A Noir Sitcom

A Noir Sitcom

← My partner and I recently watched the first season of this intriguing show. We were drawn to it because it stars Annie Murphy from Schitt’s Creek, which is one of the best television shows ever made (I haven’t blogged about it before, but there you have it). Her new show is called Kevin Can F**k Himself, and is available on AMC+ streaming for all you cord cutters. Why she always ends up on shows with curse words in the title, I couldn’t tell you.

Kevin Can F**k Himself is a dark comedy and a parody of sitcoms that runs with the premise that a clichéd sitcom marriage is actually highly toxic. The wife and lead role, played by Murphy (b. 1986), is trapped in a living hell she is desperate to escape. The titular husband is played by Eric Petersen; I couldn’t pinpoint his birth year but I believe he is on the Generation-X/Millennial cusp.

The show uses an unusual contrivance to contrast “sitcom life” with “real life.” It takes some getting used to but I think the creators pull it off. It has good writing and excellent performances by the leads, as well as by Mary Hollis Inboden (b. 1986) in the supporting role of next door neighbor buddy.

Traditionally, sitcom television is “comedy of errors” humor deriving from misunderstandings/poor communication. Someone overhears something, misconstrues the meaning, and hijinks ensue. By the end of the episode everything is cleared up and back to normal (status quo ante). The characters are typically two-dimensional and stereotyped, foils for one another and fodder for repeated jokes.

In Kevin Can F Himself these tropes are twisted and the consequences become tragic. Kevin’s lack of communication skills and simplistic personality are a nightmare for his wife, Allison, who somehow is unable to break out of her own responsive patterns when she is in his presence. Miscommunication isn’t a fount of humor, it’s the corrosive destroyer of a marriage.

The characters are Millennials (technically geriatric Millennials), and the show explores themes that resonate with their generation’s experience. In particular: the relative immaturity of men relative to women, the difficulty of forming satisfactory relationships, and the lack of economic opportunity for the working class. As staples of sitcoms about married, suburban life in a gentler past, these themes might have provoked light humor, suitable for a laugh track. But for Millennials in the throes of late stage capitalism, these problems of the middle class have mounted to the point of being unbearable, and the humor has become dark in turn.

Kevin Can F**k Himself thus ends up blending genres. It’s a sitcom that bleeds into a noir show more in keeping with the times. Unlike what usually happens in a sitcom, it does not return to status quo ante at the end of each episode, but has an ongoing, developing story arc. Whether the show is a tragedy or a comedy actually depends on the final outcome, which hasn’t yet been determined. Season 1 left us with a major plot twist, and I’m hoping that the show gets renewed for another season. It’s an out-of-the-box creative effort that deserves a longer run.

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