Fall TV preview: Is Fox’s ‘Ben and Kate’ the next ‘New Girl’?

We’ve said this time and time again, and it rings true for comedy series even more so than dramas — you cannot always judge a book by its first chapter. Once shows have a chance to develop and the chemistry builds, it can produce some magic down the road. Sometimes, an awful show can sometimes be even tolerable by the end of the season if the right amount of effort in — see “Whitney,” which finally started to rise from the dead near the end of the first season.

The “Whitney” ratings do show one thing, though — if you want people to actually watch your show, it needs to be good from the get-go. This is what “New Girl” had going for it right away, and this is also where “Ben & Kate” also enters the picture in our newest edition of our Fall TV Preview series. It’s a solid single-camera comedy with a little bit of heart, and it actually may be more like the Zooey Deschanel series than you would initially think.

Like “New Girl,” the show features an oddball in Ben Fox (Nat Faxon) who manages to create all sorts of insanity for those around him — with the exception being that here, it’s with his sister (Dakota Johnson) rather than some people he just met. There is a daughter also thrown into the mix here that is Kate’s from a previous relationship, and she is struggling to get back on the dating scene and find someone. It’s a simple enough premise, but there really aren’t many comedies out there at the moment that are fully exploring the sibling dynamic. With that in mind, this feels like a breath of fresh air.

The good news about “Ben and Kate”? It’s funnier than most pilots are — and it feels like a nice little mini-movie in that there is plenty of heart, and Kate learns to let loose and embrace her inner Ben (who is not always out to cause trouble, so it seems). Is it a little by-the-numbers? Sure, but we don’t mind that so much if there is some good comedy — and some good supporting characters, especially Tommy (Echo Kellum), a fun-loving guy who can’t let go of his feelings for Kate after they had one romantic experience.

If there is one problem the show faces, it’s something that “New Girl” also had to deal with — being a bit much. Ben does not have to be so crazy all of the time in order to get the point across, and there were a few times that we were begging Faxon to take it down a few notches. However, we said the same thing about Deschanel’s Jess at first, and she either did take it down subtly or we just grew used to it to the point that we didn’t care anymore.

Verdict – We like “Ben and Kate” quite a bit, so much so that it may be our favorite comedy we’ve watched of the new season. There just feels like there is so much room for growth and potential here, and we also like that this is an unknown cast that does not have any baggage from other shows.

Unfortunately, we must admit that we already have a few worries here and there. For one, ┬áthe show airs at a ruthless time (8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays against “NCIS,” “The Voice,” and the “Dancing with the Stars” results show) that is after a low-rated show in “Raising Hope,” and it also does not boast the names necessary to get people watching on their own. We hope that people still find this potential gem of a series — it’s going places, and we actually think it could be as much of a hit as “The Mindy Project” if it is given the right sort of promotion.

What do you think about “Ben & Kate’s” odds to become a hit series? We want to hear from you! Also, be sure to head on over to this link to read some other editions of our preview series.

Photo: Fox

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