DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Kevin Can F Himself series premiere episode “Living the Dream” is laden with spoilers. You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own peril.
Welcome, jaded sitcom characters! Kevin Can F Himself finally made its debut on AMC Plus. “Living the Dream” is an apt description for this series premiere outing. For me, I have more questions than answers. Is Allison the only one who’s cognizant of her “sitcom” surroundings? Is she aware of the canned laughter backing track whenever she’s around Kevin? Does the sitcom aspect of this show exist only in Allison’s mind, or is it real? Is the sitcom schtick a metaphor for Allison’s conflicting mental state?
Multiple queries aside, Kevin Can F Himself is carried on the shoulders of Annie Murphy, who churns out an award-worthy performance.
Ready to delve into “Living the Dream”? Let’s get to it.
Now, we open with Kevin (Eric Petersen) playing beer pong with his buddy and neighbor Neil (Alex Bonifer), while Patty (Mary Hollis Inboden) watches. Allison (Murphy) barges in with a basket of laundry. We hear an audience laugh track punctuate every line and zinger. Allison and Kevin’s 10th wedding anniversary is swiftly approaching. She hopes that they can celebrate in a more mature, adult-esque manner this go-round. However, Kevin is gunning for another “Anniversa-rager.”
Next, Allison flees to the kitchen. Instantly, the overly saturated, vibrant color scheme of the sitcom world seamlessly vanishes, giving way to a bleak and dark real-life landscape. Allison is precariously hanging on by a thread. In fact, she squeezes a glass so hard that it smashes to pieces in her hand.
Then, the following day, Allison rips a hole in her sweater while preparing breakfast for Kevin. She urges him to refrain from setting his coffee mug on her Pottery Barn coffee table without a coaster. Naturally, Kevin doesn’t believe in coasters. Allison leaves to run errands prior to her shift at the liquor store.
Meanwhile, Allison spots a flyer for a slew of swanky houses at a real estate office. She visualizes herself donning lavish 1950s threads, looking the very picture of a vintage housewife. She’s pouring beer into a grateful Kevin’s mug. It’s interesting that she envisions her perfect life with Kevin as one that involves her fitting a 1950s sitcom stereotype.
Amid her pre-work sojourn, you see menial things go wrong, mostly due to Allison’s innate clumsiness. She waltzes into a makeup shop with doughnut powder smothered all over her lips. Allison asks to try out some lipstick. She wants to look presentable for her anniversary shindig. However, the women behind the counter deliver a heaping helping of judgment.
Later, while getting ready for bed, Allison broaches the subject of purchasing a new home to Kevin. Initially, he seems resistant to the idea. Kevin epitomizes every “middling semi-sexist white man” that was pervasive in early aughts sitcoms. All he wants to do is party, drink and chastise his wife for her out-of-the-box ideas. Eventually, he appears to warm up to it. Allison makes the executive decision to meet with someone at the bank to take out a loan.
Next, Allison is sent out to retrieve a charcuterie board for Kevin’s boss, who will be joining in on the “Anniversa-rager” fun. You know, the party that’s also for her. Allison wanders into “Bev’s Diner,” a local eatery. She finds a former friend and/or beau named Sam (Raymond Lee) behind the counter. Apparently, he moved back home after 15 years in New York. He also owns the diner.
Now, there’s clearly sexual tension between the two. And why wouldn’t there be? Sam is very easy on the eyes. Unfortunately, both of them are married. While the diner doesn’t sell charcuterie boards, Sam offers to compose one for Allison. But our girl hightails it out of there like a bat out of hell.
Then, Allison returns home with painted lips (she returned to the makeup shop) and a charcuterie board she constructed at the liquor store. Kevin’s boss has arrived, and he’s already doing keg stands with the boys. Kevin has cranked up the schmooze in an effort to weasel a promotion out of his supervisor. Kevin calls over Allison for what appears to be an announcement regarding their big move. She’s ecstatic to finally make it official.
Instead, Kevin discloses to the partygoers that he received the promotion of his dreams. Obviously, this means they can’t move, much to Allison’s dismay. They’re standing on top of Allison’s prized Pottery Barn coffee table. Suddenly, it breaks, sending them groundward.
Later, Allison storms outside and punches the mailbox in a rage. Patty is smoking on the porch. She encourages Allison to actually utter the f-bomb as opposed to saying, “F.” Allison longs for a better life. She wants to break free of her average, milquetoast, sitcom-wife life. Patty seems content with it all — she works, watches TV with the boys and smokes her menthols. She’s perfectly happy with her New England town imprisonment. But not Allison.
Then, Patty drops a truth bomb on Allison. Apparently, they’re entirely bereft of their savings. Kevin spent every penny on a scheme-gone-wrong a few years back. He never revealed this to Allison. However, Patty was somehow made aware of the situation. Allison is beyond incensed. Rightfully so.
Now, Allison roams the empty streets in an almost numb state. Her world is fraying at the seams, and it seems like her dream of a new life is slipping through her fingers. She breaks into her liquor store and swipes some booze. As she purposefully breaks the bottle, an ogling mechanic from across the street ushers her into his establishment.
Next, we see Allison is snorting cocaine with said ogling mechanic. She launches into a monologue about her life. Allison ponders aloud whether she actually forks up everything she sets out to accomplish, or if Kevin yanks it all away from her. It’s such a wonderfully performed bit by Murphy. She inadvertently punches the mechanic and attempts to put on a “badass” façade, but the dude sees right through it.
Later, the next morning, Allison arrives after her coke bender. Kevin orchestrated a legitimate anniversary dinner for her. Surprise! Kevin proceeds to spew his usual nonsense, which makes Allison’s blood boil. She smashes the beer glass … again. Allison daydreams about taking a glass shard and stabbing Kevin in the neck. She watches him bleed out with pure, unadulterated glee. Patty and Neil shrug off Allison’s glass-breaking moment.
She leaves the room. But instead of discarding the glass shard, she pockets it with a smile. She might need it later.
Overall, “Living the Dream” is a somewhat lukewarm installment, but Annie Murphy’s mesmerizing work keeps it afloat. Her nuanced portrayal of Allison is pitch-perfect. Despite knowing very little about her, Murphy ensures that we sympathize with Allison’s plight.
Kevin Can F Himself boasts an intriguing premise, with its premiere episode presenting enough questions for us to continue watching for the inevitable answers. The intricate details that lend themselves to Allison’s unraveling state are a nice touch.
Additionally, the smooth transitions from the vivid sitcom stage to the gritty, bland setting of the real world are a testament to Kevin Can F Himself‘s outstanding cinematography. I don’t blame Allison for her hatred of Kevin — I’d fantasize about his demise too.
Right now, I’m curious to see where this story takes us. Here’s hoping we get answers to the sitcom aspects soon.
The first two episodes of Kevin Can F Himself are available to stream on AMC Plus. Both episodes will also premiere for a broader audience on AMC starting Sunday, July 20.