The Three Strike Rule: Checking In With “My Boys”
My Boys has now begun its fourth season on TBS and the single camera comedy series is still delivering a wonderful, relaxed half hour of laughs . Anyone who may have been concerned when comedian Jim Gaffigan decided to leave the show should have had their fears abated during the season premiere in July. That episode was funny, a little sentimental, and didn’t miss a step from the previous three seasons. The writers of My Boys used that story to explain that Gaffigan’s character, Andy, brother to main character P.J. (Jordana Spiro), took an overseas job, removing him from their daily lives (and the show). The characters then spent the half hour trying to find his replacement at the poker table. Of course, who they would eventually pick was obvious to viewers from the get go: They chose the other female character on the show, Stephanie (Kellee Stewart), who also happens to be dating one of the boys, Kenny (Michael Bunin). This made logical sense in the scope of the show and really allowed for Stephanie’s character to become more integral to the series.
In addition to the relationship between Stephanie and Kenny, P.J. is dating Bobby (Kyle Howard), and having two relationships in this group of friends allows for different types of stories that create new pairings of characters. Whereas Kenny was usually paired with Mike (Jamie Kaler), the commitment phobic ladies man, now that Kenny is in a romantic and very funny relationship with Stephanie (Bunin and Stewart can trade barbs with the best of them) Mike can now have interesting adventures with the other single guy, Brando (Reid Scott). The episode in which these guys, typical slackers, decide to don suits and ties and go to a classy hotel bar to pick up women who “wear skirts” is my favorite of the season, so far. Meanwhile the two couples can go on double dates or just decide to spend time away from their group of friends (as couples are prone to do since they want to, you know, be romantic), opening up the range of stories they writers can write about.
What I like about this new direction of the show is that it allows the series to mature. As viewers, I feel like we can only take so much of “single life” stories before they start to feel clichéd. Most people are looking to connect with another person and have a loving relationship that extends beyond just friendship. Having four of the main characters be in relationships while the other two guys are still living the single life makes My Boys feel more grounded in reality, unlike other sitcoms, such as Two and a Half Men, which seems to exist in some parallel universe where a guy like Charlie Sheen’s perpetually drunk character, who seems to lose more charm as each season goes by, is constantly bedding smart, gorgeous women.
But My Boys has always been grounded in reality. The relationships in this show have continued to remain honest and the bond between the characters seems to extend beyond the scripted page. You feel the love between P.J. and her friends coming out through the television screen. While My Boys has many laugh out loud situations (in the premiere we got to see two versions of P.J., Stephanie and Brando as college freshmen, each diversely different and each hilarious), most of the humor comes from the conversations between the characters. It flows so easily and so naturally, that we as viewers feel like we’re really a part of the gang.
Friends achieved this early in its series run, but gradually became more heightened and the roles of the characters became more stock (Joey was the dumb one, Monica the manic one, Ross the mope, etc). The bantering and the interplay between all six characters on My Boys may not always seem to be going for the joke, but that’s okay, because this show is so engaging, waiting for the next joke isn’t as important as waiting to see what happens next to these beloved characters.
My Boys airs Sunday nights at 10PM on TBS.
Full episodes are streaming at the TBS website.