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What I Watched Last Night: My Boys and Scarborough Country

It's not that I'm obsessed with how bad My Guys is, is that it's so bad I keep watching out of amazement. I mean, the premise isn't half-bad, though inherently sets up stereotypical gender bullshit as an integral part of the storylines. P.J. Franklin is the Cubs beat writer for the Chicago Sun-Times and hangs out with her guys, which hinders her dating life. Sportswriters have been done on TV ad infinitum - though rarely well - but it might have been more interesting to dial back the focus on P.J's social life and write the show through the prism of her workplace. She could really have any job - the focus of the show is the poker table at her apartment, and whatever situations the writers can think up to put P.J. in. Bad choice.

The show is also incredibly strained in its efforts to namecheck Chicago in ways that both no national audience will understand and no local audience will countenance, given the incredible rate of inaccuracy, irrelevance, and ignorance these references display.

The effort to parallel the lessons of sports - baseball in particular - to the lessons of life that P.J. is learning is also pretty lame. First, it's been done - by a lot of us. When we were 23. Those lessons are already known to us - the importance of taking one for the team, for example. We don't need a lame TV show repeating them, badly, and not even really getting them right. And for those who aren't sports fans, they'll never get the references anyway.

In other words, in just about every way the producers and writers of this show have made the wrong choices.

Beyond that, the show offends me. It offends me because it gets baseball wrong, it gets Chicago wrong, it gets sex wrong, it gets dating wrong, and in the character who hosts some sort of heavy metal radio show, it gets rock and roll wrong.

This show needs to die.

*

I love the blues, but how many people in Chicago do you know who love the blues - and actually go out to see it performed live? Right. And yet, the opening to My Boys is a bluesy number meant to be shorthand for "Chicago." I guess Wilco wouldn't do. I mean, no one's heard of them, right?

And yet another scene of lining up at a hot dog stand on a downtown street. Hello? We don't have those here. Wish we did, but we don't . . . oops, it's actually a coffee stand. That actually makes it worse.

If you want to capture Chicago, why not have a character who gets clouted into a City Hall job, and show the main characters standing on an El platform a lot waiting for full trains they can't board or broken down trains on fire or hanging from the rails.

*

The first of last night's two new episodes was titled The Manager. You know, "all relationships need to be managed, and everybody needs a little coaching." When your characters are 12-year-olds disguised as adults, yes, that's true.

This episode was built around PJ's brother, Andy, a stereotypical hen-pecked husband who gets a free weekend away from home and "goes wild," meaning he drinks too much at a Mexican restaurant one night and the neighborhood bar, Crowley's, the next. Wow, that's crazy, dude!

PJ realizes by episode's end that Andy needs his wife to put restrictions on him. She is his manager.

Yeah, it's that bad.

*

I do give credit, though, for a show that actually shows drinking. You don't get much of that anymore. Of course, it's pretty lame when PJ tries to beg off another shot because "I've got a double-header tomorrow." Um, they really don't have many of those anymore. Besides, most games at Wrigley are in the daytime anyway.

The writing of this show is inexplicably bad. I mean, really, the chatty guy-talk dialogue is so lacking that I think the Beachwood staff could turn out a better season of scripts in less than 48 hours, with or without the tequila.

*

And the thing with the T-shirts - please stop. Mostly it's the "rock guy" who last night was sporting a way-too-crisp, obviously never-been-worn Motorhead tee that the producers probably ordered off the Web for 75 bucks. This guy can't name one Motorhead song, I'm certain of that.

And PJ went from a Guthrie's Tavern tee in one scene to a Wrigley Field tee in another - both way too obvious. Stop trying so hard. Please. I beg of you. This isn't Chicago local access - though it would be cooler if it were.

*

In the second new episode last night, Taking One For The Team or something, the "rock guy" switches to a Black Sabbath tee. In seemingly mint condition. I'm certain this character can't name a single person who was in that band.

This episode is centered around Trouty, played by Johnny Galecki of Roseanne, and his friendship (and thus access) to the owner of the trendiest exclusive club in the city, one that somehow features craps tables and baccarat.

Galecki is so good as an obnoxious hip-hop wannabe, and his dialogue so righteous, that I can only believe he brings it on his own. (Taking in the advice of the gang to relax around his friends, he rephrases in his own vernacular: "Chill out in Friendtown.") My Trouty would be a nice spin-off.

But the hot club? It's called The Streisand, and believe me, it looks nothing like the Ice Bar. It looks more boring than my kitchen. And if you're going to play up the hottie stereotype, the women ought to be hot. Just sayin'.

When one of the doofus guy characters says, upon their entrance to The Streisand, "We are now in the top rung of Chicago coolness," well, that was when I realized I can do this no longer. I can't keep watching this show out of wonder and amazement and loathing and in the service of my readers. It is no longer even worthy of comment.

When "I could've spit on Gary Sinise" and "Cusack couldn't even get Piven in" are your big celebrity references, well, yes, you've reached a certain rung of Chicago coolness, but the top one it isn't. Oh hey, is that Jim Belushi over there talking to Mike Ditka?

My work here is done. I've taken one for the team.

*

Just a word about Scarborough Country. It's good. Joe Scarborough is an honest, transparent guy, and not a shouter. He's consistent with his principles, and far from a shill like Bill O'Reilly. Following Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, Scarborough gives MSNBC a pretty strong evening lineup to fall back on when you're trolling the dial.

Last night Scarborough did a respectable, if sparse, job on James Brown, recalling seeing a trademark performance and seeming to appreciate in full the enormity of the man's contribution.

Scarborough is also often adult entertainment, not shying away from the realities of sex the way many conservatives seem to. Last night he showed a segment that I didn't quite understand in terms of its origination, but it was titled something like "Unnecessary Censored Words" and showed video clips of recognizable characters and celebrities saying, for example, words that started with "f" in which the rest was blooped out. Having flipped to it late, I couldn't quite determine whether that puppet on Sesame Street, for example, really said "fuck" or the bleeps were designed to make it seem that way, but it was pretty hilarioius.

Scarborough has been letting loose, both politically by calling out the president with increasing verocity, and culturally. He's worth watching.

Submissions to What I Watched Last Night are welcome. And you can visit the What I Watched Last Night collection to see what we've been watching so you don't have to.



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Posted on December 27, 2006


MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Don't Let Your Pet OD.


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