It all started with Valerie Armstrong listening to a podcast discussion in 2017. The deliberation was about how talented and funny actresses audition roles as sitcom-wives and get stuck to it. With that, she figured out in her head a television pilot with an opening scene. “The first image that streamed in my mind was a sitcom wife with laundry things walking off-screen. In the background was laughter from the audience,” Valerie recalled. “But after walking into the kitchen via the swinging door, the funny husband does not stay. Following her, the laughing track dies all eyes on her, and she seems miserable. I saw her looking in the camera saying, ‘I hate my husband.'”
That opening screen imagination is now an AMC show. What we did not expect is the unapologetically blunt title: Kevin Can F*** Himself. The opening episode is how Valerie had figured out. Allison McRoberts, the wife, leaves the living room and enters the kitchen, this time more realistically rendered. The entire show swings between those two setups. One is featuring Kevin, a man-baby and husband to Alison. It is familiar with Everybody Loves Raymond network sitcom. The other is a dark comedy, all about Allison. The scene, shot in a typical style with Barry or Breaking Bad, is a single-camera manner that is grittier and more cinematic.
The storylines are on parallel but separate tracks, commenting and informing each other. When you learn Allison and Kevin’s actual life, it may feel like you are in Kevin Land. First, it looks like a harmless comedy when he continually makes decisions without consulting Allison and jokes about the deport of their mail carrier. But after some time, the habits begin to be more disturbing. After Allison realizes that her husband has secretly drained their lifetime savings, she starts considering brutal ways to quit their marriage.
Is it a Sitcom?
Valerie assures that the film’s name reflects Kevin Can Wait, a Kevin James sitcom. The entry is the genre of a hot woman with her shrubby husband. In the genre, the wife’s character is bumped, which Erin Hayes played. Leah Remini, James’ former co-star, joined the cast as the new lead. But Valerie’s goal is not about the satire. Kevin’s realistic half serves a significant role, illuminating American sitcoms misogyny that was there for decades and the evolving relationship between his wife and Patty, the next-door neighbor. There arises the question; how can women become better allies to each other? “According to me, the show is not all on the toxic show,” Valerie remarked. “Neither is it on Kelvin. It is on how women relieve one another on toxic situations.” Writing Kevin Can F**k Himself was a puzzle, which made the single-cam and multi-cam so intertwined. Valerie admits they are similar to fishtail braid – when you pill one thing, they all become a part. The back and forth switch was a risk. The plot machinations put by the writers and the tone wreck with one false move. To avoid that, she suggested the following rules that the show needed.
1st Rule: Take Sitcoms Seriously
Valerie and showrunner Craig DiGregorio had writers working in a genre mixture; drama, single-cam, and multi-cam comedy. She and the writers directly recreated the multi-cam scenes without using parody. They also spent time re-watching other sitcoms. The original plan was to film the multi-cam scenes before a whole studio audience. But only a few socially distanced and masked audiences watched since the show’s shooting was under COVID-19 measures.
2nd Rule: The Stakes Setting Should Be By the Single Cam
The single-cam in Kevin Can F*** Himself exposes Kevin’s habits, which is the show’s spine. That is where we know how he has financially betrayed his wife and how broken Alison is. Kevin crushed her dreams of purchasing a better house which she believes is the beginning of a perfect life. We also see Allison and Patty become allies and risking themselves by buying and selling drugs hence contemplating severe crimes. The multi-cam shoots the sets’ breadth while the single-cam is lensed to take us in Allison’s head. We see Worcester, Massachusetts, her hometown as she views it. Focusing single-cam scenes on imperfections and shadows was an idea from Lynn Shelton, the late filmmaker involved in the show’s early creative process.
3rd Rule: Link the Two Sides
When Valerie and Craig discussed Kevin, they felt the show moving between Roseanne and The Fighter episodes. Those two are all about the life of a blue-collar family. The transitions had to be dramatic and not too drastic. Tony Fanning, the production designer, used those sets for locations having both formats. They angle out both sides of the multi-cam purpose while the single-cam serves to slide in a ceiling and a fourth wall. It is surprising that no detail to the table lamps changes. The only thing that changes is how the environments are lit and shot. Kevin Can F*** Himself enlightens the audience about important events around Alison that apply in real life. The show has jokes that dictate TV gender dynamics and how women can do better when they unite and support each other. The series is premiering at a time when the pandemic has caused intense stress for women. Mainly for those that have gone through Allison’s challenges. Who would hate another round of the show?