The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

"My Boys" Imitation Isn't All That Flattering

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 29, 2006 4:50PM

2006_11_myboys.jpgLast night, Chicagoist sat down to watch the premiere of “My Boys” on TBS. As the show is supposed to take place in Chicago, we figured it’d be worth a look to see if it captures the spirit of the city and whether it’s worth your time. On both counts, the answer is “not really.”

“Sex and the City” is the show that “My Boys” gets compared to the most, as it is ostensibly about a single girl looking for love (Chicago Sun-Times sportswriter P.J.), who’s prone to unnecessary voiceovers and has a close group of friends (the aforementioned “boys”). But it’s the template created by “How I Met Your Mother” that the writers are going for here. Yet a weak lead, tired metaphors that thematically link sports to dating and a lack of supporting character development makes “My Boys” fail where “HIMYM” succeeds.

The most interesting aspect of P.J. is her “guyness,” but it’s undercut by an unrealistic script that tells us one thing, but shows us another. “The cute girl who likes sports” is more clichéd than fresh at this point, and as much as everyone struggles with “the dating thing,” no one with this many guy friends would be so clueless about men. As forthright as P.J. is in telling Bobby — a Tribune sportswriter and the object of her affections — what she wants in the bedroom, she’s apparently unable to take two seconds to tell him that she’s interested in something more. A more compelling show would be to see the difficulties that a smart, confident woman has when looking for love in a world with romantic miscreants like Bobby. (Also, a woman like P.J. would never coin the phrase “The Girl Booty Call,” wherein a woman calls a guy late at night because she has emotional needs. It’s called a booty call for a reason.)

As for the “boys” of the title, this is the only group of close friends that doesn’t constantly share in-jokes or riff off each other. A short bit late in the 2nd episode — with Jim Gaffigan as P.J.’s brother ruling on whether Mike is “allowed” to ask out a girl that Kenny met once for coffee — worked, and the show needs more of these moments. Incidentally, we had to go to the TBS website to remember everyone’s name. The only characters that are fleshed out in any way are more caricatures than anything else (Rock DJ Guy, Unhappily Married Guy, Schlubby Bald Guy).

Unfortunately, the character of Chicago was underdeveloped as well. We counted about 15 local touches over two episodes from the obvious scenery (shots of Wrigley) to sly name-drops (a mumbled reference to Toon's). Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t (seriously, Lord and Taylor?). With a sitcom budget, no one should expect the Chicago of “My Boys” to reflect the real deal. But again: “HIMYM” works because even though their version of New York doesn’t resemble the actual New York, you still get enough of a sense of the world around them for it to ring true.

The subtle touches of “My Boys” are the ones that give it a sense of place; Crowley’s Tavern — the bar all the characters hang out in — is a Sluggers/Guthrie’s hybrid (with an unfortunate Applebee’s sheen), and the characters at least dress like the people we see waiting for the bus, although we have yet to meet anyone who wears jackets here in the summer. But there’s no way P.J. would be able to afford her cavernous, six-room, North Side apartment on her beat writer salary.

If the idea of seeing a character wearing a Metro T-shirt in a world that apparently begins and ends with the Chicago Cubs appeals to you, set your TiVo for “My Boys” on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. But your time would be better spent hanging out with your real-life counterparts that this show desperately wants to imitate.