The Complete First Season
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All photos © TBS
Reviewed by Will Harris
hen “How I Met Your Mother” premiered on CBS, Bullz-Eye trumpeted it as the new “Friends.” Not that we would in any way suggest that we’re already at a point where we need a new “How I Met Your Mother” (the series is still way too funny to even begin to imply such a thing), but if you’re on the lookout for another sitcom where the characters actually talk and act like people you know, we’ve got a nomination for you: “My Boys.”
It’s very possible that you’ve overlooked “My Boys,” given that it currently appears on TBS, a network that hasn’t yet built a solid reputation as a place to find original comedy. It also doesn’t help their standing any that their two most prominent sitcoms, “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” and “The Bill Engvall Show,” are designed to appeal to audiences who laugh at loud, stupid people and painfully obvious punch-lines. Now, if that’s what floats your boat, fair enough, but if you prefer your humor a tad more realistic, “My Boys” is a welcome respite.
P.J. Franklin (Jordana Spiro) is an unabashed tomboy, so much so that she’s even managed to build a career around her predilection, serving as a sports writer for the Chicago Sun-Times. As a sports obsessive, she’s found herself being labeled as “one of the guys” throughout her life, but she’s still unabashedly heterosexual and constantly playing the field; the only problem is that her tomboyish nature means that she’s been known to change around the gender roles in her relationships, which doesn’t always go over very well with her suitors. Of course, they also often have issues with her having so many male friends, which only stands to reason. P.J.’s inner circle consists of her henpecked brother, Andy (Jim Gaffigan); her best friend and occasional roommate, Brendan (Reid Scott); and Mike and Kenny (Jamie Kaler and Michael Bunin), who serve as yin and yang of the group. (Mike’s the know-it-all loudmouth, Kenny’s the quiet guy who occasionally knows best.) As the series begins, they bring a new guy into the fold: Bobby Newman (Kyle Howard), a new sportswriter at the Chicago Tribune. With all this testosterone, it’s a given that P.J. needs a female friend to fall back on when she needs to talk about relationships and the like, and that role is filled by her college buddy, Stephanie (Kellee Stewart).
The chemistry among the cast is a little iffy in the pilot, but by Episode Two, it’s already rock solid and remains so for the duration, with their weekly poker games always resulting in conversations which feel spontaneous rather than scripted. A certain amount of this comes courtesy of the producers allowing the comedians in the cast to adlib at their discretion, but it’s clear that there was an almost-instant camaraderie between the actors. The character development is also impressive, with a seemingly clichéd concept like the henpecked husband being turned inside out when it’s revealed that (a) Andy’s actually a complete tool when he’s let off his leash, and (b) most of the time, he paints his wife as way worse than she really is, so he’ll have an excuse to leave when he’s tired and just wants to go home and be with his family. Guest stars are also well-utilized, with sitcom stalwart Laurie Metcalfe playing P.J.’s free-spirited aunt, Jeremy Sisto (“Law & Order”), Travis Schuldt (“Scrubs”), and Michael Landes (“Special Unit 2”) as various love interests of P.J., and Johnny Galecki as Trouty, who may well be the single greatest cockblocker in sitcom history.
Sports fans will get a lot of laughs out of the way P.J.’s narration of each episode likens the thrust of the plot to a particular sports concept. There’s “team chemistry” (things get weird after P.J. and Bobby hook up); “promise of a new season” (the annual Fantasy Baseball Draft goes awry when Brendan brings his girlfriend to the proceedings); “free agent” (P.J. isn’t sure that pursuing a relationship with a new beau is the right way to go); and “the slump” (when the guys mutually realize how long it’s been since they’ve been on dates), just to name a few. The last third of the season drops this recurring motif for the most part, but by then, you’ve come to know the characters so well that you don’t really need it anymore, anyway. It also provides one of the funniest episodes of the first year, “Douchebag in the City,” where Brendan starts running in a higher social circle and gets called out by his friends for succumbing to total douchebaggery.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate “My Boys.” You just have to enjoy a good ensemble comedy. Sorry, did we say “good?” We meant “great.” When the final episode rolls around and provides a cliffhanger ending, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief that Season Two has just premiered on TBS. Of course, you’ll also be bummed that there will only be eight episodes in that season, but -- sports cliché alert! -- you can’t win ‘em all.
Special Features: Although it’s admittedly disappointing that there are no audio commentaries included on this set (given how funny the cast members are, it’s a given that any conversations they would’ve had about the episodes would’ve been a must-hear), the featurettes make for good viewing. “Life in the Press Box” provides a nice look at the creation of the series, along with much back-patting from the producers and performers about how much fun the show is and how great everyone is to work with. The most fun, however, comes via “Sports Quiz” and “Favorites in Sports.” The former involves posing sports trivia to the cast members and seeing who knows the most (Kellee Stewart might be the funniest, albeit unintentionally, as she asks, “The NBA is basketball, right?”), while the latter has them listing off their favorite sports, athletes and such. “P.J.’s Rules for Sports and Dating” is basically just a synopsis of the season’s major plot points, and there are only a handful of deleted scenes, but the blooper reel – “No Crying in Baseball” – is predictably hilarious.