This week saw the premiere of the first ever primetime drama from the cable network TvN, the nanny-with-a-twist light and fluffy Manny, starring Seo Ji Seok, Choi Jung Yoon, and Byung Jung Soo. After watching the first two episodes, I am utterly smitten and bewitched – it’s simultaneously LOL-funny yet tender and sincere.
You know what drama this reminds me of – Wish Upon a Star with Kim Ji Hoon and Choi Jung Won, a drama that for the first half was my biggest drama addiction in early 2010. It has the same mixture of cute kids dealing with parental loss mixed with hijinks and antics galore. WUAS had the chance of being one of my favorite K-dramas of all time, until the second half went to the wolves. Hopefully, no such insanity will befall Manny.
Seo Ji Seok (breaking away from his last role – the cold and broody, not to mention sexy-as-all-hell, Kang Seok in Gloria – excuse me while I fantasize for a minute) plays Kim Yi Han, an Ivy League grad, New York-trained nanny, who happens to be a guy doing a traditionally female job. He’s written a bestselling book about his glorious success as a NYC manny, and is back in Korea for a book tour. Unluckily for Yi Han, but lucky for us viewers, a series of mishaps befall Yi Han and he ends up stuck in Korea for the time being.
He crosses path with the single mother of two, Seo Do Young (played by Choi Jung Yoon), and ends up taking her up on her offer to become the manny to her two kids, the precocious older daughter Eun Bi, and the sweet and withdrawn younger son Jung Min. Joining in the fun is Janice (yes, she’s like the Korean Cher with one name), the head of a modeling agency and Do Young’s older sister, who happens to live in the same house.
The drama looks like it will be a series of episodic events whereby the manny helps the family members deal with each of their issues and or obstacles, all the while he grows closer to them, and eventually finds himself emotionally involved with one or both of the ladies of the house. Don’t expect lots of manufactured angst, but do expect lots of down-to-earth emotional moments. Both Janice and Yi Han are like dueling divas with runaway egos, and I cannot get enough of them.
I’m not watching this drama for super romantic OTP moments or sappy heartwrenching sob stories – I’m watching because Manny is a lot of fun. It’s fast-paced, charming, and tells a very compact story quite well. It doesn’t try to be ambitious, but understands how to present this very simple construct in an effective way. The two child actors are quite winning (though not quite at the same extraordinary level as the kids in Can You Hear My Heart as well as WUAS), and everyone is comfortably in character from the get go.
Two episodes in, Manny isn’t quite the crack that WUAS was for me (where I would literally twitch uncontrollably until I could get another episode, it was that good), but I am much more satisfied with where I see this drama going (I cannot imagine that there will be a fish face, magical receding hairline, ephemeral second male lead, last episode kidnapping insanity, or a lukewarm romantic resolution to pour cold water over this hot hot drama). I don’t expect anything in Manny to be surprising, but I have a feeling that everything will be rewarding to watch.
While Seo Ji Seok has crackling chemistry with Byung Jung Soo, I’m sure his character will end up falling for Choi Jung Yoon’s mom of two. It’s okay, like I said, I’m not here for some grand romantic love that will break the Heavens open. I much rather enjoy the entire journey of watching the manny change the family, and be changed by the family, and together everyone moving from point A to point B. The drama doesn’t strain itself in an attempt to overreach beyond its limited scope. It’s about a kooky family and its new male nanny. And what’s so wrong about that? Nothing at all, for this drama feels just right.
While I’m not planning to recap Manny, I thought it’d be fun to share the charming first two episodes through a quick screencap heavy recap.
A screencap recap of Manny episodes 1-2:
What’s a manny? Does he even have a real name? Yes, it’s Kim Yi Han, but he’s known far and wide only as The Manny. Even the driver sent to pick him up at the airport just writes down “manny” on his placard, LOL.
Is he a male nanny or a rock star? Look at the way he strolls through that airport concourse.
Poor frazzled single mommy with her two adorable kids.
Let me take back the adorable part – these two kids terrorized their former nannies with trick spiders and a re-enactment of Carrie.
Meet Janice, single, fabulous, and whose job apparently involves judging half-naked young people on their physical allure. “Everybody stop”, she says, and then she eyes the naked torsos with a critical eye towards perfection.
Our manny is on a book tour (Manny in NY is his book title), and our single mom is prowling for him. Perhaps he can withstand her two terrible tykes.
Our manny’s driver made off with all his stuff, and he’s stuck in Seoul with no money or passport. His bank accounts are frozen and he can’t go back to the US due to a misunderstanding with an US immigration official and his amorous wife. What’s a manny to do? Our single mom offers him a job – be my kid’s manny.
He’s not interested, but fate is interested for him, so he runs into terrible #2 on the street, and the little boy is lost but now found. His good Samaritan deed lands him in jail when Janice, who had a previous unpleasant first meeting with our manny, accuses him of being a child abductor.
Single mommy goes the next morning to apologize for the dust-up, and to convince the manny to come and be her family’s savior.
How can he not, when the little boy so clearly needs a father figure in his life.
But fabulous and bitchy Janice isn’t so keen on having a equally fabulous diva manny around her house.
Look at those devious eyes in that pretty little face. She’s already plotting on how to get rid of her manny. I can’t wait to see the manny vs. princess showdown (and the manny vs. Janice showdown).
Manny’s getting rid of the useless frivolous kids books and bringing in the study materials. Go whip these kids into Ivy League shape, manny!
Single mom can’t make a parent meeting, so it’s super manny to the rescue in her stead. He wows the other moms by switching out the fatty chocolate pudding dessert for a strawberry banana yogurt shake for the kids, but bitchy head mom/gossip queen is shocked to hear that manny lives with our single mom and her kids. Oh, the horror, the outrage, the indecency of it all!
Manny has a sore back and needs single mom to put on a salon pas for him. Oh, single mom balks, because of her weird lady sensibilities. I would be pawing manny right about now.
Janice, with all that exercise equipment in her room, causes our little boy to take a tumble. Manny is not happy with his charge getting hurt. He demands Janice make her room kid friendly and toss the equipment.
Janice is back to what she does best, judging half-naked male models, which also serves as her outlet for all the manny-induced outage she’s got bubbling up inside of her.
Manny takes his littlest charge for some boxing. He gets the little boy to punch at him and express his frustration with his broken family.
Bitchy gossipy mom spreads false lies that our single mom got a divorce because she cheated on her husband with her hot manny, and is setting up a love shack with him. Single mom gets pissed, and forbids her daughter to hang out with or talk to bitchy mom’s son, but the two kids are adorable totally in kid wuv with each other. It’s baby Romeo and baby Juliet.
Our hot manny takes the little girl to the modeling studio to visit her fabulous Aunt Janice, and is spotted by a client of the agency, who hand picks the manny to be the model for his campaign, much to the chagrin of Janice to have her mortal enemy be selected. Now she has to convince him to model for her. Oh, how it must rankle her.
Our baby Romeo & Juliet cannot be together. Oh woe is the world so unfair. No worries, manny to the rescue.
Our manny agrees to be a male model for the day, his ego all bolstered even more because Janice resorted to pretty much begging him.
But Janice isn’t about to let him get the upper hand on her, and she’s got her own little joke to play on him. She convinces our manny to shower, and then makes off with his clothes. Yowza, manny with no clothes!
Our manny manages to find some clothes and heads off to a kid’s party, where he performs a magic trick that does double duty as a way to resolve the mommy infighting which hurts their kids.
Our fighting moms make up once they realize how their childish behavior is hurting their own kids, and the baby Romeo & Juliet can be together once again.
Our manny heads to the gym and is preening under the many eyes watching him. Contrary to his mistaken assumption, he’s the center of attention because he’s current the star of the latest online viral video.
The title is: ballet manny!
You better look out, Janice, cuz this manny is not going to take this sitting down. Let the battle begin!