“Kevin Can F**k Himself” apparently isn’t going to go as dark as I was expecting. Even though the show’s about how Annie Murphy experiences her marriage to Kevin Petersen as a sitcom and her reality is a lot starker and drearier (and her sitcom existence isn’t great either), the show has a couple opportunities to go super-dark here and skips them both. In one case, it goes out of its way to not go too dark, in the other it just skips past it, on to another story beat.
I’m not sure yet if it should or shouldn’t go darker. It’s impossible to tell, partly because the ground situation is still obscured. We find out this episode Murphy isn’t just an unreliable narrator when it comes to Petersen—who’s never seen in reality this episode, just in Murphy’s sitcom version (the possibility of the reality goes increasingly terrifying)-but also herself. Much of the episode is Murphy trying to find someone she can talk to about her problems. It’s not quite Chekhov’s “Misery,” but it comes kind of close. Also throwing in a sports memorabilia subplot and back-in-town ex-boyfriend Raymond Lee dropping some unexpected truth bombs. And Murphy pursuing new friendships with neighborhood mechanic, cat-caller, and possible drug dealer Justin Grace and then Petersen’s female flunky Mary Hollis Inboden.
It’s a full episode and the momentum’s strong. I’m all of a sudden curious how long each sitcom episode plays, whether it’s close to the twenty-two minute mark. I think it’s got to be less… and they really jar when Murphy returns to them. It’s only at the house so far, which gets some mildly sitcom-y establishing shots when the show goes in for a scene (director Oz Rodriguez does this low angle thing for the “real world,” which is getting gimmicky but does work well); it’s stunning how unsettling the house becomes as the episode plays on.
Great acting from Murphy. And Petersen, who’s profoundly unlikable and transfixing as an often wailing man child, Peter Griffin-incarnate; he’s really good in the part. Unclear if he’ll ever have to do more and if he can do it. Murphy can do anything.
Lee’s good as the confused ex. Inboden… not sure yet; the episode gradually primes her for more; hopefully it pays off.
“Kevin Can Fk Himself” is ambitious and committed with a stellar lead performance from Murphy. It’s also going to be one of those shows where the plot perturbations are going to make or break it.
Or not, if they figure out some way to make the gimmick immaterial to the character study. It looks like the season runs eight episodes so… still way too soon to tell.