flat on its face.
The reality TV series, which ships A-list Korean celebrities off to a farming village and makes them create dishes without modern cookware, has a languid, meditative quality.
It features meandering scenes of the stars sweating it out as they plant seedlings, grow crops and harvest honey.
And perhaps, in a nod to Hollywood director Terrence Malick's philosophical visuals, there are lengthy dialogue-less sequences of grazing goats and pecking chickens.
Erm... The Tree Of Life, anyone?
Yet, Three Meals A Day, which is now in its second season, is a huge ratings hit in South Korea.
I've become a fan too, primarily because it's a hoot to see K-pop's rich, famous urbanites such as boy band 2PM hunk Ok Taec Yeon and Queen of Hallyu BoA stripped of all their swag and sass.
Back in my younger idol-worshipping years, the only way I could sneak a glimpse into my favourite stars' personal lives was via random chatter on gossip forums.
Today, I just have to turn on the TV and I see Ok ploughing the fields on a tractor, fixing a chimney and making ricotta cheese in a cauldron.
The handsome 26-year-old isn't shy to show himself as a mummy's boy - when he found himself totally clueless at whipping up radish kimchi, he called his mother for help.
Veteran pop diva BoA looked surprisingly comfortable too, doing mundane chores and turning in a decent fermented soybean paste soup.
Are idols pampered brats with zero survival skills? Evidently, Three Meals A Day debunks that notion.
Another reality TV series that depicts them as down-to-earth human beings is Crime Scene, which challenges celebrities to use logical reasoning and astute deduction to find the culprit in different mock-investigation settings.
Hani, the cute, pretty member of girl group EXID, is a regular on Crime Scene Season 2 and steals the show with her unpretentious nature.
She is candid, clumsy, highly emotional and even gets frightened by her own song. At one point, EXID's hit dance track Up & Down blares through the speakers, shocking Hani enough to drive her to tears.
Now, I'd rather watch these programmes than K-pop's umpteenth slickly-produced, uber-glitzy music video.