Kevin Can F**k Himself was sold to me all wrong: What if the wife in an Everybody Loves Raymond-style sitcom finally had it with her lazy, narcissistic, misogynist husband and his merry band of enabling friends and family members? But I already know what happens when that wife’s done with her husband’s bullshit. She nags and whines and acts out and gets mocked into the ground by her husband and his parents; she becomes the punchline. Or, I guess it’s more accurate to say she remains the punchline. Anyway, that’s not Kevin Can F**k Himself. Here’s how AMC’s dark comedy deserves to be described: What if Thelma and Louise fell in big canonical bisexual love while engaging in a misandrist bender with all roads leading to a murdered husband? Now you have my full and undivided attention!
In a way, I suppose, Kevin Can F**k Himself is both of those shows — quite literally. Creator Valerie Armstrong’s concept for the series came from a podcast episode she heard years ago about how brilliant actresses in their 30s get stuck playing sitcom wives. Armstrong elaborated on the vision for Vulture: “A sitcom wife walking offscreen with a thing of laundry and the audience laughing in the background. But when she walks through the swinging door into the kitchen, we don’t stay with the funny husband. We follow her. The laugh track cuts, and we’re straight on her face and she’s miserable. I just saw her looking straight into the camera and saying, ‘I fucking hate my husband.’ ”
That’s Allison McRoberts (Annie Murphy), the long-suffering wife of the titular Kevin. Half her life plays out under the bright lights, laugh track, and multi-cam set-up of a traditional family sitcom that takes place in Worcester, Massachusetts. The other half plays out in a darker, single-camera format where she’s forced to grapple with the fact that her husband is a controlling, abusive asshole who has secretly blown their entire life-savings — her life-savings, really; she contributed every penny — on fake sports paraphernalia. The money represents a future that helps her deal with the depressing situation she’s in right now, and when she finds out — from her neighbor, Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden), years after the fact — that Kevin blew it all and didn’t tell her, she decides she’s going to kill him.
It’s two shows in one, and the juxtaposition is jarring. It’s also illuminating. Kevin is very clearly terrible. He’s a piss-baby man-child from the opening scene. He belittles Allison, he spreads rumors about her to retaliate against her when he’s angry at her, he wastes their money on things like Bill Belichick’s game hoodies, his favorite restaurant is basically Chuck E. Cheese, his idea of a good anniversary date is a garage party with cheap decorations and a beer pong tournament, he has no boundaries with his friends or family, and he acts as if the entire world is set up to look at him and laugh at his jokes. Seeing him inside the sitcom, you’d know he’s terrible. Well, you’d know. Most of America? Well, that’s just boys being boys. But when you watch Kevin’s sitcom paired with Allison’s increasingly despairing dark comedy, when you see how his infantile retaliations to her actions are played for laughs inside his show as they’re torturing her in the other show, you’ll sympathize in a mighty way with her murder plans.
Luckily, she’s also got her neighbor Patty for that. Patty starts off as one of Kevin’s sycophants, but as the show progresses, she finds herself increasingly sympathetic to Allison’s plight. And then she finds herself joining Allison’s plot to off her husband. And then she finds herself genuinely connecting with Allison… to the point of falling for her. Patty’s sexuality awakening happens outside of Allison. She’s got a kinda shit boyfriend that she doesn’t really care about, and then she catches feelings for the detective who’s investigating the ring of people dealing Oxy in Worcester. The detective, Tammy, returns Patty’s feelings. They go on a date! They’re cute together! It’s too bad Patty also happens to be one of the city’s Oxy dealers.
I don’t want to spoil too much but as Allison and Patty barrel past the point of no return with their murder plans (and past the point of no return in confessing their feelings for each other), things take a bunch of real wild twists and turns that leave both women clutching hands — Thelma and Louise-style, in the kitchen where Allison broke out of Kevin’s sitcom for the first time — so deep into their scheming that it’s hard to see any way out but over a cliff.
Kevin Can F**k Himself is streaming on AMC+
Oh my goddddd I’m so excited to see this review here. Annie Murphy and the whole cast and crew of this show did a brilliant job with a fascinating concept and I’ve been talking about this show with anybody who will listen for months. Can’t f***ing wait for season 2.
Oh god it’s so nice to see someone who understands queer subtext talk about this show, the AV Club reviews were so painfully heterosexual.
I haven’t seen this show and I think especially after this review I’ll want to watch it (I mean, anything to give me more watch time for Annie Murphy!) But I really wish we could see Annie Murphy playing a queer role on this show, maybe it’s still to come, but I just really want to see it.
I love Allison and would DIE for Patti, even though “people getting in way over their head by committing or intending to commit crimes” is a genre that i have hated ever since Weeds went OTT in season 3 or 4! Like, do they have to wanna kill Kevin? Can’t she just plan to leave? They could still have tension and hijinks!
Anyway, Patti is everything.
I’ve been waiting for an Autostraddle review of this show! Thanks for writing this :)
Thank you for affirming my read of Patti and Allison’s relationship. Glad you gave this show a queer spotlight.
1. Annie Murphy be my wife!!!
2. Patti has the PERFECT arc from the classic sitcom, ‘pick me, I’m not like other girls’ front to actual human woman who realises other girls are actually great and her dudes she hangs out with fucking suck.
3. I don’t know if Alison and Patti are A Thing, though? Or even if Patti likes Alison romantically? To me it seemed like Patti grew to care for Alison as a friend, while also discovering her sexuality and dating a woman. I could be wrong, but I just don’t think that’s where the show is going?
I agree on all counts, Charlotte. I was really surprised by the queer reading of Allison and Patti’s relationship, and I am someone who reads/wishes queer overtones into most of the media I consume. I just don’t see it here between these two characters. I hope we get another season to see where their friendship takes them.
I also agree, but I read it as more like one sided. Like Patti might be at the beginning of feelings for Allison (when they were in the tub together and Allison puts her head on Patti’s shoulder was when I first suspected), but I don’t think I’ve seen anything that leads me to believe Allison reciprocates
Eeeeeee! I only have two episodes left. I love the vibe between Patti and Alison.
ok I think my first two comments got eaten or it’ll look like I basically posted the same comment three times, sorry
I just rewatched the final scene to jog my memory and (I don’t know if this counts as spoilers) I genuinely think Allison and Patti have feelings for each other, I don’t think their conversation was just about friendship. I’m kind of surprised more reviewers didn’t pick up on it.
Honestly, what is that last conversation they fail to have right before [BIG LAST SCENE FINALE SPOILER REDACTED] even about if you don’t read Allison as having some feelings too that she’s just extraordinarily unready to admit to?
yeah, I just don’t see any reason why she would be reticent to admit to feelings of friendship or sisterhood in that way even if she’s an extraordinarily repressed person. like we know she can say those things because she said them to patti in episode 7 in what she thought was more of a “two straight girls being besties” way. “what if we die alone together?” or whatever.
it seems in the finale scene she’s confronting the fact that patti isn’t straight and is like oh shit ok this relationship is something else. i think she JUST realized it while talking
and then on the flip side patti has been in love with allison the whole time and pretty much knows it! it’s especially clear in episode 7. I’m so confused by ppl’s confusion about this lol, and I am actually pretty reticent to read queerness into platonic gal pal relationships
Agreed! I’m both surprised (but also not) that people are reading Allison’s big speech at the end as a friendship thing. I thought pretty obvious that it was a moment that Allison was realizing that she has more than friendship feelings. Esp if you consider the way she was acting about patti and tammy in a way that I think is obvious jealousy. I do think tho that until it gets to a explicit moment like a kiss, people rarely pick up on obvious queer storylines/characters.
I really loved this show and I can’t wait for season 2!
I was hoping there would be a queer element – I thought there might be after watching the first episode, but wasn’t sure. I’ll admit I don’t think I can finish watching it though, no matter how good it is. It just really trips a ton of anxiety and irritation for me that I feel like I can’t handle.
It feels like a more real life version of Harley Quinn.Allison as Harley,Patty as Poison Ivy and Tammy as Kite man.Kevin is Joker of course.