By Drew Olson Special to Published Dec 01, 2006 at 5:15 AM
I tried to keep an open mind.


I tried to watch the first two episodes of "My Boys" with the detached neutrality of a dispassionate observer.

It was impossible.

If I may borrow a baseball cliché from PJ Franklin, the program’s main character/narrator, the show was facing an 0-2 count before the opening title sequence started.

"My Boys," which premiered on TBS this week, is a sitcom about Franklin (Jordana Spiro), a perky, pretty, tomboyish, 20-something Chicago Sun-Times baseball writer who plays poker, pounds pitchers, manages a softball team and talks about relationships with her older brother and four male buddies.

This single-camera show, the first original effort by the cable giant, echoes "Friends" and "Sex and the City," which, coincidentally, bookend it in the TBS lineup. Although the pilot gets off to a bit of a slow start (tough to avoid while establishing characters in a premiere), it’s not horrible. If the producers had cast PJ Franklin as a systems analyst, advertising executive, accountant or actuary, I might give the show a chance.

But, no, they had to make her a sportswriter ... a baseball writer, no less. I was a baseball writer for more than a decade. Many of my best friends are baseball writers. I don’t think any of them are going to be programming their DVRs to catch this show because they won’t be able to get over a few glaring problems with the plot.

For starters, Spiro’s Franklin simply isn’t believable as a Cubs beat writer. This has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman. Female baseball beat writers are rare, but they do exist. They hang out with men and go into locker rooms. (Thankfully, the first two episodes of "My Boys" didn’t include any tawdry scenes in that regard). Some of them drink beer and some play poker, just like Franklin. It’s just that Franklin simply is too young (and a bit too bubbly) to have achieved a tough assignment like that at a major paper in a major city like Chicago. She has way too much free time, too. (Though it will be hard to top Ray Barone from "Everybody Loves Raymond." The guy allegedly was a columnist for Newsday, but he almost never worked, traveled or spent any time writing).

In the opening sequence of the pilot, we see Franklin’s apartment. In addition to being impossibly large, this unit, which serves as the focal point for card games (sort of the "Central Perk" of the show), is decorated with some Cubs pennants and other memorabilia.

That was an immediate red flag.

No self-respecting beat hack would decorate his wall with the pennant of a team he covers. You might find a few bobbleheads or other craptacular promotional items lying around, but you generally won’t find them pennants on the wall or jerseys in the closet. The dislike and distrust between writers and teams is palpable. (It’s amazing how fast childhood allegiances dissipate the first time a reporter is stiffed by a star player or misled by a general manager).

That brings up another point. Two of the guys in Franklin’s cadre of "guy friends" are rather unbelievable. Mike (Jamie Kaler) works for the Cubs front office. Beat reporters may be friendly with some front-office types. They may even share the occasional beer. But, the nature of the job should -- and almost always does -- prevent things from getting too chummy. The same holds true for writers from competing newspapers, which brings up another flaw in
My Boys."

Franklin’s romantic interest Bobby (Kyle Howard) writers for the Chicago Tribune. For much of my time on the beat, the reporters from the Sun-Times and Trib barely looked at each other. The idea that two writers on the same beat could enter any kind of romantic relationship is beyond laughable. The clumsy bedroom encounter that PJ and Bobby share in the pilot -- she’s the aggressor and he wants to take things more slowly -- appears to provide the main plot thread for the series. The creators apparently will try to emulate the Sam and Diane vibe from "Cheers" by exploring whether PJ and Bobby were meant for each other or are better off as friends.

It’s not a horrible premise and this show isn’t totally hopeless. The interplay between the male characters showed some promise. If you watch the first few episodes of "Friends," you’ll notice that Courtney Cox’s character was featured to the point where it almost seemed as the show could have been called "Monica’s Friends." Eventually, though, the producers figured out that the ensemble was stronger than the individual players.

That may be the case with "My Boys," as well. If the writers make that realization and tone down the overwrought baseball analogies in the Carrie Bradshaw-inspired voiceovers and keep Franklin’s sportswriting scenarios to a minimum, I may be compelled to give it a chance.

On second thought, scratch that. I think it’s more fun to talk to my baseball writing brethren about real press box stories than listen to imaginary ones cooked up by Hollywood writers who have never covered an extra-inning World Series game on deadline.
Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.