Welcome back to Retro Rerun Review. This week, we’re taking a look at some of Steve Harvey’s early work, you know, his Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan era, if you will. Let’s dig in!
The Show: Me and the Boys
Ran for: 19 episodes from September of 1994 until February of 1995.
What it’s about: Steve Harvey plays Steve Tower, a widower struggling to raise three boys in Dallas.
My relationship with it: Huh?
This Episode: Pilot
So, Steve Harvey is basically bigger than Jesus at this point, right? On account of hosting that one thing, and, uh, being on the other. People go ape shit for his deadpan delivery and, I don’t know… giant white teeth? Anyway, this was long before that. In 1994, he was just a standup. And instead of a shiny bald head, he had a flattop. (Still had that lustrous goddamn mustache, though.)
Anyway, in Me and the Boys, he is Steve Tower which is a name so ridiculous and yet oh-so powerful that I think it needs to be in all caps. So, he is STEVE TOWER who owns a video store and raises three boys on his own.
We open with two of the boys in the kitchen with their grandma. The doughier of the two boys wants to eat an entire bag of chips. The grandmother takes them instead. STEVE TOWER enters and picks the smaller boy up and begins hauling him like you would a medium sized dog or abnormally large ham. The smaller boy was supposed to pick up his skateboard from the driveway, but STEVE TOWER had to do it. So, the arrangement is, now the child has to do something for the father. STEVE TOWER makes him go retrieve his gym bag.
The oldest boy comes down the stairs in an extremely large shirt. He is proud of the B he got on his test that he didn’t even need to study for. STEVE TOWER tells a long story about giving money to someone who claims to be God, and the man walking across water as proof, and holy shit, we are 3 minutes in and what is even happening in this show. His whole thing ends up being about, “so see why you should study, son?” And the son agrees and they bump fists.
We go to commercial break, and when we come back, we’re in the kitchen. Again. The set budget left something to be desired, I guess. The grandmother is making coffee. He tells her he’ll take decaf. Then the smallest Tower boy enters and tattles that one of his older brothers is about to do something he shouldn’t do. STEVE TOWER says, “you better make that a regular,” because he needs the caffeine to beat the shit out of his kid, I guess?
Then the kid leaves and STEVE TOWER asks his dead wife’s mother where his newspaper is. Apparently she hid it because he gets really riled up reading the paper. They talk about how he married her daughter and now the daughter is dead. Really, I think this scene was just there for the exposition.
The oldest boy shows up in the kitchen. His girlfriend’s birthday is coming up and he needs some money. STEVE TOWER says, “after the $12 I gave you last week for gas money, you currently owe me $125,000.” STEVE TOWER is sort of a dick. His son goes upstairs and then STEVE TOWER begins yelling up the stairs at “William” who is maybe the middle Tower child? He’s accusing him of wanting to go see Gravedigger IV. William, who is indeed the middle, chunky child, comes down and is like, “what’s up dad?” And STEVE TOWER says that “I paid for you, I’m just taking it all in. A man spends as much money as I have on you and he deserves to take it off the shelf and look at it every once in a while.” He is OBSESSED with how much money he has spent on his children, which seems healthy.
In the next scene, STEVE TOWER is getting spruced up in front of a mirror in his best purple blazer. He has a date. The grandmother is asking about the date and all the oldest son wants to know is if she’s hot. The middle child leaves, ostensibly to hang out with his friend, but we all know it’s to see the forbidden movie. Grandma thinks that STEVE TOWER is wrong, though, and that the large boy will listen to his rule about not seeing the film. They make a bet— if he loses, he does laundry for the week and if she loses, she has to make him a sweet potato pie.
It also just occurred to me that I am 94% certain this is the Full House house.
Anyway, we come back from commercial to a shot of the outside of the theater showing Gravedigger IV. STEVE TOWER comes running out of the theater shrieking with his date close behind. She makes fun of him, and reasonably so. They are holding hands which feels like pretty fast movement for a first date. He confesses that he only came to this particular movie to catch his son.
He asks if she’s hungry and she says “I can always eat” to which he replies, “we can get a hot dog right here for $450” because, the joke here is that movie theater food prices are *pretty* steep. They remember that they left their friends in the theater and, because STEVE TOWER is irrationally frightened, she volunteers to go get them. And then, wouldn’t you know it, STEVE TOWER bumps into the chunky son. And then, in even more plotting, it turns out it was the oldest son who bought the chunky son a ticket. (More like Me and the BAD Boys amirite??)
Back on the Full House set, grandma and the youngest Tower boy are playing Game Boys. Hey! Remember Game Boys? She beats him and as the victor, she gets to kiss him a bunch. Oh, grandmas.
STEVE TOWER and his older two boys come in. STEVE TOWER is incorrectly explaining that the type of movies his son watches will dictate what kind of job he gets later in life. This isn’t a thing at all. He punishes the boy by telling him that he has to collect all the clothes in the neighborhood for the church clothing drive. You know, the church clothing drive. And the older boy’s punishment is to monitor the portly boy in his effort to collect the clothes, “so he don’t weasel out of it like you know he gonna.”
So the kids leave and now STEVE TOWER is talking to his mother-in-law (is she still a mother-in-law even though their common interest— his wife/her daughter— is dead?) and we get some MORE exposition to the tune of “hey, you knew my daddy…” “Yes, he was my neighbor for 26 year.” Anyway, he wants to know what his daddy would have done. They discuss how STEVE TOWER’S daddy would have beaten him for such a transgression, and STEVE TOWER laments how you can’t beat the shit out of your kids anymore because they kids will call protective services on you. He is genuinely sad about this.
Anyway, he’s like “you owe me a pie,” and she says that no, the bet was actually about not knowing his children, and he didn’t know the oldest boy would be there, so he loses and has to do the laundry. He then says, “you know how I’ll handle it,” and he hollers, “oh boys,” up the stairs and that’s the end.
Oh, just kidding, there’s the 30-second scene at the end while the credits role where the big boy wants to see Free Willy 2 and STEVE TOWER riffs on some “how dumb that whale gotta be to get caught AGAIN?” material, so it’s kinda like early Seinfeld with standup at the cold open except it’s different because it’s at the end of the episode and also not good.
Would I Watch Another Episode? Surprisingly, probably. As much guff as I gave it here, it really was standard boilerplate 90’s sitcom stuff. He had a decent joke or two. It’s also worth remembering that this was the pilot; pilots are typically rough. It is the ONLY episode of this short-lived show I could find, though. Despite hitting #20 in the Nielsen ratings that season, it was canceled after 19 episodes.