South Korea is a trove of excellent tv, most notably K-Drama, but they also do reality exceptionally well, including Physical 100, a search for the most athletic person in South Korea but with a Squid Game twist.
Added to Netflix in January 2023, Physical 100 deviates from the usual format of having all episodes drop simultaneously.
Instead, two are aired weekly, keeping viewers tuning in week after week as the quests progress.
It's popular and slightly addictive, but what is Physical 100 all about, and is it worth watching?
What Is Physical 100 About?
Physical 100 sees those in top physical shape compete to be the best in the country. Contestants are all in peak condition, and many are already quite famous in Korea.
We have an Olympic Gold Medal winning gymnast, MMA fighters, Cross Fit champions, national Rugby players and wrestlers, boxers etc…
The idea is that over a series of grueling challenges, the 100 hundred contestants will be whittled down until there is one final physique standing, the overall winner, who will take away the cash reward of 300 million won (approx. $250,000).
The show starts with a challenge to determine their pecking order in the competition. Players must hang on to a suspended rig for as long as possible. The longer you hold on, the higher up the rankings you go.
The most successful then get the advantage of picking their opponent for the first challenge. That is a one-on-one battle in which the losers immediately go home, and the winners move on to the next round.
But here's the Squid Game twist. Similar to the show, the players have no idea what the next quest is when they have to pick teams or opponents. And like the show, many assume all of these quests will rely on physical strength.
Not so as speed, agility, and strategy also play a major role in how the games are played. And with five quests, it really is anybody's game.
So in a room filled with contestants in top physical condition, who will be the last person standing with the perfect physique?
Physical 100 Official Trailer
Is Physical 100 Worth Watching?
When I started watching the show, I really wasn't sure what to expect. Sure, it's been compared to Squid Game, and the similarities are there, but there is more to it.
The players are incredible shape and come from all disciplines and walks of life. But the Physical 100 tv series is looking for someone who can do it all. So brute strength may be an advantage for one quest but your downfall for another.
And watching to see what the games will be and who will win really is great fun. But two things let the show down.
The first is editing. The first episode lays the groundwork, but the next two focus solely on the first quest – the one-on-one individual battles – and there are 50 of them, many of which you have watch.
This wouldn't be so bad if we didn't keep getting replays of the action, in slow motion, with all the sound effects of those looking on as they ooh and aah at some of the moves.
We get it. It's a tough opening round, but we didn't need two episodes dedicated to it!
Secondly, the show features one hundred contestants who are both male and female, and yet, it is always the women who are seen as the weaker opponents.
A case in point is the second quest when one of the female wrestlers is the 10th team leader, and only one person wants to be on her team, assuming that it will be the weakest. And that's despite not knowing what the challenge is.
It's a sad reflection of the culture, not just in Korean reality tv but in general. That said, as mentioned above, brute strength only gets you so far, so maybe being underestimated is an advantage…you'll have to watch to find out!
Overall though, watching a hundred contestants in top physical shape is not difficult. The quests are fun, they humble quite a few of the ego's in the room, and there's always an underdog to root for. Thumbs up!