The Manny is just one of those shows that you fail to like despite people having done a good job. There isn’t a lot to fault with The Manny. It helps to remember that whatever cliches the title of the series makes you think of, they are all true and implemented in the story. But that is never a complaint. In fact, The Manny has done a commendable job of choosing the ‘good cliches’ and writing them with nuance and depth instead of just rendering them to a customary plot point. This fact holds true for most of the story. The ex-husband is shown to be vain, but he is also depicted as someone who cares about the people around him, though he cares about himself more. The ‘career woman’ trope has been handled really well by the series, with the actual hypocrisy of the expectations placed on her being discussed openly. We are also appreciative of the way the kids were written to deliver the right amount of cuteness and teenage troubles. Like we said, there is no fault with the characters, except maybe the titular one.
It is a surprise that the central character of the show feels like the most bland one. He is described as someone wholesome, and he is certainly good-looking. But the only thing that went wrong was that perhaps the actor himself lacked charisma. This becomes more apparent when he is sharing screen space with other, more capable actors. Take Gabriel’s (Ivan Amozurrutia) scenes with Joaquin (Moises Arizmendi), for example. The latter actor brings so much to the screen, with his body language, micro-expressions, and even the occasional lost expression that nails the scene on the head. As irritating as the character was, it was as if the audience understood him and why Jimena kept going back to him. Coming to Jimena herself, Diana Bovio did a great job conveying the constant struggle within the character. We would even say that she masterfully conveyed to the audience the different things her character was struggling with at all times, without any dialogue. How is it possible that even the kids managed to leave an impression, but the mann didn’t? Why is he the character whose face we fail to recall, even though he is definitely good-looking and has sufficient screen presence? The casting team failed with him.
Coming to the story, let us address the negatives first, because they will be brief. The Manny starts with Jimena desperately needing someone to take care of her children because they are a difficult bunch. Why was the audience not shown why they were difficult? Their running around the house seemed like regular teenage behavior. Are we supposed to believe that experienced nannies were not able to handle this? Frankly speaking, this can be ignored as a minor detail of the story, but we brought it up because the writers missed the chance for some good comedy by omitting this detail. There is no question that The Manny needed more humor. Constantly objectifying Gabriel is not funny, and not for any moral reason but the simple fact that the jokes are bland. In such a case, why not use the kids more? There is plenty of reference material to go around, like Nanny McPhee, Mary Poppins, or literally any movie or series with a similar plot. This also meant that we never understood why Gabriel was so good with the kids because everything shown in the series was pretty generic stuff that literally any caretaker could do or say.
Moving on to the good part of the story, we have mentioned in another article that this story is more about Jimena than it is about Gabriel, and rightfully so. The Manny has kept a light hand with the discussion of topics like workplace sexism and the pressure on women to be superheroes or ‘to do it all,’ but it has still done them well. It was great to see the insidious nature of the ‘well-meaning’ extended help and the way women are forced to take on the unsaid pressure, in the absence of which they risk losing it all. This was very well used in the buildup to the central love story of the series.
But the movie wasn’t free of caricaturish characters. We are tired of seeing the teenage girls split into two sections: the mean girl and the woke girl who is trying to join the ‘cool girl group.’ Teens have progressed beyond this generalization. But maybe, after getting the ‘pressure’ thing right about women in the workplace, the writers wanted to take it easy with the progressiveness in the rest of the story. On that note, credit must be given to how well the arc of Rogelio’s sexuality was handled. That was some very sensitive writing and one of the better emotional arcs of the series. This is also the part where the actor playing Rogelio shines the most. Maybe that is to be expected since, in the rest of the series, he is rather one-dimensional as a competitor of Jimena. On that note, we liked the way the ending of the series was presented. For something so simplistic, that was a great way of conveying that not everything will end with a neat bow tied on top.
Looking back at the series, it is hard to say why it is so underwhelming. Maybe it could have reduced an episode or two, or maybe the mystery had been more challenging or masterfully woven to increase the intrigue between the characters. Maybe some of the plots were just unnecessary, including that of Joaquin, and perhaps the kids could have been more rowdy and entertaining instead of so simple. None of these changes would have set the series apart from other stories like it, but it would have been more entertaining. There seems to be a hint of season 2, though nothing has been announced yet. It would be wise if that season took this feedback. The Manny is not bad, but it is nowhere near the average mark that it should be, and that needs to be worked on.