TBS’ My Boys, a female-point-of-view comedy about men, may be the best new entry in this season of struggling sitcoms. My Boys stars the appealing Jordana Spiro (the scene-stealer from Must Love Dogs) who plays PJ Franklin, a young Chicago Sun Times sportswriter covering the Cubs, surrounded only by men in her social life, the press box and on the field.
But when she tries to play the field – particularly after developing a crush on a fellow reporter for the rival Tribune – she struggles to move beyond being just one of the guys to actually dating one.
TBS – watching the studios overreact to viewers watching reality and game shows and thus producing fewer sitcoms to syndicate – is trying to grow its own comedies to pay off on its “Very Funny” positioning. Not only does My Boys deliver, but it should accomplish an even more important task by making TBS a must-stop for comedy creators as they shop projects to other broadcast and cable nets.
My Boys is accessible to a dual-gender audience - a rare feat amidst a media menu that increasingly caters to distinct demography made possible by TV’s technological leap from the Big Three to the Big 300. Most cable comedies have either a Lifetime or Spike orientation, but TBS cracks the code with a show about guys, narrated by a tomboy whom both men and women should like.
The show is already a critical darling (The New York Times called it a “charming knockoff” of Sex and the City), and PJ Franklin may give Carrie Bradshaw a run for her money – or audience – as well. Its premiere pulled more adults 18-49 than the preceding Sex repeat and is holding its own against nearly all TBS fare, giving an early validation of moving beyond off-network repeats.
There are several well-wrought pieces of the show that make the whole so appealing: PJ’s romantic travails, her observations on her friends and relationships, and her work gripes—all of which she metaphorically compares to baseball and are relayed in voiceover.
And while she is surrounded by a surrogate family of guys, PJ’s real family is represented by her henpecked brother Andy, which finally provides a platform for the underrated humor of Jim Gaffigan. And her best friend from journalism school, the decidedly feminine Stephanie (Kellee Stewart), provides a nice relief for our protagonist’s jumbled emotions.
But mostly it is the winsome Jordana Spiro - whose PJ predictably digs baseball, plays poker and can eat cold pizza and drink warm beer with her boys - who unpredictably has made TBS a player in original comedy with a character whom men will bond with, women will want to befriend and viewers will enjoy watching. Like the ballplayers she covers, My Boys knocks it out of the park.
John Rash is Sr. Vice President, Director of Media Negotiations for Campbell Mithun and is the author of the RashReport (rashreport.com). He also analyzes media for CBS affiliate WCCO-AM in Minneapolis and teaches at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota.