Kevin Can F*** Himself
Annie Murphy appears to be a sitcom punchline wife -but wait there's more.
I hadn’t read much in advance before viewing Kevin Can F*** Himself (which is admittedly a rarity for me) so I was aghast at the opening scenes of Annie Murphy’s new comedy.
Had I stumbled into Two & A Half Men? Kevin Can Wait?
But that’s the point.
Allison McRoberts (Murphy) is married to obnoxious, ageing couch potato Kevin (Eric Petersen). An overweight sports fan, he’s regularly joined by pal Neil (Alex Bonifer) and layabout father Peter Neil (Brian Howe). Collectively the three men spend an inordinate amount of time doing nothing much in between baseball and beer-pong.
Even next door neighbour Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden) is largely one of the boys, compliant in working-class humour and a pessimism that pervades the small Massachusetts town of Worcester.
In her sitcom living room Allison gives as good as she gets, with Chuck Lorre-like punchlines, leering faces and a crackling laugh track. Amid such comedy schtick, she yearns for a new house and a new American dream. All Kevin wants is to buy sports memorabilia and organise his 10th Anniversa-rage.
But once Allison steps out of the room she’s in another world. The colour is drained, the laughs are no more and reality hits home: she is suffocating in a loveless, despairing marriage of 10 years with no way out.
This device by creator Valerie Armstrong changes everything (and at this point I was hugely relieved). Allison’s alone-ness is unmistakeable. But as the episode unfolds we learn more about her torture… she works in a liquor store and Worcester is as glum as they come.
But she will also encounter Sam (Raymond Lee), a former flame who has returned home to open a local diner. It’s an awkward reunion but one that will challenge what Allison has achieved and what else is possible.
Whenever Allison steps back into her home, the characters turn on the sitcom style which is deliberately jarring and I sort of wish these scenes were shorter in length… maybe that will come.
But it is an effective conceit because you get a real sense of what Allison must be living through, and you’ll grow to admire the inner strength she has to affect change.
Annie Murphy, who so impressed as Alexis in Schitt’s Creek, is pitch perfect as the harangued, drowning wife. She flips instantly from grimacing sitcom wife to a hollow woman desperate to rise above her circumstance.
Eric Petersen has a thankless role as the loud, buffoon husband who would be right at home in The King of Queens or Married with Children (even the set is reminiscent of All in the Family). Raymond Lee represents optimism and the assurance that not all men are obsessed by TV sports and horseplay.
There are few laughs to be found here, but this doesn’t diminish from the very satisfying drama. Just be glad this isn’t you.
Kevin Can F*** Himself is now screening on Amazon Prime Video.