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hen TV critics were falling all over themselves this fall over to christen My Boys a refreshing, charming, brand-new kind of sitcom, I got ready to really, really hate it. I really, really hate pretty much every TV show about spunky girls living spunky lives in faux-colorful cities with faux-wacky friends and faux-daring lifestyles involving faux low-grade alcoholism and even fauxer flirting. So I was really geared up to despise this one, which debuted November 28th on TBS. It follows the social life of sportswriter P.J. (Jordana Spiro) and her throng of semi-hapless guy friends. Great, another super-pretty girl who just can't get a man because she's so down-to-earth. What, Heather Graham was busy this time around?
But then I made myself watch an episode. The half-hour flew by so fast I didn't have time to notice what was happening, except that as a baseball fan I was proud to get all the references she made, and as a poker player I was happy to see them playing the game in a non-celebrity-showdown kind of way. I was so shocked by my non-hatred of P.J., her brother Andy, her best girl friend Stephanie and her four guy friends (Bobby, Kenny, Brendan, Mike), that I fell prey to TBS's sneaky back-to-back episode trick and watched another one. Then I realized I still didn't hate it and promptly DVR'd the hell out of it.
I was embarrassed to tell anyone that I was stockpiling such a program — one with a sports-metaphor-laden voiceover intro and outro, one inviting comparisons to (shudder) Sex and the City and Friends, one with a beautiful tomboy at its center. Critical darling or no, it was a show about a gal in the city and it was not the Mary Tyler Moore Show or written by Tina Fey. How could it be so utterly charming?
In one episode, P.J. starts dating this seemingly perfect guy who just happens to hate her friends. She tries really hard to get them to like each other. Meanwhile, one of her friends makes P.J. go out for a drink with his fiancée (whom P. J. hates). Both encounters are exactly like 90% of the social interactions I have had with acquaintances in the past year: pleasantly strained, strainedly pleasant.
For most of us, single urban girldom is not all cosmotinis and shoes, nor do we get some aspirational thrill when confronted with the fantasy. Because those princessy girls are not glamorous, or vivacious or remotely lucky; they have a sense of entitlement, an affected girlishness and a poor inner life. P.J., on the other hand, is smart, straight talking and good at her job (interviewing baseball players in the locker room — now there's a fantasy). She's also pretty, and even though she has (mostly) platonic relationships with all her guy friends, they still remark on how hot she is when she dresses up for a date.
And when she talks about those dates, she does the most amazing thing: she does not whine! It turns out it is possible to talk about friends and dating without being offensive. P.J. wonders how to get out of things. She expresses hopes for the future. But she does not pout or stew or sulk. She asks for advice; the guys give it to her; they continue their poker game and have another drink. Oh, yeah — they drink a lot. Any one of them could drink those cosmo girls under the table.
After watching the first four episodes, I was officially in love with P.J. and everyone one of her guy friends.
There are a few annoying elements. Andy's wife is a battleaxe. Brendan's fiancée is a let's-have-white-doves-at-our-wedding Sex and the City girl. If it weren't for P.J.'s smart best girlfriend, Stephanie, there wouldn't be any other likeable women for miles. And even Stephanie engages in a lot of girlish tittering — as over her Match.com profile in an embarrassing, glaring instance of product placement.
But these aren't major problems. After watching the first four episodes, I was officially in love with P.J. and every one of her guy friends, even if they sometimes seem like they've wandered in from one of those men-being-men shows like King of Queens. And long about my fifth hour with the show, I realized how different My Boys is from Sex and the City. P.J. is flirting with this guy at a swank underground bar he owns. He's all rich and crisp-shirty and suave, exactly the kind of guy Carrie Bradshaw would be eager to have boring sex with so she could rush home and write about it. They're bantering back and forth and the lighting is all city-cool-by-way-of-Pottery-Barn and it's just about to get really irritating, when along comes the crew's ludicrously inappropriate hanger-on friend, Trouty (played by Johnny Galecki; yes, the teen boyfriend from Roseanne, and now an amazingly funny actor). He leans in, points out how hot they are for each other and offers to seal the deal. "I'll be a bridge," he says, leaning in between them. "Each of you whisper in my ear — who's your favorite Beatle?"
At that moment, I wanted to watch another dozen. But there were no more to watch, and the season finale was announced as December 28th. I felt depressed. But there was a holiday miracle: TBS increased the order for season one from thirteen to twenty-two episodes. So the season will go on, and I'll have a few weeks more to try and hate what I'm starting to suspect is one of the all-time least hate-able shows about being a single girl in the city. n°
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR:|
|Nerve consulting editor and Babble editor-in-chief Ada Calhoun has been a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review, a contributing editor and theater critic at New York magazine, and her softball team's MVP.|