You'll cry, you'll laugh, you'll get a whole new bunch of biases
8 Nov 2018 - 1:18 PM  UPDATED 15 Aug 2019 - 1:45 PM

Asian pop idol groups come together in a few different ways, but one of the most popular is through music reality survival shows. These shows give trainees the opportunity to appeal to new audiences, win over fans and even become part of groups that get national momentum thanks to the popularity of the programs.

It's cleverly edited television that definitely aims to manipulate us emotionally, but you can't help investing in the stories and songs of these young talented people.

If you want to find some new talents to be a fan of, or if you want to see where some of your faves originated from, here's a list of must watch idol survival shows.

Produce 101 (Seasons 1 & 2; Produce 48; Produce X 101)

The Produce series has delivered some of the biggest K-pop success stories in recent years, with each of their final groups achieving huge chart success. Season 1's I.O.I, Season 2's Wanna One and Produce 48's IZ*ONE all achieved immediate No.1s thanks to their popularity from the tv show.

Wanna One in particular became globally popular, touring internationally, winning multiple awards and becoming brand ambassadors with close to 36 endorsements.

Produce's power has even resulted in a secondary group made up of those who just missed out from being in the main group - JBJ was a short-lived project group created due to fan demand, who went on to release music and even won at a weekly music show.

The next group to come will be X1, who are poised to debut in August.

Idol Producer

This show's first season faced some controversy for being an almost exact copy of Produce 101 while not technically being part of the franchise, but it was still a massive hit in China. The group created from it, Nine Percent, have amassed huge popularity thanks to members like ex-Produce 101 Season 2 contestant, Justin Huang, and former SWIN member now solo star, KUN.

The first season was hosted by EXO's Lay, with a panel of judges including GOT7's Jackson Wang and Cosmic Girls, making it a must-watch for C-pop fans.

The Unit

The Unit is a double-edged sword. On one hand it's fascinating viewing with all the highs and lows of an emotional music survival show. But it is also a sad reminder of what happens to too many idols. The show's premise is that idol groups and/or members of already debuted groups join the show for their final chance to make it big. There were contestants from groups like Hotshot, A.C.E, Wonder Girls and more, with several emotional moments as the judges came face-to-face with friends and fellow ex-trainees.

The performances are amazing to watch, as is the feedback from the judges who include Rain, HyunA and Taemin.


This 2015 reality show was created by JYP Entertainment and Mnet to create girl group TWICE. The show courted its fair share of controversy, firstly for its seemingly harsh format, that had one group of girls treated well while another group was given the disadvantage of less suitable housing and late training hours. Furthermore, although the group was initially meant to be seven members, a last minute decision was made to add two more, which is how Tzuyu and Momo were added into TWICE.

It's an interesting watch to see TWICE's origins, and get a glimpse at Somi before her turn on Produce 101. It is also a reminder of how incredibly hard idols work in often adverse conditions.

Show Me The Money

So much of current Korean hip-hop has been influenced by contestants and winners of this rap reality show. Not surprising given it was the first show on South Korean tv focusing on hip-hop, with contestants going up against each other in rap battles and solo song challenges, usually supported by experienced rappers acting as mentors and judges.

There have been some notable winners, like Season 1's Loco who went on to sign with AOMG, Season 4 winner Bobby from iKON, Season 5's winner BewhY who worked with producers Gray and Simon Dominic and Season 6's winner Hangzoo who was produced by Zico and Dean.

Many of Show Me The Money's songs have become huge hits in Korea, especially MINO's songs from his time on Season 4, with all of his songs charting in the top 10.

WIN: Who is Next

Another one focusing on a specific group, this time it's the YG-created show that gave birth to WINNER. The members competed against other trainees for the chance to debut as the first YG boy group in eight years, since the debut of BIGBANG. Members of what would become iKON also competed, and the eventual winner was chosen through public voting.

The show also led to the spin-off Mix & Match, where iKON's final lineup was decided.

The Rap of China

This show has been credited with popularising hip-hop music in China and introducing it to the mainstream. The show opened with auditions taking place in Beijing where rappers would perform without music and if the producers liked it, they'd move onto the next round. Similarly to Show Me The Money, artists perform solo raps as well as in cyphers. The final winner was chosen through votes from invited peers and producers.

The show has also been a vehicle for Kris Wu's continued success in China, with him acting as one of the producers alongside Taiwanese-American singer Will Pan, Taiwanese rapper MC HotDog and rock musician Chang Chen-yue. Hong Kong singer G.E.M also became a judge in Season 2.

The show has been hugely successful in China, with it accumulating 1.3 billion views in little over a month after the first episode aired.


Starship Entertainment's reality show that birthed MONSTA X, this show also caused its fair share of controversy with the final lineup that became the idol group we know and love now. At the time, two trainees - Seokwon and #GUN - were the viewer favourites, and many believed they'd make the final cut, which made it more surprising when they didn't.

No.Mercy began with 12 contestants and it was pared down until nine people were competing for a spot in a seven-member group. Surprisingly, MONSTA X member I.M was not in the original contestant lineup, and was added halfway through. 

The show allowed for some very memorable performances to be created by who would eventually become MONSTA X members, and won the group a lot of love from the public.

High School Rapper

This is like junior Show Me The Money, with high school aged contestants competing to become rappers. The younger artists get to collaborate with producers in their finale performances, with popular producers and artists like Sik-K, GroovyRoom, Woo Won Jae and Jessi being involved.

Haon is one of the show's biggest successes, having since signed to Jay Park's H1GHER MUSIC label. There have also been some familiar young rappers on there too, like NCT's Mark Lee.


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