When Kevin Can F**k Himself begins you’d be forgiven for worrying that Annie Murphy, so great as the vapid Alexis Rose in Schitt’s Creek, has drastically reduced herself to playing the stereotypical put-upon wife in the all-too familiar sitcom set-up of schlubby husband acts like a man-child and gets away with it because he’s endearing, supposedly.
The Kevin of the title is played by Eric Petersen, who eerily fits the mould of beer-swilling, “wisecracking” day labourer who, somehow, has a devoted, much smaller framed wife (Allison, played by Murphy) who puts up with his “hilarious” antics. The early moments of Kevin Can F**k Himself are almost too cringeworthy to endure, but if something seems a little off with the brightness of the lights or the aggressiveness of the canned laugh track, it’s all for good reason.
Less breaking the fourth wall and more hammering the building down with pent-up aggression, the unbearableness of the sitcom fades away whenever Allison leaves the room. We follow her on her own journey where the setting is more realistically grimy, the laughter has dissipated, and we bear witness to a dramatic mentality focusing on an unhappy wife who dreams of murdering her husband.
Created by Valerie Armstrong (Masters of Sex) and executive produced by Craig DiGregorio (Shrill), Rashida Jones (Claws) and Will McCormack (Toy Story 4), the series divides its time between traditional sitcom and black-pitched drama. There’s a clear aim at the role of the wife in these comedic scenarios, often framed as belittled women who are likely to be harbouring ill will towards their spouse; allegedly the inspiration behind the series came from how shrewdly the wife of Kevin James‘ character in Kevin Can Wait was written off that show.
Though not a direct parody of the James-centred sitcom – it’s hard to not see the similarities though – Kevin Can F**k Himself would probably earn a multi-season run off its sitcom set-up – as tragic as that would be. There’s nothing fake about the sequences serving as a comedic program, it’s awful and forced but it feels like a genuine show, which makes its tonal flip and Allison’s continued descent into madness all the more investing.
It may be inherently wrong to want to agree with Allison’s intention to murder her husband, but you’re undoubtedly on her side from the get-go as the archetypal supporting players in the sitcom (the equally buffoon-brained family members) only further peck down on her confidence. It’s a bizarre show, so wonderfully menacing, but you may find yourself cursing through the extended sitcom sequences as they are truly painful – though that’s the intention.
Anchored by Murphy, who’s both darling and devious, Kevin Can F**k Himself is one of the season’s most original offerings.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Kevin Can F**k Himself will screen on AMC from June 20th.