A surprise hit for TBS, "My Boys" is a prime example of a sitcom that manages to be mostly amusing thanks to the cast and entertaining dialogue. The set-up is pretty conventional: a female sportswriter named P.J. Franklin (the appealing Jordana Spiro, who looks kind of like I would imagine Bonnie Hunt looking about 15 years ago, plus she also kind of sounds and acts like Bonnie Hunt) spends much of her time hanging out with her male friends - Bobby (Kyle Howard), her brother Andy (the always hysterically funny Jim Gaffigan), Mike (Jamie Kaler) and Kenny (Michael Bunin).
It's sort of like "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia", if all the characters were normal and not completely and utterly antisocial, immoral, rude and deranged to anyone they come in contact with. The series tries to navigate both sides - providing helpings of the female viewpoint of PJ on the world and the male viewpoint from her friends, and sometimes the men provide PJ with an unexpected reflection of her view of the world.
It's not perfect, but the show's balance of the yin and the yang are continue to be reasonable enough to make for a rather sweet and broadly appealing series. Maybe part of the appeal is that the series recalls the sort of a version 2.0 of the chipper '90's "Friends"-style 20/30-somethings in the city sitcoms. ("Sunny" cast parodying the "Friends" intro: video)
While aspects of the world at large (the financial crisis, etc) have swung in the other direction in terms of mood - and so have aspects of TV programming ("Sunny" and others) - maybe it's been long enough that some genuine sunshine has a (fairly) unique appeal. While aspects of the series aren't original (although admittedly the series does elevate standard fare a few steps above the norm), the acting works and the light nature of the series may tap into a desire for a more pleasant escape in prime time. But, I'm rambling.
Each episode of the series follows the group as they try to handle relationships and hang out. Trying to counterbalance P.J.'s tomboy qualities is her pal, Stephanie (Kellee Stewart), who is constantly trying to get her to act more feminine, to no avail. While the sports angle is fun, the series - at least in the early going - does tend to overplay the sports metaphors.
The series shuffles its way through short second and third seasons, really not changing much about the core of the series and instead crafting a series of events to pull viewers along. Early in the second season, Andy hires a hot Swedish nanny named Elsa (Mini Anden) and she and Bobby develop a relationship that lasts into season 3. Stephanie (Kellee Stewart) also writes a book about relationships, the content of which surprises the guys and PJ gets a promotion. While these and other larger storylines/storypoints entertain, the series does knock out some solid one-off bits and works towards an enjoyable cliffhanger at the end of both seasons.
Other than some rather unnecessary narration (and those sports metaphors get tired quickly), the show's dialogue is often fast and funny. Although stand-up Gaffigan's delivery stands out (and the dude should absolutely have his own series - Gaffigan's more than deserving of being a lead actor), the show's quite varied cast does bounce lines off one another superbly, as they have terrific chemistry. While the show is filmed in Los Angeles, it also makes good use out of its intended Chicago setting, with quite a few nice instances of Chicago exterior filming.
The series continues to let its cast do the heavy lifting and, while the set-up is really nothing beyond the ordinary - the cast makes it work and the show does offer up some funny one-liners. I still wonder how long the series can go without changing things up, but the characters appeal and the series doesn't face all that much competition in the nice and normal category these days.
• Season 2
23 2-01 12/Jun/08 The Transitioning
- PJ's mystery man is revealed aboard the plane to Italy, but it's not long before things turn sour. Andy reaps the benefits of his new job.
24 2-02 19/Jun/08 Dinner Party
-PJ decides she's in a rut and throws a singles party.
25 2-03 26/Jun/08 The Shirt Contest
-PJ lands a book deal, only to find her subject less cooperative than she'd like. The guys compete in a shirt-making competition.
26 2-04 03/Jul/08 Spit Take
-Elsa and Bobby reveal a surprise engagement in response to the threat of deportation. Stephanie's book is a runaway success.
27 2-05 10/Jul/08 Take My Work Wife...Please
-Andy's friendship with Jo continues to confuse and disconcert the gang. Kenny is dating two women, which Mike finds maddening.
28 2-06 17/Jul/08 Dudes Being Dudes
-P.J. begrudgingly attends Elsa's shower with Stephanie, whose hit book makes her popular with the attendees. Brendan's money worries are exacerbated by a costly bachelor party celebration. P.J. ends up confessing to Bobby her motives for inviting him to Italy.
29 2-07 24/Jul/08 Opportunity Knocks
-Jack continues to pursue P.J. who is plagued by rumors of his womanizing ways.
30 2-08 31/Jul/08 Jack and Bobby
-P.J. and Jack attempt to keep their romance a secret. Bobby continues to experience pre-wedding stress, particularly in dealing with his father.
31 2-09 07/Aug/08 John, Cougar, Newman Camp
-Jack's and Bobby's tensions come to blows, causing Jack to leave the ranch.
• Season 3
32 3-01 31/Mar/09 Welcome Back, Kalla Fötter
-Bobby gets cold feet on his wedding day, while P.J. gets caught between Bobby and his brother. Meanwhile, the boys have a mustache-growing contest and Andy welcomes a new baby.
33 3-02 07/Apr/09 Private Eyes
-The guys investigate when they suspect P.J. is secretly dating someone.
34 3-03 14/Apr/09 The Boyfriend Hat
-Upon getting a promotion, the guys tease P.J. about being chosen for her looks rather than skill, causing Bobby to navigate his new role carefully. Kenny and Mike reap the benefits of Brendan's sexy new life as a club owner.
35 3-04 21/Apr/09 Decathlon: Part Deux
-Stephanie infiltrates the guys' bonding time to research a magazine article, only to discover they're not as exciting as expected.
36 3-05 28/Apr/09 Carpe Burritoem
-Brendan agrees to let P.J. make all of his decisions for one week.
37 3-06 05/May/09 Madder of Degrees
-A sudden wave of warm weather brings the gang a much-needed break from the cold, while sparking romance and adventure.
38 3-07 12/May/09 Facebook the Past
-Facebook causes drama for the gang when Bobby joins and learns more about P.J. than he anticipated.
39 3-08 19/May/09 Friends of Friends
-P.J. hits it off with one of Stephanie's girlfriends, leading to a couples date. Kenny and Mike's new friend brings up some issues from Andy's past.
40 3-09 26/May/09 Spring Training
-As P.J. faces new challenges in her first trip as a columnist to the Cubs' spring training camp in Arizona, Brendan faces his own when a player's girlfriend uses him to make her boyfriend jealous.
VIDEO: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents "My Boys" in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. While a sitcom, the series does have a rather nice visual style - or at least a visual style that's a few notches above your average comedy - and the presentation shows it off quite nicely. Sharpness and detail (aside from a few dimly-lit interiors that looked slightly softer) looked surprisingly good (for a TV show) during many scenes. Some minor artifacting appeared on a few occasions, but the picture was otherwise clean and clear. Colors looked bright and rich, with excellent saturation and no smearing. Finally, black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural.
SOUND: The show is presented here in Dolby Digital 5.1, although given the material, the need for anything beyond stereo is rather questionable. The presentation does offer some slight ambience from the surrounds, but the rear speakers are - not surprisingly - otherwise left out of the proceedings. Audio quality was fine, with clear, well-recorded dialogue and a full, bassy score.
Final Thoughts: "My Boys" is a bright, sweet sitcom with a star-making performance from Spiro and fine support from Gaffigan and others. The series continues to roll along in seasons two and three with a strong ensemble that's backed by reasonably good writing.