Wed. October 10
TV Review: Ben and Kate
Your relationship with your siblings is most often the longest of your life. So what happens if the people you grew up with make choices that you can’t support? You can go your separate ways–and sometimes siblings do grow apart as they get older and move away. Forgiveness, love, and support are much more complicated to achieve, but in the case of Fox’s new Tuesday night offering Ben and Kate the process can be funny too.
Nat Faxon stars as dreamer Ben and Dakota Johnson plays his super-responsible, hard-working, single-mom sister Kate. Ben has been out of Kate’s life for five years but returns to their hometown to live with Kate and help raise his niece. And, as the show’s creator, Dana Fox described it, her own sibling relationship was a real source of inspiration:
I think the thing that was sort of interesting to me is that you can grow up in the same house…as brother and sister you go in completely different directions with it and that was certainly my experience and I really wanted to explore how the same background could turn two people into very different people.
She did clarify that Ben and Kate’s absentee parents are nothing like her own supportive parents, but it was imperative that Ben and Kate’s relationship with their parents was evident in the show. “That was really important to me because I wanted to make sure that it seems like Ben and Kate were on really this island together and they only have each other and there’s no one else to come to the rescue,” she said.
Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak wrote enthusiastically of Ben and Kate describing it as “basically about nothing but the bond that these people have.” And certainly plenty of television writers have mined the sibling dynamic for material (The Simpsons, Friends, Fraser, The Wonder Years, just to name a few), but in terms of similarities, Ben and Kate brought to mind a movie more than any previous TV show.
Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me (2000) was also about a not-so-goodnik brother, Terry Prescott (Mark Ruffalo), and his single-mom sister Samantha Prescott (Laura Linney). And like Ben and Kate, Terry’s arrival in Samantha’s life upends her nicely ordered and mostly responsible existence. What made the movie so shockingly good was that it showed a brother and sister interacting very much as they might in real life. Siblings can disappoint each other. Siblings can scare each other when one makes a bad decision or engages in self-destructive behavior and sometimes forgiving is harder than feeling sorry for someone you love. The siblings in You Can Count on Me also disagree about faith and religion. Lonergan carefully depicts Samantha’s challenge of failing to live up to her long-held religious convictions, while insisting to her skeptical brother that his life might be easier and more fulfilling if he were to give religion a chance. In real-life, no less than in this movie, religious differences run through many families and accepting that your siblings can lead good lives even though they may not look anything like you is a true test of acceptance and love.
Fox may not be as concerned with religion as Lonergan but her new show is highlighting theimportance of sibling love, forgiveness, and support–plus there are jokes. All in all, not a bad way to spend a half hour on Tuesday nights.
Abby W. Schachter is a Pittsburgh-based journalist and blogger. Follow her on twitter.com/abbyschachter