TV Review: “Ben and Kate” – A Pleasant, But Ordinary, Sitcom

Written by Mitchell B October 20, 2012

The Middle of the Road

There are some sitcoms out there that will make you laugh your ass off, and some that make you want to throw your remote through the TV. Then there are the middle of the road ones, that don’t make you fall out of your seat laughing, but are still enjoyable enough to watch on a regular basis. “Ben and Kate” is one of those shows. It airs Tuesdays on Fox and stars recent Oscar winner Nat Faxon (writing, “The Descendants”) as Ben and Dakota Johnson as Kate.

 The Characters

At the heart of every good sitcom are strong, likable characters, and “Ben and Kate” certainly has those. Faxon plays the lovable idiot brother to Johnson’s awkward single mom. The show revolves around these two, as Ben has recently moved in with Kate, and, of course, wackiness ensues. Faxon and Johnson have good chemistry together, and are complimented by their friends Tommy (Echo Kellum) and BJ (Lucy Punch). Punch can be a little much at times, but for the most part all of these characters are enjoyable to spend a half hour with. Kate is easy to like, as she’s the responsible, hard working Mom. Ben, isn’t quite as easy to like, but he’s also hard to dislike, as he clearly means well and is always trying to do good by his sister. It’s because of these two that “Ben and Kate” succeeds.

“Ben and Kate” has a good mix of humour and charm, balancing some slapstick, awkward comedy with quirky romantic moments. The actors make us care about their characters enough that we are actually invested in their romantic lives and random, sometimes ridiculous, subplots. Most of which, come from Ben’s attempts to invent new products or help his sister out with something. Despite these pleasant moments, “Ben and Kate” definitely has its weaknesses.

Time to Move On

There are certainly times when not everything works for “Ben and Kate.” There are a few jokes that don’t work the first time around, and instead of the writers knowing it’s a weak joke and moving on, they repeat it a few times and it becomes even less funny. This doesn’t happen overly frequently, but enough to make a note of and wish they would stop. There are also a lot of ‘awkward for the sake of awkward’ moments in this show. There’s definitely humour in really awkward moments, especially in real life situations, but the moments of awkwardness in “Ben and Kate” feel forced. These characters are already awkward enough, we don’t need to hammer that point home anymore, especially because it’s not funny.

“Ben and Kate” already suffers from a life-threatening illness: classic sitcom syndrome. It’s only four episodes in and already we are seeing the same situations that every other sitcom in the history of the genre has used. Obviously there’s a reason these scenarios have been successful on other shows and that’s why they’ve become sitcom staples, but I don’t think a brand new show should already be resorting to using them. If you’re out of original ideas by episode four, you might be in trouble. “Ben and Kate” has enough enjoyable moments to compensate for lack of originality, but if I were Fox I’d be concerned for the future.

“An easy to watch, middle of the pack sitcom”

At the end of the day, “Ben and Kate” is a show that you can take or leave. It’s not good enough to contend for awards or run and tell your friends about, but it is a fairly enjoyable way to spend 22 minutes. It’s an easy to watch, middle of the pack sitcom, that you probably won’t regret watching.

My Rating: 7/10

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