Fox’s Ben & Kate is being billed as one of the best new sitcoms of the season. Based on creator Dana Fox’s real life relationship with her brother, critics are hailing the show as a quirky comedy about two dysfunctional siblings. In the show’s first outing, it largely lived up to the hype.
Dakota Johnson (The Five-Year Engagement) stars as Kate Fox, waitress and single mother to five-year-old Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones, We Bought a Zoo). Every now and then, Kate’s brother Ben (Nat Faxon, The Descendants) blows into town and causes a bunch of trouble. He’s basically a giant manchild. Of course, as with most manchildren, they make for some really entertaining moments. This time, he comes back into town to break up the marriage of his ex-girlfriend who he still thinks of as Mrs. Ben Fox. Naturally, as she is an ex-girlfriend, this woman has moved on and Ben’s plans do not come to fruition.
While Ben is trying to break up this woman’s wedding, Kate is just trying to get laid. She has gone on approximately ten dates with a man named George (Jon Foster, Accidentally on Purpose). After ten dates, that means she finally gets to have sex, as per her rules. She accidentally dials Ben while on her date and after excusing herself to the restroom, Ben overhears a conversation between George and another woman. On his way to the wedding, he comes back to save his sister from getting her heart broken again.
The two siblings end up going to the wedding to try to stop it, but they are an hour late and Mrs. Ben Fox is now Mrs. Somebody Else. For some reason, they stay for the reception, but it leads to a really sweet moment between Ben and Kate where they hang out under a table, just like they did when they were younger and their parents would fight. This time, Maddie joins them and it’s adorable, naturally.
Echo Kellum (Hot in Cleveland) also stars as Tommy, one of Kate’s co-workers who is hopelessly in love with her. The fantastically hilarious comedienne Lucy Punch (Bad Teacher) plays BJ, a fellow waitress who just wants Kate to have some fun in her life. The ensemble cast is pretty much amazing. The chemistry between everyone is phenomenal. Even in the pilot, the actors and writers are nearing the perfect balance of endearing and hilarious. Jones is the perfect adorable child in this role. Ben and Kate have emotional baggage that makes them much more relatable. Faxon manages to be extremely endearing without going over the top, which would be very easy to do in this role.
Since Dana Fox is drawing on her own life experiences for this show and she has a ton of heart, I predict many more heartwarming and funny episodes from here on out. I always say a show needs five episodes before you can truly judge if it will succeed or fail. If the next four episodes are as strong as this pilot, this has potential to be the best new sitcom of the season (possibly tied with The Mindy Project).
Coming tomorrow: a belated review of The Mindy Project.