"Two Outs, Bottom of the 9th Inning" feels like a project that everyone did to kill time. The actors have a good on-screen relationship that would seem to indicate they all got along well, and the production values suggest a perfectly competent crew. I just find it hard to believe that anyone felt that this story or these characters were something anyone attacked as a labor of love. "Two Outs" is pure, middle-of-the-road comfort food, packing the straightest of straightforward stories filled with mind-bogglingly basic, clean-cut, familiar characters. This is a show with all the verve and edginess of a story problem in a public school math textbook; I wouldn't be surprised to find the characters attempting to figure out how to meet on trains traveling in opposite directions.
Nan-Hee (Soo Ae) is a frustrated, 30-year-old comic book writer looking for generic things like love and success. She has a nagging mother (uh-huh) who wants her to give up on her dreams (yep) and find a man (right), although when we first meet her she's already dating a baseball player named Jung-Joo (Lee Tae Sung), who's eight years younger than her. Of course, there's also her best friend Hyung-Tae (Lee Jung Jin), who she might or might not have feelings for (I see) and who might or might not have feelings for her too (ah). Nan-Hee's hand is forced (is that so) when it begins looking like Jung-Joo might get called up to play baseball in America and Hyung-Tae rekindles his relationship with rising pop star Sung-Ah (Hwang Ji Hyun). As the show might say, batter up.
I was just writing about how pretty much every story has already been told in my review of The Toe Tactic, but "Two Outs" is an extreme example. Is there any possible stone in the relationship conflict presented that hasn't already been turned over, ground into dust, spread about and paved over? The will-they-won't they back and forth of a girl and her guy best friend is so tired that excellent performances and visionary direction can just barely hold up, and "Two Outs" brings neither to the table. Not that there's anything wrong with either element, it's just that it's not enough to breathe any fresh life into this story. Anyone with any interest in watching the show had better not hang their hat on plot twists of any kind: there's no uncertainty in the way things turn out, and I mean no uncertainty at all.
That leads to the other problem: the show's length. A considerable portion of every episode felt to me like the show was just spinning its wheels. Maybe it's because I felt the ending was so inevitable, but the overarching themes of aging (Nan-Hee seems particularly upset to be 30) and getting on with your life just don't hold that much appeal to me. I'm sure they do to others, and I bet they'll enjoy "Two Outs" more than I did, but I just don't see why the show felt the need to devote more than 16 hours to the series. The bulk of the material could have been told in say, 16 half-hour to 45-minute episodes, or even 10 70-minute episodes instead of 16. The show certainly has some level of comic charm, even if it's over-the-top and goofy, and in smaller doses, I might have thought it was alright. As it is, it was a long, tough slog making it through a seemingly innocuous number of episodes.
As the characters wrapped up their various speed bumps on the road to happiness (mainly exes, including Nan-Hee's childhood ex, who I can't identify since the show's credits are in Korean and there isn't an English IMDb page), I have to say that I felt very little of the overarching experience. The show uses the baseball metaphor reasonably well, but baseball is a simple sport. On one hand, that's what makes the comparison work, but on the other hand, it reveals the show's biggest weakness. This is such a simplistic slice of relationship drama that I couldn't recommend it as more than time-killing comfort food, and it seems like it would be hard to throw a show like this on in the background given a) its length and b) the language, if you don't speak it. The skills of everyone involved make the effort a solid B, but there's nothing unique about the show to make it worth remembering past its original airdates.
The episodes break down as follows:
Disc 1: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3
Disc 2: Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6
Disc 3: Episode 7, Episode 8, Episode 9
Disc 4: Episode 10, Episode 11, Episode 12
Disc 5: Episode 13, Episode 14, Episode 15
Disc 6: Episode 16
"Two Outs, Bottom of the 9th Inning" comes in a thick, attractive, hardbound case that's just a millimeter or two too tight for the cheap, transparent cases inside. The brightly colored baseball-themed artwork, on the other hand, might scare a few viewers away because it makes the show look slightly childish. Each of the two single-thickness DVD cases holds three discs, with similar artwork on each disc listing which episodes are on which one.
Presented in what appears to be a ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for 16x9 TVs, "Two Outs" will look pretty good from a distance or on a smaller screen, but people with bigger displays will start to see the light grain (and potential artifacting) in the image. Colors and detail are better, while the cinematography has that strange hyper-clarity that a lot of TV shows tend to exhibit, especially foreign ones, like an HDTV with 120hz "True Motion" turned on. Startlingly, there is the occasional stock shot that just looks absolutely awful -- in the airplane one that opens Episode 2, you can even see VHS tracking lines! -- but it's hard to fault the DVD for that.
Dolby Digital Korean 2.0 places the emphasis on the dialogue, which is crisp and clear. Any directional effects are a fleeting bonus. English subtitles are provided on all sixteen episodes.
Undoubtedly, there are people out there who may have squeezed a little enjoyment from the show's painfully basic, unoriginal charms, but I did not. Beyond my boredom at the show itself, I'd also be extremely reluctant to recommend this release on the strength of its relatively mediocre A/V quality and a total lack of extras (especially at an incredibly steep $90 price point). Fans may want to rent it, but frankly even they should just skip it entirely.
Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-Ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.