My Boys – “Take My Work Wife…Please”

“Take My Work Wife…Please”

July 9th, 2008

My Boys is not a subtle show.

There were some expectations that perhaps dropping the sports metaphors would assist the show in developing a shorthand that relies less on traditional sitcom constructs, but the latest string of episodes have shown that My Boys likes showing its cards. In this instance, the show has very clearly laid the groundwork for current storylines: Andy’s work wife, PJ’s awkwardness about Bobby’s wedding, Kenny and Mike’s alternating relationship woes, etc. And, well, I’m disappointed.

It’s not that there isn’t some humour to be found in these storylines, but it just doesn’t feel like something that has developed organically. The introduction of Jo into the series’ narrative feels perhaps the most natural, but everything else feels like they’re hitting the same note over and over again. That they go through the process of making Stephanie’s book about the boys proves that they’re desperate to expose what we already know – rather than a journey of discovery, we’re on a journey that lacks spotaneity and feels like a giant circle.

I don’t quite want to get off, as it remains breezy summer fun, but I certainly have my concerns.

This week’s episode was bookended by two strong Crowley’s scenes – first, PJ’s femininity getting her into a whole host of situations offered some great moments of light comedy, particularly Brendan’s staggered favours scheme. These scenes remain a nice touch, and here the contrivances appear less blatant: Mike and Kenny’s pathetic lives are meaningless in most situations, but what little comedy there is can easily pop out in brief segments. The same goes for the final scene, where PJ hilariously comes right out and says what everyone is thinking about Bobby’s wedding. It’s an odd scene, and felt tonally off with the episode itself, but as a bookend to the first scene it works fine.

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode feels off because none of the storylines are actually given any time. For all of Kenny’s struggles with two women, we don’t actually see either of them; for all of Mike’s dry spell, we saw him strike out a few times last week and barely see any of his brief time with Jo. Only Brendan’s trip to the mail room, which offered little in the way of jokes, was given any time, and that might have just been because they had to do scenes for Andy and his work wife Jo and figured they should have another cast member in there.

When we don’t actually see any of these storylines, the show has no depth; it’s all tell, all exposition in a show that desperately needs to take some time to show us why, precisely, we should care. The same also goes for Bobby and PJ’s little flirtation – when we don’t see Bobby’s mother, or even Elsa, it’s hard to really view the storyline other than “Oh look, Bobby and PJ get along great, and she’s still into him.” This is fine, but the show then has to have Stephanie point this out to PJ, as if we the audience hadn’t already received the memo.

The only storyline that has even some level of depth is Andy’s, but even then it’s paper thin: Nia Vardalos is giving a solid little comic performance here, but it’s the same scene over and over again. We learned nothing new versus last week: the net progression was everyone else seeing the interaction first hand (Something we saw last week), and Andy being confronted with it (Which also kind of happened last week). I love Jim Gaffigan in this role, and he’s doing some great work with this material, but it just isn’t doing anything for the series itself.

So while I’m in search of more depth, I do hope that the series manages to right itself – they appear to be taking no time getting to Bobby’s wedding, so chances are that’ll be our emotional climax for PJ and the rest of the current batch of storylines. That seems fine until we realize it’s still four episodes away or so, and I hate to imagine how long it might take us to get there.

Cultural Observations

  • Mike as a character is getting dumber by the day, but I’m really enjoying his little asides – his comic book one, in particular, was a nice little charming note. At least with those, the show maintains some comic momentum in times when its more plot-driven parts aren’t moving.
  • I don’t know if it’s for budget reasons or what, but never seeing Meredith or Kenny’s girlfriends or various other people who are involved in these storylines really isolates things and results in massive exposition dumps. I hate when conversations take place that you know should have happened earlier, and are being plopped in here for a reason more than whether it fits.
  • I’ll be getting to Burn Notice later on Friday, the half-hour sitcom had time to be fit in befo
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