Reviews

My Boys: The Complete First Season

Rachel Kipp

Not ground-breaking television by any stretch of the imagination, but breezy and pleasant.


My Boys

Distributor: Sony
Cast: Jordana Spiro, Kyle Howard, Reid Scott, Michael Bunin, Jamie Kaler, Jim Gaffigan, Kellee Stewart
Network: Turner
First date: 2006
US Release Date: 2008-06-10
Amazon

Meet P.J., the tomboy version of Carrie Bradshaw. She’s blonde, she’s pretty and she provides extraneous expository narration while typing on her laptop.

A sportswriter for the Chicago Sun-Times, P.J. likes poker and softball and is immune to the lure of a cute top. Except for one gal pal, all of her friends are men.

In the world of My Boys, there are two kinds of women – P.J. and Not P.J. P.J. drinks beer and eats pizza until the cows come home and never gains an ounce. Guys love her because she likes everything they like and comes with a minimum of drama.

Every female who is not P.J. is a guy’s worst nightmare. They’re flighty or loopy or needy or hell-bent on removing said guy from his big city, ESPN-filled, deep-fried or beer-battered comfort zone.

My Boys isn’t the first sitcom to trade in broadly-sketched versions of actual human beings; every sitcom (heck, every television show or movie) does to some extent. But the characters, male and female, are cliché at its most glaring.

The complete lack of nuance makes it all the more surprising that My Boys manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. The show isn’t ground-breaking television by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s breezy and pleasant.

A lot of the credit is due to Jordana Spiro, who plays P.J. with a loose-limbed awkwardness that, along with her big, bawdy voice, belies her Barbie-doll looks. Thanks to Spiro, the character’s tomboy enthusiasms come across as genuine.

One of the only revelations from the DVD extras is that creator Betsy Thomas looks – and sounds – a lot like Spiro. Thomas based P.J. on herself, weekly poker games and all. Thomas describes the series as the “anti” Sex and the City, which is odd because the two aren’t all that different. The characters are (mostly) different genders and no one is wearing Manolos but the focus is the same: relationships and what it means to be a single professional in the 21st Century.

The rest of the extras might have been more interesting if they dealt with those issues rather than subjecting viewers to two plodding featurettes of the cast trying to answer sports trivia and questions about their own sports likes and dislikes. These people are all comedians (some of them are stand-up comedians) but their replies generate no laughs.

P.J.’s stable of non-boyfriends includes older brother Andy (Jim Gaffigan), a Stepford Husband. Newcomer and fellow sportswriter Bobby (Kyle Newman) is a potential love interest. Male best friend Brendan (Reid Scott) is a “hard rock” DJ with girlfriend drama. The interchangeable Mike (Jamie Kaler) and Kenny (Michael Bunin) are present also.

The boys are kind of like a Greek chorus. They’ve got more personality as a group than they do apart. The other main character, female best friend Stephanie (Kellee Stewart), suffers from the fact that she’s only around to provide the constant example of the Not P.J. woman.

My Boys other metaphorical foul ball is the voiceover narration. If you think that last sentence made clunky use of sports terminology, then P.J.’s relentless comparisons of life to baseball will become absolutely grating very quickly. Clearly the creators don’t get it, because there is an entire, cringe-worthy DVD feature devoted to these moments.

The narration is too wordy to match the relatively simple stories being told. The plots all boil down to this: P.J. is single. She wants to meet a guy, so she goes out on dates. What does it all mean for her place as “one of the guys”? Even a rookie from the minor leagues can figure that out without help. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

After the exposition has been dispensed with, however, My Boys settles into a nice rhythm. The plots aren’t outstanding, but the episodes move along at a good clip. There are few cliffhangers, but no nonsensical curveballs (Arrgh, I’m doing it again.)

On the other hand, it would be nice to see more scenes of P.J. at work covering games for her newspaper. Early on, she cautions Bobby not to act on their burgeoning attraction while they’re at the office (which, in this case, is Wrigley Field.) She later explains that flirting could lead to her losing hard-won respect from male competitors.

My Boys is a comedy and it wouldn’t make sense for the show to become an essay on the perils of the glass ceiling. But there’s no reason to pretend that P.J. has won all the battles that would presumably come with her chosen profession. There’s also no reason to ignore the Not P.J. sides of P.J. – that is, aspects of her personality that might put her at odds with the dynamic of the boys.

4

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image