I’ve recently started watching Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast on Netflix. And I am in love with this show.
At first glance, it could be the most boring show on earth. It’s an hour long. It’s shot with cameras that are set up in the home of the couple – Hyori and Sang Soon on Jeju Island. There’s no camera crew and production team following them around the house. Their private home is turned into a homestay/ B&B, where regular Koreans have won a place to stay at their home. But this is no regular reality TV home. Unlike the homes of Hollywood, there is no permanent staff, no assistants to do the gardening, the cleaning, the cooking. It’s just Hyori, Sang Soon, and their 1 helper/ staff each season.
Their part-time helper in Season 1 is IU. Another K-pop star. So you have 3 people running a homestay. That’s it. No competition to win money. No physical challenges. No women vying for the same man or vice versa. No island to survive. No auctions to compete for a prize, and make-overs or flips.
So why do I love it? Ironically, this is the reality show antidote to reality shows. Here’s how the show is different from typical reality shows:
1) No makeup – Hyori’s very well known in Korea. She’s been on reality shows before. She’s very aware of this, yet she walks around in baggy pants, robes and t-shirts and just doesn’t seem to care about being made-up for the cameras. In one of the first episodes, she’s getting dressed after a shower, and can’t find her brush. So she just picks up a comb on the floor that was used to brush her dogs….like wtf. She just doesn’t care, and I love her attitude. And she still looks great!
2) Food – just home cooked meals and barbeques. There are no 5-star meals that are ignored because the stars don’t eat it or that it’s purely the backdrop for more drama or plate throwing. Sang Soon, Hyori, Ji Eun and the guests make the meals themselves. AND YOU SEE THEM EATING! Yes. EATING. Meals are actually eaten on this show and (*clutches pearls*) even enjoyed. It’s actually mind-blowing when you think about it – it’s so rare to see people on Western reality TV preparing, then eating and enjoying a full meal, talking over dinner and washing up afterwards. Cooking shows will show an unattainable glamour shot of food presentation, but it’s so rare to see regular meals cooked on a home stove, then served on a table and shared by a bunch of people who FINISH the meal. It’s actually frightening when you think about how this daily scene is to obliquely removed from our TVs. So when I see Sang Soon, Hyori or Ji Eun actually cooking a messy meal, eating it with relish, or commenting on how good (or bad) it is, and then finishing it and washing the dishes, it’s like a freaking unicorn has entered my lounge room. A mythological creature that I missed from my screens without even knowing it. I can’t emphasise how much this aspect of the show feels like a huge cathartic relief, a calming repose which I never even realised I lacked! Sure, Koreans are in love with showing food being eaten, but as an Australian, it makes me really wonder at our own Western cultural aversion to showing this in reality TV.
3) Anti-drama – Hyrori’s is without the insane bitchiness that The Housewives are so renowned for. it’s refreshing and for want of a better word – just “nice”.
4) A family of rescue animals – Hyori and Sang Soon met because both of them love their rescue animals. They have 5 dogs and 3 cats between them. How can you not love this couple?
5) Yoga – Hyori practices yoga regularly, teaching it to the people who stay at the B&B. And she’s pretty good at it! Ok by “pretty good at it” I mean “a-MAY-zing”!
6) Tea – Sang Soon and Hyori’s morning ritual begins with tea. They drink Pu Erh tea (a Chinese tea) and use the Gongfu cha method. They light incense and begin their mornings calmly. It’s inspired me to get back into tea drinking regularly.
7) Meta – Hyori and Sang Soon are aware that the cameras are everywhere. Their first episode shows them awkwardly laughing as they say “this is awkward” and count the cameras in their home.
8) Down-to-earth – There isn’t the insane rotation of expensive clothes and brands which soak up each episode with the need to consume. Attitude – chilled, open-hearted, good-humoured, respectful and hard-working. That’s the stars. When I watch this show, I can’t quite believe these people are stars. It’s incredibly refreshing.
9) No toxic women – I am so sick of women on reality tv shown as made-up, plastic bitches. And I’m tired of the constant regurgitation of the vacuous and vicious format of frenemies and competitors. There’s no real talk. Hyori’s is the reverse of that. Hyori and Ji Eun are close, yet honest with each other and there’s a sense of humour and mirth that goes beyond niceties and air kisses.
10) Honesty – whether it’s because she does yoga or because she consciously stepped away from the industry, Hyori is very self-aware. The advice she gives the people who stay with her, her candour and her musings about herself are not pithy one-liners. I found it heartening to hear her talk about her insecurities throughout her career (the envy and jealousy within the industry and within herself), her relationships with Sang Soon (she was worried she might cheat on him because of her personality) and her future desires (how does she exit gracefully from the public eye, if at all?).
11) Housework – YES. Housework exists! And the stars vacuum, mop floors, do the laundry and wash dishes. It’s incredibly refreshing to see this real-world act actually in a reality TV show. MADNESS! It’s silly to think that something this simple would make a difference, but I really enjoyed this aspect of the show. I don’t know why. Maybe it makes us peasants feel more normal?
12) Fashion – When you think pop-stars, you think sexy. You think brands. You think sponsorship. Not on this show. Ji Eun wears baggy clothes, Hyori’s in hippie prints and Sang Soon is in t-shirts and slacks. Mellow, relaxed and unpretentious. Which, to me, is totally attractive. It’s “un-sexy” because it’s not revealing, but it is absolutely authentic and because of it, very “sexy”, in my opinion! And it’s so needed right now. Is anyone else tired of the over-sexual imagery fed to us constantly?
Before I watched the show, I didn’t know who Hyori, Sang Soon or IU/ Ji Eun were.
I had no idea that Hyori was a megastar in Korea. I had no idea that her helper IU (Ji Eun) is a current K-Pop idol/star. But once I found out, it made me love them even more. They are so unaffected, and without the seeming airs and graces of the 2-dimensional divas and douches we see on Western reality TV.
I watch reality shows. I enjoy watching them. I’m human. I don’t binge on them, but it’s fun to just watch other people’s lives. I enjoyed the drama of “Married at First Sight” in Australia (I still think I’m going to hell for enjoying it so much). I liked the people dynamics and management in “Below Deck”. I liked the thrill of “Pawn Stars” seeing what people were buying and selling. There’s constant drama, constant shock and surprise. It was entertaining!
But I didn’t realise I had a specific “reality show fatigue” until I watched Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast.
With all the drama of the Kardashians, the Housewives of whatever-gated-suburb, the frenemies and constant chasing of brands, chasing of money, privileges and snobbery – sure I was entertained – but all that drama and negativity also just made me exhausted. Despite laughing at the antics of these shows, I also felt more negative.
I’m not sure how to capture this difference eloquently, but there is a big difference in how I feel after watching Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast compared to other typical reality shows.
After I watched some of these other typical reality dramas, I felt the need to get more clothes, to perhaps have a makeup routine, to censor what I say, to doubt myself, to doubt others, or to go on a diet. I would feel dissatisfied in my own life.
The feeling I get after watching Hyori’s is light. It’s a nice feeling. I feel good afterwards. It is a calming show. I don’t feel fat, ugly, unfashionable and slightly bitter as I would normally after watching a typical reality drama.
After I watch Hyori’s, I am inspired to take longer walks. To cook at home more. To hug my husband and snuggle my dog more. I feel like my life is my life and it is OK.
It could just be me, but I do have “reality show fatigue”! So that’s why I enjoy Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast so much. I find the show “gently inspirational” if that’s even a thing? And sure, it’s still a TV show, so I’m sure there’s still some storyline, production crew, some characters sketched out for each episode (Hae the pitiful for example) – but for all its TV production realities, Hyori’s still makes me feel glad to spend an hour with her, her husband, and her family of rescue animals.
Hyori’s Homestay/ Bed and Breakfast is now in its 2nd season on Netflix after being a smash hit in Season 1. I’m yet to start Season 2. I’m pacing myself as this is one reality show I that I can enjoy like a good book. I don’t want it to end. So here’s hoping for a Season 3!
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