TV Review: Talented Cast of Chicago-Set ‘My Boys’ Finds Comic Rhythm

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CHICAGO – The writing on “My Boys” can still be overly self-aware of its perceived cleverness but the ensemble has developed to such an extent that they’ve reached level of talent that can overcome the occasional weak punchline or false character moment. These talented actors have finally gelled into the fine-tuned comedy ensemble that they always threatened to be and you couldn’t ask for better drinking buddies on a Sunday night this summer.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 3.5/5.0
Television Rating: 3.5/5.0

Part of the problem with the first few seasons of “My Boys” was that it wasn’t a true ensemble show. It felt like Jordana Spiro’s vehicle and the rest of the cast were merely playing off her lead. If you just saw the first two episodes of the fourth season, you’d have no idea that this was “her show.” Everyone is finally on the same level, turning the series into a much-more-successful ensemble piece like “Friends” or “How I Met Your Mother.” And that’s meant as no slight to the talent and charm of Spiro but it’s nice to see the rest of the cast treated equally and rising to the occasion.

My Boys
My Boys
Photo credit: TBS

The writers seem equally more confident about the talent of their ensemble as evidenced by the excellent scripts for the first two episodes of season four. Jim Gaffigan left between seasons and the first episode features a search for a poker replacement for the grumpy Andy. The quest to find someone to join a group that thrives on in-jokes and personal preferences is a funny and relatable one with a clever ending. The second episode allows the writers to play with the new couple dynamic as former enemies Kenny (Michael Bunin) and Stephanie (Kellee Stewart) are now dating and the pair head to the fancy new restaurant with PJ (Spiro) and her boyfriend Bobby (Kyle Howard), leaving friends Brendan (Reid Scott) and Mike (Jamie Kaler) to hilariously attempt to me men instead of merely boys.

My Boys
My Boys
Photo credit: TBS

I admit to not having seen every episode of the first three seasons of “My Boys” but I think I’ve seen more than half and I was startled at how funny the first hour of the new season ended up. These are definitely two of the most consistently enjoyable episode of the show that I’ve seen and for the first time I think I’m ready to upgrade the show from occasional diversion to regular viewing.

What’s different? The comic timing seems improved all around. Spiro is still good and she’s becoming a more capable lead with every season but by allowing her talented co-stars to share the spotlight, the show has taken on a much more effective rhythm. Scott and Kaler’s arc in episode two as they don suits and ties to try to meet a higher class of women is hysterical and a series of flashbacks in episode one about how the gang met each other — often in passing long before they were even friends — is spectacular. Howard also seems significantly more relaxed. He never looked quite comfortable in previous seasons but with the focus not so intensely on his relationship with PJ he can become a more effective player.

Of course, the Chicago connnection has always been a major part of the show but has never felt quite believable. The show often seemed to me a series set in the Windy City that didn’t quite feel like any of it was shot here or that the characters ever lived here. It’s hard to put a finger on why but even that sensation is a bit different at the start of season four. With more subtle Chicago shout-outs (a Michael Jordan autograph and a new restaurant from a “Top Chef” winner, which mirrors an establishment opened here by the winner of season three, play roles in the first two episodes), the setting feels more organic and genuine than it did before.

There are still a few punchlines that are unnecessarily underlined and the banter often sounds overly scripted (not unlike “How I Met Your Mother”). People don’t always have the right clever quip to volley back and forth in the real world. The best shows about groups of twenty- or thirty-something friends finely walk that line of presenting characters who almost always seem to know what to say with keeping them believable. “My Boys” had the clever dialogue from the beginning but they seem to have finally found the believable characters to take a decent show and turn it into a potentially great one. It took three years, but these “boys” may finally be men in the world of comedy.

‘My Boys,’ which airs on TBS, stars Jordana Spiro, Michael Bunin, Kellee Stewart, Kyle Howard, Reid Scott, and Jamie Kaler. The show returns on July 25th, 2010 at 9PM CST.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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