blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Kevin Can F**k Himself (2021) s01e01 – Living the Dream

AMC released the first two episodes of “Kevin Can F**k Himself” streaming early, which is great and all except it means you have to wait longer for more episodes. But it also means they clearly don’t care about maintaining the trailer’s illusion, which I really remember implying the show was about Annie Murphy as a sitcom wife who somehow breaks free of that reality. You know, kind of “WandaVision.” And there are similarities, but not in the narrative techniques or gimmicks, but in it being about very serious traumas.

Murphy plays a dutiful wife to cable repair guy Eric Petersen—who maybe should be offended he’s so perfect for the part—who’s a sitcom jackass husband, always scheming with his sidekicks—Alex Bonfier and Mary Hollis Inboden are the next door neighbor dysfunctional siblings, Brian Howe’s Petersen’s dad—drinking too much beer, turning Murphy and Petersen’s wedding anniversary into a kegger, humiliating Murphy for the laugh track, and so on. They live in a very clear “homage” to the Bunker house, with the living room nearly identical. The kitchen’s a different sitcom.

Except the only time it’s a sitcom is when Murphy’s interacting with Petersen, the rest of the time it’s about an economically destitute Worcester, Massachusetts, with Petersen and his cronies playing Bahston tropes.

From the first episode, which has Murphy struggling to stay in her fantasy world until the reality of Petersen’s behavior makes it impossible, leading to Murphy breaking bad, it’s clear “Kevin” isn’t only going to be examining how insidiously misogynistic sitcoms can be, it’s going to be a particular character study of Murphy. And right off it’s clear her perspective isn’t reliable, but she might also be unaware of that unreliability. It’s a very, very interesting take from writer and creator Valerie Armstrong.

Murphy’s giving a great performance. At the beginning it’s impressive how nimbly she toggles from sitcom to intense, narratively ajar character study, but then she just keeps getting better.

Whether it adds up or not remains to be seen. So far it’s mesmerizing but it’s also very much a pilot episode.

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