September 25, 2012

Quick Thoughts: BEN AND KATE, "Pilot"

I had a very rude awakening this evening while on Twitter. I realized that my tastes in comedy do not line up with way too many people because so many tweets that I read with #BenAndKate were either negative about the show or shallow (I've never seen so many people obsessed with teeth before), and I was a little bummed because I really enjoyed the premiere of one of FOX's newest comedies.

Like I've written so many times before, I largely watch television shows for a strong and/or interesting relationship. Sometimes these are will they/won't theys (Castle). Sometimes I'm down for a solid bromance (Go On). Sometimes I like watching young, pretty people hang out and rag on each other (Happy Endings and New Girl). And sometimes it's a family comedy kind of night. Unfortunately, my go to in that last category is on the chopping block (i.e. Modern Family), so I'm in the market for a new extended family sit-com. At first, The New Normal seemed like the natural successor, but Ben and Kate quickly took the lead after I watched the pilot on Hulu.

Now, I'll admit that the first episode out of the gate had some issues. The man-child bit that Nat Faxon's pulling out as Ben is such a well-worn one that it's beyond a cliché that belongs in a Judd Apatow flick, but thankfully he showed some restraint and wasn't immediately annoying like so many of these characters are (as much as I love Happy Endings, Max's better in small doses). On the flip side, I loved Dakota Johnson's take on the "single mother who grew up too fast" archetype that apparently is only going to pretty blondes this year. Kate was slightly awkward, frazzled but still funny and sexy, and I fall for it every time someone  gets that combination right, and Johnson proved to be a gifted comedienne both in terms of delivery and the physical bits.

While the main performances were solid albeit understated, which was probably why so many didn't care for it since it wasn't ROFLMAO funny, what really sold me was the heart at the core of the concept and the relationship between this brother and sister. From the get go, I understood why Kate would be frustrated by her brother but still love him, and I believed that Ben would abandon his plot to get back his girlfriend because his sister needed him. This bond made sense to me, and I appreciated how Dana Fox (the creator) was able to establish it so quickly. It may not have landed for others, but I got it almost immediately.

As for those around the two leads, the kid's obviously too cute for own good and had some good moments with both Ben and Kate. I really liked what Tommy (Echo Kellum) brought to the table, but I once again didn't agree with the larger public because I thought BJ (Lucy Punch) was the weakest link. I'm sure she'll become funnier when they give her more than standard "I'm a tramp" jokes, but she didn't do it for me the first time around.

Will Ben and Kate be a New Girl sized hit? Heck no, but it could be a very capable and funny addition to FOX's new comedy line-up. I just hope people give it the chance it deserves and that Raising Hope's numbers don't bring it down.


Jennifer Bragg said...

I totally agree with most of this. Ben & Kate appealed to me because it felt fresh. The pacing was quite different than a lot of current comedies - which I really enjoyed. Sweet and steady instead of quick and quippy. And the relationship dynamic between the two siblings was really interesting. I can't wait to see more.

And I also found Lucy Punch pretty grating.

Marcos said...

Thank you! :)

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