Ben and Kate, a new fall sitcom on Fox, offers a few laughs

By Hannah Benson

51R3c9o+QeL._SX500_The stage is set for another screwball sitcom when Ben Fox (Nat Faxon), who never quite grew up, moves in with his sister Kate (Dakota Johnson) and her daughter, Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones). Ben and Kate, which airs on Fox on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m., is not another New Girl, but it has its moments and is a worthy distraction for those in need.

The superior of Fox’s two new sitcoms (the other being The Mindy Project), Ben and Kate follows two siblings struggling to make their friendship–and lives–work. Kate simultaneously works as a waitress and Maddie’s caretaker, while Ben comes to town in a flurry and proceeds to profess his love for his ex. At her wedding.

It’s not the kind of thing that happens in real life, and the show runs into a few too many cliches. For instance, after Ben tells Kate of his plan to tell his ex how he feels, she replies unironically, “I’m not going along with another one of your harebrained schemes!” Plus, Ben’s character–the adult who refuses to grow up–appears in every sitcom and bad movie ever made. The show manages to make him somewhat unique, at least, when he restrains himself from cursing in front of five-year-old Maddie. And making double-sure viewers know he has good intentions when he scares off Kate’s date. And painting him as the hero in the end, despite taking a five-year-old with him on a passive-aggressive stalking venture at his ex’s house and otherwise ruining Kate’s life.

The entire cast of characters seems to be annoyed by Ben, with the exception of his best friend, Tommy (Echo Kellum). Their bond is not deeply explored, and by the end of the pilot, all we know about Tommy is that he is madly in love with Kate.

Ben and Kate’s highlight, by far, is Kate’s friend and coworker, BJ (Lucy Punch). Punch gives a stellar, hilarious performance as the sassy Brit and winds up stealing every scene she’s in. Her bond with Maddie is entertaining to watch (particularly the scene in which she tells her, “I’m giving you some blush because you’ve got no cheekbones”). BJ is, so far, the show’s only source of laugh-out-loud humor, and one of the most promising characters.

As one of the latest in a long line of sitcoms about young adults meandering their way through life, Ben and Kate can stand on its own. It offers glimpses of unique humor within a predictable premise. If you’re bored, give it a try.

Image courtesy Fox