The series premiere of Kevin Can F**K Himself is currently available to stream on AMC+. The series will make its cable debut on AMC on Sunday, June 20.
The genre-hopping elements of AMC’s Kevin Can F**K Himself may have landed with a little more “oomph” had the world of beloved sitcom tropes not been explored recently on Marvel’s WandaVision, but given that this series is weaving in and out of a manipulative marriage, taking stinging swipes at the very particular breed of TV comedy husband, there’s still a lot of gold to mine. And with Emmy-winner Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek) headlining, as the “put upon” suburban wife saddled with a man-child, this dramedy is a bizarre, insightful winner.
Murphy’s Allison is an overly accepting wife, who is 10 years into her marriage with Kevin (Eric Petersen), a cable TV installer perfectly happy with his relationship’s lack of growth, his own lack of goals, and his inability to recognize Allison as a true partner. For most scenes between Allison and Kevin, Kevin Can F**K Himself presents itself as a tried and true three-camera sitcom, giving us mirthful moments one could easily imagine playing out on past shows featuring Kevin James, Jim Belushi, Ray Romano, and countless other hapless halves of “idiot groom/nagging bride” pairings over the years.
Whether the cliche of the buffoonish hubby — which can be traced back to The Honeymooners and Ralph and Ed’s get-rich-quick schemes — was a reflection of society, informing said society, or both, is what’s being examined here. A snake eating its own tail, the art is a reflection of relationships while also shaping what people seek in relationships. When Allison leaves the room and is away from Kevin, the color drains from the screen and the show shifts to a single-camera drama where she finds herself alone and unfulfilled. The true, damaging effects of a “Well, I love the big lug” or “I can fix him” mindset are laid bare as we watch Allison desperately crave the basic minimum from Kevin.
Even Allison’s dream of moving to a new, fancier neighborhood still involves her pouring Kevin a beer, just in a better glass. Thinking a move will help them reboot and restart is also a common relationship mistake, which lets us know that Kevin Can F**K Himself isn’t just holding up a microscope to sitcoms but also broader pitfalls of unhealthy couples.
Murphy shines, playing a very different character than the one that garnered her acclaim on Schitt’s Creek while also still being able to embody someone experiencing profound change. The first episode, “Living the Dream,” signals that the show has a lot of promise, though it’ll be interesting to see if this genre mash-up can hold through a full season without growing stale. It’s a fun and unique concept but also one that can grow weary if left on autopilot. There’s also an element here involving Allison not just wanting to be angry with Kevin, or leave Kevin, but wanting to kill Kevin and that heightened addition sort of square pegs a cartoonish cog into the story that doesn’t fully gel with the rest.
In “Living the Dream,” Allison carries the weight of her 10-year anniversary, having to tolerate another debaucherous “anniveserager” instead of spending quality time together. On top of this, borrowing from the sitcom realm, she must also throw a separate “boring” party for Kevin’s stuffy boss and entertain the man while everyone else has a good time in the backyard. While this feels very much like sitcom hi-jinx we’re accustomed to, stark revelations fill the third act as Allison begins to realize that Kevin has gaslighted her into thinking she’s lesser than she is. “Do I never finish things or does he take things from me?” is a line that hits like a hard slap, as does her realization that his inaccurate criticisms have trapped her inside a prison of anxiety. So here, out of the gate, the juxtaposition of sitcom silliness and emotional heaviness works well. Whether or not it has legs, in the long run, remains to be seen.
It will also be interesting to watch how Allison’s relationship with next-door neighbor Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden) evolves over the course of the show. At first, Patty’s just a part of the wise-cracking riff-raff that fills the sitcom side of the series, but the show permits Allison to interact with Patty in the darker “alone” world too and it’s here that Patty’s allowed to shift from the beer-swigging spouse of Kevin’s best friend into someone who maybe finds solidarity in Allison’s angst. Allison and Patty’s dynamic also makes room for others to join in on the ennui, away from the TV comedy coma. Kevin, as the white whale antagonist, will most likely be the last to transition over but it’ll be worth it when it does.
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