(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first two episodes of AMC’s “Kevin Can F**k Himself.”)
The first two episodes of AMC’s genre-bending comedy “Kevin Can F**k Himself” premiered Sunday, dropping viewers into the world of Allison McRoberts (“Schitt’s Creek” alum Annie Murphy), a Massachusetts wife who spends half her life trapped in a sitcom world where her husband Kevin (Eric Petersen) is not just the king of queens, but everything, and the other half in a dingy, dark tale of despair and dreams gone by.
But while Allison slips back and forth between the two vastly different universes, Kevin is only ever seen in the multi-cam portion of the show. There is a very specific reason for this decision, which was made by “Kevin Can F**k Himself” creator Valerie Armstrong. And it’s not just about Allison and Kevin.
“So Kevin and his dad, Pete (played by Brian Howe), and his neighbor, Neil (Alex Bonifer), they’re what I call ‘multi-cam catalysts.’ If they are on screen, it is the multi-cam,” Armstrong told TheWrap. “And those scenes need to be able to be pulled out of any episode and make its own little episode of like a CBS sitcom.”
That jab at the stereotypical sitcom (which is already baked into the title, a riff on the Kevin James-led comedy “Kevin Can Wait”) means that the men only live in that laugh-track fantasy, while the female characters Allison and Patty O’Connor (Mary Hollis Inboden), Allison’s tough, glass-half-empty neighbor who hides an intelligence and dissatisfaction that bonds her to Allison, are able to slip between both realms.
“The point is, to me, that guys like Kevin, they get to walk around for their whole lives in a sitcom. It’s just a metaphor for the benefit of the doubt that those guys get,” Armstrong says. “They get people cheering them on. They get to be boys until they’re 65. They don’t have to ever really deal with the consequences of their actions. And so to me, people ask like, ‘What’s Kevin like in single-cam?’ And the answer is, he doesn’t have to be there. He never has to be there, because there there’s gray areas and grit and consequence and he just doesn’t have to deal with it. His life is aces, as far as he’s concerned.”
Throughout the first two episodes of “Kevin Can F**k Himself,” Allison hatches a scheme to kill Kevin to get revenge on her husband after learning he has spent their life savings and kept her from buying her dream. And even though this portion of the plot doesn’t take place in the cheery sitcom landscape, it is pretty hilarious.
“Valerie set it up so beautifully with this Type A character who needs everything to be done properly and needs to follow all the rules, who gets so in over her head in a murder plot,” Murphy told TheWrap. “But wanting to execute that murder perfectly and get A+ at the end of the day, that’s just, I think, where the natural comedy comes from, just the absolute Type A plotting a murder. We’re just getting way over her head. I loved it.”
But sprinkled through Allison’s murder storyline is this sitcom, which becomes more and more depressing to the audience to watch as we learn about Allison’s life in the real world. Especially when Allison and Patty rarely speak in the multi-cam world and are normally used as a punchline. The discomfort you might feel while watching these scenes is intentional.
“The sitcom needs to feel like a real sitcom. That was our goal. If we want to comment on something, if the whole idea is that I took issue with this problem, that meant we had to make the problem,” Armstrong said. “We had to devote ourselves to actually doing that. And that was hard. There were days, especially those first four, where we were only focused on the sitcom, I kept thinking, ‘Am I part of the problem? Am I just making another misogynistic sitcom? Why aren’t they talking?’ And it’s like, ‘No, this is the point. This is the point.’ But it means that sometimes you have to make something where it makes you a little uncomfortable. And it did. It does.”
“Kevin Can F**k Himself” airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.