July 24th, 2008
Admittedly, I’ve been kind of hard on My Boys’ second season mainly because the show has been slow to really let characters transition into, well, storylines. I’m all for periods of transition for characters, something that often seems rare in television as things rush forward without a human period of self reflection; however, when that period just seems to keep going with no direction, it gets to the point where things need to settle down.
Capturing that opportunity, then, last week’s episode of My Boys did just that: it was all about settling into storylines, even if it is clear that all characters haven’t quite settled in terms of their own desires. While the show is nearly incessant in its drive towards the clear Wedding finale (Which I believe is in two weeks’ time), it is incessant with a purpose and with characters coming to a point of decision and conflict.
The writing this week was sharp and on point, tapping into the roles that characters play best while finding time for isolated storylines for Mike and Kenny’s sporting business and Andy’s marriage without seeming overworked. While the show will never quite be high art as far as television goes, it certainly found a sweet spot here, and one that it would be wise to keep for the rest of the season.
I’ll concede that PJ’s constant wavering and questioning is something that we’ve seen a bit too much of as the seasons have progressed, but sue me for enjoying it. Jordana Spiro gives great self-doubt, there’s no question about it, and there’s something charming about her being charmed and not quite knowing what to do about it.
More importantly, however, is that it brings out the best in the people around her; here, flanked by a hilarious Stephanie and a like-minded Brendan, her storyline popped in a way it hasn’t thus far this season. Stephanie’s love guru advice book is a bit much when it dominates the entire narrative, but her role as love coach for PJ has greater value to the show as an ensemble piece. And, they seem to have realized how great Brendan is in this desperate mode, picking up from the previous week’s episode to really drive home him becoming “that girl.”
And while capitalizing on what makes two characters work best, they even managed to return to balance the Kenny and Mike scale; the observation that they were becoming one another was apt considering I’ve been arguing that the characters have been merging for weeks, and here they truly split. Returning to the operation of the business was a good move, and by the end we reached the proper roles: Mike as the self-conscious womanizer, and Kenny as the indecisive worrier. It felt like just the right amount of storyline for them, and might be just enough to sustain them heading into a finale.
The same goes with Andy, who is smartly separated from Jo long enough for Meredith to return, just in time in fact. I loved seeing Martin Mull return to television, mainly because I kept thinking “Jean Parmesan” every time I looked at him and he brought a similarly kooky charm to this role. The therapy sessions didn’t prove much, or really give Jim Gaffigan much to do, but I won’t argue with a funny guest spot and an acknowledgement that Andy’s marriage is, in fact, safe. This opens the door for the inevitably point where Nia Vardalos gets to take Jo from well meaning friend to psychotic stalker, something I expect we’ll see erupt when she shows up at the wedding or something similar.
And the wedding, while certainly being used mostly as a plot device to create both dramatic climaxes to existing storylines and to further the reasons to stick PJ and Bobby together (They seem to be touching a lot recently), is serving its purpose well. Jack’s arrival does signal a lot of concerns, and it will be interesting to see what his doorstep arrival will bring for the storyline considering that we’re a ways out from the wedding. In the meantime, I’m just glad the series has purpose: let’s hope though that, unlike Italy before it, the payoff is worth the wait.
- I’ve read a few comments elsewhere about the direction focusing in on a lot of close up shots, and while I wasn’t necessarily looking for it I did see a few nice group reaction shots (I particularly loved the in unison “We’re not talking about Jon” from PJ and Stephanie). The show is best with its groups, and there was some nice combinations here.
- Speaking of Stephanie, I felt her book got its best line yet with “You know, it’s okay to read my book more than once.” It just struck me as rightfully condescending – I like my Stephanie less successful, I guess, and more just really great in her own mind. Once society actually returned the praise, it was just kinda weird.