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'My Boys'
From left, Reid Scott, Jamie Kaler, Michael Bunin and Jordana Spiro click as a group of sports-loving friends. (Patrick Ecclesine)

'My Boys' plays games with gender cliches

TV creators frequently take the gang-of-friends approach to sitcoms. They do little more than throw an ensemble of actors on a set, feed them jokes about romantic woes, and wait to see if it all clicks. There's not a lot of premise or gimmickry involved; just the chance for chemistry. "How I Met Your Mother," for example, isn't really the story of anything easily definable except successful group dynamics .

In "My Boys," TBS's first fully scripted original series, the gang clicks. If it didn't, the sitcom would be yet another shapeless "Sex and the City" wannabe with a few gender twists. But thanks to a good cast, led by the sympathetic Jordana Spiro, it has spirit and identity, and it's a positive omen for the future of TBS's scripted efforts. In "My Boys," which premieres with two episodes tonight at 10 , a few sports-loving pals play poker every week and spark off one another's personalities. The show is nothing more than that, and certainly not required viewing, and yet it's a fine way to pass a half hour.

The friends are all male except for Spiro's PJ , who is a tomboyish sportswriter for the Chicago Sun-Times. PJ has one female friend, played with comic girliness by Kellee Stewart , but she is far more comfortable hanging with the guys. Her brother Andy (Jim Gaffigan ) is a regular card player, and then she has a brotherly rapport with the others -- her former roommate Brendan (Reid Scott ), Kenny the geek (Michael Bunin ), and guy's guy Mike (Jamie Kaler ). And her voiceover thoughts about life are so laden with sports metaphors they'd confound the likes of Carrie Bradshaw.

PJ's comfort zone is invaded when she forms a strong attraction to the group's newest card player, Bobby (Kyle Howard ), a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Bobby likes her but he is turned off by her male-identified qualities, in that he can't seem to get a fix on whether or not she's interested in him. Like the typical sitcom guy, she has trouble communicating her emotions. And so when she and Bobby try to date, she keeps doing "the guy stuff," as he puts it, and he keeps retreating. Later, he jokes, "Why is it that every time I talk to you I feel like the chick?"

If "My Boys" doesn't push gender clich e s to an exciting new level, it does play around with them pleasingly. Spiro is easy to root for as PJ, and you don't want PJ to change. But then it's clear she needs to find a better way to express herself if she wants to find love. And that is her goal, of course. Ultimately, "My Boys" doesn't amount to too much more than a gathering of friends looking for love, but it's a warm gathering and that's worth something.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at For more on TV, visit

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