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Under-the-radar 'Ben and Kate' showcases hilarious sibling dysfunction

FOX

By Radhika Menon, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 25, 2012

Sibling relationships have been explored on television for years. There were the supportive Gellars on “Friends”; the eccentric Bluths on “Arrested Development”; and frenemy Barone brothers on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” “Ben and Kate” follows similar conventions adding to a strong Tuesday night lineup on FOX.

Children of divorced parents, Ben and Kate Fox grew up to be entirely different people, though always remaining best friends. Ben (Nat Faxon, “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”) never matured —the classic screw-up. He blows in and out of town, taking refuge in his younger sister Kate’s (Dakota Johnson, “21 Jump Street”) home.

Kate has only made one mistake in her life, and it proved to be a blessing in disguise. She’s a single mother trying to make ends meet, but living a stable life as compared to her older brother. Ben’s intentions are always good, but his dreamer mentality never allows him to stick around for too long.

The bond between Ben and Kate is the driving force of the show, so thank god it’s a good one. Faxon plays the role of nomadic Ben easily, showcasing his vulnerability and simplicity through endearing interactions with other cast members. Thankfully, Kate isn’t as rigid as her character description may suggest, showing her goofy side just enough for us to believe that she’s actually related to Ben.

Ben barges into Kate’s life this time because of a broken heart. Taking Kate’s five-year-old daughter Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones, “We Bought A Zoo”) in tow, he sets out to spy on his ex-girlfriend Darcy — or as he likes to refer to her, “The Future Mrs. Ben Fox.” But when he finds out that she’s engaged, he does the most logical thing he can think of: to crash the wedding.

Meanwhile, Kate navigates her own relationship woes. She hasn’t dated anyone since Maddie’s birth, and she's finally ready to loosen up and get out there again. But when Ben meets her new boyfriend, he senses something fishy about him, and we all learn Ben Fox’s man test: An excellent high-five is the secret to success. When Ben witnesses her boyfriend’s weak attempt, he saves Kate from rushing into a doomed relationship.

Perhaps the greatest interaction of the show occurs between Maddie, Ben and Ben’s friend Tommy (Echo Kellum, “Hard Hats”) as they devise a plan for crashing Darcy’s wedding. As Kate looks on through a secret nanny-cam stashed in a cookie jar, the trio don night-vision goggles and concoct a plan that has no chance of working. Yet their fun is palpable, molding a real friendship that could exist outside of the walls of television.

The greatest boon of the show is that it’s actually funny. It seems simple, but jokes that work are the cornerstone to sitcoms; after all, to be considered comedy, laughs must be involved. The main and the secondary characters are both sympathetic and hilarious, allowing us to healthily invest ourselves in their storylines. Everyone’s line delivery is spot-on, moving along at a near-perfect pace.

“Ben and Kate” has flown mostly under the radar, and FOX has chosen to advertise mainly for “The Mindy Project.” But where "The Mindy Project" relies on a strong lead, "Ben and Kate" relies on a strong ensemble. So if you’re wondering what to check out during this fall premiere season, “Ben and Kate” is worth a second glance.


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