Physical: 100 Review


via Netflix

Ashley Park

Straight from Korea is the Netflix show Physical: 100, and it’s sweeping the top ranks. First airing on January 24, 2023, the show consists of a series of challenges that are designed to ultimately determine the best physique amongst one hundred competitors. It has recently gained immense traction globally, dominating Netflix’s top ten list. The show was created and directed by Jang Ho Gi, and it features many Korean celebrities from different entertainment industries.

Physical: 100 surrounds itself around the question, “What is the perfect physique or physical?” This best describes the aim of the show and its challenges. The variety of contestants is wide, as bodybuilders, wrestlers, members of special forces, etc. alike are all competing to attain this title. In order to do so, they are pitted against each other in specially designed games and contests, each requiring sharp agility, swift strategizing, and, of course, substantial physical strength. The final winner receives a prize of 300 million Korean won (around 228K USD).

The first thing to catch the eyes of many was the fine detailing and high quality of the production, not uncommon for a Korean show of this kind. Recently, Korean survival, variety, and reality shows have been leaving viewers in awe of their high levels of production. The standout factor of this particular series is the set of plaster torsos, one representing each participant’s upper body structure. The significance of these torsos is that they are an indication of elimination status; once a contestant is eliminated, they are required to destroy their own torso with a sledgehammer, marking their departure with a more sentimental note.

Many were pleasantly surprised by the level of female inclusivity in the show, as the ratio of male to female contestants was 77 to 23. There were no special conditions reliant on gender status, and everyone was given a fair opportunity to compete against each other. There were also a few non-Koreans featured, including dancer Miracle Nelson, German model Florian, and baseball player Dustin Nippert. The slight variations in demographics are considered impressive, and the fair fighting was said to have broken down barriers. There were also a handful of familiar faces among those who have made televised appearances in the past or simply have a reputation that precedes them. Numerous contestants were particularly eager to shake hands with legendary MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter Choo Sung Hoon. Other widely known participants include Yang Hak Seon, an Olympic gold medalist, and gymnast; Cha Hyun Seung, a professional dancer and dating show star; and Agent H, an UDT (underwater demolition team) sergeant.

Not wasting any time, the challenges begin right off the bat, the first taking place immediately after introductions. The first challenge is one in which all one hundred contestants must hang onto a grid of bars that float above a pool of water. The results of the challenge determine their initial ranking. The following quest is a one-on-one event where the objective is to secure possession of a ball. It sounds simple enough; however, mixed with the testing settings and conditions of the arena, many of the face-offs are very close. This is also the first event after which the losers of each match are eliminated. The remaining trials measure personal strength and teamwork skills.

Physical: 100 is not the first Korean show to have success on a large scale worldwide. Squid Game (2021) achieved large amounts of fame, becoming one of Netflix’s top shows and winning numerous awards. In recent years, western audiences have also found the appeal of Korean dating shows like Singles Inferno as well as dramas including Business Proposal (2022), Crash Landing on You (2019), and Itaewon Class (2020). Overall, Korean content seems to have built a strong foundation of overseas viewership as of late.

Because of its appeal to both Korean and overseas audiences, the show has been exceedingly well received. Koreans may be interested in seeing some of their favorite celebrities, while many western viewers may enjoy the physical, grueling challenge aspect of the show that has been implemented into other famous shows such as American Ninja Warrior. Regardless of the reasoning, there is no denying the success that Physical: 100 has met, as it has been sitting on Netflix’s top ten list for the past few weeks.