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Kevin Can F Himself – 7 Questions with Eric Petersen: ‘It’s Home Improvement meets Breaking Bad’
Eric Petersen talks to us about AMC’s truly original new comedy Kevin Can F**k Himself, 'spectacular' co-star Annie Murphy and the best - and worst - things about classic sitcoms.
"If I only have one sentence to describe the show, I usually say it's The Honeymooners meets Breaking Bad or Home Improvement meets Breaking Bad," explains Eric Petersen, the title character in Kevin Can F*** Himself.
If those descriptions for AMC’s dark comedy sound mind-bending, well, that’s because the show is unlike anything you’ve seen before. A true original.
It’s a show split in half. In one half Petersen plays an oafish sitcom husband with a dumb best mate and buffoonish parents in a traditional sitcom filmed under shiny studio lights and soundtracked by canned laughter.
The other half is filmed with a single camera and shows us what is really happening to Kevin’s downtrodden wife Allison – played by Schitt’s Creek Annie Murphy – who is struggling in a loveless marriage with an obnoxious husband.
The two aspects of the show frequently crash into each other and ask the viewer to consider what they’ve been laughing at in classic TV sitcoms down the years.
Funny, dark, twisted and unlike anything you’ve seen before, Kevin Can F*** Himself is coming to AMC, exclusive to BT TV, on Monday 9 January.
We caught up with Eric Petersen to find out more…
1. Kevin Can F Himself is unlike any I’ve seen before – how do you describe it?
It is truly original, which is very odd. I thought there were no new ideas and everything was sort of a rehash. And while our show is a comment on things that have gone before, this idea of having a broad multi-cam comedy which then quickly smash-cuts to a dark prestige TV drama is absolutely a brand-new idea.
2. How long did it take for US viewers to get a handle of what was going on?
If you watch the first three minutes of the show, you'll get the whole show
We open with the big bright lights, the laughter track, the studio comedy with the big buffoon of a husband who acts like he’s the star of the show and he has this very put-upon wife. He plays beer pong, he teases her a bunch and then she leaves the room and BOOM - we smash-cut to a single camera and her reality.
It’s dingy, gross and she’s in a loveless marriage. The fact we go back and forth is quite jarring and whenever we make that transition between the two shows, it takes your brain a moment to recalibrate.
I think it’s a smart show with a viewpoint and something to say.
3. Was it hard to play a sitcom hero who is actually the show's villain?
One of the things that was interesting – in most TV shows that are not a sitcom you are looking at how your character changes from the first moment to the last moment. But in this show, everyone else was going through that and I had to fight against that and never change.
One of the reasons I did that is that it highlighted what Annie was going through. And secondly, I love sitcoms. I’ve taught classes on them and one of the things audiences love about sitcoms is that the characters stay the same.
It’s the same characters in different situations every week. We know how George and Elaine will react in different situations in Seinfeld, but we want to see it anyway. We know they’ll freak out and we want them to always freak out – the familiarity is what we enjoy. The characters don’t grow, get better or more enlightened.
In this show, everybody else is growing and changing around me, but for Kevin – all that he cares about is Kevin.
4. Did the show make you feel differently about classic sitcoms?
It absolutely did. I’m a big fan of sitcoms. I love them. I love the classics. Cheers, The Honeymooners, All in the Family. But after doing this show and going back and watching those shows, you do cringe.
Either the female characters are super underwritten or they’re just the set-up for a joke or the butt of a joke. Or you see racial jokes, jokes at the expense of the LGBT community – and this is just in the ‘90s.
I don’t want to kill the sitcom with our show, I don’t think that’s we were aiming for and I hope that’s not what people take away. I just hope people might think, ‘Oh that is true, the wife in the show doesn’t have any interesting storylines’. And going forward with a more critical eye, people might take note and not write such one-dimensional characters.
I think Hollywood is moving in the right direction, but hopefully a show like ours will nudge it a little bit more.
Unmissable TV for 2023
5. What was Annie Murphy like to watch playing this character jumping between two shows?
It was impressive. She is the one who had to do the most jumping between single-cam and multi-cam. She was doing the heavy lifting. I just thought she really matched the tone of both shows without losing her character at any point. She could bring the sparkle in her eye in the multi-cam and then lose that spark and get down into the nitty-gritty so quickly. She’s a spectacular actress and it’s a real marvel to watch her performance.
6. Has anyone missed the point of the show and said that they just wanted to watch the sitcom?
It went both ways. I don’t want to say it exclusively, but there was definitely a generational character. Family friends over 50 said, ‘Oh I love the sitcom stuff, I could watch this Kevin show on TV absolutely. Kevin’s not that bad, he’s just a bit dumb’.
And then younger viewers were, ‘Oh god, I hate the sitcom, don’t show me any more of this jerk, we just want more time with Annie’.
I think what’s great is that the show makes you deal with both sides of the coin. It’s such a smart show about Hollywood, society, TV history and viewing habits and what people are going through every day in 2022.
7. Would you consider working on a traditional sitcom again?
I would, because I love performing in sitcoms. The familiarity that a sitcom gives viewers, I love being part of that.
My agent did send me some scripts for a buffoonish husband on a sitcom after season 2 ended, but I wasn’t sure I could do that. I’ve just done a whole show that takes that idea apart, I don’t think I should be the first one to put it back together.
I will do some multi-cam in the future, but I don’t think it will be playing a buffoonish husband considering being part of Kevin Can F Himself and being proud of what this show did. To play that character again without any irony to it, would be retracing some steps that have already been tread.
Watch Kevin Can F**k Himself on Monday, 9 January at 9pm on AMC
AMC is available on BT TV, channel number 332/381 HD.
AMC content is also available to watch as catch up on the BT Player.