Netflix's Korean reality show 'Busted' is like watching a live-action escape room crossed with 'SNL'
"Busted!" is a Korean reality show that combines crime drama with escape room style challenges. There are two seasons currently available to stream on Netflix.
The ensemble cast is an all-star line-up of comedians, actors and K-pop idols, and half the fun is watching them bond and bicker as they attempt to catch the bad guys. The show riffs on classic crime conventions, using code names and convoluted conspiracies to parody serious thrillers like "Mission: Impossible" and "Sherlock." To solve the mystery, the rookie detectives must find treasure, dodge water balloons and crack complex equations. These creative obstacles present plenty of opportunity for "SNL" style shenanigans. Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Crime thrillers are a serious business. But imagine a world where the team must disarm bomb threats and dodge water balloons, where secret agents panic when the lights go out and "M" does away with the cryptic script to just get on with the show. That's the premise behind "Busted!," a Netflix original series that combines high-stakes drama with "SNL" style comedy. The set-up is simple: seven amateur sleuths receive a mysterious invitation to a murder game. Midway through the party, their host is fatally shot. Cue controlled chaos, as the cast follow the clues to solve a series of crimes and catch the killer.
The stakes rise with each episode, revealing that the gang were part of "Project D," a nefarious experiment to create a team of super detectives that went badly wrong. Sadly there are no secret superpowers, but they do share mysterious matching tattoos and a thing for trench coats. Why you should care: If you enjoy the buddy comedy of crime capers like 'Rush Hour,' this show is perfect. The Sherlock Holmes-inspired fashion is the first of many crime clichés "Busted!" parodies. In the first episode alone, there's a mad scientist, dramatic flashbacks, treachery, and several suspects with a jumbled alphabet of code names. The first case culminates in a fiendishly complex escape room challenge that puts the stars firmly outside their comfort zone. In this world, everything is a challenge, whether it's a "Harry Potter"-style chess set involving lasers or a suspect who will only divulge evidence after the detectives join her pole dance class. Some obstacles are scary, others are pure comedy, but they're all engineered to get the cast to bond. Watching these seven rookie detectives bicker over the best method to solve a maths problem or team up to chase down a thief is entertainment gold. As the show progresses, it's truly rewarding to watch them pull together to defy the obstacles and get closer to their goal. What's hot: The cast includes a brilliant variety of personalities, and watching these seven stars bond as they solve puzzles and struggle through crazy obstacle courses is great fun. "Busted!" is such an effective parody that it can sometimes be hard to take the stakes seriously. Instead, it's the cast's chemistry that draws you in. The detective team is led by Yoo Jae-suk, a veteran comedian who stars in "Running Man," a weekly Korean TV show which also hinges on gamified challenges to spark comedy. You might remember him as the guy in the bright yellow suit in Psy's viral hit "Gangnam Style." Yoo spars with fellow "Running Man" host Lee Kwang-soo in classic buddy comedy fashion. Lee plays up to his role as the resident fool, creating a hilarious foil for Yoo's self-styled master detective. In turn, singer Kim Jong-min sets up a "Dumb and Dumber" pairing by outdoing Lee's confusion at every opportunity. You fear for the criminals these guys are hunting down, if only because they could annihilate them by pure accident.
The trio are joined by actors Ahn Jae-wook and Park Min-young, who valiantly attempt to keep the plot on the rails. When the comedians in the cast pay lip-service to the scripted scenes that anchor each episode, it's fun to spot the actors attempting to compensate and elevate the drama. Park, in particular, proves her crime-solving smarts cracking the trickier puzzles. K-pop stars Oh Se-hun of EXO and Gugudan's lead singer Kim Se-jeong round out the gang. Both play up to their squeaky-clean pop idol personas, and it's these two you root for most when the stakes rise and things get a little scarier. Creative graphics add another dimension to the story, with captions signposting key clues and locations. These quirky notes that flash up onscreen help to orientate the viewer and maintain the show's pacing. The shadows of villains literally loom large, evidence walls chart the key suspects, and roughly sketched maps track the cast's progress as they race through the streets of Seoul to catch the killer. What's not: 'Busted!' walks a fine line with the various angles it juggles. The mix of serious drama and wacky comedy can feel confusing. "Busted!" doesn't adhere to any real genre conventions. It's a reality show that demands its cast and audience believe in a fictional murder. It's a thriller that fails to inspire real tension when its actors joke about the plot. It's a comedy centred around some pretty dark crimes. South Korean TV has its own niche of "variety" shows, which usually involve a mixture of scripted and improvised comedy, often structured around some form of competition.
"Busted!" is a great introduction to this, with its use of graphics and English captions helping to guide the viewer. But the show and the cast take a couple of episodes to find their groove. For viewers new to this format, the shifting tone can feel jarring. "Busted!" has an overarching plot that riffs on the kind of conspiracies that ground the "Mission: Impossible" and "Rush Hour" franchises. Expect double-crossing agents, creepy safe houses and enigmatic mission details from unseen powers-that-be. The bottom line: 'Busted!' is a funny, smart, supremely original show that serves as a great introduction to Korean TV. While the deepening murder mystery is fun to follow, what makes "Busted!" so original is the show's sense of self-awareness. There's a loose script, but it leaves ample room for the cast to improvise. Everyone is playing themselves, but each cast member capitalises on their real-life identity to create comedy, whether it's seasoned pro Yoo Jae-Suk desperately trying to rally the team or pop star Oh Se-hun playing up his city-boy terror of countryside-dwelling reptiles. The cast knows it's a game, but they're ready to roll with the drama, dropping a sly wink to the camera as the soap-opera style twists stack up. The only thing you can count on is that you can't predict what's coming next, but this zany unpredictability is what keeps the humour sharp and the surprises fresh. Like the cast, you shouldn't take "Busted!" too seriously. Be ready for anything and you'll enjoy the ride. Grade: B Two complete seasons of "Busted!" are currently available to stream on Netflix. You can watch the trailer here.
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