Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday Television 09/25/12: FOX Comedy Night

Tonight, FOX premiered 'Ben and Kate' and 'The Mindy Project', which so far are the two best new comedies of the season. Neither of them are perfect, or even great shows, but they are the ones that show the most promise and the one I think I'll stick around with for the season. 

On 'Ben and Kate' Oscar winner Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson play the eponymous characters, a pair of siblings that had it rough growing up so they grew very close. Whereas Kate had to mature at a very young age to keep going in live, Ben never grew up. Now, in search of sticking together and making a better life for themselves, this man-child brother is moving in with Kate and her young daughter Maddie, played by Maggie Jones, who you may have seen playing Matt Damon's daughter in 'We Bought a Zoo' where she was every bit as adorable and funny as she is here.

As you might have guessed from my description of the show; the story, premise and characters of 'Ben and Kate' are not all that original. But here's the thing: Number one, the pilot is really funny. I laughed a lot. Number two, the chemistry between the actors is really good. With their sweet interpretations, Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson really made me want to spend more time with Ben and Kate. And number three, what really sold this show to me, it has an undercurrent of sweetness  that just made me smile throughout the whole episode. Good characters and sweetness is always a sitcom's best combination. 

You see, for a sitcom to work, at least for me, it's necessary to find some warmth and affection between the characters. The American version of 'The Office', for example, started to work once they differed from the much more cynical humor of the british original. Similarly think of how much better 'The Simpsons' worked at its best than 'Family Guy' ever did. From the character moments we get between Faxon and Johnson (Kate showing Ben how to stop his ex's wedding, for example) I get the impression that 'Ben and Kate' is willing to explore the affection between its characters, instead of just being sweet just for the sake of it. 

Now, on to the 'The Mindy Project', where we get creator Mindy Kaling playing an Ob/Gyn disappointed with the fact that her life hasn't turned out to be like a romantic comedy. The pilot for this show wasn't as good as 'Ben and Kate', but still showed a lot of promise.

This pilot was funny in parts, but we didn't really get to know much about any of the supporting characters (which include Chris Messina and Stephen Tobolowsky). What sells me on this show is mainly the promise of Kaling herself. Her work on 'The Office' and her comedic books are proof that she is a very good writer. And she is a very talented performer, her character already feels rather unique and interesting to me (except for her blind date scene in which she comes off as a little unrealistically crazy). I'm hoping the show becomes something great. 

What Else Was On?:

'New Girl' began its second season with two new episodes between the premieres of the two new FOX comedies. 'New Girl' is a good example of a show like the two that premiered tonight. When it debuted, it didn't seem particularly interesting, although it showed some promise. And once it didn't focus so much on the premise of having adorkable Zooey Deschanel live with three guys and started studying its other characters' personalities to become more of an ensemble piece, it started to soar.

The second season begins with a couple of plot developments that feel very familiar (C.C. has a new boyfriend, the sexual tension between Nick and Jess), but they work thanks to the performances and the good work the writers and performers have made of developing these characters (although they haven't cracked Winston's personality just yet). Moments like the whole juggling fire thing were effective and hilarious, because we have come to know Schmidt and we can picture him doing such a ridiculous thing. 

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