Sony // 2006 // 488 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // June 11th, 2008
"I've come to realize that almost everything in dating and relationships has a parallel to sports, especially baseball. Though that's probably because that's what I do: I'm a sportswriter for the Chicago Sun-Times. I cover the Cubs."
In 2004, TBS rebranded itself with the tagline "Very Funny." To prove it, they turned prime time over to blocks of popular sitcoms, and Hollywood comedies. In recent years, the network has started supplementing the Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond reruns with a steadily growing slate of original programming. Not all of it is good. In fact, a lot of it's awful (for evidence, see recent reviews of House of Payne: Volume One and The Bill Engvall Show: Complete First Season). But somewhere among the basic cable crap, TBS got it right -- with a genuinely fun, funny, and touching show about city-dwelling friends I'd actually want to hang out with.
The beers 'n' baseball comedy My Boys kicked off TBS's move into scripted comedy way back in November of 2006. The erratic first year's seven month, mid-season break meant fans had to wait until July for the last nine episodes. Those same fans have had to wait nearly a year for the release of My Boys: The Complete First Season on DVD, followed two days later by the June 12th season two premiere. Was it worth the wait?
The four most important things to Chicago Cubs sportswriter P.J. Franklin (Jordana Spiro, Must Love Dogs) are, in no particular order: baseball, beer, poker, and her friends -- a group which includes girly-girlfriend Stephanie (Kellee Stewart, Crazylove) on one side, and her "boys" (five grown men in various stages of arrested development) on the other. There's P.J.'s sometime-roommate Brendan (Reid Scott, American Dreams); Mike (Jamie Kaler, Arrested Deevelopment), the red-headed alpha male; shy, lovable schlub Kenny (series creator Betsy Thomas's real-life pal Michael Bunin, Scrubs); fellow Cubs reporter Bobby (Kyle Howard, Related); and Andy (Jim Gaffigan, That '70s Show), her (un)happily married older brother. In between Thursday night poker games and every-other-night drinks down at the local bar, P.J., Steph, and the boys deal with everything that comes with striking out at love in a city that hasn't won the World Series in more than a century (no, I'm not counting the White Sox).
When Betsy Thomas came up with the idea for My Boys, she envisioned it as an "anti-Sex and the City" -- something that would represent women who care more about hanging out, playing poker, drinking beer, and talking sports, than shopping for designer shoes and sipping fruity cocktails. In the process, she created a serial comedy that speaks to both women and men (women and men who watch TBS, anyway).
Like the show it's trying hard not to be, My Boys is narrated by its female lead. But unlike its fluffy pink predecessor, P.J. tells her story in baseball terms. Thomas is a huge baseball fan, and makes no apologies for wrapping the series around her beloved Cubs.
Joy of baseball aside, the reason My Boys works while so many other "group of friends living and loving in a major city" TV shows don't, is the exceptional cast chemistry. Everyone feels right. Everyone feels real. It's like they cast a group of actual friends who just happen to all be talented comic actors to star in a televised retelling of their real lives. Anyone who's ever had close friends will recognize the gentle and not-so-gentle ribbing, jealousies, rivalries, and victories in My Boys.
In an ensemble show there are always stand out performances. In My Boys, the honors go to Jordana Spiro and Jim Gaffigan. P.J.'s struggle to balance the love life she wants with the "beer and poker" lifestyle she loves is at the heart of the show's story. Spiro effortlessly moves between being "one of the guys" and being a beautiful, compelling, vulnerable female lead anyone can relate to, no matter which side of the couch you're sitting on.
Spiro will likely be new to most viewers. Stand up comic Gaffigan, on the other hand -- thanks to countless TV and movie bit parts and guest appearances -- is probably the show's most recognizable face. He gets off some of the best one-liners as married guy Andy, who (when he's not busy avoiding his wife's phone calls) tries to prove he still has what it takes to hang with the party-hearty singles and avoid ending up in "suburban hell."
And even though he's not a regular, Johnny Galecki (who played David on Roseanne and is now one of the leads on CBS's The Big Bang Theory) deserves special mention for his hilarious turn as the show's requisite "wacky neighbor": the overly generous, slang-spewing, completely annoying, hanger-on "Trouty." He only appears in three episodes (with at least that many explanations as to how he got his nickname), but I dug him so much I could have sworn he was in more. I'll keep watching the show even if they don't bring him back in season two, but if they don't...well, let's just say I hope we never have to find out what would happen.
My Boys: The Complete First Season gets a nice-looking widescreen presentation to complement the single-camera filmed style. The 5.1 surround audio, though, doesn't do much to justify an upgrade from stereo. The set's three discs (split into two slim cases) are packaged in a cardboard slip case. Pretty standard stuff.
Seventh Inning Stretch
Sony's half-hearted attempt at bonus features is like a pop fly out: a decent, if unimpressive, effort. There's a making-of featurette, a series of "Sports Quiz" questions posed to the cast, a promotional piece called "P.J.'s Rules for Sports and Dating," and a blooper reel. The two short deleted scenes, however, are hardly worth the effort it apparently didn't take to add them to disc two. Speaking of which, why are they on disc two when the other extras are on disc three? Could it be because Sony decided to include two "minisodes" -- highly compressed web-produced versions of old TV shows -- neither of which have anything to do with My Boys, unless there's some connection between My Boys and Mr. T's guest appearances on Silver Spoons and Diff'rent Strokes I don't know about?
As wide-reaching My Boys is in cross-gender appeal, it's not going to be for everyone. Betsy Thomas made the show to appeal to people like her, which suggests that it's probably not for people who aren't. And while you don't have to be a sports expert to enjoy the show, people who loathe sports, sports analogies, and sports bars might want to steer clear or check it out on TV first.
Thanks to clever writing and one of the best ensemble casts on current television, My Boys is not only a great show to get you through the summer, it's half an hour you and your significant other won't have to fight for control of the TV. If you missed out on this team's rookie season, don't worry. Now is the perfect time to get caught up, though you're going to have to rely on good old-fashioned hustle and your DVR if you want to catch up before season two begins on June 12th.
My Boys: The Complete First Season gets the game ball and a pat on the back. Sony, on the other hand, needs to take a lap and think about taking less than nine months to release the next DVD set.
Review content copyright © 2008 Erich Asperschlager; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 488 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Life in the Press Box"
* "Sports Quiz"
* "P.J.'s Rules for Sports and Dating"
* "No Crying in Baseball: Bloopers"
* "Riding the Pine: Deleted Scenes"
* Official Site