Today’s Top Posts
Upon realising that Ben And Kate aired last week and I didn’t know (and therefore hadn’t reviewed), I just spent the last hour catching up. Two very, very strong episodes, and while last night’s was great – it didn’t seem as amazing as it could have been, when watched in marathon.
“Reunion,” last week’s Thanksgiving episode, was an half-hour where all the stories worked and had emotion to them. Kate trying to work out her ‘thing’ with Will, and confront her high-school bully, was a fantastic little story. Plus, it involved a musical number by Amber Stevens! (from Greek! Oh, how I miss Greek!) BJ held her own in the subplot too.
I’m really coming around to BJ. She’s a writers dream, really. At the end of the episode, where it’s revealed BJ married Ben to keep Kate happy, and the fact she’s from Texas, and just randomly has a weird British accent, it works. She’s insane, her whole life is insane. She’s Barney Stinson. But it works. She’s still grounded to the believable reality of the show. (Which, I think, is constantly getting farther away from an actual reality, but it works because the show realises the characters are doing extreme things a lot of the time).
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“Who wants bagels? I do, my name is kaaaaaaaaate!”
Here we are, seven episodes in, and I’m now happy to call this my favourite new show of the season. (Pretty sure I’ve said that before). I’ve had quibbles here and there, the show has had growing pains, but it has finally clicked – both for me, and I think, the writers/actors. The family dynamic the show assumed at long last works. There is still a while to go, but right now, this is just fantastic.
Most notable of which is BJ, who has become a delight to watch. Her original crudely contrasting character has started to fit in much more, and I can see why the group would want her around; why she is friends with Kate, especially. Kate, BJ, Ben… maybe not Tommy… They are all selfish to their own wants and desires. That’s just the way comedies like this work. A character needs something, so they go get it. This is what BJ does to a larger extent, and now I understand it because Kate and co. also do similar things.
The episode takes it’s title – “Career Day” – from a scare Maddie gives Ben. Ben says he wants to be Maddie’s guest speaker at school for career day… But as Maddie so aptly points out, Ben doesn’t have a career.
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A fantastic final act fixes some of the shows major issues in the latest – although still quite old – episode of Ben And Kate. I haven’t had the time to watch the episode before now, but I’ve heard the hype for ‘Scaredy Kate’ slowly increase since it’s airing last week.
It’s Halloween, and the episode picks up it’s main threads. It’s nothing exceptional – Kate wants to prank Ben and hook up with someone, BJ gives Maddie a Princess costume, Ben doesn’t listen to Tommy and they get high together.
All very, very funny. Ben and Tommy being high together is, of course, great, and so is neurotic Kate. But it’s not the comedy where, for me, this episode shines.
It’s the final act, at the party, where the show truly comes together. It’s pleasing to see BJ given an emotional core, and her reading a book to Maddie emphasised that she’s really does care about her, and doesn’t want her to become a slutty princess. While Tommy is also given something of a dramatic beat to play, saying that his life changed while Ben was away. Ben can’t always take control of their friendship, and Tommy standing up for himself gives his character legs.
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The evolution of a comedy is an interesting thing, and it’s a strange thing too when a comedy is so self-assured as Ben And Kate. And that’s both a good and bad thing.
Since the pilot, the show has know exactly what it wants to be. It knows it the central pairing well; their quirks and idiosyncrasies, their lifestyles and the ways they clash against each other. It knows their past well, their history, extremely well, and because of all these reasons it’s generally quite enjoyable to watch.
It’s getting a little bit tiresome though. An improvement on the last episode, but not necessarily one that skyrockets it up. It’s hard to complain that the writers are making premises out of Ben and Kate’s clashing ideologies, but when you get an episode like “Emergency Kit,” you wonder what else they can draw from. Not everything should have to bring out the inner-child within, and it shouldn’t need to turn into a game to kickstart the plot.
All the cast continue to be wonderful, and the addition (in what seems to be a reoccurring role) of Rob Corddry should only prove to be advantage to extending the world of the series. They are developing in somewhat bizarre ways, however.
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Ben And Kate’ s pacing is still it’s most defining attribute to me, and the show itself was summed up with a button in the middle of this episode. Maddie, in the back of the car, grabs a balloon and rubs it against Lucy’s hair. It’s not the funniest thing ever, but it quite possibly is the most adorable. It doesn’t cut quick. It lingers, and ends on Maddie smiling. A lot of that happened in this episode — a step up from “The Fox Hunt” last week.
It’s Kate’s 26th Birthday, but she doesn’t want a party. So obviously, Ben, Tommy and sort of but not really Lucy (she doesn’t want to pay, hilariously) throw her a party. A 21st. She never got one. Ben invites Kate’s old friend to the party, and they get on like wildfire… For five minutes. Then Kate realises this is what what her life is. Her life is eating ice cream with her daughter on her Birthday. And now, her daughter, Ben, Lucy and Tommy too.
Meanwhile, Ben continues to be obsessed with Darcy. I’m unsure why the show persists, but I think this may be the end for a while. Darcy is moving into her and Ben’s dream house with her new husband.
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The soap opera — the epic soap opera — is perhaps the most freeing genre currently on television. It wants to have its cake and eat it too. It wants the stories it’s telling to be larger than life — they want the literal game of thrones. Kings fighting against kings, empires against empires. But they also survive, need, beg, for the stories to they are telling to be grounded, subdued, and relatable. They live for the small moments.
And Nashville, the show, succeeds at both. All while making Nashville, the city, live up to its reputation for character, politics, and music. The pilot focuses on the music empire and our ostensible lead, the lovely Connie Britton, as Rayna James, an aging former country superstar who is struggling to sell out venues as Hayden Panettiere’s pop-country crossover Juliette Barnes is topping the charts.
A large ensemble is introduced, all possibly opening new avenues for the show to go down in, but it cleverly keeps its cast roped in and tied to Rayna in some way. These aren’t sparse, unrelated characters. These are daughters, husbands, ex-lovers and record producers. People intrinsically tied in her life. It makes the flow of the episode, and the introduction of the characters far simpler and enjoyable.
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It’s so nice to sit back now that we now have a (almost) a full season pickup of Ben and Kate to watch. I can finally start getting people to check it out, and hopefully many others will find the little powerhouse that is FOX comedy Tuesdays. I think this was perhaps the weakest episode of the bunch so far, but it’s still such delight to watch.
The third episode, “The Fox Hunt,” episode sees the group/family/whatever split up into Team Ben and Team Kate as they fight well, to win, and to decide who has to do housework (not homework!) for the next month.
From the very beginning, with the first trailer for this show, I always knew this was a character, not situation-based, comedy. And I think it is perhaps most notable in this one because it’s the first to tell an accelerated story. The scavenger hunt that the episode hinges on, are quite literally, hinges. The breezy tone that carries the show is still to the shows benefit, but it also means that if all the pieces within aren’t hugely entertaining as a whole — it can become a little bit dull.
I’m also starting to become a little bit weary of Kate’s friend BJ.
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It’s a shame, really, that Ben and Kate isn’t connecting. It has two of the most likeable leads I’ve yet seen in a new show this season, its setpieces genuinely make me chuckle and it knows absolutely what it wants to be. It’s a misfit family sitcom, with added surrealism.
Surrealism that was even more apparent with the post-pilot arrival of Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan whose previous credits include Family Guy, Scrubs and Community — all shows that get weirder and weirder with every passing episode.
I think Bad Cop/Bad Cop was on the same level as the pilot, but I think that’s necessary. It expands the world, and fleshes out characters and ticks and I’m fully confident, that if the show continued – which it likely won’t – it would be up there with Happy Endings or Parks And Rec with jokes-per-minute and character empathy.
In the episode, it’s quickly set up that Ben has been taking Maddie to school late every day last week, and now Kate has a meeting with the school principal — Alan (I did say this was basically an Amy Sherman-Palladino show!) Ruck — to make sure everything is okay. Ben hits it off with the Principle, which gets Ben and Kate invited together to a school shindig, which in turn ends up bringing all the school members back to their place to an after party.
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I want to live in this world.
Dana Fox has created a gem, and FOX’s comedy line-up continues to get better and better. It’s obviously not a priority for comedy, but it’s nice that the net has seemed to make it an agenda of theirs that the families featured are unequivocally not the most wealthy realtors or have the most happy-go-lucky lives. Raising Hope once stood out, but now I understand what Kevin Reilly has been up too. He likes his characters to struggle – to realistically struggle – so New Girl, Raising Hope, possibly but haven’t seen yet The Mindy Project - his characters are grounded in this economy, and Ben And Kate drives that even more so, even if none of the laughs come from it.
Kate is a single-mother of an adorable five-year old daughter, Ben is an unemployed idiot brother – and they have friends. That’s the premise. It’s a pitch that would not feel out of place on the CBS comedy lineup, but the smart pacing, endearing (and sometimes quiet) performances and actual honest-to-gods laughs that make this one to remember.
The story for the episode isn’t much longer — after many years of passing through town, Ben comes home to meet his long-term girlfriend – only to discover she is married!
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