In the long fame of situational comedies, something is so relaxing, something is so familiar, something is so… pleasing. For those of us who look further, something is so dysfunctional, something is so preventable, something is so… unsettling.
Doug and Carrie Heffernan. Ray and Debra Barone. Al and Pegg Bundy. All three couples have multiple things in common but one glaringly stands out: the put-upon wife. Jokes and japes are made at their expense, they’re constantly written off as a shrew and they put Tammy Wynette to shame with their unwavering fealty to their oafish others. In other words, they reside in a brightly-lit, noxious world with an audience that’s never supposed to take them seriously. In the first episode of Kevin Can F**k Himself (AMC) titled “Living the Dream”, we take a look inside the lives of one couple that probably won’t make the ranks of those “happy” couples: Kevin and Allison McRoberts.
EXT. – UNASSUMING YET FAMILIAR HOUSE – DAY
Inside, the colors are vibrant. Kevin McRoberts (Eric Peterson), his father Pete (Brian Howe), and his neighbors, siblings Neil (Alex Bonifer) and Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden) are playing beer pong. The blocking is reminiscent of The King of Queens coupled with Everybody Loves Raymond.
Enter Kevin’s wife Allison (Annie Murphy), pegged with a stray ping pong ball, holding a laundry basket.
She brings up to Kevin their 10th anniversary. Allison wants a more mature anniversary with a nice dinner out, but Kevin wants something more bro-tastic, as she’s “lady 35 and he’s boy 35.” This is a testament to how immaturity is a throughline in every sitcom about a couple who seem all but compatible.
They are dismissive of her, asking her to plan the party. Kevin promises that next year they will celebrate her way. Their beer pong game is back on and after landing a shot, Kevin tosses her a glass mug, asking her to get him a fresh beer.
Proceeding into the kitchen, the colors strikingly shift to muted. She hears a ringing and smashes the glass on the table, thus cutting her hand.
TITLE CARD: KEVIN CAN FUCK HIMSELF
INT – KITCHEN – MOMENTS LATER
Allison puts the finishing touches on Kevin’s breakfast. She notices a real estate pamphlet on the fridge, which brings a smile to her face. She also notices a roach, which is quickly dispatched. She also notices a protruding thread on her sweater. She continues into the living room, where all is vibrant. Kevin is playing video games, and his disrespect for her is palpable, from throwing a garnish of his eggs and hotdogs on the floor (hence the roaches) to not respecting her coffee table from Pottery Barn, despite her buying him Curt Shilling coasters for which to use on it. She claims the table is the nicest thing they have in the house, though he points to his Wade Boggs rookie card hanging up in a frame.
Allison has to get to work. Kevin complains like a baby because he wants to swap places with her, as he installs cable wire and she works at a liquor store. Before heading out, Kevin informs his wife to tell Neil, and Neil will relay it back to him. The lack of intimacy is evident. He leaves and the atmosphere once again changes to reality. She notices his mug without a coaster leaving a stain on her table and the ringing starts again.
Allison’s out the door and on her way to run errands before work. Noticing flyers for Bev’s Diner on the ground, she throws them out. Leaning down to extricate one out of the trash for herself, her thread is caught on the trash can. Ripping it off, leaving a big hole, it seems as though she’s unraveling as well.
With a box of Dunkin’ munchkins for stress eating, she comes across a realty business. She spots her dream house and envisions her and Kevin dressed nicely in their pristine white kitchen, serving him a beer. She is greeted by a gentleman who wants to talk numbers. While he tries to take her coat, she accidentally gets her ring caught in her sweater before accidentally popping him. Mortified, she backs out and continues onto her next stop: a makeup store. She’s turned away by the cashiers before noticing that she has powder all over her face, which could be mistaken for something else given her look.
Continuing into her job and greeted by the Auntie D (Jamie Denbo) she works with. D notices a bag- it’s Kevin’s gift which is a watch. She tells her Aunt that Kevin got her nothing, to tell him what she wants, and D agrees. Allison doesn’t want a vacuum or tennis bracelet. Auntie D thinks that her want for nothing is the sign of a good wife and that they both hit the jackpot with their husbands. Allison’s ringing starts up again.
Allison gets home to Kevin in the living room, playing video games, bright colors, she informs Kevin that what she wants for her anniversary is to move. Cut to commercial complete with fade in music.
INT – BEDROOM – NIGHT
Though they have to run a credit report, Kevin reveals he’s never paid off Allison’s college loans, despite her never having gone to college. Instead, he invested it in Neil’s Hooters for Butts endeavor. Despite trying to convince Kevin moving is a good thing, he wants things to stay the same… but he does make a veiled statement of appeasement: “whatever Allison wants, Allison gets.”
He also whines about his party about it not even being worth it with his uptight boss (another trope) coming. Though like a man, he wants some, so he points out the finer things in the new house, including the bedroom where she’ll “finally do that thing she says they’ll never do.” They kiss, as the audience laughs and the lights go off.
Allison all alone in the bathroom, washing her mouth out. She notices the “Alcoholic Sno-cones” written on the bathroom mirror in permanent marker and goes to her happy place, with her and hubby in their new home, happily serving him a beer.
Back in sitcom mode, Kevin and his gang are getting ready for their Anniversa-rager in the kitchen. His plan is for Allison to host his boss with wine and charcuterie in the living room, the kitchen acts as a buffer with the actual party being in the backyard. Allison, in his words “gets to” do this and “gets to” pick up the supplies for her party. As if were her fucking honor to serve her asshole of a husband.
They also tease Allison about her moving, thinking it’s not real, but when she asserts herself that it’s happening, Neil like a big fucking baby starts whimpering, as Kevin and Pete comfort him.
With a newfound pep in her step, in reality, Allison leaves the house, gives two middle fingers to it, and continues on into the makeup store for the candy apple lipgloss. She’s interrupted by a call from Kevin. It switches to his comedic phallic-heavy plot, to tell her his boss like charcuterie. Why can’t he pick them up? Because he’s auditioning Tom Brady lookalikes for his party. Everything about this guy is oafish, though the audience LOVES it.
On her way to Bev’s Diner, she’s cat-called by a Marcus (Justin Grace), a local mechanic. She rebuffs him and continues on and though she’s in reality, her colors seem more crisp and bright as she approaches Bev’s Diner. Inside, she is shocked to see Sam (Raymond Lee), whom she ostensibly knows from a past life. She’s also shocked to learn that he doesn’t work at, but rather owns the establishment. What flummoxes her though is that after 15 years, why he’d move back to Worcester. He claims that the town keep of keeps pulling one back in. He also reveals that he and someone named Jenn are renovating a new place. Before she can hear about his romantic flank, she sees herself out, despite him volunteering to make her that charcuterie plate. She does it on her own at her job.
Continuing on holding something she’s proud of accomplishing, she passes her perpetually smoking neighbor, Patty, who simply snorts under her breath. Patty claims it’s nothing and proceeds to snort again as Allison continues into her house. Patty knows and sees the reality.
In the living room, Allison asks Kevin to get some people in the room since there’s nobody there, save for Patty. Kevin puts the kybosh on that since it’s ‘their’ anniversary and that he wouldn’t want his friends coming to her “lame-ass party.” Just as Kevin’s about to haul ass outta there, his boss Terry Harrison (Harlin C. Kearsley) shows up, forcing Kevin to face him. The boss notices the charcuterie plate and all seems well for Kevin to get back to his rager, but Neil bursts in, saying that Kevin being challenged to flip cup. The three make a hasty exit and the color has shifted to muted once more, as it’s just Allison and Mr. Harrison. Their exchange is terse and awkward until she crushes a cockroach, forcing her on her feet to fetch the boss some wine upstairs.
Coming back down, Mr. Harrison is nowhere to be found. She heads to the kitchen where the atmosphere has shifted to the sitcom. Terry’s chugging beer, spitting it on Allison upon entering. Before his boss could say anything, Kevin throws his wife under the bus, exclaiming it was her idea. Much to Kevin’s surprise, his boss loves it because he’s never invited to things like these due to his stodgy demeanor. Kevin even goes further to throw Brenda, the person who was appointed to a better position by Mr. Harrison under the bus. As all the boys proceed to the backyard, Kevin brandishing a handle of tequila, Allison is left at the kitchen sink, head hung.
Grabbing a bottle of wine and heading to the bathtub, Allison lays and drinks. She attempts to escape to her happy place until a shattered glass interrupts that fantasy.
Allison goes down to the living room, now filled with Kevin standing on her beloved table. He thanks everybody before inviting Allison up on the table to announce some “life-changing” news… his boss is moving him from cable to fiber optics which means “they’ve decided” to stay. Neil joins them on the table, which summarily breaks the coffee table. After a Pottery Barn joke, the comedy music cues up before going into the actual commercial.
EXT. – HOUSE – MOMENTS LATER
Allison’s convinced because Kevin’s drunk he’s not going to remember it. She attempts for her happy place, but breaks the glass in it instead, causing her to haul off on her mailbox. This entertains Patty, who taunts her a little bit, and though clearly upset, Patty asks Allison if she’d lighten up a bit and mocks “Barbie” for losing out on her “dream house.” See, Patty is a realist. She is content with not going further than her front lawn of Worcester, MA, and accepting her mundane lot in life. She believes people thinking a thing’s going to get better keeps the washing machine business in the money.
She does call Allison crazy for still chasing her dream, but she does confirm that like a lot of people in her shoes, she’s not alone. Allison’s convinced that she’s going to make this dream happen, come hell or high water, but Patty gives her a little wake-up call. She lets Allison know that their bank account is empty. Their joint account she let Kevin handle because she’s bad with money, but he’s no better. He has a sports memorabilia addiction, even getting into some hot water trading fake shit. Kevin asked Neil for the money, who in turn asked his sister.
Allison comes to the realization that though she was convinced that things were gonna change, they aren’t. She finally lets out a “FUCK” and proceeds to the liquor store, where she steals a 40 oz and gets drunk, roaming the streets.
Instead of recycling the bottle, the ‘bad girl’ in her proceeds to toss the bottle on the street, watching it shatter like her life before kicking over the whole trash bin, which probably represents the whole world. This grabs the attention of Marcus, leading her to do cocaine in the back of his shop, kvetching about her plight as well as her husband, as he stands to the side, looking at her as a buzzkill. When she finds out he’s not listening, she slaps him, causing her to apologize and then renege on her apology.
Entering the front door in the morning, the atmosphere is still steeped in reality. She finds her table taped up. Patty notices some cocaine under her nose, but Allison claims it was some jelly munchkins. Patty didn’t tell Kevin about the bank account talk because she has his back.
In the kitchen, back to sitcom mode, Kevin apologizes about passing out in the Rose bushes, but they don’t have any. She looks haggard as ever, so the reality is crossing over. Kevin’s apologies convey what he wants to do in the anniversary Allison’s way: a “boring” dinner. With Neil dressed up as a waiter and Pete on the guitar. Kevin claims that with a few more shifts on Allison’s part, they can move where she wants: “What Allison wants, Allison gets.”
With that, the ringing starts, and Allison slams the mug down, breaking it, holding only the handle and with it changing to reality. She then proceeds to jam it into Kevin’s jugular, as Neil and his dad frantically tend to him profusely bleeding out and with Patty laughing. A sigh of relief comes over Allison. However, in the sitcom world, he’s not dead, but the mug is still broken. Everyone is surprised, and Kevin wants her bandaged up to still cook them food.
Allison exits, and reality sets in once again. Noticing her bleeding hand, she smiles as she pockets the broken handle.
Overall, I like the first episode. I knew what to expect going back and forth between the literal light and dark, the fantasy vs. the reality, the mindless entertainment vs. the reality that isn’t so peachy keen.
They lambasted the sitcom trope with the truly unfunny, misogynistic, and cringe-inducing jokes, the all-hated laugh tracks, and the truly unfunny fantasy that kept shows like these on the air for so fucking long with the male archetype. They also show what something, in reality, would look like when the audience left, the lights went down and the crew went home. It’s a pure dichotomy and not something your average network Nielson viewer would care to watch… because it’s more of the truth!