For decades of television, we’ve grown used to this husband-and-wife combination:
He’s obese and oafish; she’s sleek and smart and sometimes silent. We’ve seen them in shows that are great (“The Honeymooners”) and adequate (“King of Queens”) and awful (many).
Now a cable show (shown here with Annie Murphy) debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday (June 20) on AMC, disrupting that. “We are asking you to reconsider a woman who you grew up thinking that you knew,” said series creator Valerie Armstrong. “You thought she was happy.”
Is she really? We can tell by the title: “Kevin Can (bleep) Himself.”
Kevin (Eric Petersen) is a blue-collar guy who likes beer, Brady, Boston and … well, more beer. He’s large and loud.
Allison (Murphy, the Emmy-winner from “Schitt’s Creek”) is his wife, a liquor-store clerk. She’s quiet and attractive.
Then come the surprises. As Dan McDermott, AMC’s head of original programming, puts it, this show “desconstructs the trope of the passive, agreeable sitcom wife. (It) alternates between single-camera realism and multi-camera comedy.”
Multi-cam has been the comedy tradition, from “I Love Lucy” to “Big Bang” and beyond. Shows are done in front of an audience, with laughter that often fuels a fast pace.
And “Kevin” starts there, seeming to be a typical – and rather awful – comedy. Kevin and his noisy friends talk a lot; Allison doesn’t. “Multi-cam days, I’m don’t really have to prepare, because I only have three lines,” Murphy said.
Then Allison steps away from her husband – and the show changes form. For these scenes, there’s no audience and no laughter; a gritty camera style watches her be herself.
“I get to do things like kick over a garbage-can angrily and fry an egg angrily,” Murphy said. These are “opposite things from what I was doing on ‘Schitt’s Creek.’”
That previous show became a huge hit, with its deliberately limited, small-town setting.
“I loved every minute that I had in ‘Schitt’s Creek,’” Murphy said. “But that world was very small. (I) really wanted to do something significantly different.”
That’s the gritty side of “Kevin.” Only Murphy and Mary Hollis Inboden (as her neighbor Patty) do double-duty, in those scenes and in the noisy, multi-cam ones.
“We could take a breath outside of the multi-cam world,” Inboden said. “It didn’t feel like we were trying to keep up an unbelievable pace.”
They can slow down and reflect the agony. An old comedy concept transforms.
Armstrong created the series three-and-a-half years ago, then saw delays, some due to COVID. There were no worries, she said, that this would become outdated: “Stories about women being overlooked are, sadly, going to be relevant for a while.”
– “Kevin Can (bleep) Himself,” 9 p.m. Sundays, AMC
– The opener, June 20, has two episodes; they repeat at11:07 p.m.
– The show also began streaming June 13 on AMC+