Initially presented as a sitcom, one of those we’ve seen time and time again where the protagonist is this quasi-pot-bellied guy cracking jokes with his buddies over a beer on the sofa. He’s usually not the sharpest knife in the drawer and pretty disastrous in many aspects, especially when it comes to domestic chores, but the metaphorical crap never actually hits the fan as he always seems to be accompanied by a secondary character, the responsible figure, running around from room to room to maintain the house in order, who also takes care of him, is affectionate with him while also forgiving him for his cock-ups and shortcomings, and who generally tends to be more intelligent and more attractive than him. We are talking of course about his wife, whose role is restricted in many of these series to that of the housewife who takes care of all those areas neglected by our protagonist, including everything from their own relationship and the kids through to the mundane chores of preparing to host some guests. Not only is it a minor role, but this character often acts as the punching bag that absorbs most of the sitcom’s punchlines. Overly responsible, too strict, too boring, etc.
In “Kevin Can F**k Himself”, series premiered on AMC, Armstrong and showrunners wondered what exactly was going on in this woman’s mind, this wife resigned to merely serving as a satellite to her ‘happy-go-lucky’ husband. And that’s why the initial setting of a sitcom is shattered the second he leaves the room and the series switches genre, suddenly becoming a raw drama. The idea is brilliant because it successfully testifies to the fact that the role she plays when the show’s in sitcom mode is for her, strained. She feels compelled to do what is expected of her. Also, because it highlights the misogyny we’ve witnessed all too often in this type of sitcom and as such which we’ve assimilated. By bearing in mind her point of view, the series manages to pass judgement on scenes and stereotypes we’ve seen, and even laughed at, dozens of times. Now, the smile looks crooked. Series creator Valerie Armstrong explains that she wrote the concept for the series “a feminist fit of rage”, perhaps while she was watching an episode of “Kevin Can Wait” , to which the title, “Kevin Can F**k Himself”, seems to be a response.
The series alternates between sitcom and drama, depending on whether our leading lady is in the company of her husband or not. A truly ingenious concept that works well in the opening episodes also thanks to actress Annie Murphy (“Schitt’s Creek”) who oscillates effortlessly between both registers. But it turns out that the idea works better as a starting point instead of in the long term. There’s often little or no connection between the storylines of both genres as the sitcom facet, complete with its over-hackneyed storylines, is uninteresting at best, soon becoming a burden, a liability to its drama facet, which accompanies Allison, Kevin’s wife, as she develops her plan to do away with him. In reality, what “Kevin Can F**k Himself” sets out to achieve is to administer the mortal blow to the misogyny still present even today in so many white sitcoms based on an old-fashioned macho perspective of gender roles. Accomplishing this through metalanguage is a genius way of also shaking audiences to their core, inviting them to focus on the foundational ideas series are built upon and that might initially seem innocuous. As Mònica Planas explains in her highly recommended book, “Captain Kirk’s Kiss” (Catedral), “Television should give us greater food for thought precisely when the intention of those making it is to ensure that not a single neuron in audiences’ brains are stimulated. Because the more innocuous it declares to be, the more covertly TV can influence us.”