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Garish Rather than Girlish: NBC's "Kath & Kim" Fails to Entertain

Every now and then a comedy comes along that is so shockingly unfunny, so painful to watch that one can't help but think how it made it through the development process in the first place. This season, that comedy is none other than NBC's horrifically tepid Kath & Kim, the latest in a long line of US remakes of foreign formats.

Based on the hit Aussie comedy created by Jane Turner and Gina Riley, Kath & Kim stars Molly Shannon and Selma Blair as a mother/daughter pair so utterly unlikable that it's hard not to want to reach through the television and slap them silly.

Yes, sitcoms built around unlikable characters are nothing new (just look at David Brent or Michael Scott of The Office) but there's usually something redeeming about their characters. Buffoonish David Brent can't see that he's actually the butt of every joke told around Wernham-Hogg and that his employees loathe the very sight of him; Michael Scott's humor doesn't have an off button but it conceals a deeply maladjusted and socially awkward manchild within.

The US version is written and executive produced by Michelle Nader (The King of Queens), who clearly owes Turner and Riley an apology for unleashing an appalling version of their comedy format on the American public. Here, Kath and Kim are just as shallow as they seem. In fact, their characters (Kath is sunny and oblivious; Kim sullen and child-like) are about as developed as the garish makeup and clothing they wear. In the Australian original, Kim is spoiled and self-absorbed; here Blair gives her a vapid gaze and little else. Kim is meant to be child-like, yes, but there's something extremely disturbing (but not humorous) about Blair's performance as a perpetual toddler.

Shannon is slightly better cast as Kim's garishly attired mother Kath, who after going through a divorce and transforming Kim's childhood bedroom into a gym, has fallen in love with a new man, Phil Knight (played by frequent Christopher Guest collaborator John Michael Higgins). Much of the attempted humor of the series opener comes from the kissy faces that Kath and Phil make with one another and their aging sexuality. Despite embodying the role better than Blair, Shannon still grates in her performance and one can't help but reach for the remote after a few minutes.

Kath & Kim is hardly innovative or original comedy and it barely registers as humor. I should point out that NBC originally intended Kath & Kim to air on Tuesday nights between a 90-minute edition of Biggest Loser and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I can't think of a worse scheduling idea and NBC apparently agreed, instead pushing this sodden comedy to Thursday nights, where it is now forced to sit alongside such vastly superior comedic endeavors such as 30 Rock and The Office. While those series offer snappy dialogue, memorable characters, and clever satire, Kath & Kim serves up reheated comedy that's about as sharp as a lukewarm Orange Julius from the mall food court.

Kath & Kim premieres tonight at 8:30 pm ET/PT on NBC.


Anonymous said…
This was one of the worst scripts I've ever read. Too bad that Shannon and Blair's talented is being wasted.
jojoko said…
First off. I'm a huge fan of the original ozzy version. I downloaded the pilot last night on my tivo from amazon unbox. I have to say, that I genuinely did like it. Though it is missing a few things. But so was the office in its first season.
Anonymous said…
It was truly awful. I too watched it the other day and could not believe how awful it was. I don't think I even chuckled one time. I usually like Molly Shannon but it was painful to watch her. Won't be watching again next time.
Savvy Veteran said…
I'm really surprised. I didn't really like the first few minutes, but I was actually laughing quite a bit for the rest of it. In fact, I thought it was a lot better than the 'Office' that aired tonight. Now I'm questioning my own taste! (which I think is generally quite good)
Anonymous said…
Well, at least it made 'Gary Unmarried' tolerable.

Horrendous, with zero emotion. It needed a chemistry-level worthy of Balki Bartokomous and Larry Appleton, to make it work.

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