Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Boys: Talking with Jordana Spiro

I watched this week's "My Boys" while still disoriented from jet lag, so I don't feel qualified to discuss it. So instead, after the jump I'll put a few excerpts from my conversation with Jordana Spiro at last night's Turner networks party. Feel free to talk about the episode if you want; I just have no idea whether it would have actually been funny to someone with access to all their faculties.

I asked Spiro about the removal of the sports metaphors from PJ's narration. She said that she loved the idea of the sports metaphors back when she first got the pilot script, but that in the original draft, the references were much more specific, the kind of thing you'd get only if you were a serious baseball fan. TBS was worried that this would alienate anyone who didn't know about, say, OPS or the infield fly rule or whatever (these are my suggestions; she didn't provide examples), and so they asked "My Boys" creator Betsy Thomas to make the references as generic as possible. And, after a while, the writers ran out of sports metaphors that were both easy to understand and actually interesting.

"People got tired of the sort of cliche aspect of them," she said. "As soon as you start to make them general, they get a little bit annoying. I think they just started to annoy people."

She said she misses the focus on PJ's job this year, though she understands why they were toned down.

"The writers had to decide whether this was a workplace show or a friends show, and they knew that it was a show about friends. But PJ is so much like me, and the one big difference was her passion for baseball, and so I miss getting to play that side of her as often."

She said Thomas has described the arc of the series to her as "to watch the evolution of someone in this extended adolescence into becoming a woman," and talked for a while about the laid-back atmosphere on the set, which in turn contributes to the chemistry between her and the rest of the cast.

On the day of the first table read, before Kellee Stewart had even been hired to play Stephanie, she and the guys all felt really nervous -- "You could cut the tension with a knife and serve it on a plate" -- so as soon as it ended, "We all looked at each other and were like, 'Can we all just go and get a beer?' And it was, like, noon." So they walked out in search of the bar closest to the set, started swapping stories, and that esprit de corps was born.


Unknown said...

A few good bites, there, Alan. I've really seen very little of her in an interview capacity, so I don't know what she's like, but I just have to imagine she's really a cool person.

Also, interesting about the sports metaphors and the evolution. I wonder how the show would have differed with the specific metaphors and references.

I actually thought the episode was the strongest of the season. It wasn't perfect -- the Mike/Jo date, for example, with the Jo/Andy flirting went on entirely too long and went from "yikes, this is not good for Andy" to "yikes, this is not good" very quickly -- but I definitely felt like it was more in-line with what we came to expect last year.

A few major highlights included a raised level of tension between Kenny and Stephanie ("People gave it 3 1/2 stars!" "What people?...illiterate people?" and then Kenny putting the book in the fridge), a funny scene where PJ had something in her teeth and an exasperated Stephanie refused to help her for long, and a nice joke progression about Brendan's clothes, ending in wine on the shirt.

Anonymous said...

Am in total agreement w/Drew about this past episode of My Boys. It felt like "the good ole days," i.e., the first season.

Kenny is my favorite character. He never fails to amuse me. I love that his new-found popularity with the ladies is killing Mike.

Nicole said...

I'm glad I'm not the only who thought this was one of the better episodes this season. Most plots were clicking and while I don't know how I feel about PJ having planned Bobby's wedding, it was much less "the Wedding Planner" than I thought it would be.

Brendan is a lot less irritating now that he has character development to work with.

Anonymous said...

Why oh why does every sitcom today have to have an "arc?" Cheers (among others) proved you don't need one to deliver strong character-based comedy, while M*A*S*H (among others) proved that evolving your characters can actually ruin your show.

Just to cite two examples from shows Ken Levine has worked on.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I don't know that I'd be citing Cheers as an example of a sitcom that did a great job of being funny without arcs. If anything, it was one of the first sitcoms to have significant ongoing arcs, first with the various Sam/Diane/Frasier combinations, then with stuff like Sam trying to buy the bar back, Rebecca's dalliance with Robin Colcord and her bringing him to ruin, Woody with Kelly, Norm starting up the painting company, etc.

Anonymous said...

Sure, Cheers had lengthy story arcs, but the characters didn't fundamentally change over the run of the show.

Whereas the humanizing of Hot Lips on M*A*S*H was that character's ruination -- or that of Fonzie on Happy Days, now that I think of it.

Anonymous said...

Add me to the list of those who really liked this past week's episode. I thought everything was back on track. My only gripe was that there was maybe one Andy/Jo scene too many. I still think Nia Vardalos is adorable, but I also still think that "adorable" can wear out it's welcome quickly. Given that I loved every other character from start to finish (and Mike was back to "normal"), I could completely ignore that. It's not like there weren't a few season one moments that irritated me and those are the episodes to which I'm holding this season up against.

And if there's not a Stephanie/Kenny hookup before the end of the season, I'll be very surprised. They do seem to have amped up the animosity a bit this year and that must be going somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Whoever compares this fluff show to Cheers should stop watching tv.