Unless a show deals with gangsters, Chicago’s overlooked in favor of old standbys New York and Los Angeles. Really, as I’ve learned over the past six years, Chicago has a city vibe more a combination of the two… for maybe four months each year. After that, the weather turns cold and we all huddle inside and dream of the next spring. Which brings us to last night’s double-episode return of Chicago-based My Boys. The show chose to entirely skip over Winter 2006 and begins six months after the season finale.
Second-city spoilers coming, though I have to wonder how a sitcom can be spoiled.
Since we last saw the gang, Chicago Sun-Times Cubs beat writer PJ Franklin has… well, we’re not told. Her brother Andy has moved with his wife to Hoffman Estates, a tony suburb northwest of the city. I cringe, because once someone moves to the ‘burbs, Chicagoans give them up for lost. This isn’t like New York City’s boroughs; the suburbs here really may as well be another world. Fellow Cubs reporter Bobby has been reassigned to NASCAR; best friend Stephanie, well, got a haircut; Kenny began dating a pregnant woman; and former Cubs exec Mike stayed unemployed. Oh, and PJ’s college friend and roommate Brendan, whom she kissed at the end of last season’s finale, is now dating a cute Asian woman named Colleen.
Generally, "My Boys" eschews sitcom tropes in favor of situations that feel accurate, but the Brenden storyline is pure shtick. Sure enough, we find out Stephanie called PJ mid-kiss which broke the sexual tension and… well, I’m not buying it. Those moments are difficult to really break in real life, but no, PJ immediately leaves to take some extra keys to Stephanie. The next night, she and Brendan have an awkward dinner, and soon after he moves out of her apartment.
Back in the present (well, Spring 2007), the gang is holding a fantasy baseball draft with Andy on speakerphone on his way in from the suburbs. Will non-Chicagoans understand just how much a part of this city’s life the commute can be? Really, you have carless people like me who stay in the city limits and in close proximity to the public transportation, and commuters who think nothing of spending a few hours each day in their cars stuck on the highway. Shudder.
Colleen shows up and, of course, the Asian woman is the one who prompts the gang to abandon the draft and go their separate ways. Smooth move, Yoko. And way to not be subtle, writers. Brendan is also a no-show at Cubs’ opening day, and I have to say, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a fight with your friends: If they have a Cubs opening-day ticket for you, you don’t show without even letting them know to scalp the thing. In my circle, he’d already be at the bottom of Lake Michigan. Oh, we find out pregnant Kimmy’s a surrogate, and Kenny wants to be a real dad and yawn yawn yawn.
Wrapping up the first episode, PJ corners Brendan later in the bar and they both apologize. Bobby hates NASCAR and gets his Cubs job back, for a pay cut, Brendan moves back in with PJ, and — argh — we have a reboot, my least favorite sitcom trick. So nothing’s changed.
Second ep of the night, PJ is invited to speak on the Turk Vardell show, apparently a Chicago cable-access version of "Around the Horn" that still allows Turk to dine nightly at Trotter’s, where I once dropped $500 for two people. Suuuure he eats there. It’s inconceivable a gorgeous and apparently talented writer like PJ has never been on television, when even I — gorgeous and talented though I am — have been on television and radio multiple times. As the boys say, she swings and misses, though she’s no less coherent than the "funny" commentators. To be fair, "Silence of the Lambs" is hardly a good comedic analogy for baseball.
In the B-plot, Andy wants to buy Mike a new bed, and they are joined at the shop by Kenny and Kimmy. (And though I know the show is shot on a lot, I still pause and rewind because I’m sure the store is the same place I bought my bed a few years ago.) This brings out Kenny’s paternal side, but Kimmy the surrogate wants nothing to do with the baby, so she dumps him. I want that bed, though. Seriously, people, my feet stick off the end of mine. It’s tough being tall.
In the end, Bobby is invited onto Turk’s show, but falls backward in his chair.
Okay, so this season is shaping up to be more traditionally sitcom than last year, but let’s hope "My Boys," like the surging Cubs, can come back strong.