Cue the laugh track.
The stereotypical stick-in-the-mud sitcom wife is getting her close-up in edgy new show “Kevin Can F**k Himself.”
Premiering Sunday on AMC (9 p.m.), the dark comedy follows Allison (Annie Murphy in her first role post “Schitt’s Creek”), a long-suffering wife who rolls her eyes as her schlubby man-child husband, Kevin (Eric Petersen) clowns around with his friends.
So far, so typical for the genre. But “Kevin Can F**k Himself” — a riff on the popular CBS show “Kevin Can Wait,” which starred Kevin James and ended in 2018 — is using the conventions of recent sitcoms to turn them on their head.
To do that, the show alternates between familiar scenes — complete with punchlines, harebrained schemes from Kevin as Allison tries to keep their household in order and a laugh track — and a more naturalistic, dramatic vibe in which the camera follows Allison when she’s alone, letting her frustration show.
“To me, the format switch [jumping between sitcom and drama] is a metaphor for the benefit of the doubt that we’ve given Kevins forever,” creator Valerie Armstrong told The Post.
“Those guys get to walk around with their own little sitcom audience laughing and cheering them on, and they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their buffoonish funny actions. Everybody else around them does. It’s the guy who gets to have destruction in his wake and never look back, and the woman who has to deal with that and is then called naggy.”
Armstrong, 31, is a television writer and first-time TV creator who got the idea for the series when she was listening to the podcast “The JV Club with Janet Varney.”
“These two women comedians were talking about how every year they go out for the sitcom wife [roles] and they’re always told, ‘We need a funny woman for this. You’ll get jokes for this one!’ And then they get the [scripts] and their lines are just set up for the men in the room,” said Armstrong.
“And I was like, ‘We’re still doing this? How?’”
For Armstrong, the answer was clear — create a show that focuses on the wife.
“That first image came to me with a woman in her sitcom living room with her husband … She walks into the kitchen and suddenly we see her up close and it looks very different. It’s not that anything necessarily changed in her from the living room into the kitchen — it’s that we’re finally paying attention to her,” she said of her early ideas.
The show is set in Worcester, Massachusetts, although Armstrong originally wanted to base it on her hometown of Milford, Connecticut.
“But people hear Connecticut and think, ‘fancy,’” she said. “It’s not, but I knew that it wouldn’t have that shorthand. And then I remembered Worcester, where my brother’s college roommate is from. He totally understood that there was something backwards about that place and yet he had this immense pride and love for it.”
That struck a chord with what she was trying to do. “I thought, what a great place to set this [show], which has this bright and shiny veneer but also has this rot beneath it.”
Although Armstrong didn’t watch “Kevin Can Wait” — which infamously killed off Kevin’s (Kevin James) wife, Donna (Erinn Hayes) to a storm of viewer confusion and controversy in 2018 — she grew up watching many of its small-screen predecessors.
“I did watch a lot of ‘King of Queens’ when I was a child. I watched ‘Family Matters’ and ‘Frasier’ and ‘Friends’ and ‘Home Improvement.’ I grew up loving sitcoms. It’s only since having the idea for this show that I’ve gone back, thinking, ‘Huh — was Jill from ‘Home Improvement’ miserable?’”
As cutting as “Kevin Can F**k Himself” can be, however, Armstrong said that eviscerating other shows is not the goal.
“We are not here to make fun of this genre,” she said. “Everyone involved has a real respect and love for it. But you can love something and still take issue with it.”
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