For true wackiness, here’s a heads-up

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For true wackiness, here’s a heads-up

Do you sometimes wish, with a faraway look, that you would give anything to go back to the good old days? All you have to do, at least in Korea, is tune in “Happy Together,” airing Thursdays at 11 p.m. on KBS.
Celebrities are invited to share stories, sing songs and play roles in short skits from the good old days of their teen years, the mid-’80s for example. School uniforms and curious hairdos are musts. The show’s co-hosts -- the comedian Shin Dong-yeop and the singer Lee Hyo-ri -- dress retro, as do all the guest stars.
Another crucial item for this journey to the past is, believe it or not, a tray. It’s the usual rectangular, unchic metal tray, the kind you see in neighborhood restaurants. What does a tray have to do with nostalgia? Hang on, we’ll go to that in a moment.
The show opens with the mellow words, “When I was a teenager, I . . .” The week’s guest stars, in their “Happy Together” outfits, are lobbed questions about their teenage years. Viewers usually put the questions on Internet bulletin boards, where they are later sorted out by producers always on the lookout for the zany. Last week, a viewer asked, “Where was the most unusual place you were ever kissed?” Ms. Lee apologized for having smooched in all the typical places, while others got more specific, though humdrum at times. Ha Chun-hwa, a singer, said “an elevator,” which brought jeers for its lack of creativity. Kim Young-chul, a comedian, bragged about kissing in a taxi, while Mr. Shin said, “in a crowded bus.”
The highlight of the program, though, arrives with the trays. After trumpets sound, it’s time for “Tray Noraebang,” in which the guests sing lyrics from songs from school textbooks. Last week, one song was “Let’s Hunt the Moon.”
Ms. Ha, who boasted of memorizing 300 songs by age 3, was suddenly silent; she didn’t know the song. Hanging just above her head, a metal tray began to clang and then suddenly came down on top of her. Ouch.
The purpose of this ludicrous scenario is to raise money -- 1 million won ($841) -- for charity. If the stars make it through a show without getting skulled by falling trays, the producers must cough up a donation. If a star gets beaned, he must chip in with a donation.
Songs from yesteryear are only played once and the guest stars have to learn the song by heart and take turns at singing it while the trays rattle and sway. Then viewers become sadists: The more times the celebrities are konked, the more the audience howls with approval.
There’s more tray craziness. When a star gets a line wrong from a past TV drama or movie, then, Look out from above! A tray is going to come down.
Some guests blunder on purpose during the role-playing section of the show, particularly if the roles involve kissing another guest.
After viewing “Happy Together,” all real yearnings for nostalgia seem to cool when you know that at any moment you might be struck by flying metal.

by Chun Su-jin

“What’s on Korean TV” appears Wednesdays in the JoongAng Daily.
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