May 26th, 2009
My Boys has, perhaps, the oddest season structure on television. Its sporadically placed nine episode seasons always feel as if they barely start before they’re done, and they often seem designed so as to make no sense by the time they actually air (with this finale taking place during Spring Training despite finding the Baseball season in full swing – yeah, I said it – or the recent episode about the depths of winter taking place, well, not during the depths of winter).
But, more importantly, the show has this really weird pattern of ending and opening seasons with these highly dramatic scenarios of romantic cliffhangers and major events, but then abandoning them for the entire season in favour of standalone stories that are just about these character hanging out. This wouldn’t be a problem if these two forms were all that compatible, but to be honest they’re not: the end of last season was a bit of a mess, and when the show transitioned into a less serialized format this season it was kind of fantastic. I haven’t been blogging about the show due to time restraints, but there was some really great individual episodes in there, more than enough to convince me that the show is still in great shape.
As a result, it was with some caution that I entered into “Spring Training,” already pretty well knowing what we were heading into: Kenny and Stephanie’s hookup way back in last season’s finale was swept under the rug except for a few moments this season, so it was inevitable that we would be confronting that particular storyline. However, to my surprise, that’s the only attempt at drama the show made in the half hour, providing a finale that draws a simpler cliffhanger, and a trip out to that cliff which let the guys be guys, let P.J. go without any stated relationship trouble, and allowed a pretty great little season go out on a pretty good note.
“John, Cougar, Newman Camp”
August 7th, 2008
After a bit of a non-starter of a season wherein the opening resolution to the cliffhanger never went anywhere, and where the relentless drive towards this wedding finale never felt like any sort of natural progression, we have a finale that wants to bookend things cleaner than the season actually was.
And it’s successful – as far as season finales go, it is a smart choice of letting its various characters serve the right roles in Bobby’s march to holy matrimony, and even though the ending is entirely predictable the episode offers our gang of friends enough opportunities to interact that it doesn’t feel like a total cheat. It still doesn’t feel like any type of finale, serving just as a tease for the continuation to come likely early next year, but it does achieve at least a good sense of character within its contrived plotting.
So while I can’t say I’m any more excited about the final cliffhanger as I was when I presumed it would happen weeks ago, the combination of a decent continuation of last week’s threads with some funny gang stuff rises above the median but does little to change the season’s overall quality.
“Jack and Bobby”
July 31st, 2008
When you look up the TV Dictionary definition of “Jack and Bobby,” chances are you’ll find the short-lived WB Drama starring Christine Lahti (I watched the show for the first few episodes, but eventually got bored). However, there’s now a second definition: “See: Setup Episode of My Boys.”
Yes, this is a dreaded setup episode: one that provides little bits of comedy which stands on its own merits but, for the most part, chooses to simply lay the groundwork for the momentous summer finale that we’re getting in a week’s time (At 9:00pm EST, as TBS shuffles their schedule). And while I don’t want to come across as one of those impatient people who can’t stand setup episodes, this one just wasn’t any good: the major storylines seem to be heading in predictable and ho-hum directions, and some smaller things are being ignored in favour of the broad scheme of things.
And thus we have an episode where even a long-gestating development finally springing to life just doesn’t have the punch the writers think it does.
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.
“Dudes Being Dudes”
July 17th, 2008
When it was revealed that My Boys was abandoning the workplace side of the series, they weren’t kidding: ever since PJ’s failed novel attempt, the show has become a relationship comedy as quickly as Stephanie’s book managed to get written, published and read. The entire series is revolving around a series of relationships, which results in some of your usual typecasting.
What I mean by that is simple: those in relationships (Andy and Jo’s threat against his marriage, PJ serving as the potential disruption to Bobby and Elsa’s wedded bliss) are given all dramatic material or storylines, which leaves everyone else to fill one of the typical roles. Mike and Kenny are relegated to pure comic relief, Brendan is wallowing in his poverty although he gets a bit of a leg up here, and Stephanie’s book serves as a framework of sorts (albeit it a loose and poorly defined one) for the series’ new trajectory.
And while it didn’t make “Dudes Being Dudes” a poor episode, it did make it an extremely predictable one – ever since Bobby was on that plane to Italy, the show has been phoning it in as opposed to breaking down any of our preconceptions.
“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.
July 3rd, 2008
Sorry for being a bit missing in action these past few days (And for the weekend) – I’m home for the weekend celebrating a birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!) and associating with a new operating system on my shiny new MacBook, and as a result my television viewing (and writing) is taking a back seat.
But not so much enough to avoid a series I’ve gotten a bit hooked on. After last week’s episode kind of didn’t click for me, this week is a chance for the series to re-engage with its recurring storylines and fall at least somewhat back into its old routine: allow the secondary characters who are one-dimensional to act as such, while the ones with depth are given more material to work with.
“Spit Take” is that type of episode, where Jim Gaffigan’s Andy is given a new side (Albeit a somewhat sketchy one), and where Bobby’s next step with Elsa returns to the idea of PJ inviting Bobby along to Italy for some sort of romantic connection. If last week felt like a sitcom, this feels right: an episode about the live of a whole host of individuals, and not just those contrived moments they intersect.
“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.
For anyone who has been following my Twitter feed (Located both on the sidebar and at the link), you’ll have noticed that I’ve been watching more TV than I’ve been blogging recently. With the television season over, and with the summer shows trickling more than pouring in, I’ve devoted more time watching rather than writing about my favourite pasttime. As of this week, I’m into the fifth season of Six Feet Under, five episodes into The Wire’s first season, and while I enjoying them to varying degrees, there was a serious problem: I was getting a tad bit depressed.
You see, there’s a lot of death and harsh reality in these shows; Six Feet Under is literally a weekly funeral for hope and love, and The Wire is a cold picture of a structurally corrupt organization and the drug trade on the streets of Baltimore. And so, when searching for my next show to catch up on, I decided to go with a killer combination: light-hearted comedy, a recent DVD release, and currently airing weekly episodes.
And thus, along came TBS’ comedy series My Boys. And while I certainly wouldn’t place it in upper echelon of current television comedies, the show is everything I needed: familiar, comfortable, clever and funny enough to overcome some of its less inspired moments.