Man to Man
By: Caroline Frost · June 20, 2017
Secret agent Kim Seol-Woo (Park Hae-Jin) must accomplish a delicate mission while pretending to be the bodyguard of Yeo Woon-Gwang (Park Sung-Woong), a whimiscal super star.
I am a shadow without a name or a reputation.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that setting your expectations too high will only lead to disappointment. It is also universally acknowledged that humans never learn so of course, when I heard of a fun-filled spy show starring Park Hae-Jin as a James Bond-like secret agent, I eagerly waited for a chance to watch what had to be an awesome drama. Man to Man, unfortunately, didn't turn out to be the exception to the rule, and proved very disappointing very quickly in spite of both lead actors' best efforts.
At the age of Kim Eun-Sook bromance dramas (Goblin, Descendants of the Sun), Man to Man's selling point was the epic bromance the show promised between Kim Seol-Woo and his boss, the capricious Yeo Woon-Gwang. Had it been built up like any normal, credible relationship, I would have loved it, grown attached, and squealed like I did in front of other well-done bromances (coughcough Reaper and Goblin coughcough). In this case, Seol-Woo gets included in the Woon-Gwang clan so easily there's no way this relationship could be anything but shallow, which ruins what little credibility the show had left by that point.
By that I mean that the show seems incapable of deciding what it wants to be: is it a spy show? a romance? a comedy? While the first few episodes seem to focus more on the secret agent stuff, the rest takes a turn for romance rather quickly, before getting an hour and a half of some action and falling back into shenanigans. This uneven tone, coupled with characters who all live and work in rather unforgiving fields yet behave like four-year-olds, makes it really hard not to scoff every five minutes at this scenaristic tragedy.
Plus, except for the end of episode 8, the secret agent mission scenes are so bad it's not even funny anymore. Between the dude who admires a stolen object while stood right smack in the middle of the owner's lawn, the utter lack of effort on Seol-Woo's part to conceal his face while on a “top-secret” mission in hostile territory, and the ridiculous schemes he has to come up with to get himself fired because, apparently, South Korea is the only country in the world to investigate car explosions, well... Let's just say the general reasoning of the show makes as much sense as a screen door on a submarine.
Yet another issue lies with the bad English dialogue that pretty much destroys the pilot episode. I get that Netflix bought the show and the writers were probably trying to make it more international and accessible to the general, English-speaking audiences, but, well. I've found that weird English and bad white actors tend to make everything worse rather than better, really. I wish they'd quit it.
As for the romance, what can I say? The female lead is unbearable. She annoyed me so much in the first few episodes, I started to skip forward whenever she appeared on screen. She does get better after a few episodes, but as far as character introductions go, this one was a disaster of epic proportions, really. Besides, her relationship with Seol-Woo is boring because awfully cliché, and so very predictable... I could see all the “hardships” coming from miles away.
Finally, the plot. I want to say, “what plot?” Because really, even 8 episodes in, I was confused as to what everybody wanted... and their relationships to one another. Apart from Kim Seol-Woo, Cha Do-Ha and Yeo Woon-Gwang, the other characters were all abstract enough that I could barely distinguish them from one another. I thought for the longest time that the Assemblyman was the CEO's dad, but I think he's not? Still not sure.
All in all, I dropped Man to Man after 10 episodes and still had that much to write. That should be telling enough.
Title: Man to Man
Country: South Korea
Starring: Park Hae-Jin, Park Sung-Woong, Kim Min-Jung, Yeon Jeong-Hun
Aired: 04/21/2017 to 06/10/2017
Number of Episodes: 16
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Action
My grade: ★☆☆☆☆