Friday, September 28, 2012

Pilot Review: Ben and Kate

Ben and Kate (FOX)
Premiered September 25 at 8:30pm

In the case of some shows, it’s evident that the pilot isn’t entirely representative of the show as a whole. Ben won’t get to protect his sister from a cheating scumbag and Kate won’t get to help her brother crash the love of his life’s wedding again; that’s just for the pilot. Instead, it’s better seen as an introduction to the characters, two generally endearing and likeable siblings. What’s most surprising is that Nat Faxon, most recognizable as a member of the zany Broken Lizard comedy troupe, is actually great as Ben, who is painted as enthusiastic and passionate but not excessively stupid or mean. Judging people by the quality of their high-fives is entertaining, and he’s not meant to be taken entirely seriously. Kate, on the other hand, is sincere and sweet, and unlike another blonde lead actress on a new comedy this fall, she actually has a personality. In the supporting cast, Lucy Punch stands out for her commitment to comedy, training Kate in keeping attention on her mouth in the midst of a date. Their sibling bond is especially wonderful, and positioning Ben as dependable in the right moment is important so that the show doesn’t repeat the same formula each week, in which he makes a big mess that she needs to clean up. This is a much more pleasant version of the exceedingly cartoonish and overdone “new normal” on the new NBC show, and I’d much rather spend time watching these appropriately wacky characters get themselves into and out of trouble, all the while having each other’s backs.

How will it work as a series? We’ll have to wait until episode two to know for sure, since Ben’s arrival was a new occurrence in this installment. I suspect, however, that he’ll find a more permanent way to stick around, which will create regular shenanigans and opportunity for familiar bonding and support. While it’s not as edgy as its other comedies, this is just the kind of comedy that belongs on FOX.
How long will it last? While it’s hard to compete against “Glee,” which used to have this timeslot, the pilot performed decently with the ratings. FOX seems invested in creating a comedy block with “New Girl” as the anchor, so, packaged with “The Mindy Project,” this seems like a worthwhile investment at least for the remainder of the season, and likely beyond that if its quality endures.

Pilot grade: B+

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