Sitcoms are usually the first to get cut when the networks decide to start offing unsuccessful new shows, and I expect Fox to get rid of Ben and Kate sometime in the next few weeks. From the basic plot to the acting to the editing, this whole series is a mess. Maybe if it had been a 90-minute movie, Ben and Kate could have been tolerable -- but anyone who thinks this is going to last more than a few episodes is going to be sorely disappointed. Here's why:
The Clichéd Premise
If last year's bad new sitcom premise was reclaiming manhood, this year's is navigating untraditional family structures -- just look at Guys With Kids, The New Normal and ABC's upcoming How to Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life). A brother and sister raising a kid together while figuring out their own issues isn't exactly innovative to begin with, but this season especially it'll be that much easier to overlook. (Not that its competition is exactly stellar, or anything.)
There's a reason Nat Faxon's most successful work was behind the camera with The Descendants' Oscar-winning adapted screenplay -- the guy is not leading man material. While his looks certainly don't help him for primetime ratings, his portrayal of titular Ben is too much like every other goofy-yet-sweet character Paul Rudd and Jason Segel have been playing on the big screen for years. Then there's his costar Dakota Johnson (who is notably the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), who isn't strong enough of an actress to make Kate a complex lady. I'm not really sure just what Lucy Punch (who I'm not really a fan of to begin with) and newcomer Echo Kellum are supposed to be doing in this show, either. Really, the only person I like on this cast is the adorable little girl, Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones, also known as the only redeemable part of We Bought a Zoo). One cute kid is not a strong cast make.
I get that the editing of this show is supposed to make it funnier, but instead the jokes go on for way too long and the sequence of events is confusing. Not only could I follow why everyone was where and how they know each other so well, but then the time jumps and "I'm not doing this" scenes that cut to the character in question "doing this" made the show feel like a Disney Channel series rather than a comedy for adults. And don't forget about the bit with Ben saying gibberish instead of cursing in front of Maddie. It was so... Raven of him.
On that note, the comedic moments that were supposed to deliver the most punch felt ripped-off of better-written gags. Take the scene where Kate's sweater gets stuck to her shirt on a date, and she reveals her bra in the process of trying to fix her wardrobe malfunction -- Tina Fey's character did it so much better in Mean Girls. And the scene where Ben had trouble reversing his car in a tight space? Stolen from, of all things, one of the Austin Powers movies.
The Wrong Kind of Chemistry
When you've got a show about two characters who are supposed to be brother and sister, you really want to make sure there's no sexual chemistry between your actors. When Ben and Kate ducked under the table at the wedding, a chill went down my spine. Again, Nat Faxon isn't the best looking guy on TV, but that doesn't stop his tender moments with Dakota Johnson being any less uncomfortable.
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