Kevin Can F**K Himself Traps Annie Murphy in Sitcom Wife Hell
2/5 laugh tracks.
Few television tropes are as hackneyed and overused as the conventional sitcom set-up of a schlubby, immature husband and his attractive, long-suffering wife. Ever since The Honeymooners graced the airwaves in 1955, the television industry has churned out variations of the same tired formula, from Kevin Can Wait to According to Jim to The Flintstones. This multi-camera trope is long overdue for a send-up, and AMC’s new dark meta comedy Kevin Can F**k Himself wastes no time in deconstructing this patriarchal fantasy world.
Kevin Can F**k Himself stars Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek) as Allison, a prototypical sitcom wife: gorgeous, stressed, and married to Kevin (Eric Petersen) a thankless slob obsessed with football and partying. When Kevin is around, flanked by his father and his best friend/neighbor, the lights are bright, and the laugh track rolls as the characters hit their cliché punchlines.
The tone changes when Allison is alone: the colors fade to a cold, dreary palette, and no laughter is heard. Allison is alone with her regret and despair at what her life has become. After ten years of cleaning up after Kevin, she has completely lost her sense of self. The only thought that buoys her is a candy-coated fantasy of moving out of grungy Worcester to a pristine new house. But that dream is dashed when Allison learns from her neighbor Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden) that Kevin has blown their nest egg on sports memorabilia.
Allison decides that her only escape plan is to murder her husband and rid herself of Kevin once and for all. It’s a tantalizing set-up, thanks to the production design of the different worlds that Allison inhabits. But the series’ subversive style is also its biggest flaw: Allison is trapped in a mediocre network sitcom, but so are we, the audience. And while the series mocks these broad sitcoms, it also forces us to sit through one every time Kevin walks in the door.
In watching Kevin Can F**k Himself, I couldn’t help but be reminded of WandaVision, another series inspired by classic American sitcoms. WandaVision took painstaking efforts to recreate the look and feel of series like The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Donna Reed Show, especially in its first few episodes. But where WandaVision leans on its central mystery and the chemistry of its two leads, KCFH has neither (It also helps that shows like Dick Van Dyke still hold up, with Kevin Can Wait is unwatchable dreck).
Murphy give a great performance, effortlessly shifting between put-upon spouse and women on the verge. But there is no character development or backstory that explains who Allison is or why she married Kevin in the first place. And despite basically being a grown man’s nanny for a decade, why is Allison’s happy place a fantasy of pouring Kevin a beer in a designer kitchen?
The tonal shifts can be jarring, especially when we have no sense of Allison or the supporting cast. One minute she’s yelling at her husband to use a coaster on the coffee table, and the next she’s snorting drugs and starting fights. Series creator Valerie Armstrong (Lodge 49) has given us a thrilling premise for a series, but a premise alone cannot sustain a show. I assume that the first season is leading to some sort of revelation about Allison and the dual worlds she inhabits. I just wish I didn’t have to sit through a mind-numbing sitcom to get there.
Kevin Can F**k Himself premieres Sunday, June 20 on AMC with two episodes. New episodes will be released a week early on AMC+.
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