My Boys – “The Shirt Contest”

“The Shirt Contest”

June 26th, 2008

Having just jumped on the My Boys bandwagon in the past week, this is the first time I’ve been able to catch an episode on the night of its airing. It’s a pity, then, that it was an episode that was so slight, a mere distraction with a central reality show parody that never quite clicked for me. There’s three storylines here, and none of them are really given anything to do. While I don’t miss PJ’s insipid Baseball cliches that opened each episode, part of me does miss episodes that felt more cohesive.

That’s not to say that the episode wasn’t funny, nor that the storylines are on a poor trajectory – rather, the pace of the storylines just seems a bit too slow. After they spent an episode in Italy, and spent last week with PJ searching for a man, it seemed like things were rebooting this week, and the result is less Andy (Never a good quality in an episode) and more of Brendan and PJ’s newest career moves.

And in one case, this is good news for an oft forgotten character; in the other, it’s an odd half-storyline that feels like we’re waiting for a payoff.

The good news, for Brendan’s sake, is that he has a storyline again. Sure, it involves returning to his one focus in past seasons (His ex-fiance Wendy), but at least the loss of his job and his discovery that his past is doing better than he is has given him a purpose. Ever since he stopped being a douchebag, the character has been just kind of floating along, but the show does seem to be willing to elevate him (As they did Andy at the end of last season) to at least a quasi-lead.

The show has a lot of parallels to HIMYM, from its group of friends to its local watering hole, but one (of many) areas it pales in comparison is that it hasn’t yet found the balance of its cast. HIMYM is a show willing and able to elevate its supporting characters when the storylines dictate it, but for My Boys PJ is so often the center of attention that the show’s other characters always seem to blend into comic window dressing. I wonder how soon it will be before Brendan gets a new job and then completely dissolves into the background – perhaps as quickly as we abandoned Mike’s job at Kenny’s store?

Sure, HIMYM has the same issue occasionally abandoning some characters, but it’s a bigger issue here because PJ is always the lead in a way that Ted is not. It doesn’t help that her storylines are not very interesting, like tonight’s where she started work on a ghostwriting gig for a New York Mets pitcher. I found it somewhat odd that we didn’t get to actually see the moment she got the job (Or that she didn’t really even have to work for it), and that her decision to write a book was never directly linked to Stephanie’s quick success. The show isn’t one for continuity, clearly.

But moreover, the pitcher himself was just extremely odd. It seemed like the show was leading us to the point where his project was such a literary landline (As Brisco told PJ at the end of the episode) that we were to connect the dots: between antiquing, Project Runway and his own clothing line, I’m going to go out on a limb and presume the show was trying to tell us that he’s secretly in the closet. Now, not only does this strike on my pet peeve of stigmatizing Project Runway (A damn fine reality series that is perfectly enjoyable regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation), but it also didn’t go anywhere: are we to presume the pitcher is coming back, or was this just a life lesson for PJ? It didn’t seem to give much of an indication of future involvement, so I can’t say for sure.

Project Runway, of course, was the way the episode ended: the protracted and extremely far-fetched “Shirt Contest” of the episode’s title. First off, it doesn’t make any sense: not only is Project Runway rarely described as “a show where they make shirts,” but it seemed like such a blatant sitcom plot versus something that these characters would actually do. It’s not that I’m buying into society’s stereotype of men not enjoying sewing or any such thing, but these characters? Outside of Kenny? They don’t seem like the type, even in their hyper-competitive nature, to so quickly jump on the bandwagon with a sewing party at PJs. The episode never even showed them every struggling: considering my previous opinion of their likely sewing abilities, I would have presumed Kenny and Mike would have done much, much worse.

And it just took away from everything else, to be honest – the show went for gimmick when it could have done something lighter, and while it made Brendan feel better in the end it gave no indication of any of this collapsing over into future weeks. Perhaps blazing through the first season gave me expectations for plot movement that single episodes can’t, but here we saw a complete lack of anything that elevated the series beyond your traditional sitcom. And that’s a real pity.

Cultural Observations

  • I’m curious: was the actress who plays Stephanie really ill? The whole voice issue seemed odd to me, and it was never played for laughs outside of a nice exchange between her and Kenny (Which, as noted last week, I always get a kick out of).
  • Bobby and Elsa’s relationship is charming, even though we never got to see it; it mostly charms because it brings out the most laughs from Andy, who gets to use Bobby as his second wife of sorts. Jim Gaffigan wasn’t given much to do, but he did it well here.
  • I’m under the impression that the female lawyer Andy keeps referring to may be entering the picture sometime soon, so already I’m glancing forward in hopes of getting to the point where Andy returns to his own storylines. That’s never a good sign, show!

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