TV Review: ‘Kevin Can F**K Himself’

Review by James Lindorf

It has been a little over a year since Emmy Award winner Annie Murphy graced our televisions as the beloved Alexis Rose. Starting with a two-episode premiere June 13th on AMC+ and June 20th on AMC, Murphy is back as Allison McRoberts, the put-upon wife in the new sitcom with a twist “Kevin Can F**k Himself.” After the two-part premiere, the show will switch to a weekly release schedule for the final six episodes, with AMC+ always one week ahead of the cable network.

Sitcoms have been an enduring form of television since “Mary Kay and Johnny” first premiered in 1947. Since then, sitcoms have ranged from “The Honeymooners” and “I Love Lucy” to “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Three’s Company” to “Roseanne” and “The Fresh Prince” to recent kings of the sitcom mountain “The Big Bang Theory” and Murphy’s own “Schitt’s Creek.”

During the sitcom peak in the ’80s and ’90s, most shows fell into one of two categories. Like “Family Matters” or “Boy Meets World,” the first style was centered around the kids and featured an equally paired set of parents. The other primary type also featured a family, but this time the focus was the husband. Whether it was “Still Standing,” “The King of Queens,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” or even “The Simpsons,” they often paired an offish, inconsiderate, and schlubby man with an underappreciated, overworked, and beautiful woman. To her horror, Allison realizes she has been living in the second type for the last ten years.

Allison dreams of a better job, a better house, and generally a better life for her and Kevin. Unfortunately, Kevin (Eric Petersen) stopped maturing at about 12 years old and is afraid of change. Loudmouthed, a little paunchy, and probably five years older than Allie, Kevin would rather spend his time with his dimwitted best friend and next-door neighbor Neil (Alex Bonifer). The pair is constantly cracking jokes, mainly at Allison’s expense, while Kevin’s dad (Brian Howe) and Neil’s sister Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden) look on. From the opening scene, “Kevin Can F**k Himself” is a perfect satire of a network sitcom from its upbeat intro music, the exterior shot of a quiet street and a cute little home, and a brightly lit living room. The living room is like the ones you have seen a thousand times. Mismatched furniture, lots of knick-knacks and things hanging on the wall, a door to the “basement,” and a staircase that allows for entrances and exits but leads nowhere. When asked to grab Kevin a beer for the millionth time, Allison’s life changes forever.

As she enters the kitchen, the world changes from the colorful multi-camera style of the sitcom to a grim single camera drama dominated by muted greys and blues. At the same time, the laugh track is replaced by a high-pitched ringing sound, and Allison smashes the beer mug against the counter when her despair manifests as rage. And this is the conceit of the show going forward. When Allison is with the rest of the group, she is the long-suffering wife of a man more interested in schemes and toys than being her partner. When she is alone, she is plunged into a “Breaking Bad” style drama of a good person in over their head. We see her working long hours at a liquor store, reconnecting with an old friend, trying cocaine, and going on a series of harrowing adventures while looking to score Oxy.

In baseball terms, “Kevin Can F**k Himself” is far from a home run. After the first four episodes, it is a solid base hit with the potential of being stretched into a double, depending on how the second half of the season plays out. The biggest problem with the show is the sitcom side of things. It is meant to be an exaggerated take on the classic sitcom. They want to lull you into a sense of comfort based on familiarity to make the switch more jarring. Unfortunately, they forgot the most essential part of a sitcom, and that is the comedy. Laughs are few and far between, no matter what the canned laughter wants you to believe. As you spend more time with the characters, you buy into what they are doing a little more, but it needs to be more natural and less caricature.

Easily the show’s most significant selling point is Murphy herself. Virtually unknown just six years ago, many fans were wondering if she could play a different character or if this would just be lower middle class Alexis. Thankfully, her performance is drastically different from the one she gave as Alexis with the only drawback being the Massachusetts accent. She has a natural magnetism that draws you in with nothing more than her humor and energy. There is room for the show to grow. Punching up the jokes is a necessity but showing us other characters outside the sitcom could be intriguing. Is Neil that much of a dufus, or is he happy to play the sidekick because it is better than being alone? Does Kevin have a dark side? Could he possibly be making Allison’s like hell on purpose so she can’t leave him, or is he naturally that inconsiderate? For now, it is only the dark side of the show that will keep audiences coming back. Once you learn her plan for her future, you can’t help but be intrigued and desire to see if she can pull it off.

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