“My Boys,” a low-key comedy about a female Chicago sportswriter and her poker buddies, has not been TBS’s make-or-break program. The network is more apt to promote its Tyler Perry properties, George Lopez and now its prized possession Conan O’Brien.
After three seasons, “My Boys” ratings haven’t justified huge marketing expenditures. In fact, it was unclear if TBS was even going to renew the show for a fourth season after last season concluded.
So amiable star Jordana Spiro earlier this year signed on to a new NBC romantic comedy “Love Bites.” But TBS had first dibs on Spiro and renewed “My Boys” this spring for another nine episodes. Given her contractual obligations, Spiro had to drop off “Love Bites” and return to “My Boys,” which debuted its first two episodes last night.
“I thought, ‘Why not?’ It didn’t put TBS at any risk,” Spiro said in a phone interview earlier this month from an iPhone that was causing her problems with reception in New York City. (She had to call back.) “The script [for "Love Bites"] was really fun. I heard such great things about Becki Newton [her pending co-star who just left 'Ugly Betty'.]”
Spiro said only taping nine episodes a year of “My Boys” allows her “a really rich life outside the show,” since it only takes up three months out of the year. And the writers have plenty of time to write crisply amusing scripts.
But the comedy’s limited run also “makes it hard for your fans to find you.” At 40 episodes so far, “My Boys” may never reach even 88 episodes, which is considered a passable number to sell into syndication. And TBS doesn’t air repeats that often.
For its hard-core fans, the show’s pleasure is primarily the witty repartee among the actors, not the plot lines, which are seldom groundbreaking or memorable in and of themselves. “The creator Betsy Thomas has never relied on gimmicks,” Spiro said. “The writing is witty and subtle. It never becomes broadly cliched humor.”
Last night’s opening episode focused on a search for a new poker partner for the gang after P.J.’s brother leaves for China. (P.J.’s one female bud Stephanie takes over.) And the funnier second one included single guys Mike and Brendan trying to act like full-blown adults to meet more sophisticated ladies while Stephanie, Kenny, P.J. and Bobby go on a double date. The two couples ingest pot brownies and hilarity ensues.
“It was fun just sabotaging takes so we can see how many vanilla wafers covered in jelly Michael [Bunin, who plays Kenny] can eat,” Spiro said.
As for the loss of comic Jim Gaffigan as always complaining Andy, Spiro looked on the bright side: the arrival partway through the season of comedienne Rachael Harris, whose character is house sitting Andy’s home.
Spiro’s relationship with Bobby deepens. She teased some plot lines: “What happens when Guitar Hero is introduced into the relationship? Or what happens when the woman is making more money than the guy? Now that the guy gets the girl, where does it go from there? To me, it opens up a whole new door to comedy.”
P.J. also has a nightmare dream in which she envisions everybody’s future. And in a rare moment, she actually addresses her job as a sportswriter. The show often acts like she isn’t one. In reality, most baseball beat writers work strange hours, Tweeting and blogging madly – just ask our very own Braves writer Dave O’Brien. Spiro said she has even suggested P.J. carry around a Blackberry, texting around the clock. “To me, I’m like that,” she said.
But alas, this is a comedy about relationships, not the workplace. “You have to suspend reality” on any TV show, she reasoned.
In her spare time, Spiro is taking classes at Columbia University to get a degree in directing. “I didn’t get turned on to directing through acting,” Spiro said. “I got turned on through photography. It has become a big hobby of mine.”
But she isn’t sure what her future holds just yet. “I got interested in this whole business in the first place because I never wanted to get stuck in a routine,” she said. “I wanted to meet new people and do new projects.”
“My Boys,” 10 p.m. Sundays on TBS