Spiro sparkles as just one of the guys
By Frazier Moore
NEW YORK — P.J. Franklin is a twentysomething gal who’s one of the guys.
But not as a poor substitute for romance. Someone that appealing has no need to compromise.
Instead, the go-her-own-way heroine of the TBS sitcom "My Boys" is just respecting her druthers. For P.J., the dependable joys of weekly poker games, pub-hopping, sports as a hobby and career (she covers the Cubs for the Chicago Sun-Times), and abundant sassy banter soundly trump the pitfalls of dating. No wonder she prefers fraternal ties (and not just figuratively: one of the guys is her older brother) to sorting out a love life’s mysteries.
Meanwhile, her boys endorse her membership. She’s the one girl they can be themselves around.
"My Boys" (shown at 9 p.m. Tuesdays) is a shrewd, funny look at what the genders have in common, and can learn from each other, when they let their guard down.
The single-camera comedy sports a fine cast, including Michael Bunin, Kyle Howard, Jamie Kaler, Reid Scott and, in particular, Jim Gaffigan as P.J.’s reined-in married brother. Kellee Stewart plays gal pal Stephanie, who, being "plenty girly enough for the both of us," as P.J. says, provides a spirited rebuttal to her boys’-club lifestyle.
But the heart of the show is Jordana Spiro. As P.J., she is deliciously authentic. Irresistible. The season’s happiest discovery ... at least, for those who haven’t had the pleasure.
Of course, other viewers may remember Spiro from "The Huntress," a USA drama where she played the teenage daughter who teamed up with her widowed mom as bounty hunters. She has also had guest shots on such series as "CSI: NY," "Cold Case" and "JAG."
And those who saw the 2005 romantic comedy "Must Love Dogs" were charmed by Spiro in a tiny but indelible performance as John Cusack’s ditzy date. On-screen less than three minutes, when she airily dismisses the film "Doctor Zhivago" by saying "I didn’t get it," her cluelessness speaks volumes. Spiro can bring substance even to a bubble-head, and do it in a flash.
She has much more to work with now as P.J., who happens to be someone with whom she shares several qualities: the beaming smile; the plummy voice never far from a chuckle; and an eager curiosity (she arrives for the interview with lots of questions about journalism, not just answers about herself).
She is wearing a black sweater and black jeans, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. Maybe a little girlier than P.J.; maybe not.
But there are also distinct differences.
"P.J. could probably drink me under the table," says Spiro. "Not that I don’t enjoy a few libations every once in a while. But she would slam me down.
"And prior to ‘My Boys,’ I had never gotten too involved in the world of sports: The first baseball game I went to, I asked what time the show started."
As P.J., she has a whole new set of skills to master.
"I’ve had to really hunker down and learn a lot about sports," says Spiro. Then she recounts an introductory chat with "My Boys" creator Betsy Thomas, who offered her some tips on preparing for the role.
"She said, ‘You need to learn how to play poker, you need to start watching as much baseball as you can, and you need to come out and drink with us.’ I said, ‘This is the best job I’ve ever had in my life! If we can also fit in saving the world, I’m gold!"’